Cough Cough Cough

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

Many of us who have been in veterinary for many years remember plain old “kennel cough”, in which a dog coughs as if something is caught in his throat. The cough is noisy and bothersome and usually would run its course over about 7-10 days with the dog fully recovering afterwards. A “Kennel Cough” vaccine would prevent the problem in almost every case, and this was more of a nuisance than a severe threat to life.

In recent years, the cough situation has become more complicated. It started with Canine  Influenza (flu), a disease that possibly was a mutation of the Equine Influenza. This disease initially presents with symptoms similar to Canine Cough, fooling veterinarians. But then, the pet becomes more and more ill, with some dying and some having permament lung damage.

Once this disease became significant, tests to confirm it and vaccines to prevent became available. “Flu shot” for dogs is now commonly recommended by many veterinarians. Now, there is another deadly cough appearing in certain parts of the country. As I type, the actual ‘identity” of the new bug has not been learned.

While Canine Cough, or Kennel Cough, seemed to be found all over the country, Canine Influenza and the other new cough strain seem to appear in different  “bands” of disease in different regions of the country. We have also seen these strains spread slowly from region to region.

Louisiana was Influenza free for several years, but now is beginning to have cases appear. The new unknown strain has not yet appeared in Louisiana.

What is the point of all the above?

Simple. If your dog shows any type of coughing that lasts more than an day or of he is coughing at all and seems to fele bad, do not wait. Have him seen by a DVM ASAP, since the new coughs could be far worse than just a nuisance.

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic

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“He’s Allergic To……”

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

Allergies. It seems that nowadays, everybody is allergic to something, whether it is a vaccine, certain foods, bee stings, drugs, etc… etc…

What IS allergy? Allergy is a situation in which the body’s protective immune system OVER-reacts to particles it does not recognize it self, when that over-reaction is not appropriate or even helpful. The body’s over-response is usually far more dangerous that the “foreign” particle that it is trying to eliminate.

Allergies can vary in severity from runny nose and red eyes to anaphylaxis, clogged airways, and even death.

One interesting thing about allergy is that you cannot be allergic to something that your body has never been exposed to. For example, to be allergic to a wasp sting, you would need to have been exposed to wasp stings prior.

The classical allergic reaction we see at Pet Emergency Clinic is a swollen face and often some whelts on the body. This may be seen after vaccination on certain pets, after bee sting, or possibly after an unknown exposure to something. Usually, antihistamine and maybe a short-acting steroid injection handle this beautifully.

We occasionally see a totally collapsed pet maybe with bloody diarrhea with no known trigger. It is interesting that, in these cases, the history may involve a walk outside an hour or so before the collapse. What is even more interesting is that there is a sign that we see on ultrasound that can diagnose this problem with pretty high certainty. (And even more “interesting” is the fact that our own Dr. Scroggs is a part of the current research on this with a famous veterinary researcher and teacher.)

I am one who is cursed with allergies. These do vary from a runny nose to an attack that makes me miserable, though it has never been life-threatening.

So, what can you do about allergies in pets?

1- Keep your yard tidy and neat in order to make it less appealing to wasps and other stinging bugs.
2- Be aware of what if anything that your pet is allergic to and avoid. (Avoidance of allergens is the only certain way to never have a reaction)
3- If your pet is known to be allergic to vaccines, consider the importance of the particular vaccine compared to the risk of the disease the vaccine protects against. A discussion with your veterinarian is in order.
4- Try to ignore hype about food allergy that you receive from pet stores or on TV. Most of the data bandied about in those places is false. Again, your DVM can assist if food allergies are thought to be a problem.
5- A product that I hear promoted heavily on the radio is called Dinovite. In the promo, it seems as if using this stuff handles any and all skin problems in a dog, a cat, or maybe even in a person. From the ads, it sounds like the product is some essential fatty acids and a few other things that are sometimes helpful. Still, I doubt that this is as universally successful as they suggest.
6- If you think that your pet may be having an allergic reaction to anything, get the pet seen by a doctor ASAP, since it is always possible that your pet could have one of those really bad ones. (But most are probably not)

So there you have it. My opinion and a few facts bout allergies in pets. (And I apologize to Dr. Barta, my immunology professor, for the simplicity.)

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic

“Beer for My Horses….”

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

Sorry for the Toby Keith reference, but since the topic this week is vaccines (“shots”) for our pet animals, I could not resist.

For the past several years, the recommendation of annual vaccines for dogs and cats have been challenged.

The argument FOR is that annual boosters is what the label directions have required, and that we almost never see the diseases that these vaccines protect you against. Additionally, the pets seeing the veterinarian every year could result in disease being spotted early, when we would have a better chance to handle it.

The argument AGAINST it is that the protection likely last far longer than 1 year, and over-vaccinating could create harm to a pet or to a person, for that matter. And, you can still take your pet to see the DVM even without vaccination boosters.

So, what to do about pet vaccination? (The following is opinion only)

Always complete the initial puppy or kitten vaccine series exactly as your DVM recommends. Also, do the same at the one year point to ensure that immunity is in and protective.

For later years, have a frank discussion with your veterinarian about how to proceed. What diseases could your pet be exposed to that may require annual vaccination? Together, determine a rational plan.

Always follow local law, which will determine the requirements for Rabies vaccine.

Always have your veterinarian perform the physical, vaccinations, and routine testing such as heartworm and fecal. Your feedstore vaccine may just break your heart when you need it the most.

Always provide safe, climate-controlled quarters for you pet, and a high-quality diet. Good rest and nutrition alone provide a huge boost for your pet’s immune system.

Only board your pet at a facility that requires correct vaccination. This will protect your pet as well.

Be very careful about dog parks and other large gatherings of dogs that may be carrying disease.

So, there you have it. My opinion on protecting your pets from disease.

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic

People and Pets in Heat

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

Did you think that I have finally decided to lower myself to the level of the suggestive to get your attention? No? Well….. maybe.

I am really referring to the outside heat in Louisiana. That’s right. It was my Sunday off and I spent the entire afternoon cutting grass, weedeating, and attempting to thin a very well-established stand of bamboo. (There is no material quite like bamboo, but that topic is for another day)

In any case, my excellent outside day reminded me of just what the heat can do. Despite the fact that I stayed hydrated, had lots of rest and Pottassium, etc. I still felt whipped.

So, remember your fur-coated friend in the summer and be very mindful of him or her during the heat. Indoors is best, but when outdoors, plenty of shade, fresh water, and even fans are a huge help. Do not forget that he will usually not complain.

Never leave your pet or anyone else in a car when hot outside. (It may be ok if the AC is running and you are just a few minutes, but otherwise… NO.)

So, though it is maybe an over-repeated message, be mindful of your furry pets in the heat.

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic

Doctors and Mechanics

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

Having recently had my older car worked on, I began to compare the work of doctors as compared to the work of mechanics. (I have been told  that doctors in Russia are not particularly awed. In fact they are considered “body mechanics.”) I work frequently with bright mechanics, many of whom are capable of being successful in any profession.

So how is a mechanic like a doctor?

In the obvious ways, the mechanic and the doctor are both presented with a a malfunctioning machine and asked to fix it. The mechanic, like the veterinarian, has to be concerned with the cost of his work. Both the mechanic and the doctor deal with many people who “know more than the doctor or mechanic.”

How are mechinics and doctors different?

The main thing is, with an actual machine, there is usually going to be an exact thing that is wrong. Fixing this thing should definitely fix the problem.

For the doctor, there may not be one definitive thing wrong that fixing should totally handle all problems. Many medical patients and veterinary clients expect that the doctor should be able to find one definitive thing that will handle the problem, and then everything is perfect. That of course is not usually realistic.

Usually, a doctor will take a step-by-step approach, stopping should a step handle the problem. Many people do not fully get this approach, but it usually makes sense. For example, with diarrhea, there are certain tests and treatments that handle the vast majority of problems. Thus, the doctor may handle by treating for and testing for the most likely things He would reserve sophisticated testing for cases that are not responding to normal handling.

One advantage the doctor has over the mechanic is the fact that most bodies are trying to heal, helping the doctor. The poor mechanic does not receive this nice help.

So what are tips that can help when working with a doctor or a mechanic?

1- Provide as much history as you can. More details yield faster diagnosis.

2- Be helpful and cooperative with the mechanic or doctor. Usually being nice is a very helpful approach.

3- If you feel you are getting nowhere, get a second opinion. There is no harm in that.

4- If you find a mechanic or doctor who is running down the work of one before him, become very concerned. This is a bad indicator and often this person may not be as good as he is trying to tell you he is.

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic

Veterinary Nurses?

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

The people who assist veterinarians in all aspects of caring for your beloved pets have earned increased status in the past several years. They have gone from being smart, hard-working, but untrained (and not highly appreciated) helpers to highly educated, nationally-certified para-profesionals in their own right.

In the late 1980’s, formal training programs for veterianry assistants were begun. Now, able and smart people could receive college-level training and national-level certification. Graduates of the programs were known as Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT’s), Certified Veterinary Assistants (CVT’s), Licensed Veterinary Technicians (LVT’s), and Licensed Veterinary Medical Technicians (LVMT’s.), depending on the program graduated from and the licensing state. The four different possible titles created some confusion in the minds of pet owners and, even in, veterinarians.

In every case and whatever you called them, veterinary technicians added lots of value to practices and to the public. Having a trained assistant allowed a veterinarian to focus on the actual medical care, while the competent assistent was able to perform lots of the hands on care and provide another set of eyes as regards pet medical care.

Recently, a movement has begun to standardize the titles that trained veterinary assistants have earned, and veterinary nurse is a title that some would like to adopt for these able people.

Whatever title you give to our formally trained veterinary technicians, they are extremely valuable and allow your pet to receive better medical or surgical care.

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic

Cannibis is not Canine Bliss

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Dear Fellow Pet Lovers,

I recently read a journal article about the effects of marijuana on pets. This reminded me of such cases that we frequently treat at the Pet ER.

The most common complaint is that the dog has suddenly become, lethargic, incoordinated, and disoriented. Some pets are actually overly active and anxious. Signs of marijuana intoxication may start as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion and may last up to 72 hours.

Usually, these pets will be ok, especially if we are aware of what is happening and we can treat with IV fluids and observation. One of the hardest parts of this “disease” is the fact that many pet owners are very reluctant to “confess” what is going on. Thus, it may take hours and lots of possibly unneeded blood testing before we figure it out. Interestingly, human urine tests for marijuana in dogs will often give false negatives, and are not useful.

Synthetic marijuana has symptoms and treatment similar to the natural product. New synthetic products seem to come out faster than they can be listed as illegal.

So, what is my advice for you?

1- If you use marijuana or if there happens to be some nearby, keep it away from your dog.
2- If your dog does get marijuana and you come to Pet ER, please confess about what is going on. This will allow faster correct treatment.
3- Never give your pet any illicit drugs (or any other drugs for that matter) as a prank or for any other reason. The dose of drug per pound of body weight is very very high for smaller and even larger pets. A small amount for you could really harm your pet.

If marijuana toxicity does occur, things are often better within 24-48 hours of starting IV fluid treatment. But, again, TELL your veterinarian.

See? Something CAN be done about preventing pet illness.

That is all.

Dr. John Emerson, Pet Emergency Clinic