Sunday, November 8, 2015

Retractable leashes: Just Don't Do It

If there is one thing that veterinarians seem to agree on regarding leashes and collars for dogs, it's that
retractable leashes are a horrible invention and should be banished for all eternity. Retractable leashes have many flaws and worst of all, the people that seem to use them are the people who also do not train their dog, which can be a deadly combination.

Because people like to read (and write) lists, here is my top seven list as to why you should throw out your retractable leash, immediately. Or burn it, so you can't be tempted to go get it out of the trash and use it again.

1. HBC. Dogs get hit by cars while attached to retractable leashes that are often still being held by the owner. It's easy: put your dog on a retractable leash. Turn the other way for 2 seconds. Or don't. Your dog sees something and runs out into the street to get it. Bam. While that may be insensitive, I have personally seen it happen and it is perhaps the most likely reason to change people's minds.

2. Amputation. The locking mechanism always seems to break or not work at precisely the wrong time. [See above].  When said dog runs into the street, or even after a SQUIRREL! or small dog, the locking mechanism fails, and the owner tries to get control of the dog by grabbing the cord. People have lost fingers this way. (This is why most newer ones have a fabric pull instead of a cord, but even that can cause serious burns).

3. Snap-back. The cord can break if the dog pulls hard enough, and the end attached to the dog can fly forward and injure the dog, and the part attached to the human can whip back so fast it can cut people's faces. This can even happen with small dogs, especially with a an older leash or one that has been chewed.

4. Follow the Leader. Dogs should walk next to you on walks, not all over the place. A walk is a journey in which the human is the leader and makes the decisions. This is a way to bond with your dog and teach them you're a pretty good leader. If a dog is in front, to the side, at a northwesterly direction, behind, diagonally, the human is not making the decisions. The dog is. And dogs inevitably make poor decisions. Like going straight into the dumpster. Your dog should walk at your heel and pay attention to your lead and where she is going. This cannot occur with a retractable leash unless it is kept short, so just do yourself a favor and get a regular flat leash.

5. Pull harder. Many people ask me how to get their dog not to pull on a leash. And rightly so, because it is rude on the dog's part and unpleasant for the handler. The first thing I say if they have a retractable leash is to - get rid of it! Man, you're getting good. Retractable leashes teach dogs to pull, because they can feel the traction as they pull forward, and they get rewarded for pulling forward because they are getting closer to whatever it is they want. I usually recommend Gentle Leaders because they do not allow dogs to pull, but do not even think about attaching a retractable leash to one. That should be a punishable offense, because the two opposing forces will create discomfort and confusion in the dog.

6. No recall.  A dog that does not immediately come when called has no business being on a 26 foot leash where he could get into all sorts of trouble at the other end.

7. Lack of Control. The vet's office is no place for a dog to be on a retractable leash. There are many other animals in close proximity so control of the dog is essential to prevent altercations. You will probably see your vet or technicians remove the leash and place a sliplead on the dog. This is to ensure the safety of the dog and the people around him by ensuring that he cannot get too far away from the handler, or too close to the other people working with him in case he feels the need to defend himself. One of the most aggressive dogs I have ever seen was brought to me on a retractable leash. And the dog knew that he had a lot of leeway in his leash, and lunged at me. And the owner could not pull him away quickly. Luckily I am pretty quick and got out of the way, but we had a serious discussion which included analogies to loaded guns.

Retractable leashes do nothing for training. And poorly trained dogs do not belong on the end of a retractable leash. There may be a case where a retractable leash is appropriate but I honestly cannot think of one.

Bottom line is: to control and protect your dog, and to protect yourself and others, do not use retractable leashes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Bit Early for Halloween?

Look! Two posts in one month! What is happening around here?

A lot of my job involves sitting or crouching on the floor to get a look at my patients, especially the larger dogs. It's pretty hard getting them up on the table (no hydraulics) and anyway its kind of fun to crawl around on the floor professionally. What other professional position gets to do that?

So I'm sitting on the floor next to a dog the other day, talking to his owner. The dog was sitting next to his owner who was sitting on a chair with one leg crossed over the other. So her feet (which were in her shoes) were basically just below my eye level, and happened to be where my eyes fell naturally as we were talking.

As I was talking about the dog's diagnosis, I happened to notice that her shoes had cobwebs on them. Ok, no biggie, maybe she rushed out in a hurry and doesn't usually wear these. Maybe they were stashed in the garage next to some broken tennis rackets and a deflated basketball. But upon closer inspection, I saw that the cobwebs actually extended from her shoe to the leg of her pant... and that there was a tiny spider sitting in the middle.

I kind of leaned in a little closer to confirm what I was seeing, and noticed webs on the other shoe connected to the back of her foot.

For the life of me I cannot explain how you put on a shoe and have a spider weave a web between your shoe and pant leg unless the shoes had been on your feet for quite some time, and you sat very still and patiently waited for a spider to come along and weave a web. I mean, WTF?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kill 'em with Kindness... and Flea Control

One of my favorite things ever is when people tell me they don't use flea control. Usually because their pet doesn't have fleas, or maybe it's because it doesn't go outside. Or it's the 'winter' and they can't get fleas in the winter. Sometimes they don't want to put 'chemicals' on their pet, and sometimes they are just cheap. (Actually, I really think it comes down to money most of the time... everything does). Meanwhile, the poor pet is suffering at the very least from having fleas crawling all over its skin to the very worst, having severe allergies, skin infections, and potential blood or intestinal parasite infections, on top of having fleas crawling all over its skin. Or, more accurately, underneath.

Yesterday, which was my last day of work before a much needed staycation this week (!), a guy came in with his dog. This client has a history of arguing with receptionists on the phone, declining all flea control and preventive care, and only doing the bare minimum for his dog. My technician came back with the chart and told me she had to put him in a room in front of another client because he was in the lobby bemoaning how much veterinary care costs and his last clinic was nothing but a bunch of money grubbers out to get him. When she asked what flea control the dog was on, he said he doesn't like flea control and he gives the pup a bath as needed. I decided to kill him with kindness to see what would happen.

"Hi, I'm Dr. M. How are you and the pooch doing today?"

"Great! I'm Mr. X."

"Let's take a look at Mr. Wiggles here."

After all the niceties, I begin looking at the dog which has fleas, thinning hair and an obvious chronic skin irritation and infection. Now that I've got him all nice and comfortable, I cut to the quick and say to Mr. X, "So, what do you have against flea control?"

"Uh, err, well, umm, ehh--- does he have fleas?"

That's right. Mr. X could not even answer me. He could not come up with EVEN ONE REASON (that he wanted to share) for why he wasn't using flea control.

I informed him that yes, indeed the dog did have fleas. They're not microscopic after all, you can see them with the naked eye. The two of us then proceeded to pluck fleas off the dog like a bunch of monkeys. (Except we didn't use them as a tasty snack, as monkeys are wont to do. But anyway, I digress.)

"Fleas are more than a nuisance," I say, popping a flea on the table. "They also carry tapeworms, and some nasty bacteria, including the plague. You know, the black plague from the middle ages."

"Ew, that's gross," he says.

"Yep. Also, he is probably allergic to fleas, so every bite makes him super itchy, and then he's created this infection from scratching and chewing. He'll feel much more comfortable with regular flea control and some antibiotics."

He actually says, "Wow, ok. I guess I need to get some flea meds." And then actually does! A whole year's supply! WHAT, I know, I was shocked, too.

Of course, then there is always the whole following through part....

Also, sorry for not posting in 4 months. :|

Monday, May 18, 2015


In case you haven't heard, Blue Buffalo was sued last year by Purina for false advertising. Here's my post about it from May 2014. Blue's initial response was akin to their typical techniques of using slander and inflammatory language to defend themselves. After exactly one year to the day, Blue admitted in court that their foods contained by-product meal. You can read more here: Blue Buffalo Admits to By-Products in Food.

Once again, there is nothing inherently bad about by-products. By-products are just food materials that are not used by the human food chain and can be very nutritious, especially by-product meals which are inherently concentrated sources of protein. They are used commonly in pet food because they are a readily available "cheap" source of animal protein. I put the word cheap in quotes because if you compare the amount of protein in a meal to the amount of protein in a cut of meat, say a chicken breast, you would need more chicken breast to meet the same amount of protein that is in the meal and since the breast is higher priced to begin with (because it is desired by the human food chain) it would be substantially more money. That would make pet food much more expensive than it is already. Blue, who has up until this point claimed that only whole cuts of meat are used in their foods, and who charges a pretty penny for their foods, was using by-products just like all of the other companies who they have maliciously slayed in their advertising.

Blue now claims that they didn't know that there were by-products in the foods they were selling as by-product free, and blamed their suppliers. I'm not sure which is worse - not actually owning up to your mistakes and apologizing for them, or not actually knowing what is going into your product, which you sell to unsuspecting pet owners to feed actual pets. Either way, throwing companies that work for you under the bus is another dick move, but one that is wholly unsurprising from Blue.

Lastly I have heard that Blue now has reps they will be sending to veterinary offices to try to get vets to recommend their food. Ha! I'll try to record that conversation if it happens. Should be pretty entertaining.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fluorinated Water and Coconut Oil

So these people call because their mean outdoor cat got in another fight and has an abscess again. They were just here! Oh wait, that was a year ago. For the same problem. They come in stinking of cigarette smoke and unwashed clothes and the cat is already hissing.

My nurse goes into the room. "Hi, How's Fluffy doing today?"

"Well, he's okay, but see I can't pet the cat, only he can pet the cat." "Yeah, only I can pet the cat but only when he wants to be pet. You see, he is outdoor mostly, he came to us as a stray and only lets me pet him. Sometimes."  "Yes, I'm the only one that..."  A further 10 minutes of this conversation ensues while my nurse walks out of the room without having any of her questions answered.

I walk in. "Hi I'm Dr. M. So, he got in a fight again? How long ago was it?"

"Oh, a week maybe. But it just closed," the woman says, "because I put coconut oil on it!" She looks like a washed up hooker from the 80s. "Have you ever tried coconut oil?"

"Um no. So we need to drain the abscess, and we are going to have to sedate him. I'm also going to give him an antibiotic injection."

The husband says, "Ok."  The wife says."Ok. Will he get a cone? Because he got one last time, I remember. You know, I stopped drinking fluorinated water 20 years ago, and my memory is better than ever." She then gives me a knowing smile and nods.

"I've been drinking fluorinated water my whole life." ::and I think to myself, 'and which one of us is the doctor in this room?'::

She says, "Oh, well have you seen the latest research out of Europe?"

"Um, no I haven't. So-"

"Well you should look, very interesting stuff, fluorinated water is very bad for you, you should stop drinking it. Your memory will improve."

"Ok, I'll think about it. Meanwhile, let's fix this abscess."

I have to leave the room while she is still talking because she just won't stop no matter what signals I try to give her, such as changing the subject, standing up, opening the door, and walking out.

We sedate the cat and lance the abscess. He wakes up. I go out to the lobby to tell the owners that he is awake and all went fine. "So," I say, "you're going to need to keep the hole open for the next day or two so it keeps draining."

The husband begins nodding his head in understanding. The wife says, "Ok, so should I put coconut oil on it?"

I start to shake my head and say no when she immediately asks "How about hydrogen peroxide?"

I say no, and that H2O2 kills healthy cells plus it burns. The husband says, "Yeah, you don't use hydrogen peroxide," whereby the wife interrupts immediately and says "Let her talk!"

I continue explaining that they will need to allow the abscess to drain and the husband nods in understanding. The wife stares at me confusedly and asks me if he's going to have an e-collar. I tell her no, he doesn't need one this time. She says, "But he had one last time! I remember!"

"Last time," I say, my patience running thin by this point, "he had a drain which he could have pulled out. He didn't need a drain this time, I just need you to keep the area clean and keep it open to drain." (Admittedly, too many uses of the word 'drain' for her addled brain).

Then she says, "Oh! I know! I'll put coconut oil on it, that'll close it right up!"

I sigh as the husband tells her that no, we want to leave it open and she tells him to Let me Speak! again. I just look at her for a moment resignedly. "Ok, what are we supposed to do again?" She asks.

"Would you like me to write it down for you?" I ask. She nods, apparently forgetting that her memory is killer now that she stopped drinking the fluorinated water.

I go sit down at a computer and type instructions, while drinking a glass of [fluorinated] water.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Strong Women

Dear Sugar, the advice column, is back. Only now it is a most excellent Podcast by the two Sugars, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. If you've never read Dear Sugar, it's not your typical advice column. You'll find no Miss Manners here, as Sugar deals with everything from sexuality to drug addiction to family dynamics. At the core of most of Sugar's advice is that it's okay to be your true self, whatever that may be. It really resonates. I read the column for a few years, then Sugar was revealed to be Cheryl Strayed, who had just released her book Wild, and a collection of Dear Sugar columns, called Tiny Beautiful Things. Dear Sugar went on hiatus while Cheryl promoted her books and the Wild movie.

I was excited to learn Dear Sugar was back, and subscribed to the podcasts. (I finally found something I can do with that 50 minute commute!) The second Podcast episode  deals with a letter from a woman who suffered extreme emotional degradation at the hands of the man she loved, and she questions if all men are like that, and if there are any men out there who really respect and love women. The Sugars discuss feminism and how deeply ingrained in our culture it is for men to degrade women as a means of controlling them.

Last week I was talking to a man who I know, not personally but in a professional manner. Although I'm not going to disclose the nature of the conversation, I will say that it was not my boss, or a client or anyone close to me. During our discussion, there came a point where he actually was making a case for me to NOT go for the thing I wanted to go for, and his justification was that I already had a pretty good thing to begin with, and I should just be grateful for what I had and not have higher ambitions.  (I know this would make more sense if I actually told you the details, but you'll just have to trust me).

He was telling me what men have been telling women for decades, if not centuries. You're lucky you have this much! You're lucky we gave this to you. You don't deserve more.

I wasn't going to just sit back and listen to that load of codswallop, so I called him on it. He said he didn't mean it that way, and the truth was, he didn't really mean to say that I didn't deserve more. And that is what is so frightening. Pushing women down, "keeping them in their place," is so ingrained in our culture that men often don't recognize it in their own behavior. It's how they were raised.  Boys are taught that women are the weaker sex. Male body parts are used to describe bold, confident behavior. Female body parts are used to describe weakness and cowardice.

It is common knowledge that women are paid less than men for the same work, across all disciplines. It's still happening today, despite being known. Women are still portrayed in movies as being only concerned with relationships and their worth determined by their appearance or the status of the man they are with.

Well, it's time for that to change. Now. With our generation. If there's anything true about GenY, it's that we aren't afraid to speak our minds.

I started writing this post a few months ago, but never finished because I couldn't find this article that I had read about this subject, and I really wanted to reference it in this blog. Then, finally, one of my friends shared the article. It's called 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn and is written by Soraya Chemaly.  The author definitely better articulates what I am trying to say.

            "We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance."

It's time for that to change. Ladies, don't be afraid to take charge of your own conversations, and lives. Speak up, teach your daughters to speak up. Teach your sons to respect women as equals and listen to women's voices. Because we deserve it. We do deserve more.

Friday, February 13, 2015

February is the Worst Month

I plucked a new WHITE hair from the top of my head this morning at 5:55 am, after having gotten up to feed the baby at 5:40, and just before heading off to work. I would chalk this one up to the Almighty Baby, except for the fact that the last two weeks at work have sucked. There is no other word for it.

No offense to my February birthday pals, but February is the worst month. Feb and I have never gotten along, and I know plenty of people who have broken up with significant others, lost jobs, slipped on the ice, ate a bad donut or worse in February. Back when I lived on the east coast, I thought it was because Winter was dragging on and it was still dark and cold and yet again the groundhog saw his shadow and when is it gonna be Spring already?!?!? But now that I live on the West Coast, where February still sucks, I can say, without a doubt, it's just the month itself.

Last week, nearly every case I saw seemed to have a bad prognosis. I don't recall a week where I saw so many sick or dying pets, although so far this week isn't shaping up to be any better. When you hear a veterinarian say, "It isn't all puppies and kittens," we aren't lying. In fact, when we do see a puppy or kitten it makes our hearts soar, because 9 times out of 10, that puppy or kitten is healthy.

First there was the cat whose vomiting had progressed from a few times per week to 2-3 times per day. FYI, that is bad. Cancer! Then a new diabetic (that one actually turned out okay but it is always a difficult conversation because diabetics require a significant time and financial commitment. If the owner can't commit, I recommend euthanasia). Next was a cat with a fluid filled abdomen, cancer. A cat with a fever of unknown origin, who is now doing better but it was touch and go for a few days. Then, a dog who came in for a skin tag and had a giant mass in the abdomen. The owner chose to ignore this piece of information and took her home after discussing the skin tag was the least of her worries. When I called a few days later, he was still blissfully thinking his dog was fine.

Then there was the dog who had lost 30% of its body weight in the previous 2 weeks. This one was an undiagnosed diabetic in ketoacidosis, which is a state of severe disarray that precedes diabetic coma and death. Oh and she had a liver mass and a raging new heart murmur. That was followed immediately by a cat whose jaw was hanging open and had a firm swelling on the chin which was cancer.

Add to the list a bird with hepatic lipidosis, ascites and pneumonia, a cat with a mass in its abdomen and likely peritonitis, a FIP kitten, which I can't even talk about because I HATE that disease, and a couple more cats with likely cancer, two dogs in congestive heart failure, and kidney failure cats destabilizing, I have had enough.

The absolute worst is giving the horrible news when people came in expecting only something minor to be going on with their pet. Hearing that their pet has a terminal illness is devastating, and it's no picnic for me either. :(

By the way, it's Friday, February 13th. I am skipping the rest of February.