Glacier National Park – Moose!

A recent visit to Glacier National Park in Montana again reminded me that our National Parks are National Treasures.   On a cold, rainy day, we had barely entered the park when that time honored tradition emerged . . . cars stopping and people piling out while the rangers tried to maintain a semblance of order over city slickers gone wild!  It could only mean one thing in a National Park – an animal sighting.  Actually, the rangers did a great job because this moose continued to exhibit normal behavior.  Here is the standard I abide by, stay far enough away to permit the animal to continue their natural behavior.  If the animal retreats, you are too close.  I encourage everyone to consider that standard when viewing animals in the parks or anywhere outdoors.        

                                                                                                                      

Moose are the largest member of the deer family.  Males grow antlers which fall off every year (by comparison, horns on animals are permanent).  In winter months, moose nibble on woody shrubs and trees.  But in the summer, they love to eat aquatic vegetation.  It is therefore common to find them in a pond with their head immersed enjoying a wet delicacy.  Wow, this was a magnificent animal and a memory beyond words.  (See this big guy enjoying aquatic plants below.)  I will write again soon with more from Glacier National Park.  Until then, I invite to you to reflect on the majesty of this great animal and the wonder we can all discover in our National Parks!

   

Guinea Pig Diet

Disney’s movie G-Force highlights the adventures of animated Guinea Pigs.  Inevitably, there will be a surge in people choosing to adopt them.  So, I decided to write a blog about these wonderful little creatures.  They are great pets but do require a special diet to maintain their health. 

Guinea Pigs are hind gut fermenters which means they need a diet high in fiber.  I recommend that grass hay be kept available at all times to satisfy this requirement.  Be very careful with pellets!  Pigs who consume large volumes of pellets often struggle with obesity.  I recommend no more than 1/8 cup of pellets per pig per day. 

In addition to fiber, guinea pigs need Vitamin C.  Like humans, they cannot synthesize this important vitamin themselves.  They must consume it in their diet every day to prevent problems including poor hair coat, anorexia and lameness.  If the pig will eat them, green and red bell peppers are high in Vitamin C.  If not, I recommend giving them 25-50 mg of an oral supplement every day.  The chewable form works well once you find a flavor they like.  Mixing vitamin C in the water is not recommended because it degrades rapidly when exposed to heat and light.  

Lastly, I recommend a variety of dark leafy greens and other vegetables to provide some excitement in the diet.  I discourage feeding fruits because of their high sugar content.  Again, guinea pigs are wonderful animals.  With proper care, they can live quite awhile.  I find the greatest challenge people have is understanding the critical elements of their nutritional needs – especially for Vitamin C.
 
 

Hairless Kitten – Name This Cat Breed

This breed started in 1966 when a hairless kitten was born to a normal queen (female cat).  Although most of the body is bald, these cats often have short hair on their face, ears and paws that feels like suede.  Name this breed of cat.  Cat connoisseurs may also be able to name one other morphological feature these cats are missing.  Hint:  It is apparent from this photo of little Miss Lee.

                                    

Diagnosis:  Sphynx

Besides missing a fur coat, these cats also lack long whiskers!  They sometimes develop a few short fine ones that break off easily.  Sphynx come with all different coat colors.  Their eyes are typically gold, green or hazel.  Lee appears to have blue eyes.  This is common in young animals.  Her true eye color will not be apparent until she matures.  She also has a dirty face.  See the clumps of dried brown food stuck to her pink muzzle?  At the time of the picture, this kitten was learning to eat solid food.  Like youngsters of any species, she ended up wearing almost as much as she swallowed!   

Police Rescue Bobcat Kitten

Police officers dedicate their lives to protect and serve the public.  One special officer took that oath to the next level, when he acted to aid a wild animal in distress.  Officer Robins of the Scottsdale Police Department spotted a young bobcat caught in traffic on a major roadway.  Afraid for it’s safety, he risked his own since approaching any wild animal can be dangerous.  He scooped up the baby and placed it in the back of the squad car.  

   

After a ride back to the station, the kitten was transferred from the car into an animal carrier.  Here is a closeup of the little tyke as it waits for transfer to a wildlife rescue group.

 

I would like to thank Officer Robins, The Scottsdale Police Department and all the law enforcement agencies who dedicate their lives to serving the public, humans and animals alike.  I post this story to let you know that your acts of kindness to animals are greatly appreciated!

Scottish Terriers

Recently, I attended a birthday party for this handsome boy.  J.R. turned six.  Like all Scottish Terriers, this inquisitive guy likes to keep track of everything and everyone around him.  He ‘protects’ his property from rabbits and other critters and is a loving companion.  As a bonus, he keeps the floors clean earning him the nickname of Hoover after the vacuum cleaner.

J.R. is a healthy Scottie.  But unfortunately, Scottish Terriers can develop cancer.  Name the kind of cancer and where it is located.

                                         

DIAGNOSIS:  TRANSITIONAL CELL CARCINOMA

Unfortunately, Scottish Terriers are prone to a serious form of cancer called Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC).  The tumor often occurs in the trigone area of the urinary bladder where the ureters connect.  Dogs with this condition may strain to urinate, urinate frequently and/or have bloody urine.  From a veterinarian’s viewpoint, the cancer is sometimes difficult to diagnose because these same signs often occur with a simple urinary tract infection.  In fact, many of the signs improve with antibiotic therapy because the tumor is often associated with infections. 

To diagnose this condition, I start with a standard urinalysis and abdominal x-rays.  Sometimes tumor cells will show up making the diagnosis easy.  The next step is a Bladder Tumor Antigen test.  Although it is highly specific, the drawback to this test is false positives.  So I always recommend an ultrasound or contrast cystography to confirm the presence of a tumor.  Surgical removal of the tumor offers the best chance to ‘cure’ these patients but is not always possible if located in the trigone area.  Chemotherapy alone or in combination with surgery has made great strides in giving these patients relief from the symptoms.

Studies have shown that feeding vegetables and preventing exposure to phenoxy compounds in herbicide treated lawns will decrease the incidence of TCC.  J.R. eats his vegetables three times a week.  With this kind of care, I hope to help him celebrate many birthdays to come.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY J.R.! 

Navajo Animal-Control Officers Shoot 50 Dogs

I was shocked to learn this week that Navajo County animal-control officers shot and killed more than 50 dogs.  In an article published in the ARIZONA REPUBLIC titled “Shooting of 50 dogs by county criticized” reporters Glen Creno and Alex Dalenberg stated the officers felt it would be too difficult and dangerous to catch the dogs.  So they just shot them instead.  To further defend their actions, the county stated the dogs would have died in their transport vehicles anyway, because they are not air-conditioned.  Dr. Wade Kartchner who oversees the department voiced his support for the shooting.  He is quoted in the article as saying “We do feel like the decision made in the field was the right one to prevent suffering for the animals.”  Really Doctor.

Generally, I am a strong supporter of law enforcement (See my post on Scottsdale’s Crisis Response Canine Fozzie).  Yet this case is so egregious, I must speak out against the actions of these officers and Dr. Kartchner.   The Humane Society of the White Mountains has the resources in place to safely deal with large numbers of animals.  The Executive Director of the Society, Anna-Marie Rea stated in the article that “her agency would have dispatched a euthanasia technician, food, water and kennels to the site.  She also said the Humane Society has enough vehicles and volunteers with trucks and trailers to transport large amounts of animals safely.”  If necessary, they can also safely and humanely euthanize animals on the spot.  There was no reason for the Navajo County animal-control officers to shoot all the dogs. . . every last one of them. 

Through the years, I have worked with a number of talented animal-control officers who dedicate their lives to help people and animals.  These officers respect the animals and work with them in a professional manner. They would never kill 50 dogs with a gun.  In fact, they often adopt strays to save them from euthanasia!  I remember one officer who adopted hard luck cases including a dog with three legs and a cat missing an eye and ear.  I doubt he would defend the actions of his peers in Navajo County.  Nor would they likely have the support of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies who arrested people for cock-fighting in Arizona in the same week.     

Due to their actions and lack of remorse, I believe the officers involved should be relieved of duty (and of firearms!).  It is clear to me that they do not treat animals with respect.  In addition, Dr. Kartchner should be replaced.  I find any person who would defend shooting 50 dogs without an evaluation from a veterinarian not qualified to oversee an animal control agency.  The position of director should be filled with an ethical individual who will set that standard for Navajo County.  This includes having air-conditioned transport vehicles and veterinary consultation prior to slaughtering animals . . . and then hopefully, there will not be any more slaughters of dogs in Arizona.    

Greyhounds – Name This Painful Degenerative Disease

This blog post is dedicated to Sadie and Divot, two wonderful greyhounds who were adopted from The Houston Gulf Greyhound Park.  Sadie, the brindle (multi-colored), is a shy girl.  She prefers to sleep in small places that probably remind her of a kennel.  Divot, the dark one, is the exact opposite.  She loves to lay in her daddy’s lap while he watches TV.  Both of these fun-loving girls like to sleep on the bed.    

Middle age to older greyhounds are prone to a disease characterized by pain . . . pain when the tail is lifted, pain in their back legs and pain when their lower back is touched.  In severe cases, the dog may lose control of their bowel or bladder.  Fortunately neither Sadie nor Divot suffer from this condition.  They appear because they are gorgeous representatives of the breed.  Since I’ve posted this under “You Make The Diagnosis”, I ask you to name the disease:

   

DIAGNOSIS:  DEGENERATIVE LUMBOSACRAL STENOSIS (LS)

Degenerative lumbosacral stenosis is a chronic disease caused by compression of the nerve roots as they pass through the lumbosacral junction.  As the dog ages, degenerative changes cause the discs to bulge and pinch the nerve roots.  A small amount of compression causes pain.  Severe compression leads to paralysis. 

The goal of treatment is to reduce compression of the nerves.  If the disease is mild, I often treat with anti-inflammatories and medicine to control pain.  If the disease is severe, i.e., the dog is losing control of its back legs, I recommend surgical removal of the disc.  

As you can see from the pictures, both Sadie and Divot are doing well off the track.  Greyhounds are a great breed and rescued greyhounds from the track are often so grateful.  It is important prior to bringing a greyhound into your life to consider where they will get to run free as these dogs love to run.  Check with a greyhound rescue group in your area as they may have an organized gathering.  Next to my former clinic in Minnesota, several greyhound owners would meet regularly to let their dogs run inside the high school baseball field.  The dogs went nuts!  

Another interesting fact about greyhounds is that they are often used by veterinarians as blood donors.  They are nice to work with and have veins that are easy to see and stick for the donation!