Animal Actors – Not Always Real Life Pets

Miss Edie the Pug is back with me today to help discuss an important topic very important to her.  She’s got a list of questions and I’ve got answers.  Be sure to check out her blog or find her on Facebook or Twitter to see how else she advocates for animals and helps entertain & educate the people who love animals.

Animal Actors – Not Always Real Life Pets

With the recent release of the movie “Max” in theaters about a retired war dog, it brings up some interesting questions.  Do television programs and movies effect the popularity of dog breeds?  And it so, what effect does it have on that breed?  Is it positive – showing the dog in a different light, or highlighting the skills that these dogs/breeds are capable of?

Is it negative – this dog breed is now so popular that everyone wants/needs to have one, even if that dog is not the right fit for you or your family?  Do people understand that what they are seeing these dogs do on screen is because of training – professional training – training that did not happen overnight?

What happens when this “cool dog” doesn’t meet your expectations?

I asked Dr. Ryan Llera his take on this.  Has he seen any repercussions in his field of veterinary medicine of a breed becoming popular due to a tv show, movie, or because of a celebrity owning a particular breed?

Dr. Ryan Llera’s view:

You’re right Edie.  Our canine friends on the screen are great actors just like Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lawrence.  They’ve been trained and practicing for a set role and just because they can do a certain trick or act a certain way does not mean that all other dogs of that breed will.  More importantly, we need to look at the health and behavior aspects of these breeds.yorkie

While there are few studies that show an increase in a breed popularity after a movie release, one study in particular did confirm this behavior amongst people particularly in a 10 year period after the movie.  While this was more commonly seen in years past, this trend can still happen in this era especially in today’s times of celebrities, tabloids, and social media.

Oftentimes, when one of these movies comes out or a celebrity parades their pooch around, people are hooked on the breed but unfortunately don’t do the research before rushing out to get one.  When choosing a breed, it’s important to consider factors such as living space, time commitment, energy level, and family members, specifically, children.  A lot of the factors can lead to behavior problems for the dog, whether real or perceived by the owner, and unfortunately this leads to many dogs being dumped at the shelter or worse, euthanized.

Dalmatian Photo by:  7-Themes.com

Dalmatian Photo by: 7-Themes.com

Though I haven’t personally seen 101 dalmatians coming through the doors of the clinics I’ve worked at, after the animated movie in the 1960s (and probably again with the live action version in 1996) there was a noted trend in people having dalmatians as pets. While many people know about the dalmatians genetics that may make them deaf, they can also have a significant problem with their livers that can lead to bladder stones if not properly managed. When these problems arise, they don’t always get taken care of and dogs may suffer, being ditched, or euthanized. With some breeds being popularized, I have personally seen more of a particular breed or two become an idea for people to get rich quick by breeding them hence leading to more pyometras and C-sections.IMG_2378

While the trend of movie promoted dog breeds has waned, social media & celebrities have replaced it.  Veterinarians and shelters, especially in the UK, have recently seen and noted a rise in the abandonment of “purse dogs” or toy breeds – think Chihuahuas, teacup pomeranians, Yorkies.  This is being noted over the past 5 years after the influences of celebrities and movies such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Legally Blonde.  While many of these small dogs have wonderful personalities, some may have anxiety issues to go along with the myriad of health problems….dental disease, luxating (dislocating) kneecaps, collapsing tracheas, and liver shunts to name a few.

In a personal communication with Blue Cross, a UK based group focused on animal health & welfare including rehoming unwanted pets, they have noted a significant change in some breed representations.  In a five year span (2009-2014), they saw increases in some breeds needing to be rehomed after being abandoned including:

  • Yorkshire Terriers – 65 (2009) to 92 (2014)
  • Chihuahuas – 0 (2009) to 53 (2014)
  • Pugs – 0 (2009) to 16 (2014)
  • Huskies 10 (2008) to 86 (2014)
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – 14 (2009) to 36 (2014)

We’re not saying that these particular breeds are not choices for dogs, but they may not be for everyone.  It’s important to not act on impulse before you go out and get a particular dog breed.  Better yet, try contacting a breed rescue group and consider fostering a dog before making a commitment for the next 10-15 years.

Every breed can be found on the Canadian Kennel Club or the American Kennel Club website to be researched and you can try their breed selector quiz to see a few dogs which might fit your lifestyle.  And lastly, don’t rule out the great option of adopting a dog from the shelter even if they aren’t a purebred!

Disclaimer: (IloveMyDogMoreThanMyKids) Views and opinions are my own.

Disclaimer: (Dr.Ryan Llera): Blog posts may include opinions which do not reflect on those of my current or any former employers.

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“Wag the Tail”

“Wag the Tail”

Hey, it’s Charlie.   I’ve taken over dad’s blog again to tell you something important.   Actually, grand-dad told Ryan Charlie st patrick daysomething about “wagging the tail” and between the two of us, we think we’ve figured it out.   But since I’m so personable and a great story teller, dad is letting me share it with you.   Oh wait, dad says he’s going to help me tell it to make sure we all understand if I get confused or distracted.

 

The 4th and last chemo treatment

The 4th and last chemo treatment

It all started a few weeks ago.   After my second chemo treatment, strange things began happening including seizures and I was having some collapse type episodes.   One night, I remember dad telling me it was okay to “go” so I knew my illness was wearing on him.   I also didn’t want to eat which is so unlike me.   It was some pretty scary stuff.   A few weeks later after the fourth chemo treatment, I couldn’t walk.   I never had my next scheduled chemo treatment but I heard mom and dad talking about the big sleep.   It was just before a weekend so they wanted to spend some time with me and spoil me rotten.   I wagged my tail and in return got lots of hugs and lots of food I shouldn’t normally eat.

 

"Chemo was exhausting!"

“Chemo was exhausting!”

As that weekend went on, I started getting stronger and getting back to being able to walk.   I felt like that guy in the movie “Rocky” as he’s running on the steps and everyone is cheering for him.   Dad was so happy he told me there was no more chemo!   This was good because I hated the weekly needle pokes and feeling sick.   On the other hand, I got some to take some steroids – I didn’t get the rage and I sure didn’t pack on a lot of muscle but they did make me feel better.   I wagged my tail.

 

Resting with my buddy Taylor

Resting with my buddy Taylor

I had an accident in the house…I blame it on the drugs!   And so did dad.   He didn’t get mad.   He actually hugged me and took me outside.   If only I had known this trick earlier in life…I could have gotten away with a lot more!   The gentleness I’ve experienced only makes me want to do better and to keep on trucking.   I’m not quite ready to stop watching over my family.   Yep, my tail is still wagging.

 

It’s been a few weeks now.   Steroids made me happy and with every thing I did, dad seemed happier too, so much that if he had a tail, he’d probably be wagging it.   Instead, I figured smiles, hugs, and belly rubs are the same expression.   We pets are very perceptive and emotional; can’t you see it in our eyes and feel it in our slobbery kisses?   When our families are happy, we feel good.   When our families are stressed, we also feel anxious.   We feed off of emotions (and cookies!)…

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie….hey bud, we’re not done yet.   Oh there he goes…Charlie has lost himself in the bag of Charlee Bear treats again.   It’s Dr. Llera now so I’ll wrap this up for the both of us.   What Charlie & I have learned through this is that when times are tough, you should try to see the silver lining that is there and try to keep a positive mental attitude.   In any alarming situation with your pets, there is always hope.   It may be the hope that everything will turn out alright.   Or it may be the hope that you try your best and that they don’t suffer.   The important thing to remember is to stay strong, give your pet all the love you can, and know that in the end everything will work out.   So what are you waiting for?   Go “wag that tail.”

best friends

 

Disclaimer: Blog posts may be opinions which are my own and do not reflect those of my current or any former employers. 

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Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

The arrival of the spring-summer travel season is upon us and perhaps you’re getting ready to take some time off with the family including the pets.  Traveling with pets can be lots of fun but also can be an anxious endeavor for both you and them.  Before you hit the open road or take to the skies, let’s do our part to make it a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.  Edie the Pug and I are back to help share some tips for your upcoming adventures!

Edie wants you to be safe & loves car rides!

Edie wants you to be safe & loves car rides!

Safety in the car just isn’t for you; your pets have to be safe also.  We’re talking about restraint.  Cats should always be in a carrier.  Preferably the carrier should be large enough for them to stand up and walk around in (though my cat prefers to curl up) but small enough to fit on the floor behind a seat which is the safest place.  For longer trips you may need a larger type crate (if space allows) for a litterbox and water or food dishes.  Dogs should wear seatbelt harnesses unless they are a toy breed then they should be in a carrier.  Seatbelt harnesses should be comfortable, well fitting, and sturdy.  One such recommendation is the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness.  There may be other restraint devices out there but they may not have been tested for safety ratings.  For more safety info, you can visit the Center for Pet Safety website where they have tested many types (using crash test dummies).

SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

What about when you fly?  Carriers will have different requirements if you are flying on an airplane so you will need to check with the airline.  If your pet is going in cargo, make sure the carrier has a screw type of closure, not clips as we wouldn’t want anyone escaping!cat in carrier2

A common request I get is about sedation for the trip.  Many dogs don’t seem to be bothered by a car trip but some do mind and there is a fair chance that many cats will vocalize.  In some cases they’re just talking but sometimes it’s more of a concern or bother for the other passengers especially if kitty is frantic in the carrier.  As mentioned before, by no means would I suggest that your cat get free roam of the car as it is a safety hazard to everyone.

pillsI must first stress you should never give any over the counter or prescription medication without the advice of a veterinarian.  Sedatives or anti-anxiety medications can vary from homeopathic to mild common medications to heavy tranquilization.  It is best to look into any type of medication at least a few weeks before your trip as I prefer to start on a benign medication (something that won’t affect heart rate or blood pressure) or start on a lower dose of a mid-grade medication.  Each pet will be different and may require different drugs.  When traveling on a plane, I do not recommend heavy medications that would normally require monitoring unless nothing else will work and we have no other choice.

These are the two main points to focus on when traveling with your pets.  There is much more but we will touch on them briefly here.

Nausea : Some animals can get car sick just like people!  If they do, it may be best if they are fasted before a trip or only feed them a small meal.  Alternatively, your veterinarian can recommend or prescribe something to help.

Identification & Records : Before leaving, make sure your pets tags or microchip information is up to date in case of a separation.  If you will be gone for awhile or if your pet has a medical condition, it may be useful to bring a copy of pertinent records or information should they need medical attention.

First aid kit : Particularly if you’re camping, this may be a necessity.  Bandage material, antibiotic ointment, tick removers, peroxide, and eye wash are just a few of the items that might be handy.

Pit stops : Take a break every few hours on longer trips!  Stretch your legs and let your dog do the same.  For cats, this might be a good time to set a litterbox in the back of a vehicle for them to try to use though some cats may be too stressed.  I would also suggest having a leash & harness on cats just as another aid in keeping them from escaping or getting under seats.

Well that’s the basics of pet travel and we didn’t even talk about moving overseas!  Plan ahead and be safe. Remember, it’s not just a vacation; it’s an adventure!

Gremlin napping during a trip

Gremlin napping during a trip

Disclaimer: Blog posts may be opinions which are my own and do not reflect on those of my current or any former employers.  I did not receive any compensation from SleepyPod or the Center for Pet Safety.

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Be Prepared: Not Just a Boy Scout Motto

May is Emergency Preparedness Month.  This piece I wrote (and updated from a previous post) originally appeared on the OSPCA blog where I have done some guest writing and they have other helpful info as well.  I wanted to share this here as well as a means of getting critical information out to help inform pet owners.

Be Prepared: Not Just a Boy Scout Motto

There’s never a good time for an emergency and they can always happen without notice.  If you’re lucky, you might get some warning about a catastrophe coming (think severe winter storm in the forecast or a hurricane).  The remainder of the time though you need to be ready to take care of yourself & your pets at least for a few days until help can be received.

Let’s take a look at what you should have prepared for your pets:

  • 3-5 day supply of food & water; don’t forget the bowls & a manual can opener if necessary.
  • At least a 1 week supply of medications plus their instructions – the info & extras are in case of a dropped dose, vomited up, or if you need to get more.
  • Leash, collar/harness, and if necessary a muzzle for your dog – this can help avoid accidents by pets going places they shouldn’t be.
  • A spacious carrier for your cats – especially in the case of needing to stay in a shelter.
  • Location of shelters or hotels that you can stay at with your pets or in the worst cases, pre-arranged boarding locations – not every place will let your pets in.
  • Get a microchip implanted AND update your contact info – this can be done at almost any clinic or shelter and if you get separated you can be reunited with your pet.
  • Current copies of vaccination records, name of your veterinary clinic, & records especially if they have any chronic medical conditions – also helpful to keep a picture of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Comfort items – toys, blankets, special treats, catnip!
  • Poop bags & cat litter with pan – you still need to clean up after all and disasters are often a time when infectious diseases can be spread.
Photo: Ontario SPCA

Photo: Ontario SPCA

What about the circumstances if you can’t take your pets with you?  This is a horrifying thought most certainly none of us ever want to encounter.  If it should be necessary to evacuate and leave pets behind, make sure the house is closed but put a sign in a visible window with info about the pets and your contact info.  Do not confine them in a cage either in case they need to get out of a room.

Hopefully you never need to experience a disaster that requires you to need these things.  But if you do, plan ahead and be prepared to care for your pets.  If you’ve been involved in an emergency situation or can think of anything else to pack, leave a note in the comments.  Stay safe!

Disclaimer: All blog posts are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my current or former employers.

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Scratching the Surface of Skin Disease

Scratching the Surface of Skin Disease

Previously, we discussed the top 5 visit reasons that pets get seen at their veterinarians.  Well, we didn’t talk about skin issues but a top 6 list doesn’t sound as cool and the integumentary system has so many facets, it deserves a post of it’s own.  When I was in Florida, I would call it a dermatologist’s dream job because of the number of skin problems.  So why are we veterinarians seeing your cat or dog for skin problems?

hair loss on the head

hair loss on the head

By far, allergies are the most common causes for skin issues in dogs & cats.  Allergy issues themselves are a humongous area of possibilities so we’ll summarize it here.  The three main causes of allergies are environmental, food, and fleas.  When it comes to the environment, it could be year round or seasonal.  The offending allergen could be as common as grass, weeds, house dust mites, or in one rare case I remember – human dander.  Yeah, this dog was allergic to his people!  Sometimes these can be managed by keeping pets away from the cause, through the use of antihistamines or other medications, or in some cases the use of hyposensitization injections.

chewing on the foot

chewing on the foot

The number one thing I hear when I bring up food allergies is always “but he/she has been eating the same food for years!”  Yes, that may be so but over time, your pet has become sensitized to something in the food that is making then scratch, lose hair, or develop skin sores.  Most often, it is the protein source – not grains – and the best way to establish this diagnosis is to do a hypoallergenic food trial.  Typically, the gold standard is going to be a veterinary prescribed diet that is hydrolyzed protein meaning it has been cut down molecularly so the body doesn’t recognize it.  The other option is a novel protein diet, meaning a protein the patient hasn’t eaten before and this could be a certain type of fish, venison, or even kangaroo meat.  The most important aspect is that your pet does not get ANYTHING else to eat for 8-12 weeks, including treats unless suggested by your veterinarian.colored flea

The evil flea…causes of so many problems.  They are the easiest thing to rule out in terms of skin problems and usually the least costly to fix.  During warmer months (though at any time of the year), you should keep your pets on a flea control medication from your veterinarian.  Trust me when I say over the counter meds don’t work and may cause more problems, as noted by a recent CBC Marketplace report.  Newer to Canada are chewable flea control products (NexGard & Bravecto) which can help pets who don’t tolerate or whose family doesn’t want to use topical spot-on products.

Severe skin changes from yeast infection

Severe skin changes from yeast infection

Aside from everything above, we can see superficial rashes or skin infections (pyoderma) which can be treated with medicated shampoos or in some cases oral antibiotics.  Sometimes when these infections are not treated promptly and the pet scratches too much at the area, it can develop into a hot spot – a large inflamed moist infected area which can be painful.  In younger pets, mange mites can be a common finding and can manifest as either scabs around the head (primarily scabies in cats) or small areas of hair loss in multiple places (typically demodex in dogs).  To clear up some confusion, ringworm is not actually a worm but a fungus that can cause crusty skin and hair loss and is also contagious to people.

Redness and crusting in a painful ear

Redness and crusting in a painful ear

Ear problems are often grouped in with skin problems.  Most ear problems can be traced to a mixed infection of yeast & bacteria but your veterinary team can do an ear swab to help decipher the cause.  Ear mites are also notorious especially in young animals and can be spread to all the pets in the house.  If too much head shaking goes on, then a swelling of the ear flap can occur – this is a hematoma and can be mildly uncomfortable.  Previously, surgery was always recommended to fix these after addressing the underlying problem but lately I’ve had good success with draining them.  When it comes to ears, only use a labeled pet ear cleaner and preferably one that also acts as a drying agent.  This means no mineral oil, no peroxide, no alcohol, no water….just an ear cleaner that is labeled for pets.

Tumor on the head

Tumor on the head

These are just the basics of many common skin problems that can be seen in pets; believe me, we could spend a few weeks talking about all of them.  There are also immune system conditions such as lupus and we can also see some specific breed related conditions.  Most skin problems will present with similar signs – itching, hair loss, body odor, and redness.  We haven’t mentioned skin lumps but my colleague Dr. Sue Ettinger has launched a campaign called “See Something, Do Something” and the basic premise is that if you see a lump present for longer than a month and it’s the size of a pea or larger, get it checked out.  As a last note, I want to add that you should never give any medications without first consulting your veterinarian.  Now what are you waiting for?  Go check out your pet’s coat & skin and maybe it’s time for that bath.

Disclaimer:  All blog posts are my own writing and or opinion and do not reflect those of my current or former employers.

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