For more from Dr. Ernie Ward, find him on Facebook or at www.drernieward.com.
I hate being cold.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always been so concerned about making sure my pet patients were warm. Turns out more veterinarians may need to track the temperature of their patients. New research indicates that the majority of our furry friends may wake up from anesthesia feeling chilly. And that’s got me burning mad.
A study published in the journal Veterinary Record found clinical evidence that 83.6% of 1,525 dogs undergoing surgery or tests requiring anesthesia experienced hypothermia or low core body temperature. The same research team discovered the percentage of cold cats to be 96.7% in an earlier study. In humans, this figure has been found to be between 30 and 60% of patients undergoing surgery and anesthesia. Why the big difference?
First the good news: this study was conducted in Spain. Now for the bad news: it’s pretty warm in Spain. I’m joking but maybe, just maybe, our veterinary surgery in the US is better than veterinary teaching hospitals in Spain. Doubtful, but my thermometer is always half-hot.
Hypothermia is a hot topic for small patients. There are increased risks of surgical and anesthetic complications if a pet gets too cold. The smaller the patient, the more challenging and critical maintaining a warm body temperature becomes. For this reason the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) requires accredited veterinary hospitals to closely monitor a pet patient’s core body temperature throughout anesthesia and recovery. Further, AAHA standards demand that proper heating elements be provided for during and after surgery. For example, my patients are sedated on a heated pad that uses circulating warm water, transferred to a heated surgical table, and then wrapped in a device that envelops the pet’s body with warm air while they wake up from anesthesia (cutely enough it’s called a “hugger”). As I mentioned, I hate being cold, despise the notion that my patients might ever be chilled, and wholeheartedly support the AAHA-accreditations. Veterinary colleagues, get your heat on.
Another reason staying warm during and after anesthesia is that is helps speed up recovery. In the study, colder animals tended to take longer to wake up after anesthesia. I don’t know about you, but as a veterinarian I’ve always felt a little relief when I see a patient’s eyes flutter to life after a procedure. Some of the best telephone calls I’ve made over the past 21 years begin with, “Suzie’s waking up from surgery now…” The sooner I can make that call, the better.
The benefit of these types of studies is that they help raise awareness of the dangers of hypothermia in veterinary patients. None of the dogs or cats in the studies reported any permanent or serious complications related to their low body temperature. My advice to pet parents is to ask how a pet is monitored during and after anesthesia. How do they keep the patient warm? Better veterinary clinics will have extensive training and equipment and be eager to answer your questions. If you’re hearing sketchy answers, it might be best to look elsewhere. After all, this is your pet’s well-being at stake. While we can’t completely erase all risk from surgery or anesthesia, we can easily keep a pet warm.
While surgical and anesthetic hypothermia may not be something you’ve given much thought to, next time your pet needs to have a dental cleaning, biopsy, spay/neuter, or any form of anesthesia, inquire about body heat. Tell them Dr. Ward doesn’t like being cold.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Monday, December 22, 2014
4 Common Issues After Your Pet Returns Home From Boarding
By Dr. Jessica Roselle Loch
We get a lot of questions when pets return home after staying with us, whether it be after boarding, daycare, or even surgery. We have decided to write a few of these changes down so you can know what to expect (or at least not be alarmed by). Here are a few of the comments/questions we get…
1) Q: “Oscar is acting like he is starving! Did Oscar get fed while he was there?”
A: Of course!! Oscar was fed the food that his owner brought when he was dropped off, or if his pet owner didn’t drop of his food, Oscar was fed high quality prescription Royal Canin Low Fat Gastrointestinal dry food. Occasionally, pets do not eat as much while they board, so it is “normal” for them to play catch up once they return to their homes.
At daycare, (unless it is a puppy), pets are not fed lunch. Just like my 3-year old son when he gets home from school, they have usually built up a huge appetite playing all day!
Of course, it goes without saying that after a surgery/dental, pets are hungry because they were fasted the morning of the procedure!
2) Q: “Bailey drank a whole bowl of water when she got home…was she allowed to drink water while she was there?”
A: All pets have access to water during their stay. That being said, when they are here just for the day, such as for daycare or grooming/bath, they are given water when they are walked. This is to prevent them from splashing and turning over water bowls in the cages (and getting dirty). It is also normal for pets to feel more comfortable drinking water when they return home.
3) Q: “Fido was really tired and slept the entire evening after I brought him home. He seemed worn out!”
A: Chances are, Fido is worn out! If we did our job, Fido had lots of play time and exercise while boarding or in daycare. There is so much activity in our hospital that Fido is likely over stimulated and excited. Because of this, his sleeping pattern changes in the time he was here with us. He just needs to catch up on his zzzzz’s!! Typically after a good night’s sleep, Fido feels like playing within the next 24 hours. I usually feel like sleeping a lot when I come home from vacation as well!
4) Q: “Maggie’s stool is loose. Has she been having diarrhea while she was there??”
A: First of all, if Maggie was having diarrhea, the staff and doctors would have contacted you and started Maggie on medicine. That is the good thing about boarding your pet at a veterinary hospital…if they develop problems, the issues are addressed immediately.
Secondly, pets often experience excitement when returning home. Plus, they are often rewarded with treats/chews upon arriving home. So this “excitement” leads to colitis, a common cause of loose or watery stool. Some pet owners expect it and we arrange to send home medication to prevent diarrhea.
We take every precaution at Taylor Crossing to prevent viruses and parasites from being passed along. Stalls/runs and cages are sterilized with Parvosol and dilute bleach solution. We require dogs to be checked every 6 months for parasites (unlike annually at most vet hospitals). This is the reason: some of the parasites we see are easily spread between dogs (Coccidia and Giardia) and are not prevented by monthly heartworm preventatives. We have staff that clean/scoop fecal material as soon as it hits the ground. See the previous blog about our resort team and the great job they do!
So, to recap, loose stool/diarrhea is common but please let us know if it continues for more than 24 hours.
Our goal and hope is that your pet returns home happy and healthy! Of course, there is always a chance your pet may get sick while at our hospital, but we do everything we can to prevent it. We aim to have smiles and wags all around!
Help protect pets by spreading the word about disaster preparedness. Download and share the ASPCA's disaster prep checklist.
Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. Here are simple steps you can follow now to make sure you’re ready before the next disaster strikes:
Step 1: Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers. To get a free emergency pet alert sticker for your home, please fill out our online order form and allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. Your local pet supply store may also sell similar stickers.
Step 2: Arrange a Safe Haven
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Note that not all shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time:
- Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
- Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
- Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
Step 3: Choose "Designated Caregivers”
This step will take considerable time and thought. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own—you may even swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility.
When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your pet and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.
Step 4: Prepare Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, take these simple steps:
- Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
- The ASPCA recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted under the skin in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters.
- Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis.
- Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is, and that it clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your “Evac-Pack” include:
- Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include)
- 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
- Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
- Litter or paper toweling
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
- Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
- At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
- A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
- Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter
- Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner
You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: Batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.
Geographic Considerations: If you live in an area that is prone to certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, you should plan accordingly.
- Determine well in advance which rooms offer safe havens. These rooms should be clear or hazards such as windows, flying debris, etc.
- Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms and basements as safe zones
- Access to a supply of fresh water is particularly important. In areas that may lose electricity, fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises.
- In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter.
Special Considerations for Horses
- Keep a clean and tidy stable and pasture. Remove hazardous and flammable materials, debris and machinery from around the barn’s walkways, entrances and exits. Regularly maintain and inspect barn floors and septic tanks. Inspect your grounds regularly and remove dangerous debris in the pasture.
- Prevent fires by instituting a no-smoking policy around your barn. Avoid using or leaving on appliances in the barn, even seemingly-harmless appliances like box fans, heaters and power tools can overheat. Exposed wiring can also lead to electrical fires in the barn, as can a simple nudge from an animal who accidentally knocks over a machine.
- Get your horse used to wearing a halter, and get him used to trailering. Periodically, you should practice quickly getting your horse on a trailer for the same reason that schools have fire drills—asking a group of unpracticed children to exit a burning building in a calm fashion is a little unrealistic, as is requesting a new and strange behavior of your horse.
- If you own a trailer, please inspect it regularly. Also, make sure your towing vehicle is appropriate for the size and weight of the trailer and horse. Always make sure the trailer is hitched properly—the hitch locked on the ball, safety chains or cables attached, and emergency brake battery charged and linked to towing vehicle. Proper tire pressure (as shown on the tire wall) is also very important.
- Get your horse well-socialized and used to being handled by all kinds of strangers. If possible, invite emergency responders and/or members of your local fire service to interact with your horse. It will be mutually beneficial for them to become acquainted. Firemen’s turnout gear may smell like smoke and look unusual, which many horses find frightening—so ask them to wear their usual response gear to get your horse used to the look and smell.
- Set up a phone tree/buddy system with other nearby horse owners and local farms. This could prove invaluable should you—or they—need to evacuate animals or share resources like trailers, pastures or extra hands!
- Keep equine veterinary records in a safe place where they can quickly be reached. Be sure to post emergency phone numbers by the phone. Include your 24-hour veterinarian, emergency services and friends. You should also keep a copy for emergency services personnel in the barn that includes phone numbers for you, your emergency contact, your 24-hour veterinarian and several friends.
Special Considerations for Birds
- Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier.
- In cold weather, make certain you have a blanket over your pet’s cage. This may also help reduce the stress of traveling.
- In warm weather, carry a spray bottle to periodically moisten your bird’s feathers.
- Have recent photos available, and keep your bird’s leg bands on for identification.
- If the carrier does not have a perch, line it for paper towels that you can change frequently.
- Keep the carrier in as quiet an area as possible.
- It is particularly imperative that birds eat on a daily basis, so purchase a timed feeder. If you need to leave your bird unexpectedly, the feeder will ensure his daily feeding schedule.
- Items to keep on hand: Catch net, heavy towel, blanket or sheet to cover cage, cage liner.
Special Considerations for Reptiles
- A snake may be transported in a pillowcase, but you should have permanent and secure housing for him when you reach a safe place.
- Take a sturdy bowl that is large for your pet to soak in. It’s also a good idea to bring along a heating pad or other warming devise, such as a hot water bottle.
- Lizards can be transported like birds (see above).
Special Considerations for Small Animals
- Small animals, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs, should be transported in secure carriers with bedding materials, food and food bowls.
- Items to keep on hand: Salt lick, extra water bottle, small hidebox or tube, a week’s worth of bedding.
Indoor Cat Health
Although living inside is generally considered healthier, indoor cats need special care, too. The indoor cat diet, which often involves grazing on an open bowl of food all day, plus a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to obesity and may predispose a cat to diabetes. That’s why it’s important to keep indoor cats active by providing scratching posts, perches, and a variety of toys to get them running and climbing.
If your cat is intent on getting outdoors, fit him for a harness. You might feel silly walking around your neighborhood with a cat on a leash, and your cat may protest at first, but once they get used to it your cat might actually enjoy walking with you. Those who really want to pamper their pets can attach cat enclosures to their home, to give their cats the feeling of being outdoors without the dangers of being exposed to the outside.
Bottom line: Ultimately, the decision of whether to have an indoor or outdoor cat is up to you. Most vets w ill recommend keeping your cat indoors, but if you do want your cat to stay outdoors, make sure your pet is safe by keeping up with all scheduled vaccinations, parasite prevention, and bringing your outdoor cat indoors at night.
Whenever you adopt a new cat, try to keep them indoors. It’s much easier to go from an indoor to outdoor cat than to go from an outdoor to indoor cat. Once cats have had that first taste of freedom, it’s tough to convince them to go back inside.
Jane Brunt, DVM, veterinarian and owner of the Cat Hospital at Towson and the Cat Hospital at Eastern Shore, Md., and executive director of the CATalyst Council.
Bernadine Cruz, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, Calif., and member of the American Veterinary Association.
Gleich SE, Krieger S, Hartmann K. Prevalence of feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukaemia virus among client-owned cats and risk factors for infection in Germany. J Feline Med Surg. 2009 Jul 17 [Epub ahead of print].
American Veterinary Medical Association. “AVMA positions address animal welfare concerns.”