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Pet Food and Salmonella

Summertime is picnic time.

Yummy meals of hearty foods we all love eating together, outdoors on our decks, in our yards, or at public parks. As a community veterinarian with my public health knowledge, summer also brings mild concerns for food poisoning and outbreaks of Salmonella for picnic goers like me. We all know a bit about proper food handling in order to prevent this serious warm weather problem.

But what about preventing a more hidden and similarly sinister problem, every single day that involves food handling of a different type? I’m talking about feeding our beloved pets THEIR daily meals and treats, yet avoiding Salmonella food poisoning while doing so.

Why is this a concern?

Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in such foods as raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, as well as some raw fruits and vegetables. There are more than 1,000 different types of Salmonella, bacteria found living in the intestinal tract of many livestock used for consumption.

Just like many people foods, the proteins and meats going into pet foods come from some of these carrier animals. Regardless of where the livestock originate, the handling of these meat proteins as dietary ingredients may result in contamination with Salmonella bacteria during processing.

Hence, recalls of pet food occur regularly.

Salmonellosis in dogs can result in various signs and symptoms and may last a week or longer:

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • diarrhea (with mucus or blood)
  • vomiting
  • anorexia
  • dehydration
  • weight loss,
  • fast heart rate
  • swollen lymph nodes

If your pet has consumed a recalled product AND has these symptoms, please contact your vet.

To confirm a diagnosis of salmonellosis, your veterinarian will examine your dog for different physical and lab findings (e.g. low albumin & platelet levels, anemia, low white blood cell count and electrolyte imbalances). Other tests may be necessary to be definitive.

Unfortunately, a dog infected with the bacteria will typically not show any clinical symptoms at all! Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria in its fecal matter, and the contamination will continue to spread in the local community.

Outpatient treatment is often possible in uncomplicated cases, although controversial. Yet, hospitalized care may be necessary, especially for puppies that have developed severe dehydration as a result of the infection.

So how can we avoid this condition from affecting our pets and us?

To reduce infection risks I recommend:

  • washing hands after contact with pet food and pet bowls
  • routinely cleaning pet bowls in a separate sink area from people dishes
  • keeping children younger than age 5 away from pet food and feeding
  • paying attention to recalled pet food lists and bulletins

Mark S Donovan, DVM

Becoming a Fear-Free Practice

Seattle Veterinary Associates has one goal:  to make life better for pets and their people.

Part of achieving this goal means taking care of more than just your pet’s physical ailments. Over the last several years we have been at the forefront of the movement to be a “fear-free practice.” By striving to make your pet’s visit fear-free we feel we can make their visit to the clinic more pleasant for everyone, your pet, you, and us, too. This is why our doctors and technicians are becoming fear-free certified!

It has always been important for us to make pet visits as pleasant as possible.

When Sophia Yin, a notable veterinarian and behaviorist, began offering low-stress handling technique classes we were excited to make them a part of our repertoire. In 2010 we began formal training for all staff in low-stress handling techniques, even going so far as to have Sophia come in to do the training personally. Her methods are now a permanent part of Seattle Veterinary Associates’ required training for all employees regardless of how long they’ve worked in veterinary medicine.

 

In an effort to be more feline-friendly our clinics each became Cat-Friendly Practice Certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

When the American Association of Feline Practitioners began to offer Feline- Friendly Certification, we pounced on the opportunity! Some of their requirements include having waiting areas segregated for cats and dogs, offering training on low-stress handling for cats, and having specifically assigned staff members who act as cat advocates within the clinic. All of these changes have helped us improve the well-being of our feline patients and move toward making their visits fear-free.

Last year we also opened our mobile nursing unit SVA On the Go.

 

 SVA On the Go‘s purpose is to make medical testing and treatments available comfort and safety of your home. Shy cats and dogs often do better in their home environment allowing handling that otherwise would not be possible. It also offers more accurate testing results for tests which can be affected by patient stress levels. This was a major move toward fear-free veterinary care for your pets and we are very proud to offer this service.

Additional Training

In addition, early this year we held an all staff meeting in which we had two veterinary professionals who have also embraced the fear-free ideology come in and train all of our staff on the basics of the system. We began implementing changes within our clinics including adding cat and dog-friendly music, adding lavender oil diffusers to the dog-area in the lobbies, increasing the number and variety of treats for dogs, increasing the use of feline calming pheromones, and more.

Fear-Free Certification

Now that the fear-free certification program has become widely available, we are pursuing this new training with the same passion. By the end of the year most of our doctors and technicians will be fear-free certified. We would love all of our patients to leave our clinics happy or calm. While we know that’s not entirely possible, we sincerely hope our efforts to improve veterinary visits really will make lives better for pets and their people!

Traveling With Your Pet: What To Know Before You Go

Adventure!

Whether it’s taking your pets on a new adventure or just not having to leave them alone with a pet sitter or at a kennel, traveling with your pets is another way you treat them like family! There are, however, some considerations to take into account before you pack your bags.

Car Travel

How does your dog or cat do in the car? Not sure? Then it might be a good idea to start small. Like people, young dogs and cats can be prone to motion sickness due to the structure of their immature ears. Most outgrow this with time, but if motion sickness is allowed to become a pattern, it’s possible to develop a conditioned response that is triggered even as your dog gets older.

Here are a few tips: keep the car cool, if possible – avoid curvy roads, keep the trips as short as possible, allow breaks for longer trips, keep your pet facing forward so they can look out the front window. Remember a crate is the safest place for your pet to be in a car! If your dog or cat is prone to drooling or vomiting in the car, discuss anti-nausea medication with your veterinarian.

Anxiety

If your dog or cat has developed significant anxiety about riding in the car (or anything else), talk with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication and behavioral therapy. Know however, that medication alone doesn’t always provide the complete fix for which most owners hope. Your relationship with your pet is lifelong. Investing the time to work through behavior issues provides real benefit to your dog or cat’s quality of life and yours! If your veterinarian doesn’t have the exact tools you need, ask for a referral to a board-certified veterinary or doctoral-trained behaviorist.

Heartworm

Are you leaving the state of Washington? If the answer is yes, put heartworm disease on your radar. Heartworm is definitely something you want to prevent – treatment is expensive and complicated! Talk with your veterinarian about heartworm preventatives before you go. If you are traveling by plane, you may need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection. Check with your airline and look at state entry requirements at the USDA website.

Are You Ready?

Have you run through your checklist yet? Call your pet-friendly hotel and check to see what amenities are provided, especially if you booked online – policies can change, even if the web page didn’t! Also, if you’re driving, it’s not a bad idea to see what veterinary hospitals are on your route, in case you have an emergency. And, it’s always a good idea to travel with a copy of your pet’s vaccination records.

Last, but not least – relax and have a good time!

Erin West, DVM
Green Lake Animal Hospital

The Danger Beyond the Beauty– Lily Toxicity

After a long and dreary winter, it is finally spring and beautiful flowers are blooming everywhere. Whether picking out houseplants for your home, or choosing a bouquet for your mom on Mother’s Day, pay special attention to the types of plants you select.  Although often overlooked, many common decorative plant species are toxic to pets. One of the more popular flowers this time of year, lilies, are very poisonous to cats.

Common Lily Varieties:

All plants in the Lilium or Hemerocallis genus should be considered toxic to cats, and should be avoided in any area that your feline family member has access.  Common plants in this group include:

Even a small amount can be toxic.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our rambunctious cats can get into almost anything we try to keep them out of.  Knowing the signs of lily poisoning can help you identify a problem, so that you can bring your cat to your vet for treatment as soon as possible.

Toxicity occurs when a cat ingests any part of a lily, including just a small portion of the plant or even just the pollen.  Usually, clinical signs will occur within twelve hours of ingestion, but can occur as early as two hours after consumption, or as far out as five days.  

Symptoms to know:

If you fear that your cat may have eaten part of a lily, early signs of lily toxicity can include:

  • vomiting
  • decreased appetite/anorexia
  • decreased energy level

The more serious signs of kidney failure can occur 24 to 72 hours after ingestion.

Increased thirst and increased urination are often early signs of kidney failure.

 Occasionally, lily ingestion can cause:

  • excessive drooling
  • tremors
  • ataxia
  • weakness
  • seizures

Treatment:

If you believe that your cat has ingested part of a lily, it is very important to start treatment as soon as possible.  When consumption is recent, your veterinarian can start decontamination procedures.  First, vomiting is induced to remove the bulk of plant material consumed.  Then, activated charcoal, which binds to toxins, is introduced into the stomach to prevent further ingestion of poison into the bloodstream.  Finally, IV fluids are started to flush out the system, and continued for a minimum of 48 to 72 hours for kidney support.  

But my cat seems fine!

When consumption of lilies is suspected, treatment should be started even if your cat is not showing any clinical signs of toxicity.  The earlier medical treatment begins, the more likely it will be successful.  Waiting until the presentation of kidney failure symptoms to seek medical intervention greatly increases risks.  Lily ingestion can be fatal (usually 3-7days post exposure), if no treatment is pursued.

Avoiding interactions between your cat family and lilies, and quickly seeking veterinary assistance when consumption may be a possibility, can keep your cats safe during the long-awaited spring.

Catherine Gamber, DVM

Queen Anne Animal Clinic

Saying Goodbye: Part 2

This is the second installment of a two-part discussion on humane euthanasia in veterinary medicine. In the first part I described the difficult decision making process, and now I will discuss the actual procedure.

Know What to Expect

The decision making process of putting a pet to sleep can be made harder if you don’t know what to expect. It is important that you feel comfortable to ask your veterinarian exactly how the procedure will take place.

In-Home or In-Clinic

At Seattle Veterinary Associates we offer in-home euthanasia services. We offer this service so that you and your pet can remain in the comfort of your own home instead of coming in to the clinic. There may be some differences between practices and individual veterinarians, however in general the procedure will be very similar.

Gentle Transition

First, there will be a form to fill out giving permission for the euthanasia to occur and asking about the owner’s wishes for the pet’s remains. An intravenous catheter may be placed to ensure easy access to a vein for medications. If the pet is at all alert, the current standard of care is to give a sedative prior to the euthanasia. This allows for the pet to relax or even fall asleep over 5-10 minutes, and provides for a more gentle transition for the owner to have some peaceful time to say goodbye.

Gentle Passing

After the pet is sedate or asleep, a painless intravenous overdose of anesthesia is given to stop the heart. This injection is usually brightly colored (pink or blue) so that it is never confused with other drugs. It will only take a minute or two after this injection for the pet to pass away. At this time the veterinarian will likely leave the owner to spend a few final minutes with the pet in privacy.

Care of Remains

Some owners may want to take a lock of hair or the pet’s collar as remembrances. Most owners would have already made a decision on their pet’s remains. These usually include private cremation with return of the pet’s ashes (there are companies that can make personalized jewelry from the ashes), communal cremation with no ashes returned, or taking the body home for burial either at home or a pet cemetery. There are city ordinances on burying the body at home so these will need to be checked prior.

Coping

People will have varying degrees of grief after losing a beloved pet. Some may need to just take a long walk, others will want to talk about the experience with loved ones or a therapist, maybe create time and space for some type of remembrance, or simply cry. For some, losing a pet may mean losing their closest companion and it can be extremely traumatic. There are a number of free pet loss hotlines and books available that may be helpful, and by seeking these out people will find that they are not alone in their grief.

Maryam Salt, DVM

Queen Anne Animal Clinic

Saying Goodbye: Part 1

An Important Topic

I wanted to write my blog on the difficult process of making end of life decisions and euthanasia in veterinary medicine. I quickly realized there are so many facets to this very important topic, from addressing difficult emotions, vital decision-making, quality of life assessment, the procedure itself, and after care for both the pet’s remains and the grieving family. I have decided to divide this discussion into two installments so as to fully address this complex subject, one that is a fundamental aspect of pet ownership as well as an every day reality for your veterinary caregivers.

The Veterinary Role

Firstly, it is important to establish a long-standing and honest relationship with your veterinarian so that they can help guide you as medical issues arise. Maintaining this connection can help ease difficult decision-making if your veterinarian has had the opportunity to get to know you and your pet, their medical history, and also have a sense of the individual relationship you have with your companion. However even with all the love and medical attention one may be able to provide it is almost inevitable that at some point a pet’s quality of life deteriorates to an unacceptable level.

Is it time?

The pet may have a terminal disease, mobility issues, unmanageable pain, or multiple concurrent problems. It can be helpful to use certain criteria when assessing your pet’s quality of life. Does he/ she still enjoy their favorite activities? Is he/ she comfortable or are they in pain? Is he/she still social with the family or have they withdrawn? Is he/ she eating well?

Guilt and Pain.

Sometimes there are more emergent or traumatic situations when owners are thrust into having to make a euthanasia decision unexpectedly and hurriedly. In either case owners will frequently experience a myriad of swirling emotions such as guilt, confusion, sadness, remorse, uncertainty, and grief. There can be added factors such as conflicting opinions among family members, navigating the discussion with children, or having to take into account the economic factors of pursuing a medical treatment.

A Loving Gift

It is important to remember that making the painful decision to euthanize a pet is one made out of compassion, love, and respect for the bond you have with your friend. Although this is a very sad decision to have to make, euthanasia should be viewed as a loving gift, allowing the pet to be free from suffering at the end of their natural life. As a veterinarian, I feel fortunate to have euthanasia as a treatment option for my patients. I make every attempt to help owners navigate through the multitude of factors and emotions that are involved in the decision-making process and the actual procedure.

In the next blog I will explain how the euthanasia procedure usually takes place, options for the pet’s remains, and resources available to help owners with difficult emotions.

 Maryam Salt, DVM

Queen Anne Animal Clinic

 

 

Is your pet a “hydro-holic?”

Cats and dogs that drink too much could be telling you something about their health.  Veterinarians call it polyuria (increased urination) and polydipsia (increased thirst) or PU/PD for short.  In our canine and feline friends this change can initially be subtle and in a busy household may even be missed. Often owners will bring their pet in for having urine accidents in the house or getting up to go outside in the middle of the night and realize later that family members have been filling the water bowl more often than normal.

Below you will find just a few reasons for these signs in cats and dogs.

1)     Kidney disease: this can be due to an acute injury such as the ingestion of a toxin, bacteria, or a chronic development such as the degradation over time of the tissue of the kidneys.

2)     Toxicities: There are many common household items that cause PU/PD to occur. This can include: antifreeze (which directly affects the kidneys), chocolate ingestion (which can directly affect the kidneys, nervous system and cardiovascular system), lilies (this most dramatically affects the kidneys in cats to potentially cause kidney failure), or marijuana (this affects the kidneys, intestines and nervous system).

3)     Thyroid disease: In a cat it is more commonly seen as an elevation in the thyroid level leading to weight loss despite a good appetite. In dogs more commonly, a low level thyroid is seen with observed weight gain without an increase in the amount of food fed.

4)     Diabetes Mellitus: weight loss as well as digestive upset can be seen with this disease state. If left untreated it can be quite dangerous to your pet.

5)     Liver Disease: this can be caused by a chronic state of degradation of the liver cells, an acute toxicity, or even a bacterial infection such as leptospirosis.

If you are noting that your animal is displaying PU/PD behavior consult with your veterinarian for further evaluation.

Dr. Julia Neal

Ravenna Animal Hospital

 

 

 

Happy Pets at the Vets

Two Kittens Lounging at the Vet

Veterinary care is essential to maintaining your pet’s health and longevity. Many pets are incredibly tolerant of handling by strangers. These pets take visits to the veterinary hospital in stride. But some individuals are fearful of unfamiliar surroundings and events. Extra care must be taken to ensure that these pets have good experiences at the veterinary office.

Social visits are one way to expose your pet to the veterinary office without the stress of handling and restraint. You and your pet are welcome to stop in at our hospital any time we are open. Social visits do involve your time and effort but there is no appointment needed and no fee involved. Your friend can get some treats from the staff. He/she can practice walking on and off the scale. If the examination rooms are open, he/she can sniff around in an exam room or two. (Time spent exploring in an exam room is what we recommend for cats since free roaming in the waiting room is not safe or reassuring for them!) Our staff loves to meet and sweet talk a reluctant visitor. Some pets need only a few low key exposures to reassure them that the veterinary office is an okay place. Other individuals need more practice coming into the hospital and a slower progression from social visit to physical examination by the doctor.

For some individuals, anxiety relief is needed in addition to familiarization via social visits. There are numerous over the counter anxiety relief products made for cats and dogs.  We can make suggestions as to which product to try based on our experiences and knowledge of your pet. We encourage owners to try these products before moving on to the pharmaceutical anxiety medications.

When social visits and over the counter medications do not enable a pet to be comfortable at the veterinary office, it is reasonable to consider the use of prescription medications. We can prescribe sedative drugs and/ or anti-anxiety drugs for those pets needing more calming to allow examination by the veterinarian. We make recommendations based on our knowledge of the pet’s behavior and its medical history. Owners may be asked to do test dosing of these medications at home as we work together to find the right drug or combination of drugs for that pet.

If you feel that your pet is stressed by visits to the vet, please call and discuss your concerns and observations with one of our staff. We are anxious to make veterinary visits pain-free and fear-free. Let’s work together and find the best approach for your pet.

Dr. Ann Whereat

Northwest Veterinary Hospital

www.seattlevetassoc.com