Lifes Abundance posts created by dr. vogelsang

What to Know About Pet Joint Health

cat playing on couch

Age is not a disease.

We say that all the time in medicine, because it’s true. “He’s slowing down” is an observation, but it’s not a diagnosis. All too many times, when I’m asking someone how their pet is doing they will say, “Well, he’s slowing down, but he’s old. What are you going to do?”

Lots! We have lots of things we can do, especially for one of the most common diseases of aging dogs and cats: degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis (OA). In fact, one out of five pets are experiencing this right now. And many of them could be feeling a lot better.

DJD is more complicated than it might appear at first blush, but it’s also one of the most gratifying to treat when you’re able to improve a pet’s quality of life so significantly. Whether you have a senior pet with diagnosed or suspected DJD, or a younger pet you want to keep in good health for a good long time, there are things you can be doing right now to maintain their joint health.

Anatomy of a Joint

Unlike a heart or a kidney, a joint is not a discrete organ but a term used to describe the connection between bones. Joints vary in terms of structure, function, and components. Your knee joint, for instance, is a back-and-forth hinge joint, while the joints that connect the bones in your skull move very little. In both cases, this is a good thing.

Joints have multiple components such as cartilage, connective tissue like ligaments and tendons, and capsules that enclose the joint and keep everything contained. Depending on where the joint is located, its purpose is to protect the bones, allow free movement by reducing friction, and act as a cushion.

Cartilage is a critical tissue in the joint. It is comprised of cells called chondrocytes suspended in a matrix of collagen and proteoglycans, which trap water and keep the cartilage nice and plump. Healthy chondrocytes keep that matrix fully hydrated, which is essential for the joint’s ability to absorb forces without damage. Cartilage creates the joint cushion.

The synovial membrane is the tissue that surrounds the joint and keeps it sealed. The membrane secretes synovial fluid into the joint, which is critical for lubrication.

If there is any disruption to the cartilage, the synovial membrane, or the bone underneath the cartilage, your dog or cat can begin to develop a joint disease.

Causes of DJD

While DJD can result from the normal aging process, it is often accelerated in pets by an injury or other underlying health condition that causes stress or inflammation. Inflammatory compounds in the joint space disrupt the cartilage matrix, reducing its ability to retain water. As the cartilage dehydrates, it starts to become more brittle and rubbery, like a piece of cheese you left out overnight. It also becomes more likely to splinter. If it gets bad enough, the underlying bone can also be affected.

dog playing with ball

Treatment and Prevention

Unfortunately, DJD in dogs and cats is an irreversible process. Treatment is aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease, reducing pain, and maintaining movement in the joint. It is a complex process with a lot of different elements, which means one thing: the best treatment hits the disease process on multiple fronts. We call this ‘multimodal disease management,’ and it’s the gold standard in DJD therapy. Here are the different fronts from which we attack DJD:

    1. Anti-inflammatories. Remember when I mentioned those inflammatory compounds? There are a lot of them. No one medication or supplement gets them all, which is why we tend to combine them for better results.
      1. NSAIDS- These are the most recognizable of the bunch for most of us, and are nice because they reduce both inflammation and pain. In pets, these are prescription meds such as Rimadyl, Metacam, or Deramaxx. Please don’t use over the counter people medications like Advil or Aleve- they simply aren’t as effective and can be dangerous to your pets.
      2. Nutraceuticals and supplements- This is an ever-expanding group of treatments that gets lots of attention for being effective across many species, with a low incidence of side effects. The most recognizable names here are glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate, but newer players on the market such as green lipped mussels are also giving great results.
      3. Adequan injections- This is an injection available through veterinarians that stimulates the cartilage to improve the matrix.

    2. Weight loss. If your pet is overweight- which describes about half the pets in the US! -this can accelerate the stress that causes cartilage to degenerate. If your pet is overweight, talk to your vet about what their ideal body weight should be. If they are the correct weight, well done! Keep it up.

    3. Alternative treatment modalities. I trained and became certified in veterinary acupuncture specifically to treat arthritic pets, with good results. I’ve also used lasers, a product that uses pulsed electromagnetic fields, and physical therapy. The more layers you add onto your treatment, the better the results.

    4. Prevention. Unfortunately, by the time a pet starts to limp or shows signs of pain, they have usually had DJD for some time and it is fairly advanced. That’s why preventive measures are so important. Here’s what pet owners should do from the get-go:
      1. Maintain a healthy weight for your pet.
      2. Maintain a regular exercise program to keep joints mobile and healthy.
      3. Keep your pet on a healthy diet and add omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
      4. If your pet is highly active or in a higher-risk category for DJD, consider adding nutraceuticals and supplements to their diet sooner rather than later.


Age isn’t a disease, but DJD is. It’s not often I say, “the more the merrier!” when it comes to treatments, but in this case you really can’t begin joint healthcare early enough. From diet to exercise to supplements, put your plan in place now to keep your pet in good health long into their senior years!

Wishing you and your family health and happiness,

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V

4 Ways To Celebrate National Dog Day This Year

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In a time when nothing is as it should be and the script seems to change every day in terms of what our lives are going to look like, it’s more important than ever to try and find those moments of normalcy, of joy, and of presence. 

It is times like these where the love of a dog takes on entire new levels of meaning.

When California shut down back in March, it felt apocalyptic. The streets were empty of cars, Google Maps showed green on every single highway at the height of what should be rush hour, the smoggy skies over Los Angeles as clear as they have ever been. The only way you even knew humans were still around was the presence of the dog owners, dutifully masked up and walking the dog because as far as the dog is concerned, they gotta do what they gotta do.

In the ensuing months, I’ve gotten to see what these constant companions have meant for people. Shelters cleared top to bottom as people took on fosters or new adoptions. Seniors unable to visit their grandchildren found themselves relying on a dog more than ever for that ever so important daily connection to another living being. Phones at the vet clinic ringing off the hook as pet owners, now spending hours upon hours a day with their dog, suddenly noticed a problem that may or may not have been there since last year (that’s ok, we are happy you found it!)

As our connection to each other feels especially fragile, our connection to our dogs has taken up a lot of the slack. And that is something to celebrate.

August 26th brings us to National Dog Day, the greatest day (ok, one of the greatest days) of the year. If you forget, your dog won’t mind. But if you do think of it, there really is no greater time to acknowledge how your pet has helped you and your family cope with unprecedented circumstances. There are so many ways to thank them for the smiles, the love, the smelly toys dumped in your lap, the drooly kisses. Here are just a few:

    1. Find a new hike. Getting outside is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your dog, both physically and psychologically. Depending on your area’s current social distancing guidelines, many areas do have hiking trails open as long as you bring a mask and it’s not too packed to stay safe.

    2. Learn a new trick (or two). The key to effective dog training is repetition and consistency - and maybe some Life’s Abundance treats - so why not take advantage of your time at home to bond through training? Whether it’s a simple new trick to master or practicing a sport like dock diving or agility, dogs love the attention and mental exercise!

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  1. Give them an end-of-summer makeover. If, like me, your local businesses are still shut down to services like grooming, the hair situation may be getting dire. Regular grooming helps maintain clean and healthy skin, and many pets also need regular nail trims that may have fallen by the wayside. It may be messy and it may not look nearly as neat as it does when the pros have at it, but sometimes you just have to roll with what you have. And if what you have is, like me, a Doodle, there may be a terrible clipper job involved. The good news is, they don’t even get embarrassed.

  2. Donate to help homeless dogs. As we all know, there are many pets in search of loving homes and many wonderful organizations and individuals working to make that happen. In honor of your dog, why not make a donation to your favorite charity in their name to help another dog become as lucky as yours? At Life’s Abundance, a portion of every sale supports rescue organizations - so get an extra bag of Porky Puffs or (Ollie’s favorite) Tasty Rewards knowing your selections are helping pets in need!

While we’re not past challenging times by any measure, most of us are now trying to figure out what the new normal is going to look like. Fortunately for all of us, our dogs have been one of the few consistent bright spots throughout. Are you going to celebrate National Dog Day this year? Hope you can join us!

Wishing your family health and love,

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

3 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

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My heart always skips a beat when I see a “Lost Pet” flyer in the neighborhood. That sinking feeling when you look around the house and your pet is nowhere to be found is the absolute worst. You call their name, look under beds, stand in the front yard calling their name, roam the neighborhood…nothing.

And then you wait.

According to the National Humane Society, 1 out of every 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lifetime. Every year, 10 million pets go missing. It can happen even to the most cautious of pet owners- doors accidentally left ajar, a gate that doesn’t latch all the way, or a panicked pet reacting to fireworks. 

Accidents happen to everyone, so it’s best to prepare in advance and do everything you can to prevent a permanent loss. As July is Lost Pet Prevention Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to remind pet lovers how to keep their pets safe and sound.

  • Buy new ID tags and update microchips

The best way to have your pet reunited with you quickly is the good old ID tag. Make sure it’s up to date if you move or change phone numbers, and check yearly to make sure it’s still legible.

Your pet’s name and your phone number are the minimum, but tags can get elaborate. Some manufacturers even embed QR codes on the tag so if someone finds your lost pet they will have access to your information, the vet, and the pet’s medical conditions!

Microchips are, of course, a wonderful tool to help pets when a collar is lost or missing. It does require the pet be somewhere with a reader, like the vet or the shelter, so it’s really a backup if the ID tag isn’t present. Like the ID tag, make sure your information remains up to date in the database.

  • Leash Them Up Right

This summer, families are staying together and if they travel at all, it’s usually on road trips. These are great ways to stay connected, but also provide an opportunity for a spooked pet to be lost in a strange environment.

Make it a habit that no door gets opened without the pet on a leash. That can mean car doors, hotel room doors, anything when there is a chance a pet might dart. If your pet is not in a carrier, they are likely secured in a harness to begin with, so that makes the switchover easier. Don’t ever secure a pet to a seatbelt or the car with anything attached to their neck.

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  • Watch For Anxiety Triggers

If you live in an area where people shoot off fireworks all summer, you know how terrifying this can be for a pet. It’s hard to overstate what panic can do to a pet. We’re talking doors chewed through, six foot fences scaled, even teeth broken. If your pet experiences this level of anxiety, you would do well to consult with your veterinarian about prescription meds that can help, which work well in combination with training and soothing items like Thundershirts. Sometimes simply comforting your pet while feeding healthy dog treats or cat treats can help calm them.

Note: If you’ve used acepromazine in the past, veterinarians are no longer recommending this for anxiety. Why? Because we’ve discovered that it sedates the pet but doesn’t make the anxiety go away. Imagine being terrified AND unable to move or do anything about it. The good news is, we now have lots of better alternatives. 

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If your pet is lost, take a deep breath. Most pets are reunited with their owners. The knowledge that your pet has an ID tag on can make a huge difference! In the meantime:

  • Call local shelters and veterinarians to let them know your pet is lost
  • Have a current photo attached to the email, if you go that route
  • If you have security, like a Ring doorbell, see if you can tell which way your pet ran
  • Ask your neighbors to keep a look out.
  • Get on Nextdoor! If you’re not using this local community page, it is one of the easiest ways to quickly reach your neighbors.

And most importantly, don’t give up! I once had a client whose Boxer roamed the hills for two months, evading attempts to catch him, before they were finally reunited. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Carole King, who quit her job in Washington to look for her dog who was lost on vacation in Montana. After 57 days, she found him!

If your pet is a Houdini, don’t beat yourself up. Just do all you can to stay one step ahead. I found out the hard way that our side gate had an issue when my neighbor showed up to let me know Dakota was hanging out in his courtyard. It happens! And now we have a backup bungee cord on the gate.

Have a safe and healthy summer!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

5 Ways To Optimize Your Cat's Health

Woman Plays With Healthy Cat At Home

I don’t know about you, but one of the unexpected benefits I’ve gotten from working from home so much lately is the abundance of cats I’ve seen on various Zoom calls. Dogs can be put on the other side of the door, silenced with a snap of the fingers or at least a distracting treat, but cats - no one puts kitty in the corner. This is their space, we’re just borrowing it for a while, and don’t you forget it.

In honor of World Cat Domination Day this June 24th, let’s celebrate our feline friends who hold such dominion over our homes and our hearts. It’s summer- yikes! Where did the time go? - and with all the extra time you’ve spent together, why not spend some of it making sure your cat is set up for optimum health! Here are five ways you can optimize your cat’s health and honor the fantastic feline in your life:

  1. Schedule that overdue vet visit.

    Even before the COVID-19 lockdowns, people were a little reticent to bring their cat to the vet unless they really had to. I understand this. It’s hard to get them into the carrier, they freak out, and it can be an overall super stressful experience for your pet.

    With businesses easing back into the swing of things, most veterinarians are open for business as usual in terms of providing wellness services and yearly exams for pets. Even if curbside drop off is still being implemented, think of it as a silver lining- with you waiting in the parking lot, staff members are doing their absolute best to work efficiently and minimize the time you and your cat spend away from home! And if that is still too stressful, calling in a home visit vet is a perfect solution.

  2. Teach your cat a new trick. 

    No, I don’t mean the one where they walk on your keyboard and stick their rear end straight into the webcam every single time you’re trying to start a video call (or is that just my cat?)

    Start with a simple sit command, as you would a puppy. Incentivize your cat with a delicious treat or whatever they find motivating. And if it’s not their thing, it’s not their thing- but for the right prize, you can almost always make it their thing.

    Woman Monitors Her Cat's Health

  3. Get in that deep-cleaning.

    OK, this one isn’t nearly as fun as crocheting a cat bed but it’s really important. Most people are good about cleaning out the cat’s food and water dishes, but when’s the last time you cleaned out the litter box?

    I’m not talking about scooping it, which should be done daily regardless, but a full top-to-bottom clean where all the litter gets dumped and the box cleaned thoroughly and left to air dry before filling with all new litter. Ideally you can use eco-friendly cleaners once-a-month part of your routine, but if you’ve fallen behind, you’re not the only one. If your human commode needs regular cleaning, don’t forget the cat’s does too.

  4. Become a cat chef.

    Like most of you, I have to say cooking for my cat is a bit of a stretch, especially when I have an entire pantry full of Life’s Abundance food and treats at my disposal. It’s not something I would do all the time, but if you’re cleaning out the freezer and have some chicken breast or fish that’s probably a little freezer burned, you can make it into treats for your kitty with a dehydrator.

    Cats don’t need much, so I usually slice the meat into thin, 1-inch squares before putting them in my dehydrator for 6-7 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use the oven on its lowest setting. These treats are best kept in the fridge where they’ll stay good for about three weeks, and voila! New best friend. 

  5. Take on some cat-friendly home improvements. 

    Time to toss that old, scratched up cat tree where the carpeting is all unraveled? Why not build your own!

    OK, maybe that particular project doesn’t appeal to you and, like me, you shy away from anything that involves wood cutting. Fair enough. Maybe you prefer cloth-based projects, and in that case I direct you to the arm-crocheted cat bed I tried a few weeks ago. I mean, it’s a cat bed, and it’s yarn- two of their favorite things combined! No sewing required. Watch here:

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As we speak, my cat is dominating my dog by sleeping in his massive bed while her little cat bed sits unoccupied five feet away. Is there any better analogy for life with a cat? And we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

FDA Loosens Restrictions On Telemedicine For Pets

Veterinarian Practicing Telemedicine With Patient

In a news release on March 24, 2020 the FDA announced that “it intends to temporarily not enforce certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the pandemic.” Learn more about this positive development and how it might affect pet parents below.

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News Update from Dr. V:

I think it was maybe four years ago when I started asking my colleagues if we could start talking about veterinary telemedicine. The answer was a near-unanimous “no!” I lectured to empty rooms about this topic I’m passionate about and wrote articles no one understood.

Sure, maybe a few veterinarians here and there showed some interest in a telemedicine app, but the chances are pretty low that it’s something you’ve used with your vet. Well, that’s all about to change.

Until COVID-19 shut down entire states and even countries in a matter of weeks, we’ve always assumed that if your pet had a problem, you would take them to the veterinarian. As a profession we are very married to the idea that unless you have your hands on the pet, you won’t get a complete picture of what’s going on and wouldn’t be doing right by the pet.

What is a VCPR?

Legally, a hands-on examination has always been required for us to create what’s called a VCPR- a valid client patient relationship. Without this VCPR, a veterinarian cannot diagnose or prescribe medication to your pet. While each state defines this VCPR, they’ve all been pretty consistent in requiring this.

Let’s pause here for a moment because the next thing I’m about to say is super important.

Once you establish that VCPR with a veterinarian, it is good for a specific amount of time- usually a year. During that period of time, in almost every state, your veterinarian can do telemedicine visits with you, including follow ups and prescribing medication. I’m not saying they will do it, but they could from a legal perspective — and that’s been the case for quite a long time, actually.

What people are talking about right now is that the FDA has temporarily removed the requirement for the veterinarian to be in the same location to establish a VCPR. In this case, you could have a telemedicine visit with a veterinarian you’ve never met, and they could make a diagnosis and prescribe a medication without ever seeing you. It happens all the time in human medicine, but those laws are very different.

So does that mean when you get up tomorrow you can google “online vet” and get some heartworm pills for your dog with a remote visit? Probably not. Here’s why:

The FDA is a federal organization. But the rules surrounding the practice of medicine are determined by the state. In this case the state laws take precedence. In only a handful of states, such as California, they have made an emergency exemption where a California veterinarian can establish a remote VCPR with a California client. I can’t tell you what other states this is happening in, because the laws are changing quite literally daily. It’s astounding.

But to get back to what I said earlier, even if you can’t establish a relationship with a new vet online, you’ve likely already been able to conduct a telemedicine visit with your current one. It’s just that very few were willing to do it. That’s what’s changing.

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How is COVID-19 going to affect you as a pet parent?

  1. You may be asked to do drive-up medicine. Although you’ve probably heard that two dogs did test positive for COVID-19 in their system, there is no evidence they get sick from it or can infect others. The health precautions we are taking have to do with keeping both you and the veterinary staff safe, and that means practicing social distancing. Many clinics are asking clients to remain in their cars or limit the number of people in the exam room to one. We don’t like it either, but it keeps us safer.

  2. You may be asked to postpone wellness care. Again, it’s to keep us all safe. In addition, many veterinarians are donating as many masks and gloves as they can to help the doctors and nurses keeping us safe in the hospitals. This is a community effort.

  3. You may find your vet is suddenly offering telemedicine. I’m biased, but I think this is great. It’s important to note that telemedicine is only useful in some situations. An emergency will always require a visit to the ER. Pets will still need surgeries and bloodwork and x-rays and get hurt, and we’re doing all we can to stay open and be there for you when you need us. 

So when are veterinarians using telemedicine?

Most of the time, it’s for things like follow up visits, skin issues like hot spots, recurring ear infections, mild limping, “is this normal” questions, prescription refill requests, flea and tick medications, and general advice. It’s a limited list, but it covers a lot of ground. Again, every veterinarian is allowed to decide for herself if and when they want to offer telemedicine, so there’s no requirement that they do.

I may be biased, but I hope they all decide to do so! If they’re not offering telemedicine services, it never hurts to ask if they will consider it. It can get put into place very quickly. In fact, I’ve spent the last two weeks working behind the scenes with my colleagues to pull together resources to help those in the profession get onboarded with telemedicine as quickly as possible- so if you see my name out there, say hi! 

I do this because I believe in helping pet owners in any way I can, and this is my way of serving the community in time of crisis. 

Thinking of you all and hoping you remain safe and well,

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

True Or False: Only Old Pets Get Dental Disease

Vet Examining Dog Dental Care

 

Let's play 'True or False' with our staff veterinarian, Dr. Jessica Vogelsang!

When I say “puppy breath,” what do you think of? It’s most likely a pleasant thought, right? People like puppy breath (well, at least dog lovers do!)

Now what about when I say “dog breath?” Not such a great thought! No one wants to be told they have dog breath, not even a dog. So what causes the transformation from the sweet smell of puppy breath to the putrid stench of dog breath?

It’s easy to combat bad breath with dental treats, but it’s important to monitor your pet’s complete oral health on a regular basis. Did you know that medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease can also manifest in the breath?

In honor of February being National Pet Dental Health Month, we’re going to play ‘True or False’ to see what you know about your pet's pearly whites!

“Only old dogs and cats get dental disease.”

  • False: While dental disease is obviously more severe in older pets who have had years to accumulate the effects of periodontal disease, over 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop oral disease by the age of three. This is why it’s so important to begin preventive care early in life!

“It’s time to get your dog’s teeth cleaned when you can start seeing buildup.”

  • False: Dental disease is a progression that begins with signs invisible to the naked eye. The bacteria in our mouths combine with food bits to produce the invisible sticky film called plaque, which coats the teeth and sneaks up beneath the gum line. Over time, this plaque hardens into tartar, the visible brown stuff you can see on your pet’s teeth.

    This stews below the gumline and causes gingivitis, which results in the inflamed reddened gums most commonly visible on the back teeth. Left untreated, the bacteria begin to wreak havoc on the tissues and bone underneath the gums, and that’s when things get ugly.

 

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“Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are almost as good as a full cleaning.”

  • False: Now we’re getting into rough waters. Dogs and cats need anesthesia in order to have a full dental cleaning, because no pet likes the feeling of a dental scaler plunging into their sore gums. I mean, who can blame them?

    Without anesthesia, cleanings are limited to scraping off the plaque you can see with the naked eye. This type of cleaning makes the teeth look better, but they’re often no healthier afterwards. It’s like cutting a weed and leaving all the roots — it looks better temporarily, but you haven’t done anything to stop it from spreading.

“Some dogs are more prone to dental disease than others.”

  • True: Short-nosed breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs are more prone to disease due to their propensity for teeth overcrowding and misalignment. This creates a big net for food debris to stick around, no pun intended.

    Small dogs such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Poodles, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also develop dental disease earlier in life. Their small mouths just struggle to fit all 42 teeth and often end up misaligned. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Boxers, and Shih Tzus have genetic quirks that impact their dental health as well.

“My vet’s going to judge me for this and it’s stressing me out.”

  • False (I hope!): Being vets, we are accustomed to seeing significant diseases. I don’t care about anything except helping the pet feel better! Everyone who comes into the clinic has done a tremendous thing by coming in and getting treatment.

    I can’t speak for every veterinarian on this earth, but I do know without a relationship of trust and working together, you’re not going to get the optimal results for your pet. If you don’t have a strong honest relationship, for whatever reason, I’d highly encourage you to seek out another provider. It’s fine! Both you and your pet deserve that bond.

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How’d you do? Let us know in the comments below.

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

National Cat Lover's Month: The Best Of Cat News In 2019

Woman Kisses Gray Cat

If I were to ask my cat Penelope if she knew that December was National Cat Lover’s Month, she’d probably plop down in the most dramatic patch of lighting she could find, start to groom herself, and say, “Of course, darling, we always save the best for last. Now fetch me a treat.”

I’m the first to admit that in the world of petdom, cats often get short shrift compared to their larger, furrier, droolier dog counterparts. What can I say? Dogs just seem so much needier than their independent, above-it-all feline housemates. I know it’s not true, and I’d like to give them their due in their month of celebration.

So in honor of National Cat Lover’s Month, I’m sharing my favorite cat news, discoveries, or insights from 2019. After all, cats deserve no less!

A Scientist Shares How To Pet Your Cat

We all know intuitively that there are right ways (gentle, front-to-back) and wrong ways (staring into their face, clutching them to your chest) to pet a cat. But a researcher from Nottingham Trent University took it a step further and actually collated the research data that exists in order to perfect the rules for successful cat-petting.

The number one factor in whether or not a cat enjoys getting pet? Whether or not the cat was the one to initiate the interaction. As anyone who has had to endure those rib-crushing hugs from Great Aunt Edna over the holidays can attest, this makes perfect sense.

Free Quilty

Like Puss in Boots or Robin Hood, Quilty the Cat is a rogue at heart. Quilty wasn’t satisfied with his plush digs in a Houston shelter, and decided to make a run for it. Over and over and over, he’d open the door handle and let all the residents of the cat room run amok. Each morning the staff would come in perplexed, having to retrieve the 15 cats Quilty had set free, and finally placed a camera to figure out what was going on.

Eventually Quilty was identified as the prison-breaking culprit and sent to solitary confinement, where his irritated pout earned him a whole different type of freedom: that of internet darling. The best part is, he earned the ultimate escape: he is being matched with the perfect home.

Cats Absolutely Love Us

Though some might interpret a cat’s natural independence as a lack of interest compared to, say, the neverending ardor of a Golden Retriever, the truth is cats do form strong bonds to their people. According to a Current Biology journal article from September that compared the attachment behaviors of cats to that of human babies, they exhibited the same patterns of caregiver attachments as infants!

So cat lovers, rejoice in the scientific proof of what you already knew — of course our cats love us. They just show it in their own cat-like way.

Cute Kitten Wants To Play

A Dog Would NEVER Interrupt an NFL Game Like This

Right in the midst of a Cowboys/Giants Monday night game, a black cat decided he was going to show the world who really held the power and brought the game to a screeching halt with nothing more than his presence on the field.

Not satisfied with merely showing up and running around, he proceeded to dramatically work his way to the endzone, working the crowd into a frenzy as he led a start-and-stop saunter into touchdown range. I haven’t heard cheers that loud at an NFL game since Prince rocked the halftime Superbowl show! Yes, cats know dramatic entrances.

Cats Know Us Better Than We Think

It’s a common belief that dogs sense and respond to our moods due to thousands of years of selective breeding. While cats are also domesticated, they evolve not from a pack species but a solitary one, so we’ve long assumed that cats aren’t as attuned to our behavioral cues as canines. But that assumption is incorrect.

Take, for example, the pointing test- a test of human-animal communication long thought to be passable only by a select few animals such as, you guessed it, the dog. But when researchers actually placed cats in the test with their owner, they followed their owner’s pointing hand as often as the dogs did- if, that is, they were paying attention.

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2019 was the year when cats came into their own and proved, this time with the rigors of science behind them, that they are well aware of their place in our world and enjoy being a part of it. They just do it on their own terms. Will we ever understand them entirely? Probably not. Do we need to? Not really. They are who they are: fun, loving, neurotic, playful, aloof, or whatever the heck they choose to be on any given day. That’s part of the fun of having one in the house.

Best wishes to your family in the coming year!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

Why You Should Consider Fostering Senior Dogs Or Cats

Woman Playing With Senior Foster Dog At Beach

About ten years ago, I was on my way to a rescue to meet a Labrador named Lucy. She was four years old, bouncy, loved kids, and would have been the perfect companion for my one-year old Golden Brody.

While we were there, I saw a little black potato hovering in the shadows. That was Kekoa, they explained. She wasn’t who I had come to meet, but she sure did love meeting new people and I asked if it was okay if she came over to say hi.

Kekoa was ten or so. It was her second time being returned to the rescue. You could see in her eyes both the defeat of her return and the hope of a new family. She licked my hand gently, then gave my toddler son a very delicate kiss on the face. When she turned to leave, he ran after her. Even at two, my son knew something so many don’t:

There is no love as profound as that of a senior pet.

“I don’t want to get attached only to have to say goodbye so soon.”

First things first: People who foster pets of any age are a special kind of angel. Whether you are giving a puppy, senior, or new mother space in your home, you are doing them a tremendous service.

As an extension of the shelter system, foster families provide innumerable benefits to the community:

  1. The pet is able to wait for their forever family in a loving home environment, instead of a shelter that may be loud, crowded, and stressful. We know stress results in increased illness, and potentially reduces their adoptability. I mean, when would you rather go on a date? On a nice Saturday afternoon or Tuesday night after a terrible day at work? Calm environments allow us to be our best selves.
  2. You’re creating space for another animal at the shelter. The number one limitation in a shelter environment is space. By acting as an extension of that space, you are helping your shelter serve a larger community and reduce the number of euthanasia due to overcrowding.
  3. You have so much to offer. You’re watching their behavior. You know their preferences. You have a better idea than anyone else who is a good and maybe a not-quite-perfect long-term family for this pet. Making the right placement is key in a successful adoption.

These benefits apply to anyone. I know lots of people who prefer to foster animals under 4 months of age. I have a friend who likes to foster kittens because she knows she gets an endless supply of adorable little fuzzballs in her house, but she still has the flexibility of her busy lifestyle because she knows they are adopted quickly and rarely require a commitment of more than a month.

Foster Dog And Cat Laying Together

I also know a lot of families who choose to foster young pets knowing they are likely to keep one as a permanent family member- the ever present ‘foster failure’. For these families, fostering is a way to test their children’s ability to be responsible pet owners without the pressure of a long-term commitment if the time just isn’t right.

The motivations for fostering senior dogs or cats are a little different.

We all know senior pets are often the first to be euthanized at a shelter. This is a sad reality. With limited space, shelters need to allocate space to the most adoptable animals and those who are older, with health problems or a grey face are often the last chosen for adoption. This despite the fact that they are usually the most low-key, relaxed pets who are past the whole chewing thing, past the whole tearing up the yard thing, and just want a place to be happy.

It is a myth that seniors are more high maintenance than other pets. When in good health, it’s usually the opposite.

When you bring a puppy or a kitten into your home, they don’t have the life experience to know just how great you are. A senior, on the other hand? They’ve seen some things. They’ve had a life, and you have no idea how great or terrible it was, but something terrible must have transpired because they are here, homeless.

They understand the difference between their home and the shelter.

They understand what love looks like, and unfortunately what lack of love looks like.

They appreciate you in a different way.

You can make a bigger difference in one month of a senior’s life than you can in months or years with a younger pet, because those moments are just that important. Dogs and cats don’t hold grudges. They have astonishing capabilities for forgiveness. In this life, what they remember is this week. And the love you show in your time as a foster can erase years of sadness and neglect. Isn’t that amazing?

The timeline is a little more variable in a senior foster situation. Puppies and kittens are gone in a flash. They move on to something incredible — a forever home. Seniors may be with you for quite some time. It is a relationship. Your time together ends because they are adopted, or because their time on earth has come to a conclusion. Either way, you know you have provided something priceless to them.

My friend Karen fell into senior hospice unintentionally. She has the right heart for it. She has a type: anything with a huge head, preferably with lots of Shar Pei rolls. The rescue called her once with a perfect foster who just happened to be a senior, and she said yes. She says yes a lot now.

Three senior fosters so far that I know of.

I see her take these souls in knowing it is unlikely they will know any homes other than hers, and in their eyes you see the dawning realization that they are safe.

They go on car trips.

They sleep on couches.

They live the Instagram life.

Her stories have inspired other people to take in senior pets as well, because she does such an incredible job of documenting the transformation that can take place in just a few weeks of joy. That’s all you need. There’s no minimum amount of time it takes to make a difference in someone’s life.

November is Adopt a Senior Pet month, so it’s the perfect time to remember that. Whether you are adopting or foster, there’s ways anyone with the right heart can make a difference in the life of a senior. How about you?

Dr V 
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

 

Toxic Algae: Is It Safe For Dogs To Swim?

Dog Licks Man In Lake

On a beautiful sunny August day, three dogs named Abby, Harpo, and Lizzy went for a swim at a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina. They were happy and healthy pups. And by the days’ end, all three were gone. The cause: toxic algae.

It sounds like a scene from The Blob or straight out of your worst nightmares. How can something as benign as a swim in a lake turn deadly? Sadly, these tragic stories are popping up in the news from the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the far reaches of the southeast. The good news is, knowledge is power. You can avoid these potentially devastating situations by being aware of your pet’s surroundings. Information is hard to find and often confusing, even for a veterinarian- so I put some information together that I hope you will find helpful. Here’s what all dog owners need to know about toxic algae blooms:

What is toxic algae?
Blooms of blue-green algae derive from small bacteria called cyanobacteria. In large numbers, these bacteria aggregate to resemble a greenish sludge on the surface of bodies of water. While the current blue-green algae blooms in the news are associated with lakes and ponds, algae blooms occur worldwide in all types of bodies of water. Some, but not all, forms of these algae produce deadly toxins. These blooms are called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB).

Why is this happening so much lately?
While toxic blooms are nothing new, they do happen more frequently in the hot, sunny days of summer and fall. Summer rainstorms also dump nutrient-rich runoff into bodies of water, fueling the algae’s growth. Slow-moving water is more likely to experience blooms, hence the increased incidence in ponds and lakes versus oceans and rivers.

Do toxic blooms only affect dogs?
No, the toxic effects of HABs can affect many animals. We see these incidents most commonly in dogs because they spend more time swimming than other pets. In addition, they often swallow water while they are swimming and are more likely to ingest a toxic dose.

These toxins can cause illness in people, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, the toxins can be absorbed by fish and shellfish, causing a chain reaction in the food supply. A 2015 outbreak on the West Coast decimated fisheries, causing die-offs of fish and shellfish from Alaska all the way down the California coast.

What are the effects of the toxins?
When a dog swallows water with algal toxins or grooms the algae off his fur, the effects can be seen in minutes to hours. Algae produce different types of toxins that affect the liver, GI tract, and neurologic system. With liver disease, clinical signs start in minutes to hours and include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, seizures, and weakness. With neurotoxins, pets can also fall ill in minutes to hours. Affected animals produce excessive saliva, experience tremors, have difficulty breathing, seizures, or collapse. Both types are deadly. Even touching toxic algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory inflammation.

Regardless of the specific toxin, any of these symptoms after swimming in a lake should be considered a medical emergency. There is no known antidote to the toxin. Your veterinarian can provide supportive care and treat the symptoms, but sadly many dogs succumb to the illness.

Happy Dog Fetching Stick in Lake

How do I know if a lake or pond is experiencing a HAB? Is all algae toxic?
Not all algae produces deadly toxins. In fact, most do not. That’s the good news. The bad news is, one cannot tell simply by looking whether an algal bloom is toxic or not. Blooms often produce a greenish scum on the surface of the water, but can appear brown as well. Sometimes there is no mat on the surface at all and the water simply has a greenish tint. If you see water that looks like this, don’t take chances. Keep yourself and your pets away unless you have specifically been given the green light by your local municipality.

According to the CDC, the following warning signs indicate a body of water that is potentially unsafe:
Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that: smell bad look discolored have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Is there an agency that monitors water safety?
Suspect water can be tested to determine whether toxins are present in the water. Just because the water in one lake is deemed safe, it doesn’t mean the lake a few miles away is also safe.

To reiterate: these blooms are found across the globe, in lakes, ponds, and oceans. Your county or state health department is usually your best resource for finding out the current status in your area. Some states list “HAB Incident Reports” indicating harmful algal blooms in the region, such as this site maintained by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

A last word of caution: In an era of tightening budgets, routine monitoring is not the standard in many places and testing may not occur until after a problem is noted.

When in doubt, just stay out!

Pet Vaccine Facts: Dogs vs. Cats

Cat Getting Vaccines At Vet

It’s National Pet Immunization Awareness Month! Did you know that in addition to the “core vaccines” all cats and dogs need, there are also non-core diseases that you can get vaccines for as well? Your family vet will tell you which non-core vaccines your pet should receive, depending on factors such as their age and breed.

In honor of this awareness month, talk to your vet to make sure your four-footers have their latest vaccines and boosters. Always keep your vaccination records and schedule annual checkups for your furry family members to ensure they stay healthy and happy!

Pet Vaccine Facts for Dogs and Cats Infographic