Monday, November 4, 2013

New Clinic

Since my first child was born in 2004, I have been alternating between working as a veterinarian full-time, part-time, or not at all.  Most recently, I have enjoyed working at various clinics as a relief veterinarian.  This is like a substitute teacher for vets - if one of my colleagues needs to be away for for a conference or vacation, they called me to cover for them.  This allowed me to work a few days per month and see how various practices were run.

As of the 1st of November, 2013, however, I am back in full-time work as the owner and principle veterinarian at Evergreen Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital. A website link and further information will be forthcoming.

I am pleased to be able to see patients in person and help them directly.  I hope to see YOU soon!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Keep the Cat Indoors at Night

I wrote a previous post (September 2006) putting out a plea to keep your cats indoors at night to avoid having them hit by cars. Today I plead with you to also keep them indoors to avoid predator attacks and territory disputes with other cats in the neighborhood.

Cats are more active at night. They do like to go outside and roam, mate, hunt and socialize at nighttime. This can make keeping them inside at night challenging. So many times, however, these nighttime roamings result in injuries or deaths.

When cats fight, they use both their teeth and their nails. If you have ever been scratched or bitten by a cat, you can attest to the damage they can do! The teeth in particular act like hypodermic needles - creating a small hole in the skin and depositing bacteria from the cat's mouth under the skin. Cat skin heals quickly - sealing that bacteria under the skin. There it festers in the anaerobic conditions often causing an abcess - a pocket of pus under the skin. This appears as a lump that can be hard or soft, and which may or may not be painful.

The abcess can only be eliminated by bursting open by itself when the pressure becomes too great, or by being lanced -- surgically opened to allow the pus out. The wound is then flushed with saline or an antiseptic solution. The next challenge is keeping that wound open so all the bacteria can clear and not set up another infection. Sometimes we use artifical drains, and sometimes we just have the owner pick the scab off each morning! One way or the other the wounds need to be cleaned daily until no more pus is being produced -- sometimes as long as 5-7 days. Often we will prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection and prevent it going into the blood and causing a systemic infection.

Fortunately abcesses are rarely deadly - I cannot say the same for encounters with coyotes or other predators. If a dog or coyote catches a cat, often they will grab them over their back. If the cat is lucky or quick, they'll just get ahold of loose skin and fat - at which point the cat can whip around, scratch the predator in the face and escape. If not, the jaws of the canid are strong enough to crush the spine of a cat and kill it. I have also seen a case where a dog picked a cat up and shook it like a toy. The cat escaped, but had its abdominal muscles torn even though there were no wounds in the skin. She was brought to the vet 3 days later when she stopped eating. It turned out that her intestines had started to herniate through the openings in the muscles and were starting to be blocked. One patient that had a narrow escape a couple years ago was a rabbit that had been caught by the back leg by a fox. The skin had torn at the top of her leg and she managed to wriggle out - flaying her leg and leaving the fox with just a mouth-ful of skin!

A lot of rescue organizations now are requiring potential adoptive families to promise to keep their adopted cats indoors 100% of the time. I am a bit more moderate in my opinion since I think there is a lot of benefit that comes of going outside -- for humans and animals! I will let my cat outside when I am outside too and call him in when I come in. At the very least, I encourage my clients and friends to not let their cats out in the morning until the sun is up, and bring them in before dusk. THIS IS NOT A GUARANTEE - a hungry, sick or brazen coyote may be out in the middle of the day.

If I have managed to convince you to start keeping your cats indoors, be prepared for some interrupted sleep over the next couple nights while your cats settle in to their new routine. Offer them some food when they come in and perhaps a treat before bed. You could set up a whole bedtime routine for them (treat, grooming session, tooth brushing) so they get some good attention from you and then will hopefully learn not to disturb you while you're asleep.

Your cats will thank you for it in the long run!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

A Good Read

I just finished a fantastic little book - I laughed, I cried, I recommend it! It is entitled Walking Ollie - or, Winning the Love of a Difficult Dog. It is written by a UK novelist, Stephen Foster, who was a novice dog-owner a couple years ago and who has now been "broken in" by Ollie, a lurcher with a shady past. I wouldn't say it is written for the dog-snob, but for anyone who has experience with rescue dogs and their neuroses, you will enjoy this book.

I read the preface just after spending some time at the Off-Leash Area at Marymoor park. This paragraph reminded me of some of the dogs we saw there. He is describing Ollie and a young whippet playing in a field: "Let loose, the pair of them perform loops around an imaginary greyhound track, using each other as the hare; finally they pause to catch breath, and while they rest they chew each other's ears and play-fight until they appear to be beat; and then they do it all again, over and over, until they have run themselves into the ground and can barely stand. I find all this a thing of beauty, an aesthetic delight, a visceral therapy. I can watch it for a long time." (p5)

Later in the book he discusses the delicate matter of poo:
"As time went on, I became obsessed with the quality of his turds, and in this I am not alone. Watch dog-walkers: the animal stoops, craps, clears the area. Depending on where, when and type of owner, this may be followed by the picking-up. But say we're in a thicket (all owners leave it behind in a thicket) -- observe the pause and the slight lean forward as an inspection is made for consistency, shape, color, quality, and quantity. Excrement, for the dog owner, is as the tea leaf to the clairvoyant -- a sacred window onto health, fortune, and well-being." (p 106)
(reporting a conversation with his friend Peter Kadic - an experienced dog-owner:) "As we were talking dog crap on one occasion, Kadic came up with the perfect definition for the ideal in stools, 'Foster,' he said, 'you want to be able to trip over 'em, not slide in 'em.'" (p 107)

[I apologize for the coarseness of the language.]

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dog Poetry - the Meaning of Life

I love listening to the Writer's Almanac on Public Radio each day. The other day Garrison Keillor read a poem that made me giggle as I was trying to drive. I'm posting it here - hopefully no one will mind:

The Meaning of Life
by Nancy Fitzgerald

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what's deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

"The Meaning of Life" by Nancy Fitzgerald from Poems I Never Wrote. © Poetry Harbor, 2001.

If you'd like to listen to Mr. Keillor read it in his perfect style, the link is here.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Go Jump in a Lake!

HYDROTHERAPY - a long word meaning using water to improve health.

Many of my clients look at me like I've suddenly started speaking German when I mention the word or ask them if their dog likes to swim. Hydrotherapy is an important weapon in the arsenal we use to fight obesity, arthritis, and limb injuries.

I have yet to visit an actual hydrotherapy pool, but we had one near to our practice in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, and there are several here on the Eastside in the Puget Sound area. Clients I have referred to them in the past have been pleased and surprised by the results of their weight loss and/or the improvement in their dogs' ability to walk.

Why do I recommend hydrotherapy? As you may have heard from human medicine/fitness gurus, swimming is excellent exercise - it increases the heart rate and aids in the burning of calories -- as important in an obese dog as it is in an obese human. The water supports the body and reduces the strain on joints, bones or muscles that are injured or arthritic. It therefore allows a dog who otherwise cannot walk far enough to sufficiently exercise to rehabilitate an injured leg, or drop a few pounds, to do so in an environment in which he is not likely to cause further injury and often with MUCH less pain than he experiences on land.

Now these dedicated hydrotherapy pools are fantastic for a couple reasons. First, they are WARM - if you've ever tried to swim in the Pacific ocean or the Thames river in winter you'll appreciate why this is important. Secondly, they often have trained therapists who can help guide you and your dog to the exercises that will be most beneficial. Third, they will often have a harness, or some other floatation device that will help dogs who are unable to keep themselves above water. Forth, some are able to use jets to produce a current to increase resistance and therefore increase the speed of calorie burning/ muscle building.

Can you get the same benefit from your own swimming pool/jacuzzi at home or a lake or the ocean? The answer is possibly - depending on what your dog needs and is willing to do in those environments. If you're simply trying to get your dog to lose some weight, certainly try the free options first. If, however, your dog has had an injury or is debilitated in any way, I would recommend going to a hydrotherapy pool first for a couple sessions. You'll learn a lot, get a lot of support from the people there, and hopefully find it worth the time and money.

I'm listing the local pools here for your convenience. They have photos so you can get an idea of how it works. I have not been to these places personally, so please do not take this as a professional recommendation -- it's up to you to talk to them and get recommendations from previous clients.
K9 Aquatics:
Heavenly Spa:
Cottage Spa:
USA Association of Canine Water Therapy:
UK Canine Hydrotherapy Association:

Finally - if you do decide to try your pet in the pool or lake, use a floatation device or keep them on a leash in the shallow water first so they can build their confidence and you can be sure they can actually swim! Don't let them out of your sight and be prepared to go in and rescue them if needed. I haven't heard of any dogs drowning, but I don't want to!

p.s. The Heavenly Spa advertises a "Canine/Feline Warm Water Pool". In all honesty - I have yet to meet a cat who would subject itself to the indignity of getting wet - even in the name of hydrotherapy. If your cat has benefited from a "dip" I'd love to hear about it!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fleas? in January??

I was doing some research on Google the other day and noticed that searches for information about flea control has its peak in June in the United States. This is logical since flea problems do peak in the warm summer months. I, however, also have noticed a small rise in animals with flea allergies or flea infestations in December and January. Owners are always surprised when I comb through their pet's coat and pull out a few live fleas or some dirts. I remind them that when the central heating comes on in these cold months, it seems to stimulate an emergence of juvenile fleas that have been pupated in the carpet or upholstery of the house.

I always recommend that ANY pet that is allergic to flea saliva should be on effective flea control every month throughout the entire year. It is also useful to use a product that incorporates an insect growth regulator whenever possible to reduce or eliminate the flea burden in the environment. (See also previous post on flea control.)

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Friday, October 31, 2008

The purpose of dogs' legs

I love children's literature because it can say things in a simple and direct way that adult literature often cannot.

This week my daughter and I checked a book out of the local library entitled We Honestly CAN Look After Your Dog. It is a book in the Charlie and Lola series by Lauren Child. Lola and her friend Lotta are attempting to demonstrate their vast knowledge of the needs of canine friends in an effort to convince Charlie's friend Marv that they can safely look after his dog while he goes to play football (soccer).

"Lola says, 'Dogs must go outside and must walk.'
"Lotta says, 'Otherwise what is the point of their legs?'"

So that is the message for today - take your dogs out for a walk -- otherwise what is the point of their legs?

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