Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good grooming is good health

In this episode:

Pet Joke of the Week: Famous cat quote.
Headline News/Personal Comment: Celebrity pet gossip - Kelly Osbourne

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The Web-DVM:

My personal comment tonight deals with a field of pet care that is far too often overlooked as a health concern: grooming. People think of dogs and cats getting groomed as simply a pampering day at the spa, getting bathed, cut, blown out, and made to smell nice, merely a luxury for the pet and its owner. Well ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that grooming is also good for the pet’s health.
You see, a dirty, smelly, matted, pet, is not a healthy pet. Hair mats eventually spread outward incorporating more hair, while moving up the hair shafts toward the skin. At some point, they begin to pull on the skin causing pain, if large enough, severe pain.

Hair mats retain shed hair, preventing the hair coat from renewing itself, a crucial component to coat and skin health. Hair mats hold in air born allergens, such as pollens and pollutants, contributing to allergy related skin infections and contributing to overall poor health.

Washing, brushing, and blowing out the hair coat removes sebaceous gland secretions, bacteria, yeast, and allergens that lead to infections and poor skin and coat health. Cleaning the ears also prevents inflammation and infection of the ears. Case in point, a staggering percentage of my patient visits are disease of the skin and ears, approaching 30% of my appointments in a given day. Probably at least half of these circumstances could be prevented with good, regular grooming.

Regarding cutting of the nails, another important aspect of grooming, not trimming them regularly can lead to injuries and infections of the toes, such as ingrown toenails, broken, bleeding nails, or even dislocation or fracture of one or more digits. Not a week goes by that I do not treat some injury or disease that results from excessively long nails.

Last but not least is the anal glands, 2 glandular structures that secrete a fluid contained in pouches in the rectal wall, just inside the anal sphincter. These pouches, known medically as the anal sacs, under normal circumstances get expressed when feces pass through the region, with the fluid emptying onto the feces, coating it and giving it a signature scent unique to the animal.

In domestic dogs and sometimes in cats, these sacs do not empty as they should and remain full, causing itching and discomfort and often subsequent scooting behavior, and can even become impacted and form abscesses. Regular grooming prevents this, as most groomers manually express them as part of the regular grooming.

So you can clearly see that grooming is an essential part of caring for your pets. Grooming is far more than just smelling nice with bows and ribbons, far more than simply a pampering luxury. Good grooming is good health.

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Urgent Rescue Need!

14 hounds are scheduled for euthanasia because for whatever reason they were deemed not useful for hunters. This is the kind of dismal lack of respect for life some people have: dog not a good hunter, kill'em! Euthanasia date is set for 3/30/2010! Here is a pic of one of them:

Follow this facebook link to see the pics and bios of all of the other dogs:!/album.php?aid=53694&id=1312923720&ref=nf

Please call the shelter in NC if you have room in your homes and your hearts for one of these dogs whose only crime was that they are unwanted. Here is the shelter information:

Bladen County Animal Shelter
506 Smith Circle
Elizabethtown, NC 28337
Phone: 910-862-6918

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spork to be spared, but Spork's owners not so innocent.

In this episode:

Pet Joke of the Week: The Jealous Island Dog
Headline News/Personal Comment: Spork to be spared, but his owners are not so innocent.

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The Web-DVM:

In our last episode, we talked about Spork, the wiener dog who had bitten a veterinary technician in the face and as a result was facing possible euthanasia on the charge of being branded a vicious animal. In our headline news story tonight, I offer you a positive update on the case of Spork. A Lafayette Colorado judge ruled that Spork deserves a chance to prove that he is not a vicious animal, and his owners deserve a chance to prove that they will be responsible pet owners and take precautions to warn care givers of what Spork is capable of when he is scared. As such, Spork and his owners have a 6 month probationary period, during which Spork must not bite anyone else, and his life will be spared: very reasonable ruling from my perspective.

Also to come out of follow up monitoring of the Spork case, was the extent of the veterinary technician’s injuries. In the interest of avoiding copyright infringement, I cannot post the hospital photos of the tech’s injuries, but believe me when I tell you folks, they were quite graphic. Spork’s bite led to veterinary technician Allyson Stone losing one half inch of her upper lip, and one inch of her lower lip. She had plastic surgery to repair the defect, but will likely need additional procedures to manage the disfigurement.

I have also seen a number of different quotes from Spork's owners, Tim and Kelly Walker, since the incident originally made news, and they have offered me a more well rounded impression of this incident as a whole, one that leaves me convinced that the Walkers are not innocent in all this.

Kelly Walker claims that the technician put scissors in Spork's face that scared him and provoked him to attack. She also says that Spork merely bit the technician in the chin. Well, here are the real facts, as per the Lafayette municipal court.

The technician was not doing anything excessively threatening. Since Spork was being admitted into the hospital for dental work, she was merely placing a hospital identification band on the patient, which requires snipping off the excess tab with scissors. This is standard procedure in many veterinary hospitals. Allyson Stone was certainly not coming at Spork's head with scissors as Kelly Walker tried to lead us to believe. Spork did not simply bite Allyson Stone's chin as Ms. Walker also eluded to, but in fact latched on to her lips causing serious disfigurement.

Since the judges ruling of only 6 months probation for Spork, the Walkers are not satisfied with the fact that their dog will be spared provided he does not bite anymore people. They feel they are entitled to a formal apology from veterinary technician Allyson Stone, as well as from the hospital because of the emotional toll of the ordeal, as well as the fact that Spork's good name was besmirched, and all future care givers will be weary of him, as all will fully know about this incident.

All of this leaves me with the distinct impression that the Walkers are in denial about what their dog is capable of when scared, in denial about the injuries he inflicted on this veterinary technician, and as such, likely played some part in this whole unpleasant circumstance. For there is no way that in the 10 years the Walkers have had Spork, that he suddenly decided to act like this for the first time in his life. Fear biting of this magnitude does not come out of the blue. Mark my words, folks, Spork has fear snapped before whether the Walkers want to share that or not, and not coming to terms with the fact that their dog is a fear biter, is partially the reason that Allyson Stone got injured. The fact that they are most dismayed that future care givers will know about what Spork did, is clear evidence to that fact. A responsible pet owner would warn all future care givers to muzzle the dog before approaching him for safety's sake. They certainly would not want to conceal that fact. If this incident did not make national news, the Walkers would have taken Spork elsewhere without warning the new care givers that Spork is a fear biter, and someone else may have gotten hurt.

You see, I have now a clearer picture of the Walkers, as I see these types of owners all too often. They raise their little dog in an excessively pampered fashion, not requiring the dog to listen to them, with no discipline, and never being made to do anything that he does not want to do, like have his nails trimmed or his ears cleaned. They dote on his every whim, so that when he goes to be groomed or needs veterinary work done, he is a snappy little brat, with little tolerance for anyone invading his critical space.

To make matters worse, when he acts up, rather than point the blame at themselves or their dog, they point fingers at the care giver, assuming that there must be something amiss about the care giver's approach or demeanor, for their little precious would NEVER act up without just cause. To have seen Allyson Stone's bleeding defects where sections of her lips used to be because of the actions of their dog, and feel that they are owed an apology because their dog was given an unjust bad reputation, even distort the story to make their dog look better, is beyond denial, but actually, sick. Pet owners like the Walkers quite frankly get people hurt.

That said, I will still maintain the stance of my previous post, that Allyson broke standard pet handling protocol in allowing her face to be close enough to Spork to sustain that kind of injury, sharing some of the blame for what happened to her. A person who has 15 years experience in the field should know better.

I also continue to maintain that to press charges against a fear biting, bratty little dachshund as a vicious dog that should be euthanized, is ridiculous, since the danger of injury is an accepted risk of the veterinary profession, and that it is possible if not probable, that the dog is fine in other settings, where his every whim is appeased by his owners, and he is never made to do anything he does not want to do.

However, while I am glad Spork's life will be spared, I really have no love for his owners, and I hope that they are not made to be martyrs in this case. Their complete lack of compassion for what their dog did to Allyson Stone, their denial about how dangerous their dog can be when in unfamiliar circumstances, and their distortion of the facts of the case are nothing short of appalling. The truth is now clear, that all parties, including the Walkers, had a hand in the unfortunate events surrounding the case of Spork.

Supplemental Information

I was eventually able to find a stock image of Allyson Stone with her injuries. It of course did not make it into the broadcast, but I posted it here for those who are interested:

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The story of Spork, the "vicious" wiener dog.

In this episode:

Pet Joke of the Week: Part III of the Doggy Dictionary
Headline Pet News & Personal Comment: The story of Spork the "vicious" wiener dog.

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The Web-DVM:

Tonight’s episode is dedicated to Spork, the vicious wiener dog. As reported by, a veterinary technician working at Jasper Animal Hospital in Lafayette, Colorado, was bitten in the chin by a 17 pound, 10 year old Dachshund while working with him. As a result, this technician has deemed this dog vicious, and pressed charges with the local authorities, a move that could end up resulting in Spork being put to sleep. Absolutely devastated, Spork’s owners are fighting this charge leveled against their dog, and are even willing to move out of town or even out of state if necessary, in order to save their dog.

This comes as a great surprise to me, because as animal care professionals, we generally accept the occupational risk of the possibility of injury from animals. To deem an animal vicious because of its actions at the vet, a place where it is approached and handled by perfect strangers who do unpleasant things to them – examine them, give them injections, trim their nails, etc - is also not really fair.

In the case of Spork, has video footage of happy little Spork frolicking with, and licking and kissing his owners who clearly adore him. Unfortunately, I could not post that video here at the risk of copyright infringement, but I will post a link to the dogster article on our blog. That video left me having some trouble viewing this dog as a mennace to society.

Now, I was not present when this technician was bitten, and I can sympathize when someone gets injured by an unhappy animal patient. I certainly have been bitten quite a few times and clearly understand how unpleasant, frightening, and painful that can be. On the other hand, I know enough about animals to know that something was amiss with Spork’s case.

In practice, there are two types of pets that pose a danger to us, those pets that are outwardly aggressive, and those that are fear aggressive, that it, bite only when they are scared and feel threatened. The aggressive dogs, typically let you know right from the get go that they will bite, usually carrying on and growling when we are still several feet from the animal. For this reason, precautions can usually be taken to avoid getting injured, by having the owner apply a muzzle prior to the dog being approached or handled, and we certainly are not going to allow ourselves to leave our faces or appendage any where near the pet’s mouth.

The fear aggressive dogs are the ones that can get you by surprise, since they do not show any aggression until they feel threatened, by which time it could be too late for us. Since this veterinary technician in Spork’s case let her face near enough to the dog to be bitten, I suspect that Spork must fall into the category of fear aggressive dog.

Based on this, there are two points that do not sit well with me. First, to condemn a fear aggressive dog who acts out of fear against a person that he feels threatened by (let’s face it, veterinarians and vet techs can seem threatening to some of our patients), as a vicious dog that is a danger to society and must be put to sleep, is just not a fair assessment. In any other setting, this dog may not act anything like this, and it certainly did not appear so in the dogster video of Spork.

Second, this technician, who I again sympathize with for having gotten hurt, likely did something wrong to put herself in the position to get hurt. From my first day of work as 19 year old kennel boy, it was drummed into my brain that we do not ever allow our faces to be within striking distance of the face of an animal, even one we have trusted for years. As wonderful as any pet can seem, they are animals who can act unpredictably when feeling threatened.

From a handling standpoint, we do not ever work on animals without a professional veterinary assistant trained in proper restraint techniques to keep the person working on the animal safe if unpredictable behavior occurs. Owners are not ever permitted to hold their own animals as we examine and treat them, and the animals certainly are not left loose as we examine or treat them.

Taking these simple precautions makes injury from animals actually an exceedingly rare event in most veterinary clinics, even with 10%-15% of animal patients having to be muzzled for display of aggression, whether outright or fear based. In fact, when we do get bitten, in most cases it was the result of someone braking proper restraint or handling protocol that put them in that danger in the first place. As such, I have no doubt that the vet tech bitten by Spork had that occur in part as a result of breaking basic animal handling safety measures. I do no know how else can you explain a person getting bitten by a shrimpy little wiener dog.

To this technician and the veterinary hospital she works for, I would say this: stop! This dog will never again be in your clinic, rest assured. Even if these people oculd overlook you pressing charges against their dog, you still reserve the right to refuse treatment of this dog. If you take take it further than this and go through with pressing charges that this dog is a danger to society and the law agrees with you and puts this dog to sleep, you risk being the cause of tragedy for Spork’s family, as well as heeping a mountain of bad press on yourselves.

If any of you would like to help save Spork, I encourage you to visit the dogster link from our blog at Again, you may see the short video of Spork in action with a brief interview with his owners, as well as a petition link where you can lend your support to his cause.

That is our show for this Thursday, March 4, 2010. Please help us to continue our discussion at our blog at As always, we choose comments posted there or from our friends at YouTube or the HubPages for inclusion in our live broadcast, Sunday nights at 9:00 PM EST at Thank you for watching.

Supplemental Information

Click here for Dogster story and video of Spork

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website