The [Veterinary] World is Flat

February 26, 2014

digital x-raysThe title of this blog takes its name from author and New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman’s bestselling book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. The book’s thesis explains globalization in the 21st century as a result of wide accessibility to personal computers and fiber optic cables which make communication via email and information gathering via the internet nearly instantaneous. This form of globalization renders geographic divisions between countries irrelevant.

Friedman describes “ten flatteners” including: the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Netscape and workflow software. My own observations of the world of veterinary medicine indicate that it is not much different than the global economy Friedman describes in his book. Paying tribute to the Pulitzer Prize winner Friedman, here are my veterinary flatteners.

A New Workflow
Digital radiography has changed the workflow of daily veterinary practice. In the pre-computer days, each x-ray was a piece of film, not easily copied and very easily misplaced. Now The AMC and many other veterinary hospitals have switched to using digital radiography, using a machine that looks like a regular x-ray machine but which takes digital images similar to those taken with your smart phone. These x-rays can’t be lost because the images are stored in a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). The image files are very large, but can be transported by burning them onto a CD or transferring them through any number of file sharing systems.

Electronic Medical Records
As it has revolutionized the global economy, the personal computer is revolutionizing veterinary practice. Electronic medical records systems (EMRS) allow rapid dissemination of medical information between specialists and primary care veterinarians. I can write a letter to a patient’s primary care veterinarian after I have completed my consultation with their patient. Through the magic of the EMRS, I can have the letter in that veterinarian’s inbox for his/her review before the pet has returned home.

Board Certification
Twenty-five years ago when I started the process of becoming a board certified veterinary oncologist, there were only about 25 veterinary oncologists in the world. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine now has certified over 300 oncology diplomates and there is a European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine which certifies oncologists as well. Board certified specialists all over the world form a healthcare network that trades patients back and forth when pet owners relocate or go on vacation, just as I described in a previous blog: “Clea’s International Healthcare Team.” Since veterinary oncologists and other specialists have expanded their reach worldwide, specialist veterinary care no longer has geographic boundaries.

Multinational Veterinary Companies
Specialists are not the only international flatteners. Because international companies provide veterinary products and services, veterinary specialists can access information about pets seen by a veterinarian practicing on a different continent! Take for example my patient Gigi. She came to The AMC from Kuwait, but because the biopsy of her tumor was sent to the European branch of the same laboratory used by The AMC, I was able to ask additional questions about the biopsy result. The biopsy sample was retrieved from storage and then reviewed by a pathologist in Europe. The answers to my questions were sent via email.

Real Time Communication
The internet has changed the face of veterinary education. Today, veterinarians no longer have to travel to earn continuing education credits necessary to maintain their licenses. Continuing education comes to them though their computers. This year, the keynote speaker addresses at the annual Veterinary Cancer Society Meeting were streamed live to members unable to attend. Additionally, several internet based companies offer on-demand veterinary continuing education opportunities.

The veterinary world is indeed flat and that means your pet can get excellent veterinary care from a veterinarian in your neighborhood or from a specialist somewhere a long way from home!


Pot for Pets

January 21, 2014
pot for pets image

Photo: Fox News

The New York Times recently announced that via executive action, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will relax the laws governing medical marijuana use in the state. New York State has some of the most restrictive and punitive laws regarding illegal drug usage, hold-overs from the Rockefeller era drug laws of the 1970s, and many feel these changes are long overdue. What does this mean for pets?

Increased Toxicity Cases
Veterinarians in New York State will need to be prepared to treat more dogs with marijuana intoxication if the experience in Colorado holds true here. Colorado is a state where medical marijuana is legal. Veterinarians in Colorado studied the number of dogs experiencing inadvertent toxicity from ingestion of marijuana. These researchers found a four-fold increase in the number of dogs treated for marijuana ingestion over a five year period. The increase paralleled the increase in the number of registered users of medical marijuana in Colorado. Pet Poison Helpline reports an increase in calls about canine marijuana intoxication as well.

Dog OD
Ingestion of marijuana, marijuana containing foods or inhalation of marijuana smoke can affect dogs; they become glassy eyed, uncoordinated, and may be very sleepy. These dogs need intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and warming blankets to maintain their body temperature. Often, dogs intoxicated by marijuana dribble urine. Some dogs become hyperactive. Severely affected dogs may seizure or become comatose requiring ventilator treatment until they regain the ability to breathe. Dogs typically recover in one to three days. Sadly, the study of Colorado cases of marijuana reports the death of two dogs ingesting baked goods made with medical grade tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) butter.

Iguana Intoxication!
Although dogs are the most commonly affected by marijuana intoxication, I found a report of three intoxicated iguanas. The iguanas had clinical signs similar to intoxicated dogs – seizures, stomach upset and one even required antiseizure medication. All three recovered fully.

Veterinary Medical Marijuana
So with marijuana legalized in some states for medicinal purposes, is medical marijuana for Fluffy and Fido next? Despite the obvious risks outlined above, some pet owners have taken marijuana for pets into their own hands.

Currently marijuana belongs to the group of drugs most tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Even though I have a license to prescribe some controlled substances, marijuana is not on the list of those I can prescribe. This tight regulation also restricts research with marijuana. Research is needed to help veterinarians understand what conditions the drug helps and how to use the drug safely and efficaciously in veterinary patients. So for now, I don’t know how to appropriately dose THC in my patients and I can’t do it legally.

If your pet inadvertently ingests marijuana or a THC containing product:

1. Keep marijuana and medical marijuana products out of reach of your pets.

2. Call animal poison control if you think your pet has eaten marijuana:

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435
  • Pet Poison Helpline (800) 213-6680

3. Tell the animal ER what your pet ate. Making the ER veterinarians play a guessing game about your pet’s condition can delay appropriate treatment.


AMC Resident Research Abstract Presentations

January 15, 2014

veterinary researchJust before Christmas, The Animal Medical Center held its annual residents research abstract presentations. As part of their specialty training, residents are expected to design, execute and report on research in their area of clinical specialty, and this mini-conference provided a forum for exchange of the knowledge gained from research between members of The AMC medical staff. The AMC performs a very specific type of research – clinical research. This means we study diagnostic testing, new treatments and procedures in the patients we care for as part of our effort to improve the health and well-being of our patients. We do not test or treat any animal for the sake of “research.”

Caspary Research Institute
Research at The AMC is not new; when The AMC moved uptown in the 1960’s from Lafayette Street to its present location, a decision was made to locate the new veterinary research institute right in the middle of the Upper East Side’s strong human-focused biomedical community. The AMC became the fifth biomedical institution in the neighborhood, joining The Rockefeller University, Cornell University Medical College, Sloan-Kettering Institute and Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. Early architectural drawings of the AMC building show a sign on the north side of the building saying, “Caspary Research Institute.” When The AMC opened on 62nd Street, research and patient care were its main focus areas.

Short and Sweet
From a research point of view, an abstract is a very short presentation – 12 minutes, followed by a 3 minute question and answer period. Resident research abstract presentations are commonly preliminary reports which allow discussion of data and help formulate the interpretation of results prior to the writing of a manuscript for publication. Because the information presented was preliminary, I have a few interesting tidbits to report.

Lookalike Medicines
One study evaluated treatment of cognitive dysfunction in dogs with an anti-seizure medication compared to dogs treated with a placebo. In order to help veterinarians and owners make an unbiased assessment of patient response to the actual medication, our colleagues at Best Pet Rx Pharmacy made every dog’s medication look exactly the same. No one could tell which dogs were getting the medication being studied and which dogs were getting placebo pills. This is called double blind study design. Double blind because two people, the patient and the researcher, don’t know the treatment group assignment because it is hidden by the look-a-like pills.

Challenge of Science
Most research projects do not proceed exactly as planned. A study of ICU patients was designed to follow the effects of treatment on dogs with low blood protein (hypoalbuminemia). Dogs were to have a blood sample prior to treatment and 48 hours later. The study did not meet the enrollment target. Why? Despite an impression that dogs stayed in ICU longer than 48 hours, most dogs did not stay that long and fewer dogs than projected entered the study. Of course, we were happy your dogs went home earlier than expected, which was a scientific finding on its own.

Changing Protocol
The AMC’s ICU patients often need to be fed intravenously. We use a commercially available product called Procalamine. This product provides amino acids, the building blocks of protein and glycerin, as a source of glucose for energy. One emergency critical care resident studied patients receiving Procalamine as part of their treatment protocol. Patients receiving Procalamine through a catheter in their leg had more inflammation of the blood vessel than patients who get Procalamine through other, larger blood vessels. Although the directions for Procalamine indicate it can be given in the legs, we now will try and avoid this whenever the patient’s condition allows it.

Helping Pets Everywhere
These types of studies enable AMC veterinarians to improve the level of care for your pet. Through the publications that will result from these and other studies performed here, the knowledge will improve the care of pets everywhere.


National Veterinary Technician Week 2013

October 15, 2013
Christina and a patient in ICU.

Christina and a patient in ICU.

This week, October 13-19, is National Veterinary Technician Week when we honor veterinary technicians or nurses for their role as critical members of the veterinary healthcare team. The technicians at The Animal Medical Center are a unique group in many ways.

A whole lotta’ techs
The AMC employs 75 technicians, each and every one licensed by the State of New York. These critical veterinary team members provide exceptional care to your pets no matter if it is high noon or 3 o’clock in the morning. The lowest number of technicians on duty in the hospital at any time during a 24 hour cycle is at 3 am when there are eight licensed veterinary technicians on the premises. These multi-tasking technicians run lab tests, take x-rays and provide compassionate patient care 24/7.

Trish and a canine patient.

Trish and a canine patient.

Big skill set
Because The AMC is a specialty hospital, our technicians learn specialized skills to support the veterinarians and patients on their team. We have technicians trained to perform hemodialysis, administer chemotherapy, prep patients for surgical procedures and assist in the operating room. Technicians maintain our delicate equipment like endoscopes and cage-side laboratory equipment to keep us ready for any emergency situation. Some of our long term technicians have worked in multiple areas throughout the hospital and have multidisciplinary skills, including care of exotic pets, plus administering radiation treatments or evaluating intraocular pressure and blood pressure!

Frankie assists Dr. Quesenberry with an examination of a swan

Frankie assists Dr. Quesenberry with an examination of a swan

Lifelong learning
Continuing education is required to maintain a veterinary technician license in New York State. To facilitate continuing education credits for our technicians, The AMC sponsors lectures on topics important to technicians, such as diabetes and heatstroke, through our Partners in Practice lecture series, and welcomes the participation of technicians from other veterinary practices as well. On a national level, the numbers of specialty certified technicians is small, but growing. The AMC is leading the pack with some of the first North American Veterinary Technician Academy (NAVTA) certified specialty technicians in the country. We currently have a total of five NAVTA certified technician in emergency critical care and anesthesia. The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service has two technicians certified as Canine Rehabilitation Assistants and more in training.

A heartfelt thank you to vet techs everywhere
On behalf of veterinarians and the patients who benefit from the skills and knowledge of our technician team members, thank you for your hard work and dedication. Pets and vets need techs because we can’t do it without you.


Choosing a Veterinary Hospital

July 31, 2013

Exotics1Is there a new puppy in your family? Has the backyard cat installed himself on your family room sofa? Have you inherited grandma’s piano and her parrot? If so, you won’t want to leave the important decision regarding the choice of your new pet’s healthcare provider to chance. Here are some tips for choosing the right veterinarian and veterinary hospital for your pet.

Location, location, location
In Sunday’s New York Times, healthcare reporter Elizabeth Rosenthal, talks about choosing a hospital for your own care. She writes, “Indeed, with thousands of good hospitals across the nation, the best selling point for routine medical care may simply be convenience…” Whether or not you agree with her point of view regarding your personal healthcare, proximity may be a consideration in choosing a primary care veterinarian. A new puppy will need several rounds of vaccines and a spay or neuter surgery requiring transporting the pet to and from the hospital on multiple occasions. But if you have a parrot, the closest veterinary hospital may not have a veterinarian with expertise in avian medicine and you will need to choose a clinic providing bird care, not necessarily the closest clinic.

Proximity plays an even more important role in the selection of an emergency hospital. When your pet is hit by a car and in shock, has serious bleeding or can’t breathe, time is of the essence and the closest animal ER is the best ER for your pet.

Assessing hospital quality
If you personally needed a heart valve replacement, for example, you might look for data on outcome for valve replacement surgery at the various hospitals in your area. In New York State we have the New York State Hospital Report Card. You could also search the doctor ratings on the website of your healthcare provider. Since this type of information is lacking for veterinary hospitals, you might turn to online sources to read the opinion of pet owners who have posted their experiences. I must admit, to me, these online reviews can often seem more like rants and may not provide the objective information you need to guide your pet healthcare decision making process.

A better method of assessing hospital quality would be to look for a hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Their website also allows you to search for the AAHA accredited hospital nearest you. Choosing an AAHA accredited hospital assures pet owners that the hospital they select has the staff, equipment, medical procedures and facilities that AAHA believes are vital for delivering high-quality pet care. The Animal Medical Center has been AAHA accredited since 1976, and to maintain our accreditation we voluntarily receive triennial evaluations on over 900 standards of small animal hospital care.

Finding the right specialist
The easiest way to find a specialist for your pet is for your primary care veterinarian to recommend one she works with on a regular basis. This will ensure a good line of communication and seamless medical care. If your veterinarian doesn’t have a recommendation:

  • Search the website of the type of specialist you are looking for, e.g. veterinary cardiology, veterinary surgery or veterinary dentistry.
  • For a cutting edge therapy, you might have to travel a good distance to find the specialist your pet needs. Use a scientific search engine like PubMed or Google Scholar. Search for the procedure your pet needs. When the search identifies a particular hospital where the procedure is commonly performed or a veterinarian who is a frequent author of scientific articles on the procedure, focus your search on this clinic or veterinarian. Examples of this type of procedure include repair to a ruptured ligament in the knee or image modulated radiation therapy.

Quick tips on finding the right veterinary hospital

  • Know where the closest animal ER is and keep its address and phone number in your GPS device, cell phone and on the refrigerator list so you are prepared for an emergency.
  • Don’t be afraid to visit potential veterinary hospitals before booking an appointment. Find out if their clinic schedule matches your availability. Ask the receptionist about their preventive healthcare protocols.
  • In case your pet develops an unusual medical condition or requires specialized surgery, ask your trusted primary care veterinarian about the network of specialists they recommend.

International Health Papers: How to Avoid a Justin Bieber Epic Fail

May 21, 2013
Justin Bieber and Mally

Justin Bieber and Mally

International travel with pets is a complicated affair. Each country has its own set of rules about vaccinations, blood tests, deworming and microchipping. For island countries free of rabies, an elaborate scheme of testing and vaccination is required to prevent a dog or cat from introducing the disease to the country.

Some families handle the international health paper requirements better than others. Take for example Justin Bieber and his pet Chapuchin monkey, Mally. Passports are required for band members on the Believe Tour to enter a foreign country, and Mally the monkey needed special health papers to enter Germany. The problem was, proper papers were lacking and Mally’s concert touring days prematurely ended. Apparently, Mally remains overseas.

Here’s a better story of a family that did their homework regarding international pet travel. Today I saw a cute dog named Avatar, in need of an international health certificate. One of the requirements for entry into her home country is a health certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian. Not every veterinarian is accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but this family knew to ask for an accredited veterinarian because they had carefully researched this information.

Avatar came to my office with a pile of papers carefully detailing all her vaccinations. I need this information to be sure she meets the entry requirements and to document vaccinations on the international health certificate. Another requirement for Avatar’s destination country is vaccination against leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria spread in the urine of wild animals. Happily, the paperwork indicated a vaccination against leptospirosis and I quickly checked off that requirement.

Avatar’s destination country did not require a microchip, but documentation of a microchip is a common requirement for entry into many countries. Some countries also have their own import paperwork, but Avatar’s accepted the USDA form. Once I signed off on my part of the health certificate, Avatar had another stop: the USDA area office at JFK Airport, where she received the endorsement of their New York area veterinarian.

How can you avoid a Bieber epic fail when traveling internationally with your pet?

  • Start early to ensue you have enough time for required testing or vaccination protocols.
  • Do your homework. Start with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website and the website of your destination country for pet import requirements.
  • If you need the signature of an accredited veterinarian like me, check to see if your veterinarian is accredited or ask for a recommendation.
  • Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations and other preventive health care measures to avoid any delays in getting your pet’s international health certificate.

Household Cleaning Products: A Pet Danger

May 8, 2013
X-ray of a cat that has eaten a metal mesh scouring pad

X-ray of a cat that has eaten a metal mesh scouring pad

It’s spring cleaning time, but if you have pets please clean cautiously since some of the most common cleaning agents can be toxic to your pet. Birds are especially sensitive to the fumes from household cleaning agents.

Chlorine bleach has an extremely wide spectrum of activity against common bacteria and viruses. Its low cost makes bleach an attractive disinfectant and laundry additive. Bleach disinfects by oxidizing cell membranes, rupturing and killing cells. Bleach has the same effect on the gastrointestinal tract if your pet drinks undiluted bleach or chews on the bleach container. A splash of bleach into the eye of a curious pet can cause tearing, irritation and even an ulcer.

Some websites recommend the use of phenol-containing pine scented cleaners as a deterrent for cats who urinate outside their litter boxes. If you use these products, you may no longer have a healthy cat and the litter box issues will seem insignificant. When walking across your freshly mopped kitchen floor, your cats get phenol on their feet. Phenol is caustic to the delicate paw pads. Then, when cats groom, they ingest the cleaner which damages their liver and kidneys. When compared to dogs, cats are extremely susceptible to phenol toxicity since their liver lacks an important enzyme for metabolism of phenol.

Although not technically toxic, steel wool and metal mesh scouring pads can cause intestinal obstruction if consumed by your pet. At first glance these products do not have much culinary appeal, but when encrusted with steak bits from the grill or some scrambled eggs from the frying pan, a scouring pad becomes a tasty treat for your dog or cat. As you can see in the x-ray, the scouring pad unravels and prevents food from normally passing though the intestine. The sharp strands can also slice into the intestinal wall. Emergency surgery is required for removal.

Quaternary ammonium compounds are disinfectants with a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses and fungus. These compounds are popular cleaning agents colloquially called “quats.” Serious injury can result to both pets and people if they inadvertently come in contact with quats. Caustic burns, convulsions, low blood pressure and even death occur following ingestion or contact with the skin.

The AMC Emergency and Critical Care staff recently teamed up to save the life of a young Yorkshire Terrier with severe oral swelling and respiratory distress from ingestion of quaternary ammonium. Read his story: Yorkie Ingests Deadly Poison and Survives.

Not sure if a product is pet-safe? Download the material safety data sheet for any product you might purchase to prevent bringing a dangerous product home.


Resolve to Be a Responsible Pet Owner

January 2, 2013

woman with dog2It’s that time of year again; the time when we make New Year’s resolutions. I seem to make the same ones every year: eat healthier, exercise more, be kinder. My suggestion for 2013 is for every pet owner to be a responsible one. To achieve that goal, the American Veterinary Medical Association has developed a list of guidelines for responsible pet ownership.

Fur the Love of Pets believes this is a good list for pet owners to review before making their 2013 list of resolutions:

Commit

As the holidays approached, I received several tweets discouraging pets as holiday gifts since a pet is a lifetime commitment and acquiring one should not be an impulsive decision. You must choose the right pet for your lifestyle and should have as many pets you can comfortably care for, both physically and financially.

Good pet care involves more than food and water. A successful pet parent provides exercise, a stimulating environment and training.

Invest

Having a pet requires an investment of both time and money. Preventive healthcare saves money in the long run and helps prevent costly emergency visits.

Although vaccinations are part of a preventive healthcare program, the rabies vaccine protects human health as well.

Identify

Every pet should have both permanent and temporary identification. Permanent identification should preferably be a microchip, but a tattoo is a viable alternative. A collar with tags is a good temporary and immediate method of letting people know where your pet belongs if he should become lost.

Limit

Help decrease the nation’s pet overpopulation problem by spaying or neutering your pet. Preventing unwanted litters limits the number of animals entering shelters each year.

Prepare

Prepare for your pet’s future like you prepare for your family’s future. Assemble a “go bag” for your pet. Include your pet in estate planning; don’t assume your family is prepared to add your pet to their household and make provisions for your pet in case you can no longer be the primary caretaker.


What’s On the Mind of Pet Owners?

December 5, 2012

older man with catA recent survey of both pet owners and veterinarians interrogated the pet health issues each group thought were most important. In last week’s post, I discussed the issues from the veterinarian’s point of view. In this blog I will write from the pet owner’s point of view.

Pet owners said they were primarily concerned with vaccinations, fleas and ticks, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and spending money on medications. This list appears to overlap with the veterinary list on the topic of intestinal parasites, and both owners and vets are squarely focused on preventive healthcare; care to keep their favorite furry, feathery, or scaly companion healthy.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations float to the top of most pet owners’ lists because they save pets’ lives. Before vaccinations were available for common diseases like canine distemper and feline panleukopenia, these diseases spread through neighborhoods like wildfire, often resulting in the deaths of many pets. Decreases in the recommended frequency of some vaccines, coupled with the association between injections and tumors, has raised many questions in pet owners’ minds.

Intestinal parasites

Both pet owners and veterinarians agreed intestinal parasite control was an important issue for pets. How could it not be? Intestinal parasites are high in yuck factor, high in pet discomfort, and on the list of diseases people and pets can share.

Fleas and ticks

These critters are very similar to intestinal parasites with regard to yuck factor and pet discomfort. A pet with a flea infestation may mean you also have a house or apartment with a flea infestation since fleas spend more time off your pet than on. Pet owners want to avoid an expensive exterminator bill by preventing fleas on their pet. Pet owners also want to prevent fleas and ticks to protect their pet against diseases like Lyme disease and blood parasites.

Heartworms

Because heartworms are a serious health concern in both dogs and cats, they are an important medical issue for most pet owners. Nearly every state in the United States reports cases of heartworm in resident dogs and cats. This map shows heartworm cases by state.

Year-round heartworm preventative is a “two-fer” since most prevent both heartworms and some intestinal parasites.

Pet medications

Pet owners want the best for their pet. In my mind, the best are veterinary-specific products. I prefer to prescribe medications developed specifically for veterinary patients rather than human or compounded medications. Veterinary-specific medications assure you, the pet owner, the product has been tested in dogs or cats and will be absorbed, metabolized, and effective in your pet. But, because most pets do not have insurance and medications are paid for “out of pocket,” many times pet owners can be surprised at the cost. As a pet owner myself, I believe that these veterinary-specific medications are worth paying for.

After looking carefully at the two lists of pet healthcare issues, one from pet owners and the other from veterinarians, are they really so different? Both groups’ lists really have only one item and it’s the same one: healthy, happy pets.


What’s On Your Veterinarian’s Mind?

November 28, 2012

A recent survey of both pet owners and veterinarians interrogated the pet health issues each group thought were most important. In this blog, I will write from the veterinarian’s point of view and in next week’s post, the issues from the pet owner’s perspective.

Starting with an exam

In an exam room with a pet owner and a furry, feathery or scaly patient, veterinarians focus on performing a complete physical examination, a pet’s need for routine blood testing, intestinal parasite control and issues related to senior pets and pain management.

Physical examination detects abnormalities in your pet’s body that veterinarians can determine the cause of through blood tests, x-rays, and other specialized tests. For example, crusty eyes will be tested for tear production, or a brown discharge in the ears will provoke an ear swab and a microscopic examination of the discharge to determine the best medication to clear it up.

If your cat is losing weight or your dog has a bad haircoat, thyroid testing might be indicated.

Blood tests

A complete physical examination is just one component of assessing a pet’s health. Veterinarians use blood tests to monitor organ function, monitor drug therapy and discover disease. Without them, we can only guess about your pet’s health. You shouldn’t be surprised that blood tests are high on our list.

Intestinal parasite control

The Companion Animal Parasite Council, a group of parasite experts, recommend all pets be treated with monthly anti-parasite agents. The recommendation stems from the need to keep your pet healthy and also protect humans against infection. Tummy upset is a common reason for urgent visits to veterinarians. Parasite control helps keep these visits less frequent and keep you and your pet happier.

Senior pets

A pet lifetime is compressed into 10-15 years. Once your pet reaches 8-10 years of age, she is considered a senior pet where one year of life represents multiple years of aging. To detect age related conditions, experts have recently increased the recommended frequency of visits for senior pets to a minimum of twice a year. When we see your senior pet, we will consider age related changes such as pain from arthritis.

Pain management

Veterinarians know pain from arthritis is an important issue for their patients and their families, but families and veterinarians alike struggle with how best to diagnose pain and measure response to treatment in pets who cannot talk. Watching them engage or not engage in their normal daily activities provides the best clue. Sometimes a hunch leads us to try pain medications and when we see a positive response, know we have made the correct diagnosis.

Now that you know what’s on your veterinarian’s mind you will be better able to understand how we can collaborate to keep your pet in perfect health. Be sure to take a list of what’s on your mind when you visit your pet’s veterinarian to promote this collaboration.


National Pet Cancer Awareness Month

November 21, 2012

November is a busy month. Not only is it National Diabetes Month, but it is also National Pet Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer and diabetes are two important diseases the veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center treat every day.

According to VPI, a pet insurance company, their top ten insurance claims for pet cancer treatment include tumors we veterinary oncologists commonly treat.

  1. Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma
  2. Malignant skin cancer
  3. Splenic cancer
  4. Bone or joint cancer
  5. Liver caner
  6. Chest cancer
  7. Bladder cancer
  8. Brain of spinal cord cancer
  9. Mouth cancer
  10. Cancer of the cells lining the inside of the chest and abdomen

Surgery and cancer

Surgery is often the first procedure for a cancer patient and is commonly performed to get a biopsy of a lump which leads to the diagnosis of cancer. For one or two of the tumors on the top ten list, surgical excision might be the only treatment needed to control the tumor. If surgical excision isn’t enough to control the tumor, we often recommend chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy concerns

The tumors listed in the top ten insurance claims also include tumors veterinary oncologists manage with chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy helps us control the spread of some tumors and shrink others, improving both the length and quality of a pet’s life.

Many pet owners express concern over the potential side effects of chemotherapy treatment on their pet. Scientific research has proven their concerns unfounded. Carboplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat bone tumors called osteosarcoma and other tumors in dogs and cats, receives high marks for improving quality of life.

A combination of chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of feline lymphoma also improved the quality of life of cats suffering from this common tumor.

Setting expectations

Veterinary oncologists successfully give chemotherapy to dogs and cats on a daily basis. Because we have been treating pets with cancer for decades, we know what doses are safe and what additional therapies to administer to limit adverse reactions. In my experience, dogs tolerate chemotherapy better than people and cats tolerate it even better than dogs. I think psychology plays a role in chemotherapy reactions. Humans know what chemotherapy can do. My patients, smart as they are, have no clue about chemotherapy. The typical pet receiving chemotherapy has one or two off days following treatment and then their appetite and energy rebound. We obsess over every patient’s white blood cell count and send them home without treatment if the count is too low for safe administration. Every one of our patients has at least two people helping with chemotherapy administration: someone who holds the pet on a soft, comfortable mat, and a nurse specially trained in administration of chemotherapy drugs.

What can a pet owner do about cancer?

Take an active role in screening your pet for cancer using the Veterinary Cancer Society’s Ten Common Signs of Cancer in Pets.

Investigate pet insurance to see if it is right for your family. If you already have a policy, find out if cancer treatment is covered.


Animals Were Affected by the Hurricane Too

November 16, 2012

Patches the cat was rescued after Hurricane SandyHurricane Sandy created hardships for people living up and down the East Coast. Residents were displaced from their homes and sent to evacuation shelters or lived in flooded apartments, and life in general was disrupted. Sandy spared few. Animals, too, suffered as a result of the high winds and flood waters inflicted by the storm. The concept of zoobiquity springs from the fact that animals and humans share many of the same diseases. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I would argue we share much, much more.

Animal homes flooded

The ponies of Chincoteague Island have always held a special allure for me, and after visiting this barrier island last summer, I was concerned for the ponies’ safety as the storm surge rose. Before the storm, the pony caretakers opened the gates on the fences around the pony habitat, allowing the ponies to go to higher ground and have free range of the entire island. All the ponies safely weathered the storm, as you can see on this video of their hurricane experience.

The New York Aquarium sits right on the famous boardwalk of Coney Island and is at the epicenter of New York City hurricane damage. Although the aquarium was without power for several days, generators ran filters and staff members pumped oxygen into tanks, keeping the fish, invertebrates, and mammals well cared for in their watery homes.

One of the newest aquarium residents, Mitik, an orphan baby walrus, seemed to enjoy the storm, not unlike many other New York City youngsters who rejoiced when school was cancelled for a full week.

Animals displaced

Aquarium residents were not evacuated from their home, but many New York City pets were. All New York City evacuation shelters accepted pets and Mayor Bloomberg encouraged residents to take their pets with them as they evacuated. The New York Veterinary Emergency Response Team has monitored the census of pets in evacuation shelters in the New York area. As of Veteran’s Day, 141 pets still remained in the city’s shelters.

Other animal displacements were a pair of brown pelicans. Brown pelicans are normally southern birds and are neighbors of the Chincoteague ponies. Wildlife rehabilitators reported two displaced brown pelicans blown off course by Hurricane Sandy and found in Rhode Island.

This time of year, Rhode Island is much colder than the birds’ normal southern habitat and these fellows are currently resting and recovering from their harrowing hurricane experience while awaiting transport home.

Families, animals included, reunited

Despite the upset and havoc Hurricane Sandy caused, there are happy stories too. Neighbors helping neighbors, runners of the cancelled New York City Marathon helping in relief efforts and families reunited. Patches the cat was rescued from the rubble of his home by a dump truck operator and Sandy the dog is back with his family.

My fellow animal lover, Jill Rappaport of NBC News, made this touching video about pet families and the hurricane.

What you can do

Microchips are a large part of the reason why happy post-hurricane stories can be told. If your pet is not microchipped, don’t wait until the next big storm. Now it the best time to get one.

The Animal Medical Center’s friend, Amy Sacks at The Daily News, has posted great information about how you can help pets affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Do you know anyone who had their lives or those of their pets disrupted by the storm? Share your stories in the comments below.

Photo: Matt Stanton


Your Child and Animals: Advice to Parents

October 22, 2012

As parents, we want to raise children who have a reverence for all living things, and what better way to educate them about animals than to spend a day at a petting zoo, a country fair, or a natural science museum featuring live animal displays? Animal events are fun and educational for the entire family, but before you attend an animal event, your children need a bit of advance preparation to protect themselves. Animals in public setting have been associated with some preventable health issues such as infection, injury, and allergic reactions.

Infection connection

Rodents, reptiles, livestock, pocket pets, and even wild mammals visit schools and are displayed at county fairs and science museums. The potential dangers vary from animal to animal. Livestock can carry the bacteria E. coli, which causes gastrointestinal upset in humans. Just last week I read a report of an E. coli outbreak linked to a fair in North Carolina.

Reptiles commonly shed another bacterium causing gastrointestinal upset: Salmonella. This organism is the reason turtles less than 4 inches in size have been banned from sale. Most experts consider turtles appropriate pets for children over five years of age.

Approach animals cautiously

Parents take their children to visit animal displays because they want their children to be comfortable around animals and to appreciate the natural world. Before you go, make sure your child understands if the animals can be touched and, if so, how to approach one safely. If your child is bitten during one of these events, you risk dampening your child’s enthusiasm for animals and simultaneously exposing him to a serious injury or infection.

Even iguanas can cause allergies

If you have a child with animal allergies, check with her allergist about how best to handle an animal visitation. Most children allergic to dogs and cats are likely to be allergic to other furry critters such as guinea pigs, chinchillas, and rodents. Some people even have allergies to iguana scales.

Take home messages

  1. Teach children how to safely interact with an animal before visiting a petting zoo, county fair, or school event featuring animals.
  2. Wash hands after every animal interaction or use hand sanitizer.
  3. Children should not kiss animals or put their hands in their mouth after handling an animal.
  4. Children too young to follow directions about hand washing and keeping their hands out of their mouths should not handle animals in public displays.
  5. Because of the risk of transmitting an infection, hands should be washed after petting animals and before snack time.
  6. Wild animals do not make good pets.

If you are an early childhood educator, guidelines for animals in schools have been developed by the Centers for Disease Control.


National Veterinary Technician Week 2012

October 12, 2012

AMC LVT, Monika Wright

October 14- 20, is a celebration of the contributions to the healthcare of animals made by veterinary technicians. Often called “nurses,” these licensed professionals practice under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. In New York State, veterinary technicians prepare and give medications as ordered by the veterinarian, take x-rays, induce and maintain anesthesia, and assist with medical and surgical procedures. Most importantly, they are critical members of the team caring for your pet. Last year, in honor of Veterinary Technician week, I wrote about the care received by Jack Black the Cat.

Just as in human healthcare, nurses for animals are in great demand. Not only are career opportunities available for veterinary technicians to work in general veterinary offices, but specialization in various disciplines such as oncology or anesthesia, participation in biomedical research, enlistment in the military and even working as a technician in zoo and wildlife medicine are also widely available.

Like all professionals, there is a backstory about the day-to-day life of veterinary technicians. If you are considering a career as a veterinary technician or just know someone whose job it is to be a technician, you may be unaware of what a typical day entails. Hopefully this blog will give you a bit of the inside scoop and provide a greater appreciation for the labors of love they each perform every day for our pets.

Fashionistas need not apply

Looking for a job where you look great and wear fabulous clothes? Unless your skin tone becomes more ravishing when you wear scrub-suit green, being a veterinary technician is probably not for you. However, if you like to change clothes frequently, we can accommodate your needs. A shake of the head can send ear drops flying right onto your freshly laundered ensemble or a pooch with a bloody nose can change you plain shirt into a polka dot one!

Adoption options

Seeing cute animals all day, every day brings a smile to every technician’s face, since like veterinarians, they love being around animals. But loving animals occasionally has a darker side. Every animal hospital provides its employees with plenty of options to adopt a new pet: a basket of kittens left on the doorstep or a dog tied to the lamppost, but every family, even those with a member skilled in providing pet care, has a limit to the number of pets they can handle, both emotionally and financially.

Compassionate technicians may run the risk of trying to help too many of the animals in need that they encounter. Reliable resources for helping these animals are at the tip of the fingertips of the best technicians who know or have learned the limits of their care.

Injury report

Like many businesses, The AMC tracks statistics on workplace injuries. No surprises here: topping the list are bites and scratches, followed by back injuries. Fortunately, licks and kisses are not considered injuries, just part of the fun of being a tech.

A heartfelt thanks to all veterinary technicians

During National Veterinary Technician Week 2012, the veterinarians of The AMC would like to recognize our nearly 80 technicians – and every technician nationwide – for their commitment to their profession and the support of ours.

If you are thinking of a career as a veterinary technician, visit http://www.veterinarytechnician.com.

You will find lots of useful information and even job opportunities in your area.


The Compounding Pharmacy Problem: What Pet Owners Should Know

October 10, 2012

A rare form of human meningitis has recently been in the news. The outbreak, believed to stem from fungal contamination of a medication compounded to treat back pain, has resulted in several fatalities. The manufacturer of the implicated medication is not a big pharma or an overseas company; the medication was produced by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. The Food and Drug administration has identified fungal organisms in a sealed vial of methylprednisone acetate produced by the compounding pharmacy.

Pets not affected

This outbreak is unusual since the fungi involved, aspergillus and exserohilum, live in soil and water. Exactly how they came to contaminate the medication is under intense investigation. Since veterinarians don’t treat back pain in dogs and cats with steroids like methlyprednisone acetate injected around the spinal cord, there are no reports of fungal meningitis in pets, but veterinarians do use compounded medications, and understanding their role in managing disease in your pet is important.

Compounding defined

Compounding is the alteration of the original drug dosage form for the purposes of ease of administration or because the original dosage form is unsuitable for the purpose intended. Translated for the pet owner, compounding is flavoring a medication to hide the bad taste, dissolving pills into a liquid to facilitate administration, or putting multiple medications into one capsule to help a pet owner comply with a multidrug treatment protocol. Without a good compounding pharmacy, my job would be impossible.

Compounding dangers

Compounding is not regulated by the FDA because it is a process initiated by prescription and on a case-by-case basis. In veterinary medicine, compounding rules have been stretched in an attempt to create cheaper medications. Some compounding pharmacies offer expensive medications at unbelievably low prices. I suspect these cheaper products are being produced by what is known as bulk compounding from raw materials. Just last week, I had to advise a pet owner against using the compounding pharmacy’s cheaper “house” brand of an expensive medication. That medication is not currently available as a less expensive generic. Although I am sympathetic to the financial burden of treating a pet with cancer, my overriding concern is for the patient and the efficacy and safety of the prescribed treatments. Prescribing an approved medication provides some assurance of efficacy and safety for my patients.

Medication safety

Listen to your veterinarian. If they believe a particular medication is better, ask why. If they are concerned about the safety and efficacy of a compounded medication, I recommend trying to make the standard formulation work for your pet.

Learn more about safely medicating your pet.


Plan, Prepare and Respond: Disaster Planning for Your Pet

September 24, 2012

September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Whether it is a hurricane, flood, or fire, disasters affect every member of the family, pets included. To help the furred and feathered members of your family weather a disaster safely, here are The Animal Medical Center’s suggestions for disaster planning.

Plan

Advanced planning is critical. Identify a safe place to take your pets in an emergency. New York City shelters will house animals in the event of emergency, but not all shelters will. Check NOW to see if your local emergency shelter plan includes pets. If not, find a boarding facility that will. Make a list of pet-friendly hotels in your area. Visit PetsWelcome.com for a state-by-state listing.

In case you and your pet are separated, be sure you pet is both microchipped and is wearing a collar with ID tags for quick identification.

Prepare

Create a Pet Go Bag for each pet in your household. The Pet Go Bag should contain information about your pet and necessary supplies. These include: your pet’s medical records and contact information for your veterinarian, proof of identification (including microchip number, photo of you and your pets), food, water, medications – enough for one week, pet first aid kit, leash, muzzle, toys, a sheet to use as bedding or to cover the carrier, towel, litter and pan, trash bags. Keep everything together with your pet’s carrier and consider storing your pet’s medical records in the “cloud” using a service like Microsoft Health Vault.

Respond

Remember first responders’ primary goal is helping people, but keep these following tips in mind once disaster strikes: Take your Pet Go Bag if you and your pet are evacuated. If your pet has sustained injuries administer first aid until veterinary help is available. Bathe your pet as soon as possible to clean wounds. Feed your pet only safe food such as that in your Pet Go Bag. Register your family and your pet as “Safe and Well” using the Red Cross website.

For more information about disaster planning for your pet, go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.


Demystifying General Anesthesia, Part I: Preanesthesia Protocols

September 6, 2012

Except for the dreaded cone, there is no medical procedure more feared by the families of my patients than general anesthesia. Their concern is well founded since there is always a risk of death, but the risk is very small – about 0.1%, meaning 1 in every 1000 procedures, result in an anesthetic death. This data comes from a large study of private clinics in England where routine procedures, such as neutering, were most commonly performed. The risk of death during general anesthesia rises with illness, advanced age and surprisingly, in the British study, mid-sized dogs.

While risk-free anesthesia does not exist, veterinary teams work hard to minimize the risk for every patient undergoing an anesthetic procedure. In November 2011, the American Animal Hospital Association published guidelines for small animal anesthetic procedures. In this blog, I will highlight how the guidelines help to minimize this risk in your pet.

Anesthesia is more than choosing the anesthetic agent; it is a team effort by a highly trained and skilled veterinary medical team. Anesthetic planning, induction, and recovery require multiple steps and multiple team members, beginning with an examination and testing.

Pre-anesthetic evaluation and examination

During this phase, your veterinarian is looking for risk factors – underlying disease or physical abnormalities which will impact the anesthetic procedure. Blood tests are used to identify problems which make anesthesia trickier, such as diabetes or liver disease. An echocardiogram may be recommended if your pet has a heart murmur. Brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs are prone to upper airway problems and are at greater anesthetic risk. The team will need to plan additional monitoring for your flat-faced friend. If the planned procedure carries a high risk of bleeding, a blood type or crossmatch will be ordered to facilitate a blood transfusion. The anesthesia team will also determine if the planned procedure requires only heavy sedation or, because the procedure is a major one, general anesthesia. Whatever your veterinarian’s recommendation, monitoring will be a part of the procedure.

Monitoring protocols and equipment

Immediately prior to the induction of anesthesia, an intravenous catheter is placed in your pet. The intravenous line provides a conduit for administration of fluids and other medications the pet will require. Multiple wires attached to beeping, tweeting boxes will be connected to your pet. These boxes measure blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and an electrocardiogram before, during, and after anesthesia. An esophageal stethoscope can be inserted into the throat to facilitate constant monitoring of the heart instead of requiring the operating room staff to periodically place a stethoscope on the chest wall. Body temperature, measurement of blood sugar, and other blood parameters help the anesthesia team to determine if respirations are adequate and your pet remains stable.

My next blog will continue discussing anesthetic procedures, starting with premedication, anesthetic agents, and finally the role pet owners play in anesthetic procedures.


Pet Medications: 6 Tips to Keep Pets Safe

August 30, 2012

All of us want to give the best and safest medications to our pets. Here are my tips to make sure your pet gets the medications he needs.

1. Approved is easy

Some of the work of selecting safe medications for your pet has already been done for you. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves medications for use in pets by a similar process used for human drugs. Animal vaccines receive approval from the United States Department of Agriculture and treatments to prevent ectoparasites, also known as flea and tick preventatives, by the Environmental Protection Agency. Approved medications help you ensure you are administering drugs that have met standards for both safety and efficacy.

2. Don’t play veterinarian and give your own medications to your pet.

Certain human medications can be lethal to pets. For example, acetaminophen (a common brand is Tylenol) in cats, ibuprofen (a common brand is Advil) in dogs. The leading phone call to animal poison control experts is about accidental or owner administered human medications.

3. Human pharmacies

Like nearly all veterinarians, I too prescribe human medications for my patients. I do this for convenience when the pet owner is far from The Animal Medical Center or because there is not a veterinary-approved version of the drug. Human medications are most often a solution for dogs over 40 or 50 pounds, since tablet and pill sizes are too big for cats and little dogs. So if it is Saturday night and your veterinarian tells you to come to the clinic to pick up medication, it is because nothing but a doggie drug or kitty capsule will do.

4. Legal drugs

The law requires all veterinarians to prescribe medications only in the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship. Translated from the legalese, the statement means I have to examine your pet in order to prescribe a medication. This is all about safety –Fluffy’s safety. Although you are sure she has the same skin condition as last year, I need to be sure you are correct in order to prescribe the medication with the best chance of fixing the problem with the least risk of an adverse reaction.

5. Custom compounding

Veterinarians rely on compounding pharmacies to convert pills and tablets into chicken-flavored liquids, to place multiple medications into a single capsule to simplify medicating the pet with bear trap-like jaws, or to scale down a large tablet for a tiny terrier. Regulations govern compounding like they do for any prescription. Prescriptions for compounded medications can only be written on a case-by-case basis and must be made specifically for an individual pet. Compounded medications may mean the difference between therapeutic success and failure, but because compounded products are not regulated, products may be of variable quality as demonstrated in a recent scientific study of compounded trilostane. Using a pharmacy certified by the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board assures you of a compounding pharmacy that adheres to established principles, policies and standards.

6. Internet pharmacies

The challenge in using an internet pharmacy is finding the right one. Although the prices offered by electronic drug stores are attractive, high-quality service may be lacking. Red flags in online reviews include companies who fill email boxes with spam, distribute counterfeit products, or never ship product at all. I spoke with the CEO of PetCare Rx, Jonathan Shapiro, about how his company ensures the quality of medications they ship. “PetCare Rx purchases product directly from the manufacturer or veterinary purchasing groups to protect our customers from counterfeit products. Consumers should look for an internet pharmacy accredited by the Veterinary Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS). This accreditation ensures the pharmacy complies with regulations and laws governing pharmacy practice.”


The AMC Goes Electronic

August 9, 2012

AMC staff members work on the new EMR system

This past week was a watershed week at The Animal Medical Center. With the flip of a switch, an electronic medical record (EMR) became a new part of practicing veterinary medicine.

What is an EMR?

The name, electronic medical record, does not do this system complete justice. It is definitely electronic. Consequently, we have computers in every nook and cranny of the hospital attached to three types of new printers – one for collar-style name tags, one for cage cards, and one for blood sample labels. A paper medical record includes notes about examinations, results of blood tests and x-rays, surgery descriptions, and diagnoses. Our EMR includes all those components, but it goes further.

But wait, there’s more

With this new system, I can order x-rays from my 8th floor clinic computer and the radiology team on the 2nd floor knows exactly what I want – faster than we can transport the pet to radiology. Previously, the patient and a paper request were transported to radiology. The same software that records patient information also orders blood tests from the laboratory or pills from the dispensary. For hospitalized patients, all medications administered by the nursing staff are now requested on an electronic whiteboard and recorded with the click of a mouse.

My personal favorite

Each patient has an electronic clipboard and on the top is a handy little box. Once I figured out how to use it, I went back into all my patients’ clipboard records from this week and loaded them up. I can write anything I want in the box. My plan is to use it like an electronic post-it note to remind me when certain infrequently performed tests are due. In Vivian’s box I put the date for her next iron injection, for Cleo the date her urine needs a follow-up culture, and I added the dates of scheduled chest x-rays for several more pets. One of the reasons both physicians and veterinarians are moving to EMRs is to help them become better doctors, and this will definitely help me.

New tools

The EMR allows importing of photograph files, a feature particularly useful for oncologists like me who want to monitor the response of a tumor to treatment. The photographs also help the ER doctors who might not know what the tumor looked like before, but now can click open a JPEG file and see the tumor for themselves. The EMR contains dog and cat diagrams ready for annotation to mark the location of abnormalities found on examination.

Improving the health of all animals

In addition to improving care for individual pets, the EMR will help improve care for all pets by facilitating research. Old style paper medical records cannot be searched for information. Our electronic medical record allows us to search and find all patients with a particular diagnosis or disease. Information gleaned from the records will help us to share information with other veterinarians about successful new treatments. Thus, the EMR will benefit not only AMC patients, but patients everywhere.

Transitioning to any new system is hard work and takes persistence, but with all these benefits, we have entered a new era.

If your veterinarian uses an EMR, some store records in “the cloud” allowing you to view your pet’s medical information anytime. Ask about this feature the next time you visit your veterinarian, as the information could be very valuable during an ER visit.


Zooeyia: The Positive Health Benefits of Animals in our Lives

July 23, 2012

Did you know a pet can improve your family’s health? Zooeyia (ZOO-ey-ah) is a recently invented word to describe the health benefits of pets.

This new word was coined from the Greek root words for animal (zoion) and health (from the Greek goddess of health, Hygeia). The inventors of the word consider it the opposite of zoonosis, which refers to diseases transmitted from animals to man or vice versa.

We all want our families to be healthy, but just how do pets improve our health and the health of our families?

In his recent book, Spontaneous Happiness, Dr. Andrew Weil includes a chapter entitled “Relate to companion animals,” where he writes about the gift of spontaneous happiness and emotional health that comes from relationships with pets. Two recent news stories have suggested dog ownership improves physical health as well. Dog ownership decreases the risk of developing a cold or asthma, and having a pet in the home results in healthier kids.

But there are other important health issues recently identified by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Here are four of the twelve leading health indicators that pets can contribute to:

1. Pets increase exercise 

American families have become couch potatoes, resulting in an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in both children and adults. One of the goals of the Institute of Medicine is to increase healthy behaviors, such as exercise. Dog owners exercise more than non-dog owners due to the dog’s requirement for exercise, and children in dog-owning families exercise more as well.

2. Pets lessen the impact of chronic disease 

The occurrence of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, places a heavy financial and emotional burden on the family. Another of the Institute of Medicine’s goals is to decrease the impact of chronic diseases on the population, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Cats have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in their owners, and the presence of a pet in the life of a cancer patient has been shown to provide great comfort and support during cancer treatment.

3. Pets promote community 

In our increasingly urbanized society, loneliness and isolation can occur, especially among elderly family members who live alone. Pets also help promote a healthy social environment within their community, not just for their owner, but for all members.

Communities with pets benefit from more civic engagement, neighborliness, and community spirit, contributing to a decreased sense of loneliness within the community.

4. Pets facilitate smoking cessation 

Smoking-related illnesses rob smokers of their health. Family members who do not smoke should be coached not to pick up this habit and those who do should be encouraged to stop. Pets living in a home with a smoker suffer from the effects of secondhand smoke just like children do. If smoking pet owners are made aware of the risks to their pet, research has shown it can motivate some smokers to quit, due to the risks to their pet.

One small furry pet can give your family all these benefits and a good deal of fun and love as well.

Share Your Thoughts: How have your pets benefited your or your family’s health? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


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