Pet Health

Spay Oklahoma’s Don’t Litter Campaign

posted April 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Pat Atkinson

It’s half-way through the day at Spay Oklahoma, the veterinarian just finishing spay and neuter surgery on 15 dogs.  Next on the table: 23 cats. 

Today is a bit slow at the clinic with 38 pets in for surgery (the average is 40-45), but all the animals and their people count toward Spay Oklahoma’s goal of making life better for people and pets in the Tulsa area.

Just before lunch, staff members again check the dogs waking up from anesthesia, looking in on Moose, a 99-pound German shepherd who wants to be hugged, and Bear, a fluffy chow mix puppy being cuddled in a warm blanket.

The “doggie serenade” of woofs, howls, arfs and yips is winding down. The kittys are quiet in their carriers except for Rosealee, a gray tabby mom of six kittens who hasn’t stopped talking since early morning arrival.

After a quick take-out deli lunch, the veterinarian of the day, Dr. Terry Yunker, and four staff members will prep the cats, do surgery, and call families, letting them know when  Moose, Bear, Rosealee and the other patients are ready to go home.

At the end of today, all 38 are “fixed,” rabies and other immunizations given, worming medicine dispensed.

But, what really happens every day at Spay Oklahoma is what will not happen later – the birth of thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens, who usually end up homeless and hungry, neglected, injured, diseased – another statistic to die on the streets or be “put down” at the Tulsa Animal Control facility.  Last year about 12,000 were euthanized, an average of 30 a day.

Spay Oklahoma, a non-profit organization, opened its clinic doors almost three years ago offering low cost spay and neuter surgery for pets of low income residents. It’s the only of its kind in Oklahoma and one of only about 30 in the nation.

Unlike full service veterinarian offices, SpayOK offers only spay and neuter surgery, only for pets of low income families who could not afford to have their animals “fixed,” and partners with area animal rescue/humane groups and shelters – non-profit and city-operated to reach the people and pets in need.

Why create a program that depends on volunteers, a few staff members, and donations from individuals, groups, foundations, and friends to operate?

Judy Kishner, Spay Oklahoma board of directors president, explains:  “Because we have too many dogs and cats and not enough homes, thousands are put to sleep every year at the City shelter.  The only way to reduce that number is spaying and neutering to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens.”

Eventually, she says, the pet overpopulation will decrease and animals in shelters will have better chances of successfully finding good homes.  And, “fixed” animals have fewer behavioral and health problems, enhancing their chances of remaining in their homes.

Spay Oklahoma board members Nancy Atwater and Ruth Steinberger recently visited a long-standing low fee clinic in North Carolina looking for better ways to do more.  That clinic averages 20,000 surgeries annually.

Last year, Spay Oklahoma did 5,000-plus surgeries estimated to prevent the birth of some 50,000 unwanted animals. The goal for 2007 is 6,500-7,000.

Plans are being explored for a retro-fitted transport truck program working with area groups for same-day pick up, surgery and return to area locations. 

Meanwhile, today’s a wrap at the clinic, scrubbed and sterilized for tomorrow’s expected 45 “pet projects.”

Pat Atkinson is a board member of Spay Oklahoma.

Info Box
Spay Oklahoma
501 E. 36th St. North
918.728.3144 for appointment 

Fees:  Cats $25, Sm. & Med. Dogs $35, Large Dogs, $45
Rabies, other immunizations, $5 each
Callers are screened for income qualifications

Ask the Vet

posted April 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Chris Adolph

Q: I know this is disgusting, but I have a dog who is a poop-eater.   She won’t eat her own but can’t wait to eat the poop of my other two dogs.   I have tried everything from getting that stuff to feed the other two to make their poop “undesirable,” to pouring Tabasco on the other’s poop,    Nothing works.   Now the only thing I can do is run out and scoop every time there’s more poop, but I can’t always do that with the weather.   What can I do?

A: Eating feces is an instinct in dogs.  This behavior is very common.  It seems to be more common in females than males because mothers clean their puppies and the environment by eating the feces.  Males will also do this. You can begin to break this habit by constantly picking up the feces.  This will be easier when the weather warms up. Don’t scold or make a big deal about it. 

Routinely eliminating parasites and feeding twice daily help develop regular outdoor pooping habits and will assist you with regular clean-up to further change the habit.

Use a word for “outside” at the door and another word for “go potty” when she is in the right place. When she relieves herself in the right spot, praise her by saying something like “good girl to go potty outside.” You can also give her a treat as you say this, but don’t let her see it beforehand. This habit will eventually fade.  

You can sprinkle meat tenderizer on food or there is a product called “Forbid” to discourage the habit, but neither of these is a magic bullet.

Q: I have a mutt puppy about a year old who has a beautiful brown coat except for these weird scars on the tops of his ears.   Somebody mentioned that he was probably left outside all one summer and the scars are from fly bites. Would you know what these are, and is there anything I can put on them to make them go away?    He also has scars with no hair on his front feet where his dew claws were removed.

A: The skin needs to be checked by a veterinarian to determine the cause.  In general terms, this is usually called fly strike dermatitis. It can be treated by applying an ointment with insecticides and limiting exposure.  There are other causes and your veterinarian can direct you on appropriate testing and treatment.  Proper diagnosis, treatment and environmental conditions can help minimize the ear scars.  The hairless areas where dew claws were removed are scar tissue and hair does not grow in scar tissue.

Q: My husband and I have a 15-year-old lab female who has lost the use of her back right leg.  She’s not in pain, but I feel it’s time to let her go. My husband says a firm “no.”    How do we know when that time is here?

A: We should not always assume that health problems in older animals are always related to old age. The loss of use of one rear limb can have several causes, most of which are treatable.  Osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee joints is the most common cause that I see.  There are very safe and effective treatments for this condition.  The other common causes are neurological disorders, ruptured ligaments and trauma.  The key lies in working with your veterinarian to get a true diagnosis.  This will most likely include a complete exam to localize the problem.  Additionally, blood and urine testing determine organ function.  X-rays are critical to determining the cause and sometimes mild sedation is needed to do this.  With this information, your veterinarian can guide and direct your decision-making process. 

Q: I’ve noticed that my 10-year-old kitty is drinking more water, more often every day and he’s in the litter box more than usual. What’s going on?

A: These are common symptoms is older felines and there are many causes.  The most common are diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney failure.  There are many other causes, but this is what I see the most, and each one is treated differently.  The cornerstone is getting a true diagnosis.  This will include blood and urine testing to start with.  This will most likely lead to other tests, but the initial tests will get your veterinarian pointed in the right direction. 

Arthritis in Our Older Pets

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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By Erin Reed, DVM 15th Street Veterinary Group, Tulsa

How do you feel as the weather gets colder? Do you feel stiff and sore when the temperatures drop? Many of our pets experience the same changes.

As our family pets get older, they also exhibit signs of arthritis. We have to rely on changes that we see, since they are unable to communicate with us. Decreased activity, increased difficulty getting up and down, limping and behavioral changes are some of the signs that are suggestive of arthritis.

Both dogs and cats get degenerative joint disease (DJD, also known as arthritis). There are many factors that predispose an animal to DJD. Genetics, obesity and injury are the most common causes of arthritis.

Genetics play an important role, especially with large breed dogs. When possible, it is recommended to research familial and breed problems before purchasing a puppy. Many breeders have breeding dogs OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified to decrease the chance of elbow and hip dysplasia being passed on to their offspring.

Obesity is a significant problem in both dogs and cats. By preventing obesity we are able to decrease a significant amount of wear and tear on the joints, therefore decreasing arthritis as pets age.

Previous injuries can also cause arthritis to occur at an increased rate. Many dogs experience torn cruciate ligaments, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and traumatic injuries that lead to arthritis.

There are many signs that suggest a diagnosis of arthritis, but your veterinarian will usually recommend a thorough examination and laboratory work to rule out any metabolic problems that may initially mimic the vague signs of arthritis, such as Hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease. Once a tentative diagnosis of arthritis is determined, trial therapies may be started. Radiographs are needed to definitively diagnose arthritis, but many times a patient’s response to treatment is also used. Radiographs are needed to rule out any other problems, such as infection or tumors.

Treatment of arthritis has many components. Glucosamine-chondroitin is often started at first signs of arthritis or following injury or surgery to decrease arthritis. Glucosamine helps stimulate synovial fluid, slow down destruction and improve healing of the joint’s cartilage. There are both oral and injectable products that can be used.

Many veterinarians recommend weight loss diets and increasing exercise to battle obesity in all stages of arthritis.

As arthritis becomes more pronounced, NSAID’s (non steroidal anti-inflammatories) are often used to help control pain and inflammation. Even though there are many products obtained from drug stores, never administer any medications without checking with your veterinarian. For example, aspirin can cause stomach ulcers and other medications, like ibuprofen cause kidney damage, even at very low doses. Most dogs respond very well to anti-inflamm atories. Each patient’s response will determine if they need to stay on medication daily or if the medicine can be decreased and given when needed. Before starting any ongoing medication, your veterinarian will usually recommend laboratory tests to check kidney and liver function and then repeat this every 6 months.

Seeing our pets get older is difficult, but in many cases there are preventative measures that can be used to improve and lengthen their quality of life.

Story by Erin Reed


posted January 15th, 2007 by
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This issue’s participating veterinarian: Stephanie Ensley, DVM

Q. My seven-year old cat has developed feline diabetes. Is there any chance that it could disappear as quickly as it developed? Also, will this disease affect the longevity of my cat’s life? D. Blackburn, Tulsa

A. 24 TulsaPets Winter 2007 Diabetes, a metabolic disease diagnosed in an estimated one out of two-hundred feline patients, can sometimes seem to develop overnight. Many owners can look back (good old hind sight) and recognize early indications of the illness that were not alarming initially. Examples might include increased litter box use, change in appetite and/or water consumption, change in activity level, vomiting, diarrhea and weight changes.

Feline diabetes is managed in most patients with diet and insulin. Some cats are able to be managed without insulin, or with decreased doses over time. Cats that develop diabetes following steroid treatment for other medical conditions may revert to a non-insulin dependent state if steroid use can be discontinued. I never consider diabetes to “disappear” but rather to be controlled. A big part of diabetes management is monitoring glucose levels and clinical signs. In a case where a cat reaches a point of no longer needing insulin I continue a supportive diet with regular monitoring and caution owners that the cat has shown us the predisposition to the disease and can at any time become ill from diabetes again.

Diabetic cats, if well managed, may live a fairly long life. Unfortunately some diabetics have other disease processes affecting their bodies that make glucose control difficult or they are not presented to the veterinarian for evaluation until they are deathly ill from the effects of diabetes, making the prognosis poor. Additionally, diabetics must be treated early and aggressively for any illness that develops. In many cases periodontal disease or a urinary tract infection can precipitate loss of glucose control in the diabetic patient. To help your diabetic cat live a long and healthy life it is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to set up monitoring guidelines, treatment plans and regular medical evaluations. Home management takes dedication on your part, but the reward…your feline friend…is worth it!

Q. I live near a location where the emergency sirens blow every Wednesday at noon. My lab puppy, who has never heard this sound before, has started running outside and howling when he hears the noise. Why does he do this and are the sirens hurting his hearing? S. Kirkpatrick, Tulsa

A. Dogs tend to bark and howl with sirens in chorus…sort of an instinctual pack behavior. The good news is the sirens are not harmful to your dog’s hearing at the level and duration they are used in a testing mode. The greatest problem with barking at sirens is that dogs build a habit of the behavior and cannot discern between barking at the noon test sirens and emergency vehicle sirens in the wee morning hours…an activity not many neighbors appreciate

Test sirens at a set time afford you a great training opportunity. If you are available at the times the sirens blow you can train your dog to go to a specific location and do a ‘sit’ or ‘down’ at the appointed place and then reward him as he stays put till the sirens stop. Since we live in an area of severe storms it is better to have dogs under control and in a predetermined location than out howling at sirens should a true emergency situation exist. In addition to having treats handy at this location you should also have leashes (or crates) as needed for your pets so that you can control them should you need to seek shelter with them. This training method may also be applied when doing monthly testing of your in-home smoke detectors.

That said, civil defense sirens at close range (100 feet) or for extended periods that would occur during a disaster can be damaging to the ear drum due to the high decibel (sound pressure) level required for the warning sirens. If your dog is particularly sensitive, agitated by the sirens, or they are activated for more than test duration you can place a cotton ball in the ear canals (gently…. don’t push it too far in) to muffle the noise and make your dog more comfortable.

Q. I have a very old dog who sleeps mostly all day in one favorite spot in the living room. She has started developing a strange habit of getting up and scratching furiously on the carpet where she has been sleeping. It’s almost like she is in a trance-like state when she’s doing this. In addition to saving my carpet, I’d like her to stop. Why has she started to develop this behavior? What can I do to help her stop it?

A. Older dogs do sleep more than young ones and can develop new, and not always desirable, habits. In some cases these new behaviors are due to underlying disease, pain or a dementia-like illness called canine cognitive dysfunction. I encourage you to take your dog for a thorough physical examination and blood work to look for related problems that can be addressed. Evaluation may reveal a problem that can be treated with a special diet and/or medication.

If you have a video camera it would help for you to record the described activity once without disturbing your dog, letting her cycle through her entire routine. Get someone to help you record it a second time and try to get your dog’s attention during the event to see how she reacts. I like to keep a written log of episodes observed including time, date, duration of episode and feeding time or other activities on the days you observe the event. In the meantime I recommend you take a cutting of carpet remnant to a carpet store where it can be finished off on the edges….you can place this in your old gal’s favorite spot so she will not further damage your carpet but will still have the familiar texture to sleep on.

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