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Pet Blog
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!

Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011
Cool Tips
By Dr. Chris Pinney
Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011 09:32
I'm always on the look-out for cool tips that can prove useful to pet owners. That said, here are three that you might find helpful. 
1. Tired of hearing those collar tags jingle? Here's a great idea from Jayne Burns of Sebastopol, California: Those plastic covers you place over your keys to help identify them and to reduce their jingle? You can use those for your pet's tags as well. 
2. Bathe a dog, and there's a good chance you'll get wet when he shakes the water from his haircoat. That is, unless you know this simple tip. When a dog shakes, it starts at the nose. Knowing that, simply hold your dog's muzzle until you can get a towel over him. 
3. If you own a cat with chronic bladder issues, you know the meaning of frustration. Now there's news from the research front that these cats may benefit from the addition of glucosamine to their diets. The glycosaminoglycans in these supplements help protect the bladder lining from the damage caused by urinary crystals (the number cause of straining and bloody urine in cats with bladder disease). In one recent study published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research, cat owners reported once -a-day dosing with a glucosamine supplement for 28 days reduced signs of pain and discomfort in affected cats. 

Monday, Oct 17, 2011
The Dangers of Acetaminophen for You and Your Pet
By Dr. Chris Pinney
Monday, Oct 17, 2011 11:33
Acetaminophen is an oral analgesic and anti-fever drug that is found on drug store shelves in many over-the-counter medications. Tylenol is certainly the most well-known brand out there, but acetaminophen is also available in many generic forms, as well as combined with other drugs in popular cold, flu, allergy, and/or sinus formulations.

As a rule, acetaminophen or combination products containing the drug should not be used in dogs and cats. Cats especially are extremely sensitive to acetaminophen and can die after consuming only very small amounts. Dogs do not metabolize acetaminophen as well as humans and can develop liver disease because of it.

And that brings me to A VERY IMPORTANT POINT! And it deals with us, not our pets. As you may have seen or heard, the FDA recently updated the hazard warnings on packages of products containing acetaminophen, and for good reason. Do you know the reason for this? If not, don't feel bad. Most people don't. And that ignorance not only threatens their health, but that of their children as well.

When taken in excessive amounts, acetaminophen can lead to liver disease and liver failure in humans. This is happening with increasing frequency. The problem is that so many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen. And that means that cold or allergy suffers who take multiple OTC medications for their symptoms could be unwittingly overdosing on acetaminophen and damaging their livers.

In addition, acetaminophen and alcohol is a deadly combination for your liver. People who drink and take acetaminophen at the same time (i.e. for a hangover headaches, or cold/ allergy sufferers who drink) are at risk of blowing out their livers. As a result, it is vital to stress to your drinking age loved ones (and to your underage kids) to NEVER take Tylenol or another product containing acetaminophen when alcohol is around. To do so could be tragic.

It's amazing how so few people know this. Please pass the word

Monday, Oct 10, 2011
Pet Health Insurance: Friend or Foe?
By Dr. Chris Pinney
Monday, Oct 10, 2011 01:02
In a recent article by MSN News, the consumer group Choice stated that taking out pet insurance could be a viable option for concerned owners in view of the soaring veterinary costs. The reason: Increased treatment options and technological advances have led to a steep rise in some veterinary costs. They came to this conclusion after reviewing pet insurance claims. And get this. The highest recorded claims they found were for an ear infection costing $8,780 and a snakebite costing $11,035!

There are three problems with this.

First, those fees are nothing short of OUTRAGEOUS for the medical conditions addressed. In other words, the veterinarians involved should be reprimanded by their respective State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners for overcharging and padding the bill. If it took that much effort on their part to diagnose and properly treat those conditions, they need to be sent back to school to hone their diagnostic and treatment skills.

Secondly, I doubt very seriously if the insurance company allowed these claims. If they did, they're not very smart at what they do. If they didn't, then the owners of these pets were left holding wallet-crunching bills.

Thirdly, contrary to what Choices recommends, this example illustrates the reasons why insurance is not the answer to the rising cost of pet health care. With third party payment, its just too tempting for veterinary health care providers to raise fees under the false assumption that pet owners won't be affected because of the insurance.

However, pet owners will be affected, simply because the insurance companies have to make money. Considering that the majority of pet owners have not purchased insurance (nor plan to do so) and that dogs and cats have short life spans, these companies are going to have a rough time making up the money they payout in claims. The result: High deductibles and lots of exclusions for preexisting conditions. Either way, the end result for pet insurance is the same - The owner ultimately pays.

Monday, Oct 03, 2011
Saving Money With Good Communication
By Dr. Chris Pinney
Monday, Oct 03, 2011 07:20
Veterinary visits aren't cheap these days. But in many instances, they can't be avoided. As a result, your goal should be to maximize the return on your investment. And one way to do this is to ensure effective communication with your veterinarian the minute you walk through the door.
Here are a few tips/recommendations:

1. Never leave an appointment without your important questions answered or without fully understanding your pet's treatment/management instructions. That said, you don't want to ask too many questions. Appointments are usually allotted 15 minutes each, so be sure to prioritize those you want answered the most. Write them down ahead of time.

2. Describe, but don't diagnose your pet's condition.

Describing accurate symptoms to your veterinarian, including time of onset, rapidity of onset (did it come on slow or fast?) and the character of the symptom, can often help your vet establish a diagnosis without having to resort to lots of diagnostic tests, which can save both time and money in the long run.

3.Don't be afraid to tell your veterinarian that you did your research on the Internet.

Some vets cringe when they hear a client has turned to the Internet for information. I don't. To me, it simply means that the client is being proactive about his/her pet's health, and that's a good thing. However, understand that what you find on the Internet may not, in fact, be correct (go figure!), so your veterinarian's assessment is all the more valuable. Yet, that information you glean from the cloud could help your vet reach a diagnosis that much faster.

4.Try not to distract your veterinarian with questions while she is performing an exam on your pet.

Doing so could cause her to miss physical clues pertinent to your pet's condition. Instead, let your vet ask the questions during the exam. Your answers to those questions will serve to complement the exam and enhance its effectiveness.

As you can see, good communication during a veterinary visit is cost-effective and very important to your pet's overall health. Do your research and formulate your questions prior to the visit. Not only will you save time that way, but you'll know enough to carry on a viable two-way conversation with your pet's health care provider.

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011
It's More Important Than Ever to Keep Your Dog on Heartworm Prevention
By Dr. Chris Pinney
Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011 09:14
Veterinarians across the country have been notified by the large pharma company, Merial, that the drug Immiticide, used to treat heartworm disease in dogs, will be unavailable for an indefinite period of time. No real reason was given for this, but it does mean one thing: Many dogs currently infected with heartworms are going to suffer because of it.
Merial holds the patent for this drug, which means that demand can't be fulfilled by alternative manufacturers. Personally, I can't understand why the FDA doesn't yank that patent and allow other companies to manufacture the drug. Heartworm disease is just too prevalent to allow this to happen. If there were other fast kill treatments available, that would be one thing. But there aren't. Merial needs to do a better job informing the veterinary community about what exactly is going on. Hopefully steps are being taken to remedy the problem and prevent this from happening in the future.
Okay, enough ranting. The bottom line: Giving your dog his/her heartworm preventive medication every month is more important than ever. So be sure to mark it in big red letters on your calender. 

Sunday, Sep 11, 2011
New IPhone App and People with Ear Mites
By Dr. Chris Pinney
Sunday, Sep 11, 2011 01:07
There's a new IPhone app that's worthy of mention and it's called Dog Trainer Pro. It provides training and behavioral tips and advice for both puppies and adult dogs. The developer is a canine behavior specialist and  provides science-based advice. Many veterinarians refer to this site for info when faced with patient behavioral challenges, so you can bet the info offered is good!


Did You Know?

People can get ear mites from their dogs and cats! Although not considered a noteworthy zoonotic disease, there have been reports of ear mites infesting the ear canals of pet owners. Not only that, mites that are especially active can also cause itchy bumps on the hands and arms as well. 

One veterinarian actually placed mite-infested debris from a patient into his own ear to see if this was really true (I know, I know...). He found out it was. The way he described it, the mites seemed most active at night and not only that, the chewing sounds and movement going on within his ear kept him awake! Disgusting.

The moral to the story: Wash your hands after treating your pet for ear mites. And you might want to avoid that particular vet as well!

Here's your Insider Laugh of the Week:



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.


Have you ever wondered which is better, Heartgard or Interceptor? For the answer, check out this latest video posted on the Veterinary Insider YouTube Channel   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPh6x9lDuyc

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.

Stay tuned!

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 Court ordered the seizure of all generic off-shoots of the popular flea and tick control product, Frontline Plus, due to blatant patent infringement.

Those generics include Protektor Plus, TrustGard Plus, Velcera Fipronil Plus, and PetArmor Plus, the latter of which decorated the shelves of Walmart and Sams Clubs across the country.

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
Steroid Phobia
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.


Pet Insurance


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.   


Heartworm Resistance


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.


Good decision.

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Pruritic Paws
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!

Howling Cats

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:


  1. You have young children or senior adults living at your house
  2. An immunocompromised individual (i.e. cancer patients, HIV, rheumatoid patients, etc.) lives at your house
  3. You plan on enrolling your pet as a therapy pet (i.e. to schools, hospitals, nursing homes).
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!