Lifes Abundance posts created by dr. vogelsang

All You Need To Know About Bathing Your Pet

cat getting a bath

“You smell like a wet dog” isn’t much of a compliment, is it? While most of us know the rush of warm fuzzies you get from snuggling up close with a clean, fresh pet, most pet owners are also aware of the opposite end of the spectrum: the stinky side.

Perhaps you’ve spent the past year closer than ever to your pet, so you may be more familiar than you’ve ever been with their particular…fragrance, shall we say. Questions about your pet’s skin and coat are some of the most common conversation topics in the vet clinic, so let’s tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about what’s normal, what may need a vet visit, and what are the best things you can do at home to help your pet look and feel their best.

How often should I bathe my pet?

If the thought of struggling to get your dog in the bath on a daily basis gives you hives, here’s the good news: daily bathing is rarely the answer. For a pet with good skin and coat health, a good monthly washing may be all they need in order to clean away accumulated dirt and oil and get them smelling nice. If you have a cat, the answer’s even better: since they groom themselves, healthy cats may not need baths from you at all (everyone cheer).

The actual answer is: wash your pet as often as they need. If your pet gets dirty all the time because they’re constantly getting in the mud, there’s no reason you can’t bathe them more frequently. It’s important to use the right shampoo to avoid over-drying the coat, stripping out oils, or causing flaking. More frequent bathing may also reduce the effectiveness of topical flea and tick products such as Advantage and Frontline.

Pets with medical conditions often require more frequent bathing as part of their treatment. Whether it’s a pet dealing with infection, a pet suffering from conditions like seborrhea (think of it like a form of doggie dandruff), or a pet with allergies who needs to remove environmental allergens from their coat, there are many reasons a pet may require bathing weekly, or even a few times a week. Make sure to follow your vet’s recommendations as to the type of shampoo and how to use it- it may seem like a lot of work, but topical treatments can be very effective and much nicer than needing to rely on a systemic treatment!

dog getting a bath

What’s the best type of shampoo to use?

If your pet has a medical condition, you may be prescribed a special shampoo. Think of it less as shampoo and more as skin medication. Keep in mind these tend to work very differently than your typical shampoo which is just there to gently clean, so be careful to follow the directions and don’t use it for other pets in the house. Many medicated pet shampoos may not even have any cleanser in them, so if you’re not sure, ask your vet if you need to first use an over the counter shampoo before using the medicated one. Some of the most common medications delivered via shampoo format are:

  • antibacterials: chlorhexidine for skin infection
  • antifungals: ketoconazole for yeast infection
  • antiseborrhea: coal tar, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur to combat dandruff-like conditions
  • anti-mite: lime sulfur dips for topical parasites such as demodectic mange
  • anti-itch: oatmeal, hydrocortisone

For everyone else, shampoos designated for pets are your best choice. These shampoos have much less stripping action than human shampoos and are much gentler on the skin, so never use a human shampoo on your pet. If your pet has particularly sensitive skin, you may need to look for one with no fragrance added. For the rest of the crew, look for a gentle formula with conditioning properties like our very own amazing-smelling Revitalizing Shampoo. I’ve sniffed a lot of dog shampoo over the years, and this one takes the cake in the “wow your dog smells delightful” department. If you’ve tried it, you know.

What are signs my pet may need a vet visit?

Regular doggie-smell should resolve with a good cleaning. If they still feel oily or greasy, or still have a strange odor after bathing, make an appointment as this may be a sign of a problem that goes below the surface of the skin. Even smells that aren’t necessarily “bad,” but just strange, can be a sign something’s off (ever heard someone talk about their dog’s Frito feet? Yes, it’s a thing, and often means infection). Any red or raw patches should be evaluated as well, as these can be signs of allergies or infection.

Bathing is a good time to check your pet’s ears as well. While you don’t want to put shampoo and water in their ears, I like to clean my pet’s ears with a dedicated ear cleaner right before their bath. If your pet is prone to ear infection, you may also want to put a cotton ball in their ear before bathing to keep water out (Be gentle if you do this! There’s no need to stuff their ears full of the fluff).

So there you have it! Smelling like a wet dog might not seem like a compliment, but with the proper shampoo there’s no reason it couldn’t be. Here’s to a pleasant, snuggly summer!


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Pet Safety While Traveling

woman holding cat near car trunk

The clouds are lifting - both literally and figuratively - as we head into summer. After what feels like a very, very long winter, people are chomping at the bit to get out of the house and back into the world. But what about your pets? Are you taking them with you?
 
Travel in 2021 won’t be entirely like it was before, but those very same travel trends set the stage for a dog-friendly trip. According to AirBnB, who experienced a 128% increase in customers looking for a home away from home during the pandemic, more than six out of ten people are looking to take a trip this year within driving distance from home. Paris and Rome, the darlings of 2019 travel, are out. Instead, people are eyeing the Great Smoky Mountains, Breckenridge, and Palm Springs.

Hotels are out, too. With more people working remotely than ever before, people aren’t looking for a spa-like indulgence nearly as much as they are a different view out of the front window. With rules and requirements changing from day to day, people are also waiting until the last minute to commit to a trip. That’s easier said than done when you’re also needing to plan for a pet.
 
Road trips with pets bring a whole different set of contingencies, but none more important than this: how do you keep dogs safe in the car?
 
For many people, the answer is: you don’t. And the results can be tragic. Here are three reasons you should consider a dog restraint, if you aren’t using one already:

  1. Injuries. According to BarkBuckleUp, a 60 pound dog traveling at 35 mph, which isn’t even freeway speed, becomes a 2700 pound missile during an accident. Not only is that catastrophic for the pet, they can also cause serious injury to other passengers.
  2. Distractions. A pet who panics and tries to get into your lap or under your feet can be a serious problem.
  3. Loss. The number one reason pets die in traffic accidents isn’t from injuries sustained in the incident. When first responders arrive at the scene of an accident and encounter a frantic, unrestrained animal, it is extremely common for them to escape and, sadly, run into traffic. I have seen this firsthand in the ER, and it’s horrible.

So now that we know “no restraint” is the worst option of all, what are our other choices?

"dog

BETTER. Keeping your pet in a crate in the car is better than nothing. I see this frequently, especially with larger dogs where seat belt restraints are more difficult to use. Although it may not be as good as other means of restraint in terms of preventing injury, a crated pet is much less likely to escape your car during an accident or even at a road stop. Ideally you will have your crate secured to the car to keep it stable.
 
BEST. Restraints and carriers specifically designated for dogs are the safest and most effective option for travel. If you have a small dog, you can buy a carrier with safety belt integration built in.
 
For larger dogs, you’re most likely looking at a harness that either connects to the car’s seat belt or hooks into a latch system. For my two large dogs, I find the harnesses a good compromise between safety and usability, as they often have a separate attachment for a regular leash to make it pretty quick to get them in and out for rest stops on a road trip.
 
So which choice is right for you? That can be a tricky one. Because pet harnesses and crates are not required to meet specific safety standards, you’d have no way to know as a consumer which harnesses actually keep the pet secured during an accident. The Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit dedicated to establishing safety standards for pet products, performed actual crash tests with a variety of harnesses and crates to designate those worthy of a CPS certification. Many restraints failed the test. You can find a list of approved products that received the CPS certification on the Center for Pet Safety.
 
But at the end of the day, the best option is going to be the one you actually use. Once you have that part squared away, you can get onto the fun part- deciding where to go!


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Let's Talk About Raw Pet Diets

owner giving dog food

When I was growing up, my mom brought home whatever was on sale that week in the pet aisle: sometimes kibbles shaped like peas and hearts dyed painfully bright shades of green, other times packets filled with squishy red tubes meant to look like ground beef.

Whether or not that was a sound nutritional choice wasn’t on our radar; the vet never batted an eye when we said we fed Kibbles n’ Bits mixed with store brand chow. That’s what you did in the 80s.

The whole idea of ‘high end” pet foods didn’t start to gain a foothold until around the time I started vet school, and now the boutique market has evolved into a dizzying array of food choices, each marketed to one specific niche of owners: the grain-free types, the breed specific types, the dehydrated types, the organic types. There are plenty of folks still on the Gravy Train gravy train. And then there are the raw food aficionados. Each niche has its strongly held beliefs and values, and a good portion of them will take those to the grave.

“So what are you feeding your pet?”, which used to be a pretty generic question to ask during an exam, suddenly became a meaning-laden query laced with dynamite. It’s an oft-shared fact that many veterinarians don’t bring up nutrition with owners at all, and for many of them it comes down to “It never changes anyone’s mind anyway.”

How I approach nutrition conversations

I disagree that conversations never change anyone’s mind. Sometimes a conversation is DOA, but other times it’s a really good opportunity to learn more about a person and their relationship to their pet. Like many interactions we have with each other in life, I’ve found so much more success entering a conversation from a place of curiosity versus intent, of understanding before judging.

Getting to the why of someone’s food choices not only helps you understand that person and their pet better, it gives you an opportunity to determine whether or not a nutrition conversation is something they are open to in the first place.

Let’s be honest here: if someone’s mind is made up, and I mean really made up, nothing you say will change their mind. This goes for both sides of the raw food debate. You can pull up pages upon pages of information that make a compelling-sounding argument that people can and do use to bolster their argument all the time.

These people believe deep in their bones that their choice, whatever it is, is in the best interest of their pets and anyone who believes the opposite is either ill intentioned or woefully misinformed. Arguing just makes hard feelings even harder.

PDF Document

Trying to change the mind of someone not open to having a conversation isn’t something I dedicate time to these days. I respect their desire to make the right decision even if I don’t agree with the decision they ultimately made. Then we move on.

But sometimes, asking someone the “why” of a person’s choices leads to some really wonderful dialogue. Why do you think this is the healthiest choice? What specifically is it about uncooked food that you think is better than cooked food? What concerns you about commercial pet foods? If you know the specific objections someone has or a specific benefit they’ve identified, now you have a very discrete piece of information you can explore. Is it recalls? Worries about old food? Ingredient sourcing? Those things I can answer.

As you can imagine, I believe- like many of my veterinary colleagues- that raw food isn’t the best choice for most pet owners. Whether or not you take my advice will depend on whether or not you trust me in the first place, of course. But let’s assume we have a rapport, and you and I start talking about it. I will tell you the truth:

Over the years, I’ve used just about everything on the market depending on my pet’s situation: the grocery store kibble of my childhood. Kibble from the big brands, prescription foods. Canned foods, rehydrated foods. I even tried raw once, and stopped not because my cat did poorly but because of the risks to people in the house.

Now, I want the healthiest choices available for my pets with the convenience and consistency of a commercial diet, made by a company whose ethics and purpose I believe in based on their transparency, accountability, and quality control history. I am very happy with my decision.

The best thing I can do as a person with expertise is give you the information and the resources I have, and help you line that up with your priorities for your pet.

I can give you my suggestions as to what you should do with that information, suggestions based on twenty years in the field working with thousands of people and pets. Ultimately, though, it’s your choice.

That works really well. Be honest and share what you know. Lead with your good intent, and be satisfied that you had a good conversation no matter the outcome. You won’t win everyone over, but you’ll connect with the people you were meant to.

References:

Read a veterinary nutritionist's perspective: https://weethnutrition.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/campylobacter-salmonella-e-coli-oh-my-why-i-dont-recommend-raw-meat-for-pets/

Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine primer on raw diets: https://vet.tufts.edu/wp-
content/uploads/raw_meat_diets_memo.pdf

Cavallo SJ, Daly ER, Seiferth J, et al. Human outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium associated with exposure to locally made chicken jerky pet treats, New Hampshire, 2013. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2015;12(5):441-446.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human salmonellosis associated with animal-derived pet treats— United States and Canada, 2005. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.

2006;55(25):702-705. Freeman LM, Chandler ML, Hamper BA, Weeth LP. Current knowledge about the risks and
benefits of raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats. J Vet Intern Med. 2013;243(11):1549-1558.


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Why Your Vet Isn’t Talking to You About Cannabis

dog smelling oil supplement

In just a few short years, Cannabis has gone from that thing college kids spent too much time thinking about, to the mainstream belle of the ball. Powered by an interest in natural medicine, a distrust of traditional pharmaceuticals, and some strong word-of-mouth talk of results, everyone from your neighbor to your buttoned-up grandmother is comfortable talking about CBD oil and what it can do for your health. Naturally, the topic also extends to our loyal furry family members.

I get asked about Cannabis more than almost anything else: does it work, what should I use, where’s a good place to start. And like most other veterinarians I know, we have very little guidance to offer. Trust me, we are just as frustrated as you are. There is nothing I want more than to be able to provide the best, safest information for pet owners about this or any other medical concern. There’s just one problem: the law may or may not forbid it.

It’s not that we aren’t talking about Cannabis and learning: every continuing education conference I’ve been to has multiple lectures about Cannabis use in pets and how to do it safely. Those lecture halls are packed. The second we’re legally allowed to discuss it, we’re ready.

THC vs CBD

Without going too far down the chemical rabbit hole, most of the legal wrangling and debate comes down to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hallucinogenic component of the Cannabis plant. This is concentrated in the flowering buds, leaves, and resin. Other parts of the plant are much lower in THC but still contain cannabidiol oil (CBD), which provides the purported medicinal benefits without the psychoactive ones. CBD oil products are not intended, nor should they be, to get a pet “high.”

“Controlled” substances are those drugs with a potential for abuse. Those are controlled on a federal level by the DEA, and those regulations supersede any state law.

0.3 is the magic number to be classified as controlled. If the plant parts used in a product contain less than 0.3% THC, it’s considered industrial hemp. The DEA doesn’t care about industrial hemp. This is where most CBD oils marketed to pets are derived from.

Anything over 0.3% THC is classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA, and we aren’t allowed to possess, administer, dispense, describe, or discuss it under risk of prosecution.

PDF Document

The Legal Ramifications

The next question seems obvious: if the DEA doesn’t care about industrial hemp and that’s where most veterinary CBD products come from, what’s the problem?

Confusion, mostly.

  1. While the DEA doesn’t care about industrial hemp products, they still fall under federal regulation- ie, the FDA.
  2. CBD oils are not FDA approved for use in pets, and while their official positioning is still under review the current rule is “not legal for vets to prescribe.
  3. Veterinarians are also subject to state regulations, which are just as confusing and perhaps directly contradictory to federal ones.

Just last year, California became the first state to pass a law expressly allowing veterinarians to talk about Cannabis with pet owners. Not sell it, not distribute it, just answer the question “do you think CBD oil is worth a try in my dog with cancer?” In 49 other states, vets aren’t even sure they can legally answer that question, nevermind recommend anything.

No one really knows what could happen when a veterinarian does something as simple as help guide a client through safely choosing a product without actually selling it him/herself. A few brave souls are out there testing the waters, but most of us are waiting for the legal OK.

So Now What?

The law will eventually catch up with reality. As a consumer, you can advocate for your pet by calling your state representatives and encouraging them to pass a law similar to California AB-2215. In the meantime, please be patient with us as we do our best to advocate for your pet within the constraints of the law.

As you can imagine, non-veterinarians without the worry of DEA prosecutors hanging over their heads and livelihoods are saying and doing all sorts of things about CBD. Some of them have your pet’s best interest in mind, while others are looking out for their pocketbooks. Like all supplements, some manufacturers take quality control much more seriously than others. Published research is scarce, but people are working on getting factual, science-based information out there.

As a pet advocate, I sometimes have to get creative when it comes to getting the word out there about pet health. There are some really science-minded, ethical veterinary professionals who have great information. In fact, they’re the ones teaching us at veterinary conferences. In my accompanying infographic, I’m sharing the same great information and resources that veterinarians are hearing at conferences.


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A Guide To Managing Your Dog’s Weight

owner giving dog belly rub

I have a confession to make.

My dog is officially a chonk.

Like many others with more than one dog in the house, I have one dog who is ambivalent about food and one who loves food with a deep and abiding passion. One eats to live, one lives to eat. Guess which one is the retriever.

I tried to keep my life simple by just having one kind of dog food in the house, but even when we were measuring the food it seemed like Ollie was getting a little wider by the month. A Nest cam confirmed my suspicions- once Dakota wandered away from his bowl, Ollie would run over and scarf up a mouthful of extra kibble as soon as we left the room. I appreciate his resourcefulness, if not the results. Too much to love.

Obesity is a huge problem in veterinary medicine; in fact, almost half the dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. I’m not happy with myself that I let this sneak up on me, as extra weight in dogs tends to compound: it increases their risk of orthopedic problems, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Bottom line: I need to turn this around.

If you are in the same boat with your dog or cat, look, it’s certainly not an unusual problem and I share my own story because I don’t want people to avoid facing the issue because they’re embarrassed, which happens a lot. We don’t often see ‘ideal weight’ dogs out in the world, and we’re pretty used to seeing overweight dogs without batting an eye. If your vet mentions your dog’s weight to you, take a breath and remind yourself that it’s good information to know so you can address it. This isn’t a conversation about what happened yesterday, it’s about what happens tomorrow. It is fixable. Your vet is there to help you with that.

So now what?

Back in the day, advice surrounding weight loss was pretty straightforward: feed them less. Now that we know more, we address it a little differently than saying just to cut back on their regular maintenance food. Dog foods contain a static amount of nutrients mixed into the formulation: for example, if your dog eats 1 cup of food and gets 50 milligrams of a vitamin, cutting the food to ½ cup would mean they’re now only getting 25 mg of that vitamin. Dramatic reductions of their regular dog food could lead to malnourishment.

A better approach: pick a dog food designed for weight loss or weight management. These foods have lower caloric density, meaning there are fewer calories per cup than standard food. This means the pup gets to eat more and doesn’t end up doing that panicked “I’m starving” routine that leads all too many pet owners to give in and go back to their old habits.

Instead of halving the volume of food and also halving the nutrients, this option keeps the volume of food and the amount of vitamins the same. The dog still gets to eat a full cup of food and gets that full 50 mg of vitamins, that cup just has fewer calories. That is the beauty of weight management diets.

You’d think it would be pretty easy to figure out how much food to feed, but if you’ve ever actually attempted it you know it’s trickier than it looks. Yes, the bags may give you a range of how much food to feed, but it’s pretty vague. Pets have different metabolisms and different activity levels, so one 50 pound dog may require fewer calories than another to lose the same weight. It’s just like people! We all have that friend who can eat and eat and eat and still remains svelte no matter what, while others just look at a bag of chips and seem to gain five pounds.

If I wanted to know how many calories I ate today, there are tons of apps that can help me figure that out. They have tens of thousands of entries in their database with full caloric information. You’d think it would be easy to calculate the calories in dog food, but it’s not. Some foods tell you how many calories are in each cup (kcal/cup), but most don’t- meaning you have to call the company or try to find it online.

owner giving dogs food

Even if you do know how many calories there are in a cup, how do you know your calorie goal for your canine? Your vet can give you a calculation based on your pet’s current weight and activity, target weight, and how quickly you’re trying to reach the goal. Once you know their calorie count for the day and how much food to feed, all you have to do is stick with it. Weigh it, use a measuring cup, but whatever you do, don’t eyeball it. That never works.

For mild to moderately overweight dogs, a standard weight management food can work just fine to get your dog where he or she needs to be. For pets with significant weight obstacles, sometimes the vet will recommend a prescription weight loss diet. It is even more calorie restricted than over the counter weight management foods, and often has additional components such as higher protein, higher fiber, and nutrients that specifically support veterinarian supervised weight loss. Once a pet reaches their ideal weight, they transition back to an over the counter food.

Over the counter weight management foods aren’t just for overweight dogs! They are also good maintenance diets for those who are prone to gaining weight.

What about treats? Like everything else, treats count as calories, so keep it to less than 10% of your dog’s intake and plan accordingly. You can get creative here with pet-safe veggies. Ollie gets lettuce at every meal now and he thinks it’s the best thing ever. In fact, Dakota got jealous and now will only eat if he, too, has a piece of lettuce on his food (I tried this trick on the teenagers, but it didn’t work).

Weight loss in pets is a very, very common problem and if you’re in the same boat, it’s ok. Yes, it’s work and takes some effort to come up with a plan as well as the commitment to follow through. But it can be done! Having your vet team on board helps a lot- that’s what they’re there for! Don’t be afraid to ask for their support and a specific weight loss plan to get back on track if you and your pup need the help.

I promise, it’s worth the effort.


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What You Should Know About Dog Cancer

close up smoothie bowl

I love so many things about being a veterinarian- puppy kisses, seeing a sick patient recover to go home to a happy family, you name it. That being said, there are also a few things that I wish were different. Having to deal with dog cancer is one of them.

As one of the leading causes of death in both dogs and cats, working through a cancer diagnosis is one of the most challenging and common problems pet owners face. But here’s the good news: The number of treatment options has skyrocketed in the last few years, thanks to brilliant researchers and some big advancements in immunotherapy. Gone are the days when the options were limited to prednisone or whopping doses of chemotherapy. Pets are living longer and happier with cancer now than they ever have. Let’s review a few things about cancer that every pet owner should know:

Risk Factors

Age: It’s kind of a paradox that the better veterinary care becomes, the more cancer we’re seeing. It makes sense when you think about the fact that cancer is a disease associated with age. Sadly though, we do sometimes see cancers in young pets, but by and large the more time your pet has with you on Earth, the greater the chances become that they may face a cancer diagnosis.

Genetics: Some breeds are more prone to certain types of cancers than others. Golden retrievers are notoriously susceptible to lymphoma (a lymph node cancer) and hemangiosarcoma (a cancer of the blood vessels). Scottish terriers, West Highland White terriers, beagles, and Shetland sheepdogs show higher numbers of bladder cancer. Brachycephalic dogs- ie any dog with a smushed face like pugs, are more likely to develop brain cancers.

What about diet? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Cancer is a complicated disease with many contributing factors, and the truth is we just don’t know how much of a role food plays in dog cancer. We do know from human medicine that certain foods or food additives are more likely to contribute to cancer, and other foods or nutrients may be protective. This is why choosing a healthy diet is so important. You want to reduce as many risk factors as possible, even if they’re ones we never see. That’s why our premium dog food is formulated with the finest ingredients that help your dog achieve and maintain optimal health.

Age, diet, and breed are never a guarantee of a pet getting cancer- thank goodness. But it’s always good to keep in the back of your mind so if your pet exhibits any changes in health or behavior, you know to get it checked sooner rather than later.

woman and dog touching heads

Signs to Look Out For

Cancer is tricky because it’s not one specific disease. As the uncontrolled growth of a mutated cell, the behavior varies quite a bit depending on the type of cancer, the location, and the overall health of the patient. These signs exist in other illnesses as well, so just because your pet exhibits one or more does not mean it’s cancer- but it does mean you should check in with the vet!

  • Change in appetite. A Labrador who normally inhales his kibble in ten seconds flat suddenly leaves kibble in the bowl every night? That’s not normal.
  • Sleeping more. A pup who usually zooms around the house all day suddenly curls by your feet for hours at a time? Might be worth getting checked out. It could be a behavior change related to owners spending more time at home, so we’ll hope for that!
  • Sudden swellings. Anything bulging that shouldn’t be bulging- get it checked out ASAP. A tiny lump or bump on the skin? Here’s what oncologist Dr. Sue Ettinger recommends:
    If a lump is:
    • Bigger than a pea
    • Present for more than a month
    Then it should be checked out! Caught early, even some of the most aggressive cancers can be treated easily- but the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.
  • Non-healing sores. People often say “spider bite” any time a pet has a red or ulcerated lesion on their body. It rarely is. Even if it’s not cancer, any ulcerated skin is going to be painful, so no matter the cause, get it looked at!
  • Really anything else out of the ordinary. You know your pet better than anyone. Coupled with the increased time you’re spending at home in their company, people are 100% spotting conditions they might otherwise have missed.

Don’t Panic!

Dog cancer is scary. As someone who's been through it more times than I’d ever wish, I understand and appreciate the natural response of being scared, and grieving. But the one thing you should know is that cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Years ago, many people had the opinion that if a pet was diagnosed with cancer, therapy was a waste of time and money. Times have changed.

While the treatment and life expectancies vary tremendously, many cancers can be managed almost like a chronic disease. With supportive care and a carefully crafted treatment plan, pets can live comfortably for months or sometimes even years. Recent advances in immunotherapy are showing incredible promise. A lymphoma vaccine? A melanoma treatment? Things that were considered untreatable just a few years ago are now on the verge of having very effective treatments. If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, ask the vet if anyone nearby is participating in clinical trials your pet may qualify for. The Veterinary Cancer Society has a list of trials.

No one considers what’s going on in the world a blessing, but since so many of us are spending more time at home anyway, you might as well use some of that time to give your pet a once-over and check for lumps and bumps. While the outcome of a cancer diagnosis is never a given, one thing is for sure: the earlier you know, the better your pet will do.

Stay safe and don’t forget to love on your pets for me, ok?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V


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Appreciating The Joys Our Pets Bring

puppy and kitten

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a ton of time lately with my dog’s head in my lap. I’ve lived with many dogs over the years, but it seems like no matter if I’m petting a lab, a Lhasa, or a coonhound, one fact remains- they always know when I need them there.

This has been an extraordinarily challenging time for everyone, no matter where you live or what you believe. Finding common ground and a sense of unity feels darn near impossible sometimes- until you start talking pets.

Like anyone who’s worked in a field where you interact with the public, I’ve met all kinds of people. One of the things I love most about veterinary medicine isn’t just that the medicine is cool- which it is- but to me, the joy is really in the immense honor and privilege I have in hearing the stories of what pets mean to us.

When I began working as an in-home hospice veterinarian, that took on an even deeper level. Unlike when someone brings a pet into the clinic, I was being invited into their homes to be present for a very momentous moment in their family’s life. I’ve sat on leather couches and corduroy; patio chairs and grassy blankets; sat in joy and sadness and dawn and dusk and no matter who, where, or when I was helping, I felt the same love and connection every time.

girl with pets

With COVID, this connection has taken on even greater meaning, as so many people find themselves spending much more time home in the company of their pets than they ever did before. Here in San Diego, our local Meals on Wheels partners with a rescue organization to deliver pet food to the seniors who rely on the program for healthy meals. Why? Because the volunteers realized many seniors were feeding their meals to their pets, choosing to do without themselves rather than have to give up the companionship of what is, for so many, their main source of emotional support.

When I feel frustrated with the state of humanity and start to wonder if things are as much of a lost cause as it sometimes feels like, I like to think that dogs and cats really do cause us to reveal our true natures. When no one’s watching, how do you interact with your pet? As hard and as rough as things can get, that answer remains constant. We all have the capacity to both give and receive a deep and unconditional love.

This belief has allowed me to be online talking with pet owners all over the world for over a decade, and allowed me to treat every family I encounter with the same dignity and respect. When it feels like there is so little space for common ground, nowhere to start and build upon, this love we share with our pets has consistently served me well for many years, and I hope it does for you as well.

When I first met the Life’s Abundance team and began writing and getting to know you all, I knew right away that this family felt the exact same way I did when it comes to how we honor and love our pets and each other. I’m so grateful to be here with all of you and get to celebrate all the little joys that our pets bring into our lives. Be safe and well!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V

If you found this interesting, check out these related stories:

The Many Health Benefits of Living with Dogs

Why People Prefer Cats



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

“Woman

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!

“Dog

  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.

“Woman

  • 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