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.

Should Pets Go to College?

October 25, 2012

For college students, the fall semester is well underway. While undergrads percolate chemistry experiments, burn the library lights late into the night, and strike keyboards as they type out the latest term paper, some will find themselves homesick and missing their family pet. Often on a whim, many students go so far as to take a quick trip to the local animal shelter to adopt a puppy or kitten to fill the void. But is this a good idea?

I asked this exact question of my college best friend when she simultaneously announced her daughter, Colleen, had been accepted to Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and was getting a puppy named Fripps as a graduation gift. As you can see, veterinary college suits Fripps and Colleen and they have made lots of friends already.

First, a backup plan

Colleen is lucky — her parents love Fripps. If Colleen’s academic demands become overwhelming, her parents will keep Fripps at their home with their own dogs. Many parents might not be as accommodating as Colleen’s are. So, if you are a college student considering a pet adoption, think about how you will provide for your pet if you have the opportunity for a semester abroad or if your roommate develops allergies. Check with your parents to see if they would agree to provide you with the backup you might need. If the answer is no, you will need to think of another alternative, such as a friend or relative who can take in your pet when necessary.

Before adopting

Since Fripps came before Colleen found a place to live, she leased a pet-friendly apartment. If you already have an apartment, check your lease to determine if yours is pet friendly. Talk to your roommate(s) regarding his or her feelings about having a pet in the shared areas of your apartment. Considering a dog adoption? Investigate doggie day care options for days when you have late classes – or simply want to have a burger out with friends before going home. Fripps goes to the Shaggy Dog three days a week, since there is a three days for the price of two special, and being a college student, Colleen is on a budget. Remind yourself, a pet is a lifetime commitment and those lives can last 10-15 years. A college education is partly about exploring opportunities. Although adopting a pet is a wonderful experience, it may limit opportunities for academic travel and work experiences offered by your college.

Budget suggestions

Not only does your new furry friend need food, a collar and leash, and a crate or carrier, but preventive healthcare will be a must. A puppy or kitten series of vaccines and a spay or neuter surgery are just the start. Fripps has access to good medical care through Community Veterinary Services at Mississippi State University, but college students on a limited budget must consider how they will pay for routine veterinary care. For some budgets, a prepaid plan might make sense. To help handle the cost of emergency care, college students — and all pet families — should investigate pet insurance. If you are an automobile-less student, investigate how you and your new pet will get home to visit your family and the veterinarian.

Parents listen up!

If your college student sounds pet homesick on the phone, guide them in making a wise decision about adding a pet to their list of college experiences. With some advance planning, your homesick college student may benefit from a friendly furry face greeting him at the door every evening.


Take Your Dog to Work Day

June 20, 2011

Becky (L) & Percy (R) hardly working at The AMC

Friday, June 24th, is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Employees of The Animal Medical Center (AMC) are lucky since every day here is Take Your Pet to Work Day. Not surprisingly, The AMC is a pet-friendly employer.

Although most pets that come to work are dogs, we do have the occasional infant kitten or ancient cat who come to work because of special feeding and medication requirements during the day. The photo below shows Pepe avoiding work by hiding under a chair.

First celebrated in 1999, Take Your Dog to Work Day was created to celebrate the great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from humane societies, animal shelters and breed rescue clubs.

Pepe (available for adoption)

Companies, large and small, are recognizing the importance of pets in our social fabric. Some offer their employees pet insurance as one option in their benefits package. Inc.’s series, “Winning Workplaces,” highlights the increased worker productivity and camaraderie of workplaces where dogs are allowed.

Taryl Fultz, copywriter for Trone, Inc., a 70 person marketing firm in High Point, NC, with many pet care clients, including GREENIES® and NUTRO® says, “I absolutely [get more work done] when my sheltie is at work. He is very well behaved, but I feel better when I have him with me. I often stay later, bring my lunch those days and work through at my desk. When people/clients get tours of the office, he is always a featured stop along the way. Pets make most people smile. And can often turn a tense meeting/moment into a better one.”

I emailed with one employee of the marketing firm Moxie. Dogs are welcome at this 300+ person company, but visits must be scheduled in advance and misbehaving dogs are put on restriction. Visiting the office is not all fun and games. One Chihuahua was even pressed into service, when he was photographed wearing a wig and playing the piano for an ad campaign.

Trone, Inc. employees, from the VP for human resources to copywriters, have wonderful work stories about their pets. One 65 pound mutt works on stealing stuffed toys from other dogs, small children or co-workers’ offices. Another dog likes to work in a private space – behind the credenza — only she doesn’t quite fit and all her owner can see is the back half of a dog sticking out. Owen, a Plott hound, likes work because of the availability of GREENIES. One weekend Owen didn’t come when he was called. Finally he came running with a large mailing box where his head should have been. Owen had grabbed one of the mailing samples, which had a Greenie affixed to it. He was so excited to bring to his owner and then rip it off of the package.

If your office is going to be dog-friendly, you might want to consider establishing office etiquette guidelines. Our friends at the ASPCA have some useful suggestions.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Careers in Veterinary Medicine

May 31, 2011

On May 26th I participated in a career fair at IS 204 in Long Island City, Queens. In case there are any aspiring veterinarians reading this, I thought I would give a review of what I talked about at the career fair with these middle school students.

Most middle school students in New York City are exposed to veterinary medicine through the care a neighborhood veterinarian provides to a family pet such as a cat, dog or other companion animal, but the opportunities the profession offers are much wider.

Nearly 100,000 veterinarians in the United States provide healthcare to animals who supply us with food, such as cattle and fish, produce fiber for clothing, such as sheep and alpacas, and protect the public health though their efforts on behalf of local, state and federal agencies. Veterinarians care for animals in research laboratories, wildlife parks, zoos and classrooms. Other veterinarians become professors, training the next generation of animal caregivers.

Neighborhood veterinarians are typically generalists, providing preventive and general healthcare to their patients. Some veterinarians, like me, are specialists, with additional training. My training is in treating pets with cancer.

For middle school students interested in a career in veterinary medicine, choose a high school with a strong college preparatory program, especially in science and mathematics.  Use your summers to explore veterinary medicine by volunteering at an animal shelter or veterinarian’s office. Participate in an animal related summer program. One such program is sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo.

Colleges of veterinary medicine offer summer programs for high school juniors and seniors. My alma mater, Cornell University, offers four programs for high school students. Michigan State University, Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania, among others, host similar programs.

When choosing a college major, it is not essential to choose biology or animal science. I went to veterinary school with someone who had majored in Russian literature, but she completed all the science and math prerequisites required to apply to veterinary school. Keep in mind, grades matter. The University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine offers a college level summer “camp” for preveterinary students.

If the four years of college and four years of veterinary school are not for you, but you are interested in being part of an animal healthcare team, you might want to consider becoming a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT). Multiple programs throughout the country offer associate degrees in veterinary technology. The closest program to both The AMC and IS204 is at LaGuardia Community College, also in Long Island City, Queens.

Veterinary medicine offers great diversity in career options for the student interested in biology, zoology and mathematics. Additional information on pursing a career in veterinary medicine and veterinary technology can be found at the American Veterinary Medical Association website.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Melanoma Monday: May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011

The term “Melanoma Monday” is a service mark of the American Academy of Dermatology and seeks to promote awareness about melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer in humans. Melanoma is one of the diseases humans share with animals – so I thought I would take this opportunity to alert dog owners about melanoma in dogs and point out the similarities and differences to the human disease.

Canine oral melanoma

Canine melanoma occurs in different locations than the disease does in humans. The most malignant form of the disease occurs in the mouth and toes. Unlike humans, where skin melanomas are commonly malignant, skin melanomas in the dog are often benign. The circle in the photograph on the right is a malignant melanoma of the gum just below one of the large back teeth.

Dogs with a melanoma, or any other tumor of the oral cavity, often have severe halitosis. The family might notice blood tinged saliva or a reluctance of their dog to carry toys in his mouth. Oral tumors such as melanoma can be painful and a dog with an oral tumor may suddenly refuse to eat dry dog food or dog biscuits.

X-ray of a toe melanoma. Note the swelling (white arrow) and destroyed nail (red arrow).

Melanoma of the toe typically starts at the junction of the nail and the toe. You might notice your dog licking at the toe or a swelling at the junction. A broken nail, without preceding injury, may signal the need for an evaluation by your veterinarian as tumors can weaken the nail and allow a spontaneous break.

As with humans, an early diagnosis of this disease often leads to a much better diagnosis. Teach your puppy to let you open his mouth so you can identify any oral abnormalities. Bad breath, reluctance to eat and blood tinged saliva might not necessarily indicate the presence of a tumor, but may indicate dental problems which may also need to be treated. In either case, your veterinarian should see your dog immediately. Toe swellings, pain or nail problems should also provoke a visit to the veterinarian as early diagnosis and treatment with surgery, radiation and a melanoma vaccine clinically tested by the Animal Medical Center oncology team can save your dog’s life.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Heartworm Prevention

March 24, 2011

Are heartworms becoming resistant to preventive medications?

This week marks the first day of spring and for many dogs and cats, spring means a trip to the veterinarian’s office for a heartworm test and renewal of a prescription for heartworm prevention.

To help me address the timely topic of “heartworm disease,” I invited a recognized expert, Dr. Clarke Atkins, to provide some insight.

Q: Do dogs really need an annual test — and should dog owners stop giving the preventative medication when winter comes?

A: Year-around preventive and yearly testing are solidly recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) and the American Heartworm Society for these important reasons:

  1. Heartworm infections are actually greater than 10 years ago, making annual testing critical for your dog.
  2. Year-around preventive provides a safety net of prevention for your dog.
  3. Current heartworm preventives provide protection against other year round pests.
  4. Starting and stopping preventive administration has the potential to lead to lapses in preventive therapy.
  5. People in the metro New York area — those who either vacation at or have homes in “heartworm-endemic areas” — may be at risk year round.
  6. Financial savings are modest and very small compared to the cost of treating a heartworm infection.

Q: Some dog owners are worried about overmedicating their dogs and give the heartworm medication every other month. Do you advise this protocol?

A: The practice of every other month administration of preventive is frankly a terrible idea. Lapses of greater than 45 days between treatments can result in heartworm infection.

Q: Are cats susceptible to heartworms and should they be on preventative medications like dogs?

A: Cats are susceptible to heartworm infection, although less so than dogs, and there is no practical and safe treatment for this life-threatening disease in cats. In any region in which heartworm preventive is used in dogs, cats absolutely should be on heartworm preventive, even if they are housed indoors. Interestingly, in a study we carried out several years ago, the exposure rate to heartworms in cats in NYC was 5% and on Long Island was 9%.

Q: I’ve heard heartworms are becoming resistant to medication. What should a dog owner do?

A: In certain areas of the southern U.S. — specifically Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi — there are concerns with increasing reports of “lack of effectiveness” from medications, and there is some evidence to suggest that some heartworm preventives are not perfect against all strains of heartworm.

Pet owners should talk with their veterinarian if they have any concerns in this regard. However, the most important thing is that all pets receive heartworm preventive medications.

My thanks to Dr. Clarke Atkins, Diplomate, ACVIM (Internal Medicine and Cardiology) and the Jane Lewis Seaks Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University, for his time and response to important questions about heartworm disease.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council tracks parasitic diseases in dogs and cats–including heartworms. The map below is courtesy of CAPC:

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This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Facebook Gets a Puppy

March 16, 2011

Selecting Your New Puppy

Beast/Photo: Facebook

There is a new face on Facebook and it belongs to a dog.

The dog, known as Beast, is not just any dog; he belongs to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. You and Mr. Zuckerberg have a love of dogs in common, but the similarities end there. Before getting a new pet, you must plan for the ongoing and unexpected needs of your pet. I suspect Mr. Zuckerberg does not.

Beast is a Hungarian Puli.

Pulis sport a very unique corded haircoat making them kind of the Bob Marley of the dog world. The article about Beast quotes his breeders as saying many Pulis end up in shelters because they are difficult to maintain. Mr. Zuckerberg can clearly provide any special grooming needs Beast requires, but the comment speaks to a bigger issue.

What questions should you answer before you get a new pet?

If, like Mr. Zuckerberg, you chose a purebred dog, investigate the health concerns that are specific for your breed. Interview breeders and determine how they are addressing these concerns. The American Kennel Club actively supports research into health issues of purebred dogs. Part of being a responsible breeder is to participate in and support breed club work to improve the breed. You might also consider adopting a dog from a breed-specific rescue organization.

Don’t forget to take into consideration other family members — including your other pets — when choosing the new addition. Although cute as a button, a puppy or kitten may be too much for an elderly family member to handle. Small children can be injured or can injure tiny puppies and kittens. In these cases consider adoption of an adult pet. Adopting an adult pet allows you to avoid the challenge of housebreaking and the chewing phase of development.

Develop a budget for your new friend. When organizing your pet budget, consider the cost of food. Cats are all about same size and food costs will be similar. The same is not true for dogs; consider feeding a Chihuahua or a St. Bernard! Investigate pet insurance and how it might help keep your budget on track in the case of serious medical problems. Determine if the pet will have special requirements for grooming or exercise. If so, what are the anticipated cost and include these costs in your budget?

As important, identify a veterinarian who will be the health care provider for the new addition to your family.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Acknowledge Miracles

January 24, 2011

The tragedy in Tucson is on everyone’s mind. Since I am very medical and not very political, I was captivated by a quote in the New York Times last week attributed to one of the neurosurgeons caring for Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords. Dr. G. Michael Lemole, Jr. had been asked if Ms. Gifford’s recovery was miraculous. His reply indicates a doctor of great insight. He said, “Miracles happen every day, and in medicine, we like to attribute them to what we do or what others do around us. A lot of medicine is outside our control. We are wise to acknowledge miracles.”

Herbie in the hospital

Sick Herbie in AMC ICU with EKG monitor and hemodialysis catheter.

I want to acknowledge one of the Animal Medical Center’s miracles, Herbie. Herbie was a 3 month old, formerly bouncy Labrador retriever when he first came to The AMC. He came to us because of a critical illness involving his liver and kidneys, ultimately diagnosed as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a systemic bacterial disease of dogs, humans and wildlife. The bacteria can injury the kidneys so severely that hemodialysis is required to replace the normal function of the kidneys, while antibiotics eradicate the infection. If diagnosed early, and treated intensively, recovery is possible. Like Congresswoman Giffords, Herbie was on the critical list and was given a 10% chance of survival.

Intensive is the only word to describe Herbie’s treatment. In addition to hemodialysis, a pivotal decision was made by Dr. Buriko of the AMC’s ICU staff to perform an emergency, middle of the night surgery to correct an intestinal problem brought on by the severe vomiting and diarrhea from leptospirosis. Following surgery, he required a red blood cell transfusion to replace cells lost in surgery and in his stool. He also received a canine albumen transfusion to replace lost protein in his blood stream.

Herbie’s treatment was not just medical. His family believes AMC’s “human touch” made all the difference in their Labrador’s miraculous recovery. He had visits from Dr. Currao’s puppy who reminded Herbie life as a puppy was worth living. The ICU staff sat with him, encouraging him to eat homemade chicken. Herbie was one of those cases the ICU staff knew would recover faster if him family visited and his dedicated family complied, visiting him twice a day.

Herbie after treatment

Miracle Herbie at home last week.

Three weeks after he was admitted to the intensive care unit, Herbie was discharged to his family. At a follow up visit just before Christmas, Herbie’s kidney tests, which were five times the normal value at admission, were nearly normal. His family reports he is a cuter, friskier and smarter puppy than before he was stricken with leptospirosis. A miracle indeed.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.
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For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Puppy Problems: Preventing Electric Cord Injuries

December 13, 2010

Photo: Dr. Philip Fox

Although the cute animal pictured here may look like a Jack Russell Terrier, she and her sister are behaving more like beavers. With their razor sharp puppy teeth, they have severed several plugs from the ends of cords, one of which you can see in the photo below, as well as a cell phone charger and the corners of the kitchen cabinets.

Puppies love to chew and their major chewing effort occurs during teething. Peak teething in puppies is between 4 and 7 months of age. Chewing is dangerous because the urge to chew coincides with greater freedom to roam the house as puppies become more reliably housebroken. Electric cords are especially dangerous because if the cord is plugged in during the chewing episode, an ER visit may be required. The electric current traveling through the body can cause severe oral burns, facial swelling, heart arrhythmias, fluid in the lungs and sudden death.

What should a dog owner give to their chew happy pup? Veterinarians have taken some formerly favorite chew toys off the approved list. Veterinary dentists have taken tennis balls off since the furry yellow covering is abrasive to tooth enamel. Hard nylon chew toys are gone too since they can fracture teeth and previously I have recommended bones be taken off the list.

What did I recommend to the frustrated Jack Russell Terrier owner? I recommended distracting the puppies from chewing household items by providing them with plenty of exercise and safe chew toys. Tired puppies are less likely to chew, because they will be napping. A walk around the block may not be enough exercise for a frisky puppy. Make sure your puppy has a good hour every day of exercise, either romping with another dog or chasing balls with you.

A trip to the local pet store is also helpful in preventing dangerous chewing. While browsing the pet store aisles, I found several toys made of natural rubber to recommend. First were puzzle toys. These devices roll and wobble. As the puppy nudges them with their nose, the toy moves and a piece of dry food falls out as a reward. Puppies quickly learn to move the toy around to get more food. Another type of food dispensing toy is stuffed with canned dog food or a sticky treat like peanut butter. The puppy can lick and chew to get the food out of the central cavity and will be so busy they will forget about chewing on electric cords. Yet another puzzle toy is one with a slot holding a specially manufactured treat. As the toy is chewed, the rubber deforms and out comes the treat, rewarding your puppy and encouraging more chewing of the chew toy.

Puppies are spontaneous, delightful additions to the family, but just like a new baby needs nearly constant attention, a new puppy requires supervision, training and medical care to keep them safe and healthy.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Measuring Your Pet’s Medication

November 8, 2010

Medical professionals, veterinarians included, speak to each other in our own language, more difficult to understand than either ancient Latin or Greek. This language is confusing to pet owners and often results in question about medication administration.

This weekend was a case in point. An owner called while she was out of town on vacation. I had completely confused her with my instructions on how much medication to administer. She was hours away and unable to drop by The Animal Medical Center for a refresher course. In giving instructions, I forgot pet owners are not always well versed in scientific weights and measures and the sight of an oral dosing syringe can induce paralysis in even the most educated client. Here are the definitions for some of the most confusing terms.

Milliliter (ml) is a measure of volume and a liquid medication dose is commonly given in milliliters. A milliliter is the same as a cc (cubic centimeter). But a milliliter does not tell how much medication is being given. Medication is typically measured in milligrams (mg). For example, a tablet of the antibiotic amoxicillin contains a set number of milligrams, but the milligrams contained in a milliliter of amoxicillin depend on the particular antibiotic brand’s strength. In other words, all liquid medications are not created equal. Veterinarians will always talk about how many milligrams your pet needs when you want to know is how many milliliters to squirt down the throat of your dog who has its teeth clamped shut and has just slipped under your king sized bed.

A diabetic pet presents a special set of challenges, one of which is how much insulin to give. Based on the comments above, the careful reader would surmise insulin is given in milliliters – it is a liquid medication after all. But no, it is given in units and double no, 1 unit does not equal a milliliter. If you have U 100 insulin, 100 units = 1 milliliter. If you have U 40 insulin, 40 units = 1 milliliter. To complicate matters more, each insulin needs its own special syringe matched to the type of insulin, ie, U 100 syringes for U 100 insulin. Understanding these seemingly trivial differences means success or failure in treating your diabetic pet.

Decimal points are another prescription predicament. The numbers 5.0, 0.5 and .05 are 100 fold different and yet when they appear on a prescription label they can be confusing. Proper prescriptions use zeros to highlight a decimal point. Numbers should have a leading zero before any decimal point, ie 0.5 is correct. Numbers should not have a trailing zero, ie 5.0 is incorrect. These differences highlight how carefully pet owners should read a medication label before administering a new medication.

Finally, because of the obesity epidemic in pets, veterinarians are making pet owners more conscious of how much pets eat. One cup is easy to understand, but calories per cup vary dramatically. One cup of Eukanuba puppy food contains 503 kcal and one cup of their weight control product for large breed dogs contains 272 kcal. Some foods list kcal per kg (kilogram) of food. Converting kilograms (a measure of weight) to cups (a measure of volume) requires advanced math, or a scale from your local cookware shop.

So when it comes to medicating your pet, ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to call your veterinarian’s office for clarification, because a microgram of prevention is worth a milligram of cure.

Have you ever encountered problems with your pet’s medication dosing? Tell us your story by commenting below!

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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