Thankfulness for a Cat and a Veterinarian

Thankfulness for a Cat and a Veterinarian

At this time of year, I wanted to reflect something I’m thankful for.  During my time in practice in both Florida and Kingston, a question I’ve been asked a lot is “why did you become a veterinarian?”  Whether it is because a kid is curious how they can be a vet, somebody wants to know how I can do certain parts of my job (typically euthanasia), or if I’m being accused of being in it for the money, during this time of year I wanted to share my story about why I’m thankful for a veterinarian and a cat.

Zorro settling in

Zorro settling in

April 1986 – My dad arrives home with a new “dependent” for mom to declare during tax season.  A small kitten was found playing with a plastic bag in the middle of the street and he was scooped up by my dad.  We named him Zorro, an amazing tuxedo cat who found his way into our home and my heart.  Mom had given me the responsibility of caring for Zorro and he & I bonded.  I was especially fond of his crooked tail (shaped like a “Z”) that had been previously broken and the strong headbutts he would give to show that he cared.  In 1995 around American Thanksgiving-time, he became acutely ill…or so we thought.  Zorro had been showing all the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis except my mom & I had no clue what the signs were at the time or even knew that cats could even become diabetic.  We arrived home one Sunday from a weekend campout and found Zorro in a semi-comatose state on the floor but with 2 other cats we hadn’t noticed any changes in drinking, urination, or appetite.

First thing Monday morning, we took him to our regular vet who diagnosed him then advised us he would need ICU care so we took him to Hollywood Animal Hospital where received a more thorough explanation off the diagnosis and a guarded prognosis for the return to good health of a cat who was “mine.”  The veterinarian who took on Zorro’s case explained everything to us and she was very honest about the difficult road ahead.  He was admitted to the clinic and each day he got progressively better.

On Thanksgiving night, we had our dinner and prepared some turkey to take to Zorro in the hospital when we were going to pick him up.  While we were waiting in the room to see him again and go over the discharge instructions, the veterinarian came in and told us he had unexpectedly passed away.  I had known death before but not one that affected me so greatly.  Even though he was gone, our veterinarian still took the time to answer any questions we had and assured us that we hadn’t done anything wrong.  We simply had been uninformed to be able to recognize the problem and get him help sooner but as he had improved, his passing was not fully explainable.

Zorro, an educated cat

The light bulb clicked on…I made the decision to pursue a career as a veterinarian.  Sure I loved animals all along.  It wasn’t because of the money (because honestly, veterinarians don’t get paid as much as people think).  It wasn’t because of the high ratios of women to men in the profession (as my grandfather kidded me).  It was simply a chance to be able to help both people and animals at the same time.  I had always been community service oriented and enjoyed helping others but until this moment it hadn’t clicked.

I investigated what I needed to do and pursued my goal of becoming a veterinarian.  After graduating from the University of Illinois, I returned to Hollywood Animal Hospital as an intern and later an associate.  To this day, I make a point to return the kindness and compassion to my patients and their families especially when facing a potential end of life scenario.  It’s also the reason I do this blog to help others have a reliable source of information so that they don’t have the same experience.

Shutterbug shortly after diabetes diagnosis

Shutterbug shortly after diabetes diagnosis

I regret not knowing back then what we should have been looking for.  Our veterinarian didn’t have to take the time explain things to us, but she did, and ultimately we were able to recognize the signs later on in our other cat Shutterbug who also became diabetic.  Because of our experience with Zorro, Shutterbug was able to have a great long life with controlled diabetes for many years.  Yes, it was sad that we lost our cat Zorro but I’m thankful for the compassion of a veterinarian who made it easier to accept the experience and set me on the road to paying it forward.

Acknowledgements: Dad, thanks for picking up the little guy all those years ago.  Now you know the truth, it wasn’t the baby opossums.  Mom, thank you for not writing Zorro off all those years ago and finding a way to try and help him.  I love you guys!

Kittens & Broken Bones

Kittens & Broken Bones

Let’s take a little trip to the land of orthopedics!  Yes, bones can be a fun and fascinating part of the body but sometimes they can get broken.  For awhile, I thought about titling this “how to fix a broken kitten” except they’re aren’t really broken…just curious and sometimes a bit clumsy.  Unfortunately, cats & dogs are not like people in that you can tell them to keep things clean, stay rested, and keep a cast on at least not in all cases.  Let’s look at two different cases I’ve had recently here in Kingston and even in Florida.

The Curious Case of Skinny PeteIMG_1195

Look at him…he’s adorable!  But why does he get to wear that super cool looking bandage that makes all the ladies swoon for him?  Well, the owner & I still aren’t sure how he manage to break his leg.  Skinny Pete may have been climbing around a barstool and hit his leg awkwardly but that is the only suspicion.  Pete had a fracture of his radius, a bone in the forearm.  Oddly, he didn’t break the ulna right next to it.

Fractured radius

Fractured radius

Fortunately for Pete and his family, we were able to splint his leg.  The reason we could do this and avoid surgery was due to the type and location of the break.  For splinting or casting, you need to be able to immobilize the joints above and below the break.  The other component is that at home care and follow up must be done as directed.  Splints need to be changed every 7-10 days and at home they need to be kept dry.  Changes are required due to the risk of skin problems developing under the bandage material as well checking to make sure the splint hasn’t slipped.

Skinny Pete was brought back in diligently for rechecks and after a few weeks and with a very compliant owner, we were able to take the last splint off of Skinny Pete’s leg and give him a clean bill of health.  A lot of the outcome was made possible by his family following directions and following up as scheduled.

skinny pete Fx healed

Healed fracture

Goldy & the Working VacationGoldy fracture

Months ago I wrote about a stray cat my dad picked up that ended up having kittens.  Goldy is one of those kittens and curiosity got the best of him as he fell out of a second story window.  And while Goldy wasn’t so lucky, my dad was in that I happened to arrive home for a visit the next day and I could fix the problem for a fraction of the cost.  Goldy’s fracture is one we can commonly see in young dogs & cats, especially when trauma is involved or also when cats are neutered too soon (before 5.5 months).

Goldy post-op

Goldy post-op

Unfortunately for Goldy, surgery was the only real option for him as the fracture in could not be stabilized with a splint/bandage.  Just leaving the leg alone would not have healed as the constant motion of an active 5 month old kitten would not allow the boney formation to persist.  This type of fracture can be fixed but can be complicated with higher risks.  Luckily, there is an easier surgery with an equally great outcome.  Similar to a dislocated hip joint, we can remove the ball part of the joint and allow the muscles to hold the leg in a position as a false joint with minimal changes in function and virtually no discomfort.

example of post-op

example of post-op FHO/fracture

Oh the Ways Bones Heal…

Nowadays, both Skinny Pete and Goldy are doing well and running around at home.  They are just two examples of animals with broken bones with just two of the ways that they can be fixed.  More complicated can involve plates, pins, wires, and other complicated devices.  In the worst cases, amputation can be considered; and there’s nothing wrong with a 3-legged pet – I have one and he’s a normal cat!  The important thing when dealing with fractures is to have a conversation with your veterinarian to figure out the best way to help your furry friend and make sure that you follow up as directed to avoid complications.

Our 3-legged cat, Louie

Our 3-legged cat, Louie

Winter Hazards – Safety Guide for Your Pets

Winter Hazards for Your Pets to Avoid

Winter is coming….  No this is not my attempt to finish writing the Game of Thrones books.  We need to talk about getting your pets through another chilly season and the “experts” here in Kingston say it will be bad.  The rest of southern Ontario may be spared but not our northern friends.  Proper preparation can prevent veterinary visits during the holiday season.

 

You may be changing your car’s antifreeze and some pets just don’t know better.  Supposedly it tastes like maple syrup antifreezeto them but I’m not sure how veterinarians discovered that.  The problem is that they only need a small amount to send them into severe neurological disease that then progress into a likely fatal kidney failure.  Moral of the story: clean up your messes like your parents taught you.

 

Now how about those pets who live outdoors.  Personally, I could never recommend it or do it myself. If it’s too cold for me, it’s too cold for them!  But I also understand that everyone has their own dog shelterreasons.  They still need the necessities starting with some shelter.  Make sure they can get inside or consider building a shelter outside (there are several design ideas especially for cats on the web).  It should have plenty of insulation or you may need to continuously stock it with heat disks or oat bags to keep it warm.  Electric heating blankets are not safe!  Along with freezing temperatures comes frozen water bowls.  I can’t recommend electric bowls which are available on the market because we all know that water & electricity don’t mix.  Again, something such as a Snuggle Safe heat disc cansnuggle safe disc be placed under a metal bowl to slow down freezing.  Thick plastic or thermal type bowls can also slow down the freezing as can bowls that are deeper & wider.  In the end, it’s just easier to keep them indoors.

 

raisinsThe holidays are coming!  For many people, that means baking whether it be cookies, breads, or a fruitcake.  While the finished products are quite yummy and can be harmful to your pets, it really is the ingredients that cause problems.  We already know chocolate is bad but another common ingredient is raisins.  Raisins (and grapes) cause kidney failure.  Dough, in the raw form, is loaded with yeast.  If your dog or cat were to eat the dough, their stomach will act as an oven.  The dough will expand and gas will be released which can cause some uncomfortable bloating.  Additionally, the yeast will release ethanol and cause alcohol poisoning.  I always like to keep my pets out of the kitchen when cooking, not only for their safety but so I’m not getting a false idea that my cooking is good.

raw dough

 

Even though they may be indoors, you’re dogs still need to get outside.  With winter comes shorter days and darker nights.  For this reason, it is a good idea to get them (as well as yourself) some reflective wear whether it be a leash, collar, or coat to be more visible during nighttime walks.  But what about that salt?  For many pets, the salt can be pet safety vestirritating causing an almost burning like sensation.  If they happen to be more curious, eating the salt can also be toxic saltcausing increased thirst, vomiting, and even convulsions or kidney damage in larger amounts.  There are pet safe forms for your driveway but a city won’t likely be using this on sidewalks & roadways.  Consider boots for your dogs or make sure that you wipe their feet before coming in the house.

 

As a last reminder, for all those stray cats outdoors looking for a warm place, don’t forget to knock on your car hood or check inside before you get a start on your day.  I hope that you all will have a safe and healthy winter season!  Stay warm!!

Halloween Pet Safety Guide

Halloween Safety Guide for Your Pets

The leaves are changing, the air is colder, and this was never more apparent then when I stepped of the plane after a trip to Florida last week.  It’s good to be back home in Kingston and now it’s time to get your pets ready for the next few months.  Some of these things may seem like common sense but it’s always good for a refresher.

 

Halloween is this week!  The dangers of chocolate have been well known for awhile now but what about some other trident-spearmint-xylitolthings that could end up in the treat bag?  Gums or any other candy containing xylitol can be fatal as well.  Once digested it can cause liver failure and low blood sugar causing seizures.  They will need to be decontaminated ASAP and while the smell of spearmint laden vomit is not horrid, we’d rather your pet not take the chance.

 

Photo from Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski

Photo from Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski

When I was a kid, occasionally somebody would throw some money in the bag…just spare change really not enough for a 12 year old to retire on.  If there happened to be any American pennies after 1982 or Canadian pennies from 1997-1999, they too can be poisonous to your dog.  Aside from obstruction, the body will actually start to eat away at the coin and the zinc in he coins will cause an anemia.

 

Dressing your pet up?  Sure why not!?  Lots of people enjoy dressing the pets up along kitten witchwith the kids because let’s face it, they’re really cute.  My only caution would be to check for loose strings that cats may swallow or or pieces not secure that could also be eaten.

 

Got a black cat?  I previously discussed black cats on a Friday the 13th and the origins of people’s fears dating back to witchcraft.  The same rules apply because people & kids are mean and may harm black cats due to ignorance.  It’s best to keep them indoors during Halloween.

Full of mystery and love behind those adoring eyes

Full of mystery and love behind those adoring eyes

Stay safe and check back next time with Miss Edie the Pug and I for some winter time pet prep!  I know I’m not ready for winter…

The Very Basics of Eyes, Noses & Toenails

The Very Basics of Eyes, Noses & Toenails

Welcome to part 2 of 2 of a collaboration with Miss Edie the Pug.  We’re going to finish up our discussion of simple care things you can do at home to keep your pets healthy by focusing on the eyes, nose, and those pesky toenails this week.

Corneal ulceration with corneal edema

Corneal ulceration with corneal edema

Maybe your pets stares into your soul with those eyes when you get ready to clean their ears or trim their nails.  Those eyes are not something I ever recommend anyone messing with.  They only get one set so it’s best not to self-treat.  Discharge from the eyes could be indicative of an infection or a scratch.  Squinting is often associated with a scratch, which if not treated promptly, can hurt and may be difficult to heal, or in the worst cases can result in permanent damage.  Other things to watch for are swelling of the eye or cloudiness of the cornea.  Get to your vet as soon as possible if this is noted.

Normal dog nose

Normal dog nose

Depigmentation

Depigmentation

Let’s be nosey…  The very front of your fur-baby is one of the few hairless spots (unless you have a Sphyx or other type of exotic breed).  In general, you don’t need to clean the nose but you may see color changes or texture changes on the surface of the nose.  For some dogs, this could be a seasonal change or a breed related condition.  On the other hand though, some conditions involving the immune system will manifest with changes in the nasal appearance so your veterinarianshould be consulted.

Yet, in some breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, & other brachycephalic breeds, we have to deal with folds around the nose. french-bulldog-nasal folds Sometimes these folds will get dirty or retain moisture and can lead to infections so we do recommend cleaning them.  A wash can be obtained from your veterinarian but I have also recommended using baby wipes, a wash cloth with mild dish soap, or if there is more greasy build up you can safely use human acne pads.

Oddly enough, I think more dogs & cats mind getting their nails trimmed than they do ever getting any type off needle or brushing of their coat.  Some of the reason may be the restraint involved while other times they had a bad experience once and the quick, or blood vessel, was clipped causing bleeding & pain.  If nails are left too long, they can catch & break off causing more severe pain, limping, and in the worst case, an infection.  Again, like brushing teeth, I always try to get people to handle the feet of their puppy or kitten to get them used to it.

nailThe clear nails are simple, just don’t cut into the pink part and everything will be okay.  But those black nails?  Those buggers can be a problem.  There are two tips to trimming these.  First, I say make them flush with the bottom of the paw pads; the vessel typically does not extend past that.  Second, start trimming a few millimeters at a time keeping perpendicular to the curve of the nail and if you look at the nail from an end-on perspective, you can start to see concentric rings like a target – STOP!  You’re getting close at that point of the vessel.  Give your dog a treat and maybe one for you (not from the same container though!) and then repeat in about 4-6 weeks.

Hopefully this has been helpful to do some simple things to avoid bigger problems with your pets.  Your veterinary clinic can help you with a demonstration of these things – all you have to do is ask!  But if your pets won’t cooperate, we’ll always be there to help!  If there’s something you want to find out more about, or to hear my opinion on a topic, leave a comment below or over on my Facebook page.  Thanks for reading & sharing!

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