Rabies Is Out There

by William Wise, Director of Walton County Animal Control

 Photo: William Wise

Photo: William Wise

I don’t mean to over-dramatize or spark panic, but two recent encounters have pushed forward the fact that although rare, rabies is still a threat to your pet. However, there is no need to call out the National Guard. Rabies is a fear that is easily abated by a simple, affordable vaccine.

In the month of February, two dogs in Walton County were quarantined in rabies observation after being exposed to rabid raccoons in two separate incidents. In the first encounter, a raccoon wandered aimlessly into a yard where it got into a tussle with the homeowner’s dog, Sam. The dog owner told animal control that the raccoon was stumbling around and then flopping on the ground while growling. Not surprisingly, the raccoon tested positive.

The second incident occurred just a few days later. Nut and his owner were in Rutledge, GA not far from Hard Labor Creek State Park when the Coonhound came face to face with a raccoon and was bitten on the nose. Once again, the raccoon tested positive.

The good side of this story is that both dog owners were responsible pet parents and had their dogs’ rabies vaccinations up to date. Therefore, both were allowed to do an in-home rabies observation for 45 days. Had they not been current on rabies vaccinations, the outcome might have been much worse.

According to the Georgia rabies guidelines followed by all animal control agencies, unvaccinated dogs and cats that come into contact with a rabid animal “should be euthanized immediately.” Imagine putting down your beloved pet because of an overlooked annual visit to your veterinarian for a rabies vaccine!

Well, most of us couldn’t stand for that. So what is the alternative? Six months of “strict isolation.” And this is no easy task. The exposed dog or cat must be kept in a secure, double-walled enclosure with a feeding door and a method of sectioning off the pet for cage cleaning. Even if you could find a veterinary clinic or boarding kennel willing to quarantine your pet, the cost would be astronomical.

The cost of prevention, however, is quite small. Rabies vaccinations are available through all veterinarians at a reasonable price. There are even regular, low-cost vaccine clinics hosted on Saturdays at various locations in nearly every city. Costing less than dinner for two, there is no reason to not have your beloved pet vaccinated regularly.

So when it comes to your pet and rabies, there is no need for alarm. But there is a need to be a diligent, responsible pet parent by ensuring your dog or cat is kept current on the necessary vaccines. Mark your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, whatever it takes—don’t let it slip your mind, or it can be costly.

Shelter Medicine Symposium

by Amanda Newsom

This February, I attended the University of Georgia Veterinary Medicine’s Shelter Medicine Symposium, which is organized by UGA CVM Shelter Medicine Club students. This conference is meant to “provide educational resources to those outside of a university setting to further veterinary education as it relates to animal health in shelters.” 

I came with my shelter background in mind to see what kind of information I could bring away that would be useful to Classic City Paw Print readers as well as shelter/rescue volunteers and workers, and these are some of my big takeaways:

 

REDUCING HOLD TIMES

Dr. Staci Cannon, Medical Director of Nashville Metro Area Animal Care and Control, packed a lot of good info into an hour, starting with this stat: less than 20 percent of strays in the United States are returned to their owners, as a national average. [Do I really need to make another PSA about microchipping your pets and making sure they always wear a collar with an ID tag?]

She discussed a five-question protocol for medical advisors to ask themselves of each animal in a shelter on their rounds to help uncover any potential issues. While they seem simple and obvious, it’s a nice habit for even volunteers to get in the habit of when visiting the shelter:

  1. Who are you?
  2. How are you doing?
  3. Are you where you should be?
  4. Do you need something today?
  5. Do you need something scheduled?

She also discussed some strategies for lower the hold times of animals in shelters, with some terms I hadn’t heard before. First, the adoption hold: placing pets on stray holds in areas where potential adopters can still see the animal and let staff know that they are interested in adopting them if their owner doesn’t come forward. Second, managed admission: scheduling intake from owner surrenders or found pets so the shelter isn’t as overwhelmed and can plan better for that animal. Last, intake aversion: applying for grants that provide vouchers to give rescues incentives to accept adoptable pets into their programs, which avoids intaking the animal at animal control to help manage their population.

Last, she explained the five freedoms of animals in shelters and rescues:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

 

The Healthy Hug

Like people, more than half of pets in the United States are overweight, and our view of a healthy pet weight has become skewed. Dr. Ainsley Bone, Veterinary Communications Manager at Nestle Purina North America, talked about optimizing nutrition in shelters while answering: how much they should weigh, how much to feed, how often to feed and when to feed. Again, her tips are excellent for practical use from any pet owner in addition to shelter staff and volunteers. 

How much should your pet weigh? 

There are body condition score charts that you can review online that show what the pet should look like from side and top views, which should include:

  • An hourglass figure from the top
  • A tuck under their waist
  • Be able to easily feel ribs when touched

There is also a muscle condition score, to determine not only if the pet is a healthy weight but if they have adequate muscle mass. WASAVA has online charts for dogs and cats to refer to for this score, and Dr. Bone also had an interesting hand trick to use to check the muscle along the side of the spine. Here’s my layman interpretation of that trick: in between your thumb and index finger is too squishy, the pads along the inside of your hand nearest your fingers is ideal, and the top of your hand means there isn’t adequate muscle mass.

What to feed? 

Look for the “complete and balanced” statement on the pet food bag, and get a type of food that’s appropriate for the pet’s life stage. Larger breed dogs may even follow puppy guidelines until they reach a year and a half while small breed dogs may only require puppy guidelines until 6 months, but the general rule is to feed puppy or kitten food until the animal reaches their first birthday.

How much to feed? 

I know, this seems obvious: feed the recommended guidelines on your pet food bag or can, or follow instructions from your veterinarian. But many people miss one important part of this, which is to follow the recommended amount of food for your pet’s ideal weight, not necessarily their current weight (they may be carrying around a few extra LBs.) Lactating animals need more food than normal, and pets that have been spayed/neutered may need less. Fun fact: cats require 40 essential nutrients while dogs only require 36.

How often to feed? 

Feeds dogs once or twice a day, cats twice a day, and puppies and kittens at least three times a day until they’re six months old. Cat food aversion may be useful to not only better monitor how much your cat is eating, but to be sure they are eating adequately if there are other cats or pets in the home. Food aversion simply means teaching the cat to eat when you present their food, which is learned when you remove the food bowl after they have eaten.

 

NEW GUIDELINES FOR ANTIBIOTIC TREATMENT

Again, like people, antibiotics have become overused in the veterinary world, so International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Diseases (ISCAID) is supposedly preparing to revise their recommendations in the next two to three years for antibiotic usage in pets to reduce the duration of treatment as well as recommending stopping treatment when symptoms resolve. There’s also a general trend in veterinary medicine to reduce prescribing antibiotics so often and trying other treatments that may be just as good if not better for the animal’s health.

 

RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT

Emotional Support vs. Service Animals

 There are various working dog designations.

by Michaela Gardner

One of today’s most popular “health crazes” has nothing to do with juice cleanses or the latest product intended to get rid of acne overnight. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with physical health at all, but mental health, and that is the explosive popularity of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). While recognizing the legitimacy of using animals to help treat mental illness is a victory in itself, misunderstandings of the term “emotional support animal” have given rise to an entirely new issue. On one hand, there are people out there taking advantage of the system and faking mental illnesses in order to gain certain privileges, or people who act as though their ESA has the same rights as service animals. On the other, people that have a genuine need for emotional service animals are being taken advantage of due to a lack of accurate, widespread information on the matter.

In order to set the record straight, it's important to understand the definitions of both emotional support animals and service animals. Service animals are described by the Americans with Disabilities Act as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” They are trained to assist the visually-impaired to safely navigate the world, or aid the physically-handicapped with day-to-day chores. ESAs are pets that have received no special training, and they do not perform and tasks or work for their owners—they have been prescribed to their owner by a mental health professional because their presence helps alleviate symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

There are only two specific areas in which people with ESAs are given rights over people with other pets. With proof from a mental health professional, people with an ESA cannot be denied housing or forced to pay a pet fee. Breed bans and size limitations may also be disregarded, according to the Fair Housing Act. When it comes to air travel, the Air Carrier Access Act allows emotional support animals to travel in the cabin of an airplane with their owner, like a service animal would. The intent of this law is to ease anxieties for those with flying phobias.

Based on these specific laws pertaining to emotional support animals, it’s easy to see how the lines between emotional support and service animals can be blurry to some people. One of the biggest issues for those with emotional support animals is the plethora of internet scams claiming that they must pay fees, many up to $100, in order to register their pet. These websites then typically provide a vest and ID badge intended to prove the validity of the ESA. In reality, the only validation necessary for ESAs is a signed letter from a mental health professional. There are no fees involved in obtaining an official status for an emotional support animal.

On the flip side, many people take advantage of the lack of proper information about the differences between emotional support and service animals, behaving as though they both possess the same rights. This epidemic continues to spread because laws and regulations are unable to keep up with the rapid increase in the use of ESAs. Until recently, there was no need for expanded legislation regarding service animals, but between the misleading information about ESAs and people just flat out lying about their pets being a service animal, many are calling for stricter laws and regulations for service animals. Those that fake the use of a service animal and have pets that misbehave in public give true service animals a bad reputation, causing more grief for people that truly require their assistance. A difficult aspect of laws about service animals is that it is illegal for employees or business owners to question the purpose or validity of a service animal, making it almost impossible to do anything when an animal is suspected to be a fake service animal.

The most important step that currently needs to be taken in sorting this issue out is the dissemination of accurate information about the differences between emotional support and service animals. More thorough research needs to be done by those considering pursuing the help of an emotional support animal, and society as a whole needs to understand the importance of service animals and the negative impact that fake or improperly-trained service animals can have on those that have gone through the proper time, training and channels in order to gain their rights.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… spent in the Emergency Veterinary Hospital

Dr. David Lavernoich

The weather is getting below 80 degrees here in the Classic City, and that means autumn has arrived and the holidays are around the corner. Major box stores have had holiday decorations and winter weather preparations out since September. With the holidays approaching faster each year comes with it festive fiascos and hazards for our pets. No one wants an emergency visit to the veterinarian during a Thanksgiving tryptophan slumber. Here are a few considerations to keep our pets safe prior to our busy holiday season.  

Holiday meals are the best—they are full of great-tasting, nap-inducing food. As wonderful as these meals are for humans, our pets can have a hard time with some of them. Some people feed their animals the main course from their holiday meal because they feel bad or find it cute. These meals are often very fatty, heavy in calories and rich in taste, which may upset your pet’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 

Inevitably, most of us veterinarians will see multiple patients with diarrhea, vomiting or pancreatitis the day after any given holiday. Our pets are used to a very regimented diet, and giving them such a rich obscured meal very well may throw off their system. If you are considering giving them a holiday meal, it is best to avoid human food. 

The following are some other aspects of holiday meals that our pets need to avoid: 

  • Chocolate: Can cause panting, tremors, increased drinking and peeing, heart abnormalities, seizures or even death. 
  • Onions, Garlic, Chives: These can cause red blood cell damage and GI upset. Cats are more sensitive than dogs to them.
  • Macadamia Nuts: Can cause serious symptoms such as tremors, weakness, fever, depression and GI upset.
  • Xylitol: An artificial sweetener used in some baked goods, chewing gums, toothpastes, etc. that can cause severe drops in blood sugars leading to seizures, disorientation and other severe symptoms.  
  • Alcohol: Alcohol that is added to eggnog or other milky, sweet cocktails might be enticing for some animals. Alcohol can cause inebriation like in humans, but is much more serious due to their small body size and severity of symptoms.  
  • Grapes or Raisins: Can cause kidney failure in some dogs.  

Some holiday plants, albeit beautiful and festive, can also be toxic for your pets:

  • Lilies: The lily flower is dangerous for your feline companion. If ingested by a cat, it can cause renal failure.
  • Poinsettias: Can cause irritation in the mouth and stomach and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.  
  • Mistletoe: Can cause vomiting and diarrhea in most cases. This plant has the potential to cause heart issues.  
  • Holly: Can cause mild vomiting or diarrhea.  
  • Water with Tree Preservative: Many Christmas tree water additives/preservatives have fertilizers and other sugars, and generally they will cause GI upset.

Go to any large box store and see the numerous types of decorations. Here are some decoration considerations when monitoring your pets around the holidays:

  • Some cats and dogs like to chew on plastic, so keep track of any loose strings on lights or wires. There are many times that veterinarians see electrical burns from a dog or cat chewing on decorative lights.
  • Cats have a tendency to play with and chew on string-like objects. Cats will sometimes chew the tinsel off Christmas trees and ingest it. Tinsel has the potential to cause something called a linear foreign body, causing serious injury to the intestines.  
  • Sometimes glass holiday ornaments get broken, and an animal can ingest the shards. DO NOT make them vomit, but visit a veterinarian.  
  • Sometimes smaller tree ornaments that smell good or look like stuffed animals may be ingested.  

This is not an exhaustive list of concerns for keeping your pets safe during the holidays. If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian. They will be able to help you decipher if there is an urgent situation. With a little due diligence and care, you and your pet can have a happy safe, emergency-free holiday.

Therapeutic Benefits of Animals: Residents “Thrive” with the Presence of Therapy Dogs

by Michaela Gardner

Living the remaining part of your life in an assisted living facility sometimes means life loses its variety, and routines become the norm. Luckily, there are people that devote their lives to enriching the days of those in assisted living homes, hospitals, nursing homes and other such facilities. One of these devoted people is April Few, the Director of Excitement at Thrive Assisted Living and Memory Care in Watkinsville, GA. While some might say that the residents at Thrive are lucky to have April, she considers herself the lucky one. She works every day to provide residents with “meaningful and purposeful activities that are tailored to their individual interests and abilities.” One of these meaningful activities is regular visits from therapy dog teams. 

Therapy dog teams consist of a dog and its handler. Not just any dog can become a certified therapy dog—testing and evaluation is thorough, and just because an animal is properly trained doesn’t guarantee that it has the proper temperament to succeed. In addition to basic obedience, dogs seeking certification are tested on their ability to tolerate the use and presence of medical equipment, loud noises and other such distractions. They must be socially and physically affectionate, and being able to perform tricks always makes a pet that much more appealing to institutions seeking the services of therapy dog teams. Handlers must also be outgoing, sociable and empathetic. These qualities can make or break an aspiring therapy dog team. 

Aside from the obvious outward benefits of animal therapy, such as laughter and smiles, science has proven that there are internal medical benefits, as well. Animal therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve overall cardiovascular health, reduce pain and stimulate the release of endorphins, thus increasing happiness and pleasure. 

Those suffering from mental illness can also benefit from animal therapy. Children with autism often find it difficult, and at times near impossible, to interact with other people but are comforted by the presence of animals. Sometimes therapy animals are the only other living beings these children are able to engage with. The presence of therapy animals also decreases loneliness, anxiety and depression, encourages communication, and provides general encouragement for people recovering from mental and physical ailments.

Thrive currently has two therapy dog teams that visit on a regular basis, Aussie and Maizie. In April Few’s opinion, “the look of joy on our residents’ faces is the biggest benefit” to having them visit. She describes the dogs as “sweet, gentle and calming,” and their presence offers “a sense of peace and nostalgia” to residents in assisted living and memory care. When asked about some of the favorite activities that residents get to participate in with the dogs, April keeps it simple: “They all enjoy watching the dogs perform tricks, snuggles and [petting] them.”

 April recalls one of her favorite moments involving Maizie; she says that as soon as one of the residents saw Maizie, her face absolutely lit up. “She told us a story about this puppy that she had when she was younger and how her dog was just the sweetest, most gentle friend. She said she loved that dog with all her heart and that Maizie’s face reminded her of her sweet friend.” Aussie gets plenty of love from the residents, as well, and is a regular at Thrive. “He particularly enjoys visiting with one of our ladies because she always keeps a special treat waiting for him,” April explains. She anticipates his regular visits and assures him every time that “Granny is so glad to see you!”

On Monday, October 30, Thrive hosted their “Howl-aween Paw Party,” which involved six therapy dog teams. Of course, Aussie and Maizie were in attendance. The dogs arrived in costume and had the opportunity to Trick-or-Treat with the residents. Each dog received an individually-prepared treat bag, performed special tricks and spent time socializing with all of the residents. April was beyond excited preparing for the event. It’s activities like these that make her job all the more rewarding. As the Director of Excitement, what better way to provide said excitement than cute dogs in costumes?

April was able to enlist the services of Aussie, Maizie and the other therapy dog teams through a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about therapy dogs, becoming a certified therapy dog team, or seeking the services of therapy dogs for your own facility, be sure to visit therapydogs.com!

Tips for Integrating Abused Pets into a New Home

by Frogs to Dogs via Ahimsa House

The first introduction of an abused dog into your home is one of the most important times for you to assume the role of kind and gentle leadership. This time is especially important if you are bringing a new dog into a home that already has pets.

When introducing the new dog to your dogs: Whenever possible, have the pups meet outside the house on a leash with a relaxed walk. Preferably two people can assist with this meeting, with one person holding the leash of the existing dogs while the other holds the leash of the new dog. Only allow the dogs to sniff noses briefly (less than five seconds), then separate them so that they can continue to walk off some of the excitement. Allow for this calm encounter to take place several times. 

Avoid prolonged periods of face-to-face greetings. Keep your energy calm and positive, and keep the dogs moving as much as possible. If there are any signs of reactivity (snarling, anxiousness, body stiffening, staring, lunging, barking), stay calm and ignore these behaviors while also keeping the dogs at a safe distance. Keep the dogs moving as a way to cope with the reactivity. Allow the dog who is more reactive to walk behind the calmer dog. As the reactive dog starts to calm down, you can decrease the distance between the dogs.

When you get back to the house: Allow the dogs to enter in an order that respects your existing pets. Allow the dog who has lived in the house for the longest period of time to enter first, ending with the new dog being lead into the house on leash. Upon entering the home, take the new dog to a quiet, restricted area where they can calm down. If you are using a crate for your new dog, use the crate at this time. If you do not use a crate, consider separating the dogs with a baby gate so that each animal has the chance to decompress.

Set up a Safe Haven: One of the best ways you can prepare your new dog to feel safe and secure in your home is by providing them with a small safe haven of their own. Whether you will be crating your new dog or if you’d prefer to just set up a room/area in the home baby-gated for separation, this space will provide your dog with the comfort of a little den. Make your dog’s area as comfortable as possible. 

As long as your foster dog doesn’t have destructive chewing tendencies, consider setting the area up with a bed, toys and treats for entertainment. Starting your dog off with a restricted area in the home not only assists in building your dog’s confidence and trust, but it also helps to decrease many problematic issues such as destructive chewing and accidents. 

It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

by David Lavernoich, DVM, Good Hands Veterinary Hospital

Let’s paint a picture in our imagination: It is early September here in Georgia. You’re lying in bed soundly sleeping at 3:00am when suddenly there is a flash, and you hear a large BOOM! This immediately startles and wakes you from a pleasant dream. You hear the patter of raindrops on the window you think to yourself, “Oh, just a normal summer thunderstorm” and fall back asleep. Meanwhile your dog heard a loud explosion, saw an unusual bright blue light, and now something weird is tapping on the window like a “Thunder Monster.” This may seem like a very unusual situation for your canine companion and may cause distress.

Storm and noise phobias are a common occurrence for some of our furry friends. About one in five dogs have some adverse fear or phobia reaction to loud, unusual noises. These phobias can manifest themselves on a spectrum of reactions. On the mild side of the spectrum, the response may be passiveness, panting, pacing, avoidance, drooling or even no response at all. More severe reactions may cause destruction of walls or other property to try and flee from the noise, and they may even injure themselves in the process. Many dogs will find a quiet place to hide or ride out the storm on their own, but there are several things that we can to help our pets when this type of situation happens. 

For milder reactions to thunderstorms, you can try some of the following:

  •  If your dog tends to hide on their own in a safe and quiet spot, allow that. If they are safe and not causing a problem, let them ride it out with out too much disturbance from you.
  • Avoid punishing, yelling at or scolding your dog during these stressful times, as it may make the situation worse. Some people will scold their dogs when they pace, whine, drool, etc. when they are nervous. This will only compound the situation. 
  • During the adverse noise, try to have some mild white noise such as the tv, classical music or a fan to help distract from the shock of the abnormal loud noises. 
  • Avoid changing your own behavior in reaction to their behavior. Sometimes if we give too much attention to your pet’s unwanted behavior, it may reinforce it. If your pet needs a reassuring snuggle, noogie or pet, there is no reason not to. 
  • If your dog will tolerate it, you can place some cotton balls in their ears.
  • Close the blinds to try to avoid the bright shock of the lightning strike, as this can be alarming.
  • Try to use these times for fun training games, nose work or learning new tricks. However, never force these training situations, and if need be, consult your veterinarian or dog behaviorist. 

For more severe reactions that cause destruction of property, harm to themselves or you, running away, or if the dog seems to be out of control, you may need to counter condition or even administer medication. The problem is that this solution can be quite complicated, and no one’s situation is the same. In these situations seek professional assistance such as your veterinarian, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or a certified behaviorist. They will help you better understand your dog’s behavior. First, they will obtain a history to grasp the full scope of you and your pet’s situation. Dependent on the findings, they may suggest certain anti-anxiety medications and will come up with a plan for behavior modification, as well. There are good, effective medications that can help with these situational phobias, but it is best to consult your veterinarian to determine the best ones.

These may be scary situations for your companion. But with a little leadership and love from you and guidance from your veterinarian and/or behaviorist, you can turn these “Thunder Monsters” into “Passive Summer Storms.”

Cats Proven to Relieve Stress

by Kaley Lefevre

 Gypsy is available for adoption through Circle of Friends Animal Society. Photo: Jessica Boston

Gypsy is available for adoption through Circle of Friends Animal Society. Photo: Jessica Boston

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we often forget to take the time to relax. Fortunately, some of our four-legged friends are known to provide health benefits and can help us relax simply by being around us. 

Numerous studies have found that the benefits of owning a cat range from lower blood pressure to decreased risks and effects of dyspnea, a condition involving shortness of breath. Simply by petting a purring cat, an individual’s stress level decreases, and nerves relax due to the frequency of the purr. 

This frequency, typically ranging from 20 to 140 Hz, has proven to be medically therapeutic for many illnesses. If said aloud by a human, the frequency would be similar to the “ohm” sound one often makes while practicing yoga. 

With this in mind, the local organization Circle of Friends Animal Society has begun holding “kitty yoga” classes on a monthly basis, where individuals can practice yoga for a full class while adoptable kittens roam the room. Yoga instructor Brittany Barnes said during one class that just the kittens’ presence provides an air of relaxation to the event and informs students about their relaxing “ohm” frequency. 

Pet expert Arden Moore supported this idea and said that giving your cat a “head-to-tail therapeutic massage” can help to release positive endorphins, which helps slow your heart rate. Moore said engaging with animals via “happy talk” will also assist in releasing those endorphins and can help lower blood pressure, as well. Though it may seem silly to speak in such a way to your pet, animals can understand the difference between positive and negative energies and will respond accordingly. 

Other studies supporting this idea include a 10-year study conducted in 2008 by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis. Dr. Adnan Qureshi, executive director of the Institute, said in a Medical News Today newsletter that cat owners have a reduced risk of heart attacks by nearly one-third. 

In this study, “researchers found that over a 10-year follow-up period, cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non-cat owners.” This notable difference between those who own cats and those who don’t supports the idea that cat owners benefit every day by bonding with their feline friends. 

Just as Barnes said during the yoga class, bonding with a kitten can be just as relieving and fulfilling as completing a full yoga workout. She stressed the importance of paying attention to the kittens if they chose to come to you during the class, and she allowe students to take their time moving through the yoga positions in order to ensure they are able to spend some time with the kittens. 

“Kittens are relaxing, and yoga is relaxing,” Barnes said during the class. “So, I really don’t see why everyone else isn’t here to come hang out with cats and relax because honestly, what could be better?” 

 

Fighting Brain Tumors

by Morgan Solomon

 Image: UGA College of Veterinary Medicine

Image: UGA College of Veterinary Medicine

For the past few years the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine has been working hard to establish a cure that will fight brain tumors in canines and that has significant potential to eventually help humans. Dr. Simon Platt is leading this research where they have created the concept of “magic bullet” implants.

When fighting brain cancers, it is a difficult approach because most cancers cannot be removed surgically, and chemotherapy drugs are not able to reach the tumor due to the blood brain barrier (BBB). According to their research, the BBB blocks 100 percent of large molecules and 98 percent of small molecules from entering the brain—this is true for both canines and humans.

In order to work around the BBB, Dr. Platt and his team have created these implants. The implants are polymeric microcylinders made up off PLGA, a plastic used in absorbable sutures that is biocompatible and non-toxic to the brain. These microcylinders have been created in a way that makes it possible for them to be implanted through stereotactic implantation, which means the procedure is minimally-invasive. The polymer of the microcylinders can be adjusted so whatever drug it contains is delivered over a specific period of time prescribed by the researchers.

The significance of these microcylinders is the fact that they can be placed directly into the cancerous tissue within the brain. This action allows doctors to sidestep the BBB completely, and a high dosage of chemotherapy is delivered into the cancer. Another positive of this approach is that there is not any risk of the side effects associated with high doses of chemotherapy delivered orally or intravenously, such as myelosuppression or gastrointestinal upset.

Glioma is a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord; this type of cancer is common in both dogs and humans. Temozolamide (TMZ) is an Federal Drug Administration approved chemotherapy drug used to treated gliomas in humans, and it has also been proven to be safe in dogs with lymphatic cancer. However, there is not a significant amount of research to prove that TMZ is effective in fighting brain tumors in dogs. Dr. Platt and his team plan to study the effectiveness of implanting PLGA microcylinders infused with TMZ and gadolinium in dogs with gliomas. The team’s preliminary studies have proven that these microcylinders containing TMZ and gadolinium are well-tolerated in healthy dogs.

They are now in a pilot clinical trial where they have successfully treated six dogs with this approach. Once this trial is completed, they hope to launch a nationwide clinical trial that will test this therapy in many different institutions.

When asked about the significance of this project, Dr. Platt, the owner of a 7-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer, responded with three things he finds most important regarding this research. First, the project offers a potential treatment for dogs whose owners may not have the resources to pursue any treatment. Second, in the future this could be a part of standard brain tumor treatment in dogs, which means this represents something that could have a major impact on the quality of life for many affected dogs. Finally, the potential that the success of this work could impact the treatment of humans with similar brain tumors is immense, and it is incredible to think that it is a distinct possibility. According to Dr. Platt this research could become part of regular treatment protocol for dogs within five years if successful. The commencement of human clinical trials will most likely follow a similar time line.

In order to help with the progress of this research, there is a Georgia Funder page with a goal of raising $50,000. This funding will support the study by taking care of the financial cost of this treatment for five dogs including MRIs, surgery, bloodwork, hospital stays and more. If you want to contribute, you can find the page by visiting www.dar.uga.edu and searching “canine brain tumors” so you can help Dr. Platt and his team get closer to curing brain cancer in dogs, and maybe one day in humans. 

Acupuncture for Pets

 Photo: Jessica Boston

Photo: Jessica Boston

by Kaley Lefevre

 

Acupuncture, a centuries-old traditional Chinese practice, has recently made strides in popularity amongst Athens veterinarians. This natural approach to healing has resulted in notable success, specifically among patients who were not benefitting from Western medicine.

Dr. Heather Fields, a veterinarian at Sycamore Veterinary Services, said one of the most amazing events she’s participated in involved a paralyzed dog who was not responding to any Western medicine she prescribed. With the use of acupuncture, however, the dog walked again. Fields said she chooses to incorporate acupuncture with herbs and Western medicine simultaneously, considering that all the drugs will work together in different ways to help the patient find relief.

“We treat internal medicine problems, skin problems, anxiety and more,” Dr. Fields said. “You name it, and there’s a treatment regimen with acupuncture to treat it.”

Acupuncture is able to address these various problems by stimulating different channels in the patient’s body. This stimulation releases anti-inflammatory mediators and opioid receptors and also stimulates blood flow and healing. The body is essentially finding ways to heal itself, resulting in less side effects, aside from the initial discomfort of the acupuncture process.

 Photo: Jessica Boston

Photo: Jessica Boston

Because of the side effects that accompany Western medicine, Dr. Fields said she has some pet owners who request natural medicine and practices before Western drugs. She prefers to try a natural approach with her patients before introducing them to other drugs.

Dr. Angela Dodd of Animal Wellness Center of Athens said she has also seen extraordinary results from the use of acupuncture, even with her own pets. Though she is still a traditional veterinarian, she chose to take a course with the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society to learn about the many other ways she could treat her patients.

“[Traditional Chinese medicine] is a whole other mindset; it’s a whole other way of looking at a patient; it’s another way of thinking about a patient’s problems; and it’s another way of treating that patient,” Dr. Dodd said.

 Because of her understanding of Chinese medicine, Dr. Dodd said she has also found it to be beneficial to incorporate both natural practices and Western medicine simultaneously.

Dr. Dodd, like Dr. Fields, admits that the specifics of the actual acupuncture process are complicated. By sticking needles into the area causing problems for the patient, she is increasing blood flow and nutrients to that area, pulling waste products away and strengthening the organs that are causing issues.

“I’ve seen success time and time again,” Dr. Dodd said. “[Practicing Chinese medicine] adds another dimension to our practice that has proven to help our patients.”

Simply because of the lack of side effects, Dr. Dodd encourages pet owners to consider natural medicines and herbs before resorting to traditional Western medicine and surgeries.

“I like to use everything I have to treat animals because [they are] so important to me and to so many other people,” Dr. Dodd said. “These animals are members of the family and deserve to be comfortable.”

Clementine's Second Chance

 Photo: Jessica Boston

Photo: Jessica Boston

by Megan Hong

I’ve been in rescue for years, and I still am never prepared for the urgent pleas we receive at Circle of Friends Animal Society. A volunteer at Barrow County Animal Control (BCAC) recently messaged me: “Possibly hit by car. Having issues with its back end. Any possibilities?” She proceeded with an adorable picture of a tiny dilute calico kitten. I, of course, said yes.

At first, BCAC believed she couldn’t use either of her back legs, but when we got her to Bates Animal Hospital in Watkinsville, we noticed that it was just her back left leg. Dr. Bates did x-rays, and our little calico kitten Clementine had no breaks or fractures. The bizarre part is that she has no deep feeling at all in her back left leg—which would likely indicate a spinal cord injury of some kind, but her right back left was functioning fine.

Dr. Bates suggested waiting to see if we could get any function back in her leg (and waiting until she is bigger for amputation if that is the route we need to take). He also said to reach out to Dr. Dodd at Animal Wellness Center of Athens for acupuncture and laser treatment. Dr. Dodd has started acupuncture and laser treatment for Clementine in the hopes that she will regain some mobility in her leg. Dr. Dodd said that she has noticed more reaction to the acupuncture recently compared to the first few rounds, so there is some progression!

Although Clementine has obvious trauma to her leg, she doesn’t let it slow her down. She climbs, plays and wrestles like any other happy kitten. She scales the cat tree and even climbs into our bed at night to sleep! 

Clementine is available for pre-adoption through Circle of Friends Animal Society and should be ready to go home in four to six weeks.

Flea and Tick Treatment Options

by Taylor Solomon

 Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

As we enter another hot Georgia summer, one thought on everyone’s mind is how we protect ourselves from buggy visitors. As humans, we can light as many tiki torches and douse ourselves in as much bug spray as we like, but what about our furry friends? Ticks are infamous for carrying diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. 

Mosquitos are a pest that isn’t usually thought of when considering flea and tick treatment, but they are carriers of heartworms and are an important consideration when choosing preventative options for your pets. Treatment for heartworms in dogs is a long, expensive and potentially-dangerous process, and there is currently no treatment for heartworm-positive cats.

When a flea circus moves onto your pet, itching, redness, flaky skin, scabs and hair loss are soon to follow. And once fleas invade your home, it’s not an easy feat to remove them from fabrics, nooks and crannies!

Prevention is key when it comes to fleas and ticks. The best way to treat these problems is to stop them before they happen. Below, we’ve outlined several products and medications available, as well as some natural methods of prevention:

ORAL TABLETS AND CHEWS: This medication is taken orally and travels through your pet’s bloodstream to the skin to kill unwanted pests. Some medications kill fleas and ticks as well as heartworms and other intestinal parasites.

TOPICAL TREATMENTS: Topical treatments come in drop form and are applied directly to your pet’s skin. These can be used to treat existing conditions and help prevent future outbreaks.

COLLARS: Flea and tick collars are coated in a chemical which repels pests. They are thin and flexible to provide comfort toyour pet and last several months, making them a very economical option.

SPRAYS AND SHAMPOOS: Shampoos are used like usual bath products with the added bonus of flea and tick prevention. Sprays are used between baths and make for an easy and inexpensive prevention method.

NATURAL OILS: Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, lemongrass or cedar oils can be diluted and used as sprays or in bath products. Apply in a well-ventilated area—never around your pet’s face—and remember a little goes a long way.

VINEGAR: Vinegar can be added to your dog or cat’s diet to protect them from unwanted visitors. Put 1 teaspoon per quart of water in your pets’ drinking water or diluted in water in a one-to-one mixture to spray on your pet’s coat.

Some flea and tick treatments have proven to be more effective than others, particularly in recent years, so we recommend doing your research to find the option that will be best for your pet. It’s also important to keep your pets, even those that are indoor-only, on treatment year-round for the most effective preventative strategy. Find what works for your pets to enjoy the summer flea and tick-free!

Prevent Heat Stroke for Dogs this Summer

by Marlee Middlebrooks

 Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

Summers in Georgia lend themselves to embracing new memories. Some equate the hot months to pool days and barbecues while others imagine long walks and outdoor activities. Though these months are often anticipated, it’s important to recognize how the rise in temperatures may negatively affect animals. Fun summer memories could become nightmares if your dog suffers from heat stroke.

“The biggest concern that I think about for summertime would be heat stroke in dogs, especially since we live in Georgia,” said Sarah Clifton, veterinarian at Hope Animal Medical Center in Athens, GA. “It’s a very serious thing, and if it’s not treated quickly and appropriately, it does have a high mortality rate.”

Heat stroke is defined as extreme hyperthermia, when the dog’s body temperature is between 106 and 109 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

THE RISKS:

There are several factors that predispose an animal to developing heat stroke. These may include: type of dog, obesity, heart disease, age, hair coat and color, a previous heat stroke episode, being confined to a warm area, or no access to shade or fresh water. 

“Brachycephalic breeds such as boxers, bulldogs and pugs have flat faces. They already have a hard time breathing on their own,” Clifton said.

 

THE SIGNS:

Unlike humans, animals do not give off much heat through sweating. It is important to recognize signs that may mean your dog is suffering from heat stroke. These can include: excessive panting, inability to rise, collapsing, increased respiratory rate, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, or appearing mentally dull or depressed.

 

THE CONSEQUENCES:

Heat stroke may damage several of a dog’s main tissues or organs. They could experience kidney failure, fluid buildup in the brain, liver damage, cell damage or gastrointestinal tract damage. “[Heat stroke] can cause the gut to die, and if that happens, we worry about bacteria that can go into the blood,” Clifton said. 

 

STEPS TO TAKE:

Several habits can be practiced when caring for your dog to help prevent heat stroke. Never leave your dog in a car. Make sure your animal has adequate shade and water if it is going to be outside during the warmer parts of the day. In some cases, you may want to shave the animal’s coat.

“Taking your dog for a run in the middle of July when the temperature is 93 degrees is probably not the smartest thing to do for your animal, especially if it is a black lab,” Clifton said. “If you want to take your animal for a run, do it in the early morning or the late afternoon or evening.”

However, if your dog does begin developing heat stroke, there are several measures you can take.

“The most important thing that you need to work towards is reducing the core body temperature of that animal,” Clifton said. “It’s important to get [the dog] to a veterinarian, but it’s just as important to try to cool the animal even before rushing the animal to the vet.”

Some steps an owner may take when trying to reduce body temperature are: removing the animal from the hot area, placing the animal in a cool water or ice water bath, letting the animal lay on a cool floor or place a fan near the dog.

“Try to bring the temperature down quickly. If you have a thermometer, do a rectal temperature... The faster you get the temperature down, the better the prognosis will be,” Clifton said.