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Friday, July 31, 2015

Caring For Veterinarians

I seem to be coming across a number of other veterinary bloggers recently.  A friend of my (who is also a vet) posted the following link on his Facebook page, and I found it extremely truthful and entertaining.  Written for someone who has newly acquired a veterinarian, it discusses how to handle and take care of that vet.  While very humorous and firmly tongue-in-cheek, it also is incredibly accurate about common characteristics and tendencies among those of my profession.  I present it here as an entertaining but accurate read.

The Husbandry And Feeding Of Veterinarians (for new owners)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Math And The Veterinarian's Day

Here is part of an email that Paula sent me....

 I graduate high school next year. I score an A in science and a B in math. Getting that B was very hard as I struggle a bit at math. I just want your opinion. If you wanted to be a vet but struggled at math, would you have continued to pursue your dream or switched to a career less intense? I can promise you work doesn't scare me. 

Let me be honest in saying that math was always a struggle for me as well.  I got mostly B's and occasional A's in math, and I had to work hard for those.  Math wasn't something that has ever come easy or natural for me and it has always required a lot of effort.  Most of my basic and even advanced math skills are rusty to say the least, and I've forgotten a lot of it.  I took calculus in college as a requirement for vet school, but I've never used it since those classes, couldn't tell you what in the world calculus is used for, and have no idea why it was a pre-veterinary requirement.

So the short answer is yes, you can still be a successful vet when math doesn't come easy.

That being said, basic math skills are essential and are used daily, especially algebra.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't use some form of math in my job.  I have to calculate drug dosages, convert one unit to another, figure out dilutions of medications for my exotics patients, determine fluid rates, and many, many other things.  If I didn't have basic math abilities I wouldn't be able to perform my job, and couldn't even prescribe drugs appropriately.  If my calculations are wrong, it could prevent effective treatment or potentially cause severe side effects.  My success at math often determines my success as a doctor.

But you don't have to be a math whiz to be successful.  I can do a lot of math in my head, but I keep a calculator in my pocket to make basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division easier.  Most of our fluids are given with an electric pump, which prevents having to calculate the drips per minute for a given hourly rate.  In modern times there are plenty of apps and programs where you can plug in a given set of values and have the end results determined for you.  And really you only need basic math skills and algebra for almost all of your calculations.

It is impossible to be involved in science and medicine without some skill in math.  But you don't have to be an expert to be a veterinarian.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Maggots, Wounds, And Summertime

***WARNING:  Graphic images in this entry!  Proceed at your own risk!  Seriously gross stuff ahead!***

Heat and humidity are never good when you're dealing with skin irritation and wounds.  Here in the southeastern US there are certain things we can just about count on in the Summer because of the kind of climate we have.  Maggots are one of those things.

I've dealt with these situations countless times over my career, and the scenario is always similar.  The dog or cat spends a lot of time outside and isn't examined closely by the owners.  In some cases the pet is severely matted and skin irritation develops under the mats.  In other cases a wound is caused by a bite, puncture, or other source.  In either situation there is exposed, damaged, open tissue.  This kind of environment draws the attention of flies, who lay their eggs on the diseased tissue.  The eggs hatch and the larval flies (maggots) begin feeding on the dead tissue.  

In one way, this isn't a bad thing as this kind of maggot only eats dead or diseased tissue, thus leaving healthy tissue behind.  However, that doesn't clear up the infection, and as long as the condition progresses there will be more and more necrotic tissue on which the maggots can feed.

One of my first maggot cases was back in my first year of practice.  A heavily matted mixed breed dog came in and there was a strong odor from its back.  We realized that there was heavy skin infection under a thick layer of mats and so we began to trim the matted fur away.  As we did so we quickly saw a writhing mass of maggots.  This was about a 30 pound dog and the entire back of the dog's fur came off as one giant mat.  Underneath the skin had become infected, and since the dog was kept mostly outside it developed a horrible case of maggots.

Here's the gross part of that of the staff was named Earl.  He was a really nice guy, very good with the animals, incredibly caring and fun, and pretty much immune to the things that happen in a vet clinic.  Earl took the dog to the back to bathe it and wash off the maggots and diseased tissue.  A minute or two after he went to the tub area we heard a horrible scream.  All of us rushed back there to see Earl retching and spitting onto the floor.  Apparently he had put the water sprayer on high, and when he first started washing the dog the spray hit the maggots at just the right angle and force to cause them to fly up into his face.  And his mouth was open!  He got a big faceful and mouthful of maggots!  I will never forget that moment.

More recently a family brought in their elderly, outdoor cat for lethargy and diarrhea.  At least, they had assumed it was diarrhea because of the wetness and horrible odor from around the cat's hind end.  When I took a look at it I quickly noticed the moisture was to one side of the rectum, more on the thigh.  And then I lifted up a matted area of fur, revealing a deep, gaping wound filled with maggots.

That was definitely not what I expected to see when they brought the cat in for "diarrhea", but it didn't surprise me considering the heat and humidity of a Georgia summer.  If you look closely at the top photo you'll notice that some of the maggots were crawling out of the rectum.

Here are a few pictures with better lighting, where you can better see the maggots and extent of the wound.

I almost took a short video to show just how disgusting this really is.  All of those maggots were moving and writhing, obviously enjoying their meal.

I suspected that this was caused by a bite wound that went undetected under the cat's long fur and mats.  As I mentioned previously, the wound was a great location for flies to lay eggs, and because there hadn't been treatment the infection had destroyed a significant amount of tissue.  While there was a decent chance of eventually curing this cat, it would have involved an incredible amount of treatment, including major reconstructive surgery.  The total treatment would have easily run into several thousand dollars, mostly due to the necessity of surgery, skin grafts and so on.  Because of the amount of treatment needed, the owners elected euthanasia.

Since this cat spent most of her time outside and was difficult for the owners to catch, they didn't realize the problem was this bad.  So I don't blame them for letting this go so long.  But this is a cautionary tale for pet owners with pets who stay outside.  Be very observant of your pets, as this could have potentially been caught earlier with a daily brief exam.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Medical Advice From The Tire Shop

Some things you just can't make up.

Our clinic has been seeing a 10 year old Boston Terrier.  He has had some hair loss and skin issues, so we started working up the case.  His overall blood tests were good, but his thyroid level was low.  We started him on a supplement and brought the thyroid level within normal range, but his skin didn't get much better.  We had already ruled out bacterial and fungal diseases and he wasn't itchy so we didn't think that allergies were a likely cause.  I had become a bit stumped and had recommended that they take him to a local veterinary dermatology specialist. 

That was back in early May.

Today the wife comes in and asks about whether or not the disorder could be mange.  For those non-vets reading this, let me explain a few things.  There are two kinds of mange we commonly see in dogs:  Demodex and Sarcoptes ("Scabies").  Sarcoptes can affect any dog at any time and causes significant itchiness.  Demodex occurs when the immune system is immature or suppressed and we almost exclusively see it in dogs less than a year old.  An adult dog shouldn't have Demodex unless there was a real problem with their immune system and other signs of illness.  This particular dog wasn't itchy, didn't have the signs of scabies, and was overall healthy.  Could it have been Demodex?  Actually, yes.  However, that was certainly not our first thought in a 10 year old dog with confirmed hypothyroidism and no other signs of illness.

So why did the client ask about mange?  When my receptionist, Christina, was asking me about it my first thought was that the client consulted "Dr. Google" in an internet search.  But Christina said "oh, it gets better."  I cringed.  "She was talking to the guy at the tire shop where she was getting new tires, and he said that he had a dog with mange that looked exactly the same.  So she was asking if it could be mange."

We had to spend some time explaining that mange in a dog that age was extremely unlikely, that we had absolutely confirmed hypothyroidism, and that there were no other signs of health problems to suggest an immune system disorder.  Even so, I don't know that she was completely convinced that I was right and the tire guy was wrong.

I don't mind my clients looking things up online.  It often stimulates good conversations and I like clients to be well educated.  However, I always ask my clients to discuss things with me before taking "Dr. Google" as the ultimate source.  Heck, I always tell you readers to check with your own vet!  Any vet on the internet is handicapped by not being able to see and examine a patient, and you should never rely on such advice as the sole voice of diagnosis and treatment.  If you're merely searching by symptoms you don't have the clinical judgement and ability to take a list of findings and appropriately tie them to a proper diagnosis.

But you should never listen to a non-veterinarian over a vet.

Sure, talk to friends, co-workers, and random people to see what they might suggest about your pet's illness.  But when you then talk to your vet, realize that they have the training, knowledge, and skills to make a proper diagnosis.  When it comes down to who you believe, give your vet the edge.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Are Snake Bites Really Deadly?

Every year I see several cases of dogs being bit by snakes.  So the inevitable question comes up, "are snake bites really deadly?"  Here's my typical somewhat tongue-in-cheek reply...."It depends".

The "depends" relies heavily on the type of snake.  Even among venomous snakes some are much more deadly than others.  Thankfully in my area we only really have to worry about copperheads and cottonmouths (water moccasins).  Neither of these is particularly deadly with a single bite.  However, there are several snakes in the US that can cause fatality (especially coral snakes and some rattlesnakes), and you should always take them seriously.  If you have any questions about the lethality of venomous snakes in your area, check with your vet (especially those of you in Australia....from everything I've read your country is out to kill you!).

Most of what people seem to know about snake bites originates in Hollywood myth and hype.  If a snake bites you need to put a tourniquet on and suck the venom out of the wound!  You need to elevate the limb!  You have minutes to get to a doctor and be given antivenin or YOU WILL DIE!  Thankfully none of that is true, and while a known or suspected snake bite is absolutely an urgent case most pet owners aren't in areas with truly lethal snakes.  Those of you who are.....ignore the rest of this blog!

So what do you do if your pet is bit by a snake?  The first thing you do is stay calm.  Don't panic as that can make the situation worse.  The next thing you do is call a vet and get your pet seen immediately.  If you live in an area with highly venomous snakes the veterinary staff will be able to tell you exactly what you need to do, even if that may be going to a local emergency clinics.  Most snake bites don't require antivenin to treat, so few vets carry it.  Local human hospitals and veterinary emergency clinics will stock antivenin if there is risk in the area, so your primary doctor may refer you to an veterinary ER rather than coming to them first.  For most other snake bites it would be considered urgent enough to go to an emergency clinic if your vet is closed, but not an immediate life or death situation.

Don't try to put a tourniquet on the wound, suck the wound, or anything else you've seen in movies.  Leave it alone and get your dog to a vet right away.

Most bites that I've seen have been from copperheads, simply because they are the most common venomous snake in the areas I've lived.  Typically with this kind of snake there will be an intense local reaction with inflammation, tissue damage, and secondary infection.  The area around the bite looks really bad, but the dog is overall okay.  There is a risk of clotting disorders due to the body's reaction to the venom so a vet typically runs blood tests as part of the treatment and will instruct the owner to watch for unusual bleeding, bruising, and so on.  But a single bite shouldn't be fatal unless the dog has an anaphylactic reaction.  I've seen Yorkshire terriers bit in the face who still survived and just had a bad localized problem.

Here are photos from a dog I recently saw who was bit on the paw.  Most snake bites are on the paws or the face, because the dog is either stepping on a snake it doesn't see or is putting its muzzle close to examine the animal.  You can clearly see that the dog's left leg is significantly swollen as a reaction from the bite.

Both legs next to each other for comparison.

A closer look at the normal leg.

The leg that was bit.

The wound itself was minimal and the dog was acting normal other than a little sore in that leg.  All blood tests were normal and we treated with antibiotics and pain medication.  The leg healed well and the dog will be fine.  In cases of severe local reactions there could be a need to surgically remove damaged tissue, but this isn't common.

Again, please understand that I'm talking about mildly venomous snakes and my comments shouldn't be extended towards every kind of snake bite.  There are significant variations in the kind and strength of venoms, so you should always take a bite seriously and seek immediate veterinary care.

As I've never actually treated a patient for a potentially lethal snake bite, I'd love to have comments from vets who have done so!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Really Bad Break

Recently I saw a small dog who had been unable to walk for a few days.  When I talked to the client it came out that her husband had backed his truck into their dog.  Why they didn't come right in, I'll never understand.  However, that wouldn't have changed the outcome of the case.

The dog was a surprisingly well behaved Chihuahua who couldn't stand up on his hind legs.  His left hind leg was out to the side at an odd angle, and worst of all he didn't seem to have any sensation or movement in his legs.  Normally this kind of deficit indicates a spinal injury, and when there is no deep pain sensation there isn't much that we can do.  

In order to assess the extent of the injuries and see if there was anything we might be able to do, we took some x-rays of the dog.  Here is your radiology lesson for the day!  See if you can figure out the problems this dog has.  Go on, I'll give you some time.

My veterinary readers have probably started picking up on the multiple problems.  But for the laypeople looking at this let me give you a hand.  First, let's start with the side view.

Look at the vertebrae in the green oval.  Notice that there is virtually no space between them, and if you look at the intervertebral space in front of them (to the left), you'll see what it should look like.  The whole back (caudal) half of the lumbar spinal column is significantly compressed.  This likely indicates that the discs between the vertebrae have slipped out of place and are pushing against the spinal cord.  

Then look at the yellow circle.  This is a sharp projection of the pelvis that simply shouldn't be there.  This is an indication of a fracture and dislocation of part of the pelvis.  We'll see this injury better in the next view.

Look at the right hand side of the image.  The yellow line goes from the upper edge of the pelvis to the hip joint itself.  The green circle is the "head" of the femur, which is the ball part of the joint.  That right side (actually the dog's left side) is normal.  Compare that to the opposite side (the left side of the image, which is the right side of the dog).  Notice that the yellow line is at a much different angle and doesn't cross of the the femoral head.  If you look at the structure just "above" (towards the top of the image) of the femur on that side, you'll see a striking difference.  The pelvis is fractured in that area and significantly displaced.  Observant readers will also notice a fracture in the middle of the pubic area of the pelvis.

Let's summarize.  First of all the dog has significant spinal compression and herniated discs, leading to pressure on the spinal cord and complete paralysis.  Even with immediate surgery this dog has less than a 10% chance of recovery and ever walking again.  Additionally there is a bad pelvic fracture that would require surgery to correct.  Either of these injuries is bad by itself, but together they paint a very bleak picture.  This dog needs at least $6000 in surgery and probably an additional couple of thousand dollars in post-operative care, all with no guarantee whatsoever of being normal.

In the end the owners elected euthanasia, and frankly I can't blame them.  They simply didn't have the money to do the treatment this dog needed, and even if they had it the dog was unlikely to walk again.  Really they made the best decision, tragic though it was.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Day In The Life Of A Veterinarian....The Harsh Reality

This will be a short post today, as I want to direct my readers to another vet's blog.  Earlier this year she wrote a thorough, eye-opening, and all too truthful post about what a veterinarian's day is really like.  I just found out about it recently (thanks, Fi!).  I think this is something that all pet owners and people aspiring to the profession need to read and understand.  She said it much better than I ever have.  Seriously, take some time from reading my blog and go to hers.  Here's the link:

The Harsh Reality of Vet Med...What The World Needs to Understand

Friday, July 10, 2015

Decisions, Decisions.....Veterinary Specialties And Choices

Here's an email from a very excited reader..........

 My name is Alexis and I am currently in high school, going to my second year.  I am contacting you because I am in desperate need of advice and guidance! I know I have 3 years to still figure things out but I do not want to miss classes that could ruin everything for me. I want to be like you and become a Veterinarian. My love for animals is unbelievable and I always want to help them in their time of need because they are my life's passion! However, my mother has talked me into veterinary practice. I do wish to specialize but the problem is that thier are just so many things I'm willing to do. I really dont know how to explain this so please, bare with me. I was looking at this website at what I could do and saw some things that caught my eye. Zoology,  medicine, surgery, horses, and working with the ordinary household pets! I really want to do all those things, just not sure if I can speciaize in more than one thing. 

First, Alexis, spend some time searching my blog for "student", as I've posted many times on answering questions about what it takes to become a vet and what veterinarians go through.  A major point of my blog is to show what daily life as a vet is like, so really go through and see if what I post is what you want to do with your life.  Also, be VERY aware of the financial challenges of being a vet, as it's not easy to survive with the amount of debt we have.

Now on to your main questions.

Veterinary medicine is an incredibly varied profession.  Humans are the only animals on the planet that we are not allowed to practice on!  So that leaves all of the rest of animal life open for you to consider. Those choices can be overwhelming, because there are so many of them.  At some point you'll have to make a decision, but that's likely nearly 10 years in your future.

The large majority of veterinarians become small animal general practitioners.  This is a good fit for most of us because we get to do a little of everything.  Every day I see dogs and cats, but almost every week I'll see hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, reptiles, and other small pets.  I do surgery, dermatology, ophthalmology, cardiology, radiology, internal medicine, behavior, and just about everything else.  However, I and other GPs are "jacks of all trades and masters of none."  While I'm a good surgeon, I'm nowhere near the skills of a specialist.  While I can handle many kinds of skin disorders, I'm certainly not a dermatologist.  I can read most x-rays, but miss subtleties that a radiologist would catch easily.  

If you want to dabble in large animals and livestock, but don't want to give up the pets, you could go into mixed practice.  These vets do a little of everything and have probably some of the broadest knowledge and patients of anyone in private practice.  However, it's a very rough life as the demands of working with farm animals keep it from being a 9-5 job.

When I went into vet school I knew that I only wanted to work with pets.  Growing up I had an interest in zoo animals, but later found out how competitive and hard that job was.  During vet school I considered specialties in cardiology, surgery, and behavior, but eventually decided against these options because I didn't want to do more training and school, as well as the fact that I wanted to work with healthy pets some of the time.  It would have taken another six or more years to get that additional education, and tens of thousands of more dollars in debt (back in the 1990s....more expensive nowadays).  To me it wasn't worth it, especially when I could do most of that in general practice.

How do you decide?

If you're a sophomore in high school, you have at least 11 years until you graduate vet school, assuming that everything goes smooth for you.  Believe me, that's plenty of time, and you'll change a lot over the next seven years before you start that part of your training.  You'll learn a lot about yourself during that time, including what you really want to do.  Truthfully, don't spend time trying to figure it out now.  By the time I started vet school I was a very different person than I was in high school, with different goals and interests.  

Get a job working for vets.  I had experience both in small and mixed animal practices before I graduated college, and it gave me a good taste of what I might be able to do.  There is no better way to get a feel for what life as a vet is like.  In fact, most veterinary schools require that you've worked in the field before you will be accepted as a student.

And finally, you'll not really know what you want to do until you're actually in vet school.  Most of my classmates changed their minds at least once during those four years, or at least entertained the idea of a specialty.  Until you're actually doing the work you're not going to have a good feel for whether or not you'll like it.

You have plenty of time, Alexis!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pros And Cons Of Invisible/Electric Fences....And A Contest!

From time to time I am asked by clients about my opinion on using a wireless dog fence (sometimes called "invisible" or electronic fences) for dogs.  And yes, I have thoughts on the issue!  Also.....I have a contest!  But I'll get to that at the end.

The short version is that I do think that an electronic dog fence is a very viable option for many people.  I know from personal experience that having a physical fence is expensive and can be difficult to install if you try to do it yourself.  My own yard doesn't have a fence and we've been considering having one put in for a long time.  Last year we finally decide to do so and got a few quotes.  The cheapest one was around $2600, and they went up from there.  That cost wasn't really in our budget and as a second choice I looked into invisible fencing.

An invisible fence was a much more reasonable option.  I looked at a few companies who did the full installation as well as a DIY electric fence.  I finally decided on the latter because for less than $300 I could get a full kit plus an extra collar.  I will admit that it was a bit of work putting it in, as I had to measure and arrange the wire, set up the transmitter, dig small trenches in which to bury the wire, and make sure the whole thing worked.  It took several hours last Summer, and while not back-breaking it was a bit tedious.  In the end I got it installed and within a couple of weeks had my dogs trained.

The fence has worked great for a year and is still going strong.  My dogs have learned the boundaries and don't approach them.  They are used to the collars and don't mind them.  In fact it has worked so well that we aren't planning on putting up a physical fence any time in the near future.

It's obvious that I'm biased in favor of these fences, but I'm still realistic about the occasional challenges.  Here are a few key points.
  • The collars provide a small static charge, not a full blast of electricity.  Yes, it's uncomfortable, but the collars make a tone as the dog approaches the wire, warning them in plenty of time.  My dogs learned very quickly where that line was, and don't go too close.  If fitted and used properly it doesn't cause any physical damage and the dogs learn when to stop so they don't actually receive the shock.  I can't remember the last time my dogs have actually received any kind of "punishment" from the collars.
  • This is a much cheaper alternative to a physical fence, which makes it a great option for people on a budget.  That was one of the main reasons I decided to use one.
  • If the electricity for your house goes out for some reason (storm, blown fuse, etc.) your fence is effectively down.  So don't let your dogs outside unsupervised if this is the case or they will not hear the tone of the collar and may go beyond the boundary.
  • If the battery in the collar dies you lose the benefit of the fence.  The collar won't give a tone or a shock if the dog approaches the boundary wire.  However, many dogs are so well trained by that point that they will stop at that border anyway.  And at least the brand I use will give a warning flash as the battery is losing power.
  • Thought it would happen rarely, there is a risk of a big, strong dog getting excited and taking a running start at the boundary line, breaking through it in about a second.  I've heard of this happening, and once the dog is through the other side the collar stops giving any signal since it relates to the proximity of the transmission wire.  This has never been an issue with my dogs and they both weigh around 60 pounds.  Be aware of your dog's personality and tendencies.
Wireless dog fences aren't for every dog, but they are definitely a good option for many.  Certainly look at it as an option if you don't need a physical fence for any reason other than to contain your dogs.  There are many types of invisible fence out there, so look around.  Here is one site for invisible fence reviews.

Okay, now the contest!    I want to see how many people are aware of this blog and willing to share it!  In order to "enter", you must either comment on this post or share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).  Once you have done so send me an email at with either the link to where you shared it or your name/alias in the comments.  Doing both (commenting and sharing) will get you two entries!  I will need a valid email address in order to send the prize.  I will draw a person from random from those emails and that person will win a $25 electronic gift card!  Entries will be taken through Midnight (12:00am) EDT on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Proud To Be American

Today is Independence Day, considered the birthday of the United States of America.  And I have to say that I'm very proud to be an American.  In fact, I think the world would be a much worse place without the USA.

America and Americans have done amazing things.  We have helped revolutionize technology and industry.  We have helped stop dictators in two World Wars and fought against more during the Cold War.  Our economy has helped stimulate global trade.  We have been a country steeped in innovation and independence for our entire history.  The American entertainment industry has set standards around the world.   American brands and characters are recognized in every country.

Does this mean that the rest of the world doesn't matter?  Or that America doesn't fail?  Or that it doesn't have faults?

Absolutely not!

While Americans have made significant contributions to science, we don't want to ignore the discoveries of Europeans, Chinese, and others.  Linnaeus and Copernicus are just as important as Edison and Ford.  While we have helped innovate technology, the Japanese often do better.  Our automobiles are generally very good, but the Swedes, Germans, Japanese, and even Koreans have learned to make them just as well.

We have made plenty of mistakes as a country.  We treated the American Indians abhorrently.  We were one of the last to outlaw slavery.  We failed in our war efforts in Vietnam and Korea.  Bad fiscal policies lead to global market crashes in the 1930s and 2000s.  We have upset allies, rattled our saber when we should have sat at a negotiation table, funded evil people who eventually became our enemies, and oppressed our own citizens.  Even today we have problems with violence, racism, poor national policies, and numerous conflicts between our people.  And I am less than thrilled at several very bad decisions by the US Supreme Court in the last couple of weeks.

But through it all we survive and grow.  Though racism is not eliminated (an never will be in my opinion), the situations are far, far better in 2015 than they were in 1955.  Though we hear a lot about violent crimes and mass shootings, FBI statistics show that violence as a whole has been trending downward for decades.  Though we may not dominate the global economy as we once did, we are often finding ourselves still being innovators.  And despite bad things that people may say about America, we are still such a desirable place to live that millions of people break the law and risk their lives to come here.

Yes, I'm patriotic and a nationalist.  But I also understand and respect other countries and cultures.  My own father is an immigrant, and though he may disagree with many of the things happening in the US (especially from the Right Wing side of things), I don't think he would look back and think it was a mistake to move here and become a citizen.  I also love talking to people from other countries and visiting those other lands.  Being proud to be an American doesn't mean that I hate or discount other countries or their citizens.

This is all a long way of saying "Happy 239th birthday, America!"  I still pray for God's blessings on us, and that we will overcome the challenges and differences that face us.  While I look forward to visiting other places around the world, I will never want to call anywhere else my home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Study On Raw Food Dangers

It really does seem like pet nutrition is the focus of everything lately! I think I may have to take a break from the topic for a while before this blog changes to "A Vet's Guide To Pet Food".

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published information about salmonella in dogs and cats and the link to raw pet foods. Here are some key points from the study.

Of the nearly 3,000 dogs and cats tested, fewer than 100 tested positive. Those that did were more likely to have eaten raw meat, reported the National Institutes of Health (NIH) / U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedLinePlus.

The FDA also noted that dogs can transfer the bacteria into their environments without pet owners being aware of it. (Half of the dogs that tested positive showed no physical signs of the bacteria.) (original article here)

A dog may show no signs of illness yet still carry the bacteria, which can potentially spread to other members of the household. Moreover, for young children, older adults, or individuals with compromised immune systems, bacterial illnesses can be especially serious.

Additionally, the dogs that tested positive for Salmonella were more likely to have eaten raw pet food, study results show. Scientific literature indicates that raw foods are more likely than processed foods to test positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, another common cause of disease, in part because they have not gone through a “kill step,” such as heat processing. (
original article here)

Raw foods are more likely to carry Salmonella than processed foods. That bacteria can make it through a dog or cat's gastrointestinal tract and come out the other end. Pets that eat raw food are more likely to have Salmonella in their feces than pets on processed foods. And these animals can shed the bacteria without showing any clinical signs. The Salmonella in the feces can lead to serious infection in their human family members.

So here's the bottom line, and something sure to draw the ire of raw food proponents. And I can guarantee that I'll get at least one person who reads this who says "Well, I've been feeding raw foods to my dogs for decades and I'm fine!" But the data is pretty solid. Raw food diets fed to pets increase the risk of Salmonella infection in the humans around them.

 Think about this carefully if you are considering using such diets.