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A Kernel of Truth

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Random fact for your next trivia night, when the world returns to normal:  the brand Nabisco came from the National Biscuit Company!  You might ask why we are talking about cookies in a veterinary medical blog – Milk Bone was purchased by Nabisco in 1931 and began the first sales of dog food in grocery stores.   Since then, the commercial pet food market has expanded, slowly at first, then exponentially as we embraced pets as family members and identified the value of nutrition in coat quality, intestinal health and the management of all sorts of health conditions.

In 2007 toxic levels of melamine, an ingredient added to foods to increase the measured protein content, were found in hundreds of commercial pet foods and led to a national pet food recall. The toxic compound led to kidney damage and death in over one hundred pets. The Melamine Pet Food Recall is believed to have contributed to pet owners’ enhanced interest in what they feed their pets and began a movement towards BEG (boutique, exotic and grain-free) diets with trends toward unusual protein sources like salmon, duck and venison, the feeding of raw meat and bones, and using lentils and chick peas as alternative protein sources to wheat and corn.

How we feed ourselves and our pets is a very personal decision, influenced by our health, our values, our finances and information we gather from many sources.  For the vast majority of pets, a family’s dietary decision-making will have relatively little impact on overall health. There are exceptions, though, and evidence is emerging about a link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs.  Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle itself that destroys the effective “pump” mechanism of heart in moving blood throughout the body.   It’s a disease we encounter more often than we’d like to in Boxers, Dobermans and other large breed dogs. 40 years ago in cats and 20 years ago in dogs, researchers discovered that a dietary deficiency of taurine, a protein building block, was causing cardiomyopathy in animals with no genetic predisposition.  Nutritionists and cardiologists are now seeing this same type of heart disease in dogs eating grain free diets.  While they are still investigating the association, it does seem that Golden Retrievers are more likely to have DCM when eating grain-free diets.  Veterinarians are now advised to check taurine levels on newly diagnosed DCM patients, especially if the dog has been eating a grain-free diet. 

Our veterinarians would love to talk with you about the current science behind nutrition and integrate their knowledge with your goals and philosophies about feeding your pets.  For us, nutrition is one of many parts of a preventive healthcare program tailored to keep your pet with you as long and as healthy as possible!  

 

Opening up = Socially Distancing From Our Dogs

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At this writing, Santa Cruz County is slowing spreading its wings again.  There’s traffic on Highway 1, there is more than 1 Starbucks open for mobile order pickup, and stores are starting to post large OPEN signs.  As the restrictions of shelter in place lift and we start to venture out of our homes again, especially for longer periods of time and including returning to work, there may be one group of family members whose stress actually increases: our dogs. 

Jokes about dogs hiding so they don’t have to go on yet another walk aside, most canine companions will have enjoyed the enhanced people time.  Sudden withdrawal of our companionship has a huge potential to bring on separation anxiety, a heightened stress level that results in pacing, drooling, destruction, urinating and pooping in the house, distressed howling or barking, and self-trauma through licking incessantly or trying to break through a door or window.

Now is the time to begin to acclimate your dog to spending more time alone, rather than asking her to simply accept your extended absence in the weeks to come.  There are multiple resources available and we are happy to help you develop a plan for your family pets – just give us a call.  A few areas of focus as you begin:

  • Work to promote independence. Just as we’d love to have our children play independently for part of a day, you want your dog to be comfortable if she can’t see or touch you constantly.  Using her bed, crate or “blankie”, and interactive toys like Kongs, etc.  introduce periods of time where she is physically and visually separated from you.  We have lots of written resources on how to do this, and internet information abounds!
  • “No More Drama”. This is one of the tenets of the canine formulation of ProzacR behavior modification plan.  There’s nothing like the pure joy dogs exhibit when we come home to make us feel special.  When we feed into that with our sweet-talking “Daddy’s home my little love bucket” and pair it with a baby voice “Mommy’ll be home soon, don’t be sad!!” when we leave, our dogs hear the tone of our voice and know something BIG is happening, which can introduce stress.  Develop low key arrivals and departures to smooth out the emotional roller coaster of their days.
  • If you already know your dog is vulnerable to anxiety, with or without you, and you anticipate spending significantly less time at home in the coming weeks, consider short-term anxiety aids like Zylkene and Adaptil. Zylkene is an evidence-based milk protein supplement that can be given during transitional periods to lower stress. It’ll take about 4-5 days to create an effect and can be continued for weeks while change is happening.  Adaptil is a pheromone, a scent that creates a behavioral effect (think musk in perfume!).  It’s a synthetic version of the scent that’s released around a dam’s milk glands when a puppy is nursing.  It’s available in a collar that works for 30 days, a perfect time frame for this period of transition (and also in a spray or diffuser).  Both products are available through our website’s on-line store without a prescription.

As always, the Chanticleer team is here to maximize your joy and quality of time with your dogs and minimize the challenges that come along with loving them.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out by phone, email or in person.  We’re also becoming fairly adept at telemedicine, if that works best for you!

 

CBD Products and Your Pets: Don’t Just Jump On The Bandwagon!

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There are fads, and there are things that survive the test of time. (There are also things that we thought were fads, like bell bottoms, that circle back every few decades, and dog bikinis, which we wish hadn’t survived the test of time!). Some notable pet fads:  BARF (bones and raw food) diets, which led to developmental bone diseases in large breed dogs, fractured teeth and lots of surgeries to remove bones from blocked intestines; not vaccinating dogs for fear of causing thyroid diseases; and grain free diets, which are now being associated with heart muscle diseases in some breeds.  Novelties that sounded sketchy at first but are now being embraced by science/evidence-based medicine:  decreasing the frequency of some vaccinations; choosing not to spay or neuter or neuter some breeds later in life to prevent health problems; acupuncture; the herb Yunnan Baiyao to treat bleeding problems.

It’s too early to tell whether using CBD products in pets is going to just be a flash in the pan or will survive the test of time and science.   Certainly, industry and veterinary colleges are intensely researching the possibilities given what we hear about its health properties in people. California veterinarians are prohibited by state law from making specific recommendations about CBD products for animals. If you are in our exam room and ask about using CBD products, we can provide you with facts regarding what studies have been done and by whom and what concerns exist regarding negative effects.  Generally, though, to all pet owners, we can also provide the following baseline education on the vocabulary being used for the products and general safety guidelines.  

Cannabis is a genus of plants.  Within that genus, like an umbrella term, are the two words we have  heard most commonly over the years – hemp and marijuana.  What distinguishes these two is how much THC, the ingredient that causes a “high”, each contains.  Because hemp has such low levels of THC, it is not considered a controlled drug, although oils, leaves and juices have been used for medicinal purposes and as a recreational drug.

THC is one of many cannabinoids, which are compounds from Cannabis plants that interact with receptors in the body.  The other cannabinoid we now easily recognize is CBD. Unlike THC, it’s not considered intoxicating and may have favorable effects on animal biologic processes.  There are other compounds within the plants as well, terpenes and flavonoids, which interact with the cannabinoids and alter their effects on the body.  

There are lots of things to be aware of if you’re considering using CBD containing products in your pet – it’s not as straightforward and safe as the rows of products on stores shelves might suggest and, as with anything you’re spending money on to put in a body, it’s worth gathering information first.  Remember, there is no regulatory oversight on the safety of these products. There are also large differences between the safety of THC in dogs and in people, and large differences between recommended doses of CBD and whether to use products containing just cannabinoids or also including the terpene and flavonoids compounds, which lead to something called the “entourage effect”.  Safety information is just becoming available and in very small numbers of patients.  Information from testing in small numbers of patients does not always hold true when applied to millions of patients – human and veterinary medicine have proved that over and over again.   If you’re struggling with a health concern with your pet we encourage you to voice that frustration to us – it’s our calling to help you navigate your options, both traditional and alternative, in keeping with your personal perspective on health management.   

How COVID-19 is Affecting Chanticleer Veterinary

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March 19, 2020.  Santa Cruz County is currently under a shelter in place order.  Veterinary medicine is considered a health field, so Chanticleer Veterinary is fully operational, with enhanced (over what was already a strong in hospital infectious disease control program) sanitation practices, lobby closure, curbside service and opportunities for telemedicine for our patients whom we have seen in the past year.

We have postponed elective procedures that require sterile non-reusable paper products and face masks, acknowledging that these products we’ve used liberally in the past are now in scarce supply and urgently important in human health.  Of particular importance to us, though, is providing urgent and emergency care for your pets as the “regular” concerns like vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and bleeding occur. This week we saw a 9-month-old bulldog whose exuberant “mounting” behavior led to blood spurting from his penis that could have been straight out of a Grey’s Anatomy episode! 

It is also important, though, to maintain ongoing pet preventive healthcare that might lead to urgent medical problems.  Specifically, if you have young pets who have not completed their vaccination series, we want you to come in and continue those; we can accommodate almost any method of getting  vaccinations to your pet that you request. Also, we recommend that if you receive a rabies vaccination reminder for your pet you let us update that. Vaccinations for lifestyle-associated, non-“core” vaccines like influenza and leptospirosis should stay current if you’re going to continue those particular lifestyles. If you’re taking advantage of the great outdoors for your social distancing and your dog is with you, keep that lepto vaccination current.  While it may be unlikely that you’ll travel for leisure, if you need to rely on a kennel for pet care during a time of illness, please keep all vaccines current.

We continue to rely on the American Veterinary Medical Association for science-based information on how to respond to the coronavirus threat.  We encourage you to visit www.avma.org and click on the COVID-19 link.   Here are some of the specifics:

  • None of the experts have any proof or concerns that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to human or other animal family members
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, interact with your pet just like you always do! Maintain regular good hygiene – wash your hands before and after petting, keep pet coats clean, wash food and water bowls daily with soap and regularly clean bedding and toys.  Remember – there have always been germs that animals can spread to people so most of these apply even in regular times!
  • To be safe, until we know all there is to learn about this virus, if you are infected with the virus we recommend you limit contact with your pet. If you have a service animal and you must interact, no kissing or hugging and wash your hands before and after touching them or harnesses.

Most importantly:  in this time of increased stress and increased time at home, celebrate how lucky you are to have a pet!  The human animal bond has always sustained us when emotions are high – they don’t care if you have toilet paper or not, they actively avoid social distancing, and a vigorous tail wag and shining eyes or a loud purr and bread-making paws will always lower blood pressure.  Take the time to accept those gifts.  Be well.

Coronavirus and Pets

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Amidst the ongoing spread of the Coronavirus, we have received several questions from concerned pet owners about the health of their furry family members. At this time, we would like to refer people to this publication by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to answer some of those frequently asked questions.

American Veterinary Medical Association publication on Coronavirus and pets

 

We want to make this seemingly chaotic time as stress-free for you and your pets as possible. As always, we do recommend that your pet(s) are up to date on their annual exam and vaccinations, as well as keeping those important documents in an easily accessible area. 

Prevention

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Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for short) asked Americans to prepare for “severe” disruptions in our daily lives as they anticipate that the novel coronavirus will eventually begin spreading in the U.S. On that scale, Chanticleer Veterinary Hospital asks you to be sure that we have your email address and or current phone numbers on file and that your pets’ annual exams are current. With that information if, and we all hope this doesn’t happen, quarantines are put in place and we’re not able to meet you in our office for your veterinary needs, we’ll still have enough of a current veterinary-client-patient relationship that we can provide what will hopefully be useful advice by phone or email. We will make sure we have communication lines open for that purpose.

On a much smaller scale, though, preventive care has always been and will continue to be the best path to meeting our shared goals of keeping your pets with you for as long as possible and at as high a quality of life as possible.   “A year in a dog’s life equals 7 years in our lives” may be a cliché, but it rings true and applies (approximately) to cats as well. We don’t ask that you let us examine them once a year, ill or not, for the revenue it drives, although we acknowledge our need to make a living at our chosen profession. We ask that because they become less than healthy in subtle, hidden ways and if we find those health concerns early we can make so much difference in what happens over time – for their health, your joy, and your pocketbook. In a world where you don’t “flip their lips” (because why would you??), they can’t tell you they have an ache in their belly (and no one wishes they could talk more than us!), a declining appetite because of illness is attributed to being finicky (unless you’re a Labrador!), and weight loss and changes in behavior are chalked up to old age, a once a year physical exam is the best use of $60 we can imagine.  Let us do our best work for you…

A Historical Perspective

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All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

 

This poem, originally envisioned as a hymn for children, was written by Cecil Alexander in 1848.  The lyrics became hugely popular in the seventies when a British veterinarian writing under the name James Herriot published a series of memoirs about life as a country vet in England before and after World War II. The series was “required reading” for pre-veterinary students at the time and most of us of a certain age can easily quote the stories, we’ve read the books so many times. 

Although beliefs in who the creator is and how creation came to be vary among us, Dr. Herriot’s fundamental values of meeting the needs of both the animals and the humans in his community continue to motivate us here at Chanticleer Veterinary Hospital, now in our fourth decade of serving our community. We walk in the world of wanting to keep you and your pets together for as long as possible, sharing as high of a quality of life as possible.