Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This is probably the most notorious of the puppyhood viral diseases.  And sadly, still the most common.

Parvo is shed in large amounts in the feces of infected dogs.  It is very difficult to inactivate and is easy to spread.  It can be carried around on the feet of humans, animals, etc and resists both heat and cold.  Because of this it is considered ubiquitous in the environment.  This means it's basically everywhere and no place should be considered free of contamination.   Bleach solution can be used for non-porous surfaces but once it gets outside in the soil there is not much that can be done.  Puppies can shed parvo virus in the feces for up to two weeks post infection.  There is no known carrier state.

 So all it takes is a susceptible puppy to go tromping around in contaminated soil, etc and they can pick up the virus on their feet or by playing with plants, dirt etc.  Once they lick the virus off their feet, coat or otherwise ingest it they can become infected.

Parvo requires rapidly dividing cells for growth.  This is why it targets the GI tract and the bone marrow.  Once infected there is a 3-7 day incubation period before the puppy begins showing signs.  Classic presentation includes vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal pain, fever and dehydration.  However, they can present with any combination of signs depending on the viral load and the stage of the disease.

Diagnosis of parvo is often suspected based on clinical signs and history (no vaccines, not enough vaccines, etc).  But, there are several in-house tests that can provide an answer in minutes, although they will occasionally yield a false negative.  A low white blood cell count is often common as well since the virus affects the bone marrow where these important disease fighting cells are made.

Because parvo is a virus there is no "cure" (much like the common cold) and treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms, providing support, and preventing secondary infections.  The hallmarks of treatment are IV fluids, antibiotics, and antiemetics.  There are some additional therapies that can be employed on a case by case basis.

Parvo kills puppies in two ways-the first is by dehydration.  These puppies are often losing fluids through both vomiting and diarrhea and are also not taking fluids in so dehydration can happen rapidly.  This is why aggressive IV fluid therapy is needed.  The fluids also balance electrolytes and are sometimes used to replace glucose in very small puppies where hypoglycemia can be an issue.  Anti-emetics help control nausea and vomiting which help the puppies feel better and also helps prevent further fluid losses by limiting the vomiting.

The second way parvo kills is through secondary bacterial infection.  Because the GI system is ulcerated by the virus, the normal bacteria living in the intestines can infiltrate the bloodstream causing systemic infection.  Coupled with the fact that the puppy's white blood cells are decreased by the virus, this is bad news.  For this reason broad spectrum antibiotics are given as a part of the treatment.

Because these puppies are often very ill and unable to hold down oral medications, hospitalization is the optimal way to treat.  However, many owners of parvo puppies cannot afford such care (this is frequently why they have parvo in the first place-didn't get vaccines or veterinary care) and home care can sometimes be successful in puppies with lower viral loads who are not very sick.  Hospital stays can vary from 3-7 days but there is a 70-80% success rate in dogs who receive optimal care.

Parvo is most common in unvaccinated puppies but can be prevented by appropriate vaccines (every 2-4 weeks from eight until sixteen weeks of age).    However, no vaccine is perfect.  The vaccine could have been damaged, administered incorrectly, or the puppy could have an immune defect and be a "non-responder."  Any of these situations (although rare) can lead to disease in what would otherwise be an appropriately vaccinated puppy.

Parvo in adult dogs is rare, regardless of vaccine history.  I have seen one two year old dog who had never been vaccinated contract parvo.  Often though, it is hard to know if a dog has "never" had vaccines.  Usually the adult dogs that are diagnosed with parvo have a somewhat unknown history but sometimes they are well-cared for dogs with routine vaccination history.

So, here is where the vaccine debate come up.  The current recommendation is to vaccinate adult dogs for parvo every three years.  At least one company has tested their vaccine out for three years and found it to be adequately protective.  It may very well last more than three years but it's not likely anyone will provide the funding for that study.  However, with the occasional report of an adult vaccinated dog contracting parvo, some veterinarians are hesitant to go to this protocol.  But, in my opinion (and others as well) it's more likely these dogs have sort of immune issue that prevents them from fully responding to the vaccines and giving more vaccines won't likely change that.  That opinion is based on that fact that the vast majority of adult dogs, no matter what kind of vaccine history they have, do not contract parvo.

So what about titers?  Titers, in theory would show you if a dog has high enough antibody against a given virus to protect it from disease.  That's great, in theory.  The problem is that the immune system is very complex (antibody levels are not the only player) and can vary from one pet to another.  What is protective in a laboratory raised beagle may be very different from that of a mixed breed farm dog, etc.  Also, titers are quite expensive.  If an owner really wants them, I would do them, but otherwise I would just counsel them as to what is an appropriate vaccination interval for their pet.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Basic Immunology

I wanted to do a series of posts on the diseases we commonly vaccinate for, since most people don't actually know that much about them.  Mostly this is because we rarely see these diseases, thanks to vaccines!  But it's nice to know what you are actually protecting your pet against.  To start this discussion I thought it best to  go over the basics of vaccine science and immunology.  This is unfortunate for me because this was NOT one of my favorite subjects in school, although that was largely due to the poor teaching ability of the immunology professor.  Anyway, I'll give it my best shot.

Puppies and kittens obtain their initial immunity from their mother through the colostrum (a special kind of milk produced in the first few days of lactation).  This immunity lasts up to around 16 weeks of age, but can start to wane somewhere around 8 weeks.  Exactly how long it lasts varies from one individual to another and depends on many factors, some of which we likely don't even understand or know about.  Puppies and kittens are unable to respond to any vaccines we give while they are under the influence of maternal immunity.  Basically, this means any vaccine given prior to about 8 weeks of age is useless.

Once the puppy or kitten reaches about 8 weeks of age and maternal immunity runs the risk of starting to fail, it's time to start vaccines.  Vaccines for common infectious diseases are then given every 2-4 weeks until the puppy or kitten reaches 15-16 weeks of age.  Vaccines should be given no closer together than every 14 days as the immune system remains "busy" during this time and will not be able to respond to a subsequent vaccine during that time.

If you have a puppy or kitten that is older than 16 weeks and has never had vaccines (or you are not sure) then an initial vaccine followed by a booster 2-4 weeks later is adequate because at this time there is no maternal antibody to worry about.  It is a common misconception that puppies need "X" number of vaccines to be protected.  That's not really true, it's all about the age and interval.  I frequently see 8 week old puppies from "breeders" who have already had 3 vaccines.  Well, that puppy will still need 3 more since the ones the breeder gave were too early.  Conversely, the 6 month old stray puppy needs only 2, not 3 or 4 like it would if it came in at 8 weeks old.

This brings up another important point.  There are are some animals that don't handle getting multiple vaccines in the same day very well (such as a Rabies and DHPP).  Many times we will separate these vaccines (assuming they actually do need both) and do them on different days.  It is important to wait at least two weeks between them (not just a week or a few days) because as mentioned before the immune system is busy during that time period and won't respond to the second vaccine if given too soon.  Interestingly, you can give multiple vaccines on the same day and get a response to all of them.  I can't explain the reason for all this-you just have to take my word for it.  People smarter than me have figured all this our for us!

So that's a very basic overview but it will save me from having to go over it all later as we cover diseases.  There is some variation in vaccination protocol depending on which disease we are discussing and I'll go over those variations as they come up.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Three Years

I debated on doing this post.  I didn't want to give the impression that I was still dwelling on this or still sad, because I really don't, and I'm really not.  I still miss him, but that's normal.  I don't expect that to go away anymore than the way I miss other loved ones no longer with us.  That's just life.

But in the end I decided to post anyway, because it's a reminder that out of something sad, good things can come.  Oreo's parting left a place in our home for another little dog that needed us.  And while she was, in a way, pretty bad off, looking back I think I probably needed her more than she needed me.  I have always said she made me smile a lot during a time when I otherwise would not have.  She still does.  How could she not?  Even though life is generally great around here, this face always makes it just that much better.

So today we should all remember the dogs we have lost, hug the ones we have, and know there are more that will touch our lives in the future.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

That's a new one

A woman arrived at the clinic the other day with a question for the vet.  Great. When I arrived in the lobby she warned  me that it was a strange question.  I assured her we get those all the time.

So her story goes like this.  Several months ago their dog died and they buried it in the yard.  Last night something dug it up.  Her question...what dug up their dog?  Really?  How am I supposed to know?  I suggested it was most likely another dog or a  coyote.  Not that it really would have helped but she didn't even bring a picture of the "crime scene."  Just expected I would know what animals go around digging up carcasses.  Apparently she had been researching this online all morning as they were concerned it might be "something weird" that they "needed to take care of."

Another day, another wacko.

Monday, July 23, 2012


We all survived our trial.  Everything seemed to go very smoothly, we had a good number of entries, the exhibitors were happy, the arena stayed cool, the new equipment was beautiful, the raffle prizes were awesome and my dogs ran well!  I call that success.  I could have done without loading and unloading equipment in the 100 degree heat, but you can't have it all.

On to the results.  I'm so proud of Legend.  She Q'd in BOTH chances runs this weekend!  And she did them with speed and confidence too.  I didn't have to help or redirect her at all.  All that hard work is paying off.  Now she just needs 4 more regular and 8 more chances for her NATCH-how bout that?  She also picked up a tunnelers, two jumpers and...are you ready for this...finished her NOVICE Touch N Go title!  I know that's absurd right?  But it is what it is and she finally has her Novice Versatility title with that.  Legend ran a few times with Cheri and they are really doing great together.  They were just a hair over course time in Tunnelers and Legend felt like she only needed to weave 10 poles in Regular but otherwise ran great for her.

Lyric was sort of hot and cold but did pick up two elite regular Q's, an elite jumpers to finish her title, and and open tunnelers to finish that title.  And she ran the tunnelers course fast enough to make elite time so I was pretty pleased with that.

And then we all went home tired.  It's nice to not have to travel but I'm not sure the trade-off of hosting is always worth it. That said, we are considering adding a second trial, due to popular demand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weekend Trip

We spent a long weekend in Minnesota as an anniversary present.  We did some sight-seeing around the city and went to a Twins game-Jerry's team.

If I remember correctly, this is the first bridge built across the Missouri River.

Sunday we spent 12 (yes 12) hours at the Mall of America.  That's a lot of shopping.  That includes the time we spent eating, riding rides and going to the comedy show.  But it's still a lot of shopping.  This is the amusement park in the center of the mall.  They did a good job winding all the rides around each other in the small space. 

This came in the mail when we got back on Monday-it's official!
In other news I heard on the radio today the entire state of Missouri has been declared a disaster area.  While we view the lack of lawn mowing as a plus (seriously, even the weeds have pretty much stopped growing) I can see how this is a problem for those who are actually trying to grow something.  We had a little rain last week, and the grass thought briefly about turning green, then thought better of it and went back to brown.

We are in the process of getting for our club's NADAC trial this weekend.  And by getting ready, I don't mean practicing.  I mean making and gathering raffle items, hosing down the tunnel, making NATCH bars and figuring out how many trips it will take to haul equipment.  Ah, the joys of hosting.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

In the beginning

Fifteen years ago this fall (can that really be right?) I was a college freshman.  My roommate that year was a sophomore which was convenient since she already had friends living in the dorm.  One afternoon two young men came and knocked on our door.  They were on their way to lunch and the nerdy one was looking for my roommate, to see if she wanted to join them.  The other one, the cute one, was his roommate, and just along for the ride, probably anxious to get to lunch.  My roommate was not home and I didn't join them for lunch but I was sure to not turn down their offers for my roomie and I to hang out with them at their room.  The four of us spent many evenings together down on the second floor. Eventually, the cute one started knocking on our door without his nerdy companion.  But he wasn't looking for my roommate.

We have been married eleven years today. 
Unfortunately we got married before digital images were the norm.  So, not only did I have to scan this, I had to scan it in the album because they are glued in. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The state of the profession

Veterinary medicine is troubled.  This is not a rant or complaint, just the way it is.

At some point "those that know" determined there was a shortage of veterinarians.  There wasn't really.  There might be a shortage of those interested in food animal practice.  But there is also a shortage of communities who can afford to keep a full time food animal veterinarian in business.   More vets won't solve that problem.  There is a shortage of veterinarians who want to serve in food safety, public healthy, and government.  This does not equate to a need for more veterinarians in general.

Anyway, the  "solution" to this "problem" was for more veterinary schools to open up and for class sizes to increase. On top of this, the economy weakened, expenses increased, and funding for higher education was cut.   To accommodate for this, universities further increased class size and raised tuition.  Veterinary school has become ridiculously expensive.  Average student debt load when I graduated in 2004 was $80,000.  I felt lucky to owe less than this (I am still paying on it, however).  Today, the average debt is $150,000.  Students paying out of state tuition or attending private universities, or those that also have undergraduate debt often owe significantly more than that.  And let me tell you, starting salaries are nowhere near that amount.  As the economy continues to stumble along, the surplus of new veterinarians struggle to find jobs that pay well enough that they can both survive and pay their student loans.  This is problem number one.

Problem number two is the lack of standards in veterinary care.  One might assume that each doctor, at each clinic, will treat your animal with the most current and up to date therapies, medications, and diagnostic tests.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Although continuing education is required, there are apparently some veterinarians who either don't believe in advances in medicine, or just choose to ignore them.  There are some that cut corners and quite frankly do things I know they were never taught in school.  There are veterinarians who don't believe in pain control, don't use modern gas anesthetics with monitoring devices, don't use protective gear when taking radiographs, use surgery packs on multiple animals, re-sterilize blades and more.   Some continue to perform procedures and give medications that are no longer recommended but fail to offer or perform those that are recommended.  I recently heard of one backwoods doctor who diagnosed a yeast infection of the ear by sticking her finger in the ear, scooping out some debris, and sniffing it.  Seriously?  I'm certain no one was ever trained to do that.  It's unprofessional, and quite simply, embarrassing to our profession.  How would you react if your doctor or pediatrician behaved this way?

Now take all those new grads with problem number one and send them out into the world of problem number two and let them try to find an acceptable job!  I feel sorry for them.  Factor in that even if they do find a well-paying job in a decent clinic their boss may be crazy!

So that's where we are now.  What is in the future?  Hard to say.  But there is a continuing trend of new graduates (myself included) who don't want to spend every waking minute working, putting in 50, 60, or 70 hour weeks at our own clinic, taking our own emergencies, etc.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this.  Everyone deserves to have a life and family as well as a career if they choose to.  There are also many younger veterinarians who don't want to own a clinic, regardless of the hourly work week.  This is understandable-most don't go to veterinary school because they want to be business owners.  And many, to be honest, don't make good business owners anyway.  And there are some who, although they would like to buy a practice, but are saddled with too much student debt to do so.  This scenario is particularly troublesome to older practitioners who planned to sell their practice as their retirement plan. Some speculate these changes will eventually lead to a world where most veterinary clinics are either corporate (like Banfield or VCA) or low-cost and non-profit clinics run by shelters or other humane organizations.  Only time will really tell.  Especially since no one has any really good solutions.  After all, it's pretty unlikely that universities will close, reduce class size and cut tuition.  Nor is it likely that clients will pay exponentially more for veterinary care, especially when they can get a backwoods spay and rabies shot for twenty-five dollars.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dear Stranger

You don't know me, but I know a little about you.  I know you once had a border collie puppy.  I know you probably got her from a newspaper ad, or in a parking lot, or from a friend.  I know this because you were clearly unprepared for this puppy.  A good breeder would have known this, would never have sold her to you or would have taken her back if needed.

I know her name was Sadie.  I know you kept her tied up part of the time.  I know you didn't keep her on heartworm prevention or have enough time for her because you also had a baby.  Or at least that was your excuse.  I know you left her at the shelter when she was just 6 months old.  I know you signed the form saying she could be euthanized.  You knew she could be put to sleep. You knew.  And still you signed it.  And you walked out.  You left a six month old, happy, healthy, puppy behind not knowing if she would ever get out.

I know all this because it's written there on the relinquishment form in my files.  The rescue gave it to me when I adopted "Sadie."

Sometimes I wonder if you ever think about her.  Do you ever wonder if she made it out?  Did she get a good home?  Where is she now? Or maybe you don't care.

You don't deserve to know, but I'll tell you anyway.  She did get out.  She's happy, healthy and has everything she could possibly want or need.  She's never tied up.  She has the best medical care available to her.  She has a big yard, lots of toys and plenty of friends.  She has earned over 30 titles in obedience and agility, is a champion and has been to two national competitions. She loves to swim, play ball, tug on her leash, and even chase her tail.

In fact, I don't think she even remembers you, or your puppy, "Sadie."  And really, why should she?  She didn't mean anything to you.  To you, she was disposable.  A nuisance.  Something you could just walk away from, like a toy you don't play with, shoes you don't wear, a chair you no longer sit on.  But to me, she's everything.  So don't expect to hear from me again.  I'll be too busy with MY dog.  She may look familiar to you, or then again, maybe you have forgotten her, as well.

Friday, July 6, 2012

And away she goes

In an unusually fast moving adoption process, Savannah went to her new home yesterday!  We got a really great application on her from a family in Colorado and the husband just happened to be in MO visiting family this week.  They had previously adopted from another rescue whom we trust so went off their records for vet care and home visit.  Amazingly, with only 1-2 days notice we got everything arranged for her to be picked up yesterday afternoon.  They want her to be an agility dog as their other border collie has a bad elbow and can't compete.  It sounds like a great home-they seem very devoted to their dogs.

And peace returns to our house again!

In other news Lyric got to do another "foreign" teeter this week and went right up it like a champ.  I had to decide what to do about entries for an October trial and I went out on a limb and entered her in standard all three days.  Surely by October she'll be over this?  Right?

It's been too hot to do much else but I did put Legend through a few sequences this evening when it was only 95 outside.  She was wound up as usual from all day in the house and didn't seem to mind it being a bit warm.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Not too hot to trot

It's been hot here.  As in, over 95 for weeks.  We haven't mowed our grass in a month.  The only thing we did was even up the stragglers and mow down the weeds.  The yard is more brown and crispy than I have ever seen it.  The pasture is not much better-it will take some major re-seeding in the fall.  The horses are so hot they are actually coming in voluntarily when I fill the water tank to get hosed off.

But all this heat has not stopped us from getting up at ridiculous hours on our days off to race!  Saturday Cheri and I headed out to the first annual Duck Waddle 5K in Ozark.  I made the mistake of not eating enough breakfast and didn't have a great race (not bad, but not great).  But, it being a smallish event I still managed to win my age group.  Instead of a medal I got a watermelon and a gift card to Rib Crib.  Which was ok, except that you can only use the gift card for weekday lunch specials.  Seriously, if you are giving away food, you can't give it away any day of the week?  Granted, another medal will just sit and collect dust on a shelf, but still.

Then yesterday we went to Branson to run our very first 10k.  My original goal (way back before we even committed to the whole half-marathon thing) was to do it in under an hour.  But with some of my recent 5k times I was hoping do a little better than that and run 9 minute miles which would put me at about 55-56 minutes.  I surprised even myself by finishing in 53:30, which figures out to 8:30 per mile.  This netted me 3rd place in my age group. So clearly, I need to set a new 10K goal of under 50 minutes.  All these medals (or watermelons) are making me feel like I might be getting pretty good at this whole running again so I have been picking our road races for the rest of summer and fall with as much (maybe more) excitement as I have been picking out agility trials.

After the 10k we rewarded ourselves by spending the rest of the day at the lake.  Because it really is pretty hot.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Surprise-new titles!

The AKC has decided to put in place lifetime achievement awards for agility.  Basically, for every 25 legs you get in an excellent B class (or FAST and T2B which we never compete in) you get an additional title-bronze, silver, gold and century.  Then, if I understand correctly it repeats with numbers to signify how many times they have earned that title.

They have awarded these titles retroactively for all legs earned since 1999 which pretty much guarantees any dog still running they will get credit for any Qs they earned in their lifetime.

This includes Legend and Lyric!  Lyric has earned the Master Bronze Jumpers with Weaves (MJB) and Legend has earned the Master Bronze Agility (MXB) and the Master Silver Jumpers with Weaves (MJS).

So good job girls!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The project

Sometime last year a chunk rotted off the end of my teeter plank.  I made a mental note that we needed to replace the board and then promptly ignored it all winter.  More chunks fell off over time and in addition to the increasing safety hazard, there came a day a few weeks ago when so many chunks had fallen off that it no longer weighted properly. 
So we finally had to break down and replace it.  While we were at it I decided to take the rotting slats off my A-frame and repaint it, leaving it slatless. 

We weren't sure how to texture the paint and chose to use sand which seemed to do a pretty good job.  But textured paint does not go very far so naturally I ran out.
When I went back to Lowe's there was some confusion on which color paint I needed-the one marked on the card did not match the one I had already used.  But they made me the one on the card (which I think is what I originally picked out). Anyway, rather than waste that paint I decided to just repaint all the purple on the A-frame.  Well there was not enough paint for that.  Apparently painting over textured surfaces in 100 degree heat requires more paint than you think.  Bottom line-each side of my A-frame is a different color purple.

Both sides are pretty anyway.
Also I should have painted the purple first...

Then we got ready to screw the board onto the teeter frame.  Based on the way the original contruction was done this was not going to be as simple as we had thought.  Why should it be?  So we went back to Lowe's and decided to Gorrila Glue it on.  This has now taken no less than 3 trips to Lowe's and several days to complete. But they both look better, are functional and safe.

Meanwhile, Lyric has been to another teeter and will be doing yet another one tomorrow.  Legend has been enjoying extra ball playing time and not doing much agility.  But I have been picking out fall trials-mostly NADAC this time as we are now on a quest for NATCH!