Friday, June 20, 2014

Throwback, err, Friday - Vet School Blogs

I have only written 4 posts this year and we are six months in! Sorry ... but I have an excuse at least. I created a human being. From scratch.

I was looking through some old emails and came across a few monster emails I wrote during vet school. Here is one from my very early days as a freshman ... I can't believe how ecstatic I was.


_SU won the game today

Well, it was against northwestern, so i don't really count that a huge victory, but whatever. game day here is just like it was at ____ state. btw, i dont feel like using punctuation right now or capitalizing everything, because i was just typing up an outline of our dissection of the dog, which i am planning on giving to my group, so i carefully capitalized everything that need to be etc. 

***warning for people who arent in the veterinary field...there are some gross details in this email.********

classes started wednesday and are going well. i am so tired though. wednesday and thursday we had orientation to everything, but we still started the material. since they are on a quarter system everything is condensed into 10 weeks, so we had to get started right away. the first day of anatomy we got our cadavers and started dissecting. our dog is a really really fat blue heeler and it has been a bitch to clean all the fat away from her muscles. we named her hyena fatty, because she kind of looks like a hyena. its been fun though. my group is a little uptight, and they are all worried about grades and cutting in the wrong place and i am ust like, cut that sucker. monday i am going to just take over because at the rate they are going, we will never get her arm off. that is the first thing we are doing, learning the thoracic limb, and we have to know all the muscles and their actions and innervations, and the bones and some of the structures on the bones. we have been spending alot of time digging around in her fattiness. she is gross. we separated the latissimus dorsi from the obliques and a pocket of liquid fat cam oozing out of her. it was gross, but we were all cracking up. monday we have to deglove the rest of her arm and then take the whole thing off of her body. wednesday we start learning nerves. 

i also have radiology, which is only on wednesdays and i think its going to be a peice of cake. the first day he showed a film of a bloat, and i was like seen it. i have epidemiology every morning, and then cell biology at the end of the day and tuesdays and thursdays i have histology. histology we havent really started yet bc we only had one day of it so far and it was spent learning how to use a microscope. thursday on my time in btw orientations i went and gave blood, yay!! then friday we dissected again, and thats when i decided that it was time to take charge of the whole thing.  and we had two hours of cell bio, i think that is going to be my worst class. for some reason i just have trouble remembering that stuff. 

right now all the clubs are trying to get first years to join, so we keep getting free lunch which is great. i feel like i am in grade school again. we have lockers in the basement where we can keep our scrubs for anatomy. i carry colored pencils around with me all the time, pack my lunch in a dorky lunch box, bring clothes to school, work in groups, and sit in the same seat every day. people are really possesive of their seats. its pretty funny actually. i just bought a backpack because my trapezius muscle was getting very sore from carrying 30 pounds of stuff a mile there and back every day. i should haev mentioned that our class notes are excessive and consist of about 900 pages all together. i dont have to bring them all every day, but still. thats a lot of paper. i also bring my dissection guide every day. and notecards.

i am really tired and its only the first week. im sure i am going to be a zombie pretty soon. then i will write emails that are all the same sentence---whydididothistomyself. 

talk to you soon...sendme funny emails so i don't lose my mind!!!! if i go crazy, its all your faults. 

ps. to the doctors on this list...what is a really good brand of stethoscope? 



I just want to point out there were people who were the same way in necropsy rotation. Fourth year.  I mean grow a pair.*

*I must amend that last statement. Grow a VAGINA. Much stronger than balls.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blue Buffalo Sued for False Advertising

When clients ask me what food they should feed their pet, I tend to mention the same few companies, who have proved through time and science that their products are wholesome and balanced. There is one company I never recommend to clients, Blue Buffalo, and my reasons really have nothing to do with the food itself. My main complaint, in addition to a few other things that have come to light about Blue, is the way the company markets it's products. Ever since Blue commercials began airing, I have had many discussions with clients about by-products and the true definition of the term, and so-called "bad companies."Apparently Purina has had enough of it, as well.

I find it wholly unethical to a) Vilify other companies in your own industry in your marketing materials and b) Imply that certain pet food ingredients like by-products and corn are evil, cheap fillers that harm your pet. (See this post). That is why I was ecstatic to read that Purina has filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising.  You can read about it directly from Purina at their website,  In further research, it appears that Hill's has also come up against Blue for their advertising claims.

Purina states that they used an independent laboratory to find that Blue foods do contain by-products and by-product meals, despite their claims. This is unsurprising, as the term by-product only means material not used as human food, and encompasses quite a few things that commonly find their way into pet food. As I have said in previous posts, by-products are not bad. It is only the term that has a bad connotation. Highly nutritious organ meats like liver and spleen are included, as is bonemeal which is a great source of calcium. Feathers, hair, hooves and teeth are not included.

Marketing for pet food is obviously directed towards the owner, as s/he is the one with the wallet. This is true of ALL pet product companies. The shiny bag with the pretty picture on it, the logo, the fun colors and different size fonts all appeal to the owner. If we were going to let the dog decide, a plain bag that the scent could travel through would be plenty. It is difficult to remember this when confronted with an aisle full of gorgeous labels. I understand why companies make their bags so pretty, I really do. The same goes for the advertisements. TV is a great way to get your message out there. But it is possible to promote your own product without putting down the products of others, which I really believe hurts the entire industry in the end.

Blue has responded with a letter that tries to appeal to it's customers emotions, just like their advertising.  You can find it on the Dogington Post website, linked above. They continue to vilify their competition, accusing multibillion dollar company Purina of attacking a "family run company" and using emotional descriptive terms like outrageous, voodoo science, pet parents, and frivolous. Meanwhile, according to this article, Blue made over 600 million dollars in profits in 2013 and may be sold this year.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit as well as the many other things that could be changed in the pet food industry as a result.  A great article on evaluating pet food companies can be found here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Nutrition Book and Gluten/Corn parallels

I wanted to write a follow-up to my last post, 10 things I want my clients to know about pet food, which amazingly has not gotten any negative comments in over 200 page views! I count that as a win.

Another blog I follow, Dog Spies, a fascinating but readable blog about canine behavior written by Julie Hecht, highlighted recently a new book about nutrition and feeding dogs. You can find her original post here. The book is called Dog Food Logic: Making smart decisions for your dog in an age of too many choices. It is written by a nutritionist, Linda Case, who presents unbiased and scientific information about the entirety of feeding including the pet food industry, marketing, nutritional considerations, and more. It is intended for the average owner and reads as such. I have only read parts so far, but can't wait to explore it more fully as it seems to be a complete explanation of what I sometimes try to cover in a 5 minute span with a client.

Also, I have added a few more links to the Nutrition page.

Yay Nutrition!!

Wheat. Source:Wiki
Something occurred to me this morning as I was catching up on my blog reading. Orac at Respectful Insolence wrote about gluten-free cosmetics and how they are basically a marketing ploy to get gluten sufferers to buy the product, while having no real benefit (except in the possible case of lip product and true sufferers of celiac disease). Celiac disease is a severe disease in which the individual has chronic inflammation of the GI tract in response to gluten*, caused by a genetic predisposition. Gluten intolerance is an immeasurable problem which may or may not exist, since no physical evidence has been found. Most people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) have decided to avoid gluten for one reason or another and felt better. It is hard to prove that gluten was the culprit in whatever problem they had however when actual evidence is lacking, and avoiding gluten also means avoiding other substances or foods which may be problematic.

It is very similar to perceived corn allergy in dogs. "I changed to a corn free dog food and now my dog is better, he must have a corn allergy." Corn, as previously discussed, has a very low allergenic rate. There are some dogs that have a true allergy and should avoid corn in their food. Most dogs handle corn just fine. If a dog with a skin condition improved after switching to a corn-free over the counter diet, it is nearly impossible to say whether the dog improved because of the lack of corn, or because of other changes in the food ingredients or composition, or because of environmental factors that also changed, or because the owner's perception of the problem changed.

I just found this an interesting parallel in the current human and animal nutrition climates.

*Gluten, as referred to in celiac or gluten insensitivity, almost always refers to wheat gluten, or rye or barley. Corn has no true gluten; the term corn gluten meal is just a term to refer to the proteins in corn. Therefore, do not confuse corn allergy in dogs, real or imagined, with gluten intolerance. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

10 things I want my clients to know about Pet Food

Nutrition has become somewhat of an obsession. Because nutrition is such a hot button issue right now, I was writing a post that I had been referring to as my "nutrition manifesto." It was going to be a monster of a post addressing all of the myths and misconceptions that I discuss with clients on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. However, now there so many good articles out there outlining the facts better than I could, I decided instead to make a top ten list of what I want all my clients to know about feeding pets. 

1. Grain-free is a marketing ploy and a fad. Grain free diets are no more nutritious than other diets including grains, but they can cost an owner up to twice as much. This is purely profit. Eventually grain free foods will fall out of favor as new trends emerge. Also, grain free does NOT mean low carb. 

2. Raw food has no benefit (none), and can make your pet sick or even die.  Feeding raw does not cure allergies, does not provide superior nutrition, is often not balanced, and does not make your cat or dog like their "wild" ancestors or counterparts.

3. Your dog is not allergic to corn. At least, it is extremely unlikely. Food allergies are much less common than the general public is led to believe by certain companies. Of all allergic dogs, the majority are flea allergic, many are environmentally allergic, and less than 5% are food allergic. And most food allergies are to the animal protein in the food (beef, chicken, etc). That means that a minute percentage of dogs are truly allergic to corn or wheat, so small it is difficult to compute. Corn is an excellent source of energy and essential fatty acids. It is not evil.

4. By-products are perfectly acceptable ingredients in pet food. The term "by-product" refers to parts of a carcass not used by the human food chain (read: Americans). This does not mean by-products are bad. By-products include highly nutritious organ meats like liver and spleen. By-products do NOT mean feathers, hooves, etc. 

5. Only three companies (out of the seemingly thousands that make pet foods now) employ board certified veterinary nutritionists. These companies are Hill's, Purina, and Waltham (Royal Canin & others). Because the company employs a person who is trained to formulate balanced foods, I know that these companies want their foods to be complete and balanced for the animals they feed. In other words, they actually care about nutrition, and not just profits. 

6. Pet store employees are not trained in nutrition. They are trained in sales. The foods they push are the ones with the highest profit margins. Don't spend hundreds of dollars a year on pet food and forego flea treatment or wellness care.

7. Picky eaters are made, not born! It is important to choose one food and stick with it. Changing a dog's food every day, week or even just buying whatever bag is on sale can be very detrimental to the health of the dogs gastrointestinal tract by causing diarrhea and gassiness due to bacterial population changes. It is also the best way to create picky eaters. Dogs are smart and they recognize patterns. If you give in to a begging dog, he will beg again.

8. Dogs are omnivores, not carnivores. Dogs are not wolves. Dogs were domesticated between 15 and 30 thousand years ago. They evolved eating the scraps of humans, which included just about anything. If your dog was "wild," it would not be chasing down an elk with it's packmates. It would be rooting through the trash to find food. If your dog is a brachycephalic breed (smush face), it would die rather quickly in the "wild."

9. Cats are obligate carnivores. Cats need animal protein in their diets to survive. (This does not mean that your cat cannot eat some grains). Please do not try to make your cat a vegetarian, or worse, a vegan. It WILL die.

10. Your veterinarian is the best source for information about your pet's diet. Not Dr. Google. Contrary to the belief of some "online experts," vets are not 'bought out' or bribed by certain food manufacturers. We just recommend the foods we see actually benefitting pets. Most vets are Type A, detail-oriented, results-driven people. We want to see our patients live long, healthy lives, and that includes having good, balanced nutrition. Some veterinarians may be more interested in nutrition than others, and can at least get to you a legitimate resource to answer your questions.

I have added a new Nutrition Resources Page at the top of the blog. I will continue to update this page with links to studies, articles, and informative resources.

(Also, I invite other opinions and experiences but because nutrition is so emotional, I reserve the right to close comments on this post and/or block users as necessary. You have been warned.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

It just keeps getting better....

Mr. Seeker: Well sometimes I take the dog's pain medication. You know, if mine runs out. So I like to keep a stash on hand, just in case. 
.. Haha, buh-bye. 


Ms. Psycho: You charge how much for euthanasia?! That's ridiculous! I could just throw the dog off the balcony! 
.. Umm, ok. Our way is pain free and legal, but you know, details. 


(We are having cake for a staff member's birthday. A client sees it as he walks past the employee-only area to the bathroom.

Mr. Sweet Tooth: Oh, is that cake?
Nurse: Oh yeah, it's Fred's birthday today so we're having cake.
Mr. Sweet Tooth: Oh. 
[awkward pause as Mr. ST stares at the cake.]
Nurse: Do you want a piece?
Mr. ST: Oh yeah, I'd love one. 

We give him a piece of cake. As if that wasn't weird enough, he then pops his head back into the room and asks for another piece!!! WTF?!? Get your own freaking cake! 


We get an rx request for medication for an animal we have never seen. The astute receptionist calls the client to ask if there has been some mistake.

Ms. IQ:  Oh no, you've seen him. It's for Fluffy.
R: But on this request, you put a different name, different weight, and even different species. If its for Fluffy why didn't you just put the correct information?
Ms IQ: Because I want to buy a bigger dosage and just split it because that's cheaper.
R: (checks with me) Um, that's not how dosing works for this medication. And we can't dispense meds for an imaginary animal.
Ms IQ: Look, I'm very smart and I split my mom's heart medication and it worked just fine.
R: Um, okay.... but this -
Ms. IQ: If you're not gonna give it to me I will just have to get it illegally!
R: Okay, you do that....

For further info on this topic, see Drug Doses are Just Guidelines Anyway.


Wow, people. What WILL you say next week. We are waiting with baited breath.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The last day of the year

With only a few hours left to go in 2013, I am reflecting on what a truly wonderful year this has been for me. My husband and I have our health, happiness and a baby on the way. We were able to purchase our second house, and I finally realized a dream I have had since I could speak: I own my very own horse. (Of course, I am ironically not riding him since I am pregnant, but this too shall pass).

Every year does get better and better, and also passes by more quickly. Everything our elders told us about time passing is true, and I try to remember the small joys and moments that will later make all the difference. I am excited for the next year and what it will bring. I have no 'resolutions;' only that I might live my life and really be present for it.

Many of my closest friends and family have lost those closest to them this year, and for you, and for your loved ones, may I offer this candle. The light of their lives will burn for you forever.

To Everyone: A blessed and happy, healthy 2014 and beyond.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Truth About Non-Anesthetic Dentals (Gentle Dentals)

Dental care is extremely important for the long term overall health and function of our pets. Periodontal disease, which is irreversible damage of the gums and structures below the gums, can have many negative effects on the animal. First and foremost, pain and inflammation in the mouth can lead to a poor appetite, weight loss, and lower quality of life. Infections in the mouth can travel via the bloodstream to organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. Dental disease is just as important as other diseases and deserves to be treated.

A new trend that has emerged in pet care is the non-anesthetic dental cleaning, or gentle dental. I suppose this came about as a way to capitalize on people's fears about anesthesia and as a "cheaper" alternative to a professional dental cleaning. Basically, as I will discuss, it is a quick and easy way to make a buck. There is no benefit for the pet and it can actually be detrimental to the animal in a few ways.

Gentle dentals:
- are generally not performed by anyone with any actual training (in fact in California, it is illegal to perform this procedure without a veterinary license)
- do not allow the lingual surface of the teeth to be cleaned or evaluated (the side of the teeth touching the tongue)
- scratch the enamel and damage the gums
- cannot be used to extract teeth
- give owners a false sense of security
- Most importantly: can not clean under the gum line which is where the problems lie!

Anesthesia is required to properly evaluate, clean, probe, and polish a pet's teeth. No cat or dog, no matter how cooperative, will hold its mouth open for a long period of time so a person can perform necessary dental procedures, which may include extractions. This is why we must anesthetize them for the procedure.

Anesthesia is safe, and actually it is generally safer to fully anesthetize a pet for a dental than to give "twilight" or light sedation. Pre-operative bloodwork is routinely performed to assess organ function prior to anesthesia. Appropriate pain control medications are given before anesthetizing. In a properly anesthetized patient, the pet is intubated (a tube is inserted into the trachea) to ensure oxygen is getting to the lungs and to prevent water or rinse from going down the trachea. The pet is monitored by the anesthetist (nurse or doctor) and has its temperature, blood pressure, oxygen tension, and pulse rate measured by a machine.

Rarely, a complication may arise that could not have been predicted or avoided by the doctor or pre-op bloodwork. With our safe medications, proper precautions and careful monitoring, this is rare.

Once under anesthesia, a veterinarian or nurse will remove all the tartar and plaque from all surfaces of the teeth (inside, outside and in between). All teeth will be probed for pockets, areas of infection, loss of enamel or nerve exposure, broken teeth, and root exposure or resorption. Any teeth that are non-viable (dead) or freely mobile in the socket will be extracted using proper procedures and often a nerve block to reduce pain sensation to the area. Dental x-rays may be performed to evaluate roots and bone structure.

The remaining teeth will be cleaned and polished. The teeth are cleaned on the visible surface and under the gum line. This is where the bacteria mainly reside and most "bad breath" comes from bacteria hiding out under the gum line. Periodontitis (irreversible gum damage) starts here. This is why many people who had a non-anesthetic dental done on their pet still report bad breath, even though the teeth may look very nice. If the teeth are not cleaned below the gums, the whole procedure is basically worthless. Anesthesia is necessary to clean under the gums in our pets.

Polishing is a very important step in a dental cleaning. The polisher is a not just a fancy toothbrush. It actually is meant to help smooth the microscopic scratches in the enamel that were inevitably created by the other instruments. It is a vital step to maintaining a healthy tooth and preventing new bacteria and plaque from attaching to the tooth and possibly penetrating the enamel to the underlying structures in the tooth. Polishing cannot be performed in a gentle dental.

Here is a picture of the lower incisor teeth of a dog who had two recent non-anesthetic dentals. All of them had to be extracted.
Note the tartar, recessed gum line, bleeding and root exposure of the incisors. 
The money (not a small amount either) that the owner spent on the gentle dentals would have been much better spent on a professional cleaning earlier in the course of disease. 

Nearly all pets will need at least one, if not more, professional cleanings in their lifetimes. Home care is possible, and daily brushing of a dog or cat's teeth will most certainly prolong the healthy lives of the teeth and the pet and increase time between professional cleanings. Dental care is extremely important for any pet.

Update: A video on how to brush your dog's teeth


The American College of Veterinary Dentistry position statement: 

Ten Steps to Dental Health

Dangers of Anesthesia Free Cleanings