Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Travel Dog Health Watch: Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

In your vet's loving care is where you want to be when you're feeling bad.

As most dog travelers know, tummy troubles go with the territory of travel, but as we have previously blogged, careful management of local foods and water along with added probiotics can pretty much prevent tummy trouble on the road.  Especially for dogs who enjoy the nomadic life. 

Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE), however, is serious tummy trouble and it can strike dogs on their home turf without warning.  While all dogs can and do get HGE, small dogs between the ages of 2 and 4 are the prime targets and, as we know, small dogs dehydrate fast. 

Symptoms of HGE are fairly horrible: sudden onslaught of bloody diarrhea and, sometimes, vomiting.  Dehydration can happen quickly and shock quickly follows. 

HGE is not the kind of stomach trouble that can be treated with canned pumpkin.  Your dog needs IV fluids with potassium and subcutaneous antibiotics NOW.  This is not an illness where you can watch and wait. Do not mop up the rug, but wrap your dog in a soft, warm towel and take her to the vet, or after hours, to the emergency vet service. 

Who knows what causes HGE!  A strange new food, anxiety, a bacterium, a virus, a parasite are causes that have been investigated, but thus far the cause of HGE is undetermined.  Your vet will diagnose HGE because of the symptoms as well as through the blood test that will reveal a high packed cell volume (PCV) of hemoglobin. 

Ask your vet to look for Coccidia, a parasite that causes the same symptoms and request a titer with the blood test to see about Parvo Virus (that has been cropping up in New Jersey and New York shelters), just to be safe.  (A titer is a test that measures the amount of antibodies in the blood.  High concentrations of antibodies to a certain virus mean your dog is usually immune.) 

Holiday times, like travel times, cause both good and bad stress for pets.  Both happiness and anxiety can affect the tummy similarly. 

Raja and I wish you Happiness and Health and Love and Peace this Holiday Season and Always!

All Fleas Must Die

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Raja, a dog of peace, agrees with me.  You do, too.  But how can we cause fleas to meet their fate? 

In parts of the Central and Eastern United States warmer-than-usual summers, torrential rain, and lingering wetness in the last third of the season have created the perfect storm of fleas going into fall.  Even areas that have traditionally been fairly flea-less are now fully-infested.  Fleas are not fun and a feckless response to fleas is irresponsible. 

I don’t know what kind of long term flea management you are planning upon: hovering over your pet all day with a small comb and a piece of Scotch tape, on-pet flea treatment, bombing the house with pesticide gas, burning the lawn, moving to the Arctic circle…  certainly there are many options.  But, to begin to restore your pet to sanity, you will have to get the fleas that are on your pet right now good and dead, good and quick. 

Two methods for instant flea obliteration: 

Neem Oil Shampoo and Neem Oil Conditioner: Pop off to the Health Food Store and pick up some Neem oil shampoo and conditioner.  Make sure Neem is the first ingredient in the ingredients list.  Neem, or Azadiracta indica, is an Indian tree.  Its bark has medicinal, anti-fungal, anit-inflamatory, anti-viral and anti-ulcer properties and it is completely safe to touch and use on the body, according to the FDA, but it is very bad news for bugs. 

Put your pet in the tub, but do not run water yet.  In a plastic bottle, mix 30% Neem shampoo and 70% water and begin by soaping up your dog’s neck in a ring all around.  Fleas run for high ground, so you want to cut them off as they run toward the top of the head. Now turn on the warm water; dampen and shampoo your pet.  You may wash the head, ears and face, but avoid the eyes.  Try to leave the shampoo lather on for ten minutes- do your best.  Rinse well and use the Neem Conditioner as directed.  Dry as usual.  The fleas will be dead, the coat lustrous and the pet will stop looking hysterical all the time.  Now figure out what you will do about the house.  (Special thanks to Three Rivers Veterinary Clinic in Madison, NJ for this tip and technique.) 

Lemon Joy Dish Detergent:  Use the Lemon Joy dish detergent exactly as instructed for the Neem shampoo.  You will not need to leave it on for as long.  Your pet’s coat will come out lustrous and smooth, but Lemon Joy is a strong detergent.  It kills the fleas by destroying the cuticle of their exoskeletons.  And it does the job well.   Multiple frequent shampooing with Lemon Joy will make your pet’s skin dry and itchy, so use it effectively the first time and then look toward household flea annihilation by whatever means you can approve and afford. (Special thanks to my dear friends Pat Eskierski, Mary Richmond and Fran Connelly for this tip.)  

Let’s rid the world of fleas one pet at a time!

Ideas for Defraying High Veterinary Costs for Pets

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Working hard looking for answers.

We promised we would research what pet owners can do in case of high costs and low funds for veterinary care.  There is no magic solution, we discover.  BUT there are lots of options and you must persist and follow through. 

Small Charities: There are hundreds of small charities that offer grants for pet owners. If your pet is a pure breed dog or a service dog, there are charities associated with those specific categories and online research reveals your options pretty easily.  But bear in mind, charities are not bottomless.  Apply at the end of the fiscal year and you are scraping bottom.  And applications take time.  

Charitable Vets: Sometimes vets can discount care and even trade care for work such as cleaning facilities, walking dogs or doing painting and repairs.  Do not feel shy to ask the primary vet in a businesslike and professional way.  We keep in mind that each veterinary office is, at root, a business and vets need to pay lots of bills to keep the doors open; to negotiate work for care is not a right, but a wonderful blessing when it happens.  Not all vets have the wiggle room to commit to care for work structures. If you get lucky, please follow through on all commitments so this kind of good faith can continue between some vets and some patients.  If you have been seeing the same vet for years, the relationship should be well enough established that your vet can meet your request at some level.  

Animal Shelters are always assisted by charitable vets.  Your local shelter’s administrator may share the list.  Most communities have several local shelters, civic and private.  

Veterinary Schools: Some veterinary schools offer discounted care.  Your pet’s care is always overseen by a supervisor who is an experienced vet.  Your pet is not a lab animal, but a true patient in these situations.  To find out if a veterinary college is near you, use an online search engine looking up veterinary programs by state.  Contact information is often at the bottom of the home page. Call the program’s main number; ask to be connected to the specialist who can tell you about discounted veterinary care by supervised learners. If this situation works out for you, remember you are still the consumer and you still have rights and agency regarding your pet’s care.  Assist the program by bringing copies of all previous medical records and list of current meds. 

Clinical Trials: Eligible pets with a variety of conditions can participate in Clinical Drug and Treatment Trials, especially when existing treatment has been ineffective.  The ACI, Animal Clinical Investigation, LLC in Washington, DC at   is a good resource to investigate opportunities.  

Meds: If your pet’s prescriptions are too expensive, ask your vet to consider another manufacturer or a generic. You may also look on the box, read the name of the manufacturer, search engine the main office, and call to ask to whom you should speak to see if there are any donated meds for hardship cases.  It never hurts to ask and veterinary medicine manufacturers indeed do donate thousands of prescriptions yearly for free.  The skill here is to keep asking until you reach the administrator who can handle your request.  Do not accept “no” from the receptionist ever! 

Loans:  Yes, your bank can issue small loans for veterinary care.  Loans of 10,000 and under are not too difficult to negotiate if you have any collateral or credit at all.  Getting a grant is much nicer, but getting a loan happens much more easily, and sometimes you do not have time to wait. 

Save up: If your vet warns you that cataracts or kidney stones or liver trouble are on the horizon, now is the time to begin to scrimp and set cash aside.  Every vet visit is an opportunity to hear the early warning and plan. 

This post was not as cheerful as I hoped it would be.  Our research reveals that being professional, proactive and persistent will help in your quest for easement of high vet costs. 

Here’s wishing all of you health and happiness every day!

Pet Travel: Assessing Medical Risk When Traveling Far, Far Away

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Getting his travel check up at Three Rivers Holistic Veterinary Services in Madison, NJ, Raja feels like a celebrity.

If your travels with your pet take you out of your climate and culture zone, what kind of medical safety considerations are realistic to address? 

Just because there are cobras in India doesn’t mean your travel pet needs to tote cobra anti-venom.  Just because there are jaguars in Mexico doesn’t mean your travel pet needs to wear a spiked collar. Yet, go figure, a very real danger to dogs relaxing with their people on the French Riviera this late summer is canine leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease transmitted through the bites of the phlebotomine sand flies.  It is the third most important canine disease worldwide.  May through September is high season for this dangerous illness.  So travel dogs in Cannes are in greater danger than travel dogs in developing countries!  Wild! 

Our point is that, wherever you go in your adventures, you need to make a realistic assessment of the dangers you may confront and take your concerns to your vet before you leave. The further you go from home and the more you venture into countries with different languages and customs, the more you want to minimize trying to find a vet in an emergency. 

Nonetheless, you cannot expect your vet to know every single threat to travel pets in every single microclimate in the world.  Try to find out what you might have to worry about and share your information with your vet.  

Raja’s leaving soon for a trip through some very high mountains for a high altitude trek.  I was a little concerned about altitude sickness for dogs and I found a human medication that had an off-label canine dosage recommendation.  My vet cautioned me against it.  She said that she knows Raja will not be allowed to exert himself at high altitudes and, given his history of mountain experience, it is unlikely he will be affected by altitude sickness.  And, most importantly, it is likely that the altitude medication itself could have serious side effects. 

So, working together, we researched the risks and made an informed decision.  All Raja’s taking on his trip are two emergency doses of antibiotics and diarrhea medication, just in case.  And, of course, he won’t be exerting himself at high altitudes.  As soon as we get over 10,000 feet, I’m picking him up.

The Follow-up Vet Visit: Must we follow through?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Raja helps Dr. Holmberg of the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey see his eyes clearly.

Probably we do.  Unless, on the first time we took our pet to see the vet, it was discovered that nothing was wrong and we were just making things up. 

But seriously, here’s why the follow up is a necessary part of the healing process… 

The follow up visit is usually not as expensive as the initial visit and, if your vet prescribed meds, you will want to see if the vet considers the meds to be effective.  Limited results might indicate a change of meds is going to be best.  If an emerging condition was suspected, somebody other than yourself- i.e. somebody with medical training and the knowledge of alternate meds- has got to make the call. 

All medical conditions require a base line to determine change for the better or worse.  The initial visit was the base line for the condition, measured against the base line for total health.  The follow-up measures change against these numbers.  Of course you will be expected to weigh in. You should give your critique of how the prescribed treatment worked and request a possible adjustment in meds if you feel you need one.  (And, yes, it is reasonable to ask if a less expensive, but similar, medication is available.)  Nonetheless, your sense of wellness is external and somewhat subjective and- just admit it- always hopeful.  A blood test, for example, offers objectivity.   You can’t do the blood test (or you shouldn’t!) and you can’t interpret the results.

For those of us who have been sent to specialty vets for an in depth analysis of a condition, the follow up should be with the specialist, unless otherwise directly instructed.  Please make sure you request that a copy of the specialty doctor’s analysis be sent to your regular vet. 

But can’t we just Google to find out what’s wrong in many cases?  Yes and no.  Sure, we can Google.  Lots of good information is posted on line.  Without leaving our houses, visiting the library or taking a veterinary degree, we consumers can still find out a lot about pet health.  Isn’t that wonderful?  But lots of inaccurate information is posted on line too.  There is, to date, no consistent method of evaluating what gets posted.  A pet medical site with a professionally styled header and sidebar is no measure of the accuracy of the reportage.  We rely on the scruples and the biases of the poster.   

How about online pet forums- can information from these groups help us make medical decisions outside of the vet’s office?  Sure it can, but, please let’s not rely on a series of random comments from a variety of sources to substitute for a medical degree.  Shared forum information is very helpful, especially when learning how to tie a Shih Tzu top knot, but we need to think carefully about the sources of medical information. 

The follow up visit heads off potential future trouble, trouble which can be expensive at best and dangerous or threatening to your pet’s happiness at worst.  Furthermore, consistent attention to a troublesome condition reassures your pet that vet visits are benign and that his source of discomfort is being worried over by somebody other than himself.

For travel dogs… do ask your specialist if a similar specialist exists at your travel destination.   (You can also research this on your own and keep an address handy for just in case.)  In cases of highly specialized meds and travel, if possible, get a second prescription, or divide your prescription so you have a spare in case of loss during transit. 

Remember, after collecting accurate information specific to your pet, you are always the decision maker. 

One of these cooperative kittens could be yours!


PS: The cats of summer are upon us… if you live in or near New Jersey and want one of these four week old (as of June 11), adorable and charmingly purring kittens, please write:  

Raja says, cats will watch the home while you travel.  That’s what they do best.

Make Yourself a Serious Pet Medical Emergency Kit

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Blog Fan Cyndi Bender, owner of the famous Duffy McDuff, writes:

“I have recently returned from Wisconsin where we attended a Scottie Rally and parade. It was a 4 day road trip with a total of 6 dogs. Three dogs rode in the same vehicle with Duffy. For the most part they all got along with the exception of one female who would growl and attack the males if they simply looked at her. We were almost back home when this female and a male got into a fight for no reason. One of the dogs sustained minor wounds, more like scrapes than puncture wounds. Anyway blood was drawn and we pulled over to discover that we did not carry a first aid kit amongst us. It got me to thinking that if anyone is active with their dogs outside of their home they should carry a first aid kit. Have you covered this in the blog?”

Good idea Cyndi!  We did this once, but not as thoroughly.  Assisted by Three Rivers Veterinary Clinic in Madison , New Jersey, we recommend the following in every pet  travel medical kit:

4 oz. Eye and Skin Wash or saline solution

artificial tear gel for after eye wash

mild grease-cutting  dish washing liquid to wash animal after skin contamination (pesticides, etc.)

muzzle to protect against fear inspired biting

non perishable can of your pet’s favorite wet food

cold pack (breakable cold sports packs are best)

styptic pencil or styptic powder for small bleeds

thermometer with case

4″ x 4 yd. flexible, cohesive, stretchable  gauze wrap

alcohol prep pads

2″ x 2″ and 3″ x 3″ sterile pads

gauze pads

two 5″ x 9″ trauma pads fpr comperssion

1″ x 2 yard adhesive tape

3 ply towels

iodine solition

hydrocortisone cream

tripple antibiotic intment

cotton swabs and cotton balls

latex or vinyl gloves

1 pair scissors

4″ plastic forceps or tweezers

hand wipes

antiseptic wipes

hydrogen peroxide, 3 % to induce vomiting

turkey baster to administer the hydrogen peroxide

blanket that can douoble as a pet sling carrier

Yes, this is a lot of gear, and you don’t need all this if you plan to shop the glitzy stores or visit a well equipped friend, but, if you plan on travel where you are n your onw, nar or far, just imagine the uses you could find for all this in a pinch.  So many thanks to Cyndi and Duffy!

Raja and I are going on the road in a couple of days to the Canine Performance Events National Championships in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.  We’ll link up with former blog- featured canine athletes, Chloe (Maltipoo), Skamp (mini Aussie), Cara, CT, and Cy (Shih Tzu) and be there on site to film and record how this awesomechallenge of champions goes!  Until then, everybody please root for our athletes!

The Tapetum Lucidum: why dog’s eyes shine in the dark?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

My, what big eyes you have!

Have you ever been spooked by glowing eyes at the edge of the lawn at night?  “My, what big eyes that cat has.  Hmmm, maybe it’s a fox, hmmm, maybe it’s a coyote, perhaps a wolf?  I’d better go in now…”

The glowing eyes of animals at night are caused by a light enhancing layer of cells behind or near the retina called the tapetum lucidum (meaning “bright tapestry” in Latin) that reflects light back through the retina.  By augmenting light, the tapetum lucidum make it easier for animals to see at night.  Both predators and prey have them, so the balance is fairly equal.

Except humans… humans don’t have a tapetum lucidum.  And, just think, humans are the most dangerous predators of all!  But I digress…

Your pet, unless it’s a chimpanzee, probably has a tapetum lucidum in each eye, which also explains why his or her eyes are so creepy in most flash photographs.  You’ll have to learn some advanced photo techniques to fix that.  Again, I digress; what we want to bark about is some dogs and some cats  do not have the tapetum lucidum.

A somewhat common, mild, congenital defect some dogs can have is to be atapetal… meaning they do not have a tapetum lucidum.  The condition is not dangerous in any way and dogs born atapetal see just fine, even in the dark, just as you do.  (We assume you are not sending your dog out to hunt at night.)  Your dog’s eyes will still get that eerie glow when you take his pictures for some reason, but you will not be able to see him standing in the driveway as you drive home at night by locating his shining eyes. So be careful.

What is important for dog owners to know about this topic is that, when examined through an ophthalmoscope, atapetal eyes have different looking retinas.  An inexperienced or precipitous vet might tell you that your dog has cataracts since the view of the retinas is obscure.  Before accepting such a diagnosis, please see a veterinary eye specialist.  Cataracts require various kinds of medical intervention, but congenitally atapetal eyes see just fine and should cause no worries.

Siamese Cats are always born atapetal… which might explain why they prefer to be house cats rather than midnight stalkers.

The Hound of the Baskervilles from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of the same name had awesome tapeta lucida.

“A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish ….”   If you see anything like that in the driveway at night, stay in the car.

Meet Tonka: Blindness doesn’t stop this Great Pyrenees from living a full life!

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Guest blogging for Raja, Alice Peak tells Tonka’s story.

Alice and Tonka

Hi my name is Alice and 2 and ½ years ago I adopted a puppy from the Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue in Richmond Virginia. This puppy was pulled out of a shelter where he had been taken and left to his fate because he was born blind. Luckily the rescue director Victoria Marshman has contacts with a large number of shelters in the MD, VA, PA and surrounding areas and they contact her whenever they get a Great Pyrenees. I was volunteering at the rescue and met the blind puppy she pulled from the shelter named Ray Ray and was immediately taken with how smart and feisty the little guy was/is. In a very short time at the rescue he already knew where the door was and how to navigate to the lawn to go to the bathroom. He also knew where the toy box was and how to climb up on the couch and attack you to play. I spent a good deal of my time wrestling with the little Tasmanian devil on the couch and taking him for short walks.

Needless to say Ray Ray ended up coming home with me about a month after our first meeting. His name has since been changed to Tonka thanks to my friend Cathy who claimed he was just like the old indestructible Tonka toys.

I spent the month preparing the house and the yard for his arrival. In the meantime Tonka was being neutered and having a hernia fixed. I took a blanket up that I slept with for a few days so that he could have it in his crate and get to know my scent. I ordered and read the only reference book I could find at the time called Living with Blind Dogs by Caroline Levin. I followed the tips in the book and I got down on the floor and crawled around to mimic his height and Tonka proof things. Anything in the house that had a sharp corner at his level had to be removed or padded. Outside all the low braches of bushes and trees had to be removed and sections of the yard that contained things like roses had to be fenced off. I put down fresh mulch (non-toxic) around all the trees and scented all the doorframes and big objects with corners (like the fish tank stand and TV cabinets) with lemon extract. I put a 4 inch wide strip of the sticky backed plastic they put down when doing construction to protect carpets at the top of the stairs so he would know where the first step was and a carpet runner to lead to the doggie door.

Once home Tonka proved to be a whiz at mapping out the house and even learned to go in and out the doggie door. The biggest hurdle was down the steps. I try to always put myself in Tonka’s position when we are in a new situation or learning a new skill or command. He has no reference point for new things so a household step could be a 6 inch or a 6 foot drop. The key to training a blind dog is twofold with number one being patience and number two being trust. I could not get mad at him for not wanting to go down the step and I could not force him. I just had to be patient and keep trying till he trusted me not to let anything bad happen to him. Every dog is unique in what motivates them some require only praise and some are treat or toy motivated. Tonka is a little of both, for some commands just the excitement in your voice and a big scratch or hug was enough to reinforce it but for some a nice smelly treat was the only thing that worked. I had consulted my friend who is a dog behaviorist about Tonka and she said that because of the blindness sound and smells were probably going to work best. She was right on the money and I can teach the boy almost anything with a stinky liver treat or a chicken strip. So I sat in the middle of the steps with a piece of chicken strip and put it to his nose and then down on the first step. His little paw would reach down and when he didn’t stretch quite enough to make contact he would pull it back up and sit there thinking. We did this for a while and every time he would reach down I would say step. Eventually he reached it and stood there with both front paws on the first step eating his chicken strip and then we had to start all over to understand that there was a second step. Patience and lots of chicken finally won out and today he navigates steps with ease and will even slide down a playground slide if I ask him to (that’s trust).

I would like to say that my boy has had an uneventful life on the medical side of things but we have had some complications with his left eye. Tonka was born with complete retinal detachment in the left eye and has just the thread of one left in the right eye. This is what dictated zero chance of any surgical option to try and regain sight but the outcome was always good that he would get to keep both eyes. The rescue had him evaluated by an ophthalmologist in Virginia when they first took him in and he has one local that we see on a regular basis. With a blind dog it is important to watch for changes or signs of swelling or discomfort such as keeping the eye open or closed.  He has always had some excess protein or “debris” in his eyes that we have tried to control with steroid eye drops but the “debris” eventually started to clog the drainage angle of his left eye. This caused a buildup of pressure and secondary glaucoma and his eye actually began to swell. Tonka was not his usually spunky self and everyone in his circle of friends would ask me what’s wrong with Tonka. He was in severe pain from the pressure and so I had a decision to make. There are several choices to treat for glaucoma but the best two for Tonka were to either remove the eye completely and sew it shut (called enulceation) or to remove the contents of the original globe of the eye and insert a prosthetic implant (called evisceration with interscalerial implant).  It was a very difficult decision and there were pros and cons for both but I needed to make the best choice for Tonka. The implant is a longer recovery and a very small chance of rejection. There are those that say it is a cosmetic choice and is more for the owner not the dog but Tonka is a very social animal and he lives for praise and attention and responds to the energy and tone from people. If you approach Tonka and are happy he is happy and energetic if you approach Tonka with sadness or pity in your voice his tail will go down and he will be sad. Most people do not realize Tonka is blind until I tell them and so most people will have a happy or curious tone when they meet him. He is a very handsome and very large boy at 125lbs so we get a lot of “what a beautiful big dog” which gets his head up and his tail a wagging.

I did not want people to see his missing eye and approach with a “poor thing is blind” attitude and tone of voice so we went with the option that would keep the eye intact. I had numerous conversations with both of Tonka’s Ophthalmologists and trusted them completely to take care of my boy.  He made it through the surgery with no problems with the eye and it is now completely healed and has settled at a blue/gray color. We no longer have to have drops in that eye but continue a maintenance drop once a day in the other and hopefully will have no further issues.

Tonka and I go to many different places and sometimes we end up somewhere crowded like the boardwalk at the beach or at an event for dogs. When we are in crowds or it is very windy or sunny Tonka wears his special glasses made by a company called Doggles. Doggles come in 2 styles, glasses or goggles and Tonka prefers the glasses. The goggles were originally made to protect the eyes of search and rescue dogs since they could be exposed to dust and debris but they are also great for dogs that like to hang their head out the window of a car.  The head out the car window is actually very dangerous for a dog’s eye so and it is best to protect them from dust, rocks and or bugs. Tonka also wears his to protect his eyes from a human hand catching him in a crowd or wind blowing dust in them, since he cannot see there is no blink reflex to protect him if something is coming at his eye. The glasses always draw attention and questions which gives us the opportunity to talk about how a blind dog is really no different than a sighted dog we just have more commands we use like left, right, step, over and careful. One of the most famous dog trainers always says that a dog uses his senses in the following order- nose, eyes and then ears so Tonka is not that far off with just nose and ears.

Buttercup the Maltese Barks about Canine Heart Health

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Meet Buttercup, one of Travel Dog’s Community of Friends.  Buttercup has some common heath troubles, but because of her family’s proactive, empowered, inquisitive and optimistic medical involvement, she lives a happy, full life every day.  This is her story…….

I am a 10 or 11 year old Maltese, a rescue from a high kill shelter in Philadelphia.  I was found wandering the streets and placed on death row waiting to be euthanized when Annie Trinkle, founder of Animal Alliance, a non-profit organization located in Belle Meade, New Jersey showed up and my life was forever changed.

Annie is my angel.  After a life changing event in Annie’s life, she vowed to forever change her own life and do something meaningful and fulfilling and leave the shenanigans of the corporate world behind. Annie and her husband sold their home, bought a new home with plenty of property and started Animal Alliance, a safe heaven for all dogs that are re-adoptable. Annie makes the trek into Philadelphia every single day and rescues as many dogs as she can. I ‘Buttercup’ am one of those lucky pups that fell into Annie’s hands.

I don’t really know how old I am and have no past history to go on, but my vets think I am around the previous mentioned age.  I live with my family and go to the puppy daycare on days when everybody works.  I play with my friends there and I’m never lonely or scared.  At home, I am famous in my neighborhood and now I have friends near and far.   I actually run the house by watching the door, patrolling the backyard and teasing the beagles next door, and I am the star of numerous videos and photo opportunities.

When I went for my first vet visit in my new forever home, I was told I had a heart murmur, probably around a stage 2 murmur ( which is caused by a leaky valve),  but within  2 years it advanced very quickly to a stage 4 or 5 heart murmur and congestive heart failure. I now have three leaky valves and my heart is very enlarged, but I am still able to lead a good quality life, hence the importance of having a good VETERINARY CARDIOLOGIST.  Like humans, we have our primary care veterinarians, but if we have a need for a specialist, that’s exactly where we MUST go.

Heart disease and congestive heart failure are very common in dogs.  Signs of heart disease and or congestive heart failure that you might not be aware of are lethargy, appetite changes, changes in water consumption, panting, coughing, change in the sound of cough, along with frequency of the cough and gagging.

If your regular veterinarian detects a heart murmur, be sure to follow up with a cardiologist. The first thing he or she will do is take a full history, check your blood pressure and do an echo cardiogram.  It’s imperative to have regular echocardiograms, (this monitors the flow of the blood in and out of the valves and measures the size of the heart and the doctor can see how the valves are opening and closing.)  He will request chest x-rays (they are important as they show the size of the heart and also fluid in the heart).  Blood work needs to be done regularly to keep a check on the kidneys, in particular, and all electrolytes along with routine blood pressure checks. It’s only with these tests completed that your cardiologist can manage your care effectively, and with this information, he or she is able to prescribe the correct medications that will enable you to live a well balanced life.

A good diet is very important. If you eat home cooked food, be aware of using low-sodium or no-sodium ingredients. Also vitamin E is very good for the heart; your cardiologist can tell you the appropriate amount for you personally. If you are planning to have a dental or any surgery, you must stop the vitamin E at least 2 weeks prior to any procedure. If you eat over the counter dog food, be sure to read the labels and monitor your weight …so go easy on the treats!

It’s also imperative that your family pays close attention to the slightest change in your behavior or outward symptoms and reports them to your vet or cardiologist immediately. Never think any question is too silly; families have to be pro-active in their pet’s health. The earlier that problems are detected, and the sooner you start being monitored and medicated, the better chance you have of your heart actually improving. Its very scary to live through some of the coughing and gagging episodes, but every time I run up and down the steps, jump on and off the sofa, go for my morning walk, play at daycare racing around barking and carrying on like the leader of the pack, my mom thinks .. “WOW ! for as sick as she is .. look what she still has the energy to do!”  We accredit this to good, proactive veterinary medicine and to my family’s believing in me and helping me to have a fun and happy future every day.  Must go… the beagles are acting up.

Saying, “Paws Up for Veterinary Cardiologists,” this is Buttercup the Maltese wishing you happy play days every day!

(If any readers have any wisdom to share about taking care of a dog who needs heart care, please post in the comments section and I’ll moderate your comments in.)

Raja’s Doggy Dinner Cookbook: Sneak Preview for YOU!

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Carolyn's Originals aprons keep you neater in the test kitchen.

Paws covered in tomatoes and olive oil, Raja’s working on his next book… an international-theme doggy gourmet cookbook for pups who love to eat and people who love to cook.  He’s taking the best doggy friendly elements from cuisines around the world and creating tasty, healthy, well-balanced cook-at-home-meals.

One fall out from the Chinese export protein contamination scares of the last several years has been that home cooking for dogs, previously discredited by some vets, has gained tremendous respect.  While there are many safe, nutritious and reputable pet food brands, dog lovers aren’t scared to home cook for their pets any more.  Supplements suggested by your vet will tweak your high quality ingredients for your own dog’s physiology, so the worry is over.

As part of his pre-launch, Raja wants to share one of his favorite recipes with you.  Today he celebrates Italy, one of his favorite travel destinations with his pottage, a sneak preview recipe for “Almost Minestrone.”


2 tbsps. olive oil

1 lb. ground beef

1 stalk celery

1 medium tomato

1 medium carrot (all three cut in slices)

1 cup cooked canelli beans

2 dashes of dried basil or six leaves fresh basil shredded

10 oz peas

1 cup chicken broth (or more if needed)

1 ½ cup whole wheat acini di pepe pasta


In a large heavy bottom pot sauté the beef in the olive oil, breaking it into bite size pieces.  As it begins to cook, add the vegetables and the broth.  Cover the pot and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft.  Add the pasta and continue to cook for a few minutes- acini de pepe cooks fast.  Add a little more broth if needed to cook the pasta.  You want a consistency of stew, not soup.  If the texture is too soupy, remove the lid and sauté to evaporate fluid.

This recipe will feed Raja for six days or a Great Dane for one meal.  Raja prefers the ingredients cut small.  The Great Dane might prefer larger bites.

If you try this, please comment in and tell us how it worked for you.  We would really appreciate your feedback.  The first ten people who comment in get a packet of Raja’s magic seeds, packed for 2011- this year it will be basil for your Italian cooking!