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Medicine versus Mom

Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs: A Revolution in Arthritis Treatment

There is a new-ish treatment available in veterinary medicine, and it’s called Cold Laser Therapy!

I am very excited to share with your some information about Cold Laser Therapy along with my good friend Carol Bryant from Fidose of Reality. Carol’s dog Dexter has been treated with Cold Laser Therapy, so she will be able to share her Mom perspective on the topic, while I provide you with some general medical information regarding this new and exciting treatment.

What is Cold Laser Therapy?

It’s a type of treatment where “a cold laser uses a beam of light to stimulate damaged cells to produce more energy” (Veterinary General). When the laser stimulates the cells, it improves cellular function, reduces inflammation, and stimulates blood flow. Additionally, Cold Laser Therapy improves the absorption of nutrients by the cells and cellular reproduction. What most pet parents need to understand is that the most common joint damage that our pets experience is due to cellular damage, inflammation, and a lack of healthy cell reproduction. Specifically arthritis, which is defined by PetMD as:

Arthritis is a general term for abnormal changes in a joint. It can arise from joint tissue destruction after an infection, from congenital defects affecting structural architecture, and from stress and trauma to joint surfaces and supporting structures.”

Due to its positive effect on cellular tissue, Cold Laser Therapy can be used to treat the following (Veterinary General):

  • Arthritis or Musculoskeletal diseases
  • Joint injuries or Trauma
  • Post-Surgical incisions
  • Ligament or tendon injuries
  • Fractures
  • Muscle sprains or strains
  • Skin lesions or abrasions
  • Nerve damage

New-ish to Veterinary Medicine

Cold Laser Therapy is new-ish to veterinary medicine. Much of the initial research in the media was published around 2011 from my findings. However, according to Multi Radiance Medical, Cold Laser Therapy gained popularity in the veterinary rehabilitation community in the 1990s. Despite being a new-ish treatment, Cold Laser Therapy has been around in human medicine for quite some time.

“Laser therapy is a very effective modality to speed and direct healing in dogs with painful arthritis, strains and sprains and other injuries or effects of aging. It has been used in humans for a long time and dogs now can reap the benefits, too.” – Dr. Christine Zink Director of the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

What does this mean for you?

Veterinary Medicine has spent many years determining the effects and applications of Cold Laser Therapy. As the treatment continues to gain popularity in the veterinary field, your pet will have better access to improved technology.

What to Expect

Veterinarians who are trained in rehab therapy will be able to recommend the Cold Laser Therapy to your pet as part of a larger treatment plan.

Your veterinarian may recommend Cold Laser Therapy as a treatment for your pet if they suffer from a joint or ligament injury or condition. The reason that Cold Laser Therapy benefits your pet is that it is non-invasive treatment, with no recovery time. Meaning, there is no anesthesia necessary, and often, you can be with your pet during the treatment (Veterans Memorial Drive Animal Hospital).

Once your veterinarian recommends Cold Laser Therapy for your dog, you and your pet will visit the veterinary hospital for regular visits. While in the hospital, your pet will lie down and the laser will be applied to the targeted area. You may need to visit more frequently in the first few weeks until your dog reaches maintenance (Veterans Memorial Drive Animal Hospital).

Many positive stories surround the use of Cold Laser Therapy in pets. Some pet parents say their pets joints seem brand new! Others see a marked difference in the way their pet walks. Either way, it seems as though many pet parents have had a positive experience with Cold Laser Therapy.

The Skeptics

Of course, with new treatments, there will be skeptics, which is a good thing. In my opinion, the more questions that are being asked, the better the technology and research will become.

  • “Not all cases are successful.” As of 2012, some studies do show that Cold Laser Therapy is not always successful. However, due to the number of parameters and variables that can skew the research, these studies do not indicate that Cold Laser Therapy is ineffective. (Veterinary Practice News)
  • “The lasers only reduce pain, nothing else”. This is false, due to the increased circulation, Cold Laser Therapy can also improve ligament and cartilage function, as well as, decrease inflammation. (Veterinary Practice News)

To learn more about common myths associated with Cold Laser Therapy, I highly recommend reading this article from Veterinary Practice News.

Items of Note:

Based on my research, I wanted to share with pet parents a few quick items of note:

  • Not recommended for pets who have cancer because the treatment can stimulate the blood flow near cancer cells. (ABCNews)
  • There are different classes of lasers. According to Dr. Karen Becker, Class IV lasers, which are the strongest, were approved but the FDA in 2011 and are 50 times more powerful than their Class III predecessor. Additionally, new lasers have adjustable power output so that you can adjust for different types of treatment.
  • Class IV laser therapy treatments are cumulative, meaning each treatment builds on prior treatments and the animal’s condition improves continuously.” – Dr. Karen Becker
  • The treatment can reduce the probability of re-injury (Dr. Karen Becker)

Do you have or know a pet who could benefit from Cold Laser Therapy? If so, share with them this information and check out Carol’s Mom perspective on Cold Laser Therapy.

medicine versus mom

Do You Know Your Pet’s Vitals?

The answer to this question may not seem important now, but at some point most pet parents will need to know their pet’s vitals to be able to monitor their health and know when they need treatment.

Today, Carol from Fidose of Reality and I, are going to share with you some important information about your pet’s vitals so that you can protect your pet’s health, should concerns arise.

Temperature

For both dogs and cats, a normal temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. (VetStreet)

The most common way that a dog or cat’s temperature is measured by veterinary professionals is using a digital rectal thermometer. Unless it is recommended by a veterinarian, you shouldn’t need to take your dog or cat’s temperature at home. However, if you are instructed to do so by your veterinarian, you can find more information on how to measure your dog’s temperature at home in this VetStreet article.

If you take your pet’s temparture and it is outside of the normal range and you see evidence of diarrhea or bloody stool, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Heart Rate

Heart rate varies significantly from one pet to the other. According to VetStreet, a dog or cat’s heart rate can vary anywhere from 60 to 140 beats per minute. A faster heart rate will often be found in a small dog, a puppy, or a dog who is not in very good shape. Because I check on Rooney’s heart rate, I know that his tends to be a bit on the faster side.

How to check your dog’s heart rate?

You can check your dog’s heart rate in two ways.

You can feel your pet’s heart rate by gently placing your hands on their chest, or you can feel their heart rate through their femoral artery located in their thigh (see photo).

Respiratory Rate

Respiratory rate is a really important measurement for a pet parent to know. It’s a clear indicator of your dog’s discomfort and can help you determine an emergency if you dog is at risk for overheating.

If your dog is panting frantically and is glassy-eyed, don’t count anything except the minutes it will take you to get to a veterinarian. Your dog is in critical condition from overheating. – VetStreet

A dog who is at rest should breath somewhere between 10 and 35 breaths per minute. If your dog is panting and the symptoms are combined with the description above, you may be in an emergency situation.

Vitals Monitored by Your Vet

Do You Know Your Pet's Vitals?

Photo credit: http://www.vmdtechnology.com

While the top 3 vitals are the most important for you to know as a pet parent, I want to share with you some other important information that is typically monitored at the veterinary hospital. The chart above is an example of how your pet’s vitals might be tracked if they are being hospitalized. To provide some additional transparency for pet parents, let me discuss what a few of these items mean.

Attitude

BAR stands for Bright, Alert and Responsive. This means that your pet entered the hospital looking like they feel okay; tail-wagging, normal energy, and behavior. Another descriptor that could be used here is NDR, which stands for Not Doing Right. This description might be used to describe a pet who seems lethargic, unresponsive, and sick. (PetMD)

MM = Mucous Membranes

Specifically, veterinarians and their technicians are looking at the color of your pet’s mucous membranes. If you want to check your pet’s mucous membranes, all you need to do is gently lift their lip and check their gums. You want to see bright and pink mucous membranes (i.e. gum tissue).

What you don’t want to see are membranes that are grey, white, purple, or tacky.

CRT

While checking your pet’s mucous membranes, your veterinarian or veterinary technician will also check your pet’s CRT, which stands for Capillary Refill Time. The best way I can explain how to measure your pet’s CRT is to gently press on their gums and see how long it takes the color to return (like checking a sunburn). If it takes 2 seconds or less to refill, your pet is within the normal range. However, if it take more than 2 seconds, then it is considered an abnormal CRT which might be indicative of dehydration, lack of blood flow, or lack of oxygen.

Other Metrics

While your pet is in the hospital, it is really important that someone is keeping track of their walks, water and food intake, and urination and defecation. Not only does this type of documentation make sure that every pet in the hospital gets the appropriate care no matter how busy things get, but it also provides your veterinarian with some additional insights regarding your pet’s health.

Knowing When You Can Monitor & When It’s an Emergency

Emergencies happen. As a pet parent, I am a fan of the phrase, “when in doubt, call your veterinarian”. You know your pet best and if you feel like their behavior, disposition, or overall health has changed (i.e. vomiting, diarhhea, increased or decreased urination, water intake, food intake, or defecation), call your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian.

However, at some point in your pet’s life you might need to monitor their vitals and their overall health. You should always do so with the guidance and direction of your veterinarian. That being said, I believe that knowledge is power. Knowing what the parameters of your pet’s health should be will make you that much more informed as a pet parent.

For more important information, and to read Carol’s Mom perspective on this topic, please visit Fidose of Reality.

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Is Your Dog Protected if Something Happens to You?

Do you have a plan for your dog if something happens to you?

I know this question is daunting and arguably somewhat morbid, but it’s also a necessary topic. Since it’s tax season and a time of year when people organize their affairs, Carol from Fidose of Reality and myself, thought your dog’s future plans would be a great topic to discuss.

No one wants to think about a time when they are no longer able to care for themselves or their family. However, those who do, are doing their family members and their pets a huge favor. If you are taking the time to be prepared, here are a variety of scenarios you should be prepare for:

  • If you get sick or injured: Of course I am not referring to a cold or flu, I am referring to a long-term illness or injury. Evaluating the possibility of an injury is particularly important if you are solely responsible for pets.
  • If you have a drastic change in your living circumstances: Things happen. Unfortunately, in our ever-changing financial environment, a family can lose their current lifestyle and potentially lose their home. For example, there were a number of dogs and cats that were abandoned during the recession.
    • “[In 2008], across the country, animal shelters were overwhelmed by pets that were being surrendered by their owners. In response, the HSUS set up a “foreclosure pets fund” that provides financial aid to pet owners who are facing foreclosure or eviction.”. – NPR. Many people needed temporary solutions and homes for their pet, which having a plan could provide.
  • If there is a natural disaster: Right now in California, all kinds of people are being displaced from their homes and might need to find temporary care for their pets. Keep in mind that during these times, local shelters tend to get overwhelmed and overcrowded.
  • If you pass: When I worked at the veterinary hospital, there were a few situations where veterinary technicians took responsibility for other people’s pets when they suddenly passed and there wasn’t a plan. One example I remember very well was Mr. Tankersley. Mr. Tankersley was a client at a veterinary hospital I worked at in Davis, and he had 7 cats. Unfortunately, he passed suddenly, and his family was unable to take his 7 cats. Due to their ages (between 10-12 years old) it would be very difficult to find a forever homes for 7 adult cats in a few weeks. Fortunately, Mr. Tankersley donated regularly to a cat rescue that was happy to take all seven cats and find homes for them, but even that arrangement took time as the cats had to be transported across states.

As you can see, a number of things can go wrong and leave your pet’s future at risk. Therefore, I would like to walk you through creating a plan for your pet’s future.

Creating a Plan

Can a friend or family member step up?

The Humane Society recommends not only reaching out to friends and family members to see if they are willing to care for your pet long-term, but also to make sure that you have people who can step up immediately to provide emergency care in the short-term. One very important point is to make sure that the different caregivers know each other to make coordinating your pet’s care much easier.

Choosing a Permanent Caregiver

Selecting a person that will care for your dog is a very difficult decision. Here are a few things you should ask yourself:

  • Is this person familiar with your dog’s breed? For example, Rooney is a herding breed and his herding breed tendencies are strong. I wouldn’t want someone who didn’t know anything about herding breeds to care for him long-term because frankly, they might not understand him.
  • Will this person provide the same level of veterinary care as you? If you will spare no expense for your pet, it’s important that the person you choose reflects that same decision making.
  • Does this person have room for your pets in their home? While I know a handful of people who would be more than suitable to care for Rooney should something happen to my husband and myself, I know that not every person has room in their home to take Rooney at a moments notice.

Formulate a Formal Plan with Your Veterinarian

Does your veterinary hospital know what plans you have for your pet? You can request to add emergency contact information to your pet’s medical record. You may be thinking to yourself that this is an unnecessary step. However, if you don’t have any nearby family members, your veterinary hospital can be a great resource for helping your family organize your pet’s affairs should something happen to you. For example, let’s say Rooney’s designated caregiver is named Sarah. I can call my veterinary hospital and document that if something has happened to me and my husband, Sarah (last name) has the authorization to request Rooney’s records be sent to her veterinary hospital.

Because your veterinary staff cares about you and your pets (I promise you they do), they will want to help, and it will help them and your family if you document this ahead of time.

Talk to a Local Rescue

While you can do your very best to prepare your pet’s affairs and the people who you have spoken with, circumstances change. You never know if someone will be able to keep your pet long-term. If so, be sure to provide your caregivers with the information for a local (to them) rescue. For example, if I had arrangements for Rooney to live in Southern California, I would make sure his caregiver had contact information for Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, which is a Corgi rescue in Southern California. Should they be unable to keep Rooney long-term (and neither could either of my backup caregiver selections), I would want them to take Rooney to a breed specific rescue rather then a shelter.

Talk to Your Pet Insurance Company

Specifically, make sure that your pet’s health insurance remains if something happens to you. For research for this blog post, I called Trupanion which is Rooney’s pet insurance to see what I could do to make sure Rooney is covered should something happen to us. As it turns out, I need to make sure that Rooney’s caregiver has his policy information in order to continue his health insurance.

Funding for Your Pet

Speaking of insurance, have you considered the potential costs associated with finding a new forever home for your pet? Or the travel associated with rehoming? The Humane Society of the United States provided this sample information to include in your will so that your executor can expend funds to cover your pet’s temporary care.

“{Article Number} A. As a matter of high priority and importance, I direct my Personal Representative to place any and all animals I may own at the time of my death with another individual or family (that is, in a private, non-institutionalized setting) where such animals will be cared for in a manner that any responsible, devoted pet owner would afford to his or her pets. Prior to initiating such efforts to place my animals, I direct my Personal Representative to consult ______________________, D.V.M. (currently at the _______________________ Hospital), or, in the event of Dr. _____________’s unavailability, a veterinarian chosen by my Personal Representative, to ensure that each animal is in generally good health and is not suffering physically. In addition, I direct my Personal Representative to provide any needed, reasonable veterinary care that my animal(s) may need at that time to restore the animal(s) to generally good health and to alleviate suffering, if possible. Any animal(s) not in generally good health or who is so suffering—and whose care is beyond the capabilities of veterinary medicine, reasonably employed, to restore to generally good health or to alleviate suffering—shall be euthanized, cremated, and the ashes disposed of at the discretion of my Personal Representative. Any expenses incurred for the care (including the costs of veterinary services), placement, or transportation of my animals, or to otherwise effect the purposes of this Article ___________ up to the time of placement, shall be charged against the principal of my residuary estate. Decisions my Personal Representative makes under this Article ___________________—for example, with respect to the veterinary care to be afforded to my animal(s) and the costs of such care— shall be final. My intention is that my Personal Representative have the broadest possible discretion to carry out the purposes of this paragraph.” – Sample information from “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You” The Humane Society of the United States

Other things to consider:

  • Does someone have a key to your house? If you travel without your dog, and you and your spouse (or other family members are injured), can someone get into your home to let your dog out? These people should probably be the friends and family members that you identified above.
  • Are their immediate instructions available? Specifically, do you have feeding instructions and a list of medications for your pet readily available in your home?
  • Does your pet know these people you have entrusted? Rooney warms up to people quickly, so this doesn’t apply to him as much. However, if your dog doesn’t warm up to people very well, you will want to make sure your dog knows your temporary and permanent caregivers very well.
  • Do you have documentation that states who your pet should go to should something happen to you and your immediate family members? Also, when was the last time you updated that documentation? With the benefit of digital calendars these days, we really have no excuse. If you don’t have a reminder in your Google calendar now, I challenge you to take a moment to make a date and time to update your documentation (whether this is a will or a piece of paper with your signature). This update should include having a conversation with the person (or preferably people) who are in charge of your pet if something happens and see if they are still willing and able to take care of your dog.

So that’s all the information I have to share. Do you think this info can help you prepare? Are you prepared for your pet’s future already?

As always, I invite you to hop on over to Fidose of Reality to read Carol’s Dog Mom perspective on this topic.

medicine versus mom

Should Pet Parents Use Medication for Behavior Problems?

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. But rather, a series of questions you can ask yourself that will help you determine if medication is the best option to improve, or correct, your pet’s behavior problems. In order to help you make a decision, I want to cover a few things; typical behavioral problems, the circumstances that can bring out unusual behavior, and the questions you can ask yourself to help you make the right decision for your pet.

Typical Behavioral Problems

Aggression

Aggression in dogs can be circumstantial or constant. Either way, it is important to understand the underlying reason for the behavior. According to ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, common types of aggressive behavior include: territorial, possessive, protective, or fearful. Once you understand the reasoning behind the behavior, you can work with your veterinarian and a professional trainer to improve the behavior. Many people make the attempt to avoid the circumstances that cause the behavior to arise, however, that isn’t always possible. I will share Charlie’s story as an example:

He was a relatively young Tibetan Terrier-ish mix whose parents were running a daycare out of their home. They had been running this daycare for years. However, as time went on, it became clear that Charlie wasn’t fond of kids. The daycare had started to stress out Charlie. Due to the fact that children often can’t read dog behavior, his parents were concerned that at some point, he would begin acting aggressively toward the kids.

It’s been a few years, so it’s difficult to remember all of the details, but I believe there were a few other indicators that led us to prescribe Fluxotine (anti-anxiety medication for dogs) to ease Charlie’s stress. Not only did the Fluxotine improve Charlie’s relationships with the kids, but it also removed stress in the house which allowed his relationship with his pet parents to flourish. In this case, not only did the medication work well, but it allowed Charlie to stay with his parents despite their current employment situation. The moral of Charlie’s story is that not all aggression should be treated with medication. However, if the circumstances prevent pet parents from removing or avoiding the cause of the aggression, it might be worth a conversation with your veterinarian.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs and can be such a serious issue that the dog’s behavior can be harmful to their health. This reminds me of a story:

I worked at a shelter and there was this beautiful Alaskan Malamute who had been adopted by the Owner and Manager of the shelter. The only problem was that he had extreme separation anxiety. It was so bad that if she was on the other side of the door, he would do whatever he could to get through that door so he wouldn’t be away from her. Fortunately, she was able to use the resources she had at the shelter to make sure that he was never alone and always looked after.

But what if she had a job that didn’t allow her to keep her dog all the time? This would be the case for many pet parents. In this circumstance, it might have made sense to explore the option of medication to keep a dog with this level of separation anxiety safe.

Fear & Destructive Behavior

What do the two behavioral problems above have in common? Fear. Fear can present in the form of aggression, separation anxiety or just plain destruction. When fear is the underlying factor, medication may be necessary in order to make the pet comfortable enough to begin behavior modification:

“With many problem behaviors related to fear, medication is necessary to reduce the dog’s fear to a level that allows treatment to begin.” – Pets.WebMD

All the above behaviors can be addressed with training as well. However, it’s important to consider your pet’s immediate stress and the severity of the behavior.

Depends on the Situation

Sometimes medication for a behavioral problem is only a situational issue. For example, when I worked at the veterinary hospital, a few patients needed to be prescribed sedatives just to get them to be comfortable within the walls of the hospital. Additionally, I knew quite a few pet parents who provided their pets with sedation or anti-anxiety medication during the 4th of July or other stressful holiday situations.

While not everyone is comfortable with the concept of using medication to alter behavior, medication is something to consider if the behavior is situational as well.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Will medication allow your relationship to flourish?

If a pet is straining relationships in a home, it can be difficult on the whole family. Additionally, it might strain the relationship you have with your pet. If medication can help your pet remain integrated into the family, it just might be the solution. The fact that Charlie (story above) was not brought to the shelter, or a rescue, for his behavioral problem was better for him and arguably better for the entire pet community. Any time a dog or cat is able to stay in their home (assuming their home is safe and they are well taken care of) that is one less pet in the shelter, which is what so many rescues and shelters are working toward.

What if it isn’t a behavior problem?

In the past, I have reminded many pet parents that inappropriate urination is not always a behavior problem. Sometimes, pets are urinating inappropriately because they have a Urinary Tract Infection. It’s important to consider that your dog or cat may be exhibiting symptoms of a disease or condition rather than exhibiting unwanted behavior. Before jumping to conclusions, check with your veterinarian to make sure that the behavior is not a part of a possible health issue.

Have you considered other options?

I want to be clear. I am not saying that you always have to exhaust ALL other options before turning to medication as a solution. Actually, I believe that medication can be the right solution from the get-go at times (see “Fear” above). But, it is an important question to consider for many. Most importantly, you are going to want to know what all of your options are regarding your pet’s health. The best way to find out, is to talk to your veterinarian, and depending on the behavior, also consult the help of a professional trainer.

Are they harming themselves?

Sometimes an unwanted behavior can actually be damaging to a pet’s health. For example, some cats can over groom themselves due to stress, or, as we discussed, dogs can be destructive due to separation anxiety. Medication might help them take the first steps in the right direction before they hurt themselves or their long-term health.

Is your veterinarian involved in this decision making?

Please, please, please consult your veterinarian. On several occasions I have seen families struggle with a pet’s behavioral problems only to find out later than their veterinary could provide a clear and multi-faceted solution.

Now, hop on over to Carol Bryant’s blog, Fidose of Reality for her Dog Mom perspective on this topic.

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