Daily Archives: December 20, 2011

Cat Health

Your cat’s mouth can tell you a lot about your furry friend’s health. Here is some information that we hope is useful.

Kittens have 26 temporary teeth, 14 upper and 12 lower. They begin falling out at about 3-4 months of age. When all the permanent teeth come in, the count is 30, 16 top teeth and 14 bottom teeth. There are 12 small incisors that are mainly used for grooming; 4 canines which are used to catch and hold prey; 10 premolars used for tearing meat and 4 molars in the back of the mouth.

A cat’s jaw is different from humans and dogs. A cat’s jaw moves only up and down making it difficult to grind food. They usually swallow kibble whole. Dry food is made in tiny pieces making it easier for the cat to handle.

Studies have shown that by the time a cat is 3 years old, 70% will have developed gum disease.

The ASPCA offers these steps to dental health for your cat.

Test your cat’s breath – an abnormally strong offensive odor indicates a problem and your cat should be seen by a veterinarian.

Pull back your cat’s lips to check teeth and gums. Teeth should be clean and have no brownish tartar. Check for any broken or loose teeth. If your cat is sneezing, it could be a sign that an upper canine tooth is fractured.

Offer your cat chew toys. They can help keep teeth and gums clean and strong.

Brush your cat’s teeth regularly.

Make sure you feed your cat a healthy diet and watch your cat’s weight.

The ASPCA advises you to be aware of the following problems:

Gingivitis can start as a dark red line at the gumline. Untreated, gums can become sore and ulcerated. Gingivitis can be a sign of FIV or an infection.

Periodontitis – If gingivitis is present and is down in the tooth socket, the teeth may become loose and an abcess may form.

Stomatitis is inflammation or redness of the mouth lining due to a foreign body, oral disease or dental

Rodent Ulcer is a slowly enlarging sore or swelling on the upper lip.

Salivary Cyst – If salivary glands or ducts become blocked, a cyst can form under the tongue.

Mouth ulcers are sometimes caused by feline respiratory or kidney disease.

It should be noted that the most common oral cancer in cats is squamous cell carcinoma that usually begins under the tongue.

If your cat has difficulty eating or refuses to eat, it’s important to take him/her for a veterinary examination.

Read more: Your Cat’s Mouth – The Pet Wiki

Pet Blood Bank UK

How Pet Blood Bank UK is saving dogs’ lives

Posted on December 5, 2011 by Petplan
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Deirdre Vine tells the story of the country’s first blood bank for pets – and explains how you and your dog can contribute. From the PetPeople magazine archive

Blood is precious. While scientific advances in developing blood substitutes have been made, real donors are still the only reliable source of blood for ill pets.

So when the not-for-profit Pet Blood Bank UK (PBBuk) was launched nearly five years ago it was a huge step forward for UK dog owners: it meant vets had quick access to blood to treat critically ill dogs, rather than having to wait on donations being made, which often led to delays and loss of life.

As the only pet blood bank charity in the UK, it holds regular blood collection sessions across the country – 164 of them last year. Blood is then taken to its Loughborough processing centre, separated into red blood cells and plasma (the straw-coloured liquid carrying proteins) and then supplied to veterinary practices all over the country. Large animals make the best donors, and Pet Blood Bank UK has just notched up its 3,000th doggy donor. Dog blood donors? To some it’s still a novel idea. The process is painless and simple, yet the impact it has is immense: every unit collected can help save up to four dogs’ lives.

The idea for a UK pet blood bank came from across the Atlantic. Wendy Barnett, head of clinical and professional services and co-founder of PBBuk, visited six blood banks in the USA. ‘They’ve been blood-banking for more than 20 years, so a lot of our information has come from them,’ she explains.

As blood brothers go, a Great Dane called Shiloh and a Golden Retriever named Brook are an unlikely pair. Yet these two handsome chaps, who live 100 miles apart, have a unique bond: without Brook’s blood donation earlier this year, seven-year-old Shiloh might well have died.

Shiloh’s owner, Bill Bowler, explains: ‘Last winter, I’d bought a large tub of fat balls to feed the birds. It was the kind of plastic container that anyone would struggle to open and I stored it in what I thought was a safe place in the garage. Somehow Shiloh managed to rip it apart and devoured most of the contents.’

Bill, a vet with 26 years’ experience, recalls that Shiloh developed gastric dilatationvolvulus (GDV), a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with gas and twists over. That evening, Bill performed a three-and-a-half-hour operation on his dog. ‘It ended around 2am, and by 7am I thought I’d better go home,’ he says. ‘At that point, I really thought he was going to die.’

After appearing to rally briefly, Shiloh’s heartbeat became erratic and a blood test confirmed that he was anaemic. ‘I suspected diffuse intravascular coagulation [where small blood clots form inside the blood vessels around the body] and, at this point, contacted the Pet Blood Bank,’ says Bill. ‘Shiloh received two bags of plasma and two of blood cells. The transfusion stabilised him, and after that, he gradually recovered. I think giving him [another dog’s] blood, with clotting factors and red blood cells, made a big difference.’

As more vets become aware that PBBuk supplies blood components, demand is increasing – to date, the bank has provided blood products to more than 460 veterinary practices in Britain. ‘This was the first time I’d used the Pet Blood Bank,’ says Bill. ‘I was very impressed. I’d recommend it; they were unintimidating, helpful and made the process straightforward. As a vet, I’d say to owners, if you have a dog that is eligible to give blood, what could be better than to give another dog a chance?’

The sentiment is shared by Amy Saunders, owner of five-year-old Brook, one of the PBBuk donors who helped to save Shiloh. Amy, a retired nurse and midwife, says: ‘It’s a gift of life to an animal that might otherwise die – and one day that could be your animal.’

Amy has four much-adored Golden Retrievers: Bliss, and sons Breeze, Brook and Harry. ‘They would all be donors if they were eligible,’ insists Amy. ‘Brook is very happy to donate regularly. It’s all because of the staff: I have total faith in them. They are all in exactly the right job. They make a big fuss of both Brook and me.’

It normally takes about five to seven minutes for a dog to make a blood donation. ‘I choose to wait outside the room while he gives blood,’ says Amy, ‘and when he comes out, he is given water, food and a goody bag.’

It would be wrong to assume that only pedigree dogs can be blood donors. What is vital is that dogs meet the eligibility criteria (see below), pass the stringent health screening stage and have the right temperament – ideally, they should like to be handled, love attention and be stimulated by either food or human attention. ‘We’d be happy to see more cross-breeds coming forward,’ says Wendy.

‘I could write a book on how particular breeds respond,’ says PBBuk’s other co-founder, veterinary supervisor Jenny Walton. German Shepherds and Labradors can be among the most co-operative donors, but, says Jenny, ‘our favourite repeat visitors are Greyhounds because of their compliant temperament and their anatomy. They’re slim, and their veins are very visible. And they have staying power: I’d say 95 per cent of Greyhounds happily remain donors.’

Rottweilers are also pretty good donors, adds Jenny. ‘No sooner are they on the table than they lift their back leg up to be tickled, and they lie there contentedly. But Rottweilers have a positive blood type, whereas the greatest demand is for the negative blood type.’

PBBuk is aware that cats need blood too, and is researching feline blood collection with a view to possibly extending its service in the future. Meanwhile, though, the immediate challenge for PBBuk is to balance its supply and demand, and encourage eligible dog owners to register their pets as potential donors. ‘Blood donations typically decrease around Christmas and other holiday times, the same as the human National Blood Service,’ says Wendy.

Top dog and number one donor at PBBuk is Seamus, a Greyhound cross who is due to retire this autumn on reaching his ninth birthday, but not before making his 20th blood donation. His was the very first donation given to PBBuk, and Seamus has donated every three to four months since then.

Could your dog be the next Seamus? PBBuk hopes so.

Blood simple

  • Dogs have two main blood types: ‘1.1’ positive and negative
  • 70 per cent of PBBuk donors have a positive blood type, while 30 per cent have a negative blood type
  • Some breeds are more likely to have a negative blood type, such as Airedales, German Shepherds, English Bull Terriers, Dobermans and Greyhounds

Donating, volunteering, fundraising

To be eligible to donate blood, your dog should:

  • be between one and eight years old weigh more than 25kg have a good temperament have never travelled abroad be up to date on all vaccinations
  • be fit and healthy not be on any medication

If your dog meets these criteria, please register by visiting www.petbloodbankuk.org so that Pet Blood Bank UK can contact you about donating in the future. Call 01509 232222 if you have any queries. Even if your dog doesn’t meet the above criteria, you can still get involved by recommending friends with large dogs, volunteering to help at a collection session, or fundraising for PBBuk.

Putting a Face to Canine PTSD

Buck, who is healing in a loving home after developing PTSD in Afghanistan (Photo: Estella Diaz)

When I met Buck, the kennel he was in at Lackland Air Force Base was so loud that I thought his name was Puck. The other dogs – all part of the Department of Defense’s Military Working Dog program – were going nuts because they had visitors and it was hard to hear anything other than loud barks.

Several dogs were spinning in crazy, fast circles while others ran back and forth in their concrete kennels. Some just stood there barking at my escort and me like they wanted us for lunch.

And then there we came to Puck, er, Buck. Buck is a chocolate Lab. Because Labs are normally rambunctious, happy dogs, I would have expected him to be woofing with the rest. But he was curled up in a tight ball toward the back of his kennel. He appeared to be the only normal, calm one among these super energetic dogs. But there was something about his eyes, his demeanor, that seems almost sad. He didn’t lift his head, he just looked at me unblinkingly, and then stared out again, eyes not seeming to focus on anything much.

Buck, it turns out, had been in Afghanistan as a Marine IED detector dog. The man taking me through the kennels told me, “He heard one too many explosions.” The poor guy would jump not only every  time he heard a “bang or a boom” but also at far-less threatening sounds, like someone walking by and kicking a rock.

Buck was diagnosed with the canine version of post traumatic stress disorder. He did not respond well enough to treatment, and it was determined that he needed to retire from being a war dog. He was going to be adopted the day after my visit by a couple “who loves him a lot,” my escort told me.

Lynette and Larry Sargent, and Buck, whom they love like a child (Photo: Estella Diaz)

That was back in July, when I was on the road doing research for my upcoming book,Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes (Dutton, March 2012). I address canine PTSD in the book, and I was heartened when a couple of weeks ago the New York Times ran an article about it and dozens of media outlets picked up the story or ran their own version. It’s good to see this disorder getting some attention. The dogs who have it suffer greatly, as do their human counterparts.

Signs of canine PTSD include hypervigilance, increased startle response, attempts to run away or escape, withdrawal, changes in rapport with a handler, and problems performing trained tasks – like a bomb dog who just can’t focus on sniffing out bombs any more. These are variations of PTSD’s symptoms in humans.

Sporting breeds, like Labs, appear to be more prone to canine PTSD than war dogs like German shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Dr. Walter Burghardt, chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base, is not sure of the reasons for this. But he a small team at Lackland are starting to investigate this and dozens of other questions about the disorder, including how to prevent it, and how to best treat it. Right now, affected dogs are given time off, and get a combination of drugs and different therapies. A dog who is shaking and hiding may be given anti-anxiety medication; one who is withdrawn could get antidepressants. There are also counterconditioning therapies, in which a dog is slowly desensitized to loud noises.

About 25 percent will not be able to work again, and end up being retired from service. Depending on their condition, they could go to a police force, or be adopted by a family or individual, as Buck has been.

About three weeks ago I got in touch with Buck’s new owners, Larry and Lynette Sargent. We played phone tag for a while, and when Larry left a message on my voice mail saying, “I’m calling you back about my dog Buck,” I have to admit that I misted up a little. It probably sounds strange, but it was the “my dog Buck” part that got me. After the rigors and terrors of war, Buck was someone’s dog, at last.

Buck, now 4, is living a happily-ever-after story. Or he would be if he didn’t have PTSD. The Sargents have no human children, and think of him as their child. They dote on him, spending a great deal of time working and playing with him and trying to help him . They live in a large San Antonio home with a big yard they fenced just for Buck. But Buck isn’t a typical Lab.

“We’ve had other Labs before, and thought Buck would be similar, but we’re still trying to figure him out,” says Larry.

Larry is a pastor, and the two frequently have people over for prayer groups, or just to lend them a hand. Buck quickly attached to Larry, and if the pastor is not holding him by a leash or right next to him when other people come by, Buck barks in fear, or he cowers, or both. He is not friendly with strangers, as most Labs are. As is expected, he is scared of loud noises, too. Fortunately there haven’t been too many thunderstorms since they adopted him.

Buck has done a couple of PTSD-related things that are pretty heartbreaking. I describe them in my book, and my publisher doesn’t want me to give too much away in this blog post. But the good news is that with a lot of love and attention, Buck is coming around.

Buck in his big yard, playing with a faux skunk-skin dog toy. He loves stuffed animals. (Photo: Estella Diaz)

“We are seeing more and more of his inner puppy,” says Lynette. “He loves to catch a ball and throw it in the air for himself and catch it over and over. He can be really silly.”

And Buck loves stuffed animals. Like any self-respecting Lab, he seeks them out no matter where they’re hiding and joyously rips the stuffing out of them.

The Sargents wish they had a little more background on Buck. Or some instructions from the Department of Defense about how to best help a dog with PTSD. But it’s such a relatively new disorder – Burghardt called a blue-ribbon panel together in January 2011 and it was only officially decided then that canine PTSD is, indeed, real – that there aren’t yet many answers.

So the Sargents take it one day at a time, and that pace seems to be a good one for Buck, who appears to be starting to heal with the Sargents’ self-written prescription of big doses of love and happiness around the clock.

*** New York Times article says civilian dogs can get PTSD from car accidents or less traumatic incidents. I wonder how prevalent PTSD is in puppy-mill breeder dogs or bait dogs?