Karen Gadke, Ph.D. (Health Science) is a retired clinical study specialist, medical writer, and lecturer. She has been training and racing sled dogs, many of them rescued huskies, for 30 years. She owns both Siberians and Alaskans. Karen is an internationally published author on animal issues, awareness and education and a welcome addition to AFSBC.
Have a question for Karen? Contact her at:
Please do not forget that emergency numbers may be found in the April 2012 Corner, archived.
Here is a sad story that proves how important education is. A 5-year-old female dog died a painful death because the owner did not realize how important spaying is. This beloved family pet died of pyometra, a common condition in intact female dogs, totally preventable by spaying. Please refer to my description of the condition in the November-December “Corner.” Find it in the archives.
When famous 18th Century humanitarian George Angell was asked why he does so much for animals when there is so much human misery in the world, replied: “I go to the source.” This can have different meanings. For instance, cruelty to animals. It can have its root in human troubles, i.e., children brought up in abusive homes often take their anger out on animals. Many serial killers confessed that they “practiced” on animals before they killed humans.
To me, pet overpopulation falls into the category of cruelty generated by human greed, ignorance and lack of respect for those who share this world with us. Spaying or neutering pets means “going to the source” of untold misery. Preventing litters and adopting a loving orphan rather than supporting the breeding industry is one of the best deeds you can do. Please note that the honest breeder who raises an occasional high-quality litter is not part of that industry.
Pancreatitis in dogs and cats - an inflammation of the pancreas – The mechanism is the same in dogs and cats, but some aspects of the disease differ between these species.
The pancreas is one of the largest glands in the body. Its main functions are the production of insulin to regulate sugar metabolism and the production of digestive enzymes. These enzymes are so powerful that they can “digest” a severely damaged pancreas, the gland that produced them.
Pancreatitis can present in an acute and life-threatening form, or it can be of a chronic nature. Among possible causes of pancreatitis are steroids, food-borne toxins, metabolic disorders, a high-fat diet in dogs. Pancreatitis occurs less frequently in younger animals. Diabetes and obesity are risk factors.
The symptoms, which may come on suddenly in dogs, mimic other gastrointestinal conditions, i.e., abdominal pain and distention, light colored and greasy looking stools. Liver, kidneys and intestines may become inflamed by leakage of pancreatic enzymes from the damaged pancreas. This can lead to life-threatening peritonitis, a general inflammation of the abdominal cavity.
In cats the disease is more likely manifested as lethargy, which is sometimes present for a long time before the owner notices. These cats lose interest in their surroundings, have decreased appetite leading to weight loss, digestive upsets sometimes accompanied by fever. They do not want their tummy touched. In addition to loss of insulin function, some digestive enzymes are lost as well. Thus the digestive problems will likely continue because the food is not properly digested. The original weight will not be gained back, which should provide a tell-tale sign to the owner.
Although the cause of pancreatitis remains undetermined in most cases, in dogs (humans too) a high-fat diet is often implicated. If diagnosed and treated early in the disease, dogs can recover from pancreatitis, but may suffer relapses from time to time, ultimately leading to loss of enzyme function and possibly insulin function as well.
The diagnosis is made based on the owner’s observations, blood tests and enzyme tests. Sometimes the veterinarian can palpate a tender abdomen. Ultrasound and/or a needle biopsy performed by a trained clinician may be helpful.
Therapy usually consists of intravenous or intramuscular fluids to control dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as pain control and warmth. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed prophylactically, in order to protect neighboring organs and the pancreas itself from infection.
The veterinarian will issue dietary instructions which must be strictly followed. Digestive enzymes will likely be prescribed. If diabetes occurs, treatment will be initiated for this condition. In the future, fat must be considerably restricted
Last but not least, don’t forget tender loving care. TLC is an important ingredient in the care of your pet, through the healing process as well as always!
The blessing of Therapy Dogs and their owners giving of their time to bring comfort to others
I wrote about service dogs and their service to humanity in a previous “Corner” (archived). Today I will just mention therapy dogs, hoping to inspire you to consider training your dog to perform this much needed service. All you need is a gentle dog who loves people, regardless of size and breed, and a willing heart. With the latter ingredient, you will somehow make the time. People who volunteer are happier than those who don’t. You can choose how much time you want to give. You are your own boss here. No one tells you what to do.
I have enjoyed working with therapy dogs – two of my rescued huskies - since 2004. After visiting 3 nursing homes per week for 2 years I added a reading program in two schools. The children are so very receptive and enthusiastic, and according to the teachers, the program helps the children improve their reading skills.
If you want to look into therapy dog work, please e-mail me and I’ll be happy to help you get started. It will give your dog a sense of purpose and will provide an enjoyable activity you can pursue with your dog.
Pets are healthier if they eat a good quality food. While you will save money now, you’ll pay out more in vet bills later to treat illnesses brought on by lack of nutrients. Don’t be fooled by “nutritionally complete” or “balanced” labeling. The protein used in the food may consist of ground-up chicken feet and feathers. This protein is not usable or only minimally usable by the pet’s system.
Dog and cat food labeling should list animal protein (not by-products) as the first ingredient, and it should be clearly stated, i.e, beef, chicken. If the label says “meat,” it may be of dubious origin. I do not trust “meat by-products or poultry by-products.” It’s too general and could be anything. I also do not trust the term “animal fat,” because it could be any fat, maybe even restaurant grease (Yuk!). “Chicken fat” is better. Completely useless are added sweeteners, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives (i.e., BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin). Pets do not care about color, and flavoring should be from quality meats in the food, not from the laboratory.
The “onion and garlic controversy” will never go away. Both are toxic to dogs and cats, causing destruction of red blood cells, expressed as severe anemia and liver damage. Onion and garlic are often used as flavor enhancers, and some proponents of natural parasite control believe adding garlic to their pets’ food will keep them worm-free. The amount of garlic or onion needed to cause toxic effects is not known, but if they do occur, your pet will manifest vomiting, diarrhea, discolored urine, weakness, possibly allergic reactions, i.e., an asthma-like attack If you know how, induce vomiting, and get the pet to the clinic fast for emergency treatment. My method to induce vomiting is about 5 tablespoons of Hydrogen Peroxide for a big dog, less for smaller pets. Accidental inhalation of the Peroxide is a danger, so please ask your veterinarian if he or she approves of this method. Please do this right away, so you are prepared if you ever have to induce vomiting.
Be kind to your old dogs and cats. They become weak with age just like people do. And if the old boy or girl has an accident in the house, please don’t punish or shame your pet. He feels bad enough already. You owe your pet the extra effort for all the years of loyalty and love he or she gave you. And if the old pet’s frailties become too bothersome and stressful for you and your family, it is better to say good bye before things get worse. Discuss your old friend’s painless departure with your veterinarian.
But meanwhile, as long as there is more quality time left, please consider some modifications of surroundings and care. In many big dogs, middle to old age is believed to start at 7 years. My huskies are an exception. They are athletes and at age 10, most are still in their prime. But couch potatoes age earlier. Small dogs and cats age later than big dogs.
Keep up vet checks and review food rules. As in humans, caloric intake should be reduced when activity levels decrease. Remember overweight is extremely hard on joints. Look for a high quality senior food at your pet store. If your dog or cat has special problems, i.e., kidney failure, your veterinarian will recommend a special diet.
Don’t make your old pets abandon their favorite places because they can’t jump up anymore. Put up ramps or stepstools to help them. Pet shops and catalogs have good selections of these aids. Make surroundings safe and comfortable for your pets, and make sure they have soft beds for their old bones. Adjust exercise schedules. Continue walking but cut the distance shorter, possibly take several short walks per day rather than one long one. If available, swimming is a wonderful exercise for an old dog, if he is still able and willing. Cats usually regulate their own playtime. If they slow down, encourage them with new, easier toys.
For both dogs and cats, keep stimulating them with activities they can still do. As in humans, stimulation will energize them and sharpen their brains.
BITS AND PIECES
Control begging. Never feed your pet from the table. Serve the pet’s dinner at the time you put your own meal on the table, and provide toys to play with afterward. Ironclad rule: Ignore begging, and do not even make eye contact. If all fails, confine the pet to a crate.
Pleading eyes should be ignored when it comes to table scraps. They can lead to obesity, intestinal upsets and nutritional imbalances. Never, ever give your pets human cookies, chocolate, anything with onions or garlic, artificial sweeteners or alcohol in it.
Even if your pet never gets out of the house, someone may forget to close a door properly and your dog or cat runs out. Therefore make sure they have identification at all times, such as a collar with your name and phone number, a tattoo, or microchip. Microchipping is an easy and painless procedure that has saved many lives. If your pet has not been microchipped, please get it done, for your furry friend’s safety and your peace of mind. If your pet is stolen and ends up in a laboratory, he or she will have a good chance of being returned rather than used in painful experiments.
With the popularity of apartment cats, reports of head injuries abound. Why? Cats like to sit on window sills. If the window is open, the cat can fall out. Cats have fallen even from high rise buildings. So please don’t let your kitty do that. Keep the window closed if it does not have a safe screen. Better that she does not get that fresh air but stays alive.
Mushroom warning. Just one of the hazards of the warmer weather. These potentially deadly fungi grow mostly in damp shady areas, under decaying leaves, on tree stumps. The poisonous ones – you would need a laboratory to identify them – carry a nerve poison that will quickly kill. By the time you notice that something is wrong with your pet, i.e., having a seizure, it will probably be too late for your veterinarian to save him or her. So be vigilant, check your yard daily, and if you find a mushroom, pick it up carefully and place it in a tightly closed garbage can. If damaged, it will release spores into the air and more mushrooms will grow.
Blessings to you and your pets. Their lives are so short. Enjoy them as much as you can. And e-mail questions or comments.