Michael Nastasi at Canisphoto

Michael_nastasi_photo_example_canisphotoI have just discovered another talented dog and cat photographer - Michael Nastasi at Canisphoto (courtesy of Urbanhound, that used one of his pictures on their website.)

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Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) up for sale? A 2006 prediction.

Vpi_logoThe biggest player in the US pet insurance market at the moment is Veterinary Pet Insurance, the oldest company with the largest market share (just over 80% or thereabouts). Until about a year and a half ago, they were chugging along in a reasonably active manner but then some of the senior management were suspended in July 2004 as a result of  an internal investigation and some others resigned. At that point, Scottsdale, the insurance company that owns 60.8% of the company, inserted their own man to head up the pet insurance business.

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My dog or cat is limping

Img_0228Recently, my cat Barnes had a very sore paw and it turned out to be an infection in his foot. When he got sick, I wondered what the cause could be and it turns out that limping or lameness is one of the main reasons that cats and dogs go to the vet’s office.

So, what could be the cause of this problem? Here’s what I have found in my research:

  • Burrs or thorns in the paw – something you can check this yourself if your dog or cat will let you. Also cuts or scraps on the paw. These are generally treated by removing the spike and wiping with hydrogen peroxide or iodine solution to prevent infection.
  • Infection of the paw – just like my cat Barnes's swollen paw, something might have pierced his paw and caused an infection. The symptoms were a hot and swollen paw and Barnes had a mild fever. This condition can generally be easily corrected with a course of antibiotics such as amoxicillin, with a distinct improvement noticeable after one day.
  • Overgrown or overly short toe nails. If overgrown, the nail might have broken off after being too long and getting infected, or if the nail twists causing toe arthritis or swollen joints. If too short, perhaps the toe got infected from being clipped too close to the quick.
  • Sprains, dislocations, and broken bones, which might have occurred from an accident with a car or while exercising. You would probably know if this had happened but then again, if you have a cat that goes outside by herself, you can’t always tell. We think Lily dropped something onto her paw, causing it to be all swollen. Goodness knows how she did that!
  • Elbow arthritis where fragments of bone are in the joint – ouch! This is most often seen in large breeds of dogs such as Labradors, Golden retrievers and Rottweilers.
  • Sprains or strains in the various muscles of the leg and shoulder.
  • Slipping knee cap, often called a luxating patella. This is generally an inherited condition that can be treated with surgery.
  • Ligament tears, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament, which is quite common in dogs and sometimes occurs in cats. For smaller dogs, rest and drugs can fix this problem but for larger dogs, surgery is likely.
  • General joint arthritis which is quite common in older animals, just like us humans. Symptoms include limping and/or swollen joints and larger dogs get it sooner than smaller dogs and cats. Elbow or shoulder osteochonritis dissecans (osteochonrosis) is where a flap of cartilage breaks off and gets trapped in the joint. Symptoms can be alleviated with surgery, pain killers and aspirin; however, weight reduction is definitely effective and some people also swear by glucosamine for both treatment and prevention.
  • Hip dysplasia, which I have talked about in my article Hip Dysplasia in Dogs (and Cats).
  • Bone tumors called osteosarcoma, which grow on the bone near a joint. The usual treatment is amputation of the limb (check out the header picture on this blog – do you see the three legged dog?).
  • Inflammation of the muscles of the face and legs in both cats and dogs (known as myositis) can also cause limping over extended periods of time or in flare ups. The cause is unknown but could be related to the animal’s immune system attacking itself and is treated with corticosteroids.
  • An inflammatory disease of young dogs, particularly German Shepherds, which causes limping that shifts from one leg to another and yelping if you grasp the bones of the affected leg firmly (aka panosteitis, enostosis, eosinophilic Panosteitis, juvenile osteomyelitis or osteomyelitis). No-one knows what causes this condition but the good news is that it usually cures itself over time. Vets often treat for the pain until the condition disappears.
  • Lyme Disease in dogs causes limping, usually in one foreleg, swelling in the  lymph node affected the limb, and a temperature of 103 degrees. It takes about 3-4 days for the limping to progress from minor to refusing to move at all. The bacteria can also affect the dog's heart muscle and nerve tissue.  You can treat Lyme Disease successfully with antibiotics if you catch it in time.
  • a blood clot aka aortic saddle thrombosis, where a blood clot caused by heart disease cuts off circulation to the hind quarters. Certainly you would hardly expect heart disease to cause limping in cats or dogs but it can happen rarely.

As with any of your pet’s health conditions, if you are worried about your pet, talk to your vet.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn_maple_leaf I'm off to Canada to see my family this Thanksgiving holidays. Enjoy this special holiday with all your furry and non-furry family - no comments on Aunt Edna's mustache now! Can't wait for my turkey dinner...

Laura and Alex, your non-furry friends at Embrace - although Alex does have a beard now :)

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Why dogs don't live as long as people

I just happened on this little story and being pregnant (did I tell you that? It's true, I'm due in January) and affected by anything warm and fuzzy, this story kind of got to me. I thought you might like it too.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owner, his wife, and their little boy were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family there were no miracles left for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

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