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Euthanasia at Human Society prompts outrage

Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Arizona Humane Society euthanized a man’s cat when he could not afford its medical care. I’m not sure what is more of an issue; the fact that the man who “owned” the cat was a recovering heroin addict with absolutely no financial resources to care for a living, sentient being or the fact that the “Humane” Society killed it straight away without treating the injured animal and then adopting it out to a more appropriate owner. There are obviously multiple concerns regarding this unfortunate outcome.

First and foremost, let me say that I fully endorse and understand the role that pets play in regard to the psychological and physical well being of people, let alone as pet therapy assistants. It is one thing to have a recovering drug addict have access to pet therapy for psychological and therapeutic reasons. It is quite another situation to allow a recovering addict to own a pet without any financial recourse.The AP article did not address how the man acquired the cat, but obviously, someone enabled this man to become a pet owner. I am not saying that you need to have a trust fund before you should be able to own an animal, however, owning an animal is a privilege not to be taken lightly and it would stand to reason that you should be able to take care of yourself emotionally and financially before you embark on pet ownership. Certainly, it should not be overlooked that the man was responsible enough to bring the cat to what he considered a bona fide animal care facility. Perhaps that was his fatal mistake, which brings us to issue number two.

The Humane Society is not humane. It is an oxymoron. Anyone who doubts the hypocritical nature of this organization simply needs to perform a Wikipedia search on the Humane Society of the United States. The fact that the Arizona HS euthanized an apparently healthy cat for a cut or laceration which would have cost approximately $400 to treat is disgraceful. Based on the AP report, what makes it worse is that the staff supposedly told the man that because he could not pay for treatment, if he surrendered the cat, it would be treated and put in foster care. Instead, it was euthanized.

The euthanization of this pet should prompt outrage, especially since it occurred at the “humane society”. At our facility, we are consistently faced with pet owners with financial difficulties. We do not kill their pets when they have a cut. There are multiple options to successfully treat an injured pet and be compensated appropriately in a timely manner.  When an owner truly cannot pay for an animal’s injuries and the pet can be saved and go on to lead a happy, healthy life, we work with enough responsible rescue organizations and adoption agencies that when we say it will be treated and placed in foster care for adoption we actually mean it. And we don’t call ourself the “Humane Society”.

You don’t need to travel to Germany to receive Platelet Rich Plasma therapy.

Recently it has been reported that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has taken an unusual step to try to strengthen his ailing right knee, undergoing an innovative procedure in Germany about a month ago. The procedure, called platelet-rich plasma therapy, consists of centrifuging the patient’s blood to isolate platelets and growth factors. The mix is then injected into the injured area to accelerate healing. The concentrated growth factors have been shown to speed tissue growth and healing. The surgery is considered low-risk and high-reward, however, as it is barely invasive. Because the minimally invasive surgery has a short recovery time and does not restrict movement, there is little downside to seeing if it improves healing in the affected joint.

Here’s the theory behind the procedure: sports injuries happen frequently to areas such as tendons or joints where there may be poor blood supply to provide the building block materials needed to heal that injury. Platelets have been shown to produce certain substances (such as platelet-derived growth factor) that speed up the growth and repair of connective tissues. By injecting a high concentration of platelets into an area that has a poor blood supply, healing may be greatly enhanced. The interesting part is that it’s not super complicated. It’s really only your own blood taken out of a vein and prepared right in front of you and then put back in an area of your condition. So the concept is to try and use within your own body to help heal yourself. This is an opportunity to really take advantage of the body’s own natural ability. Over the past ten years, this procedure has become more widespread as the benefits and evidence of its use has become better known. Other athletes who have had the procedure done include A-Rod, Tiger Woods, Troy Polamalu, and Hines Ward, but you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to get the same treatment. In fact, you don’t have to be a person. We have been successfully utilizing platelet rich plasma therapy on our orthopedic patients for the last two years. No other veterinary practice in Los Angeles has shown itself to be as progressive with minimally invasive or non-invasive medical therapy for injured joints, tendons and/or ligaments. Our protocol of including PRP therapy for our cruciate ligament injury patients has resulted in faster healing times, less progressive degenerative arthritis and a more complete return to function than standard approaches which include invasive arthotomy or arthroscopy of the joint. We are currently utilizing PRP therapy for injured knees, shoulders, elbows, hips, and ankles amongst other ligament/tendon injuries. For more information, check out my article on platelet rich plasma on our website.

What is Catnip and How Does it Work?

Catnip is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family Labiatae. Catnip is known in scientific nomenclature as “Nepeta cataria”. The plant is a weed-like mint that is now native in North America and Canada after being introduced from its native Mediterranean soil. ¬Given to the right cat, catnip can cause an amazing reaction! The cat will rub it, roll over it, kick at it, and generally go nuts for several minutes. Then the cat will lose interest and walk away. Two hours later, the cat may come back and have exactly the same response. Because there really isn’t any scent that causes this sort of reaction in humans, catnip is hard for us to understand. However, it is not an uncommon behavior in animals that rely heavily on their noses. For example, there are many scents that will trigger intense hunting behavior in dogs, and other scents will cause dogs to stop in their tracks and roll all over the scent.

Although no one knows exactly what happens in the cat’s brain, it is known that the plant terpenoid nepetalactone is the main chemical constituent of the essential oil in catnip that acts as the feline attractant and triggers the response. The response to this chemical is mediated through the olfactory system. This chemical is thought to mimic the effects of a pheromone to cause a variety of behaviors. Cats detect it through their olfactory epithelium, not through their vomeronasal organ. At the olfactory epithelium, the nepetalactone binds to one or more olfactory receptors and apparently, it somehow kicks off a stereotypical pattern in cats that are sensitive to the chemical. Large cats like lions and tigers can be sensitive to it as well. The reaction to catnip only lasts a few minutes. Then the cat acclimates to it, and it can take an hour or two away from catnip for the cat to “reset.” Then, the same reaction can occur again. Very young and senior cats do not respond as much, or at all, to catnip. Also, 10-30% of the cat population does not respond to catnip at all, at any age. This is because the reactions to catnip are hereditary. Some cats are genetically “programmed” to respond to catnip, some aren’t. Cats are unique in their response to catnip, and the response can be very dramatic in some cats – rolling, licking, rubbing, drooling, jumping, running, growling. Other cats appear to become very sedate after exposure. As mentioned above, up to 30% of the cat population does not respond at all to catnip. In any case, for all of the sometimes entertaining behaviors observed, catnip is completely nontoxic to cats.

Common Poisons

There are many dangers in and around the home that can spell disaster for your dog. Due to canine curiosity and their tendency to explore the world using their mouth they can ingest common household items that are potentially toxic. Toxicoses account for approximately 15 to 20 percent of animal emergencies at emergency facilities. This article summarizes the common items that are most frequently responsible for a trip to the emergency room due to accidental ingestion.

Before talking about specific substances that can poison your pet, it should be pointed out that the best treatment for accidental ingestion of toxic substances is prevention. While accidents happen, all pharmaceuticals, cleaning products, insecticides, fertilizers, chemicals and rodenticides should be safely stored in a secure place that is inaccessible to your pet. Be prepared for a toxic emergency and put together a first aid kit for your pet to be utilized in an emergency prior to bringing your pet to the veterinarian for more definitive care. Be sure to include a bottle of fresh sealed hydrogen peroxide with a bulb syringe to induce vomiting when necessary, saline eye solution in case you need to flush the eyes and shampoo to bathe your dog in the event of skin contamination. Lastly, always keep the number of your regular veterinarian, emergency clinic and poison control handy. The number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is (888) 426-4435.


Last year, the ASPCA received approximately 8,000 calls about pets that had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many types of bait used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets, including bleeding, seizures and kidney damage. Keep the package the bait came in and bring it with you to the vet.  By far the most common type is the anticoagulant based rodenticide. The active ingredients for these are typically warfarin based anticoagulants such as brodifacoum, bromodialone and diphacinone. These baits work by blocking vitamin K dependant clotting factors causing massive internal bleeding and death for any rodent that ingests it and the same mechanism applies to dogs as well. Because dogs tend to be bigger than rodents it takes longer for the bleeding to occur, typically within 3-5 days. Clinical signs usually include lethargy, respiratory difficulty, pale gums and general weakness. If the ingestion was recent, induce vomiting and seek immediate veterinary attention. In most cases the veterinarian will induce vomiting, administer oral activated charcoal, and utilize injectable and oral Vitamin K. In serious cases, hospitalization and blood transfusions are necessary. Oral vitamin K is prescribed for at least for 2-3 weeks and your dog’s clotting times should be monitored throughout this time period as the Vitamin K dependent factors can be inhibited for quite some period of time depending upon the poison ingested. For the next couple weeks you will need to watch for lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite and pale gums. If you notice any of these symptoms seek additional veterinary care immediately.

There are two other kinds of rodenticides that are less common. Baits containing cholecalciferol increases the dog’s calcium and phosphorous causing the soft tissue to mineralize. The kidneys are most affected and acute kidney failure is common. Hospitalization with fluid support and medication to lower the serum calcium and phosphorous is usually needed. Bromethalin based rodenticides working by acting on the brain. It makes the brain swell, triggering tremors, seizures and eventually death. There is no specific antidote and only supportive care can be given. Of the three, this is the hardest one to treat and is usually fatal. If you have a rodent problem and feel the only solution is to lay out baits use only anticoagulant based rodenticides since they are the least toxic of the three types and the easiest to treat. Place the baits in a location where your dog cannot reach them and once a day check to see if the baits are still there. Dispose of the baits properly when your rodent problem is gone. If you find a bait missing or has been tampered with and believe your dog ingested some seek veterinary attention immediately.

Snail & Slug Bait or Snail Poison

These poisons are extremely dangerous and toxic to dogs and cats. Many pets get stricken easily as they commonly lick the grass or soil or planting beds through their curious nature. Snail poison is made with arsenic and metaldehyde, also found in ant poison, insecticides, and weed killers. Signs and symptoms include drooling and thirst, diarrhea, vomiting, confusion and twitching or seizures. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned by snail bait, take him or her to the veterinarian immediately, as death may occur very quickly. Your veterinarian will induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal and hospitalize your pet. Many if not all pets require intravenous fluid support, and the administration of sedatives and muscle relaxants. In severe cases, your pet may require to be anesthetized to control the twitching and seizure like activity induced by these poisons and receive additional supportive care until the body has metabolized and eliminated the toxin from their system.


In our effort to battle home invasions of unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our pets at risk. In 2010, toxicologists fielded more than 31,000 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. Thus, it’s always important to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program. The most common insecticide that dogs tend to eat is the ant or roach baits. They contain an attractant such as peanut butter or bread which most dogs find appealing. Luckily the insecticides used in the baits today are typically non-toxic in mammals or the dose contained in the baits is so low that serious toxicosis is unlikely. In fact, there is more concern that the container of the bait can end up as a gastric foreign body. For this reason follow the same guidelines for placement as the rodenticides baits. Keep the packaging and contact poison control if you believe your dog ingested an ant or roach bait. If you use insecticides be sure to keep your dog away from the area where it was used.

Human pharmaceuticals

For several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards. Last year, the ASPCA managed more than 50,000 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets. Never give your dog over the counter medication without first discussing it with your veterinarian. Keep your prescription pills out of reach. The bottles may be childproof but they certainly aren’t dog proof. Don’t leave pills lying around on nightstands or on top of counters for example. If possible take pills in the bathroom with the door closed so that if you accidentally drop a pill your dog cannot run in and gobble it up. If your dog does get into your pills contact poison control with the drug name and an approximate number of tablets he ate in order to determine what treatment your dog may need.

Veterinary pharmaceuticals

Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. In 2010, the ASPCA managed nearly 8,000 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements. Some pills that veterinarians prescribe for dogs are flavored to make them more palatable and apparently some taste so good that dogs think they are treats. It is important to keep all medication for your dog away in a safe place. If your dog needs medications be sure you understand the dosing schedule and ask any questions you might have about the medication before you leave the veterinarian’s office. Never apply flea and tick products meant for your dog on any feline companions you may have.


Common houseplants were the subject of nearly 8,000 calls to the Animal Poison Control Center in 2010. Varieties such as Narcissus and hyacinth bulbs, oleander, rhododendrons, cyclamen, amaryllis, yew, chrysanthemum, azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts. Know the species you have in your garden and do some research to find out which are toxic and which are safe and try to only plant non-toxic varieties of plants. If you’re not sure whether your plants are safe, keep your dog out of the garden and watch him around houseplants.


Another reason to keep your dog out of the garden is fertilizer which often smells like food to dogs. Fertilizer may keep your grass green, but certain types of fertilizer can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs. Last year, the ASPCA fielded more than 2,000 calls related to fertilizer exposure.  There is a wide variety of fertilizers, but they typically contain varying amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous with insecticides and herbicides as common additives. Restrict access to newly-fertilized gardens and garden sheds or garages where fertilizer is kept and keep the packaging as a reference just in case. Or use an organic, pet-friendly alternative.

Cleaning products

Everybody knows that household cleaning supplies can be toxic to adults and children, but few take precautions to protect their pets from common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. Many of these products are just as toxic for our dogs as they are to us. Last year, the ASPCA received more than 3,200 calls related to household cleaners. These products, when inhaled or consumed, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract. Store all cleaning products away when not in use and consider using natural, organic cleaning solutions instead. If your dog has ingested a bleach-containing product or a drain cleaner, do NOT induce vomiting. As always contact poison control with the product name and the approximate amount ingested and seek emergency veterinary care.

Heavy metals

Heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury accounted for more than 3,000 cases of pet poisonings in 2010. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded. Thankfully, lead toxicosis is becoming less common due to industry safety guidelines. It is no longer a common component of paint but keep in mind that when renovating older homes that lead may be present in paint chips and dust and your dog should be kept away during periods of renovation.  The most common cause of zinc toxicosis is ingestion of pennies. Pennies minted since 1983 are primarily zinc and some dogs love to ingest coins. Clinical signs are gastrointestinal upset and anemia from red blood cell destruction. Surgery is usually necessary to remove the pennies to prevent further absorption of zinc. The best treatment is prevention so keep your pocket change in a jar out of your dog’s reach.

Chemical Hazards

In 2010, the Animal Poison Control Center handled approximately 5,500 cases of pet exposure to chemical hazards. A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns. The most common toxicity in this group is antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze is very sweet and attractive to dogs. Pets will appear drunk after ingesting even small amounts. While they may appear fine for up to a few hours after ingestion, they will inevitably go into acute kidney failure. The toxic component is ethylene glycol. There is an antidote but it must be given shortly after ingestion so if you suspect ingestion seek veterinary attention immediately. Your veterinarian will induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal, and hospitalize your pet on intravenous fluids. Despite appropriate treatment, some pets will suffer from some degree of permanent kidney damage if a significant amount of ethylene glycol was consumed or if treatment was not immediately initiated after consumption. Much less toxic is propylene glycol based antifreeze, so whenever possible purchase propylene glycol based antifreeze. If you do use ethylene glycol based antifreeze be sure to prevent access and be sure to dispose of it properly as it is toxic to wildlife as well.  If a product is labeled ‘toxic’ then assume it’s toxic to animals as well and store chemicals out of reach. De-icing salts used to melt snow and ice are paw irritants that can be poisonous if licked off. Paws should be washed and dried as soon as the animal comes in from the snow.

Dangers of Counterfeit Medications

The following is a letter that Animal Medical Center received from Pfizer:

April 15, 2011

Dear Pet Owner,

Pfizer Animal Health is committed to the research, development, and support of innovative, quality animal healthcare products that can help your pet in enjoying a longer, healthier life.

Aligned with our commitment is our belief that the veterinarian is central to the health and care of pets. No other individual is better positioned through training, knowledge, and clinical expertise to advocate for the health, well-being, and specific needs of pets. veterinarians serve a key and pivotal role in the lives of pets and their owners through diagnostic, prevention, and treatment services.

Based on that belief, our policy is to sell our prescription medications for dogs and cats exclusively to licensed veterinarians where a direct veterinary-client-patient relationship exists. This approach helps ensure your pet receives the best possible care.

We do not sell our prescription medications for dogs and cats to retail outlets, pet supply stores, internet sites or any other distribution facility where a veterinary=client-patient relationship does not exist—nor do we support in any way secondary supply to these businesses.

We do not know how our products reach these business so we can’t ensure that proper handling and storage occurs—or if these products are legitimate or counterfeit. Therefore we will not provide any guarantee should your pet have an adverse experience or lack of efficacy on these products.

I encourage you to learn about the counterfeit market for animal health products by accessing the FDA website at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm203000.htm.

We thank you for using Pfizer products and wish continued good health for your pet.

Sincerest Regards,

Steven Leder
Vic President
US Companion Animal Division

The Prevention and Management of Heat Stroke in Dogs

As we head into the warmer spring and summer months, it is important to remember heat exhaustion is a relatively common occurrence in Southern California. Every summer, dogs are presented to veterinarians for the treatment of heatstroke. Some of these cases are mild, but unfortunately, they can be severe and prove fatal despite aggressive treatment. As the summer heat and humidity begins, it is very important that we take our pets into consideration and modify their routines accordingly. Hyperthermia is the term used to describe an elevation in body temperature. This increase typically occurs as a response to a trigger, such as inflammation in the body or a hot environment. When a dog is exposed to high ambient temperatures, heat stroke or heat exhaustion can result. This is because dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans – they release heat primarily by panting and they sweat through the foot pads and nose. If a dog cannot effectively expel heat, the internal body temperature begins to rise. In the case of a heat stroke, panting is not enough to cool the body down. Once the dog’s temperature reaches 106°, damage to the body’s cellular system and organs may become irreversible.  Heat stroke is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of heat stroke are detected, there is precious little time before serious damage – or even death – can occur. In many cases, owners are not aware that their dogs are developing this condition until it is too late to reverse the damage. Unfortunately, every year thousands of dogs suffer from heat stroke and too many succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided. It is important to learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and prevent it from happening to your dog. As mentioned previously, immediate emergency medical treatment is necessary to prevent multisystem organ damage, and death. Early recognition of the common signs of heat stroke is critical to saving the dog’s life.

The initial symptoms of heat stroke in dogs are characterized by unanticipated restlessness. Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive or heavy panting, hyperventilation (deep breathing), increased salivation early and then eventual drying of the gums and mucous membranes as the heat prostration progresses, weakness, confusion or inattention, vomiting or diarrhea and sometimes bleeding. Among common behavioral changes are agitation, whining, barking and other signs of anxiety. As the condition progresses towards heat prostration, there may be obvious paleness or graying to the gums, more shallow respiratory efforts and eventually slowed or absent breathing efforts, vomiting and diarrhea that may be bloody, and finally seizures or coma. In the end stages of heat stroke, a dog will become listless, dull, weak, and recumbent. It may try to move to cool places but be unable to rise, will have increased difficulty breathing, and ultimately will have seizures, collapse, lapse into a coma and die.

The best approach to heat exhaustion is to prevent it by allowing acclimation to exercise on hot days, to make sure there is access to water, and to retreat to air conditioned areas when signs of overheating first occur.  In our practice, we rarely see heat exhaustion on really hot days except for dogs that are trapped in cars, greenhouses, or similar hot environments. Most dogs and people are smart enough not to overexert on those days. We see problems the first moderately hot days of the summer in active dogs that just go on being really active on these days before they have a chance to get used to the heat. We also see problems here because people assume that if a dog is in the water, that the dog won’t overheat. This just isn’t true when the water temperature gets much above 75 degrees, especially if the dog is working hard in the water. Contrary to popular belief, heat stroke does not only happen when a dog is confined in a small enclosed place during high temperatures and with poor ventilation, although certainly this is a common cause of the condition. Many dogs develop heat stroke when they are moved from a cold to a warmer and more humid climate, during seasonal temperature fluctuations or after vigorous exercise (including play) in hot weather. As a dog’s body temperature starts to rise as a result of these conditions, it cannot release the excess heat naturally produced by metabolism and other bodily functions. While heat stroke in dogs can develop into a potentially deadly situation in as little as 20 minutes, in some instances a heat stroke can take hours to develop into a deadly situation. Very young and older dogs are at higher risk of heat stroke. Brachycephalic breeds (short noses), obese animals and long haired and dark-colored dogs are also predisposed. Dogs with hyperthyroidism, cardiopulmonary disease, laryngeal paralysis, or thick hair coats are also at increased risk of developing heat stroke.

It cannot be over emphasized or repeated enough that heat stroke in dogs can quickly turn deadly if not treated immediately and aggressively. Successful treatment requires intensive emergency care at a veterinary clinic. The therapeutic goals are to lower the dog’s core body temperature to a normal range and to identify and resolve the underlying cause of the condition. This may be as simple as removing the dog from the source of excessive environmental heat, but this is not always easy to do. Most affected dogs will require inpatient hospitalization and intensive care for at least several days, until their temperature and clinical signs are stabilized. Again, early recognition is the key to treatment success. Treatment will consist mostly of replacing lost fluids and minerals. Intravenous fluid therapy and monitoring for secondary complications such as kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, abnormal clotting, changes in blood pressure, and electrolytes abnormalities are typically recommended in cases of heatstroke. There are certain things that owners of dogs suspected of suffering from heat stroke can do to enhance their dogs’ chances of survival. First, owners should contact their veterinarian or the closest emergency veterinary clinic and alert them to the situation and their anticipated arrival time. If you can speak with a veterinarian, ask what steps you should take before and while you are transporting your animal to the hospital. If you cannot actually talk to a veterinarian or veterinary technician who can give you sound advice, common nursing care protocols involve spraying the dog with cool water or immersing it in cool water; using convection cooling with fans or cooling pads; and using evaporative cooling with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol on the foot pads, under the front armpits (axilla) and on the groin or flank areas. Dogs should not be immersed in ice or ice-cold water by untrained personnel. Cooling a hyperthermic dog too quickly can cause its blood vessels to restrict (peripheral vasoconstriction), which can impede heat dissipation. It is also wise to monitor the dog’s rectal temperature regularly, and stop these cooling procedures once its temperature decreases to 103 F. The prognosis for dogs that have heat stroke are highly variable and can be good to guarded to grave, depending primarily upon how quickly the condition was caught and treated.

Any pet that cannot cool himself off is at risk for heatstroke. Following these guidelines can help prevent serious problems.

  • Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.
  • Provide access to water at all times.
  • Do not leave your pet in a hot parked car even if you’re in the shade or will only be gone a short time. The temperature inside a parked car can quickly reach up to140 degrees.
  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • On a hot day, restrict exercise and don’t take your dog jogging with you. Too much exercise when the weather is very hot can be dangerous.
  • Do not muzzle your dog.
  • Avoid places like the beach and especially concrete or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Move your dog to a cool area of the house. Air conditioning is one of the best ways to keep a dog cool but is not always dependable. To provide a cooler environment, freeze water in soda bottles, or place ice and a small amount of water in several resealable food storage bags, and then wrap them in a towel or tube sock. Place them on the floor for the dog to lie on.

To protect your dog from a heat stroke, take the time to learn the signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs. Always ensure that your dog has access to water and shade in hot temperatures, and never leave your dog in a hot car even if it is only for “a few minutes”.

The Pet Overpopulation and Overflowing Shelter Problem

For years it has been debated what the best approach would be to successfully control the companion pet overpopulation problem and the concomitant overflowing shelter population that inexorably follows. Early age spay and neuter has been touted as a potential cure to the overflowing population housed at the shelters but has failed (miserably, in my opinion) to stem the tide of relinquishment of pets to shelter facilities. It has diminished the number of un-spayed and un-neutered pets relinquished to the shelters but has failed to alleviate the shear numbers relinquished to any appreciable degree. This is because having too many pets is the number six or seven reason in the top ten listed by people leaving their pets at the shelter in the first place. There are five or six more pressing reasons why animals are relinquished and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that attacking reason #6 or #7 isn’t going to have an appreciable effect on reducing the shelter population. Don’t get me wrong. Spaying and neutering a pet is absolutely warranted, especially when it is performed at an appropriate age. In my opinion, early age spay and neuter isn’t having a tremendous effect because the overwhelming number of pet owners are responsible, intelligent people and are in compliance in the first place. They are already spaying and neutering their pets and up to the day that they have the procedure performed they are not allowing their pets to breed indiscriminately and dumping the resulting offspring at the shelter. Considering that multiple studies have indicated that early age spay and neuter is responsible for numerous developmental abnormalities and an overall increase in the cancer rate observed in the pet population, it is ludicrous to me to subject the pets of the already compliant pet owners to increased cancer rates and developmental problems by early age spay and neuter when they are not the reason why the shelters are overflowing. A long time ago, men were neutered in Greece at an early age (eunuch, anyone?). They didn’t exactly grow up and develop normally. The reason why the shelters are full to capacity and/or overflowing is basically because a segment of the pet owning population should never be allowed to own pets in the first place. Until this segment of the population is prevented from pet ownership the likelihood of eliminating the overcrowding at shelters will never be achieved.

There are a number of regulations that can be successfully introduced to discourage the inappropriate ownership of pets by the portion of the population that considers pets disposable. Spaying and neutering at an age appropriate time is important but must be incorporated as part of a much more comprehensive master plan. One of the first things I would propose is to prohibit the transport of dogs and cats into the state of California for sale as pets. In one fell swoop we would then have stopped the interstate transport of puppy mill puppies for sale in the state; pet stores would then be forced to buy pets for resale from in-state breeders. These breeders should be registered with the state and pay a licensing fee in order to operate. Their licensing fee should be based on the number of animals they plan on selling in a calendar year. Pet stores sell puppies and kittens because they are able to buy them for approximately $100-150 (from out-of-state puppy mill operations) and turn around and sell them for over $2000. If they were restricted to buying their inventory of pets from licensed regulated breeders their initial outlay would increase to such an extent that it would no longer be profitable to sell them and therefore the sale of dogs and cats as an “impulse” purchase would theoretically decrease. Those breeders that continued to operate without registration and regulation should be subjected to significant fines and penalties. They should not be able to get off with a slap on the wrists. Listen, I don’t like to pay the City of LA $30k a year to hang out my shingle to practice but that’s the cost of doing business here in California. In the current climate, these breeders are effectively operating as businesses floating under the radar; they pay no business tax and probably don’t report any of their income as taxable. Rational, intelligent breeders should embrace this process as it raises their profile as reputable breeders; those that ignore these regulations obviously have something to hide. After an appropriate amnesty period, fines should be assessed. A significant fine should be assessed. Nobody is going to take this seriously if the penalty is not harsh. Considering the state of California is paying tens of millions of dollars a year to maintain its shelter system, I cannot imagine why any legislator would hesitate to levy significant penalties for failure to comply. If this approach is going to be successful, any state law that targets unlicensed breeders, puppy mills and those that buy pets from them will need to be enforced. A lesson may be learned, however, from the backlash generated by the attempt to legislate a bill which was recently passed by the voters in Missouri.

Earlier this year, Missouri voters thought they scored a big win against some of the nation’s most notorious puppy mills when they approved strict new dog breeding regulations. Proposition B was expected to mend the problems in Missouri, which accounts for about a third of the 10,000 U.S. puppy mills. Now state lawmakers are changing the rules and are now looking at ways to change or repeal it.This state law aimed at cracking down on disreputable breeders and improving animal care, but recently has been overhauled by lawmakers who say the voter-approved version is too costly, and punished legitimate dog-breeders who generate an estimated $1 billion annually in the state. Animal advocates complain elected officials are overruling the will of the people and some are prepared to put the issue on the ballot again next year. The law passed last November on the strength of residents from heavily populated Kansas City and St. Louis but failed in rural areas where many dog breeders operate. But swayed by “legitimate breeders” who argued the law would close them down, a bipartisan group of mostly rural lawmakers voted to change most of the law’s provisions, warning lawmakers the voter-approved law could shutter the industry by limiting the number of the breeding dogs they can own and forcing costly housing upgrades. Critics of the law contend the industry’s worst has tainted public perception and blame many problems on unlicensed breeders.

These breeders contend that the voter-approved measure is just going to put the law-abiding, licensed, legitimate, conscientious, caring breeders out of business, and the only ones remaining will be the illegal people already flying under the radar. These new regulations would price even the responsible breeders out of the industry?  Really? Sounds to me that these lawmakers believe that it’s more important to continue to generate a billion dollars for the state of Missouri than it is to bring the animal welfare standards up to snuff. Considering that Missouri is responsible for at least 1/3 of all cheap puppy mill dogs circulating throughout the United States, enforcing Prop B is important.

The problem with this assertion is that Prop B didn’t make insane demands on breeders. It called for providing food and constant access to clean water, vet care, protection from the elements, exercise, “constant and unfettered access” to the outdoors, room to move around and stretch and rest between breeding cycles. It would apply to breeders with more than 10 dogs and limit the number of breeding dogs to 50 per facility. Violations would result in up to 15 days in jail and a fine of $300, which in my interpretation is still a slap on the wrists. These “legitimate breeders” bemoan the fact that they would actually have to clean up their act, and it would be too expensive to provide animals under their care with appropriate veterinary oversight, expanded living quarters and (heaven forbid) heat and air conditioning to comply with the new regulations. The rural lawmakers (i.e. the neighbor, brother-in-law, etc of these scumbags) proposed Prop SB 113, which removes the limit on the amount of breeding dogs per facility, removes mandatory annual vet exams, substituting a bi-annual “visual” exam, removes restrictions on how often dogs can be bred and removes unfettered access to the outdoors. It also removes a provision stating that dogs should have access to water at all times that is free of “debris, feces, algae and other contaminants” and requires breeders to give water every eight hours instead, which can apparently be clean or dirty. It also removes added space to move, which would have done away with stacked cages. I think it goes without saying that if a responsible breeder cannot meet these basic standards because of cost, perhaps it is an indication that profit-driven facilities shouldn’t traffic in living beings in the first place. Hopefully, more intelligent lawmakers in California will not try to undo the will of the people when it comes to shutting down inappropriate or unlicensed breeding operations which are responsible for flooding the market and eventually the shelter system with numerous animals.

Once it becomes impractical/illegal to buy a pet inexpensively from an unlicensed backyard breeder, potential pet owners would have to ante up to experience the privilege of owning a pet. Now it should be mentioned that if a person purchased a pet from an unlicensed breeder they should be penalized as well. There is no reason to allow the continued sale of cheap, inexpensive pets as this only continues the cycle of purchase and disposal. By raising the entry price of pet ownership, the portion of our society that cannot afford to treat companion animals with respect, kindness and medical care will be priced out of the market. Until the mindset changes that companion animals are nothing more than cheap, easily purchasable pieces of property the same cycle of exploitation and abandonment will continue. Before one lambasts me for wanting to raise the price of animal ownership to justify higher veterinary fees, it should be pointed out that this problem portion of the pet owning public never takes their pets to a veterinarian in the first place. If and when they do, it is rare for an appropriate standard of care to be administered because of the expense. It is cheaper and easier to bring the dog or cat to the shelter and relinquish it, have it euthanized for free and walk down the aisle to the next available receptionist and adopt a new dog or cat for less than the price of a reasonably priced veterinary office call. This is why the next change which needs to be implemented to alleviate shelter overcrowding is to raise the price of purchasing a pet from the shelter system.

Once it becomes impossible to purchase a pet from a puppy mill or unlicensed breeder, the only other available way to purchase a pet cheaply would be from the shelter. If the minimum going rate for purchasing a dog or cat was $800-1000, there is no reason to allow the shelters to give away animals to just anybody for $50-60. It is absurd to continue to enable the portion of the pet owning public that cannot afford to care for their pets the opportunity to purchase one for next to nothing. It re-emphasizes to them that these animals are practically worthless entities instead of sentient beings deserving of respect. Shelter advocates would cry out that an immediate dilemma that would arise is that the number of animals adopted out by the shelter would initially decrease, perhaps dramatically, as they would be unable to find enough homes for animals with responsible intelligent people. The euthanasia rate would rise. This is a bunch of garbage because they are already killing these animals; they kill them when they are returned by this segment of the population because it’s cheaper to return them for a free, convenient euthanasia than to seek appropriate veterinary care. They then allow these people to adopt another one for $50-60 and start the cycle all over again. This is one way that the shelters inflate their own adoption rate; they don’t report to any agency the percentage of dog and cats that are adopted out and eventually returned for euthanasia. It’s a dirty little secret they don’t like to talk about. In order to avoid this potential scenario, however, the shelters should be allowed to adopt out these animals to bona fide, recognized, non-profit rescue groups for $50-60 and allow them to be the gatekeepers for adoption to rational, educated people who are more inclined to treat animals humanely and be responsible pet owners. Once again, because the going rate to purchase a pet would have been raised substantially, it gives these groups the opportunity to adopt out these pets for larger sums of money; this would allow them to generate the funds they need to care for abandoned and uncared for animals more easily, instead of having to consistently beg for donations and operate on a skeleton budget.

While the indigent portion of the population would inevitably complain that they have an inherent right to own animals, I would argue that they do not. Society as a whole should not be forced to shoulder the burden of both the emotional and financial expense of putting unwanted animals to sleep just because these people undervalue the human-animal bond. Their inability to recognize the fact that animals today are to be considered more than just disposable property should be reason enough to stop enabling them to continue this cycle in perpetuity. Their inability to care for animals appropriately is costing the state tens of millions of dollars a year, to say nothing of the abuse and neglect these pets are forced to endure. Before you call me elitist, I will admit that animal abuse and neglect occurs across all levels of socioeconomic strata.  I fully realize the presence of economic stability does not preclude relinquishing a pet to the shelter system. As a veterinarian with approximately 30 years of private practice experience in what would be considered an affluent area of Los Angeles, I have certainly witnessed “affluent” pet owners opt for convenience euthanasia rather than paying for appropriate veterinary care; veterinary care which would not have come close to putting a dent in their standard of living. These are cases in which appropriate care (at reasonable and affordable prices) would have resulted in an excellent recovery and return to a quality of life equal to if not better than what the pets experienced immediately prior to presentation. They didn’t want to spend the money on their pet because they felt that their disposable income would be better spent on other luxuries. They were not emotionally attached or invested in their pet. They considered their pet as nothing more than one more accessory for their lifestyle. While despicable in its own right, these cases are thankfully few and far between and do not contribute significantly to the shelter population. It is, however, undeniable that the overwhelming majority of the pet overpopulation and shelter overcrowding problem is a result of a small portion of the pet owning public that refuses to recognize the value of the human-animal bond.

It is my hope that through spreading awareness and by employing innovative policies to decrease birthrates, increase responsible adoptions and to keep animals with emotionally and financially responsible owners, that many of these defenseless animals can be saved from abuse, neglect and an unwarranted death.

How to Feed Your Dog

The size and frequency of meals are fundamental aspects of nutrition that can have profound effects on health and longevity. Excessive energy intake has been associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers and is a major cause of disability and death in industrialized countries. On the other hand, the influence of meal frequency on health and longevity is somewhat unclear.  A better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms by which meal size and frequency affect health may lead to novel approaches for disease prevention and treatment.

There is, however, an emerging consensus among veterinarians that feeding your dog twice or even three times a day is preferable to feeding your dog once a day. By dividing meal time into several events during the day, you reduce the amount of food per mealtime and balance out the digestive activity of your dog. By using multiple feedings per day rather than one single large feeding, you help your dog better align his caloric requirements with energy needs throughout the day. No longer does your dog go through one long cycle of digestion and energy conversion as he digests a huge quantity of food. Instead, your dog is more continuously digesting and converting food throughout the day, which is healthier and better for him or her. By breaking up the total amount of food into multiple meals you may find that your dog has more consistent energy and has more balanced behavior throughout the day.  What is important, however, is not feeding too soon before or after exercise. At the very least, this practice can cause discomfort, and it could lead to serious, even life-threatening complications.

As energy and nutrient requirements depend on the stage of life of your pet, the level and type of exercise, the duration of exercise, environmental factors, the presence or absence of underlying medical conditions, and individual variations, it is crucial that owners determine the dog’s individual food ration by closely monitoring the dog’s body condition and weight and adjusting food intake as appropriate. There is obviously no one best way to feed every dog considering their variations in size and conformation, age and activity levels. In brief, a dog’s lifecycle can be broken up into a number of stages (puppy, 6 month-1 year or juvenile, young adult, adult, senior). Additionally, in many of these stages the dog may be a professional working dog, a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or going through gestation and/or lactation. Depending upon your pet’s stage of their lifecycle and activity levels, it is important to set and achieve weight goals and healthy meal planning. By understanding the nutrient requirements of your pet, you will be able to fuel their body correctly to maintain appropriate energy levels, a healthy weight and athletic performance efforts.

A few examples can illustrate why in most situations it’s best to feed your dog multiple meals per day.  Large and giant breeds of dog should be fed multiple smaller meals per day to decrease the incidence of “bloat” or gastric torsion, a medical and surgical life-threatening emergency. In these breeds, feeding a large meal immediately before or after exercise can lead to a dilatation of the stomach and its eventual twisting on its axis and ensuing hypovolemic, endotoxic and cardiac shock if not treated appropriately and aggressively. Small breed dogs may have a hard time eating enough food to meet their needs in a single large meal. Many toy or small breeds (especially when they are puppies) are predisposed to developing hypoglycemia because they are less able to store and mobilize glucose. Also, toy breed puppies have more brain mass per body weight compared to other breeds and therefore need more glucose for brain function. For these reasons, if you have a toy breed dog, it is better to feed them smaller more frequent meals a day to avoid hypoglycemia.

In summary, one of the most important ways to prevent a wide variety of dog diseases and conditions is through proper diet and nutrition. Just like with our own bodies, proper dog nutrition is a huge factor in disease prevention and overall well-being. What goes into your dog’s body directly affects his physical and mental well-being. While no one food or feeding regimen works for all of the animals all of the time, multiple meal feedings can help avoid some of the most common diet-related conditions. Finally, it must be recognized that nutrition is a dynamic scientific discipline, and the recommendations made today can change tomorrow. None the less, at the present time, feeding appropriately sized, smaller meals more frequently is preferable to feeding one single larger meal to the majority of the canine pet population.

Shelter Incompetence At Its Best

A couple of weeks ago, a three-month-old puppy deemed dead after being euthanized by a veterinarian at a shelter in Oklahoma was found very much alive in a trash bin outside the shelter by an animal control officer. This particular puppy, along with the rest of his litter, was left at the shelter. After having been assessed as sick, the puppies were given a “lethal” dose of medication and placed in the dumpster outside of the shelter.  On the bright side, shelter employees have received a number of offers from prospective owners who were touched by his story of survival. On the not so bright side, why the hell isn’t anybody speaking out about the total incompetence of this veterinarian and his staff?

There are a number of issues here that need to be addressed. Number one, how sick could a puppy have been in the first place to survive his illness AND a lethal dose of euthanasia serum and be a happy camper twelve hours later? The answer is——not very sick in the first place. Number two, how brain dead is this veterinarian for not being able to successfully determine whether or not he appropriately euthanized an animal? The answer is——quite brain dead, considering that he tried to euthanize the puppy TWICE. Number three, since when is it standard of practice to dump dead animals in a trash bin (unless of course, you are operatives of PETA)? The answer is——it’s illegal.  I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

While it goes without saying that this puppy was a lucky little bastard, one has to wonder how many other blunders this Oklahoma Shelter facility has committed in the past and how many more it will continue to commit in the future.  Based on the articles I’ve read, there has been absolutely no condemnation of these egregious acts by the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Board or any other state regulatory commission. It seems that everyone wants to focus on a feel good story of a puppy rising from the dead but nobody wants to question why the veterinarian felt the puppy was sick in the first place and why the veterinarian discarded a sedated but still very much alive puppy in a trash bin. Although it is unfortunate that the number one job description in many shelters is killing animals (which is a topic for another conversation), it is incomprehensible to me that this idiot couldn’t even do that right.  To justify killing an obviously healthy puppy, botch it miserably (twice), and dump him in the trash like yesterday’s newspaper is so below the standard of practice that it gives veterinarians everywhere a black eye. It is obvious that this veterinarian was so inured to the depressant effects of euthanasia that he totally mishandled the case. Considering the regulatory boards didn’t even slap him on the wrists, one can only hope that the doctor took this as an opportunity for reflection. After all, euthanasia deserves some contemplation as it is a serious detail we take on as veterinarians and should never be taken lightly.

Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami (東北地方太平洋沖地震の被災者の皆様)

My memories of Sendai are that of beautiful natural mineral hot springs, gorgeous Fall foliage, traditional Japanese hotels, and an educated, outgoing, affluent population. I had the opportunity to lecture throughout Japan on a number of occasions, and Sendai always remains high up on my list of wonderful places to visit. The vast devastation unleashed by the most punishing earthquake in Japan’s history and the massive tsunami it triggered will certainly affect this region for some time to come as Sendai is the closest major city to the epicenter of the undersea earthquake.  While no country may be better prepared for a major earthquake than Japan because of some of the strictest seismic standards for construction in the world and a state of the art tsunami warning system, the unfortunate lesson that may be learned from this natural disaster is that there is only so much that preparedness can do. Nature’s wrath can be a bitch.

The scenes we have been watching from Japan of roads splitting apart, buildings buckling and houses, cars, ships and trains being swept away were gut-wrenching because of everyone’s inability to do anything about it. In an instant, millions of Japanese people have been plunged into a state of fear, anxiety, suffering, and hardship. At the Animal Medical Center, a good percentage of our clientele are Japanese or Japanese-American and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families during this most difficult of times. While the full extent of the damage and death toll will not be known for some time, I am proud to see that the US Government has acted swiftly by sending rescue and recovery teams and food and relief supplies and has pledged to do everything possible to aid the people of Japan.

On a personal note, we have contacted our veterinary colleagues in Japan and offered any and all assistance they may require in light of the formidable task of managing the potential massive injuries to livestock and pets, and the need to house these animals considering the tremendous loss of infrastructure. Based upon my personal experience, I am confident that the intelligence, resourcefulness, aptitude, and ingenuity of the Japanese people will ensure that Japan will recover and rebuild quickly and will emerge stronger than ever in the aftermath of this tragedy.

Click here to read the article in Japanese