Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lost Cat Found After 3 Years - Because Of A Microchip

Ian and Sarah Hawley had lost their beloved kitty, Kofi, 3 years ago, following his disppearance from their Nottingham, England home. According to a report by British newspaper, Evening Star 24, after 3 years of not having found any sign of Kofi and now living in a different in a different town altogether, Kofi was picked up after having been reported as a stray to the RSPCA in Ipswich, an astounding 140 miles away from his original home. The RSPCA inspector who recovered the kitty, was able to find his owners because of a microchip they had him injected with when they originally adopted him.

Mr. and Mrs. Hawley had adopted Kofi along with his brother Ted from the RSPCA in 2006 when they were both 9 months old, and were elated to have their cherished companion back. Kofi was a bit on the thin side and had several scabs on his skin, but overall was found to be in decent shape. According to his owners, he is eating alot, playing, and seems very happy.

Aside from the positive feeling we can take from this happy reunion, we should also take away an important lesson: microchipping our pets increases our likelihood of recovering them in the event of their disappearance. For those unfamiliar with microchipping, it is the implantation of a tiny microchip by injection under the skin, typically over the back between the shoulder blades. The chip contains the pet owner's contact information, which comes up on the screen of a scanner when passed over the chip. When animals are found and turned in to shelters, veterinary clinics, or the police, animals are typically instantly scanned in an attempt to locate the pet's owners.

If this story is not enough to convince you that microchips are a good idea, consider that one of the main manufacturers of pet microchips, Home Again, is responsible for the recovery of 1 lost pet every 6 seconds!

Sincere congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Hawley, whose smart decision to chip their pet led him back to them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The positive side of the Michael Vick controversy

It may seem strange that a veterinarian can find anything upbeat emanating from such tragic and disturbing crimes as those committed with the venue and financial backing provided courtesy of Michael Vick. But once one can get past the outrage and sadness evoked by such events and step back with a clear mind to watch how the aftermath plays out, there almost always is some positive that one can take from the situation.

In this case, let us begin by seeing what became of the victims, the 66 Pit Bulls that were confiscated from Vick's cruel dog fighting facility. As reported last night by ESPN, sadly, 17 of them had to be euthanized, the magnitude of their mental and physical abuse having taken them beyond any possibility of rehabilitation. The remaining 49 ended up at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, one of the nation's largest no kill animal shelters. While one additional female had to be euthanized due to irreversible aggression, and a puppy euthanized for severely poor health, however, the rest began a compassionate 6-12 month journey of recovery with the ultimate goal to find homes for every dog. And although Frank McMillin, Best Friends lead veterinarian concedes that 100% of the dogs will not be adoptable, even those that will not ultimately be able to be placed, will have a 100% chance of living out their lives in peace.

In another regard, the high profile nature of this case brought to light a dark, underground, cruel element of our society that many heretofore were not aware of, and/or did not realize the scope of. This kind of attention has increased awareness among our law enforcement and our citizens in general, making it more difficult for dog fighting operations to thrive under the radar.

Finally, contrary to many animal rights activists' feelings that Michael Vick's sentence was far too lenient, I think that justice was ultimately done. While overall, Vick will not have served a great deal of time (the ESPN story also reported that he has been released to a halfway house as the next phase of rehabilitation back into society), he lost his cherished football career, his money (he recently filed for bankruptcy), and will forever have those vile pictures of animal cruelty fixed to his name like a ball and chain. His fall from eminence to infamy sends a message about what our nation thinks of those who victimize innocent animals.

While the Vick case brought us all great sadness and outrage, it ultimately also showcased a better side of humanity through the likes of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Most importantly, the Vick case brought awareness of the tragedy and cruelty of dog fighting, and galvanized our efforts to stop it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Veterinary Medicine Enters the New Millenium

I am proud to report that last week, my practice made a very significant transition from traditional x-ray film to digital x-ray. Instead of burning the x-ray to a film that has to be developed, the image is instead captured digitally and virtually instantly transmitted to a high resolution plasma screen that remains saved on a vast database. This cuts x-ray turnaround time considerably, but being able to adjust x-ray technique from a mouth pad, makes the time savings exponential, eliminating the need for re-takes when x-rays are too light or too dark. While time savings offered by digital x-ray makes my practice run more efficiently, cuts down stress for the patient, and minimizes the waiting boredom for the owner, most importantly, digital x-ray provides a quality of image never before attainable using x-ray film, maximizing our diagnostic capability.

Since only April 9, 2009, I have already picked up on several subtle lesions that I am quite certain would have gone unnoticed on x-ray film. One such case even led to a life saving emergency surgery.

Unfortunately, this kind of technology comes at a considerable cost, approximately $70,000, a staggering budget appropriation in the context of our overall gross sales. Given the importance of this technology for my patients and for my practice, I found that it was imperative that I find a way to somehow incorporate it into my practice, which I was able to do without passing the cost onto already economically challenged clients by raising prices. All I had to do was something our government simply cannot, and banking CEOs simply will not: study the budget carefully to eliminate wasteful and/or unnecessary spending, and suspend all bonuses or raises for myself, respectively. (sorry, had to throw in my dig at wasteful government and greedy banking executives)

I am not the first veterinary practice to have digital x-ray, but with so many that still have not made the change from x-ray film, it still places my practice in a select few that have taken this step toward veterinary care in the new millennium. For the sake of our nation's precious pets, I hope more will follow our lead, realizing that a little pay cut and trimming of financial fat is a small price to pay for the level of medicine this technology allows us to practice.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Webpoll Suggests Pets Increasingly Fed Top Quality Diets

I am both surprised and pleased that our sister site's ( most recent webpoll indicated that a commanding percentage of pet owners are opting to feed their pets top quality diets, despite economic circumstances being less than rosy across the country. According to our webpoll, the question and results from 205 total participants were as follows:

I Feed My Pets (Dogs/Cats):

- Whatever table food the family eats - 7%
- Whatever pet food is cheapest or on sale - 21%
- The best pet food that I can find - 71%

What pleases me about these results first and foremost, is that these statistics reflect an increasing level of concern for pets as family members, who deserve the best possible nutrition that is in our power to offer. It also underscores a big point that I always try to impart on my clients that, like in human medicine, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Feeding top quality pet foods that are free of preservatives, have wholesome and reputable nutrient sources, go a long way toward preventing many of the most common diseases we regularly treat in veterinary medicine, such as skin infections, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, respiratory infections, dental disease, autoimmune disease, and pancreatic disease, to name some.

Where many people looking to feed the best possible food within the confounds of a tight budget get duped into buying poor quality food, is that the nutrient breakdown of grocery store brand diets, often fairs well in comparison to that of top quality and holistic diets. What they do not realize is that the percent nutrients do not compare when taken in the context of the quality of the nutrient sources. For example, protein derived primarily from skin, hair, and hoof, protein sources often utilized by cheap grocery store pet food companies, does not compare to that derived from food animal muscle and organs as we see in better quality diets. A few grocery brand pet food companies have even been known to resort to rendering plants for nutrient sources. Rendering plants are plants that process animal tissue waste from road kill, euthanasia, necropsy, etc, to utilize components of tissue used in skin creams, glues, and other household items.

Grocery store pet food brands are also heavy in fillers to expand the volume of the food, such as corn and wheat. Fillers are not a natural component of the intended staple diet of the canine or feline, and often lead to digestive problems, food allergies, obesity, and predispose to diabetes. If the first two ingredients of any pet food is either wheat or corn, that food should be avoided. Canines and felines need diets primarily comprised of meat and vegetables. Fillers should represent a minimum of the overall ingredients, ideally avoided altogether if possible.

Cooking for the animals allows for quality control of the ingredients, but it can be difficult to get the right mix of nutrient breakdown for the specific species, size, and age of the animal. For this reason, nutrient deficiencies and obesity are a common sequel for pet owners feeding a home cooked diet. Still, it is preferable to feed home cooked than resort to grocery brand pet food. I would caution, however, that if this is the course one chooses for their pet(s), to consult with one's veterinarian for advice on what is best to feed and in what proportions, as well as offer a good vitamin supplement to prevent any nutritional deficiencies.

For the most part, it seems according to our webpoll that a majority of pet owners see the merit in feeding the best quality food available to them. Please understand that no one is suggesting that anyone put their family in financial harms way to feed the family pet an expensive holistic diet. What I do suggest, however, is that pet owners realize that generally quality of life will be better, and veterinary bills will generally be lower, for a pet fed the best possible quality diet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CATalyst Names Its 2009 Top 10 Cat Friendly Cities

The CATalyst Council, an association of the veterinary community, academia, nonprofit organizations, and animal welfare organizations, announced their 2009 top 10 most cat friendly cities, according to a Fox Business report. In no particular order, the aforementioned top 10 cat friendly cities are: Tampa, Phoenix, San Francisco, Portland (Ore.), Denver, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Atlanta and Minneapolis.

The CATalyst criteria for a city's inclusion in their top 10, included cat ownership per capita, level of veterinary care, microchipping and cat-friendly local ordinances. For the 2010 list, the CATalyst Council plans to include shelter data as an additional inclusion criteria.

According to the Fox business report, despite dogs being called "man's best friend," cats are in reality America's number one companion, outnumbering dogs by 10 million nationwide among the pet owning public. It is this fact that motivates CATalyst to applaud and honor cities whose feline friendly policies and attitudes recognize the importance of felines in American lives.

The CATalyst Council hopes that bringing felines to the forefront in this manner will also help in their efforts to advocate for the proper care and attention that these intelligent and sensitive creatures deserve. Despite being America's number one pet, care of cats lags behind that of the dog, with significantly less cats receiving regular veterinary care compared to dogs, and animal shelters generally seeing more cats given up than dogs. This naming of the top 10 cat friendly cities is but one step in the CATalyst Council's campaign to raise feline welfare awareness, which is to include to government, animal welfare organizations, shelters, and the general public, according to CATalyst director Dr. Jane E Brunt. For more information, please visit their link below:

I must say, I was quite pleased to learn that Tampa, a prominent city in my home state of Florida, made the list.