Thursday, May 23, 2013

#FurbabyFridays Revisits Heat Stroke and Warm Weather Death Traps

I originally posted the following blog on May 9, 2012. In light of the death of a patient because it was left in a car at a BART station for nearly 7 HOURS while the owner went off for the day to Goddess knows what, I thought it was important to bring up the topic again. The day this Pit bull died? It was in the low 70's and clear blue skies. We weren't dealing with a heat wave, just a sunny day and a dog left in a car that quickly became an oven and an instrument of death.

Don't like the thought of a dog seizuring out of control for hours? Don't like the image in your head? Me either and neither did the Good Samaritans who called the police when they saw the dog seizuring in that car. Please, please, please! Don't leave your pets or your children in cars alone unattended while you "run a quick errand." Leaving them home or with supervision and the  air conditioner on could save their lives. 

Read on to learn more about heat stroke.
~Dr. Tammy

People don't often realize how dangerous warm weather can be for their pets. Not only are there the obvious dangers of being hit by cars, allergic reactions to insect bites, snake bites, and the ever "evil" pieces of weed seed called foxtails commonly found here in California, there is something else that ranks up pretty high in the danger list as the temperatures rise above 70 degrees.

Heatstroke is unfortunately a very common occurrence this time of year, and not just for dogs left in cars. Although rare in cats, it has been reported in cases were the feline was trapped in a clothes dryer, left in carriers in hot vehicles or indoors with little or no ventilation. Exotic pets can also be victims. Rabbits, chinchillas, rats and guinea pigs are frequently presented to emergency veterinarians near death because their hutches and cages are placed in areas with little or no shade and are provided with little to no water while their body temperatures soar.

For the purpose of this article, I will focus more on dogs, but honestly all the information discussed here can be applied to the other furry friends. There are many ways animals can become dangerously overheated. Dogs have sweat glands only on the pads of their feet and cool themselves primarily by panting. When the air is hot and humid, they cannot rid themselves of the excess heat efficiently. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is more likely to occur during the first hot days of spring or summer when it's 70-75 degrees than on a 100 degree day in August.

Why? Because by the end of summer dogs are used to the heat and typically their owners know enough by then to take it easy with themselves and their pets. It's early on when dogs and people are simply not acclimated to the heat and can easily overexert themselves in the new warm temperatures.

Quite a few people travel with their pets when the days are warm, even running errands with their pets "riding shotgun." Unfortunately, unless you plan on leaving the engine running and the air conditioning on full blast, leaving your dog in the car while you run into that store for a "few seconds" is simply NOT an option. Whether or not you leave the windows down or up, park in the shade or not, it doesn't matter. Here's a chart demonstrating how hot the inside of the car can get at various outdoor temperatures.

Pretty frightening isn't it? Within 20 minutes your car can be 30 degrees warmer than the outside temperature! Being left inside a car isn't the only cause of heat stroke. Here are a few others.
1. Physical exertion during the heat of the day. This can include going for a run with their owner, playing outside, running along the backyard fence, etc. Heat stroke can even occur inside if the house is warm and the dog becomes excited.
2. Being outdoors in hot weather without access to cool water and shade. Dogs that are tied or kenneled outside can sometimes get trapped out of reach of shade or water.

3. Being a certain breed whose physical conformation makes them unable to cool themselves effectively. Bulldogs, Boxers, Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Boston Terriers, etc all have short noses, small airways and excess tissue at the back of their throats that can make it difficult to get rid of excess heat.
4. Confinement in a poorly ventilated cage or crate especially under a cage dryer such as when a dog is being groomed.
5. Being overweight
6. Having medical ailments such as heart or airway diseases that can impair breathing. Heart failure, arrhythmias, laryngeal paralysis, pulmonary hypertension, asthma, and bronchitis can all make dogs predisposed to heatstroke.
7. Being very old or very young

So what are some of the symptoms of heatstroke? Each patient is different, but if you see any of these with your dog on a hot day, it would be wise to seek help from a veterinarian earlier rather than later.

1. Heavy panting: rapid or labored breathing
2. Bright or brick red gums. These may also be dry to the touch
3. Weakness or collapse
4. Elevated rectal temperature. Normal is between 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Seek IMMEDIATE veterinary care if the temperature is 105 or higher. Once an animal's body temperature approaches 109 degrees, brain damage is highly likely.
5. Vomiting
6. Bloody diarrhea
7. Dark urine
8. Bleeding from the mouth
9. Seizure or coma
DEATH can occur within 20 minutes or in a couple of days from delayed complications such as kidney failure.

Now that you've scared the heck out of us, what do we do to prevent our pets from getting heatstroke?

It's all basic common sense. Don't leave your dog in the car when the outdoor temperatures are over 70 degrees and definitely not on bright sunny days. Restrict your pets activity during the heat of the day. Don't go jogging at high noon with your dog. It's way too hot for him and for you. 

Allow your pets to gradually acclimate to warm weather, especially if they are physically active. Always provide access to shade and cool water when dogs are outside Keep breeds at risk, very old, very young or dogs with health conditions indoors in cool, well ventilated areas. If there is a heat advisory issued, please keep all animals inside. If unable to do so, use misters, fans, or wading pools to provide extra cooling measures for outdoor pets.

What do we do if our pet does suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke?

First of all, try not to panic! Your pet needs swift and immediate intervention in order to give it the best chance of survival.
1. Immediately move the dog indoors or to a cool area. If in an enclosed crate, remove the dog from it immediately.
2. Wet the dog down with cool water. Do not use ice water as that will make internal cooling more difficult by constricting blood vessels.
3. Take the rectal temperature. If it's over 105 degrees, transport immediately for veterinary care. Know where the nearest emergency clinic is located. Call en route to let them now you are coming.
4. Do not cover your dog during transport, not even with a wet towel as that can prevent heat from escaping.
5. Offer water to drink during transport, though not to a vomiting patient. Only offer small amounts of water at a time and do not force it down your pet!
6. Transport in an air-conditioned car or lower windows so circulating air can help with evaporative cooling.
7. Stop cooling measures when the rectal temperature reaches 103 degrees so you don't over do it and result in hypothermia.
8. Even if your pet seems to respond to treatment, it is still best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian to check for internal problems. Complications from heat stroke can develop several hours to days later due to organ damage caused by high internal temperatures.

Still not convinced it could happen to you and your beloved pet? Click on the link below...

The above link is to a graphic that I found today discussing what actually happens to that dog left in a car on a nice day...even with the windows down! I see way too many cases of heat stroke during the nice days here in California. The biggest excuse I hear from people? "I was only gone a few seconds." Yeah, right! You try staying in a hot car with a fur coat for just a few seconds and you tell me how you feel. What you THINK is only a few seconds is actually a few seconds too long when it comes to the health and well being of your dog.

Not only is this dangerous for dogs, it's also a problem for cats, rabbits, other small rodents and birds. Why take the chance people! Leave you pets at home when you run errands, or have someone stay in the car with them with the air conditioner running.

Did you know that in most cities across the country it is ILLEGAL to leave a pet unattended in a car? Just because you haven't been caught doing it, doesn't mean that it's okay to keep doing it. So please, please, please be a responsible pet owner and keep them safe in ALL weather!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

#FurbabyFridays: The Oath That Breaks Your Heart

This has been one hell of a week for me the veterinarian.  I’ve seen the best of pet owners and the very worst humanity has to offer. It’s the worst cases that weigh heavily on my heart today. I’m at a loss as to how to fix the overall ignorance of more and more of the people walking into our hospital doors. At every single turn we’re tossed road blocks and speed bumps that prevent us from upholding the oath we take when we become veterinarians.  Not only are we prevented from upholding it, we are constantly told we aren’t doing what we’re sworn to do by clueless individuals. These people have no idea what the oath states and most assuredly no understanding for what those words mean.  Here’s what the veterinarians before 2010 recited at their graduation ceremonies:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Now here’s the “revised oath” adopted by the AVMA since 2010 and recited by every graduate of a veterinary school in the United States.

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Read the words carefully. Where in there does it say that as veterinarians we are obligated by our oath to give away our services for free? Yes, we can and do eliminate suffering for animals presented to us by offering humane euthanasia at no cost. Yes, we do stabilize an animal that is in shock and pain until the owners can be found at no charge to the owner. Yes we do perform many services, nursing and supportive care to our four legged patients in need, often at a reduced or NO COST to the owner of the pet.   But nowhere in that oath does it say we have to vaccinate you pets for free, microchip your pets for free, give you free medications to treat your pet that’s been sick for months all for free.

Nowhere does it say we are responsible for your decision to NOT vaccinate your 10 month old puppy and then have to give you all the medications necessary to treat the same puppy because it contracted parvo due to YOUR negligence.

Nowhere does it say we have to perform the third C-section on your dog because you refuse to have her spayed after the first difficult pregnancy.  You didn’t think her “son” would breed with her since they were “related” even after we told you that doesn’t matter in the animal kingdom!

Nowhere does it say that we have to keep treating each and every new puppy you bring into our clinic with parvo FOR FREE because you didn’t listen to us when we told you the virus is deadly and can survive in the environment for at least six months to a year. We BEGGED you not to bring another puppy into your contaminated house and yard and yet you decided you and Dr. Google knew better than those of us who “took an oath.”

I take my oath very seriously that’s why I spend the time with you in the exam room and on the many phone calls you make to my hospital daily. I’m not trying to “rip you off” by recommending “unnecessary” tests. I’m trying to give the information you need to make informed decisions about the care and wellbeing of your pet.  Part of that oath I took implores me to “protect animal health and welfare.” I’m trying to do that by recommending the appropriate vaccinations for your pet’s lifestyle, the proper flea control methods and heartworm preventatives.  I’m “promoting public health” by discussing and recommending flea control for all of your pets, routine dewormings and fecal testing.  Many diseases can be spread to humans through parasites that infect animals. This is part of my job daily…and the bane of my life as a veterinarian.

Why?  Because so called experts online and those in the community who’ve “owned pets all their lives” claim to know more than I do and tell many of my clients to ignore all vets. “You don’t need that fancy flea control. Just feed your animals garlic.” “You don’t need no heartworm prevention. I’ve had dogs for over 30 years and not one of them have ever got it.”   “They’re all about money.”

Not in my hospital. Each and every one of my colleagues, nursing staff, and receptionists bust their butts daily for the health and wellbeing of our patients and their owners.  We work short-handed and hours after our scheduled shifts to make sure our patients get the care they need. We hold our patients in their last moments on this earth when their owners couldn’t bear to watch them die or just didn’t want to deal with them anymore.

At the beginning of the week, I had to step in and tell a pet owner enough was enough. No amount visits to my office or specialists were going to bring back their beloved Dalmatian to his glory. The poor thing was in full dementia, could no longer stand and refused to eat. He continued to yelp out in pain and at times for no apparent reason. This wasn’t the dog I first saw in my office many years ago. This was a shell of skin and bones the owner clung to. Both were suffering and I had to beg my client to please let me take away his best friend’s pain.

So the next time you think veterinarians are just out to get your money, think about that Dalmatian and his best friend and owner.  Think about YOUR responsibility as the owner and guardian of your own pets. Maybe if perspective pet owners had to take an oath such as the one I had to take, there wouldn’t be so many unwanted animals in the shelters. 

Maybe there still wouldn’t be so many unvaccinated puppies dying of distemper and parvovirus  annually.  Maybe there wouldn’t be owners just callously tossing their little Yorkie aside because they didn’t want to be bothered with the nursing care it would take to save her.  Instead, they tossed a hundred dollar bill down and walked out munching on their McMuffin as they went.

Maybe there would be more people setting up relief organizations that help pet owners with the cost of the care of their pets instead of pushing it off onto veterinarians and overcrowded shelters because we “took an oath.”

Maybe there would be more people spreading the CORRECT information about what it takes to keep pets healthy instead of perpetuating mistruths and Old Wives tales as facts. 

And maybe there wouldn’t be such a high rate of burn out in this profession.  Walk a few days in my shoes and you’ll learn a hell of a lot more than you ever wanted to know about the joys and the sorrows of being a veterinarian or veterinary technician.  The fuzzy kittens and chubby puppies will steal your heart while the injuries and diseases that attack them will shatter it into a million pieces.

~Dr. Tammy

Friday, May 3, 2013

Veterinarian, Poet, Author, Blogger, Reviewer, Publisher and...Ordained Minister?

My Universal Life Church Ordination

Click here to get ordained.

You didn't read the title of my post incorrectly. Along with all the other hats I juggle daily, I'm also an ordained minister. The above graphic is a copy of my certificate that the Universal Life Church Monastery creates for me to use on any of my sites and social media.  As you can see by the date, I've been ordained since January.  Why'd I take so long to announce it?  Well, a lot was going on at that time and I sort of put this on the back burner.

My dear friend Tara asked me if I would honor her and her fiancee Aaron and perform their wedding ceremony. At that time, she didn't have an exact date  planned, just that she wanted me to be the one to help them proclaim their love to each other in front of their family and friends.  You better believe I said yes! 

Tara and Aaron live in Michigan so I made sure that state would recognize my credentials...and they do. No additional information was needed from me other than the certificate from the Monastery.  

The wedding is in August and we're working on what the couple wants to have in their ceremony. They are anything but traditional so it's going to be a little bit of this and a little bit of that joining the Christian and Pagan faiths as they are joining their families. I'm honored and blessed they asked me to join in their celebration in this manner. Now the hard part of paring down all our ideas into a short, sweet, and loving ceremony that joins this couple as well as their children from previous marriages.  I have no doubt it will be a ceremony to remember!

How do I know? My husband and I were married by his cousin who is also and ordained minister with the Universal Life Church and it was the happiest day of my life! I hope I can give Tara and Aaron even half the memorable day Liam's cousin gave to us.


Wildfire Romance Series