Welcome To Dr. Pinney's Pet Blog
Dr. Pinney's Pet Blog offers a glimpse into the dynamic and ever-changing world of veterinary medicine and pet health care.
In addition, our pet blog offers money saving advice and tips for the frugal pet owner in all of us!
|Thursday, Sep 01, 2011|
|Why Older Dogs Gain Weight|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Sep 01, 2011 01:03|
As you might expect, dogs tend to pack on the fat as they get older. The biggest reason (besides lack of exercise) is this: As dogs grow older, they lose lean muscle mass, which in turn lowers the resting energy requirements needed to maintain them at their current weights. In other words, if you keep feeding the same amount that you always have, your dog will gain weight with each passing year. Oftentimes, a client will tell me that her older, obese pet "just doesn't eat that much" and she can't understand why her pet is overweight. Well, this is why.
As a result, it's a good idea to reduce caloric intake for dogs over 8 years of age by about 3% with each year that goes by (of course, this figure will vary somewhat with each individual, so check with your veterinarian before implementing such a calorie control formula). By doing so, you'll keep your pet at his desired weight and prevent those aggravating and expensive diseases linked to obesity.
Here's a quick tip on how to stay dry....When a dog shakes to rid its fur of water, it all starts at the head. That said, if you control the head, you'll be able to control the shake. So next time you give your dog a bath and you don't want him to spray water all over the bathroom walls, gently grip his muzzle to control his head and temporarily thwart the chain reaction - at least until you can get a towel draped over him.
Here's your latest Laugh of the Week: http://www.veterinaryinsider.com/public/Veterinary_Insider_Laugh_of_the_Week_8.cfm
|Saturday, Aug 27, 2011|
|Medical Marijuana for Pets|
|Saturday, Aug 27, 2011 10:57|
|You knew it was coming... |
A company out of Seattle is developing a transdermal pain patch for pets containing, what else, medical marijuana! The new "pot patch" could be made available to veterinarians sometime next year.
The company, Medical Marijuana Delivery Systems (MMDS), hold the patent for the patch, which will be marketed under the name "Tetracan". It will be made available for human use as well.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow human medical marijuana use and a number of others are considering it. The legalities of its use by veterinarians on animals has yet to be established, but it's currently under review. We'll have to wait and see.
Until then, if they could only develop a weight loss patch for pets to curb those munchies!
|Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011|
|Veterinary Chiropractic Medicine|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011 12:35|
|Here's the final installment on our series on Holistic Pet Medicine. The subject: Veterinary Chiropractic |
As you may know, the focus of chiropractic medicine is centered on the spinal column, that portion of the central nervous system through which nerves course to and from the brain.
Chiropractic philosophy maintains (and rightly so) that all organ systems within the body are controlled by the nervous system. It does so through elaborate control systems (including those responsible for hormone production and release) and complex feedback mechanisms that coordinate all bodily functions and responses, including those related to health and to disease.
Any disruption of the free flow of nerve impulses throughout the body can disrupt homeostasis within the body and lead to poor immune function and subsequent disease.
Chiropractors target motor units along the spinal column. Each motor unit consists of two adjacent vertebrae and all of the nerves, muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and ancillary structures associated with the joint formed by the two vertebrae. Either a "malarticulation" or a "fixation" of one or more of these motor units can disrupt the free flow of nerve impulses.
Such deviations from the normal anatomy and/or structural mechanics of the spinal column put pressure on and irritate the spinal cord, causing pain and/or preventing the body from mounting an effective response against other diseases. In addition, loss of motor unit mobility can slow the flow of spinal fluid, leading to malnourishment and degeneration of vital muscles, nerves, and other structures associated with the motor unit.
As far back a Hippocrates, spinal manipulations were used on people and pets to treat a wide variety of disorders. Today in pets, chiropractic adjustments are being used to treat lameness, hip dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, non-specific joint pain, muscle spasms, and poor flexibility. In addition, chiropractic may be effective in managing gastrointestinal illness, musculoskeletal trauma, stress-induced exhaustion, and certain types of paralysis. Following chiropractic adjustments, many pets have been known to become more active and playful, exhibit increased appetites, and desire more interaction with their owners. The number of chiropractic adjustments required will depend upon the severity and duration of the problem and on the age of the patient. As a rule, the younger the patient, the fewer the adjustments needed to correct a malarticulation/fixation.
The chiropractic approach to treating disease in pets is becoming a popular holistic tool in veterinary circles today. I certainly feel it has its place in an integrative approach to pet health care. If interested in learning more, check out the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website at http://www.animalchiropractic.org
|Thursday, Aug 11, 2011|
|Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Aug 11, 2011 11:28|
|Perhaps the most controversial of all alternative medical practices is homeopathy. The homeopathic movement found it origins in 18th century Europe and made its way to the United States in the early part of the 19th century. Well-known proponents of the day included Mark Twain, Daniel Webster, William Cullen Bryant and John D. Rockefeller. |
In 1844 the American Institute of Homeopathy was founded. In fact, this was the first national medical society formed in the United States. Interestingly, the American Medical Association was founded two years later. One reason for this: To counter the threat that the homeopathic movement posed to conventional medicine!
In veterinary medicine, the use of homeopathy remains controversial primarily because standards have yet to be established that takes into account the species, breed, and size of the patient being treated. For example, a small kitten and a large horse may both be prescribed the same remedy at the same potency.
Many medical doctors write off apparent homeopathic successes in humans as "placebo effects". Unfortunately, this does not explain the anecdotal successes achieved in certain clinical cases involving animals. Certainly any scientist or research practitioner would agree that when working with living organisms, countless variables exist that we do not understand or recognize. Perhaps it is one or more of these variables that accounts for homeopathic treatment successes when they occur.
Homeopathy is based on the Law of Similars, or "like cures like". This law contends that agents that cause disease symptoms at standard doses can cause the body to mimic those symptoms when introduced in extremely diluted doses and stimulate the body to cure the underlying disease. The goal of the veterinary homeopath is to support and strengthen the pet's "vital force", which is responsible for maintaining health and internal harmony within the body.
Clinical signs, which are recognized as simply outward expressions of disease and not diseases in themselves, are caused by imbalances affecting this vital force. Homeopathic treatment is designed to stimulate and strengthen the vital force into restoring its internal balance. When in balance, the vital force is able to effectively call upon the natural body defense mechanisms to rise to the occasion and eliminate the disease from the body.
Veterinary homeopathic remedies are administered to animals either as tiny pellets (crushed and placed on the tongue) or elixirs. For best results, they should not be given with meals. Remedies are formulated using herbs, extracts, heavy metals, minerals, toxins, or any other substance that has the potential to stimulate the vital force at homeopathic concentrations. If administered at full strength, many of these substances could harm or even kill a patient! However, when diluted the homeopathic way, they purportedly stimulate the body to heal itself.
Dilutions are performed in a step-wise fashion, with the preparations succussed (shaken) after each dilution in order to increase potency and vibrational energy. This process of dilution followed by succession is termed "potentiation". The more dilute the remedy, the more powerfully it acts to stimulate natural healing.
Interesting, huh? In my mind, the jury is still out on this particular holistic approach to pet care. I can grasp the others (herbal medicine, acupuncture, etc.) and have recommended them at times, but it'll take a major paradigm shift before homeopathy will gain my endorsement. But, hey, that's just my opinion...
|Thursday, Aug 04, 2011|
|Using Acupuncture on Pets|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Aug 04, 2011 01:50|
The word acupuncture comes from the Latin word acus, which means "needle", and punctura, which means "to prick". Acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific points on the body in order to produce chemical and physical responses within the body. This ancient form of medical therapy is thought to have originated in the Far East over 7000 years ago. Due to the close interdependence of man and animal throughout the ages, it has no doubt been used as a form of veterinary medicine for thousands of years as well. Ancient civilizations certainly practiced acupuncture on their animals, as evidenced by the antiquated acupuncture charts that exist for a wide variety of species, including horses, camels, water buffaloes, and even elephants!
Several theories have been proposed in an attempt to explain the effects that acupuncture can have on pets (and people). The first theorizes that stimulation of an acupuncture point directly blocks the transmission of pain sensation along select nerve fibers within the body. A second theory postulates that chemicals called endorphins are released upon stimulation of an acupuncture point. Endorphins, which are up to 100 times more potent than morphine, effectively block pain sensations and can circulate in the bloodstream for several hours at a time, providing a lasting effect. Still another theory proposes that acupuncture stimulation causes select sensory nerve endings to transmit nerve impulses to the spinal cord and brain, and then back out again to glands located throughout the body. Upon stimulation, these glands release hormones into the blood stream that can exert various influences on the organ systems within the body.
More than likely, the actual mode of action for acupuncture is a blend of these theories. Interestingly enough, for acupuncture to work, a pet's nervous system must be intact. Studies involving patients suffering from nerve damage have revealed that the beneficial effects normally gained by stimulation of a particular acupuncture are actually negated by the damage.
Acupuncture has been used with success in pets to control pain associated with intervertebral disc disease, trauma, hip dysplasia, and other forms of arthritis. In addition, it may also help speed healing in pets stricken with allergies, epilepsy, nerve injuries, chronic respiratory disease, and disorders of the stomach and intestines.
Keep in mind, though, that acupuncture is only as good as the person performing it. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society establishes a Code of Ethics and provides acupuncture certification within the profession. To help ensure competency when choosing a veterinary acupuncturist, always select one who has been certified by a veterinary acupuncture specialty organization such as the IVAS. Check out their website.
|Thursday, Jul 28, 2011|
|Botanical (Herbal) Medicine|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 02:28|
Here's the first article in our series on holistic approaches to pet health care:
Botanical Veterinary Medicine
The use of herbs to fight disease dates back far beyond the advent of modern medicine as we know it. Ancient people throughout the world, especially the Chinese and other eastern cultures, utilized herbs to treat illnesses and injuries arising from hunting and gathering, armed conflict, and recreational activities. Written documentation on the use of herbs for medicinal purposes apparently first appeared in ancient Egyptian culture. By 1000 BC, this knowledge had made its way across the ocean to Greece, whereupon Greek scholars such as Socrates, Pliny, Descordes and Krateus expanded on it, refined it, and recorded their findings in a Materia Medica. During the Middle Ages, European and Middle Eastern practitioners continued to expound on the works of the Greeks and helped solidify the foundation of the modern herbal Materia Medica.
Certainly the usefulness of an herbal remedy in the past depended upon that herb's availability in a particular geographical location. Unfortunately, herbal practitioners within the United States found many of the herbs contained in the Old World Materia Medicas could not be found in the New World. However, thousands of years before Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas, local herbs had been used by Native American tribes to prevent and combat disease. This knowledge of New World herbal remedies was quickly assimilated into the new Euro-American culture and ultimately grew with subsequent westward expansion, leading to the formation of a Materia Medica dealing specifically with native New World herbs.
Thanks to the knowledge imparted by these pioneers in botanical medicine, today's veterinarians have valuable weapons at their disposal. Indeed, herbs can provide a powerful formulary against disease in pets. In fact, many of the active ingredients found in herbs are the same ones used in today's modern drugs. These active components include tannins, polysaccharides, glycosides, alkaloids, turpoids and essential oils.
Drug companies extract and isolate these constituents from the whole plant, then potentiate their strength in a laboratory, rendering them highly effective (and highly toxic). However, there has been a paradigm shift in recent years regarding herbs and their active ingredients. Scientists are now recognizing the therapeutic importance of certain "phytochemical" constituents found in whole plants that are absent in isolated extracts. Research is finding that these constituents may not only improve the effectiveness of the active ingredients within a patient's body, but also may lessen the risk of harmful side effects that the ingredients may cause.
Herbal remedies may be eaten, drunken, or applied externally as poultices. Both fresh and dried herbs can form the foundation for a particular remedy. However, with the exception of topical poultices (such as aloe vera poultices for burns), most herbal products used in veterinary medicine are made from dried herbs. These dried herbs are crushed and formed into pills or enclosed within gelatin capsules, made into tea-like preparations, or pulverized and mixed with alcohol to form elixirs. Herbal elixirs can be administered to pets in the same way as any other liquid medication, or they can be added directly to a pet's food. Pills and gelatin capsules can be administered directly or cleverly disguised in a treat.
Factors that can affect herbal potency include the method of drying used, the age of the herbal preparation, and the stage at which the plant was originally harvested. For example, dandelion leaves are most effective if harvested before flowering, whereas blue violet is best collected after flowering. Herbs that have not been dried properly may be contaminated with mold, which can certainly adversely alter their effectiveness. Also, the older the herbal preparation, the greater is the chance of a loss in potency due to natural degradation or mishandling.
As a rule, potency of herbal remedies will tend to diminish rapidly after one year on the shelf. In order to improve shelf life, herbal products should be stored in dark, airtight containers and in cool, dry locations away from direct light.
When addressing an illness, veterinary herbalists rarely use only a single herb, but rather use a combination of herbs. Doing so offers two powerful advantages. First, combining certain herbs will create a synergistic attack against the targeted disorder. Secondly, herbal combinations can be used to help dilute out undesirable side effects that may be caused by one or more herbs in the formula.
Herbal treatments in animals are usually prescribed for no more than two to four weeks at a time. Standard dosages are usually continued for two to three days following the disappearance of clinical signs, and then slowly tapered off over a week's time.
Herbal remedies cannot be used indiscriminately, nor, as mentioned above, should they be used long term. Realize that adverse interactions can occur with existing medications that your pet may be taking. Also, certain herbal remedies, given at improper dosages, can cause significant bodily harm. For instance, white willow and white oak bark contains salicylates and can be highly toxic to cats.
With more people turning to the Internet as their source for information, it is vital to remember this: Although this resource and others can indeed provide valuable information concerning herbs and their application in pets, they can also be the source of dangerous misinformation concerning dosages, duration of treatment, and applications of herbal treatments. For your pet's sake, always validate any information you may gather with a veterinary professional trained in botanical medicine and, of course, never administer a herbal preparation without first consulting him/her.
|Friday, Jul 22, 2011|
|Holistic Pet Medicine|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Friday, Jul 22, 2011 10:57|
It has been estimated that over 40% of Americans utilize some form of holistic self-treatment for their own medical ailments, spending billions of dollars in the process on holistic products and remedies. Its no wonder, then, that interest in holistic approaches to pet health care is increasing as well. And as this popularity rises, so does the need for continued education and research in order to identify and refine specific indications, techniques, benefits and limitations of holistic treatments in our furred and feathered friends.
The philosophy of holistic veterinary medicine is one of wellness and disease prevention. Holistic approaches are geared toward stimulating the body's own natural resources and internal mechanisms to afford self-healing and self-protection against disease. Holism targets not only the physical needs of a particular pet, but also takes into account the emotional and mental needs of that pet. These needs can be influenced by such factors as breed characteristics, individual personalities, socialization, environmental influences, and disease states that may alter the biochemistry within the body and adversely affect emotional and mental well-being.
It goes without saying that both traditional medicine and holistic medicine have their inherent strengths as well as their weaknesses. And this brings up a great point: When traditional and holistic medicine are used in synergy, their combined strength serves to diffuse any weaknesses that one or the other may possess! The use of both traditional and holistic approaches to patient care has been coined "integrative" veterinary medicine. Make no mistake about it: Acute life threatening injuries and illnesses are still best handled by traditional methods. However, chronic, long-term health challenges that have responded poorly to traditional methods can and should be approached holistically.
When searching for a veterinarian that supports holistic approaches to treatment, contact your local or state veterinary associations, or better yet, contact the American Association of Holistic Practitioners, the official licensing board of veterinary holistic practitioners. Just google their website for information.
Whenever considering a particular holistic practitioner for your pet, ask the following questions:
* Is he/she a licensed veterinarian who has specific training in the holistic specialty you are seeking?
* How extensive is his/her holistic training?
* How long has he/she been practicing holistic medicine?
* Can references or success stories be provided with whom you can make contact or follow-up?
* What are his/her feelings towards conventional veterinary medicine? Does he/she practice integrative medicine?
* Is he/she able to explain the reasoning behind any procedure that may be prescribed or performed?
The more popular types of holistic medical approaches or tools used in veterinary medicine include botanical (herbal) medicine, nutritional medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. In subsequent blogs, we'll touch on each.
|Friday, Jul 15, 2011|
|Arthritis, Toy Selection, Diabetic Cataracts, and Minimizing Pool Hazard|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Friday, Jul 15, 2011 10:34|
Keep Your Arthritic Pet Moving
Keeping an arthritic pet moving is a must in order to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Yet even light exercise can stiffen up your friend within hours after your done. You can help, though, by giving your friend a ten minute massage in the region of the affected joints following your exercise sessions. It goes a long way to prevent those muscles from tightening up around those joints and leading to pain and stiffness.
Common Sense Approach to Selecting Toys for Your Pets
If a toy could be hazardous to a child, it could be hazardous to a pet. Sounds obvious, right? Apparently not, since veterinarians around the world still reap millions of dollars in surgical fees each year removing toys from the stomach and intestines of dogs and cats! So be sure to keep that simple principle in mind when selecting toys for your pet to play with
New Way to Prevent Diabetic Cataracts
Diabetes mellitus is a common cause of cataract formation in dogs (as it is in people).
Now there's good news on the research front. A new topical medication called Kinostat (an aldose reduction inhibitor, for those of you who care) has shown tremendous promise at preventing and inhibiting progression of cataracts in dogs suffering from diabetes mellitus. If you're dog has diabetes, be sure to check with your vet about this.
Prevent Accidental Pool Drownings
Believe it or not, well over 100,000 pets die each year as a result of accidental pool drownings. The majority of these pets are curious young puppies, as well as older dogs suffering from poor vision or diminished cognitive function. Homeowners with pools should protect their pets by installing a ramp that allows easy exit from the pool in case a pet falls in. Remember, though, to acquaint your pet with the ramp ahead of time so he knows where to go in case he accidentally takes a tumble. Several style of ramps are available; search the Net for options (one good site where one can be found is at skamper-ramp.com)
|Thursday, Jul 07, 2011|
|It Was Good While It Lasted. Or Was It?|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Jul 07, 2011 10:29|
Word came down this week that a
U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land found Cipla (a maker of several generics) in contempt of a March 6, 2008 order prohibiting the company from infringing on Merial's patents and banned Cipla and another company, Velcera, from further sales of their "generic Frontline Plus" products in the United States.
The court's decision stated the following: "The court orders Cipla and Velcera to produce to Merial for destruction all inventory existing in the United States of any veterinary products manufactured by Cipla that contain fipronil and methoprene, including but not limited to the veterinary products that contain fipronil and methoprene sold under the brand names Protektor Plus, PetArmor Plus, TrustGard Plus and Velcera Fipronil Plus."
And that doesn't include the monetary damages owed Merial based on Velcera and Cipla's previous violations of the 2008 court order.
For consumers, though, no doubt its good news. Yes, I realize that PetArmor Plus and the others were about half the price of Frontline Plus.
But I also know that there were serious questions posed by veterinarians to these companies as to the "inert ingredients" contained in these generic products; questions that were consistently ignored. Not good.
Now it makes sense. I'm not sure what these two companies were thinking; how cocky can you get? Ignoring a court order and releasing an illegal copy-cat product?
Looks to me like they were out to make a quick buck - possible at the expense of your pet. After all, considering their company ethics, can you seriously trust them to produce safe, quality products? Not me.
Hopefully in the future, more affordable (and safe and effective) flea and tick control products from reputable companies will hit the market to help ease the burden on the pet owner pocketbook. But until then, stick to those products made by companies you can trust.
|Friday, Jul 01, 2011|
|Garden Hose Scalding Syndrome|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Friday, Jul 01, 2011 12:21|
Crazy as it may sound, Garden Hose Scalding Syndrome is an actual health risk to dogs and cats during the hot, summer months.
Colleagues of mine have reported that they've seen dogs come in with third-degree burn scalds on the face and along the back resulting from being sprayed with water out of a garden hose that has been sitting out exposed to sunlight and heat.
It makes sense: The water contained in that idle hose has ample time to heat up to incredible temperatures, especially if the hose has been exposed to direct sunlight for hours.
The same caution applies to you, the owner, as well. Be sure to turn on the hose and let it run for a minute or two before exposing yourself or your pet to its contents.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Also, keep in mind that pugs, boxers, and other flat-nosed breeds can suffer from a condition known as "brachycephalic airway syndrome" during the summer months.
Many of these dogs have extra long soft palates, which is that soft strip of skin that covers the back portion of the roof of the mouth (if your dog snores alot, he probably has an elongated soft palate). The high temperatures and high humidity associated with the summer months can cause swelling of the palate, which can interefer with air exchange. So be sure to shelter these pets from extremes in temperature and humidity.
|Thursday, Jun 23, 2011|
|Does That Wound Really Need To Be Sutured? |
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Jun 23, 2011 06:52|
Open wounds and abscesses on dogs and cats are common daily presentations in veterinary practices and animal emergency clinics across the country.
Some veterinarians elect to suture wounds and abscess openings (after they've been properly drained, flushed, and cleaned), while others will simply leave them open to heal naturally. So which is best?
Depends. If a wound is especially deep and bleeding quite a bit, then it needs to be sutured. However, more superficial wounds can often be cleaned up and allowed to heal without suturing. It really comes down to cosmetics and cost.
Obviously, suturing a wound will drive up the cost of your veterinary office visit very quickly. Anesthesia (local or general), surgeon's time, nurses' time, and suture material plus supplies can add up into the $$ hundreds for even a minor laceration. But is that really needed?
Usually not. As long as infection is not allowed to gain a foothold, most wounds will heal up nicely on their own via a process known as contraction and epithelialization. As far as cosmetic appearances are concerned (i.e. scars), most will remain hidden by the pet's hair coat after it regrows.
Abscesses should always be allowed to remain open and drain. I do know some vets who, after draining and disinfecting the abscessed region, will suture it closed. Yet I'm not one of them.
I believe abscesses should be allowed to drain freely, which may continue for days until the antibiotics kick in. If the drainage point of the abscess is going to be sutured closed, then a drain tube needs to be installed to allow continued drainage to prevent the suture line from dehiscing (coming apart). As you might expect, this simply adds to the cost.
If presented with a stout estimate for repair of a wound or laceration, discuss second intention healing options with your vet before agreeing to the estimate. Again, most wounds (unless severe and deep) will heal up on their own with proper cleaning and antibiotic support.
After all, who are we to doubt Mother Nature's ability to heal her own, right?
|Thursday, Jun 09, 2011|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Jun 09, 2011 09:37|
Has your vet ever recommended steroids for your pet's skin condition or arthritis, but you've balked because you've read or heard that they're not good for your pet? Then be sure to watch this:
VetInsider YouTube Video: Steroid Phobia
|Friday, Jun 03, 2011|
|Parasites, Allergies, Pet Insurance, and Heartworm Resistance|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Friday, Jun 03, 2011 04:41|
Pets and Parasites
With summer upon us, just a reminder that outdoor cats that hunt can easily pick-up some nasty parasites from the stuff they eat, including tapeworms (Hymenolepsis nana, Taenia taeniaeformis, Echinococcus) that can infect humans, especially kids. As a result, cats that hunt and go outdoors should be dewormed with both a roundworm and a flatworm (tapeworm) dewormer at least once per year (twice is better) to protect both them AND you.
It shouldn't cost you more than $25 to deworm for both and it's well worth the peace-of-mind. It's probably a good idea to do the same for dogs that hunt or have been known to eat rodents, birds, or other dead things, although dogs taking heartworm prevention will only need the tapeworm dewormer because one of the big benefits of heartworm medicine is that it also takes care of zoonotic roundworms and hookworms.
Did you know that dogs and cats can suddenly become allergic to a substance, including food that they've been exposed to for years without any prior problems? As a result, even if your pet hasn't had skin allergies or food allergies before, they could now be causing your pet's skin or gastrointestinal challenges. Have your vet check it out.
Here's an article I came across last week that I thought was interesting. It points out many of the arguments that I share concerning pet health insurance. Here's the link:
Remember to check with your employer about benefits available to employees. Veterinary Pet Insurance reports that its insurance is offered as a benefit by over 2200 companies and associations. If offered as a benefit, then by all means jump all over it.
Just in the past year, much debate among the veterinary community as to whether or not we're beginning to see parasite resistance to the various heartworm preventive medications we've relied on so heavily to control this devastating disease in our canine companions. Research into this is ongoing, so no definite answers are available to date. However, researchers seem to think that several factors may be at play here.
The first is owner compliance. Failure to administer heartworm medications on a timely basis, or failure to confirm that a dog has indeed swallowed (and kept down) the medication after administration may be accounting for the rising number of heartworm-infected dogs that are "taking" a heartworm preventative.
The other factor may be sheer exposure overload. In other words, dogs spending an appreciable amount of time outdoors at dusk, dawn, and overnight may receive a super exposure to heartworm-infested mosquito bites, which might be overwhelming the medication's ability to kill all of the larvae introduced into the dog's body through the mosquito bites.
As a result, be sure you have no sources of standing water around the house (where mosquitos like to breed) and if possible, limit your dog's outdoor activities during peak "mosquito" hours, especially the hours around dawn and dusk.
|Thursday, May 19, 2011|
|The Time and Place for Pet Ownership|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, May 19, 2011 01:48|
Don't even think about it!
That was the advice I gave a daughter of a good friend of mine who was contemplating adopting a two year old dog from a local boxer rescue group. They had allowed her to take the dog home over the weekend to "try him out" and apparently he had passed the test. I could see it in her eyes. She was falling for the dog and rightly so. He was a good-looking dog and very social around people.
Her dad had tried to talk her out of adopting the dog, but she had her mind set. That's when he called me in. I gladly took up the challenge. After all, I have to deal with the consequences of such decisions every day.
Don't get me wrong. I love Boxers. I own Boxers. I love organizations that rescue Boxers. And I love people who adopt otherwise unwanted Boxers. So what's the problem?
The problem is that my friend's daughter is a junior in college. She is living on student loans and part-time work while trying to get into medical school. She's taking the MCAT in November. She lives in an apartment by herself and wants the dog for companionship. Are you starting to see the potential challenges here? Here are a few of the questions I asked her:
1. Why was the dog given up to a rescue organization? (She was told that the previous owners had three small children at home and just couldn't handle the dog)
2. Who would be watching the dog while she was at school and at work? (Apparently no one…he would be left alone in the apartment while she was gone)
3. What would she do if he became ill? (Boxers can bloat easily, develop cardiomyopathy, suffer from hip dysplasia, etc.). Does she have the available funds to take him to the veterinarian if he needs it? (She did not). I reminded her that the average bill for emergencies like bloat is around $3000.
4. Did she realize that she was making a 10 to 12 year commitment? (She hadn't really thought about that).
I painted other scenarios for her. The dog's true history was still a mystery. Was he aggressive towards the children? Did he suffer from separation anxiety? What was the real reason he was given up for adoption? If it was indeed for separation anxiety, it may not become apparent for weeks after he enters a new environment. Incessant barking or physical damage to the premises could lead to eviction from her apartment complex. Also, Boxers have lots of energy to expend each day. Would she have at the time each day to devote to her new dog's physical needs? I doubted it. Unless she gave up her part-time job. Then how would she pay for her school?
Do you see the real issues here? It's not that she wouldn't make a great pet owner, she would. But not right now. The last thing this student needed in her life right now was a distraction. Her goal was to get into medical school and we all know how hard that can be. She had to do well on that MCAT coming up, and that meant lots of extra time studying..not spending time with her new dog. And, of course, her financial position was precarious at best.
The moral of this story is this: If you or someone you know is contemplating pet ownership, please be sure you or they have thought about the potential impact such as decision could have on future lifestyle (financially, physically, and emotionally). If the potential positives outweigh the potential negatives, then by all means do it (pet ownership is wonderful)! However, if the opposite is true, the decision should be put on hold until those negatives can be neutralized.
By the way, my friend's daughter decided to wait.
|Thursday, May 12, 2011|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, May 12, 2011 04:33|
Does your dog chew incessantly at his/her paws? If so, you're not alone. This is a common (and frustrating) problem with owners everywhere. The most common causes for this include allergies (i.e pollen allergies, grass allergies, contact allergies) and the ongoing bacterial or yeast infections that occur secondary to those allergies.
That said, here are some tips you can use to help minimize the chewing.
1. Manage the underlying allergy. Read this article that summarizes the various approaches to control of skin allergies.
2. Wash your dog's feet with cool water at the end of day to remove allergens that have accumulated on the skin and hair coat.
3. Purchase booties for your dog to wear while outdoors. These are readily available from most popular pet supply retailers. Check these out!!
4. Antiinflammatory sprays and ointments used topically on the paws can be used to help with itching and reduce chronic changes involving the skin of the feet. Ask your vet about Genesis spray (a topical steroid spray), which can be used every other day to control the itching sensation to the paws.
5. Conditioners and sprays containing both oatmeal and 1% pramoxine (a topical anesthetic) can be applied every 4 hours to relieve pruritic paws. Again, ask your veterinarian for brand recommendations (Dermal Soothe is a good one).
6. If a secondary yeast infection is suspected (brown, odoriferous discoloration of the fur and skin of the paws), soaking the paws daily with white vinegar can help eliminate the infection (as a bonus, the taste of residual vinegar on the pet's fur tends to discourage licking).
Great Veterinary Nutrition Website
Balanceit.com (www.balanceit.com) was created by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and has been approved by the ACVN (American College of Veterinary Nutrition).
On it you'll find tips on formulating well-balanced homemade diets for a number of conditions, plus feeding recommendations and calorie information for commercial pet foods. This latter information is vital for making sure you're not overfeeding your pet.
|Thursday, May 05, 2011|
|Get Rid of the Sagos |
|Thursday, May 05, 2011 07:58|
Do you have one of these in your backyard? If so, for your pet's sake, you may want to get rid of it.
In case you weren't aware, Sago Palms (Cycas revoluta) are right up there with antifreeze as being one of the deadliest environmental health threats to your pet. And its not just the seeds you have to watch out for; the leaves, bark, and root ball are all deadly as well.
Once consumed by a pet, the cycasin, macrozamin,and others toxins contained in the Sago go right to work. And there's no antidote.
Signs of poisoning usually develop within 12 hours after ingestion and can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice, internal bleeding (due to interference with the body's ability to coagulate blood), extreme lethargy, seizures, and ultimately death. The liver is the primary organ damaged by Sago toxins, and liver failure is common. In fact, if a pet happens to survive initial exposure, liver failure could still occur 6 to 8 months down the line.
Treatment is non-specific and generally unrewarding, so PREVENTION is the key!! Remember: Pets and Sago Palms don't mix. Pull up and get rid of those Sagos!
|Thursday, Apr 21, 2011|
|FDA Reminder Concerning Xylitol |
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Apr 21, 2011 05:07|
The Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning aimed at pet owners concerning the consumption of the artificial sweetener, xylitol, by dogs and ferrets.
I did a blog in November '09 concerning this sweetener's use in a popular human dental product called Biotene, available over the counter in pharmacies. The reason I did so is that Biotene also makes a product for dogs (and its labeled as such), but that particular product does not contain xylitol. Its important for pet owners to know the difference.
To refresh your memory, xylitol is a common sugar substitute added to sugar-free candy, gum, mints, chewable vitamins, throat lozenges,throat sprays, sugar-free cookies...the list goes on. If ingested by dogs, even in small amounts, xylitol can trigger a steep drop in blood sugar, which can lead to shock, seizures, collapse, and liver failure.
To make matters worse, this toxin acts fast, so once it's consumed by a pet, it should be considered an emergency and time deemed critical. If you'd like to read more, here's a link to that FDA warning: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm244076.htm
And speaking of links, here are two other items I thought you might like to know about.
First, Sara Coolidge of the unique website "Veterinariancolleges.org" just posted an article I thought you might be interested in. It's called "Where My Dogs At? Top 30 iPhone Apps for Pet Owners" ( http://veterinariancolleges.org/where-my-dogs-at-top-30-iphone-apps-for-pet-owners/ ), and it discusses some great apps that pet owners can take advantage of. Be sure to take a look!
Secondly, Christine Seivers at "Rncentral.com" also let me know that the Veterinary Insider blog was featured in the list, "The 50 Best Blogs for Veterinary Students". Perusing through the other 49 choices, I realized that the list is a great resource for pet owners wanting to sift through the mountain of pet care blogs out there. The blogs mentioned are good ones; you'll want to check them out. Here's the link for the list:(http://www.rncentral.com/nursing-library/careplans/50-Best-Blogs-for-Veterinary-Students)
|Friday, Apr 01, 2011|
|Botox for Osteoarthritis and Other Tidbits |
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Friday, Apr 01, 2011 02:56|
Here are just a few news items I came across this past week that I thought you might find interesting...
Party Starts at 8
No. Its not an April Fools joke. They really are studying Botox injections as a means to ease the pain of arthritis in dogs. It's due to the toxin's potent analgesic effects. In one study, post-injection improvement was seen in 4 out of 5 dogs. Watch out - Botox parties for dogs!
Has your older cat suddenly started howling and vocalizing at night for no apparent reason? It could be due to senility or it could be due to pain. However, high blood pressure could be the culprit as well. Nighttime howling is a common symptom of hypertension in senior cats and warrants a trip to your veterinarian for a blood pressure check.
If neglected, hypertension can lead to heart and/or kidney failure, the latter being one of the most common causes of death in old cats. Caught early, high blood pressure can be controlled with medications (sound familiar?).
A Nifty Heartworm Pill Reminder Tool
Need help remembering to give your dog that monthly dose of heartworm medication? Merial, the maker of Heartgard, has created an IPhone app to help you manage your dosing schedule by sending you a reminder on your Iphone the day the dose is to be given. The app also allows you to store information about your dog for quick reference purposes. Isn't technology grand?
For info on how to download the app, go to www.heartgard.com
|Thursday, Mar 24, 2011|
|The Dark Side of Raw Food Diets|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 03:03|
I know. I've written about raw food diets before.
Bear with me. While many pet owners swear by the proposed benefits such diets (that typically contain ingredients like raw red meat or chicken, blended with bones and a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables) offer those dogs and cats that consume them, I just can't be persuaded to join their camp.
It's not that feeding these diets is necessarily bad nutritionally-speaking. No. The reason is that feeding a raw diet to your pet can be down-right dangerous to your health!
Case in point. A recent veterinary journal review article summarized and compared all of the scientific studies that have been conducted on raw food diets in the past five years. Here's what they all found.
Feeding a raw diet to pets dramatically increases the chances of human exposure to Salmonella, a major bacterial source of food poisoning and gastroenteritis in humans, which can be fatal. In one study, 166 frozen raw food diets were sampled from random pet stores and a whopping 21% of the diets were contaminated with Salmonella (out of these Salmonella positive diets, 67% contained chicken as the main ingredient).
Another study involving 200 therapy dogs found that 61% of those being fed a raw diet shed Salmonella in their feces (vs. 8% that didn't receive the raw diet).
Finally, there's one other fact uncovered by all of this research that is the most disturbing of all. Apparently, the Salmonella consumed by a dog eating a raw diet may not cause any clinical signs of illness in that dog whatsoever, yet it can be shed in significant amounts in the dog's feces. And this fact poses a direct, albeit hidden, threat to your household, with children and senior adults at most risk.
If you want to feed a raw diet to your pet, that's your business. But think twice about it if any of the following conditions exist in and around your home:
Obviously, you don't want to expose high-risk individuals despite your good intentions. There are many all-natural, preservative-free, and cooked pet foods out there that you can switch your pet to if need be, so don't despair. Your pet will be fine!
You have young children or senior adults living at your house
An immunocompromised individual (i.e. cancer patients, HIV, rheumatoid patients, etc.) lives at your house
You plan on enrolling your pet as a therapy pet (i.e. to schools, hospitals, nursing homes).
|Wednesday, Mar 02, 2011|
|I Knew They Had To Be Good For Something|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Wednesday, Mar 02, 2011 05:31|
An article in the March/April 2011 issue of Mental Floss Magazine highlighted a potential breakthrough in the treatment of MRSA (drug-resistant Staph) infections in pets and in humans. This breakthrough comes in the form of new types of antibiotics. But these antibiotics weren't harvested from fungi nor were they made synthetically in a laboratory. On the contrary, researchers at Britain's University of Nottingham isolated multiple antibiotic molecules from the brains of, hold on…
What the scientists found was that the cockroach brain molecules destroyed 90% of the MRSA bacteria on contact! As a bonus, drug-resistant E.coli bacteria (remember, this is the bacteria responsible for so many of those food-poisoning deaths we read about) also gave up the ghost when confronted with this potent chemical potion. Best of all, the molecules didn't harm human cells or tissues.
Didn't you ever wonder how cockroaches could survive in bacteria-laden sewers, septic tanks, and, yes, even in some homes? Now you know.
Much research still needs to be done before these new bacteria-killers hit the market. But it's creating lots of excitement within the scientific community. And well it should.
I knew those nasty insects had to be good for something. So think twice before turning that scurrying brown antenna shell into a sticky mash. Who knows? He may save not only your pet's life, but your life someday!
|Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011|
|Now Where Did I Put That Remote??|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011 09:39|
Veterinarians see it all the time and it still amazes us. The things that pets will put into their mouths...and beyond!
Here are 15 unusual items (believe me, the list was longer than this) removed from the gastrointestinal tracts of dogs and cats as reported by the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in 2010. In fact, they paid out over $3 Million in claims getting this stuff out!
2. Denture adhesive
4. Butcher knife
6. Bed sheet
7. Box of pencils
8. Dollar bills (Face value undetermined)
9. Steel wool pads - 16 of them from one dog!
10. Light bulb
11. Jumper cables
12. A squirrel
13. 3 sticks of butter
14. Eye glasses (intact)
15. TV remote
So the next time something goes missing around the house (including that remote), you know one place to look!
|Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011|
|Topical Human Medications and Pets|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011 09:33|
Several weeks back, the subject of topical human medications and potential toxicity to pets was discussed in the pet forum. Here's an expanded version of that discussion.
If you check the kitchen and bathroom cabinets of most households, no doubt you'll find an assortment of topical creams and gels designed for human use that treat everything from skin infections to poison ivy to hormonal disorders. That said, keep in mind that some of these human topical products, both over-the-counter and prescription, could pose a health risk to your pet if ingested in great enough quantity.
Now this may involve a pet eating an entire tube of medication (it happens more often than you think!) or it may simply occur when a pet licks your skin after you have applied medication to that same skin.
Here are several common topical preparations that could pose a risk to pets:
1.Estrogen-based creams - these are commonly prescribed to women to stave off the effects of menopause and to treat hormonal disorders. Unfortunately, these can lead to liver disease, hair loss, and cancer in pets if consumed.
2.Vitamin D3 creams - Vitamin D3 is used to treat psoriasis in humans. If licked off the skin in great enough quantity, it can also lead to kidney failure in dogs and cats.
3.Benzocaine Gel (Oragel; Anbesol)- Although rare, the maximum strength benzocaine products, if eaten, could potentially lead to allergic reactions, red blood cell disorders, and aspiration pneumonia (due to paralysis of the gag reflex caused by the topical anesthetic).
4.Lidocaine and Lidocaine/Prilocaine gels - Emla Numbing Cream is a popular prescription topical anesthetic cream used to numb the skin prior to tattooing or needle injections. Other less potent lidocaine products are available over-the-counter for use on minor skin irritations. Either way, if ingested in large quantity, these products can cause light-headedness, confusion, vomiting, twitching, tremors, convulsions, respiratory depression, and/or cardiac arrest in a pet if eaten. Aspiration pneumonia due to paralysis of the gag reflex could also occur. Cats are especially sensitive to lidocaine-containing products.
5.Menthol and methyl salicylates products (BenGay, Icy Hot, Mentholatum Deep Heat) - these active ingredients can cause direct irritation of the tongue, esophagus, and upper GI tract if licked and ingested. In addition, salicylates can exacerbate the side effects of non-steroidal or steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which are commonly used in dogs with arthritis and/or skin allergies. Also, salicylates (this is what aspirin is made of) are poorly metabolized by cats and can be highly toxic to the liver and kidneys.
6. Trolamine salicylate cream (i.e.Aspercreme) - This popular cream is used to relieve pain associated with arthritis, backache, and muscle strains and ligament sprains. Again, the salicylates contained in it can potentiate side effects of non-steroidal or steroidal anti-inflammatory medications in dogs and are toxic to cats.
7. Capsaicin creams (i.e Zostrix Arthritis Cream)- Capsaicin creams, available both by prescription and over-the counter, are used to help relieve a certain type of pain known as neuralgia. Capsaicin is also used to help relieve minor pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis or muscle sprains and strains. In case it sounds familiar, capsaicin is the chemical found in chili peppers and pepper spray. Not only is it a potent contact irritant, capsaicin can adversely affect blood pressure and heart rate in dogs and cats (and people!) that eat it.
8. 0.5 % to 1% Hydrocortisone creams (i.e. Cortaid) and prescription steroid creams - Absorption of hydrocortisone applied directly to the skin is rare, yet if it is ingested, it could potentially pose similar health problems as would high or long-term doses of oral steroids, namely suppression of the body's own ability to produce its own steroids, immunosuppression, thinning of the skin, etc.. Prescription steroid creams designed for humans are more likely to cause serious problems if eaten than over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams.
9. Bacitracin and triple antibiotic creams containing bacitracin - some cats highly sensitive to bacitracin and can actually suffer from anaphylactic shock if exposed to it.
10.Clindamycin cream- this topical antibiotic product could potentially cause and antibiotic associated diarrhea in pets that eat it or lick it off the skin.
As always, prevention is the best treatment. Keep all topical creams and medications well out of reach of your pet. Whenever you use them on your own skin, remember to store the tube away in the cabinet after use and, obviously, don't let your pet lick your skin after you apply any medication.
|Monday, Jan 31, 2011|
|Ask a Vet a Question|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Monday, Jan 31, 2011 05:13|
You've seen them. They're all over the internet these days. Websites you can go to and get questions answered about your pet's health condition. You usually pay a fee per question posed, which can vary depending on the type of response you receive (e-mail, text, phone call, etc.), the speed in which that response is received (within minutes, hours, days, etc.), and the number of questions asked during the session or over a specific period of time.
These services can be quite useful to pet owners and save money by deflecting unnecessary visits to the veterinarian. They are especially helpful for obtaining inexpensive second, or even third, opinions regarding a pet's medical condition. And from what I've seen so far, the advice given by the veterinarians moderating these sites is, in most instances, sound advice. That said, even sound advice must be taken into context when dealing with an individual pet, especially if that advice is given to an owner seeking a "first opinion" online for a medical condition.
Case in point…
A colleague relayed a story to me about a case he recently had. A dog came into his hospital with painful hips and barely able to walk on her hind legs as a result of recent exercise overexertion. In other words, the dog was hurting in those hips. Badly.
The client, as it turned out, had sought ought a first opinion from an online "ask a vet" service several days prior and was told to limit the dog's activity, give her some aspirin (at a correct recommended dosage), and take it to her veterinarian if she didn't improve. Okay, fairly sound advice. Except…
The online vet really didn't know the background of this patient. And the owner apparently wasn't too forthright with the dog's past medical history when posing her question…such as the seizures her dog has had in the past.
When presented to my colleague, the dog was in severe pain. However, he was faced with a dilemma. How could he safely relieve the pain in this dog? The aspirin obviously wasn't working. A stronger anti-inflammatory medication like Rimadyl would probably do the trick. However, because the dog had received aspirin for the past several days, other anti-inflammatory pain medications like Rimadyl were out of the question, since a 4 to 5 day "wash-out" period is required to safely switch from one anti-inflammatory (like aspirin) to another (like Rimadyl).
The next option would be to use another class of pain medication such as Tramadol. Unfortunately, Tramadol should not be used in patients with a history of seizures, so that was out. The only options left were the strong (and expensive) narcotic pain relievers that would leave the dog "doped" up until the inflammation subsided on its own or until the wash-out period was over. Not the best option, but, in this case, the only one available.
Now I'm not pointing fingers at the online vet who recommended the aspirin. In many cases, this would have sufficed. But not this time. And had the online vet known that this dog suffered from seizures and was not a Tramadol candidate, no doubt he/she would have most likely withheld the aspirin advice and told the owner to go straight to her veterinarian.
So, here are the morals to this story (finally!!):
- Online "ask a vet a question" services can be excellent resources for second or even third opinions on your pet's medical condition. In these instances, the input they provide can go a long way towards your peace-of-mind and helping you decide whether or not to pursue a specific course of diagnostics and/or treatment.
- If you do choose to seek out a "first opinion" online, be sure to supply the vet with a good history of your pet's medical conditions, both current and prior. And, by the way, this also holds true whenever you take your pet in to your regular veterinarian.
- If you want to ask a vet a question online, don't forget the Veterinary Insider Pet Forum. As a member, you can ask me and my colleagues all of the questions your heart desires (related to pet health care, that is), including second opinions. For those of you who are not yet Veterinary Insider members, check out our $1 Trial Membership and see what you're missing.
|Sunday, Jan 23, 2011|
|How Could That Happen?|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Sunday, Jan 23, 2011 08:53|
Can a dog that is taking heartworm preventive medication still test positive for heartworms later on? The answer is "yes".
When a dog tests positive for heartworms, yet has consistently been on medication, one or more of the following scenarios may have occurred:
1. The dog may have thrown up the heartworm medication soon after administration. If you're not there to see it, something like this can easily be missed. This actually happened on several occasions with my own dog, Titan. In one instance, it was a good forty-five minutes after I gave him his medication. Fortunately, he was indoors and I found the pile. If he had been outdoors, I may have missed it. Lesson learned: Keep your dog indoors for several hours after you give heartworm medication to make sure it stays down.
2. The dog's original negative heartworm test may have actually missed the presence of heartworms to begin with. While rare, it can happen. How? Heartworm tests detect only adult female heartworms, which are certainly present in the vast majority of infestations. That said, false negative heartworm tests can conceivably occur when worm infestations involve only male worms and/or immature female worms, or when infestations involve a very low number of heartworms (i.e one or two worms).
3. The dog was switched to another type of heartworm medication. Switching the active ingredient of the medication you are giving (i.e. from Heartgard to Interceptor) could possibly allow some immature worms to slip through the barrier of protection and reach the heart. The good news: Even though researchers claim this can happen, in 25 years of practice, I have yet to see it.
4. The heartworms have become resistant to the heartworm medications. Product failure due to worm resistance is a big worry within the veterinary community and large scale studies are underway to see if heartworms are developing resistance to common heartworm medications. More good news: Preliminary results show that resistance to heartworm medications is very rare if it is happening at all.
If your dog has been on heartworm medication, yet tests positive for heartworms, be sure the test is repeated to rule out the potential of a false positive result due to a technical error. If the follow-up test is still positive, then discuss treatment options with your veterinarian. Chances are, if heartworms are present, they have been severely weakened by the preventive medication your dog has been receiving, making them all the more treatable.
|Thursday, Jan 13, 2011|
|Virus vs Bacteria|
|By Dr. Chris Pinney|
|Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 12:35|
Recently, I read an article that discussed the increasing phenomeneon of drug-resistant bacteria in veterinary medicine and human medicine and it's pretty scary. That said, leave it to human ingenuity to search for and discover solutions to critical problems like these. Here are two examples of potential therapeutic breakthroughs when it comes to treating infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The first involves using viruses to treat drug-resistant bacteria. Pseudomonas is a tough bacteria often responsible for chronic, recurring ear infections in dogs. The reason: Antibiotic-resistance. However, recent research has revealed that this bacteria is not resistant to one thing in particular: Bacteriophages.
Bacteriophages are viruses that prey on bacteria like Pseudomonas, infecting and killing the bacterial cells without harming the human or animal cells around them. Research is ongoing, but the potential is immense. Believe it or not, bacteriophages were first discovered as far back as 1910, but weren't taken seriously then. Now they are, especially with the high prevalence of drug resistance.
Now for those of you who liked the movie, "I Am Legend" (or for Boomers out there like me who remember the original version with Charlton Heston, "The Omega Man"), you may get a little creeped out by news like this. Well, apparently another group of researchers were creeped out as well and started looking into ways to take advantage of the bacteriophage's antibacterial properties without having to introduce the actual virus into the patient's body.
The result: Cloned lysins.
Lysins are enzymes produced by certain virusus that have been shown to be useful in treating tough bacterial infections in animals. In this instance, researchers cloned specific lysins from the genomes of those same bacteriophages just mentioned. Amazingly, these cloned lysin enzymes were shown to destroy bacterial cell walls with excellent effectiveness.
Hopefully, other new therapeutic options like these will become available in the very near future. Until then, you can take heart in knowing that scientists will continue to hammer away at developing and discovering new types of antibiotics and antimicrobials in order to stay one step ahead of those ever-tough microscopic foes.