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Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Pets

One year ago today a catastrophic tornado struck Joplin, Missouri, severely damaging or destroying a large number of homes, leaving pet owners and pets with no place to stay. Animal control officers were overwhelmed with more than 1,300 pets requiring emergency medical care and shelter.

When natural disasters like this $2.8 billion tornado occur, it is a quandary for all parties involved. Resources must be quickly obtained and organized, and lives — both humans and animals — are at stake.

Volunteers in Joplin worked around the clock to rescue, identify, provide medical attention, comfort, house, and feed pets separated from their owners in the mayhem and confusion that followed the massive disaster. Many pets eventually made it back to their owners, but a large number did not and were euthanized or adopted out across the country. Similar scenes ensued after Hurricane Katrina and the recent floods in Iowa and Mississippi.

 

Sixty-three percent of Americans have a feline friend, canine companion, or other type of pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. When disaster strikes, pets are often lost or have no place to stay if owners must move to a shelter or a temporary home that cannot accommodate them.

Planning and preparing our family and pets for the unexpected can provide a huge sense of relief now – and perhaps save lives later. What should be included in a disaster preparedness plan?

First, pet owners need to identify friends and family outside their regions who are less likely to be affected by the same disaster and ensure that pets are properly identified. Pet ID tag information should be current and pets need to be microchipped.

Atlantic Veterinary Hospital carries the new, 15-digit, universal ResQ microchips. These microchips can be placed under the skin on the back of the neck during a quick nurse visit and cost $46. Your contact information can be quickly and easily updated as needed online any time at no additional cost.

Second, have an emergency kit for your pets. The kit should include:

  • A crate
  • Extra leashes
  • Photos of your pets
  • Contact information for Atlantic Veterinary Hospital
  • Your pets’ microchip information
  • A pet first aid kit
  • A supply of pet food and any medications

Chocolate Poisoning Requires Immediate Attention

Easter morning was a bit of disaster at my house. Jester, our black lab mix, helped himself to two 16-ounce milk chocolate bunnies from stocked baskets the Easter Bunny had mistakenly left on the couch, within easy reach of a dog nose.

Fortunately, Jester is a large dog and it was milk chocolate. Other than some mild intestinal distress and a very wired pooch, things went okay. We were lucky!

Recently, another patient at Atlantic Veterinary Hospital wasn’t so lucky. A 26-pound dog, he helped himself to a 3-ounce 70% dark chocolate he found in a purse left on the floor. The dog suffered a severe reaction which would have been life threatening if he hadn’t received immediate, life-saving treatment.

His wise owner called us right away, and after calculating the chocolate-to-dog-weight ratio, we advised immediate veterinary care. The owner arrived in minutes; we induced vomiting and started emergency care, but it was a rough afternoon for the dog and owner until the signs of toxicity improved over several hours. Fortunately, another happy ending.

Theobromide and caffeine, found in most chocolates, are toxic to dogs and cats if they ingest enough – and it doesn’t take much, especially in small pets that eat dark or baking chocolate.

If you find evidence your pet has eaten chocolate, please seek immediate medical attention.

During business hours, clients may call Atlantic Veterinary Hospital for advice, at (206) 323-4433.

After hours, call the nearest veterinary emergency facility or the ASPCA National Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

You’ll need to know your pet’s weight, the type and amount of chocolate eaten, and when the pet ate the chocolate.

Here’s an article with more information about chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats.

Image: Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, April 28th

Every year, thousands of pets and children accidentally ingest medications that were not intended for them, often making them very ill or even killing them.

Finally, there’s a better way to dispose of expired or unused drugs than flushing them down the toilet (where they contaminate our water supply), tossing them in the trash, or leaving them to gather dust in the medicine cabinet.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is sponsoring the 4th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, April 28, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Drop-off expired or unused medications (human or pet) at Atlantic Veterinary Hospital through noon this Saturday and we’ll take them to a disposal site for you along with our expired inventory.

Or, check-out the Office of Diversion Control website to find the nearest medication collection sites.

Americans that participated in the DEA’s 3rd National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October, 2011, turned in more than 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal.

Please protect your family, both the two- and four-legged members, and clean out your medicine cabinet.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Like Pushing the Pedal to the Metal

Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal disorder diagnosed in cats.

It occurs when the thyroid glands, located in your cat’s neck, stop “listening” to the normal regulatory control of the pituitary gland in the brain and begin to produce excess thyroid hormone.

Thyroid hormone helps regulate metabolism and control normal bodily processes. Think of it as an engine’s tachometer gauge: in simple terms, it controls how fast or slow the body functions. When a cat’s thyroid glands become overactive and produce too much thyroid hormone, it leads to an increase in the body’s metabolism.

In automotive terms, it’s like pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor, moving the engine’s tachometer gauge past the red line – and into trouble!

Dangers of Hyperthyroidism

While this may sound like a great way to shed a few extra pounds if your cat is overweight, the impact of hyperthyroidism on our cat friends can be dangerous. Over a period of months, the overproduction of thyroid hormone can have a negative impact on the heart, kidneys, and other organs.

Cause of Hyperthyroidism

The exact cause of hyperthyroidism is not known. This disease typically affects cats aged 10 years or older, and is one of the important reasons why we recommend regular laboratory testing in older cats.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are weight loss despite increased appetite. Additionally, some cats may become restless, “talk” more, look unkempt, vomit, drink more, urinate more, become cranky, and breathe more rapidly. Sometimes, however, cats do not exhibit these symptoms, even though their internal organs are undergoing damage. We pick up these “silent” cases through routine laboratory testing and physical exam. Left untreated, cats become extremely thin and typically die of heart failure caused by the hyperthyroidism.

Treatment Options

If your cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, we’ll discuss several treatment options with you, including a brand new dietary option that doesn’t require medication.

While we don’t know yet why older cats frequently develop hyperthyroidism or how to prevent it, we can effectively treat – and even cure – the disease, allowing your dear kitty friend to live a long and healthy life.

Fleas: Like Ticks on Pogo Sticks

More than an itchy nuisance, fleas are blood-sucking, disease-spreading insects.

They’ve been around since before the dinosaurs, yet were wily enough to survive whatever it was that ended the dinosaurs’ reign.

Besides causing itchy misery, fleas can spread diseases like tapeworms and life-threatening bacteria. Fleas can also kill young animals by causing severe anemia (think vampire style).

They were responsible for spreading the bacteria that causes The Plague, a disease that killed thousands in Europe during the Dark Ages and is still found today in places as near as Eastern Oregon.

Seattle-area flea-transmitted bacteria

One type of flea-transmitted bacteria we frequently see in Seattle cats is Mycoplasma haemofelis. Similar to Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (spread by ticks), M. haemofelis attacks cats’ red blood cells and causes severe anemia and jaundice. It is quickly fatal if left untreated.

Cats infected with M. haemofelis come into the hospital severely depressed and vomiting. They often have a fever and pale white, yellow-tinged gums from the severe anemia caused by red blood cell destruction. Diagnosing the underlying cause of the profound anemia requires laboratory tests because other diseases have similar clinical signs.

Treating M. haemofelis

After diagnosing M. haemofelis, cats are treated with appropriate antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs for 2-3 weeks. Some cats require expensive, life-saving blood transfusions and several days in the hospital. While treatment usually improves the anemia, affected cats may remain carriers and a reservoir for fleas to bite, then spread the bacteria to the next cat.

How to prevent M. haemofelis

Thankfully, preventing M. haemofelis in cats is much easier these days with regular, year around use of topical flea preventive medications, such as Revolution and EasySpot (similar to Frontline).

With our temperate weather, we see fleas in all seasons in Seattle, although the heaviest concentration is typically July through October. Ask us how to help protect your kitty!

Green Power = Green Discount at AVH

As the weather starts to warm and we’re all thinking spring, we encourage you to make use of our Green Discount.  Atlantic Veterinary Hospital is the only veterinary hospital we know of that offers one.

Energy use makes our biggest impact on environment. So, if you walk, ride your bike, carpool, or use public transportation to reach our hospital, we thank you by offering a 5% discount on all products and services during your visit.

We continue to explore additional ways to make our hospital more environmentally responsible, from the energy, water and supplies we use, to the products we stock and recommendations we make.

For example:

  • We support Seattle City Light’s Green Power Program. The Green Power Program funds local renewable energy demonstration projects in Seattle and the suburban areas that City Light serves. It also funds renewable energy education and training programs for teachers, students, and the general public.
  • We use LED and fluorescent lighting throughout the hospital
  • All office and cleaning paper products we use are made of 100% recycled materials
  • We compost, reuse, and recycle everything we possibly can
  • All of our cleaning and laundry products (except small amounts of necessary disinfectants) are biodegradable and environmentally safe
  • All our appliances are Energy Star rated
  • During our recent mini remodel, we used environmentally-friendly paint and other products
  • Our new email reminder system decreases the amount of paper used for reminders

Share your ideas with us about how we can continue to decrease our carbon footprint!

Saying Goodbye to Bogie

Eleven months ago we welcomed a sweet old Labrador into our family that we found on PetFinder.com, my very favorite website.

His name was Bogart and he’d been a “throw away dog” that someone abandoned and someone else had rescued. He couldn’t wag his tail. His spine had been pelted with buckshot. And he had very severe arthritis everywhere, so a lumbering walk was all he could muster – forget about a trot or run.

Despite his tough history, Bogie was the sweetest gentleman with soulful brown eyes, perfect manners, and a sense of humor that began to shine as we treated his arthritis and loved him up. Even our cats tolerated him (because he ignored them). He started to run after squirrels two months after we adopted him, and at Christmas he lifted and wagged his tail for the first time.

Sadly, Bogie passed away unexpectedly in his sleep last week while we were out-of-town for the weekend and he was being cared for by a very nice and caring pet sitter in our home. My heart is very heavy, even though I know his passing was peaceful. We didn’t get to say goodbye.

The memories of his brown eyes looking up at me, asking for dinner, or his strong snout lifting my arm, wanting some petting while I tried to type are all I have (that, and some dog hair on the couch). Although we didn’t have an autopsy performed, most likely he died of a tumor common in older, large breed dogs. The tumor is called a hemangiosarcoma; it hides quietly on the liver or spleen until it decides to hemorrhage internally and there’s nothing that can be done.

Losing a beloved family pet is never easy, but the love they give us is always greater than the pain of their loss, even when our hearts are broken, as mine is. Thank you, Bogie, for giving us your best, even when your bones hurt and you had every reason to distrust humans.  I’m missing you, old boy.

Veterinary Medicine: It’s a Person-Pet-Vet Connection

On Valentine’s Day we celebrate relationships – not just romantic relationships, but the bond we have with all the people who make our world a better place.

In this fast-paced, online, corporate world, it’s the relationships with people we often miss – REAL people. I’d rather speak to a real person on the other end of the telephone line, even if I have to hold for a few minutes, than a corporation’s telephone tree, or worse yet, a “talking” computer voice.

Have you ever felt more ridiculous than when talking to a computerized “help” line, the likes that utility and airline companies now use? How much more impersonal can you get?

When people learn I’m a veterinarian, I invariably hear, “Wow, you must love animals!”

My answer: “Yes, but I love the people part of my job just as much.”

Every animal we see comes with a person.

Working in a family-owned veterinary practice that has been in the neighborhood for more than 50 years, we’re privy to some amazing relationships that have developed between Atlantic Veterinary Hospital and our clients. We thrive on the people parts of our jobs and enjoy the relationships we develop as we work together to care for four-legged family members.

I like to get to know the people behind the pets.

When I’m putting in a late night finishing medical charts, working through my lunch time to answer the many calls that come into the practice every day, or missing dinner with my family to care for a sick pet, knowing that I’m working for people I care about makes it worthwhile. In fact, our veterinary oath includes a promise to protect human health.

It’s all about person-to-person-to pet relationships

And I promise you will never, ever talk to a computer when you call us. You’ll get a real person on the phone or answering your email, one who wants to help you or put you in contact with someone who can. Veterinary medicine is just as much about people as it is about animals. Thank you for being in relationship with us.

Avalanche Rescue Dogs (Video)

Several years ago, when I first learned to ski, I almost fell out of the chairlift at Steven’s Pass because I was gawking at a yellow Labrador retriever wearing a bright red vest. The dog had jumped into a lift chair behind me and was riding the lift up the mountain.

Wondering what in the world a dog was doing on a ski lift, I waited at the top after disembarking, pretending to adjust my ski mittens while I stared in amazement at the dog and its handler.

It turns out the dog was an Avalanche Rescue Dog, used to find skiers and snow boarders trapped in a snow slide. These dogs are also used to find skiers who have fallen and are covered by new snowfall, or have become lost and are holed up in a snow cave.

Once buried by snow, the victim is impossible to find with the naked eye and may have only a short time to live if not rescued. Many avalanche victims owe their lives to dogs trained in avalanche rescue.

In the late 1930s the Swiss Army started training search dogs in avalanche rescue, techniques that have been refined in the decades since. The dogs are taught to alert when they find “pools” of human scent.

Highly trained and organized volunteer rescue groups across the US, Canada, and Europe now provide avalanche search and rescue service to ski areas.

I hope none of us ever needs the services of one of these fantastic dogs, but their dedication to their task and their joy in the snow make them a beautiful (and comforting) sight.

Here’s an informative 4-minute video of avalanche rescue dogs in training:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qm0eU08XuTE[/youtube]

Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘Take the First Step in Faith’

January: the first month of the year and a time for new beginnings.

Ever hopeful, many of us make a resolution or two on New Year’s Eve, promising ourselves we’ll accomplish something special in the coming months.

Sometimes, however, what we want to accomplish can soon loom very large in the light of day after New Year’s Eve.

Afraid to fail, we ask ourselves: “What was I thinking?”

We begin to rationalize — even before the holiday decorations are stowed away — that a challenging goal is really too difficult or enormous to be attainable, so why bother? And another year goes by.

This month we also celebrate the birthday and amazing life of American hero, Martin Luther King, Jr. Dissatisfied with the status quo, King encouraged people to imagine a better world – a world no one had actually seen before. Goals don’t get much bigger than his, but King was a man who believed in the power of our collective individual efforts to bring about massive positive change.

“Take the first step in faith,” King said. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Join us in celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Honor his legacy by mustering the courage to dream big, coupled with the tenacity to see your dream as a series of achievable steps.

One of our big dreams for Atlantic Veterinary Hospital is the installation of digital X-ray, a new technology that allows better and faster diagnostic capabilities for our patients. While upgrading our X-ray equipment is not world-changing in a global sense, the technology can be positively life changing for our pet patients. Right now, digital X-ray seems out of our reach due to the cost of the new technology, but we’re working on smaller steps to achieve that goal, and we’ll keep you updated.

What are your goals for 2012?

Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Seattle serves the following neighborhoods: Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Seward Park, Capitol Hill, Leschi, Central District, Madison Valley, International District, and Georgetown.