Author: Dr. Ryan Llera (page 1 of 28)

Spay & Neuter – A Revised Point of View

The times they are a changing.  Every now and then in the course of medicine, we get new research that guides us to change our ways of thinking and how we practice.  And we live in exciting times because now is one of those moments.  New research has been presented regarding potentially more appropriate age of spay or neuter surgery for your dog, most notably larger dogs.  Don’t worry, I’ll also discuss cats.

age of spay or neuter can affect many heath factors

No, I haven’t changed my stance that the procedure should still be done.  But I agree and am glad to see some changes in the timing of when we as veterinarians recommend the surgery happen.  Let’s explore this and try make sense of the differences.

The first thing you have to look at is what breed, or at least size, of dog you have.  The next thing you have to consider is what are your goals you’re trying to achieve with your pet’s health – joint development & health, cancer risks, behavior, etc.  Lastly, we need to consider their lifestyle.  Much of the research focused on some common breeds (Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers , Rottweilers, Viszlas) but we can try to extrapolate from this data.  So let’s discuss…. Continue reading

The Harsh Reality of Vet Med

As I look back over the past few months, I am reminded of so many happy, successful moments that involved my patients and their families.  From giving good news that a tumor was benign, to helping a lost pet get back home due to the simple power of a microchip, and treating a little miracle kitty who ate a string and lost 70% of her intestine getting to go home and live a happy life.  These are the moments and the days I treasure and live for in my career as a veterinarian.

But sadly, the job isn’t always puppies and kittens or success stories.  It’s challenging at times to not become emotionally invested in our patients especially the ones we see fairly often if they have a current illness or chronic health problem.  Some of these patients are ones we can be completely confounded by.  Understandably, a pet not getting well is taxing on their family but it has a similar yet less devastating effect on the veterinary team.

Sometimes we will recommend you visit a specialist due to procedures being beyond the skills of a general practitioner.  Face it, there’s just some things they don’t teach you in the 4 years of veterinary school.  Other times, it’s the value of that specialized second opinion and a lot of the time they can help.

For Better or Worse

We (the vet team) try our best; nobody is perfect.  Some patients will keep us awake at night as we mull over what we should do next or contemplate the impending surgery the next day.  In the worst of cases after a few months or longer of dealing with a chronic illness, all we can do is help ease them of their suffering.  It’s in these moments that we realize it’s not possible to fix every problem or save every patient, no matter how hard we try.

This was the case with Maggie.  A very sweet dog, with an even sweeter owner.  Maggie was adopted with known problems that her family diligently addressed and more so if new ones appeared.  Maggie was a patient of mine for almost 3 years and her skin was the biggest issue that nobody was ever able to figure out.  This past fall Maggie developed cancer and combined with her other issues, it was time to say goodbye.  I hated that we couldn’t help her.

harsh reality of vet med

One of my last visits with Maggie

And so it goes, we have to pick up the pieces because there are more pets that need help.  In all this though, we take the experience and information we learned from one pet and, perhaps years later, remember the lessons they taught us to hopefully help another.

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

Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @drryanllera , Facebook , or  Twitter for more pet info.

Pet Cancer – What You Need to Know

pet cancer spaying could have prevented this ovarian tumorEven though November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, there’s never a bad time to talk about it.  It’s a sad part of any type of medicine and more so when we’re talking about animals.  They can’t tell us how they feel, they don’t have socialized health care, and they can’t take themselves to the veterinarian.

I’ve seen enough cancer cases that it breaks my heart each time, even more so when it could have been addressed early on and prevented more of a challenge to the pet and veterinary team along with costing less.  In many cases, these pets are often euthanized because it’s just gone too far.  In general practice, on average I’d say I see about 1 malignant cancer case every 3-4 weeks.  Malignant equals bad; but sometimes even those benign masses can be problematic.  And yes, sometimes those benign masses can morph into a malignant mass.

Why is this happening?

Pets are living longer, plain and simple.  And while some people are aware of what to look for, we can do better.

What can we do?

pet cancer mammary mass

Your pet needs to be seen by your veterinarian at least once a year, maybe every 6 months even, depending on their health status.  You may be able to find a lump on your dog but there is more that could possibly be seen or detected by your veterinarian as well as determining normal versus abnormal.  An exam is a start and some tests can be done whether simple or more complex.

My friend Dr. Sue Ettinger, DACVIM (yes, animal cancer specialist!) has created a program with a simple mantra – See Something, Do Something.  This is an easy way to remember that if you see a lump, larger than a pea and there for more than a month, it’s time to get it checked out!  A simple needle aspiration can save a life.

Cancer is not a death sentence.  There are so many options out there and animals don’t experience the same side effects of chemo that people do.  Surgery might be curative. Even if you’re not apt to go these routes, we can still help you palliate and keep your pet comfortable.  One of the most important aspects of this is not waiting too long. Lumps start small and then they may grow.  When these lumps grow, they become harder to treat, less chance for a successful outcome, and more expensive.  Act sooner rather than later to give your pet the best chance.

Even though we might only focus on this for a month, there is always time to be aware of potential cancer problems with your pets.  You are your pet’s biggest advocate and your veterinarian is there to help.  We can’t do it alone though so heed this advice and make sure if you have concerns to bring them up to your vet as soon as you think there’s a problem.

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

Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @drryanllera , Facebook , or  Twitter for more pet info and interesting daily happenings!

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