Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tick Tick Boom

Spring is coming VERY slowly to Wisconsin this year. The unofficial word is that we have had only 2 sunny days in the month of April. And if the usual April showers weren't bad enough, it SNOWED last week! I have been able to send my boots back to the closet (see last months post), but with early AM temperatures in the 30's, I still wore a head band, gloves, and an extra layer under my polar fleece jacket when walking Gator this morning. At least I didn't have to wear rain gear like earlier this week. (update: back to rain gear for our evening walk).

In spite of the temperature, the grass is getting green, trees are starting to bud, and the creepy crawlies are creeping and crawling again. One day one of Gator's dog park buddies had a tick on her, then within days, I was hearing of other dogs having multiple ticks. I was told the same from friends who worked with wildlife. There are already ticks on cats coming into the clinic I used to work at.

Ok, so the ticks are out again, what's that got to do with the title?

Wisconsin winters are not condusive to outdoor bike riding. That means alot of time on the trainer indoors. Anyone who's spent hours on the trainer knows how tedious this is. Watching TV, even if it's saved DVR recordings of my favorite Tour de France climbing stages, didn't always get me motivated for hard work, that's where the iPod comes in handy. I have it loaded with enough "kick your butt" songs to last for even the longest training session. One of my favorite songs for training was the Hives' "Tick Tick Boom". No matter how unmotivated I was, that song never failed at getting me going. It's doing it now. The rainy, dreary days of April failed to motivate me to write another entry until now. Explosion of the tick population? Tick Tick Boom. Of course.

Other than being creepy to alot of people (I'm the opposite: for some reason, a spider will cause me to panic, but a tick crawling on me is no problem) ticks can pose a health risk to our pets as well as us.

Lyme disease is what we think about the most in Wisconsin, but there are other serious tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, hemobartonellosis (now mycoplasmosis), babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis.

Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria which is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks. The most common type of tick associated with Lyme disease is what is commonly called the deer tick, however other tick species have been found to carry it also. The bacteria are transmitted by the tick as if feeds, so removing the tick before it attaches and feeds can prevent the disease. However, once in the blood stream, it is carried to many parts of the body.

Lyme disease produces symptoms characterized by arthritis, though it can sometimes involve heart, nervous system and the kidneys. The arthritic joints may become swollen and hot, and there may be a fever (102 to 105 degrees) and poor appetite. Pets may also become lame because of the disease. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or months later. Happily, in the years I practiced, I only saw 1 cat with Lyme disease.

Diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on risk of exposure, clinical symptoms and blood testing. Only a veterinarian can make the diagnosis.

Lyme Disease can be treated by antibiotics. With early detection, relief of symptoms can be seen within 24 hours of treatment. Chronic cases require longer periods of treatment.

The best way to prevent tick carried diseases is to prevent tick bites. There are many products available that reduce tick bites and kill ticks; consult your veterinarian about the best product for your pet. Check your pet for ticks after going outside, and remove the tick(s) as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Not to Wear: Dog Park Edition

I've been a fan of TLC's What Not to Wear from the beginning, first as the British show, to the early days of the American version with Stacy and Wayne, then with Wayne's replacement, Clinton.

Week after week, I've watched as Stacy & Clinton work their magic on the style-challenged "victim" of the day. Overall, the clothing they select is beautiful to look at and quite wearable, but sometimes I see the outfits and think "sure, that's fine for New York City, but in <insert your favorite city name here>, really?? This was definitely the case as I watched the February 15, 2011 episode about Azi, the Social Psychology professor who continued to dress like a student.

Azi walked into the 360 degree mirror booth wearing a very long gypsy skirt and t-shirt showing a Bhudda. It read "For good luck, rub my tummy". She said she would wear it while walking the dog.

Not exactly fashion forward at all times myself (I'm wearing a too large plaid flannel shirt, with very oversized drawstring polar fleece scrub bottoms, striped fleece socks pooled at my ankles due to lack of elasticity, and hair pulled back 60's style as I type this), I snickered at her selected outfit without feeling the least bit hypocritical. After all, I don't go out like this....wait, that's what blogger Amanda said last week when TLC ambushed her! Besides, Stacy said Azi looked like a hula dancer, so I must be justified.

The initial snicker was nothing compared to the laughing fit I had as Clinton directed Azi's attention to the mannequin dressed not only in a cute short dress with overlying jacket, but with patterned tights, cute shoes (boots to the side), necklace, bracelets and oversized purse. THIS they said with straight faces was an appropriately styled outfit to wear when walking the dog.

A dress? Jewelry? Oversize purse? Really? OK, maybe the oversized purse because that is probably where they'd put the dog when they "walked" it, but I doubt either one has walked a dog in their life. They definitely have not gone to dog park. With a "real" dog. In Wisconsin. In the spring.

Note: "real dog" = one that is not an accessory and who's feet actually touch the ground.

The Jefferson County Dog park is 109 acres of off-leash doggy paradise: tall grass, woods trail, mowed walking paths & play areas, agility courses....and of course, OTHER DOGS! Lots of them! Gator goes twice a day rain or shine; blistering heat of summer or frigid cold of winter; snowstorm, drought or the soggy muddy mess that is spring at dog park.

A cute little dress with jacket & tights? Only if you don't mind them getting muddy, sweaty, perhaps torn from dogs jumping up to say hello. Jewelry? Gator lost his dog tags in the tall grass last August. We never found them. That bracelet could share the same fate. Cute shoes or boots? Sure, see how long before you snap off a heel, turn an ankle, or lose them in the mud. They won't look so cute after you accidentally step in doggie doo. Of course, after that, maybe you would rather lose them in the mud. Purse? After a few of the 1+ mile laps, it will be ballast to be jettisoned so you can try to keep up with the dogs.

What to and not to wear to dog park?

Stacy & Clinton's idea of a dog walking outfit

Azi seems as skeptical as me about this one

My version of What Not to Wear: Spring at Dog Park is....

Spring footwear. Left to right:

Fleet Farm Barn boots: Brought out of 20 yrs retirement, I got them for vet school because I was required to have steel toed boots. Unfortunately, Fleet Farm did not stock women's size 7 barn boots, or ANY women's barn boots for that matter, so I got the smallest men's boot I could find. My toes did not reach to the steel toe protector and I swear, the cow's knew it too. They're my pick when it's still cold and the deep snow is melting fast and the park is a snowy muddy sloppy mess
Tractor Supply Waterproof boots: They aren't heavy or insulated so are best for rainy mucky wet days that aren't cold. Functional, yet oh so fashionable. I get teased alot for these,but I know it's really because everyone is jealous because they don't have pretty boots like me.
Winter boots: they kept my feet warm even in the cold and snowy weather that is common in early spring.
Land's End water proof rubber shoes: Best for wet and muddy days with no deep sloppy mud. These pre-date even my Vet School days, they're so durable I think they'll be around forever.
YakTracks: can slip on any of the above when the trails get icy.
Not shown: my super duper warm teal green Sorrell boots from ShoeBox in Black Earth (the bargain room in back...the best $5.00 I ever spent on boots). They kept my feet warm even at -
-14 degrees.

Back from 4 laps at dog park...the week before this was taken, there was 10 inches of new snow on top of the rest of the winters snow. After 3 days of 40-50 degree temps, the snow was gone, leaving grass, mud,a winter's worth of formerly snow covered dog poop and puddles the size of a car. If that wasn't enough to make a mess, add in dogs that think playing and wrestling at your feet is better than using the rest of that 109 acres of free space. Notice that the legs are not spared, cute little patterned tights aren't so cute covered in mud.

Hats, coats & mittens....well, anything warm, waterproof, etc is the rule. Packer gear is pretty popular, as is camouflage, but surprizingly, no blaze orange. See Stacy & Clinton? We know what not to wear.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February is National Pet Dental Health Month


According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, over 70% of cats develop gum disease by the age of 3 years.

Dental disease begins when plaque, a mixture of bacteria and food, builds up on tooth surfaces and works its way under the gum line. Toxins released by the bacteria cause an inflammatory reaction. With time, simple gum inflammation can become periodontal disease, and lead to destruction of the tissue and bone that anchor the teeth in place.

It is also possible for bacteria to enter the blood stream from the diseased gums and affect the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Many of the signs of the disease are hard to miss. Bad breath, discolored teeth and swollen gums are signs of problems. Advanced periodontal disease can cause permanent damage, including loose teeth and tooth loss even though the tooth itself may look healthy. Other signs may not be as obvious and can include a sudden or gradually developing “finicky” appetite, decrease in eating dry food and starting to favor canned food, or nothing more than irritability or weight loss.
Also unique to cats is disease characterized by resorption of teeth by odontoclasts, bone cells that are responsible for breaking down and removing bone. It is known by many names: Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesion, neck lesion, cervical neck lesion, cervical line erosion. While the terms feline carie, or feline cavity are used, they are misleading because these lesions are due to tooth destruction and resorption not decay like human cavities/caries.

Preventing periodontal disease by keeping your cat's teeth and gums healthy depends on both you and your veterinarian. This means regular visits to your veterinarian for checkups, cleaning, and treatment. How often will depend on your cats dental health, its diet; as well as your ability and willingness to follow up with oral care such as tooth brushing and providing a dental diet at home.

Your cat can live a longer, healthier life when oral health care is managed and maintained throughout his or her life. Now’s the time to talk to your veterinarian about developing a dental care plan for your cat

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It truely IS a Happy New Year

A belated happy new year to everyone!

How does this happen every year? One minute it is December 1st and I'm busy getting the house decorated for Christmas and starting my Christmas cookie baking and the next minute I find myself 1 week into January.

I'm happy to report we've all survived both literally and figuratively.

I've managed to come through the holidays unaffected by the usual colds, bronchitis, and stomach flu that swept through many family members and friends. I'll knock wood and hope it continues. It must be all the fresh air and exercise I'm getting during my twice daily walks at the dog park with Gator, because is sure wasn't due to getting plenty of sleep and healthy eating during the holidays.

The other figurative "survival" is Gator. I'm so proud of him, he never showed any interest in bothering the Christmas decorations, tree, or presents. However, I can no longer say the same for food, having "survived" both his almond spritz "taste test" and Weight Watcher Lemon snack cake adventure. Both occurred when we were busy with Marta and he was home alone.

The first occurred when we made a sudden trip into an emergency veterinary clinic with Marta while 62 almond spritz cookies sat cooling on the counter. Up until this point Gator had not shown much interest in things left on the counter, so other than moving the cookies away from the edge, I didn't give it a thought. Arriving home a couple hours later, I found 2 cookies and a few crumbs on the floor, and a very happy dog. This marks the first and only time Gator has failed to eat everything offered. The positive here: it wasn't any of the several kinds of chocolate cookies I bake.

The second occurred 4 days later while at the Veterinary School. Returning home, we walked into a living room littered with pieces of cardboard from a Weight Watchers lemon snack cake box, a couple of plastic wrappers, and again, a very happy dog. Gator had eaten all 12 of the lemon snack cakes and a good many of the plastic wrappers. The positive here: everything "came out" OK.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I now know that Gator IS quite interested and willing to check out the counter for food. Fortunately, he showed no ill effects from his adventures, and unlike small children, he won't pull the kitchen chair up to the counter to get into the pantry cupboards where food is now kept.

The literal survival is Marta. In an earlier post I called her my Miracle Girl. She continues to live up to the name.

Shortly before Christmas, Marta had a sudden episode of coughing and was breathing in a way that made me concerned that there was a lower airway problem. Going back to my "Happy Birthday Marta" first thought of course was is this "it"? Is this the sign that her Feline Leukemia was active and her lungs were riddled with cancer or beginning to accumulate fluid? The products of the evening's baking (the almond spritz cookies) were still warm as I pulled Bill away from Monday Night football and bundled Marta into her carrier for the trip into Madison.

We returned home later that night, encouraged by the preliminary x-ray findings but still nervous about the results of additional work up that would be done overnight. We also returned home to our very happy Gator, with his stomach full of almond spritz cookies. I told him that if he had a stomach ache, he deserved it and I would NOT be making another trip to the emergency clinic that night! (I would have, of course, I just wasn't going to let him know)

With Marta improved on antibiotics and bronchodilators and no obvious cause pinpointed, we chalked it up to "one of the weird things cats do" and brought her home the next evening. Throughout the week she did well, and life continued as usual with all the holiday activity.

4 days later, I awoke at 4:00AM to the sounds of Marta having breathing problems. It continued to worsen and by 5:00AM I was calling the Veterinary School to tell them I was on the way in with an emergency. After a brief history she was whisked away to an oxygen cage until she was well enough for more tests. This time the x-rays revealed a mass in her trachea, at around the level of where the airway enters the chest. The red blood cell level was lower but in relation the the finding of the mass, it was not alarming.

I've practiced long enough to know that with Marta's history of Feline Leukemia, a mass is considered Lymphoma cancer until proven otherwise. It was likely that the thing I had been dreading for 7 1/2 years was occurring, this was probably "it". We went over other possibilities...a foreign object, other types of growths, but they were long shots.

Having decided against options like surgery or MRI, I was given an estimate for continued evaluation...$3,000-$5,000 for more time in the ICU on oxygen, scoping her trachea to remove a foreign object or to collect a biopsy sample if a mass was confirmed, more x-rays, more blood tests. The scoping itself was a risk...she may not get enough oxygen, the mass may swell and further block the airway, she may have uncontrolled bleeding...she may not survive these complications. We hadn't even begun to discuss possible treatment options.

In addition, she was not responding to the oxygen or the steroids that had been given after the preliminary tests. Mid-morning, I called Bill with an update and to talk about our options. Tearfully, I filled out the paperwork for euthanasia and autopsy, and waited for Bill to come.

Bill arrived close to lunchtime, with Marta's favorite purple fluffy in hand, a familiar object that she could snuggle in as we euthanized her. Call it a Christmas miracle, call it using up one more of her cats' nine lives, call it what you will, as we were led down the hallway to ICU , Marta had started to breathe better and was comfortable enough to start grooming and asking for attention! How could we euthanize her now? We couldn't.

Change of plans. More time in ICU, more time to stabilize her, move the procedure to Monday and hope for the best. We left the Vet School on Saturday, encouraged by our miracle girl. Gator must have telepathically received the good news, and with all cookies out of reach, "celebrated" by eating the dozen snack cakes.

The procedure went well and we were able to bring Marta home Monday night. Lymphoma was suspected but biopsy results would take several days. We decided that we would not do a full course of chemotherapy, as we'd likely have done it for our sake, not hers (she wouldn't understand or like the weekly car rides, vet visits or chemotherapy treatments). We opted for a single chemo injection while she was there and steroids at home, an option that would be less stressful for her.

In bringing Marta home, I got my best gift this year...another Christmas with my miracle girl. As she lays on my pillow (and head) every night I can hear her breathing comfortably. I don't know how much time she has, but for now she's following her usual routine, she's gained weight, she's happy. And so am I.