Dr. Ryan Bullock
Google “cat declawing” and you’ll soon see that this can be a touchy subject. The reason is there are several horror stories out there of “declaws gone wrong”. While this is considered an elective procedure, for many cat owners the procedure can seem mandatory. Cats can destroy very valuable furniture, carpeting, etc with their front claws and for many cat owners it’s either declaw them or find them a new home.
Over the last 30-40 years different methods for declawing have been used with some of the faster and easier methods leading to poorer results. The method that is considered the gold standard is called an “onychectomy”. In this method, the entire last digit, including the bone that the nails are attached to, is removed from the paw at the joint. This is much less painful than some of the older methods that involved cutting the nail away from the paw through the bone known as the “guillotine method”. There is also much less chance for complications such as bone infection and nail regrowth using the onychetomy method.
Recently, a huge improvement in declaw surgeries has been achieved through the development of radiowave cautery and CO2 lasers in veterinary medicine. Instead of using a scalpel blade to excise the nail from the paw, these cautery and laser units are used. This allows for cauterization of nerves and vessels as they are cut which leads to less pain and faster healing times. As a veterinarian whose has performed several declaws using a scalpel, radiowave cautery, and CO2 laser, I can personally attest to how much better my patients do using this new technology compared to a scalpel blade. In greater than 90% of our cases the patient is walking around, sticking their paws out of the cage to play on either the same day of the surgery or the next day. All of our patients are comfortable and not limping after their surgery and can usually resume normal activities 10-14 days after surgery.
So when my clients ask me if I think declawing is an ethical and humane procedure, my answer depends upon how the procedure is to be performed. If it’s done using older methods, than I think it’s questionable, but if it’s done using the onychetomy method with these newer technologies, than I believe it is absolutely ethical and humane. If you are contemplating having your cat declawed, set up a time with your veterinarian to discuss the pros and cons.
In Response to the Recent News Clip
November 15, 2013
This week, we have been made aware of a news clip that aired on WSB-TV, which suggests that Trifexis, a monthly flea and heartworm prevention, has been killing dogs. This news clip has gone viral, and it is understandably causing great concern amongst pet owners. There is also a facebook page called “Trifexis Kills Dogs” that is causing equal concern.
In case you missed it, the news clip interviews grieving pet owners that claim their dogs died from Trifexis. In reviewing the 4 deaths mentioned in this news clip, they can all be explained by something other than Trifexis. One of the dogs that passed away was a 13 year old Chow. Not mentioned in the news story was that this dog had a history of having a lung mass, as well as low blood sugar and high calcium in its bloodwork. A necropsy was never even performed on this dog, yet the owner was allowed to be interviewed for the story. The other three deaths were Vizla puppies from the same litter. The three puppies died within 3 weeks of taking Trifexis. All three puppies were found to have myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart. Myocarditis is typically caused by a bacteria or virus, and, in all of the safety studies done on Trifexis, there was never any sign of it causing heart disease. The owner points out that the rest of the litter, which live in different homes, are apparently healthy and did not take Trifexis. This would make sense with a contagious infection, as a virus or bacteria will typically sweep through a litter of puppies all living in the same environment. While we know the loss of a pet is incredibly difficult and we sympathize with the owners who have lost their pets, all the data suggests it is unlikely that Trifexis was the cause.
In the news story, the veterinarian interviewed from Elanco mentioned that one of the drugs used in Trifexis is outsourced from China. With the recent news of health problems caused by chicken jerky treats from China, people are understandably concerned by this information. First, the symptoms associated with chicken jerky treats from China (namely kidney problems) have not been linked to Trifexis. Second, Elanco claims to do thorough inspections of the factory in China to ensure that it meets all of its safety standards. Third, you will be hard pressed to find an alternative heartworm preventative that does not outsource some of their product to other countries.
Briefly, we will address the “Trifexis Kills Dogs” facebook page. It is a mountain of misinformation. If you visit the site, you will notice that there are no positive comments about Trifexis. Veterinarians that have tried to offer scientific information have had their comments deleted. Be very wary of what you read on there.
To date, we personally feel as though Trifexis is a safe product. We certainly would not recommend a product that we would not use in our own dogs. In fact, most of our staff uses Trifexis in their own dogs. There are some side effects, such as vomiting and lethargy that we do rarely see and warn owners about. We do not use it in dogs with any history of seizures, as recommended by the company. It is not safe to use in dogs that are already infected with heartworms, which is why we require a negative heartworm test prior to its use. To date there have been 31 reported deaths associated with Trifexis out of 50 million doses dispensed in the United States alone. Some of these deaths may or may not have been caused by Trifexis. While 31 deaths sounds like a terrible number, it is actually a very small percentage. There are most likely higher human death rates associated with aspirin or Tylenol. Extremely rare, deadly reactions can occur with any drug. The risk of your dog contracting and dying from heartworms is much greater! If you have any further questions about the safety of Trifexis, we encourage you to call Elanco with any other questions or concerns. Their number is 888-545-5973. We also have official statements from Elanco available at either clinic location, if you would like more information.
We hope this helps ease your concerns!
Canyon Animal Clinic & Canyon City Animal Hospital
Dr. Keith Leakey
Most people consider the diagnosis of Parvo a death sentence and in many untreated cases mortality can reach 90%. If you have read any of my past articles, I usually include a personal experience that has a positive ending. That being said, Jake is a rambunctious white lab puppy that we all came to love during his rough start at our clinic last spring. Jake was 8 weeks old and had been experiencing vomiting, which was thought to be a result of drinking bleach out of a bucket. Those of you who have labs and especially those from puppyhood understand how possible this is due to the fact that everything has to pass the taste test! During our exam we soon discovered that he had loose stools and subsequently ran a Parvo test which turned out to be positive.
Jake had contracted the Parvo virus due to ingestion of contaminated feces either directly or indirectly. After contracting the Parvo virus it can take 3-10 days before symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea start. The virus attacks rapidly dividing tissue in lymphnodes, intestine, and the bone marrow. Within 3-4 days following infection the virus is shed in the feces for up to 3 weeks and can be found in the environment for greater than 1 year due to its ability to survive in hot and cold temperatures. Bleach is the only household disinfectant used to kill the virus.
In Jake’s case, as is commonly found, he became severely dehydrated due to the loss of fluids. As veterinarians we have no treatment for the actual virus. Our goal is to rehydrate and provide supportive care for the nausea and diarrhea so that they can fight off the infection. A specific treatment plan is tailored for each case of Parvo due to the fact that each patient responds differently to the virus. In many cases a hospital stay of 2-7 days may be necessary and is dependent on the patient’s ability to fight off the virus. Survival rates have been shown to be 80-95% with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment.
Preventing infection should be your goal when acquiring a new puppy. It is imperative that all puppies receive a series of vaccinations in order to establish immunity. Your local veterinarian has been trained on when these vaccines should be administered. Your veterinarian will have the most current vaccination to fight off the infection and can set them up for their series of immunizations.
This brings us back to Jake, who is currently back at home and leaving devastation in his path. He is a survivor and will live on to grow with his family and rule his house. For him Parvo was not a death sentence, but just a rather large bump in the road.
Dr. Ryan Bullock
I get this question every so often, or someone will say “my dog is the picture of health, never had a sick day in his life, so he doesn’t need an exam.” OR…. “Heck Doc, all you do is just run your hands over him, I can’t really see why I need to pay money and bring my pet in for that?”
There are actually many reasons why you DO need to bring your pet in every year for a veterinary exam. Even though your veterinarian may look like they are just petting on your dog, they are actually gaining valuable information about your pet’s health. In a normal head to tail exam, a veterinarian can discover a myriad of health problems your pet may have. Things such as dental disease, oral tumors and infection, anemia, neurologic disease, enlarged lymph nodes, ear infections, heart murmurs and arrhythmias, lung disease, parasites (fleas, ticks, tapeworms), skin tumors, skin infections, abdominal masses or discomfort, enlarged organs, mammary and testicular tumors, muscle atrophy, weight gain or loss, and arthritis are just a handful of things that a veterinarian will notice on physical exams that many pet owners are not trained to observe about their “healthy” pet. The sooner these issues are discovered, the better off your pet will be.
As we all know, pets age much faster than humans and one pet year is equivalent to 5 to 10 human years depending upon the age and breed of the pet. I think most of us would agree that it’s probably a good idea to get examined by a MD at least once every 5-10 years. This is even more important for senior pets over the age of 7 years old and in young, growing pets less than 6 months of age.
Annual exams are also needed to refill medications and receive vaccines. Vaccines or prescription medications can do harm if they are given to a pet with unknown health problems, and a veterinary exam insures that these problems don’t go undiagnosed and cause further harm to your pet.
The value of the veterinary exam doesn’t just stop when the vet is done with his or her exam. You have a captive audience with an expert in veterinary medicine, so use it to ask them all of the many questions you are sure to have as a pet owner! With all the confusing and conflicting information we all have access to these days, it’s great to be able to have a face to face discussion with someone who is a licensed expert!
Dr. Ryan Bullock
Last month I discussed how important and useful pet health insurance is for you and your pet. Pet health insurance allows pet owners to use some of the latest advances in veterinary health care to increase their pet’s quality of life or even save their pet’s life. But with so many providers now available, the thought of investigating them all will probably give you “tired head”. Well, I’m going to do my best to give you the highlights of the top 5 pet health insurance providers as decided by consumeradvocate.org. Below are their findings on each company.
#1 Healthy Paws – Pros: thought to have the best coverage for the unexpected; low cost deductibles from $100; will cover up to 90% of actual vet bill, covers accidents/illnesses without restrictions on hereditary conditions; covers medications, advanced testing and hospital stays. Cons: does not cover routine care and will not pay for vet exams or preexisting conditions.
#2 Embrace Pet Insurance – Pros: covers accidents, illness, genetic and chronic conditions; they offer wellness plans that cover routine care, if you have a younger pet – Embrace is a fantastic choice! Cons: they have age limitations on older pets (but once your pet is covered they are covered for life), they offer drug coverage as an add on (not included with the rest of the policy).
#3 Trupanion – Pros: low cost deductibles; will cover up to 90% of vet bill, covers medications, advanced testing, and hospital stays; no caps on payout amounts. Cons: animals not spayed or neutered within the first year are considered breeding animals and cost more to insure.
#4 Pets Best Insurance – Pros: up to 100% reimbursement; low annual deductible from $100. Cons: doesn’t cover congenital (hereditary) conditions; will not cover items deemed “preventable”; will not cover parasites (fleas, heartworms, roundworms).
#5 ASPCA Pet Insurance – Pros: 90% reimbursement; low annual deductible from $100. Cons: they will only pay out $3,000 per incident unless you purchase one of their top 2 policies.
We have decided to pick Embrace as the insurance provider we recommend to our clients. We think they provide great overall coverage, but are an especially great value for younger pets. We feel strongly that starting your pet on insurance when they are a puppy or kitten is important to make sure they have coverage their entire life and that you get the cheapest rates. If you have a middle aged or senior pet, I would also look closely at Trupanion.
Dr. Ryan Bullock
Probably the biggest obstacle most veterinarians face in providing top notch care for our client’s pets is the cost of providing top notch care. We now have specialists available in every field, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI’s, etc, to pinpoint exactly where the problem is in your pet. Advanced surgical procedures and hospitalization save many pet’s lives or greatly increase their quality of life. The problem is that with newer technology and specialization comes an increased cost of medical care. On a daily basis we treat our patients with plan B, C, or D instead of plan A because finances become the guiding force.
This is where pet insurance comes to the rescue! There are few better feelings than to know that my client has pet insurance and that I will be allowed to do my job to the best of my ability to help their pet! Pet health insurance is a relatively new concept that started about 15 years ago. This is a rapidly growing business and new companies have been sprouting up everywhere over the last 5 years. This is great news for you because it means there is a lot of competition to gain your trust and business. Now for many of you that are all too familiar with the hassles of dealing with human health insurance, luckily pet health insurance is a different animal. They are independent businesses that are not subject to all of the same governmental control and red tape that make human health care so frustrating to deal with.
You can sign up for different plans to cater to you and your pet’s specific needs. The way it works is you have a 1-2 page form for your veterinarian to fill out at your visit, you send this form into your insurance company, and they send you a check to reimburse you for all or a portion of your bill depending upon your individual plan. Many plans are not just geared toward accidents or illness, but will cover wellness exams, vaccines, etc, as well.
According to a report by “Consumer’s Advocate”, they rate the top 5 pet health insurance companies as 1) Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation, 2) Embrace Pet Insurance, 3) Trupanion, 4) Purina Care Pet Health Insurance, and 5) Pet’s Best Insurance. Which company is best for you depends upon your individual needs, but our favorite is Embrace. Visit their websites or ask your veterinarian for more information.