Friday, April 3, 2009

Smelly Dogs!

Smelly dogs!  There is nothing quite like that odor.  But where does the smell come from?  The options are relatively few.  
Some dogs smell unpleasant because they have infected mouths.  Dental tartar and infections of the gums (what your dentist calls periodontal disease) create foul breath due to the high numbers of bacteria.  If the dog in question then licks themselves regularly, they spread that smelly, bacteria-laden spit all over their fur.  You can wash it off, but it comes right back.  That dog needs some dental care, perhaps even the removal of some severely infected teeth.
Other dogs smell funky when their ears are infected.  Ear canals in dogs are much longer than ours, and curved in a way that can trap water or any fluid.  Not surprisingly, dogs that love to swim often get ear infections.  If your dog's ears smell unpleasant, go see the vet.  Have your veterinarian swab the ears and look at the goo under the microscope to determine if the infection is mostly yeast or mostly bacteria.  Then they can show you how to clean and medicate the ears.  Pay attention!  Every dog should have their ears cleaned and checked at least once a month. 
Another source of nasty dog odor can come from the anal glands.  Anal glands are normal, scent marking glands found on either side of your dog's anus.  Normally a small amount of smelly tan or brown liquid is expressed from these glands whenever a dog has a bowel movement.  This is used to mark territory.  When the glands fill up, they sometimes leak or become infected.  Your veterinarian can empty the glands and make dietary recommendations to help your pet empty them on their own. 
Usually dogs smell bad when they have a skin infection.  Like the ears, skin can be infected with either yeast or bacteria, as well as some nasty little parasites.  Once your veterinarian identifies the culprit, they can help you get rid of the infection with appropriate diet, bathing, or medication.  Sometimes it takes all three.  And sometimes a skin infection is a sign of something that is happening inside the body.  Don't be surprised if it takes some testing and time to clear up the smell. 
Finally, dogs have a funny liking for things that smell bad.  They will often roll in or eat something gross and stinky if they get the chance.  One theory for this behavior is that it helps to disguise their scent for the hunt.  I have a hard time imagining my goofy, laid-back Rotti hunting anything, but it helps me contain my anger as I bathe her to think that she is yearning for her wild dog origins.

Garden Toxins

Spring is in the air!  That means trips to the garden center for many of us.  A little bit of warm weather and we are itching to get out there and beautify our homes.  And in doing so, we may very well be poisoning our family members.  Household pesticides and fertilizers are a leading source of pet poisoning.  Slug baits, rodents poisons, weed killers, weed-and-feed products and commercial nitrogen-based fertilizers are all toxic when ingested.  "Well" you are thinking, "I wasn't planning on feeding it to my pet!"  
But your pets are much closer to the environment than you are.  They lay on the newly fertilized grass, lick their feet and fur, and swallow toxic doses of nitrates, organophosphates, heavy metals and other inorganic compounds.  These can cause signs ranging from a little bloody diarrhea to seizures, depending upon the chemical ingested, the size of the pet, and the amount they ingest.
But don't despair!  There are many safer ways to have a beautiful yard for your pet, your children and the environment.  Products made from fish meal, corn by-products and other organic sources can provide all the weed control and soil health for a great looking lawn or flower border, without the toxic risks. ( Please note that ANY product with very high nitrogen levels can cause illness if large amounts are ingested.)
Go to to find ideas and products to create your most beautiful, healthy garden ever.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

End of Life

A friend recently asked me how she would know when it was time to say good-bye to her old and increasingly fragile cat. The elderly feline had had a recent urinary tract infection that had made her very sick, and my friend had come to realize that her time with her beloved pet might be short.

This is a tough question, because none of us are granted the ability to know the future or our own end-time. As veterinarians, we can make educated guesses about how long an animal may have good quality of life, based upon how other patients have fared with similar diseases. But everyone is an individual, and some have surprising resilience. As veterinary professionals, many of us have seen pets with cancers or end-stage diseases that have outlived all statistics. Similarly, some animals seem to slide very quickly towards death.

It is our responsibility to be acutely aware of the daily changes in our animal companions as they age, or struggle with declining health. It is our sensitivity to their needs, and willingness to aid them, that allows us to “know” when their quality of life has declined to an unacceptable level. And I believe it is our responsibility to prevent future suffering when that happens.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who's responsible

Who is responsible when an pet has a curable condition and the owner does not have the money to pay for care?  Is the owner ethically obligated to pay for care even if it damages them financially?  Is the veterinary community or individual veterinarian offering care responsiblefor making the cure affordable?  Is society responsible in any way?  Does it make a difference if the condition is manageable but not curable?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

veterinary stem cell therapy

Autologous ("your own") stem cell therapy is currently available for dogs and horses for orthopedic conditions, and is being explored for use in other disease modalities such as liver failure.  The process involves taking a small amount of the animal's own fat, having it processed in a lab, and injecting the resulting stem cells into the affected joint.  It certainly isn't a fountain of youth, but the results are good in most of the animals treated.  It seems to be a practical, ethical path to healthier joints and perhaps can  impact other disease states.  What is the current state of autologous stem cell therapy in humans?