Lung Disease with a Twist

October 23, 2013
Muneca

Muneca

“I’m sorry, but you need to take your dog to see a cancer specialist.” These are words no pet owner wants to hear, but despite their anguish about their beloved dog’s illness, Muneca’s (a name which means “pretty baby doll” in Spanish) family followed the recommendation of their primary care and emergency room veterinarians and brought the little poodle to be examined by the Oncology Service at The Animal Medical Center. This photo shows what a happy dog she was before her illness.

Muneca’s story starts with a trip to her primary care veterinarian who, using an x-ray, discovered that fluid was accumulating around her lungs. Shortly after seeing her primary care veterinarian, Muneca’s appetite decreased and she had trouble breathing, so she was brought to the to the ER by her owners.

Emergency room visit
The ER doctors found Muneca had a blue tongue. She was not getting any oxygen into her bloodstream because the fluid surrounding her lungs prevented them from expanding. Carefully, the ER doctors administered a light sedative to allow nearly one liter of bloody fluid to be removed from around the lungs of this 25 pound tan poodle. Immediately she was her old self, but the ER doctors again recommended Muneca be examined by an oncologist.

A new diagnosis
Although cancer is a very common cause of fluid accumulation around the lungs, there are other causes. When I saw Muneca, another x-ray was taken to determine if the fluid had returned since it had been removed by the ER doctors. The fluid had returned, but when Dr. Anthony Fischetti, one of The AMC’s board certified radiologists, reviewed the new films with me, he saw something that intrigued him – bubbles of air trapped within the right middle lung lobe. Immediately he became optimistic that Muneca could be saved! The diagnosis was revised to lung lobe torsion.

A lung lobe torsion is a rare disorder seen in dogs, cats and humans. The lung lobe twists around the bronchus, or air tube, and the blood vessels supplying the lung. This traps air and blood in the lung lobe, explaining the bubbles seen on the x-ray and the accumulation of fluid around the lungs. Fluid leaks out of the lung because the blood cannot exit though the twisted vessels.

Muneca recovering after surgery

Muneca recovering after surgery

Major surgery
The treatment for a lung lobe torsion is surgery to remove the twisted lung lobe, but this is a major procedure. In Muneca’s case, The AMC provided more than just the diagnostic and surgical expertise. One of our Community Funds, the Patient Assistance Fund, covered the majority of the cost for Muneca’s surgery. Muneca’s surgeon, Dr. Janet Kovak, entered Muneca’s chest on the right side between the third and fourth ribs and removed the right middle lung lobe, which was swollen and adhered to the diaphragm. Muneca recovered rapidly and was discharged from the hospital to her happy and grateful family two days later. In the second photograph, you see her completely recovered and resting at home in her favorite spot.

A winning team
Muneca is just one patient example of why I love working at The AMC – it’s all about the team. Without The AMC team of specialists, that includes board certified radiologists and surgeons, Muneca would not be healthy once again and home with her family and what’s not to like about that!


Avoiding the Knife: Preventing Pet Surgeries

April 11, 2013

At The Animal Medical Center, our board certified surgeons and neurologists perform approximately 1,500 surgeries each year. A recently released pet insurance study completed in 2012 listed the top ten surgery claims for both dogs and cats:

Top-10-Canine-Conditions-large

Survey attributed to VPI Pet Insurance 2012

Since none of us want our pets to be subjected to the difficulties most surgeries pose, I will devote this blog to suggestions on how to avoid some of the most common canine and feline surgeries.

Tooth extractions

Topping the surgery list for cats and coming in at number three for dogs were tooth extractions. Keeping your pets’ teeth healthy means daily brushing and annual dental cleanings. The American Veterinary Dental College website provides good information about home dental care in dogs and cats. Remember, doggy breath often means periodontal disease, so if your pet has smelly breath, see your veterinarian for treatment before extractions become necessary.

Skin abscess, inflammation and pressure ulcers

This list of skin conditions ranks number two as a reason for surgery in both dogs and cats. Pressure ulcers generally occur in older dogs with limited mobility. Padding, padding and more padding will help prevent pressure ulcers on their elbows and thighs. Investigate orthopedic beds for your dog and try to keep him from laying on hard surfaces like the bathroom tile floor which can aggravate pressure sores. Promote mobility in your dog through regular exercise and management of arthritis with diet and medications.

Feline bite wounds

When I was a veterinarian in a more suburban area, we treated cat bite wounds on a daily basis. Preventing cat bite injuries is as simple as keeping your cat indoors. Cat bites not only cause wounds which can become abscesses, but cat bites transmit the feline immunodeficiency virus and possibly blood parasites as well. Priceless is how I define the value of keeping your cat indoors and healthy.

Aural hematoma

The tenth most common surgery in dogs was to repair an aural (ear) hematoma. Cats can develop aural hematomas too, just not as commonly as dogs. This condition is essentially a blood blister inside the ear flap. Blood accumulates in the ear flap when your dog incessantly shakes his head or scratches her ears. Usually, the shaking and scratching is in response to an allergy or an ear infection. If you see this behavior, check inside the ear for redness or discharge. See your veterinarian immediately to treat the cause of the shaking and scratching to prevent the development of an aural hematoma.

While some surgeries are unavoidable, these are prime examples of how a visit to your veterinarian for routine preventive care can help your pet avoid surgery.


Neutering: Not Just Doggie Birth Control

January 23, 2013

200487404-001Dexter, a new dachshund patient of mine, was in last week for another round of puppy shots. He will soon be six months old and it was time for me to discuss the next step in his preventive health care plan: neutering.

Neutering meets the guidelines

The American Veterinary Medical Association has developed guidelines for responsible pet ownership. One of the guidelines obligates pet owners to control their pet’s reproduction through spaying and neutering; subsequently helping to control pet overpopulation in their community. Neutering is the common term for castration of a male dog or cat and spaying refers to removal of the ovaries and uterus, or in some cases just the uterus, of a female pet.

Lifesaving responsibility

Pet overpopulation is a serious issue in the United States today. According to the Humane Society of the United States, over 4 million unwanted pets are destroyed annually. For every puppy or kitten prevented by neutering an adult pet, there is one less homeless and unwanted puppy or kitten euthanized in an animal shelter.

The traditional surgery

Surgical removal of the testicles is the current standard of care in both dogs and cats. This surgery renders a male dog or cat unable to reproduce and also removes the major source of the male hormone, testosterone. Removing the source of testosterone eliminates mating behavior in males and also plays a role in eliminating other unwanted dog behaviors. In both the dog and cat, neutering involves a small skin incision through which the testicles are removed. Cats typically go home the same day, but dogs may stay overnight to recover from anesthesia and for incisional monitoring.

My recommendation

Dexter’s owners were concerned about the surgery. They asked if he could just have a vasectomy instead of the traditional neutering surgery. Because my job is to make the best medical recommendations for the specific health concerns of each of my patients, I recommended the traditional surgery for Dexter. It provides him with the greatest number of health benefits. The surgery prevents unwanted litters of puppies and also prevents prostatic disease, testosterone-induced tumors and behaviors linked to testosterone production.


Hurricane Sandy: The Animal Medical Center Story

October 31, 2012

The view down E. 62nd Street on Monday night

By Sunday night, the Governor and Mayor had shut down all mass transit in NYC, our schools were already closed for Monday, and by Monday morning even the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for the day. New York City was silent; everyone was indoors and the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy had not yet arrived. Despite all the closures, The Animal Medical Center was open for business as usual.

As far back as anyone can remember, The AMC has never closed. We mean it when we say we are open 24/7. When a disaster is anticipated, the staff work together to determine how best to cover shifts and maintain adequate nursing and medical expertise for our patients. During blackouts, natural disasters, and human disasters, our staff comes to work prepared. Many employees came to work on Sunday with food, clothes, and bedding, planning to stay for the duration of the storm. The AMC stores inflatable beds for those employees sleeping at the hospital. The beds got blown up Monday afternoon since the electricity fluttered on and off during the day. Lucky for us, our favorite deli and neighborhood diner were still open.

It was a good thing we were open for business, as really sick animals needed care. Here is a sampling of the Sunday night admission list: a stray cat and a stray dog were brought to The AMC since the shelters were closed for the night; Harley, a cat, came in with complications of diabetes; Lexi, a bulldog, was admitted for serious vomiting; Gus the cat developed heart failure; Monkey, a Pekingese, required an emergency MRI and back surgery; a golden retriever named Aristotle became unconscious and he too required an emergency MRI ; Rysiu was admitted for feline bladder stones resulting in a urinary blockage. On Monday, he had an urgent surgery to remove the stones.

Visits to our emergency room were steady on Monday morning, but most scheduled patients cancelled their visits. The ER continued accepting patients overnight, even though there was at one point a foot of water in the first floor lobby. Our power went out from about 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., during which time our generator kicked in to run essential electrical equipment. Once the high tide began to recede, the lobby was squeegeed dry and, except for internet service that was slow to be restored, we were back to normal. The banners on the north side of the building are in tatters and our awning has a rip, but these are cosmetic only and we feel very fortunate to only be slightly damp around the edges.

New York pets were fortunate, too. For the second hurricane in a row, pets were allowed in evacuation shelters and in his Monday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg announced 73 pets had already been accepted into shelters.

Find more information about Hurricane Sandy and pets here.

For help in planning for the next disaster, click here.


Fracture Repair in Dogs and Cats

July 21, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by a reporter about pet owner administered first aid for dogs and cats when an injury may have resulted in a fractured bone. The article has good information for pet owners to read now in preparation for a potential emergency in the future. This blog post will pick up where that article left off and explain the fracture repair techniques used by veterinary surgeons The Animal Medical Center.

For the veterinarian, the critical piece of successful fracture management is to immobilize the fracture. This can be accomplished using one of several different methods. For some fractures, more than one method might be appropriate and for others there may be only one solution to fix the broken bone. All x-rays were taken by the AMC’s Diagnostic Imaging Service.

For centuries, fractures have been treated by immobilization using casts or splints. These days the old style plaster of Paris cast has been replaced in human medicine by plastic or fiberglass. In animals we tend to use splints of fiberglass or plastic for repair of simple fractures where the bones do not need realignment. The arrows in the photo to the right point to two toe fractures in a young dog which healed when the paw was placed in a splint.

Optimal healing of a fracture requires the joints above and below the fracture be immobilized. When the fracture occurs in a location where these joints cannot be adequately immobilized by an external bandage or cast, the fracture must be repaired internally via a surgical procedure. The x-ray to the left shows the use of two small pins in the front of the hind leg bone known as the tibia.

If a bone is fractured in multiple places or spirals along the length of a bone, a simple pin will not provide enough support to immobilize the fracture and allow healing. Shown below are before and after x-rays of a fractured arm (radius and ulna) in a dog. Notice the splint on the before films. The AMC’s Emergency Service placed the splint to immobilize the fracture until surgery could be performed. The AMC surgeons chose to repair the leg with a plate and screws since both bones of the leg were broken.

As research discovers more about fracture healing, methods of repair are changing. When possible, minimally invasive procedures are chosen as large invasive surgeries disturb the covering of the bone (periosteum), the blood clot at the fracture site and the muscles which provide the blood supply to the fracture. The AMC surgeons are using a new technique called MIPO (minimally invasive plate osteosynthesis) or percutaneous plating. This method of fracture stabilization, involves application of a bone plate through small skin incisions on either end of the fracture site. The fracture is aligned and the plate and screws are placed using guidance from a special intraoperative x-ray machine. Not all fractures are amenable to MIPO.

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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 http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Images: AMC Diagnostic Imaging Department


The Pen Cap May Be Mightier than the Sword…

July 15, 2011

But it can’t beat a bronchoscope!

Barcley

One thing I love about pets is their unpredictability. You just can never guess what they will do next. Here’s the story of Barcley, the French bulldog and the nearly fatal pen cap.

The beginning seemed innocent enough: a dog playing with a bright blue highlighter pen. Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe and his owners rushed him to The Animal Medical Center. Quick administration of oxygen and a sedative by the ER staff seemed to alleviate the breathing problem enough to allow a chest x-ray to be taken.

No one would have predicted the x-ray would show Barcley’s windpipe contained what looked like the cap of the bright blue highlighter!

Barcley’s chest x-ray. Arrows point to outline of pen cap in his windpipe.

The ER staff had to think quickly and cleverly. Barcley needed anesthesia and a bronchoscope to remove the highlighter pen cap, but the standard anesthetic plan of placing a breathing tube into the windpipe was out of the question; it was already full of the highlighter cap. To further complicate matters, Barcley is a brachycephalic (short nosed) dog, a type of dog known to have a greater risk of anesthetic complications.

Dr. Stacy Burdick of The AMC’s Internal Medicine Service was called in at 1:30 am to perform the procedure which took 20 minutes, but seemed like a lifetime. She placed a small rubber tube in the windpipe to deliver oxygen and administered an injectable anesthetic agent into Barcley’s vein. Dr. Burdick cautiously advanced the bronchoscope down Barcley’s windpipe. She was worried the windpipe could have been damaged as the cap went down, or worse, the windpipe could tear when she pulled it back up.

Pen cap in windpipe

On the right, you can see what Dr. Burdick saw when the cap came into view. The cap blocked the entire lumen of the windpipe. Knowing she had to work quickly to restore the delivery of oxygen to the lungs, she passed a special grabber device through the bronchoscope, grabbed the cap and gently pulled it gently out through the mouth as she pulled out the bronchoscope.

Barcley’s life was saved from the pen cap by the mighty bronchoscope and the skilled Dr. Burdick.

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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 http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Everything Old is New Again: Plague and Leprosy

July 7, 2011

Nine banded armadillo, which can carry leprosy, seen in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood at modern:ANTHOLOGY.

Last week there were two very interesting stories in the news about the intersection between people and animals. Both reported on diseases we rarely hear about anymore: plague and leprosy.

Leprosy is the older disease and has been reported since Biblical times. The first reported epidemic of plague occurred somewhat later, in the 6th or 7th century. Bubonic plague, or the Black Death, was the scourge of the Middle Ages.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yesinia pestis. The usual source of Y. pestis is the rat flea, but hunting pets can contract the plague from eating infected rodents or rabbits. Even though Y. pestis is predominantly found in California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, cases can be seen throughout the country if a human or pet travels to one of these areas and contracts the disease before they return home. An infected pet can, in turn, infect humans. The possibility of plague transmission is one reason prairie dogs may not make the best pets.

The name bubonic comes from the word bubo, which is a fancy word for enlarged lymph node. Wikipedia shows an illumination from a medieval Bible of sinners afflicted with buboes.

Both humans and pets with bubonic plague have enlarged lymph nodes, which are painful. Fever, malaise and non–specific flu-like symptoms are typical for plague in both humans and pets. Although last week’s plague case occurred in a dog, in general, cats are more susceptible to plague than dogs.

Leprosy was in the news too; not because of a sick dog or cat, but because of armadillos. Those prehistoric-looking armored mammals carry the leprosy bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae. Most leprosy cases occur outside the United States, but cases occur in people who have not traveled outside the USA. This finding puzzled researchers until the DNA of the M. leprae was studied. Both armadillos and humans infected with M. leprae in the USA share the same unique strain of the bacteria. This bacterium is different from the strain of M. leprae found outside the USA. The New England Journal of Medicine article concluded humans can contract leprosy from infected armadillos.

To help protect yourself and your pet from contracting diseases of wildlife:

  • Keep your pet leashed or indoors to prevent contact with wild animals which can cause serious diseases.
  • Never approach, pet or handle wildlife even if they are acting friendly.
  • If your pet is sick, always tell your veterinarian where your pet has traveled and do the same when you visit your physician. It may be just the perfect clue to the diagnosis.

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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.


Recognizing Arthritis Pain in Your Cat

June 28, 2011

When working with the Animal Medical Center veterinarians participating in our post graduate training programs, I often say, “Cats are not little dogs.” What I really mean is, a particular disease in dogs does not appear the same as the disease does in cats. For example, dogs with heart disease typically have heart failure from leaky heart valves, while cats with heart disease commonly have abnormalities of their heart muscles, not their valves. When it comes to disorders of the thyroid gland, dogs suffer from an under active thyroid and cats from an over active thyroid.

Normal hips in a cat. Arrows point to nice, smooth joint surfaces.

A pet’s behavior in response to arthritis pain is also different between cats and dogs.

Arthritis is a common cause of pain in dogs and owners of arthritic dogs are quick to point out their dog is limping. Despite the fact that x-rays show evidence of arthritis in somewhere between 15-65% of cats, limping is really uncommon in feline patients. 

Cats with arthritis suffer from weight loss, anorexia, depression, urinating outside the litter box, poor grooming and, in some cases, lameness. One of my 21-year-old feline patients had to be moved onto a single floor of the house because he was too painful to use the stairs to the basement to get to his litter box. He got a new litterbox too, which had lower sides since he couldn’t step into his old one with higher sides.

Both hips in this cat are affected by arthritis. Arrows point to roughened edges of joint.

Pain in cats is difficult for both veterinarians and cat owners to assess. From my veterinarian’s viewpoint, if I put a cat on the exam room floor in an attempt to watch it walk, it will immediately run under the desk and hide. It will definitely not limp as it rockets underneath the desk.

In a recent study evaluating pain assessment in cats by veterinary researchers in North Carolina, cat owners reported they found it difficult to identify mild pain in their cats. Cat owners believed they could correctly identify changes in their cat’s function and activity. Dog owners more readily identify how pain interferes with their dog’s activities, possibly because dogs participate more fully in family activities such as ball toss, Frisbee and hiking.

If you notice your cat moving around less, not using the litter box or showing reluctance to go up and down the stairs, see your veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation.

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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.


How Do You Know if Your Dog is in Pain?

June 6, 2011

I get asked this question daily by at least one worried dog owner. Since dogs can’t talk, how do we identify a dog in pain?

Jack's legs

Dogs and Pain
Sometimes identifying pain is easy. Dogs hit by a car or suffering from another traumatic injury are obviously painful. Here is a photograph of an Irish Setter, with two reasons to be in pain. The leg on the right side of the photo looks red, sore and swollen. This skin change is induced by radiation therapy used to treat a bone tumor and it will resolve now that radiation is completed. The swelling is caused by a bone tumor. Bone tumors are particularly painful and tend to cause limping, which is what clued the dog owner in to Jack’s problem. Treatment is already making him walk better.

Sylvie after back surgery

Back Pain in Dogs
A dog with a slipped disc in the back (intervertebral disc disease) typically cries and whines, without external signs of injury, but the dog owner can readily determine there is a pain problem. Sylvie, shown here after her back surgery, came toThe AMC because her owners noted her crying when they picked her up. Later, they noticed she was having difficulty walking. Examination at The AMC identified her back as the source of the pain and she had surgery to remove the disc and relieve the pain.

Signs of Subtle Pain
Extreme pain is reasonably easy to identify; subtle pain may not be so easy to spot. With hospitalized patients, we look for changes in the sleep-wake cycle, a decrease in appetite or poor grooming habits. We also watch how the dog sits or lays in its cage. Painful dogs may hide in the back of the cage or sit in a strange fashion to protect a painful area of their body. Licking, rubbing or scratching a particular area of the body may also indicate a painful area. Whining and crying are not reliable pain indicators, but we monitor these behaviors in our hospitalized patients in case they indicate pain in a particular individual.

If you think your animal is in pain, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. In the past few years, new drugs to treat pain have been developed for dogs. Keep in mind, painful animals are typically frightened and even the most docile pet can bite when handled if it is experiencing severe pain. If your dog is injured and needs transportation to the ER, consider using a muzzle, or if you don’t have one, a necktie to gently tie his muzzle closed while he is handled because you don’t want to have to go to the ER too.

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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.


Summer Safety for Pets

May 13, 2011
As the weather warms up, we spend more time outdoors with our pets. Everyone is happy for the fresh air and sunshine. But are you and your pet prepared? Here are The Animal Medical Center’s suggestions for a safe summer.

All Pets Need Double ID

A loud noise, a thunderstorm or a careless barbeque guest, and your pet could escape the house or yard unnoticed. Research has shown only 20% of dogs and 2% of cats in animal shelters are reunited with their families. Make double sure your pet comes home by having your veterinarian implant a microchip and always have your pet wear a collar with an ID tag.

Open Windows Need a Screen

Every summer, the AMC’s emergency room sees cats that have fallen or jumped out of apartment windows onto the street, garden or in pursuit of a pigeon on the fire escape. So many fall, we have a name for it — high rise syndrome. Cats typically fracture their wrists, lower jaw and rupture their lungs. Most cats survive, but not all.

High rise syndrome is a completely preventable injury with a trip to your local hardware store for window screens.

Sadie and the BreezeGuard/Photo: MuttManagers LLC

Dogs are less likely to fall or jump out of an apartment building window, but will jump out of car windows. MuttManagers manufactures a customizable screen for your car’s windows. Your dog can feel the wind in his ears while you drive, but the sturdy screen keeps him safe inside. Best of all, the window still closes with the screen installed.

Don’t Let Your Pet Roam

With the pet obesity epidemic, we all want our pets to exercise more, but pets on the loose have a greater risk of automobile injuries, contracting infectious diseases, getting lost and irritating your neighbors. Tying your dog to a long lead may be disastrous, since tethered dogs left alone in a yard are more likely to bite humans. A traditional fence will confine your dog, but may not be so successful with your cat.

Harry with his Invisible Fence collar/Photo: Philip Fox, DVM

My patient, Harry, left, loved to chase squirrels, deer and the occasional skunk. So his family got him an Invisible Fence to keep him close to home. In this photo he is sitting in the garden, wearing his special collar which first emitted an audible warning sound, and if Harry went too far, the collar gave an unpleasant but safe electric shock to teach him to stay within the fence boundaries. It takes about 10-14 days training for a dog to learn his boundaries. Invisible Fence technology can also be used with cats, who I am pleased to say learn it faster than dogs do! Other safety applications of the Invisible Fence include teaching a pet to avoid potentially dangerous areas in the home or yard, such as a garden with toxic plants, the garage with antifreeze, swimming pools, and terraces which might result in high rise syndrome.

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For more great pet safety and wellness information, please join the Animal Medical Center’s Junior Committee for PAW Day 2011: Pet and Wellness Fun, a health fair for families and their pets! Sunday May 15, 2011, 9am –12 noon, featuring AMC veterinarians, information on preventative care, children’s area with Spot the dog, pet safety information, and much more! For more information or to make a contribution, please call 212.329.8660 or visit http://www.amcny.org.

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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.


Pet Oncology Primer

May 9, 2011

The other day in the oncology clinic at The Animal Medical Center, I saw a new patient and managed inadvertently to upset the owner. Her veterinarian diagnosed a “tumor” in her dog and when I asked her how long her pet had “cancer,” she burst into tears. To her, “tumor” implied a benign and curable disease, and “cancer” was a diagnosis that indicated something much worse.

I decided to look up the meanings of these words so I would not upset any new clients in the future as I discussed the conditions of their pets with them. For sources, I used the readily accessible websites, Wikipedia and Dictionary.com. I also got out my dusty copy of Dorland’s Medical Dictionary to be the ultimate source if there was question or conflict between the two websites.

Arrow points to an ulcerated mammary gland carcinoma in a cat.

A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells. The word tumor is derived from the Latin word meaning swelling. Neoplasm is another generic term which, like tumor, does not imply abnormality is benign or malignant. In essence, a lump is a tumor.

Tumors or neoplasms can be benign or malignant. Benign is typically defined by what it is not, rather than what it is. Benign tumors are not invasive and do not disseminate throughout the body (metastasize). Benign tumors typically carry a good prognosis for recovery. Adding the word malignant to the word tumor indicates a growth is invasive into the surrounding tissue or is expected to spread to various sites within the body. Common sites for metastasis are the lung and lymph nodes. Most typically think of malignant as being the modifier for tumor. Malignant may be used as a modifier for a non-cancer medical term meaning a very severe and potentially fatal form of a condition, such as malignant hyperthermia or malignant hypertension.

Arrow points to enlarged lymph nodes from lymphoma in a dog.

In all my sources, cancer was synonymous with malignant. Veterinary oncologists talk about three main types of malignancies in dogs and cats: sarcomas, carcinomas and hematopoietic tumors. The cutaneous mast cell tumor is a common canine example of a sarcoma. Like people, both cats and dogs can develop breast cancer, an example of a carcinoma. Lymphoma is the most common hematopoietic tumor in dogs and cats. In dogs, lymphoma occurs in the lymph nodes and in the cat, in the intestine.

Even though I am an oncologist by training, I never want any pet or person to have cancer. But now I will be clearer in my choice of vocabulary when discussing the nuances of tumors and cancer.

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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 http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


You Learn Something New Everyday…About Pet Food

May 5, 2011

Pet food is important to pet lovers since we all want to feed our pets a diet which will help to keep them healthy family members for as long as possible. Many veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center prescribe special diets as part of the treatment for medical conditions. Research into various disease states has resulted in the development of “prescription diets” to meet the nutritional needs of pets while treating a medical condition.

Heart diets have lower sodium, joint diets contain ingredients to promote healthy joints and other diets are easily digestible for pets with gastrointestinal problems. These diets are an important part of many medical interventions. In fact, kidney-friendly diets have been shown to prolong survival in pets with kidney disease.

One of my patients, a French bulldog being treated for allergies, eats a Royal Canin novel protein diet composed of duck and potatoes. He has responded well to this diet and scratches much less when than when he was eating a regular dog food. His owner called me a day or so ago because the bag design had changed. The label said the food was the same, but when the bag was opened the nuggets were a different color.

I called the veterinary hotline staffed by customer service representatives of Royal Canin to check and be sure the food was really the same inside the bag since the outside had changed. The very helpful staff confirmed the food is being made in the same plant and the only change to the recipe was an increase in some vitamins to improve coat health. They also mentioned other consumers had called because of the color change in the food. According to the representative to whom I spoke, there is seasonal variation in the color of the duck meat and potatoes used to formulate the diet. This most recent batch was lighter than usual.

If you have a question about your pet’s food, check the label on the bag. Most pet food companies have a consumer hotline and, as I found out, they can be very helpful. Or call your veterinarian. They are a wealth of information and already know your pet’s medical issues. For tough nutritional issues, your veterinarian may suggest you consult a board certified veterinary nutritionist.

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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.


Hairballs Can be Dangerous!

April 28, 2011
Friday, April 29th is National Hairball Awareness Day and I have the poster patient for this disorder. Sunshine looks just like her name, a sunburst of calico color on one very charming cat.
 

Photo: Rachel Bob

So how did she get to be the poster patient for National Hairball Awareness Day? A hairball nearly killed her.

Sunshine has been a patient of The Animal Medical Center since last summer and is under treatment for a fairly common form of intestinal cancer. One night, her owner came home and could not find Sunshine. When she did, Sunshine was hiding and refused to eat dinner. Her owner brought her straight to the AMC Emergency Room.

This is Sunshine’s abdominal x-ray; the black circle outlines a gigantic fluid-filled stomach. The black arrows point to just a few of her gas-filled intestinal loops. AMC’s radiologist, Dr. Anthony Fischetti, honed in on these abnormalities immediately and diagnosed an intestinal blockage. We were worried the blockage was due to a recurrence of the tumor, but we couldn’t be sure with the information we had.

The same night, Sunshine had an emergency exploratory surgery by Dr. Courtney Ikuta of the AMC’s Surgery Service. Boy was she surprised to find a hairball lodged in Sunshine’s intestine as the cause of the blockage!

Hairball obstruction is very uncommon, although a couple of medical issues might have contributed to this dangerous hairball. Sunshine receives chemotherapy bi-weekly. Her haircoat appears normal, but she probably has more hair loss than the average cat. Her cancer is responding well to treatment, but her intestines are not normal and may not have been able to handle the excess ingested hair. Finally, Sunshine has just been diagnosed with an even rarer condition than a hairball obstruction, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. She doesn’t make adequate digestive enzymes, contributing to a buildup of hair.

So in honor of National Hairball Awareness Day, brush your cat, use a deshedding tool and give plenty of hairball reducing treats.

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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.


Amos, a 5 Year Old “Living Legend”

April 25, 2011
Every year, The Animal Medical Center honors “Living Legends,” patients who have survived what seemed to be insurmountable odds. Unlike most living legends, who have distinguished careers and are silver haired recipients, the 2011 AMC Living Legends are two youngsters who both have long lives left to live because of the care given at The AMC. Today, I am writing about Amos, a 5 year old Burmese cat. Our other living legend is Herbie, who I have written about previously.

Amos as a kitten

Amos’ story starts in early 2007, when he was just 10 months old. After a normal kittenhood, he began vomiting and his regular veterinarians determined he had developed a gas-distended and inflamed esophagus and stomach. It seemed nothing was going out of the stomach and everything was coming back up. Pretty much all cats vomit, but poor Amos was losing weight and was down to barely six pounds.

Amos came to The AMC when treatment elsewhere was unsuccessful. Dr. Janet Kovak McClaran of the Surgery Service performed a Bilroth I surgery. Named after a 19th century human surgeon, the Bilroth I performed on Amos removed a thickened part of his stomach which was blocking the exit of food into the intestine and reattached the stomach directly to the small intestine. Within three weeks following surgery, Amos was a new cat. He was not vomiting and had gained one pound on his way to being an eight pound cat.

Amos snuggles with a friend

But the story doesn’t stop here. Eight months ago, Amos returned to The AMC. This time he was critically ill, requiring urgent, emergency surgery. Dr. Sarah Petre was the emergency surgeon on call. The AMC veterinarians were concerned for an intestinal blockage or worse, leaking intestines. What they found during an abdominal exploratory surgery was an eight inch segment of intestine twisted upon itself and deprived of its blood supply, but unrelated to the previous surgery. Amos underwent a second remodeling of his intestine to remove the twisted segment and reattach the ends. Without this surgery, Amos would have certainly died.

Both Amos and our other Living Legend, Herbie, will be attending The AMC’s Third Annual Living Legends Luncheon. If you would like to attend the luncheon and meet these incredible animals click here for more information.

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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.


Why Do People Treat Their Pets for Cancer?

April 11, 2011

People I meet socially are often surprised when I tell them I treat pets with cancer. The first level of surprise occurs because many non-pet lovers don’t know pets get cancer, so of course they are doubly surprised to meet some who treats it. For me, cocktail party conversation frequently centers around the question, “Why do people treat their pets for cancer?”

Since many pets are considered members of the family, pet owners want the same level of medical care for their pet as they do for themselves. At specialty hospitals like The Animal Medical Center, this high level of medical care includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

I am often asked if a dog is too old to get treatment. My patient population and that of most oncologists is elderly. To be trite: “Age is not a disease.” But some older pets may have diseases which complicate cancer therapy or have such a delicately balanced treatment regime that cancer treatment is not a good idea. Other older pets sail through cancer treatments, like Spenser.

Cuddles/Photo by Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

Cuddles the Cat is a chemotherapy patient. Notice the short stumpy whiskers on the right side of her face, which are the only outward sign of chemotherapy treatment she has.

Side effects — nausea, vomiting, hair loss — become another worry for pet owners based on their experiences with human family members. Veterinary cancer treatment goals are different. We strive to improve the quantity of life as well as the quality of life for our dog and cat patients. We usually can achieve this goal and if we can’t, we understand if the owners choose to discontinue therapy.

Since I am an oncologist, I bet you think all the pets I see get treatment for their tumors. Not so fast. The decision to treat cancer in a pet belongs to the pet’s family, not me. My job is to provide information about prognosis, complications and expectations. The family has to weigh the tough stuff and this decision is never taken lightly. I had one lovely, but unlucky cat owner client. Both her cats developed the same uncommon tumor. She chose to treat one, but not the other. Why? The two cats had diametrically opposed personalities. We treated the gentle, cooperative cat, but much to my relief, she perceived treatment of her ultra-cranky cat would be stressful for him, a tribulation for her and dangerous for the oncology staff.

If you are worried your pet might have cancer, click here to find the warning signs of cancer in pets.

If your pet is showing any of these signs, see your veterinarian right away.

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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.


Thinking Outside of the Box: Creative Medical Solutions

March 21, 2011

Creative solutions to manage tough medical issues.

My colleagues at The Animal Medical Center have recently come up with innovative solutions to two very interesting cases that I’d like to share with you.

The PEG Tube for Bloat

Rufus/Photo: Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

Rufus has a percutaneous endoscopically-placed gastrotomy tube (or PEG tube for short). These tubes are commonly used at The AMC in both canine and feline patients who cannot or will not eat voluntarily.  Rufus eats fine.   His problem is gas in excessive amounts, so much so he becomes dangerously bloated – commonly known as belly bloat.

Dr. Sarah Stewart of The AMC’s Internal Medicine Service determined that a strategically-placed PEG tube would relieve pressure and allow removal of excess stomach gas from Rufus’ stomach without the need for an ER visit.

Low profile tube in rufus/Photo: Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

The AMC team helped Rufus’ owners learn how to use the PEG tube at home to keep Rufus comfortable — and prevent hospital stays — while The Animal Medical Center team formulates a special diet and adjusts medications.  I am happy to report that the PEG tube is working so well, in fact, that Rufus’ owners have already managed several bloat episodes at home, by themselves, without any medical support from us.  The new diet is working and gas production is way down.  Yesterday, Rufus had a low profile tube placed to make him more comfortable.  I have included a photo of the new tube taken just after it was placed.

A Pleuroport  for Fluid Removal

Mencheese, a beautiful, 13-year-old cat, has a tumor in front of his heart. The tumor is producing fluid which accumulates around his lungs. This fluid build-up makes it difficult — and uncomfortable — for Mencheese to breathe.

Dr. Janet Kovak, a member of The Animal Medical Center’s Soft Tissue Surgery Team, placed a pleuroport which provides a device that quickly and painlessly allowed us drain the fluid from Mencheese’s lungs until the chemotherapy controlled the tumor and stopped the fluid production. Dr. Kovak treats many types of soft tissue injuries or illnesses through the use of minimally invasive surgery such as thorocoscopy and laparscopy.

Mencheese/Photo: Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

Take a look at the photo to see the pleuroport in action. Mencheese is sitting comfortably on a treatment table in the oncology treatment area at The AMC. You can’t see the pleuroport — it is under his skin — but you see the special needle and the tubing we use to drain the fluid. Keeping the fluid drained off his lungs has really improved Mencheese’s quality of life. He has been wolfing down cat food like he hasn’t seen a square meal in months!

Some readers may be familiar with a similar device called a vascular access port (VAP). Like the pleuroport, a VAP is surgically implanted. But instead of being placed into the space around the lungs, it is placed into a blood vessel. The VAP is used to draw blood samples and administer chemotherapy to cancer patients without the need for repeated blood draws or catheter placement.

The stories of Mencheese and Rufus are just two stories about “pets on the road to recovery” because of some creative care by The AMC staff and hard work on the part of devoted pet owners.

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.


Seven Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

February 23, 2011

Yesterday, February 22, was National Spay Day and some consider the entire month National Spay and Neuter month.

Spay is the colloquial term for ovariohysterectomy. Neuter, sometimes called altering, is the surgical removal of male reproductive organs or testicles. Both procedures have the same result: they prevent unwanted pregnancies.

But wait — these procedures have health benefits beyond preventing unexpected litters of puppies and kittens. The Animal Medical Center staff gives these seven reasons to “fix” your pet even if it isn’t broken!

1. Prevent pyometra a common, life-threatening uterus infection of unspayed dogs.

2. Eliminate the risk of testicular cancer and uterine and ovarian cancer.

3. Decrease the risk of prostatitis, a bacterial infection of the prostate.

4. Decrease aggressive behavior, especially in male dogs, helping to prevent dog bite injuries in humans.

5. Decrease the risk of breast cancer in both dogs and cats, especially if she is spayed before 6 months of age.

6. Avoid stinky male cat urine on your walls, drapes or bed.

7. Save approximately 4 million lives annually. These lives belong to unwanted dogs and cats euthanized in America’s animal shelters.

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.


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.


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