Why do dogs eat grass

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A problem mystifying veterinarians and dog owners, the answers aren’t black and white. But, since grass ingestion rarely causes a linear foreign body in the gut (think hoddie string with a buried end creating an accordion effect on the hood), a complete gastrointestinal obstruction or toxicity if chemicals are present, there’s been little research on this. Some research has been published by Dr. Karen Sueda, et al in the journal Applied Animal Behavior.

Surveys online & patients at UC Davis provided insight with owners reporting 79% of dogs exposed to plants daily had ingested some greenery.  Of those 68% did so daily or weekly but the remainder did so monthly or less. 79% of ingesters frequently chose grass but only 9% of those appeared ill before ingestion. 22% vomited afterwards. That confirms what dog owners already know: grass eating is pretty popular among many dogs while others don’t indulge and certain dogs seem to really have a taste for it and occasionally it causes vomiting.

Neither gender, neuter status, breed group or diet type predicted which dogs ate plants. The thing plant-eating dogs had in common was a young age. Young dogs less frequently showed signs of illness prior to ingestion but did show less vomiting afterwards. I believe the parasite theory as the cause for grass eating because younger dogs have more parasites. Whether your younger dog actually does depends on lifestyle and veterinary care but an instinct for young dogs to eat grass is proposed. Parasites may be dislodged when roughage passes through the digestive tract and migrating hookworms especially cause an “itchy esophagus.” Some unlucky owners have seen their puppies vomit worms so stimulating vomiting does clear some parasites.

Realistically, dogs likely eat grass for many reasons. Though grass has fiber and vitamins, canine stomachs like ours, are not capable of utilizing it. Some grass eaters are diagnosed with stomach ulcers and did stop when treated. Some veterinarians believe vomiting is the goal so fur and bones of prey that would not pass in wild ancestors of our dogs passed down the doggy instinct to eat grass if your stomach is upset. The last and most difficult to determine cause is behavioral. Disnterest in current activities, boredom or compulsion could make grass eating an entirely different animal.

So, what to do about grass eating? We recommend the following: don’t allow overindulgence, be sure the grass hasn’t been treated, deworm your dog annually, keep an eye out for unhealty stools and if you’re battling a real obessession try a putting half a meal in a treat ball if boredom is suspected. Of course, see your vet if you become concerned about any feeding behavior in your dog. The last thought which is a good idea is try a bedtime snack for grass hounds since a sour empty stomach in the morning may induce grass eating. Happy Spring from all of us here at Woof and Purr Vet!

I Can’t Kill the Internet but It Really Could Kill Me

Getting the Most Out of Your Vet During The Rise of Dr Google

How to Help your Pet’s Doctor Help Your Pet

Googled to Death

I want to. Kill it, I mean. Not always. But often enough.

Don’t get me wrong, in my free time it’s aces at feeding me pet pictures and Netflix. Maybe the occasional shopping spree. I relish net neutrality and would be lost without the sleepy glow of HBO Go and for insomnia, Wikipedia. In a way, I couldn’t live without it. But that’s no big whoop.

What’s increasingly terrifying is that increasingly, it takes almost more valor than I can muster to continue to fight with Dr. Google. I’m thinking I’m not the only one. Others are sloggin it out too. I see him running around waving a gazillion different flags like he’s conquered every informational hill there is. He must be gaining ground, I hear about his increasing sphere of influence all day. And I mean ALL DAY. But is he conquering us to rule, or is it something worse?

Sometimes I worry he’s going to kill us all. Today I watched him almost crush a dog. And it was so easy to see how it could have gone much much worse. But the whole scenario never felt that way to mostly everyone standing right there. Am I looney? I see myself, from the outside. Waving my arms and raising my voice. I’m not entirely sure this Dr. Google has anyone’s best interests at heart. Yelling “stop” or “he’s a cop” or whatever. It doesn’t register. No one figures out what I’m sayin in time and then it’s on to Benicio del Toro with a gun like lodged in his head for way over an hour, blabbering on and on. Like me.

And I’m pretty sure Dr. Google is just trying to get everyone’s attention. It’s working. He’s probably not even real. I look like Super Chicken. No grace, blind panic. I don’t even have a martini and I can’t breathe. My friend is possibly dyslexic.

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It’s no news that he always changes his story. Dr. Google is a charming people pleaser. A cocktail-party chameleon. Which is a pretty big acheivement for a soulless bank of potentially questionable data! But hey, give the people what they want.

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We could imagine he’s:

  1. an kindly old country doc (say Pol and I will lose it)
  2. the young-but-confident endocrinologist we hope has all the cutting edge hormone info?
  3. Maybe that trustworthy TCM/herbalist or the friendly neighborhood pharmacist (not taday!)
  4. He could absolutely be that! If he doesn’t end up being Quincy and someone’s on the slab.
HE NEVER GOT A DECENT SCOPE.

HE NEVER GOT A DECENT SCOPE.

He will tell people exactly what they want to hear because he only responds to queries. Ask the wrong questions or don’t ask the right ones, and his response is as reliable as your phrasing. Or maybe the correct answer was there to be gotten, but that answer was all bland and clinical with some beigy yawn fest site. The zesty answer was: SURE, YEAH, IT’S FINE, GO AHEAD!!! It’s very tempting to have a great idea about something possible and get immediate gratification. There it is: confirmation right there for the clicking. SEE!!! It says I was right, It’s all right here. Look! SPARKLES It’s going to be all right. Who wants to hear that it’s worse than we thought? Our easy solutions won’t work? It will be expensive and there are no guarantees everything will be ok? Unless I’m feeling pretty fatalistic, I’m mostly going to choose “it’s just a mole.”

The world is dangerous. You knew that. I am not giving away some secret. But who wants to think they can’t make life safer for their friends and family? We all want to suck it up and figure it out and be informed. Dr. Google is a TOTAL ENABLER!!!! If you ask and poke him a bit, he will tell you exactly how to fix it all yourself. Even worse, he will find other people willing to help you fix it. Except sometimes, it just gets worse.

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It happened today with that dog. There was owners. Bargain-hunters like myself. Gotta respect a deal! There was a big box store – hey, that’s where the deals are. There was the stupid aforementioned interwebs dangling the options – oooh shiny. And there were the pharmacists. They nearly killed the dog. Dr. Google hired these assassins though.

So here’s me: I’m leaping about, pounding a kettle with a wooden spoon, squealing and pleading. Look at the bones strewn about! The lady behind the big formica counter (well, we are on the phone so I’m embellishing for effect) just thinks I’m raising her blood pressure too much and if I don’t stop trying to micromanage one stupid prescription for a little dog she will have to skip her 3:30 coffee, which she needs. She won’t listen. She won’t provide information. She doesn’t understand the prescription. She just thinks I need to fix it and tells me to do it.

The more I listen to her not listening to me the more scared I become. Then she can’t do basic math! Then she refuses to tell me which formulation she’s giving this dog. She thinks I’m blocking her from making some $10 sale because I’m bitter. I’m wondering how she supposedly has the exact same brand of medication I’m holding on my end and still can’t grasp the plan. The dog’s guy saw the medication, same one, online & it was available in store. That’s why he drove over there. I’m just reminding myself that I said to the owner not 2 hours before to be careful:

SOME HUMAN PHARMACIES CAN BE DICEY

Some know how to deal with animal prescriptions. Lots just fake it. No one wants to look uninformed, right? Murica, go team.

Look, can you imagine what it’s like to wear a uniform and be stuck behind a customer service pick-up window all day at her age after going to professional school for years? Give the woman a desk and a notepad. She’s covered in BPA from thermal receipts. Counting pills for a huge corporation. She must count vials to get to sleep. Rarely remembering your customers or having time to say hi. When does the torture end? One or two creative folks could find fun at that gig. Those folks aren’t Jayme, that’s for sure. I’m not sure I’d be doing anything constructive or even amusing after a very short time. Lots of plans for my next Regretsy submission and waiting for my next vanilla latte break.

Like that lady. The one who had already secretly ordered a xylitol-containing substitute for the medication I prescribed my patient. The owner, well he saw the real stuff for sale online. Mine was more expensive. I get that. I would consider rolling over there and seeing how easy it was. I waved my arms and blabbered on about trusting online pharmacies so he listened & didn’t go that route. At least at the big box store an actual person would make sure he got the right stuff. But they didn’t.

IT WAS JUST SITTING THERE! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

IT WAS JUST SITTING THERE! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

The scary part is that there’s no special training program for pharmacists interested in pet medicine. Not sure there’s even a book for them. One was trained up at VSH. She now works at a Rite Aid by my house. The glimmer is still there. I hope it lasts. There’s a few pharmacists with interest and even fewer with any formal education in veterinary pharmacy. Triple the species baby, double the fun. And of all the pharmacies in all the towns, are you going to happen to walk into hers? Your call.

But not Big Box Bertha today on my phone, no way. She had no intention of learning anything not in her annual review checklist today. No how. I was coming down on her. Not soft but in retrospect, Praise Zeus as hard as I did. I wouldn’t let them alter my script because she was so clearly dangerous. I kinda stopped helping her and declined to complete the approval if she couldn’t tell me what she was ordering for my patient. I sounded like a sour-grapes merchant to her. Oh yeah, progress little worm girl. You’re going down!

I felt I sounded like a school marm. Well, they said I was not nice. I said they were straight up derelict in their duties, and I said it to their faces (well, ears).

I called after I heard it tonight. She almost poisoned him with a solution made for humans. She didn’t understand the sweetener in that medicated syrup kills dogs. Google and Big Box Bertha, Ladies and Gentlemen. Careful of a deal folks. Careful of Big Box Bertha.

LISTEN UP, SHEEPLE!!!

Can you see why I’m with wire cutters and a spritzer trying to cause electrical fires up in this mother? It’s tiring! All that jumping around and trying to get the story straight and clock-punchin Bertha has me painted the hysteric. Yeah, I would have been if my patient wasn’t ok. I’m not the only one with battle fatigue.

I read a very heartbreaking blog recently written by an anonymous pediatrician. She was leaving the profession for the very same reasons many of my colleagues do. The stressors she pointed to were that of profit hunger from higher ups, an over-booked schedule leading to rushed visits, poor work environs, the pressure to cave to the whims of parents and to debate Dr. Google. Ultimately it all snowballed into compassion fatigue. It seems that this physician (who, to me, sounds like a good one) was defeated by the pressures to do other than what felt best for the patients. If you’d like to read what that doctor wrote, it’s here:

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/12/confessions-burnt-physician.html

I THINK GOOGLE KN0WS PEOPLE DO IT, THEY MADE THIS

I THINK GOOGLE KN0WS PEOPLE DO IT, THEY MADE THIS

Some of what this doctor is exhausted from is part of the human healthcare machine and something veterinarians can fairly easily avoid. A lot of it is not. Of course, no one wants their pets or kids seen by an overwhelmed doctor who is struggling to get quickly from one exam room to another but I wondered, how much of this loss of physician competence and zeal and eventual attrition could be prevented? Avoiding certain healthcare systems certainly can lessen one’s chances of getting Dr. Burn Out but doesn’t alleviate all of the problems. The somewhat sister question to this is one I’ve asked myself: “How hard did I just make it for my physician to give me the best care she could?” Sometimes, I don’t love the answer I give myself.

I’ve spent some time on the other side of the exam table, so to speak, and I’ve felt what this pediatrician is feeling. In particular, a couple of girls recently made quite an impression on me. I doubt these clients know each other but it felt like the same girl. Each was entirely convinced that what they read on the interwebs was going to be news to me and something that they needed to inform me of. They spent a majority of our time together (and as my clients know, I give ample time) schooling me about what they read about their pet’s condition or what they thought of meds I should be offering or their negative opinion of what I did offer. I was tempted to ask why they were here if they had it all figured out. I didn’t because I assumed they were just really enthusiastic debaters or that Jenny McCarthy had gotten ahold of them but that they would ultimately trust me. Sadly, they went to the church of Dr. Google and they were true believers.

I will absolutely talk to you about what you read about your dog’s condition online. I want to know and am happy to see you are engaged in your pet’s health care. I want you to come to me because you trust me. I want you to know that I will not try to repair your car for you or plan your wedding if you will just let me help you separate the wheat from the chaff online. Fools write some pretty convincing lies on there. Sometimes I get caught believing something about my car or the housing market. I have to check myself.

I want to be in this field for a long time. I want to fight for your pet’s health. Not for your attention vs WebMD Pets (I have much better places for you to search, my pretties)! G’nite to all the little dogs eyein that bubble gum on the nightstand – down boy.

J

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Trivia question valid for the month of March for 1 free dose of Vectra or 1 free first exam for each pet – who’s that banging on pots n’ pans with the wooden spoon? Name the actor, movie, co-star or character for the win!

Hint: Favorite puppeteer and actor from An American Werewolf in London directs

Tis the Season for Healthful Holiday Pet Celebration!

Sometimes you just have to take it out of their mouth, put back up on the mantle, give them a pet and toast to their joyful oblivion

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Here we are, already past Thanksgiving and heading into the new year in just a month! The weather has changed, many of us are traveling or expecting visitors. Things around the holidays get a little unpredictable for the pets in our lives. If they aren’t getting on a plane, they are exposed to all sorts of holiday fun and sometimes a bit of festive-related peril. To keep it safe, consider the changes in your companion’s routine, diet, environment and the new company that may meet your pet. There will possibly be some decorations, foods and treats, all the added excitement of a visitor and their stuff plus the changing needs of a pet with more company and more exposures than usual. In general dogs and cats differ in two ways. The dog is more willing to eat a variety of things cats would turn down but cat’s have particular unexpected favorites and unique sensitivites making each sensitive to holiday perils and, in case of potential exposures, in need of your supervision and support.

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When it comes to plants, we know to avoid lillies in cats (cannas and water lillies are OK) and that mistletoe, poinsettia and holly can be mild gastrointestinal irritants. But dear festive Lorax, also remember the trees! Fir, spruce or pine tree parts when ingested by cats can cause vomiting, anorexia, abdominal pain and depression. The other tree to watch out for is sneaky. Tea tree oil is a topical antibacterial that you might want to apply to itchy skin or a small scratch noticed during the play time you have if you get some extra time off. Don’t do it! The pure oil is toxic through skin or oral exposure and can lead to difficulty walking, low body temperature, dehydration and coma with exposures as little as 7 drops. Liver damage is possible in cats who are exquisitely sensitive. But, the decorative and over-the-counter topical use of plants may be a whole lot easier to control than the festive feeding frenzy that ensues during most everyone’s holiday season.

When it comes to food, there are some obvious pet/food combo no-no’s to avoid. It’s common knowledged that fatty & spicy foods tend to upset some dog stomachs more than ours but more innocent-looking foods and treats that our companion animals may be eyeing can hold even more peril. Onions and garlic make much of our savory cooking delicious, but via a toxin called n-propyl disulfide which is actually source of their intense flavor, they actually damage the red blood corpuscles (“cells”) of all animals. When the gut transforms the chemicals in onions or garlic to highly reactive oxidative metabolites, these toxins act to basically “rust” the RBCs. This damages the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin and causes anemias which can be chronic and low grade or if eaten in a large dose over a short time, can acutely devastate pet health with overwhelming hemolytic anemias. Without the healthy hemoglobin which can be damaged by these tasty plants in food, the blood cannot carry enough oxygen and so the body compensates resulting high heart rates. Other signs of anemia such as pale gums and weakness can result. We humans can tolerate much more of this oxidative damage and don’t even notice the impact of diets heavy in onions and garlic because our hemoglobin has only 2 reactive sulfhydryl groups which can be altered whereas dogs have 4 and cats have a whopping 8 vulnerable sites on their hemoglobin. Cats are exquisitely sensitive to anemias due to onions or garlic because they also lack the restorative enzyme to combat this damage called methemoglobin reductase. Worse than fresh ingredients are heavily processed and concentrated versions so avoid letting pets have access to any dishes heavy with garlic powder. Baby foods are an unexpected source of onion and garlic exposure for cats and dogs. But, though we don’t see tons of success with the garlic and onion herbal flea remedies especially this season, they have ‘deodorized’ garlic which removes the disulfides and so, though the disulfides would have been the anti-parasitic punch garlic could have provided, the pleasant low-odor formulas pose much less risk.

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On to snacks & dessert, macadamia nuts in chocolate are frequent gifts for friends travelling from Hawaii but, for reasons unknown, these nuts can occasionally cause alarmingly high fevers, loss of the ability to use the hindlimbs and tremors in dogs. Luckily, most of these dogs, despite becoming severely ill, recover in 48 hours from macadamia nut intoxication. The chocolate (and its partner in toxicology, coffee) holds methylxanthines that people can tolerate at far higher doses than dogs. Our canine companions can suffer hyperactivity, increased heart rate and abnormal rhythms, tremors or seizures, high blood pressure and even death following the early signs of vomiting and diarrhea with increased thirst after getting into chocolate or coffee-based products. Cocoa powder or bitter dark chocolate (which is seven times as toxic as milk chocolate) and espresso carry the highest risk but no exposure is worth the immediate trip to the vet we always recommend for this exposure. Cats are sensitive too but far less likely to indulge. The exception is my cat who becomes a raging vacuum with one whiff of chocolate.

But chocolate or not, some baking itself can be a surprising source of potential toxicity. Getting into rising bread dough has sent many a dog to the surgeon’s door for removal & can absolutely be fatal. The pet’s body heat activates fermentation producing alcohol and/or the dough in the gastrointestinal tract can expand to many times larger than what was ingested. Alcohol poisoning and bloating are serious effects dogs can suffer from eating rising bread dough. Molds are another microbe we can find as the fridge fills and the cooking escalates and the trash piles up out back. The tremorgenic mycotoxins molds they produce on spoiled food, such as penitrem-A, can produce more than just shaking. An unsteady gait to even convulsions that can last several days can occur. Dogs who snoop in the holiday trash or escape the yard as merry-makers come and go are more at risk.

Some baked goods inherently contain ingredients that, while relatively safe for people, can be deadly to dogs and possibly even cats. Raisins are frequently found in holiday treats and, though we have no idea why grapes and their dried cousins cause acute kidney failure in many dogs while a few dogs and possibly cats remain immune as we do, the risk with just a few bites of this fruit and this devastating disease make it well worth avoiding. Vomiting and lethargy can be early signs but within 24 hours acute kidney failure is possible and though mysteriously, some dogs can tolerate them since the toxin is unclear, there is no known safe dose. Given the unknowns and lifelong medical costs if they survive, treat any exposure (even 10 raisins from a nephew’s snack box) of grapes or raisins in dogs as an emergency.

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The other purposeful sweet ingredient to watch for is xylitol. This nasty artificial sweetener is now showing up not only in gum and human medications, but also in peanut butter and baking ingredients. The best part is all the new names they use instead of spelling it out that xylitol is in certain products. It’s no use naming them here because more names are created to confuse us about this horrid sweetener every week. So just avoid products with artificial sweeteners altogether to be safe (literally almost every gum included). Xylitol in tiny doses can be absolutely deadly to dogs, causing dangerously low blood sugar which can lead to coma and also acute liver damage. Why manufacturers continue to blithely add this ingredient to a myriad of products without clear warnings is incomprehensible but keep Aunt Minnie’s purse full of chewing gum and the diabetic cupcakes on the coffee table very far from your pets. As an aside, also keep some personal lubricants, makeup & moisturizer products and baby bottle wipes far away from pets for the same reason. Go figure! Lastly, xylitol shows up in many human medications also listed under other those vague new names. This is one of the BEST reasons never to give pets human medications and keep it packed away from curious critters.

In general, and not just for xylitol avoidance, human drugs and pets are just an accident waiting to happen. As an aside, here’s a random important note for cats and pills: keep all Effexor away from them because they just find it irresistable and it can cause changes in their breathing, heart rate, difficulty walking and even agitation. But, good old Aunt Minnie may lose a heartburn pill under the guest bed just as you may nod off after dinner without taking the Abilify you left on the nightstand. Those can contain xylitol too and the hectic nature of holidays make human medications a prime target for trouble in pill-gobbling pets. The accidental exposures can be mostly avoided by keeping track of travel bags, warning guests about nosy pups getting into bottles & digging in bags for doses, but be sure your bored old uncle doesn’t get too helpful either. An over-eager exercise hound in your house shouldn’t take your dog for a longer-than-usual jog, get the guilties and then contemplate giving her something he takes for the soreness. Dogs, cats and people do not have the same cellular-housekeeping practices or the same livers. If you’re noticing a trend in this piece then good on you! You’re probably starting to get the idea that enzymes and metabolism are the foundation of drug and other toxin sensitivities and dogs are not small people just like a cat is not a small dog.

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In fact, pain relievers are some of the most common and deadly intoxications veterinarians see. My least favorite is Aleve. All NSAIDs work to inhibit the enzyme cycloxygenase (which has a couple of important variants COX-1 & COX-2 which when inhibited affects most potently either at vascular perfusion especially in the gut lining, on inflammation along with pain pathways and/or in other maintenance functions or sites of the body). COX-2 selectivity is preferred in these drugs as that is the inhibition which relieves pain and inflammation while preserving gut mucosal function and blood flow to kidneys. But of course, just like metabolism, COX selectivity in these drugs species-specific too just to complicate matters making the one safest for people not necessarily safe for your dog. In humans, metabolism is rapid and strong, with 1/2 of your naproxen dose is cleared from the body in 6 hours. But dogs metabolize NSAIDs differently and excrete this drug via the bile and so retain half a dose for 74 hours! Any mistakes or exposures therefore compound quickly if another pill is eaten. And exposure to any of the NSAIDs (including ibuprofen, Celebrex, Vioxx, aspirin and even overdoses of veterinary specific drugs) can cause rapid life-threatening injuries. It’s just that human drugs frequently have no “right dose” in pets because nothing is low enough to be effective and yet safe. Different species and even individuals vary in tolerance but a good rule of thumb is that humans tolerate higher doses and get relief at lower doses, dogs get toxic effects easier than we do and cats are 2 to 5 times more sensitive to poisoning via this drug class than dogs. Therefore, by the time human-friendly drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen reach pain-relieving effects in dogs or cats, they are already causing life-threatening GI ulcers and perforations, kidney damage and failure and occasionally even liver failure and neurologic effects of poisoning. The signs of NSAID intoxication in pets include a mild GI upset in the first 2 to 6 hours followed by a delay in ulceration from 12 hours up to 4 days after ingestion. During this time, higher doses which result in kidney damage would frequently show signs such as increased thirst or urination or the more ominous sign of very low urine production but kidney signs may present later with GI signs. If a GI toxic dose is ingested, vomiting (sometimes bloody) with dark stool indicating digested blood or bloody stool from colonic injury, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and diarrhea may develop at this time. If an ulcer crossed the gut layers, perforation would present as shock, peritonitis and collapse. Tylenol is not in this class but deserves mention as a particular threat to cats.

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The last household holiday toxins are the most unexpected and therefore worth mentioning. As we strive to get to all the events, prepare for all the visits and maybe do some excessive shopping or celebrating, the eyes can show it. Eye drops which decrease redness in people usually contain naphazoline which can show signs of exposure in dogs within 4 hours of exposure. I’ve actually met one dog who was purposely receiving these drops from the owner and it was hard to convince him of the danger, but it is true. Most pets actually chew the bottle but by either route, naphazoline can cause vomiting, low heart rates and arrhythmias, dangerously low or high blood pressure, weakness, hyperactivity and trembling.

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The last holiday toxin I want you to be wary about is dibutyl phthalate. Why this foul-tasting ingredient in glow sticks ends up being sought after for ingestion is something to ask talkative & determined pets, but the results can be alarming. Within seconds of a pet biting into them signs begin. Cats will profusely salivate and foam and may even retch and vomit. Dramatic changes in behavior such as hyperactivity, aggression, head shaking and agitation are common. All should resolve when the taste is gone but be careful handling an animal with glow-stick-goo in their mouth. If you can safely give something, tuna juice or milk should help but getting bit will only possibly send two of you to the doctor so rescuer beware. If you’re unsure of exposure, turn off the lights at look at the face. All of the dibutyl phthalate must be removed from the coat or you can expect the same signs each time the cat grooms until it is gone.

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Happy holidays to all those lucky enough to have a pet in their lives and feel free to call us if you need us at Woof and Purr Vet. Just remember, the best holiday support you can give a pet is to realize under your guidance he or she can participate in the fun, can get special gifts or treats and may be able to appreciate the events in your home, the extra time you may have to spend and the guests giving extra love. If you’re keeping an eye out for signs of stress or exposures you want your animal companion to avoid while you’re juggling all the decorating and doing all the celebrating, you’re showing your love during the time of year we all stop and show appreciation to our most cherished loved ones.

Labor Day – Make it Less Work and More Fun for your Pets

LABOR DAY – MAKE FUN IN THE SUN SAFE IN THE PLACE

Labor Day is almost here and what better way to spend your last summer party than with your pooch? Good food, friends and fun are all essential for Labor Day celebrations, but is your dog prepared for the festivities? Here is a list of dangers for your dog to avoid this Labor Day to ensure he/she stays healthy and happy all weekend long.

Heat stroke – Hydration is crucial for dogs. Did you know a dog can overheat in just a matter of minutes? If your dog has a heavy coat they are more susceptible to heat stroke. Consistently monitor body temperature and be able to notice anything unordinary. Symptoms of heat stroke are panting heavily, a rapid pulse, glazed eyes, a deep red or purple tongue, vomiting, sticky, thick saliva, lethargy, or any unsteadiness or staggering. Heat exhaustion, stress, or stroke is extremely serious and can be fatal. Remember; NEVER leave your pet alone in the car even for a few minutes. This is the most common cause of heat stroke.

Paw burns – Have you ever walked on a scorching patio or beach without sandals? Imagine
how your pooch feels this Labor Day when your porch is so hot you could cook an egg on it. Make sure there is a shady place near the party for your dog to hang out. Also, be careful while grilling. A hot grill plus a curious dog can lead to disaster. We recommend putting your pooch inside when the grill is on but if you insist, watch them closely. If you see him get burned or signs that he did (limping, licking his paws, cracked or blistering skin or pads), apply a cold, wet compress, and call your veterinarian. These injuries are painful and need immediate care.

Dogs get sunburned too! – Contrary to popular belief, your dog can get sunburned and needs protection. Hairless, light skinned, light colored, shaved, or pink-nosed pups are especially in danger of being burned. We recommend doing one of two things for pet sun protection. Pick up a non-toxic, fragrance free doggie sunscreen that your vet recommends. A lotion works best with heavy coated dogs since you can rub it through the coat to the skin. Essential areas are the ears, bridge of the nose, nose, and the underside of his body. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

Swimming time – If your dog loves to swim, this section is for you. Most of us love to enjoy the water during Labor Day weekend, and your pooch probably does too. If they aren’t a good swimmer, a doggie life preserver would be a good idea. Never leave a dog unattended when swimming. Also, don’t let them drink pool or ocean water. Pool water contains chlorine and the ocean contains salt, both of which can be harmful and dehydrate your pet. Make sure you have fresh water available at all times.

Human foods are not for pets – Who doesn’t like barbequed food? But it’s not for dogs, and you must resist the urge to give them a treat from the grill. If you’re having a big Labor Day party, you might want to consider putting up a sign for your guests that says please do not feed the pets. Some foods are toxic to dogs like onions, grapes, mushrooms, avocados, lunch meat, and more. Plus, dogs have very sensitive tummies. Even the smallest amount of food can upset their stomach and cause diarrhea or vomiting. It is best to stay safe and only feed them their normal diet.

Traveling by car – Many of us travel to friends or family by car during Labor Day weekend. If you plan to bring your pooch or kitty in the car you might want to consider a few things. If your dog has never traveled by car
before, get them accustomed prior to travel. Making them feel comfortable will significantly
reduce car sickness. Also, a pet restraint is always recommended. This will help keep the pet

from being a distraction to the driver as well as keep them safe. While some folks find it amusing
to see a dog with its head out the window, ears flapping in the wind, an unrestrained dog can
cause major danger. According to AAA, in a car crash at 50 mph, an unrestrained 10-pound dog
can exert almost 500 pounds of pressure; in a car crash at only 30 mph, an unrestrained 80-
pound dog can exert more than 2,400 pounds of pressure. While keeping a kitty purring your lap
may be fun, please don’t let your cat roam free in the car. Cats can easily crawl under pedals
and become a major distraction, jumping over seats as they dive for a front view seat on the dashboard. But if your pets cannot tolerate carriers, make sure they are leashed safely and securely. Wearing seat belts is now the law. While
we are safely secured, it is also essential that pets in carriers are securely restrained, so buckle up any carrier containing a pet. AAA Traffic Safety Culture director, Michelle Harris said, “An unrestrained pet not only endangers itself, but everyone in the vehicle as well.”

The long Labor Day weekend is meant to be enjoyed by both humans and pets. Be prepared, keep your pet safe, and don’t let one of these dangers for your pet put a damper on your festivities. 

Heatstroke: The Giant San Diego Summer Bummer of my Favorite Breeds

Oh the joys of a San Diego summer! The puppies are in bloom, daylight is abundant & the weather gets us outdoors with our best 4-legged pals. A few simple considerations help protect our pets in summertime. Minimize sunburn in light thin-coated pets or those with actinic dermatosis (skin disease from sun exposure). White pets, especially cats prone to squamous cell carcinoma or bull breeds prone to hemangiomas (sometimes small or numerous purple-red tumors frequently seen on undersides while bull breeds) should be coaxed to shade or slathered with sunscreen. We protect dogs walking on blacktop pavement with booties & choose shaded paths. We buy doggie goggles for cataract-prone breeds. We can do a lot.

YES, I KNOW STEALING IS WRONG! IF YOU TOOK OR CAPTIONED THIS, PLEASE CONTACT ME & ALLOW ME TO CREDIT YOU

YES, I KNOW STEALING IS WRONG! IF YOU TOOK OR CAPTIONED THIS, PLEASE CONTACT ME & ALLOW ME TO CREDIT YOU

Then there’s this: Heatstroke, a nagging fear for all informed dog owners as temperatures rise. It’s of greater concern for dogs with a health quirk or two. Under the wrong conditions, any pet is at risk but is a watchword for brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds such as Bulldogs, Bostons, Pugs & Chows prone to Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (a collection problems due to genetic anatomic differences compromising respiratory function and in this case, especially cooling). Dogs with laryngeal paralysis, bronchitis, heart disease or anemia similarly suffer a functional challenge to cooling. Sitting in car “with the windows cracked just for a minute” is illegal for a reason and is easily avoided by responsible pet owners. We can choose not to exercise them during mid-day since loyal relatively healthy dogs, like kids, don’t limit themselves; instead they strive to please us. We don’t leave a dog with water & shade that looked to be enough in the morning but really isn’t enough at 2pm. Those would have all become unfortunate ways to get too familiar with this deadly summertime curse.

Heatstroke is more unpredictable than anyone would like since two pets in the same environment may not have the same risk for developing it & one who once tolerated certain conditions without problems may not avoid heatstroke the next time. Heatstroke’s more likely in dogs with heart or vascular issues (diagnosed or not), older or overweight dogs. Sadly, it’s much more likely in pets with previous injury to the brain’s thermoregulatory center during a previous heatstroke. Frustrated vets & owners see how an exposure lasting mere minutes can cause it and struggle with how rapidly & aggressively we are required to intervene medically to preserve the chances of survival (which are only 40-65%). Even if the dog appears to stabilize quickly or apparently “recover” it can take days for some life-threatening damage to appear.  Diagnostics and emergency care for heatstroke are extensive & time consuming. So, summer is never as long as many of us like, but neither is the time you have to get your dog evaluated by a doctor if you have any suspicions of possible heatstroke. Some pet medical conditions can be contemplated at home or evaluated over time with a watch & wait stance. First aid can be helpful for some animal health conditions. This isn’t one of them.

PRALLY AN APPLE HEADED CHIWAWA

PRALLY AN APPLE HEADED CHIWAWA

If the thermometer isn’t at hand, I advise you just find the car keys & put windows down & A/C on (yes, do it) as you drive to your vet. A maximum rectal temperature reading before any cooling is attempted can be helpful for your vet to know, but delays of just minutes can drop your dog’s chances of survival significantly. I recommend placing wet towels on the back of the neck, in the armpits & groin as long as they do not hamper the dog’s ability to breathe deep. Do not under any circumstances try to force a possible heatstroke dog to drink or immerse her in cool water or ice. Overcooling below 103 degrees Farenheit or stressing the gut can be fatal.

Heatstroke is a constellation of damage & malfunction resulting from a body temperature (usually over 105F) which first overwhelms the brain’s thermoregulartory center & its ability to correct to the body’s metabolically-required set point. When the body’s overwhelmed, triggering heat-dissipating mechanisms like dilating the surface vessels & panting fails. Outside the range of normal body temperature, a catastrophic cascade of organ-system malfunction & damage snowballs until nearly every function is crippled by heat or the failure of upstream systems. The elegant web of physiology is what draws me to medicine, but it’s the Achilles Heel in heatstroke when virtually no system is spared.

WELL, I DID ONCE TREAT A CHINCHILLA WITH HEATSTROKE! MARRIEDTOTHESEA.COM

WELL, I DID ONCE TREAT A CHINCHILLA WITH HEATSTROKE! MARRIEDTOTHESEA.COM

When overwhelmed by heatstroke, the brain can suffer damage which lessens the pet’s ability to protect themselves from heat. The heart & lungs then labor under ever-increasing demands to cool & circulate oxygenated blood which protects tissues. While at work, the heart & lungs sustain heat damage & further injury from other tissues which are not receiving the blood they need. The body dilates the vessels to cool itself then asks the heart to pump harder & faster, despite dehydration and possible arrhythmias. The heart may hemorrhage & its cells can die. That’s a recipe for “cardiogenic shock” in addition to the hypovolemic (low blood volume) shock but toxic shock (from bacteria crossing damaged gut) then joins the mix. When the liver can’t make enough clotting factors, coagulation is over-activated & the kidneys lose function it’s a recipe for a poor prognosis. Shock is a condition of dangerously low circulation to vital tissues resulting in cellular injury, inadequate tissue function and death. Vets are taught “the gut/liver is the shock organ in the dog” (the respiratory system is the cat’s) meaning any shock tends to first & most severely affect that organ. Heatstroke is very “shocky.” The bloody stools caused by gut lining cell death usually suffered by victims not only consumes clotting factors then compromises coagulation, it also allows gut bacteria & their toxins get right into the bloodstream. Overall, heatstroke’s a recipe for disaster which quickly & reliably threatens lives.

Veterinarians evaluate heatstroke dogs for injuries such as coagulation & vascular issues, heart & lung dysfunction, organ failure, acid-base & electrolyte abnormalities, GI & neurologic damage. The extent of the disease can take at least 3 days to develop & early treatment is critical & can be rewarding. In addition to controlled active cooling, treatments include hydration & those to replace lost blood from the GI tract leading to impaired coagulation ability & to support healthy circulation. We attempt to minimize gut injury & promote healing while controlling & preventing infection from the gut. We support breathing, manage heart & lung injury & supplement oxygen if necessary while protecting & improving airway function. Some dogs develop cerebral edema or hemorrhage & require intense management for those conditions. Any metabolic abnormalities such as electryolyte disturbances, blood sugar drops, liver or kidney damage/failure must be intensely monitored & supported. If you think your dog has been diagnosed with heatstroke & you will be taking him home “all better” that night, think again. If you think that sentence is suggesting you should just “keep an eye on him” & not go to the vet NOW, then I need you to go to the top of this post and start reading again & repeat as needed. If you wait, you have better chances that your dog may not recover no matter how long he is hospitalized and what the vet does. As you can see, this is one preventable disease that you want to prevent at all costs rather than treating.

Though I ABSOLUTELY do not feel the pet owner should attempt to evaluate whether their dog is having heatstroke since any whiff of a maybe should put you and your dog on the road to the vet (and who is going to bet their dog’s life on Dr Google?), I will give you a brief list of some of the basic signs and information we would see with the pet just to come full circle:

evidence of underlying disease or event/condition precipitating heatstroke or previous heatstroke

muddy gums/slow capillary refill time/rapid heart rate/weak pulses/abnormal heart rhythms

frantic panting/respiratory distress/hypersalivation

high temperature (though we may have missed it when the dog overheated hours ago and now is suffering after effects only)

decreased mentation/glassy eyes/seizures/coma

bruising on belly or ears/small bruises on gums

cold extremities

swollen painful distended abdomen

low urine production

fluid-filled bowels/bloody diarrhea

Gee, Jayme, you’re just a hoot today!!!! Yeah, I am just trying to keep all the pets in the funzone, you know? Also, if you leave your pet in the car around here, I doubt the police will have time to come and rescue her, though they will, as some of my neighbors are known to rescue first and ask questions later 😉 Everyone please take the time to check on your pet during summer daytime fun, don’t let them overdo it just to be part of the games with you and the other dog park pets.  Please be sure you can both go home just a little sleepy and able to do it again tomorrow.

Thanks to Barbara and D.O.G.S. Dog Owners of Grape Street Park. This volunteer organization publishes the newsletter I contributed a brief version of this article for, who suggested such a timely and important topic and who keeps our dog park safe and fun for everyone!

Have a Happy and Safe Pet-Lovin’ Summer

Jayme

NO TEENAGE FLEAS!!!! THANK YOU, PLEEEAAAASSEEEE

YUCK, HEEBBEE JEEBEEZ! NOTE THIS FLEA HAS FED AND YOU CAN SEE THE BLOOD IN THE DIGESTIVE TRACT OF THIS FLEA.

YUCK, HEEBBEE JEEBEEZ! NOTE THIS FLEA HAS FED AND YOU CAN SEE THE BLOOD IN THE DIGESTIVE TRACT OF THIS FLEA.

Furry family members rule & springtime puts Health To Dos on top of our list. If little problems like fleas had crept to the back seat they’re calling “shotgun” now, after the Slight Annual Shushing of ‘colder’ months didn’t really beat them back. The house is flea free so far this year? Pets are sure to need your help now. Resistance is futile. Fleas are everywhere: any of our beloved parks, canyons or neighborhood walks or even in our own backyards. We bring them indoors & adult wildlife rarely die from fleas & so are sources of pet infestation & vice versa. Fleas will end up on virtually every pet.

Adult fleas live strictly on hosts: feeding & breeding happens here! Hopping from pet-to-pet readily, fur movement also sheds eggs onto shared sleeping & playing areas. Like tiny thirsty teenagers, flea larva lurk in dark crevices, bedding & sand. Optimized females lay 50 eggs/day & that’s 2,000 eggs/lifetime shed wherever the animal goes. Egg becomes larva, transform & wait in crevices for sounds, motions & breaths signalling new hosts. From hatchling to adult in as little as 2 weeks, the next generation springs into blood-sucking action. That’s a warm itchy recipe for springtime disaster. It stopped sounding like a teen vampire flick when they sprung into action though – whew. 

FLEA ALLERGY DERMATITS IN A CAT. IN PETS, SKIN LESIONS ON THE BACK ABOVE THE TAIL ARE VERY SUSPICIOUS FOR A FLEA ALLERGY, EVEN IF NO FLEAS CAN BE FOUND

FLEA ALLERGY DERMATITS IN A CAT. IN PETS, SKIN LESIONS ON THE BACK ABOVE THE TAIL ARE VERY SUSPICIOUS FOR A FLEA ALLERGY, EVEN IF NO FLEAS CAN BE FOUND

Blood-sucking parasitism risks disease: flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms (benign), anemia & infections. “Flea-nial” (not an Egyptian river) is commonly cured by seeing tapeworms (Sparkles isn’t South American? it’s from fleas, promise), Cat Scratch Fever, Murine typhus or a few scary albeit rare infections. But flea allergy dermatitis, not fatal but actual allergies to saliva injected during flea feeding, is an absolute misery for allergic pets & causes obvious skin lesions.

THIS FLEA DIRT IS DIGESTED BLOOD FROM YOUR PET. THAT'S WHY IT WILL STILL TURN RED WHEN PLACED ON A PAPER TOWEL AND MOISTENED. THIS DEBRIS IS WHAT JUVENILE FLEAS FEED ON AND MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE ENVIRONMENT TO STARVE OUT THE NEXT GENERATION OF FLEAS.

THIS FLEA DIRT IS DIGESTED BLOOD FROM YOUR PET. THAT’S WHY IT WILL STILL TURN RED WHEN PLACED ON A PAPER TOWEL AND MOISTENED. THIS DEBRIS IS WHAT JUVENILE FLEAS FEED ON AND MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE ENVIRONMENT TO STARVE OUT THE NEXT GENERATION OF FLEAS.

Still, finding fleas is tricky. They’re small, great jumpers, fast scurriers & hiders in dark crannies. Tiny dark specks on the coat (it’s flea feces: place on paper towels, sprinkle water, see red) may be your only evidence. Wash bedding on hot with bleach then a HOT dryer, vacuum up dust bunnies & under couch cushions, get between baseboards with a whiskbroom. Varsity players may need environmental control (powders, professionals, beneficial nematodes). It’s easier to use year round flea preventative on every pet, even if strictly indoors.

CHERISTIN IS OVER THE COUNTER FLEA CONTROL FOR ALL SIZES OF CAT! IT'S OVER THE COUNTER SO ANY CAT OWNER CAN COME IN AND PICK IT UP WITHOUT AN EXAM ANY TIME.

CHERISTIN IS OVER THE COUNTER FLEA CONTROL FOR ALL SIZES OF CAT! IT’S OVER THE COUNTER SO ANY CAT OWNER CAN COME IN AND PICK IT UP WITHOUT AN EXAM ANY TIME.

A myriad of topicals, orals, shampoos & collars beyond counting have durations of action from 1 day to 8 months. Some actually don’t work as well as they used to. New products are now available. It can all be pretty overwhelming in the face of an itchy pet or child. Products like Comfortis require an examination and its sister product controls fleas and heartworms, so requires testing (which we can do FOR FREE).  We also carry Vectra and Vectra 3D and they are over the counter (no exam or testing required). The 3D product controls ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes in addition to fleas!

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Plenty of products can be found over the counter in a variety of stores. Unfortunately, easy does not always equal best for you animal companion: efficacy & safety are incredibly variable. Unavoidable trade offs must be balanced: cost over time, kill vs control, toxicity or reliability. Consider the age & health of each pet, his or her housemate pets, kids & lifestyle. And I implore you: don’t use dog flea products on cats you like. As your local vet, I’m always happy to help you decide how you help your pet give fleas the Springtime Kiss Off.

comfortis

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HISTORY OF BURLINGAME & SOUTH PARK AT 2234 30th ST

IT'S NOT A LIBRARY NOW BUT IT IS STILL FULL OF BOOKS AND BOOK NERDS!

IT’S NOT A LIBRARY NOW BUT IT IS STILL FULL OF BOOKS AND BOOK NERDS!

IT’S NOT A LIBRARY NOW BUT IT IS STILL FULL OF BOOKS AND BOOK NERDS!

I had the pleasure of meeting a new client recently and we got to talking. Given the relevance to her work, I told her about a couple of nice ladies who visited the practice recently. These two ladies came in with huge grins and were so pleased the building was occupied. The memories they had were of my little hospital being the library they read books in and had story time at when they were little girls back in the early 50s!

PEAR'S SOAP ADVERTISING POSTER

PEAR’S SOAP ADVERTISING POSTER

I remember when this space was M Theory and know it was later My Backyard and a gallery, but I was curious about what it had been originally.

So, my client did some research and I am so so pleased to report that 2234 30th St was in fact the Burlingame Branch Library from 1949 to 1956! I think this building looks like it was built as a library! It makes perfect sense.

Here’s the facinating article in the San Diego Free Press Called “Growing Up in North Park in the 1950’s: Burlingame Memories” about our local area over half a century ago by Evelyn Roy Kooperman, a former librarian from the Central Library:

http://sandiegofreepress.org/2013/03/growing-up-in-north-park-in-the-1950s-burlingame-memories/#.VFsFpUsZGrI

I didn’t have the sense to get the names of the kind ladies who shared their childhood memories with me but I throw a general “thank you” out into the world. Reading and learning, adventures & solace in books, research in journals and knowledge from textbooks have enriched my life immensely and given me the career of my dreams. I’m so happy we are able to know the original history of this building, contribute to education and foster learning with our clients. I hope we do the legacy of this building proud!

IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING, HERE'S THE LIBRARY I'VE SPENT THE MOST TIME INSIDE. GEISEL LIBRARY AT UCSD

IN CASE YOU’RE WONDERING, HERE’S THE LIBRARY I’VE SPENT THE MOST TIME INSIDE. GEISEL LIBRARY AT UCSD

***squuuueeeeee*** & thank you to Kathryn for the research and sharing what you found

Jayme

PETS AND COSTUMES AND TREATING, OH HAI

Halloween Shouldn’t be Spooky for Pets

WHO'S DRESSING WHOM?

WHO’S DRESSING WHOM?

while some pets think it’s a hoot others can truly be frightened by all of the noises and costumes, get lost or trick you by eating something foolish. Halloween can be a joy for animals but for trick-or-treat novice dogs and cats, extra love may be required to keep the scares all in good fun

TRICKS OF THE TRADE:

Dressing up is fun for humans, but may not be a favorite pastime for every pet 

Creativity and comfort count

  •  avoid any costumes with tight elastic bands or props that might constrict circulation, motion or breathing 
  • avoid costumes with toxic paints, dyes or pieces that are edible or swallow size

Remember it all may be new for some pets

people and other pets in costumes can be intriguing

  • masks, large hats and props can confuse some pets and could trigger territorial instincts
  • your dog may try to protect you from people or pets in unusual costumes giving mixed signals
  • your dog can be fascinated by costumes and wander off, keep them close by and safe

Trick or Treat

Each pet reacts differently to

parties & new places

decorations & open flames

lights & sounds

crowds & visitors

REMEMBER: DOG TREATS FOR DOGS & CAT TREATS FOR CATS

Fake cobwebs aren’t for eating & chocolates are only for people

Xylitol also makes for expensive animal ER visits caused by sugar-free gum & maybe that’s why it tastes so awful

Note: Black cats just get the night off with the bedroom to themselves

IT WAS DEWCLAW WEEK

This little piggy’s got it all

This time it’s all about the toes and nails……

FROM MIC A WIKIPEDIA USER WITH SERIOUS SHUTTERBUG SKILLZ

FROM MIC A WIKIPEDIA USER WITH SERIOUS SHUTTERBUG SKILLZ

Well, you brought us some interesting cases this week for sure! This week at South Park’s Woof and Purr Vet we treated a lot of patients with dewclaw problems. There was a young active dog with a dislocated dewclaw of unknown origin (possibly play-related). There were also painful infections of the nailbeds in one older dog’s paws, including her dewclaws. Another dog tore off the nail of one of his dewclaws. Fluffy long fur likes to hide overgrown dewclaws which will then “avulse” after getting caught up on brambles, furniture, just about anything and then get separated as the dog tries to free himself. One dog had overgrown misshapen dewclaws which then excoriated the skin, nearly penetrated it and caused secondary infection.

FROM MILLER'S ANATOMY OF THE DOG AND CAT

FROM MILLER’S ANATOMY OF THE DOG AND CAT

Lastly, we’ve been seeing a patient recently with some irritation and scarring where dewclaws were removed. The associated carpus (wrist in humans) is very arthritic and we are concerned about his comfort. After so many years we don’t know how they looked when he was young and if he’s suffered very long like this but we intend to help him. Seeing dewclaw disease is pretty common in veterinary practices because dewclaw disease is pretty common, but it was a banner week for healing the dewclaw at Woof and Purr Vet and we had our work cut out for us!

Well, if dewclaws seem to cause so much misery, Jayme, why do dogs and cats even have them? Do they serve a useful purpose or are they vestigal from eons and species past and now just a pain in the…. paw? Since they all seem to have the little buggers or have had them removed, what can we do to protect them? Why do some breeders or breed clubs recommend removing them while others insist the dog has them? What does Woof and Purr Vet, as a practice, think about the value of the dewclaw? Could it help a pet to keep a close eye on those silly & questionable toes? Please let’s find some reason not to just wish they’d disappear.

ANATOMY and bit of PHYSIOLOGY and a dash of GENETICS but lite, promise

The dewclaw is a toe (digit) consisting of a metacarpal bone (in the case of the forelimb and when compared to your hand this is the bone between the base of your thumb and your wrist) which is similarly attached at the base to the dog or cat’s leg near the wrist. By following along the metacarpal bone away from the wrist you can feel it then attaches to one of the two dewclaw “phalanges” (bones – this one analagous to the longer bone of your thumb) and then that connect to the other at the tip of your thumb. The bone (phalanx) at the end also grows the claw like yours grows a nail…. well, hopefully. This forelimb dewclaw is consistently found in canids including the domestic dog, the wolf and the jackal and all cats, large and small. You can   find it in some birds and reptiles too. The nail (or claw) at the tip is a continuously-growing keratin topping produced by the living nail bed beneath which is present at the tip this distal phalanx and tightly connected to the nail it forms.

Thanks+ASPCA

THANKS ASPCA

But where the nail itself is not alive, can’t experience pain or bleed, the nail bed source, is rich in vessels and nerve endings. That vascular and sensitive nail bed tissue sometimes makes nail trims an olympic sport. Particularly in dogs, the nail (or claw) color is usually consistent with the fur color at the tip of the toe so dark toes have dark nails and light toes have light nails (great for finding the quicks) and many dogs with multiple toe fur colors can have multiple nail colors even on the same foot. The proximal attachments (from the dewclaw’s bones to the limb higher up) can include a small bone called the sesamoid and multiple tendons tethering to muscles in the “forearm” (fancy doctor word would be antebrachium but whateva). Everything in the forelimb dewclaw, like everything in your thumb, is alive except the nail and the superficial layers of skin.

The dewclaw is a digit (digit 1 in fact) on the inside of the leg & usually found a bit higher than the the other toes. Therefore, whereas digits 2, 3, 4 and 5 (anatomists count from the inside of the leg making digit 5 the last or “pinky toe” on the outside edge) touch the ground in normal paw configuration this dewclaw digit does not. That makes it a non-weight-bearing digit and that seems to be where many problems come in. The dewclaw doesn’t sit right next to all the other digits and can be a bit of an overlooked orphan in the paw maintenance and care realm. It doesn’t touch the ground (or always the scratch post as the case may be) in the normal paw and therefore it doesn’t easily wear down naturally like the other claws of the forefeet in pets with normal feet. That can lead to the claw overgrowing as it ducks under the radar during a toenail trim (Woof and Purr Vet trivia: our shorthand for that is TNT) or being silently problematic since pain in that toe doesn’t easily lead to lameness.

The front dewclaw to cats and dogs is anatomically what the thumb is to us. But, functionally in the vast majority of cats and dogs there is much less usefulness. Though the occasional cat (especially polydactyly cats with the Hemingway mutation) or dexterous dog may find use when climbing, turning sharply or holding a chewy morsel, these front digits rarely have the degree of strength or conscious control to give a vast amount of benefit to the regular pet. Hunting cats may use this digit and be less effective without it.  Hunting dogs may have owners who remove them just for that bramble laceration injury problem we mentioned earlier.

Whether or not agility dogs without them are at a disadvantage is a HOTLY contested debate among veterinary anatomists and agility trainers worldwide. There’s mounting evidence that they may stabilize the canine carpus (wrist joint), contact the ground when running at high speeds or even be used as a defense weapon & that’s an interesting potential vote promoting leaving them in place unless they pose an actual threat to the pet (keep getting caught on things, get a tumor, bone infection, etc). A couple of cases have brought the higher likelihood of wrist arthritis in dogs with amputated fore dewclaws to the table. In general, dogs and cats always have forelimb dewclaws and sometimes have trouble with disease in them or have them removed.

not+that+Sonic

Conversely, hindlimb dewclaw genetics are not as straightforward. The LMB1 protein, when mutated, alters the regulation of the sonic hedgehog gene and occasionally out pops some hindlimb dewclaws. Some breeds have them reliably and doubly. Trivia for the old school gamers out there: a scientist responsible for finding and therefore rewarded with naming one of the genes involved in limb and digit formation and as a result for promoting dewclaw growth chose “Sonic Hedgehog” after a comic his daughter had based on the Sega early 90’s game’s character coincided with similar genes being named for “real” Indian and desert hedgehogs. Of course we scientists are sticks in the mud and the “the” had to go but the early game reference is forever.

Anyhoo, hindlimb dewclaws usually result from a mutated gene (no offense to the mutants) so in this case the dewclaws are more about mutation than garden-variety growth and typical dog anatomy. Exceptions do exist as do multiple hindlimd dewclaws usually with one stalk and two toe tips. Some breed standards actually require them and if lacking double hind dewclaws the Great Pyrenees and Briard are faulted in the show ring. As is frequently the case (shout out to sickle cell heterozygotes avoiding malaria), “mutant” is in the eye of the beholder. So, generally vets don’t fret about removing those since their functionality is not so controversial. Random side note, my cat actually has fully articulated (bone-attached) hind dewclaws which is SUPER RARE – so I love this topic!

So, are you saying “remove them”?

I think removing bits and pieces of living tissue without solid evidence of any benefit in doing that is more than odd and worrisome at the least and very risky and painful at worst. Therefore, fore dewclaw removal is less controversial and not generally considered at Woof and Purr Vet. Though many of our patients come to their forever homes with the “tails and dewclaws” procedure performed as neonates and so were already altered as pups or prior adoption, we don’t perform that surgery on pups or declaw cats so we don’t have to debate the merits of that here. What we do recommend is meeting with us and having a consultation if you are considering removing hind dewclaws or just have questions or concerns about your pet’s dewclaws. Those hindlimb dewclaws are generally useless tags of skin with a bit of nail that flop around and are without any bony attachment. No bony attachment means they are harder for the pet to guard as they don’t lie flat and easier to get caught up and torn. Those do seem prone to all sorts of trauma and needless worry. We’re not opposed to considering that procedure and would be happy to discuss the merits of your pet having them removed.

Are they ever something I want to have around if I don’t have vermin or go hunting or do competitive agility? Could they help me or my companion animal out? Anything Jayme, please…?

YES, all the nails like all the skin (and the mouth and eyes) are a convenient set of windows to allow a peek into your pet’s total health. They aren’t just scratchy tipped decorations to be trimmed that occasionally need to be treated. They provide owners and their veterinarians a non-invasive and simple indication of the health of the animal’s insides too. Bringing an abnormal nail to our attention (dewclaw or not) doesn’t mean your animal will be diagnosed with a serious disease. Most nail problems are simple and easy to solve problems. But, an abnormal nail you find could help us get a head start in diagnosing serious medical issues. Early diagnosis can benefit you and your pet by controlling cost and minimizing discomfort rather than waiting for problems to worsen if treatments aren’t started as soon as possible to slow the disease. So, of course preventing and treating painful conditions localized to nails are valid and important reasons to keep an eye on those toes, but there are even more important clues you want to pick up on. Then we can help you protect the health of your dogs and cats & make the best care affordable.

So, which diseases show signs in nails and toes?

Diseases with broad implications throughout the body that can show initial signs in the nails or toes include:

  • cancers (melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, lung-digit syndrome)
  • immune-mediated & inflammatory diseases (lupus, pemphigus, vasculitis, arthritis)
  • clotting abnormalities (thromboembolism)
  • allergies (food & environmental)
  • bacterial/fungal/viral/parasitic infections (bone infections, tick-borne disease, Leishmaniasis, cryptococcosis, distemper, cutaneous horns with FIV, ear or skin mites, hookworm)
  • hormonal diseases (hypothyroidism, Cushings, diabetes)
  • toxic, nutritional & genetic defects

For the average pet with normal intact fore dewclaws, we do have some basic reminders

Inspect toes, pads & all claws, fore + hind, at least once a month looking for:

  1. pain or tenderness
  2. swelling or asymmetric size (it’s easier to note when comparing to two sides)
  3. redness of the surrounding skin
  4. discharge- moist or crusty brown
  5. overly long nail – we’d rather see a half-moon shape than a fully formed C, we can trim those puppies for ya
  6. missing, torn, separating or broken nail
  7. thickened, peeling, flaking, discolored nail or a nail with distorted direction of growth
  8. abnormal position – should lie along the length of the leg, not stick out towards midline

Paws up on nail health for all the pets!!!

And for all my team (including our newest member as of today: Kesia) great job this week on the paw x-rays, pain management, clipping/cleaning, numbing, cauterizing, medicating, bandaging and TNTs!!!! I saw your patience and gentle manner with the pets and I know they appreciated it too.

Last helpful hint from your friendly miniature vet: try to touch those tootsies every day, folks. If every time someone touched your feet it ended up with your nails being trimmed without your permission you’d be more likely to resist it too. A regular paw massage at home from mom or dad makes nail trims easy-breezy beautiful.