Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where's the outrage??

In this episode:

Personal comment: Where's the outrage??

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The WebDVM:

Hello again pet lovers, and welcome to The Web-DVM. Ladies and gentlemen, please forgive me for this episode not being upbeat, and me not being in any sort of mood for a Pet Joke of the Week. In the events and circumstances surrounding the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that increasingly threatens the serene natural beauty of my home state of Florida, it is difficult to feel little else but sadness, frustration, and increasingly, barely contained rage!

For those of you not informed or ill-informed of the current ecological disaster in our country, large and powerful oil company British Petroleum, otherwise known as BP, had oil rig Deep Water Horizon explode in the Gulf of Mexico, 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast more than 5 weeks ago, which led to the oil well one mile beneath the surface to spew crude oil into the Gulf without any real ability to stop it after all this time. BP conveniently miscalculated the amount of crude spilling into the Gulf at 5000 barrels per day, known now to be likely more than 100,000 barrels per day, with their latest effort to stop the leak recovering only 2% of the spewing oil.

Naturally, I am angry at BP and other slime ball oil companies like them that put profits above safety, regulation, and environment, grease equally slimy politicians to look the other way as they proceed with impunity and little to no oversight. I am appalled as they fumble through their attempts at solving this crisis, with obviously no plan in place if such an event occurs, throwing out one useless and futile solution after another, as our Gulf continues to blacken with the filth that they unleashed. They seem as if they are novices attempting deep water drilling for the first time, clueless truly about how they may actually stop this leak. Their excuse for their failure is that they have never attempted such crisis management work at such depths, and my answer to that is if they do not know how they may fix a blown well at such depth, they do not belong drilling there in the first place!

While BP and oil companies in general bear a large part of outrage I feel, I think that my fellow Americans perhaps may bear more. For as outraged as I am right now, I am both surprised and disturbed at how little my fellow citizens ARE outraged, even here in Florida where we stand to lose the most! Whether this is the result of ignorance, denial, selfishness, or plain stupidity, I just want to shake them and say, "Wake up people, our nation's greatest natural treasure, precious wildlife, and decades and trillions of dollars of tourism and fishing revenue are drowning in oil!" One poll I saw indicated that 60% of Americans still favor off shore drilling!

Well people, allow me to inform you what we are losing. The marsh lands of Louisiana, the nation's largest wildlife refuge, are already getting inundated with oil and intoxicated with chemical disbursements that BP in their great wisdom decided to clean the spill with. Already threatened species of sea turtles and manatees, majestic coral reefs, are likely to suffer huge losses. Perhaps the most beautiful natural environment in the United States and even the world, the Florida Keys, one of my favorite places to vacation, will be overrun with oil, its delicate coral reefs and wildlife species decimated if the oil reaches the loop current, a forgone conclusion according to every expert I have heard from that does not work for BP. In the loop current, the oil will then travel up the east coast to the aquamarine ocean beaches of South Florida and may even reach as far north as my home beach, Cocoa Beach. Tar balls may even wash up on the beaches of barrier islands off the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina's famous Outer Banks.

Let us put this event in this perspective: the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska, occurred 22 years ago, a horrible disaster to be sure, but with only a mere fraction of the amount of oil that has already been spilt into the Gulf with no end in sight. All this time later, and Prince William Sound has STILL not recovered from that oil spill. The region is pointed out now by tour guides on cruise ships, not as a natural treasure, but as a region completely devoid of life. Its city, Cordova Alaska, has never recovered from the spill because of decimated populations of herring and salmon, and loss of tourism and recreational sports.

I am further incensed by my fellow citizens, because of their obstinate and selfish addiction to oil. Despite grave warnings of global warming, ecological disasters, pollution, and even grave risk to our national security, I still see gluttonous SUV after SUV on the road, and my favorites of all, big stupid, jacked up giant pick up trucks and Hummers. Living only one hour south of the Daytona International Speedway, I also get to see hoards of people, hundreds of thousands of them, addicted to a sport that wantonly squanders 200,000 gallons of gasoline per year. To top it all off, in this last Presidential 2008 election, I got to see the mantra and motto of the Republican National Convention, "drill baby drill!" who despite that STILL managed 48% of the popular vote!!!

What has happened to my country?? How can a country that was first to harness electricity, mass produce steel, invent life saving vaccines and antibiotics, and even have the tenacity to put men on the moon with computer technology no better than an average calculator, now more than 40 years later, not have the ability to get off oil?? It is not because we do not have the ability, the know how, nor the resources. It is because somewhere along the line, we let the oil corporations take over. We sat idly and continue to vote in corrupt politicians that pander to them. We do not get outraged when Chevron/Texaco spends $60 million to purchase the rights to a cutting edge long mileage rechargeable car battery, simply so they can squash it and suppress its dissemination (yes, that really happened!). Most appallingly, we are too selfish to consume less oil and therefore drive down the demand because it is too inconvenient, because we do not want to give up our SUVs for smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Somewhere along the line, my great country with its a long, proud history of innovation and never settling for less than the best, has become lazy, apathetic and selfish, even in the face of a disaster like this.

A lot of people have poked fun at me because both my wife and I drive hybrids, she a Ford Escape that averages 30 miles per gallon, me a Ford Fusion that averages 36. On the weekends, I burn no gas, opting to take my electric golf cart most places, or otherwise walk or ride my bike. Want to still poke fun, people? Want to jest about the fact that I hold those evil oil companies accountable by consuming considerably less of their product than the rest of you have the wherewithal to do? And when the scumbags use this tragedy as an excuse to jack up gas prices as is already beginning to happen, it will be me laughing at you!

Well wake up America, and realize what is being done to your environment! Do not go gentle into that goodnight. Be outraged! Support politicians who advocate less drilling and more investment in green energy. Sell your SUV and get a fuel efficient car. Use more mass transit. Here's a thought, get off your lazy ass and walk or ride a bike somewhere!

Here is a photo my wife took as she and I dove a breathtaking coral reef in the Keys only 6 months ago. I cannot tell you how saddened I am that that may be the last time I see that reef as oil and toxic chemical disbursements stand to destroy it. I think of the sea turtles I have the pleasure to see even at my local beach, who have made it to adulthood against the 1 in 700 survival odds they have as hatchlings, whose lives of perseverance in the face of incredible odds may be wasted by an act human greed and laziness, and it makes me sick.

If we do not take the initiative as citizens and continue to turn a blind eye to the loss of such pristine natural treasures, then we will get what we deserve. Why stop at the Gulf, when we can also drill in Yellow Stone, Yosemite, the Channel Islands, ANWAR, Point Reyes and Acadia. Let's turn our entire nation into one giant, polluted oil slick, because that SUV is worth it! Drill, baby, drill!

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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

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shame on you Walmart!

Note: Since many of my viewers/listeners cross over between my three different shows, I make a big effort to not cover the same material on more than one show in any given week. However, since a good many of my viewers do not cross over between shows, remaining attached to one or another particular one for whatever reason, I found the Walmart topic too important to be left out of any of my shows this week. Each show still has its own fresh supporting material or flavor this week nonetheless, I do apologize to my cross over audience that had to her about "Shame on Walmart" covered on more than one show.

In this episode:

Pet joke of the week: Mommy's Night Out
Personal comment: Shame on you Walmart!

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The WebDVM:

My personal comment tonight stems from a work related experience I had last week, when a canine patient came in with sore hips. Her owner informed me that she had been giving the dog "doggy" aspirin that she got from Walmart for the past week, but that it did not seem to help. In response to that, I asked, "are you sure it was aspirin and not a joint nutritional supplement?"

"No," she said, "it is aspirin, here is the bottle." Then she proceeded to pull out a bottle of Pro-Pet aspirin, labeled for use in dogs for joint and arthritis pain. The best part?? the label read, "Veterinarian Approved."

Folks, I cannot tell you how infuriated this makes me, not at the owner - she was only trying to help her dog - but at Walmart for selling this stuff over the counter to pet owners that have no idea how harmful this can be to their dogs. Most of us are quite aware that regular taking of even enteric coated aspirin has the potential to irritate our stomachs, often leading to ulcers of the gastrointestinal system. In dogs, this potential for GI ulceration is far greater than it is in humans, owing to the exceptionally high incidence of vomiting and stomach ulcers developing, often after only a few days of aspirin administration.

I have seen it all too often. Dog comes in vomiting blood. I ask the owner if he has been on any medications and they inform me that the dog has been on nothing but the daily dose of aspirin they decided to give him for his arthritis. Some of these dogs I can treat as outpatients with antibiotics and GI protecting medications, while others are not so lucky. Some end up with ulcers so bad that they have to be hospitalized, some need surgery to repair a perforating ulcer, and others die despite our best efforts to save them.

You see, aspirin is in a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs for short. Other examples of human drugs in this class, no less toxic for dogs and perhaps even more harmful, are ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen, commonly known under the labels Advil, Tylenol, and Aleve, respectively. They work by inhibiting an inflammatory enzyme in the body known as a COX enzyme, responsible for reactions that lead to pain and inflammation. This helps to reduce pain, swelling and fever, making these medications very helpful. But unfortunately, not all COX enzymes are bad. In fact some are important in helping to protect the stomach, liver and kidneys. This is where these drugs are potentially harmful, because while inhibiting the bad COX enzymes helping the patient on one hand, they also inhibit the good ones, leaving the body at risk for GI, liver and kidney disease. Therefore, the best NSAIDS available, are ones that selectively in inhibit only the bad COX enzymes, while preserving the good ones. For people, Advil, and Naproxen are more selective COX inhibitors than aspirin, owing to the movement generally away from aspirin use in favor of these other drugs in people, with aspirin now being used only under very specific circumstances.

In dogs, as I have already explained, aspirin is terribly toxic to the canine GI, but other human NSAIDs, even the more selective COX inhibitors, are liver and kidney toxic. For this reason, there are veterinary labeled NSAID medications that we can prescribe, such as Previcox, Deramax, an Rimadyl. Even with these canine labeled NSAIDs, there is potential for adverse effects, which is why we have to be very careful with their use and these medications can only be purchased by pet owners by prescription only while a patient is under the care of a veterinarian.

So you can see that Walmart's decision to sell a dangerous NSAID like aspirin over the counter, labeled for use in dogs and touted to be "Veterinarian Recommended," is not only appalling, but also unethical and most likely illegal. I do not know one vet that would recommend that aspirin be sold and labeled this way, when there are much more effective and safer prescription options for dogs in pain. I will go so far as to say that any veterinarian that does recommend this, should have his or her license to practice taken away. There are only a few circumstances in veterinary medicine where treatment with aspirin is indicated, and only under the close supervision of an attending veterinarian, certainly not as an over the counter product for the general pet owning population to decide how and when to treat.

Back to the dog I saw that alerted me of this situation, luckily, she had not yet had her stomach cooked by the aspirin she was receiving. But as it turned out, she did not have any hip problems as the owner thought, she had a slipped disc in her back, which was not only causing pain, but also some neuromuscular dysfunction in her rear limbs. What she needed what not an NSAID at all, but a steroid. Unfortunately, I could not give her a steroid right away like she needed, because of the aspirin that was in her system. The combination of the two would have virtually assured her a gastric ulcer that to date she had luckily escaped. Instead, I had to put her on a narcotic pain reliever to control her pain and have her strictly confined, while we waited 3 days to begin the steroid she so desperately needed to alleviate the root of her problems - the pressure of a disc compressing her spinal cord. So this patient may have escaped injury from the aspirin she was being given, but because of that aspirin I was forced to delay necessary treatment, prolonging her recovery. Nice job, Walmart, hope the 5 bucks you made off the bottle of pills was worth it!

On my end, I have begun to draft a letter to the Florida State Veterinary Board, on which I am compiling signatures of as many veterinarians in my area that I can get to sign it. You too can help to force Walmart's hand to stop their practice by writing the veterinary board of your state, as well as alerting your veterinarians of what they are doing so that they may act as well.

That is our show for this May 8, 2010. Happy Mothers day to all mommies out there.

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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