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Saturday, October 31, 2009


Though practiced in many countries, I believe that Halloween and trick-or-treating is biggest in America.  I know that I grew up loving the holiday, and had a lot of fun.  Some of my best memories of childhood are wandering through the neighborhoods begging for candy with a simple "trick or treat!"  One year my parents and a few other neighbors designed a haunted woods that wound through the suburban forest behind three houses.  There were elaborate spooks, decorations, and even a miniature Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory with a brief skit (I was Igor!).  All of it was safe, mildly frightening, and always fun. As I grew up I realized that I still enjoyed Halloween, with all of the spooky decorations and costumes. Now I get to pass it on to my own kids.

Nowadays are different, though.  With child predators and other fears, there seems to be less focus on the trick-or-treating aspect. Fewer kids go through the neighborhoods anymore, and many go around to stores in the malls.  When I was young you could barely drive a car down a street because of all of the wandering children.  Now the streets are pretty bare and it's much less common to have your doorbell rung.  It also seems like there are fewer houses handing out candy.  In the past you could go from one house to another.  Now it seems like less than half the homes in a neighborhood, and maybe as few as a third, actually welcome the kids.  Honestly, it makes me a little sad.  There is a certain innocence of childhood that is lost in the modern world.  To me Halloween is more about candy and fun costumes than it is about any real frights.  And despite what some people want to make it out to be, in modern times it simply isn't about anything evil.

But all is not lost.  Tonight my wife and I watched our kids have a great time.  Because we're usually involved with events at our church the kids haven't been actually trick-or-treating in over three years.  This year our church events were in the afternoon, so the evening was free.  Lucas and Elena were running from house to house, completely enthralled by the idea of being able to get free candy merely by rining a doorbell and saying a simple phrase.  Hyped up on sugar and excitement, they were practicaly non-stop.  That joy was contagious, making my wife and I smile and laugh at them.  It was also so nice to see the people passing out candy.  These were people who wanted the kids to come by, and they were all very nice and welcoming.  There was happiness, not obligation from these adults.  In today's society we see so many jaded, banal people that it was refreshing to see some of that simple, neighborly happiness, harkening back to a simpler time.

Oh, and the biggest surprise came from my daughter.  This is my little, cute, six year-old princess, who is nicknamed "Ladybug" by me and "Angelfish" by my wife.  This little girl is obsessed with Littlest Pet Shop toys and anything that is pink.  Yesterday she suddenly announced that she wanted to do something new for her Halloween costume.  My little, sweet girl stated that she wanted to be......a zombie cheerleader.  We have no idea where this came from!  But my wife bought simple white and black makeup and she got her wish.  As she went through the houses, the kids came to one where a party was going on.  The people thought she was adorable.  My little zombie cheerleader came running back to us laughing with pleasure because one of the people said that he was going to save some brains for her.  That's my little Ladybug....

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Brad's Guide To Veterinary Medicine

A vet I know named Brad sent me a list of 31 rules he has developed over a lifetime around veterinary medicine (his father is also a vet).  Here are a few of the choicer ones.  These are all tongue-in-cheek, but also give some profound truths about life as a vet.

Rule #6--The condition is never an emergency until 3 a.m.

Rule #8--The more money spent on procuring the animal, the less spent on maintaining it.

Rule #11--The more ignorant the client, the more certain they are that they know more than you do.

Rule #12--The nicer the clothing, the more nasty, disgusting, and malodorous a procedure you will be asked to perform.

Rule #17--If the client does not comply with orders and the animal gets worse or dies, it is your fault.

Rule #18--All lesions occur overnight ("Really, Doc, he was fine yesterday").

Rule #24--Any unexplained illness seen in a pet is the direct result of the spay/neuter you performed 3 years ago. ("I don't know, Doc.  He was just fine until you neutered him back in '95.")

Rule #26--No matter how late you stay open, or how many days your office is open, there's always one client that will show up 5 minutes before closing with a patient that's been sick for 3 weeks, and complain that you're not open late enough.

Rule #27--Four years of veterinary school cannot possibly compare with the 15 minutes of training that the high-school drop-out got at the pet store.

Rule #28--Consciousness is a privelege; if you abuse it, it will be taken from you.

Rule #30--It is a geophysical phenomenon that all of your clients live only 5 minutes away from your hospital if it is within 30 minutes of closing.

Hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. I know that my veterinary readers will appreciate this in a special way!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Helpful Paranoia

Remember my "almost-deadly mistake" of last week?  Today I did my first neuter since then, on a dog about the same size.  Last week's case was running through my mind the whole time, and I was extra careful.  I watched my suture placement more closely than I have since I first started doing this surgery, despite the fact that I've done thousands of these procedures.  This is something that I'll probably do quite a bit in the future, not being as comfortable and complacent as I have in the past.

Honestly, this isn't necessarilly a bad thing.  I realize that I'm only human and mistakes will happen (not just as a vet but in my life in general).  However, I hope that I learn from my mistakes and never make the same one twice.  I can clearly remember each slipped stitch, wrong drug dosage, and missed diagnosis I've made, as well as I remember certain of the highly successful cases.  Everyone will make a mistake once.  I try hard never to make the same mistake twice.  Part of experience is learning from your past screw-ups and preventing them from happening again in the future.  There are many things I am confident that I will never do a second time because I felt so bad or stupid the first time. 

A little paranoid to triple-check this surgery? Probably.  But I consider this a helpful kind of paranoia, as it makes me a better doctor.  Sometimes the hardest lessons are the ones we learn the most from.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Private Vs. Corporate Medicine

Here in the US we have two basic business models for veterinary practices.  The most common is the standard private practice.  Most are owned by a single veterinarian who has a single practice location.  However, it's not uncommon to have 2-3 partners owning a practice together and perhaps having a couple of locations in an area.  A corporate practice is run a bit differently.  There are multiple locations within a region or nationally who are run as any corporation:  there is a president, board of directors, location managers, and so on.  In the US the two biggest corporate practices are Banfield, The Pet Hospital and VCA, each having hundreds of locations.  However, there are also smaller, regional corporate practices that may have a few dozen clinics.

What does this matter to the average pet owner?  Not necessarilly much.  You will have a personal relationship with your doctor and will get to know the staff at the location, regardless of who owns  it.  A private owner has more flexibility in what decisions they can make for your pet and your charges.  With a corporate practice you have more consistency when you move around.  Like with any large company (McDonald's, Sears, Payless Shoes, etc.) you know what you will get when you go to any location in the country.  With our highly mobile American population, having a basic idea of what to expect from your veterinarian often will help in chosing a new vet when you relocate.  But regardless of who owns or runs the practice, studies have shown that most clients make their decisions about veterinary care based on two factors: location and veterinarian.  If they like the vet and the practice is conveniently located, the client will continue to take their pets there.  Believe it or not, according to the surveys price is not the most important factor to clients.

What about as a veterinarian choosing where to work?  The pros and cons are bigger to the vets themselves.  With a private practice you have a chance of eventually "buying-in", becoming a partial or even complete owner.  You also have fewer steps to go through to get approval for ordering new medications or equipment.  If you're the practice owner yourself, you have complete and utter control over how the practice is run.  The down side to this is that as an owner you spend a large portion of your time being a business owner and manager, not a vet.  Many vets don't want this, as we don't go to business school.  Historically vets are also poor business owners, with a large portion of veterinary businesses failing.  To be successful you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset, something not every vet has.  The big benefit to this is that a practice owner will have the potential to make more money than any other veterinarian.

A corporate practice is nice for those who never want to own their own business.  You have other people handling the management, payroll, business matters and so on so you can concentrate on being just a vet.  It can be nice to put 100% of your time and effort into practicing medicine.  If you work for one of the larger practices you also have the opportunity to simply transfer to a different location if you move around the country, keeping your seniority and benefits, as well as being able to jump into the new location with minimal hassle.  The down side is that you are limited to what the corporation decides to keep in stock for medicine and equipment, though this is not as big of a problem as many would think.  You have to uphold the practice's policies and procedures, though this is true of working for a private owner as well.

Which is better medicine?  Honestly you can have high quality and poor quality care with both business models.  For a client I would recommend simply finding the right fit for you and don't worry about who owns it.  For a vet looking for a job, check out both.  If you want to be an owner, then private practice is the way to go.  If you don't have that business mind-set and don't plan on ever being an owner, then a coporate practice might be a good fit.

I'm curious about whether or not both models exist in other countries.  So to my veterinary readers around the you have corporate practices as well?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Almost-Deadly Mistake

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  Veterinarians (and other doctors) are humans; therefore they can and do make mistakes.  The bad thing about these mistakes is that when things go wrong it can affect the life and health of the patient. I just had a mistake that was almost very, very bad.

Yesterday I neutered a Yorkshire terrier.  This isn't normally a big deal, as by my calculations I have performed over 2,000 of these surgeries.  This case was slightly complicated by the fact that one of the testicles had been retained in the abdomen (a condition called "cryptorchidism"), which means we have to make a second incision and go hunting after it.  Again, this isn't normally a real concern as I've done several dozen cryptorchid surgeries over the years.  The pet recovered well and was sent home.

This morning the owner called, concerned about the fact that he was trying to urinate but couldn't.  He also wouldn't eat or drink and seemed more painful than expected.  I told her to bring him in for us to look at him.  Once I examined him I could immediately tell that his bladder was extremely full as well as painful.  It appeared that he had been completely blocked overnight, and was in a very serious condition.  However, I couldn't figure out how that could have possibly happened.  When we neuter dogs, we don't actually do anything to any part of the urinary tract.  Even going into the abdomen we don't handle the bladder or any other part.  So I was perplexed as to how it could have happened.  But mostly I was worried.  Very, very worried.

I have made mistakes in the past, but rarely have I felt this concerned.  Because I genuinely care about the outcome of my cases, I take my mistakes seriously and personally.  Though I know it isn't good to do, I will worry over some of my cases for days, especially if I think I might have messed up.  With this puppy I was so worried about what I might have done that I started getting nauseas and light-headed.  My anxiety was so high that I had to actually sit down for a while because I was afraid of passing out.  I can't remember ever being that worried and anxious, but this time I was severely affected.

In cases like this we can't simply give up and tune out.  The dog needed me to figure out what was wrong and fix it.  I also had other patients that still needed to be seen.  So with a round of prayer, I steeled myself to continue.  I sedated him and passed a urinary catheter to see where the obstruction was.  Surprisingly it was at the site of the standard neuter incision.  I couldn't figure out what I had done, but I knew that something had blocked his lower urinary tract at the base of his penis, and the only thing that could have caused that was the suture.  I knew that I had to go back in surgically and try to fix things.

I anesthetized him, opened up his incision, and removed the suture I had placed just 24 hours previously.  Once I had done that I had my tech try to advance the urinary catheter.  This time it passed easily into his bladder, and we were able to empty it of urine.  Somehow a suture had passed around or through part of his penis, obstructing his urinary tract and keeping him from being able to urinate.  I closed the surgery site again and recovered him.

He did well post-operatively and recovered quickly.  I knew he was doing better when we gave him some dog biscuits and he ate them with gusto, something he hadn't done in over a day.  He was much improved when we did send home.  Thankfully the owners were understanding and we covered all costs of the second procedure.  I was very honest with them about what had happened, as I don't believe it is right to ever lie, especially in situations like this. 

Part of being a doctor is having do deal with situations like this.  And I can't say that it ever gets easier.  We are expected to be perfect by the law and by most people, often including ourselves.  Yet it's impossible to be perfect.  Impossible to never do something wrong.  I'm the worst when it comes to expecting myself to do the impossible like this. This was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke that I still can't figure out.  It shouldn't have happened, and I don't know how it did.  But the reality is that I did make a mistake and the pet could have died because of it. Thankfully, he seems to be doing well now. And yes, I will continue to worry about this dog until I know that he does well over the next two days.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lead In Tennis Balls And Other Pet Products

A very interesting study was just released showing a potentially serious danger with some pet products. According to, numerous pet products had noticable amounts of lead.

"Pet Products – tested over 400 pet products, including beds, chew toys, collars and leashes. Since there are no government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products, it is not surprising that alarming levels of toxic chemicals were found. One quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead, including seven percent with levels higher than 300 ppm – the current Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard for lead in children's products."

A particularly startling finding was that almost 50% of tennis balls sold for dogs had lead in them, and that tennis balls designed for dogs had far higher lead content that "normal" tennis balls.  Surprisingly, sports tennis balls had no lead at all.  Considering how many people buy tennis balls for their dogs and how many dogs like them, this is a very big concern, and one that had me raising my eyebrows when I read it.

Why the concern?  As most people are aware, lead toxicity is serious.  It can cause anemia, gastrointestinal symptoms, and neurological problems.  Because the toxicity is not always detected early, pets can become severely ill and even die.  Lead also accumulates in the body, meaning that continual low-level exposure can be as bad as a single high-level exposure.  The take-home point is that lead is bad, and any products that contain it should be avoided.

Frankly, as both a veterinarian and a pet owner, this has me concerned.  There are no standards for lead content in pet products like there are in human products, yet the risk is the same.  We rarely see true lead toxicities, but it seems that this dangerous metal is more common than previously suspected.  Hopefully this data will shake some things up and have the pet product manufacturers watching more closely or face legislative action to control this health danger. has a pet section where you can look up the products tested and see the specific brands.  Anyone who has purchased pet products recently or plans to should double-check to make sure the risk is low.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Season For Skin?

Normally the Summer months are the worst for skin problems.  Allergies are at a height, and the heat and humidity allow microorganisms to grow quickly.  There are seasonal allergies in the Spring and Fall, but the worst seems to be in the Summer.  Combine these conditions with a growing flea problem and you have a recipe for dermatology disaster.  It's something we know about and expect.  Which makes it surprising when you have a run of cases that break from the season.

Over the last week my associate and I have been bombarded with itchy dogs and cats.  Most of them have come in with sudden intense itching to the point of causing severe self-trauma.  The itching is bad enough that they chew themselves raw, creating large hot-spots.  We expect this in dogs with flea allergies or other severe allergy disorders.  But we've been seeing pets come in that don't typically have skin problems.  Frankly it's been a bit perplexing since it's not a typical season for it and we're seeing 25-30% of our patients with these disorders.  Our area has had a lot of rain in the last month, including a lot of flooding, which makes me consider that there may be molds releasing spores that the pets are allergic to.  We do see autumn allergies, but not normally on this scale.  Thankfully they're responding to therapy, but it's still a strange surge of dermatology problems.

Hopefully as the weather cools off (here in the northern hemisphere) we'll see some changes, and things will get back to normal for the season.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Salary Up, So Is Debt

Every year the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association publishes a study of salaries, employment and debt among American veterinarians.  This year there was some mixed news.  On one hand, starting salaries were up from 2008.  Across all vets, the increase was 0.7%, with an average starting salary of a little under $49,000 annually.  When looking at those employed solely at private practices the increase was a more noticeable 6%.  Pretty good news!  Vets are very underpaid for their knowledge and skills, so it's nice to see the salaries increasing for new graduates.

However, there is a fair bit of bad news with this.  The amount of debt incurred in acquiring this education and training rose by 8%.  Yes, salaries grew, but debt grew by a greater margin.  This more than erases the salary increase, and puts more hardship on new graduates.  A new veterinarian begins their career with just over $129,000 in debt.  That's a pretty big burden on veterinarians.

I don't know that anyone has a good solution to the problem.  Vet salaries still lag behind the amount of debt we acquire, and we have the worst debt-to-income ratio of any doctor.  With universities having their funding cut due to state budget constraints, the cost of education isn't going to get any better.  To further raise salaries we would have to increase the cost of veterinary medical care, charging more for our services.  Prices can only go so far before people stop coming in, especially in tight economies like all of us are going through world-wide.

Anyone who wants to enter this profession needs to know what they're getting into and what their prospects are.  And our clients need to know that it costs a LOT of money to become a vet, and we're often scraping by as much as they are.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Thespian's Guide To Life

For the last 2 1/2 months my wife and I have been rehearsing for a community theater production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  For the last couple of weeks the rehearsal schedule kicked into high gear as we neared our performance dates (hence my lower posting frequency on this blog).  What an experience this has been!  My wife is the major thespian in the family and has far more experience than myself.  Though I enjoy theater and have a certain amount of raw skill, I don't feel the strong draw to it like she does.  I also absolutely hate memorizing anything, which makes it a challenge to learn lines.

For the past two mornings we have performed for local schools, and tonight we have our first performance in front of a "real" audience.  Two performances tomorrow will finish out this brief run.  And I have to admit that I have enjoyed this far more than I expected to.  The cast is great, and my wife and I have made several new friends.  They are a fun group to be around, and there is a good mix of people, with some having performed for 30 years and others having limited experience like me.  I have done church plays and a couple in high school, but nothing on this scale.  The audience this morning had around 400 students, and were really into the play.  And I haven't had problems with stage fright, which I have been very glad for.

One of the things I realized today is that there is a real energy with a good audience.  I have heard about this, and my wife tried to explain it to me.  When you have an audience that is obviously enjoying the performance, the actors can feel it and draw on that energy to enhance their acting.  This morning's audience was like that.  Much Ado is a comedy, and yesterday's group didn't seem to get that as much.  Today's was laughing quickly and easily, which excited the whole cast.  I started feeling that myself, and couldn't believe how good it was to share that.  I had to admit to my wife that I'm starting to understand why she likes performing, and that I wouldn't mind doing this again.  She takes great amusement from these sentiments, as I complained heartily about having to learn my lines and that I wish I had a smaller part.

In a few hours we step onto the stage again to make some magic.  I'm actually looking forward to it.  So here's a glimpse of my wife and I as Margaret and Borachio.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Soft Paws

Regular reader Mary brings this question....

I recently ran across a cat product that looks really interesting.  I'm sure in your years of practice you must have heard of it. The product is called "Soft Paws" and they are little vinyl caps to put over a cat's claws to keep the cat from scratching furniture or people. What do you think of this product?  Would you recommend it?  Are there any hygiene problems associated with the product? 

Soft Paws have been around for a long time, and are based on a sound concept.  By blunting a cat's claws with a rubber cover, they keep the claws from causing damage to people or furniture.  For those not familiar with them, they come in a kit and are applied to each claw (front and rear) with a glue.  The principle is similar to using fake fingernails in humans.  

The benefit to this product is that you are able to prevent a cat from clawing destructively without the pain, risks, and costs of declawing surgery.  And they really do work.  I have been swatted by cats with them on and have been very greatful for their use.  So as an alternative to declawing, it really is a very sound product.

However, there is one drawback, and it's a big one.  This product is very labor intensive.  The caps will periodically fall off and may be chewed or pulled off by the cat.  According to the packaging the caps will last for a couple of months, but I have rarely seen that happen.  About two to four weeks is an average time to have to replace at least some of the caps. Most people will give up on Soft Paws after a few months of having to glue these on their cat's claws.  At some point it becomes a big hassle, and for many is more trouble than it's worth.  But for the people who have the time and desire to use them, they are a great product.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Dr. Layperson"

I was chatting on an online veterinary site recently, and several people were comparing notes about various crazy client complaints. One of the big things that comes up is clients who think they know better than the doctor, or somehow think that medicine is easy. Just this week I had a client bring in her shih-tzu puppy who was having diarrhea and vomiting. I had my tech present a treatment plan which included checking for intestinal worms, parvo, and giardia. The client asked her why I couldn't tell what was wrong with her dog. Umm....that's why I want to run the find out what's wrong...Apparently the person thought that I could figure out the problem simply with an exam, even though I had explained the possibilities to her before I stepped out of the room.

A few years ago I had a person (not a regular client) come into the office wanting to purchase Hill's K/D. This is a veterinary-only diet designed for pets in kidney failure. Because of its low protein levels (which are beneficial with renal disease) it's not recommended for pets with normal kidney function. Therefore we don't let anyone just walk in and pick up one of these diets without a good reason or authorization from another vet. He said that his dog had kidney disease and therefore he wanted the diet. I asked him why he thought this and if another vet had diagnosed kidney disease. He said no, he hadn't been to another vet and he knew the dog had kidney problems because it was urinating a lot. I explained that kidney disease couldn't be diagnosed without blood and urine tests and that there were several other problems that would cause an increase in urination (diabetes, urinary tract infections, Cushing's disease, etc.). He began to argue with me that he just knew his dog had problems with its kidneys and insisted on the food. I refused without any tests being run. He started yelling at me and became irate. I still didn't let him have the food, and he stormed out. Somehow his opinion based on a single symptom was better than my years of training, knowledge, and experience.

Believe it or not, that's not uncommon. I have had many people take the advice of breeders, store clerks, and friends over that of a veterinarian. These laypeople seemingly have greater skills and knowledge than a licensed and experienced doctor, or so certain clients appear to believe. There is an awful lot of "Doctor Layperson" syndrome out there, and it's frustrating to real doctors. I'm the first to admit that I don't know everything, and that there are other doctors who are smarter and better than me. But I sure as heck know more about immunology and vaccinations than a breeder and know more about flea life cycles and nutrition than the guy stocking at PetCo. In the end, I think it comes down to people believing what they want to believe. And to these people a medical degree means nothing if I'm not telling them the "right" things.

Thankfully these people are in the minority, though it is a larger minority than I like to see.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pet Psychics

Don sends in a very interesting scenario...

What is your take on pet physics? We have a dog that we saved from the pound. She is about three years old and is an Austrialian shephard mix, red in color. We were told she had some "issues" when we got her and she used the house as if she had never been potty trained. We were told that she was house broken and cage trained, however that did not seem to be the case.She also liked to lick, which seems to be a trait of this breed. She was very shy around my wife but not around me.
We contacted a pet physic for help and talked to her on the phone. She ask us to place the phone next to the dog and she spoke to the dog. The dog immediately left the room but the physic said that she was now in the dogs space and did not have to be in direct contact withe phone. We ask her to find out about the dogs past. She said the dog told her that she was one of a litter of six and was very shy. She did not like to be held and as such was one of the last to be adopted. She said that she had lived in three homes and at the first one, she stayed in a yard with three other dogs, one of them was large and overbearing. The one she enjoyed playing with was a small white fluffy dog. She siad the dog was removed from that family because of some sort of problem between the man and woman. The second home was for a short time. (She was fostered out form the Humane Society)
The third home is where she is now. The reason she was shy around my wife was that seh sensed form my wifes movements that she ,the dog, might hurt her if she caused her to fall or something. After the dog was told that she did not have tobe so careful, she began playing with my wife. We also ask about her licking and the dog told her that was her way of showing affection. We ask he to tell the dog that we did not like that much licking and as result , she has cut way back on the licking. The reason for her use of the house for her potty was she was afraid that we would taker back to the pound. Since the physic talked to her, she has been like a different dog. She has not gone in the house, she is a happier dog and plays with my wife.
Most people scoff at the thought of communicating mentally with a dog but we have seen direct results form this approach.

Don, I have to admit to being very skeptical about these sorts of things. Numerous reports in the media have shown how phone psychics are completely bogus, and I have no reason to believe that pet psychics are any different. Most people who are "psychic" are actually very keen observers of human behavior. The USA Network show "Psych" uses this as it's main premise. The main character pretends to be a crime-solving psychic, but in reality he is extremely observant of his surroundings, noticing things that most people overlook. I've also seen reports on how people use subliminal cues, careful questioning, and so on to make it seem like they can read people's minds. In your example, I hate to say that I can see several things that a "psychic" could use to make you think they can read your dog's mind.

1. "
She said the dog told her that she was one of a litter of six and was very shy. She did not like to be held and as such was one of the last to be adopted." You have no way of knowing whether or not this is true, so the psychic can say whatever they want to. If they have enough assurance and authority in their voice, you are not likely to question them. The person could have said that she was of a litter of three and was the most active and therefore the last to be adopted, and you would have no reason to believe otherwise. Be careful when people tell you something that neither they nor you can prove. The fact that they "know" the information is of itself not a proof.

"She said that she had lived in three homes...The second home was for a short time. (She was fostered out form the Humane Society)" I'll bet money that you mentioned something about having adopted her at one point in the conversation. An observant person would pick up in this and make some quick assumptions. If you adopted her, she must have come from a shelter or rescue group. That means she was given up by someone else. Most pets who are given up to shelters have only had one previous home. Therefore it is simple deduction to state that your home is the third one. No psychic ability needed, merely logic and a basic knowledge of shelters.

3. "
at the first one, she stayed in a yard with three other dogs, one of them was large and overbearing. The one she enjoyed playing with was a small white fluffy dog. She siad the dog was removed from that family because of some sort of problem between the man and woman." Again, you have no way to verify this information. She could have said pretty much anything, and if she sounds convincing enough who are you to doubt? If there was any way to absolutely know that what she said was true, then this might be some pretty interesting statements. Otherwise it's simply a nice story that sounds good.

"The reason she was shy around my wife was that seh sensed form my wifes movements that she ,the dog, might hurt her if she caused her to fall or something. After the dog was told that she did not have tobe so careful, she began playing with my wife." Take a minute and think from your dog's perspective. She is in a new place with people that she doesn't know. We don't know what kind of experiences she has had in the past, so we don't know what will make her nervous and what won't. She has to learn you as much as you have to learn her. Any dog is going to be cautious in situations like this, and it's not easy even for a behavioral specialist observing the dog to give the reasons why. Her improvement can be simply explained by her becoming used to her new situation and picking up on your wife's body language.

"We also ask about her licking and the dog told her that was her way of showing affection. We ask he to tell the dog that we did not like that much licking and as result , she has cut way back on the licking." Dog Behavior 101 will let anyone know that licking is a sign of affection. This is elementary knowledge of dogs, and something that most people know. Dogs are masters of reading body language, and if she detects that you don't want her doing it, she will stop doing it as often. Again, no psychic ability needed, merely an understanding of dog behavior.

6. "
The reason for her use of the house for her potty was she was afraid that we would taker back to the pound. Since the physic talked to her, she has been like a different dog. She has not gone in the house, she is a happier dog and plays with my wife." Now this doesn't make sense to me from a behavior perspective. One of the biggest reasons why dogs end up at shelters is because of housebreaking issues and eliminating inside the house. Going to the bathroom indoors would be MORE likely to cause her to end up at the shelter, not less likely. If she was really afraid of going back to the pound, then she should be doing everything possible not to end up there. I will also bet that you and your wife were working with her, rewarding her when she eliminated outside and punishing her when she went inside. That alone could lead to her doing better about bathroom habits.

You also have to keep in mind that dogs don't think or rationalize in the same way that people do. Studies have shown that a stimulus (positive or negative) must happen within 20 seconds of a dog's behavior or they will not associate the two. Getting mad at a pet when they urinated on your carpet an hour ago will not help, as they don't associate that wet spot with having done the deed themselves. So many of the things that this "psychic" stated about the reasons for her behavior simply wouldn't have happened, and goes against what we know of canine behavior and thought processes.

My opinion? I don't see anything in what you have told me that makes me think anything other than that the "psychic" knew about human and basic dog behaviors. I don't completely eliminate the possibility that some people may genuinely have strange abilities, but at the same time I think that the huge majority of people in these positions are charlaitans. I hate to disappoint you, but I don't see anything that makes me think this was a legitimate psychic person. Hopefully you can see some of the reasons for my skepticism based on how I have explained things.

Great question and a very interesting topic!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dieting Cat

Here's a question from Sami...

About 10 months ago my vet advised me that my male 8 year old cat, Pete, needed to lose 3 pounds (he weighed 18 lbs then). He's successfully lost 2 lbs, I can definitely tell that he's healthier, he actually runs to his food bowl and is a lot more affectionate. I feed him 3 times a day but he still seems to be hungry all the time and I hate reducing what he eats further. The problem is that he is losing weight really slowly (only an ounce a week for the past 6 weeks--previously it was about 3 oz a week). My question is, is this too slow a rate of weigt loss? Should I just be happy he is still losing weight at all? This is normally the time of year he usually starts to put on weight and sleep even more.

Congratulations on the weight loss, Sami. It's not always easy to get pets to loose weight, especially cats. But obesity can cause numerous health problems, including diabetes and liver disorders. Overweight pets don't live as long as slim ones, so continue the good work.

One of the the things most people don't realize is that most pets won't maintain their own weight. A dog or cat can't rationalize that they will be fed again tomorrow, so they will eat as much as they can today. That's part of their natural instincts and is something that can't be trained out of them. They also enjoy the taste of food, and will eat because of the taste as much as from hunger. The end result is that you can't use a pet's seeming hunger to determine how much or how often they should eat. How many of us continue to eat even when we're full? So Sami, continue to feed the recommended amount and learn to ignore your cat's cries for more food.

Weight loss in cats should be slow and steady. If an overweight cat looses weight too fast, it could cause problems with the liver. However, as the cat loses weight, the amount of calories it needs will also reduce, so you may need to reduce the amount of food that you have to feed. Talk to your vet about the specific amount to feed per day for your cat's weight needs, and stick closely to that with measuring cups. Continue to do what you're doing and you can help your cat live a longer and healthier life.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Slaughtering Horses

Eating meat is controversial to many people, resulting in an increase in the presence of vegetarianism in developed countries. For some people raising and then killing animals for personal consumption is wrong. But that's not what I want to discuss this time. A recent hot-button topic here in the US has been slaughtering horses for meat. In fact, there is currently a ban on slaughtering horses in the US or exporting them for slaughter.

Humans have been eating animal meat for as long as our kind has been around. For most of history it was never a big issue. However, the idea of "forbidden" meat has always seemed to be around. Usually it's cultural, such as a ban on pork among Muslims, a Hindu reverence for cattle, or an American aversion to eating companion animals. And while some cultures avoid certain meats, others may embrace it. Most Americans love hamburgers and porkchops, while many in Asia have no problem eating dog or cat meat. Really, the idea of banning certain animals from being food sources has little to do with biology and everything to do with cultural mores and standards.

So that brings up the idea of horse slaughter. Many Americans find this completely abhorrent because of the widespread use of horses as companions and work animals. For us, it would be the same as eating our beloved dog or cat. Yet in most of the rest of the world horse meat is perfectly acceptable, including in Europe, Asia, and South America (see this article). Horses are slaughtered humanely in the same way that cattle are, so there is little difference. Despite that, there are people extremely passionate about the topic, and the American Humane Society is completely against it (another article).

So that brings about this month's poll. I'm curious to see whether people find it acceptable for horses to be slaughtered for use as meat. Personally, I have no problem with the practice, and would even be willing to try it. I don't think I would ever be willing to eat dog meat, but I have no problem with people who do so as long as animals are killed humanely. What about the rest of you?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's A Dog's World

According to recent surveys, cats are the most common pet in the US, followed by dogs and then ferrets. I know that my readership is international, but I suspect that there would be similar proportions of dogs and cats in other countries. There are around 75 million pet dogs in the US and about 88 million pet cats. Given these numbers, I find my recent poll results very interesting, even though I know that this is very unscientific polling. Here's how everyone responded to the question "if you could have any pet you wanted, what kind would it be?"

And 0% for small mammals or fish.

Another interesting fact is that though there are more cats in the US, yet they are seen far less frequently than dogs by vets. In my own practice I would estimate that I see about 2/3 dogs and 1/3 cats, with a few exotics here and there. In my own family I have two dogs and three cats, yet I consider myself a "dog person". Guess there are probably many of you with the same mindset!

As a vet I personally prefer to work on dogs than cats. Cats are more likely to be skittish or aggressive in an exam, and are harder to handle. With dogs you pretty much have to isolate the mouth and you're safe. With cats you have the teeth, four sets of claws, and an extremely flexible body...much harder to isolate the dangerous parts! There are many vets who specialize in cats, and have cat-only practices. I admire their dedication, but could never do that. I often joke that I'm going to open the first dog-only veterinary practice.

Tomorrow I'm going to start a poll and discussion on a controversial topic, so stay tuned....