PET Scans And Pet Safety

After a PET scan, most patients are told to avoid contact with babies and anyone up through  the age of 18.  Patients are also told to keep their distance from pregnant women.  This prohibition is generally for 6 hours.  Physicians provide this warning because the radioactive material used in the scan, 2-fluorodeoxy-D-glucose (2FDG), may damage growth in immature individuals. 

Unfortunately in the discharge instructions from the scan facility, pets are often overlooked.  I recommend avoiding contact with any growing or pregnant animal. Since growth plates remain open in horses for up to 3 years, avoid contact with any colts or fillies under 3 years of age or any pregnant mare or filly.  For small dogs and cats, most growth plates are closed by a year.  In large breed dogs, growth plates remain open much longer.  I once radiographed a Great Dane who still had open growth plates in his shoulder at two years of age.  Therefore, I recommend avoiding large and giant breeds of dogs who are pregnant or under the age of two.  Just to be safe, I stay away from my pets for 6 hours after a PET scan just as I do for the young and pregnant people we are all instructed to avoid.  Once it is safe, I highly recommend hugging your animals.  PET scans are stressful and the love of animals is great for the soul, mind and body!    

Keystone Search and Rescue Dog Kenya

When crisis strikes in the mountains, it is great to know that dedicated dogs and people stand ready to risk their lives to save ours.  Last week I attended the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association Conference at the beautiful Keystone Resort.  It was a tremendous conference and I’m pleased that the veterinary profession continues to evolve with new procedures, pharmaceuticals and scientific inquiry always underway.  It is also great to attend conferences where pets are welcome! 

While in Keystone, I was fortunate to learn about Kenya and Sy.  Kenya is a trained search and rescue dog and Sy Meheen is an EMT and Kenya’s partner.  When people get lost in the mountains or an avalanche unfolds, they and other teams spring into action.  Time is of the essence in these circumstances so when they are on duty, it is just a matter of minutes before they can reach the top of the mountain by helicopter to begin the search.

One interesting fact, these highly trained dogs need frequent dental work.  Clean teeth aid their sense of smell to find the injured or lost skiers and hikers.


Acquiring, training and caring for these great dogs is expensive.  If you would like to help provide a gift in support of Kenya and the team, please contact Sy at (970) 496-4135.  Thank you!

Cancer Detecting Pets on Fox 10 News

Here is a link to tonight’s Fox 10 News in Phoenix.  It is a wonderful story about a special cat named Tigre and one grateful veterinarian.  The human-animal bond has many facets.  Here are two cancer patients who were diagnosed by animals.

What Is The Best Diet For A Dog With Cancer?

Unfortunately, there is no one perfect diet for dogs or people with cancer.  Each patient needs to have a diet formulated to meet their individual needs based upon the type of cancer, treatment protocol being utilized, body condition (overweight, underweight or healthy weight), other medical conditions, environmental factors and individual preference.  

In 1930, scientists discovered that cancer cells metabolize large amounts of glucose into lactate for energy(1).  As the tumor grows and the lactate builds up, a metabolic condition similar to Type II diabetes ensues.  Theoretically, a low carbohydrate diet should slow tumor growth and that’s what Dr. Greg Olgivie proved in a study of dogs with lymphoma.  Dogs on a high fat, low carbohydrate diet responded better to chemotherapy and stayed in remission longer than those on a standard diet(2).  A study of men with prostate cancer conducted by Stephen Freeland and William Aronson, had similar results(3).  The scientists concluded that “tumor biology can be altered by either a vegan low-fat diet or eliminating simple carbohydrates accompanied by weight loss.”  

Based upon these studies and others, low carbohydrates diets are generally recommended for dogs with cancer.  High quality protein is combined with fat (Omega 3 fatty acids, not omega 6) to meet the patient’s nutritional needs.  There are commercially available diets such as Hill’s Prescription n/d or recipes for homemade diets.  A word of caution about raw diets.  I do not recommend feeding raw diets to immunosuppressed patients.  The weakened immune system is no match for the large bacterial load found in raw foods and may lead to life-threatening infection.  Always cook food for immunosuppressed patients of any species.

Before placing your dog on a low carbohydrate, high fat diet for cancer, please talk to your veterinarian.  This type of diet may worsen other conditions including pancreatitis, kidney disease and obesity.  Each patient’s diet needs to be customized to their breed, other health problems, etc.  For example, miniature schnauzers are prone to lipidemia and pancreatitis.  I would be extremely nervous about putting a schnauzer on a high fat diet for any reason.  So again, please work with your veterinarian to formulate a proper diet.     


1)  Warburg O. (1930). The Metabolism of Tumors, Arnold Constable, London.
2)  Olgilvie GK, Walters LM, Salman MD, et al. Treatment of dogs with lymphoma with adriamycin and a diet high in carbohydrate or high in fat. Am J Vet Res, cited in: Ogilvie G., Care Beyond a Cur: Nutrition and Cancer–Exciting Advances for 2003, Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference Proceedings, 2003.
3)  Freeland, SJ and Aronson, WJ.  Dietary intervention strategies to modulate prostate cancer risk and prognosis, Curr Opm Urol. May 2009;19(3):263-7.

How to Keep Dogs Out of the Litter Box

Yesterday, a blog subscriber asked me how to keep her dog out of the cat’s litter box.  Since this is such a common problem, I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to preventing coprophagia (eating feces).  There are two basic methods for treating this problem:

1)  Use a coprophagia deterrent
    Cat feces contain a lot of protein which is what makes them so attractive to dogs.  Since cats are strict carnivores, the protein in their diet cannot be changed.  You can make it taste bad though.  One method is to place Tabasco sauce or something similar on the feces.  The problem with this approach is that some dogs actually like spicy foods and some cats refuse to use the litter box with the new aroma.    
    To correct this problem, products like PRN Pharmacal’s CoproBan were developed.  The product is fed to the cat which makes their feces less attractive to dogs.  I have had much better luck with these types of products than the Tabasco sauce.  Problems with this approach stem from the cat refusing to ingest the product and some determined dogs will still eat the feces albeit with a sour look on their face.  Make sure your cat does not have any food allergies before using this type of product.

2)  Prevent access to the litter box
    One way to prevent access for large dogs is by using a covered litter box.  Place the cover on the box and then orient the opening towards a wall or corner.  Give the cat just enough room to comfortably get into the box.  If the opening is oriented towards the room, dogs will get down on their elbows and stick their heads in the box.  I recommend this position even if the cover has a swing door.  A word of caution, do not use covered boxes for cats with asthma, bronchitis, allergies or other lung conditions.  Also, avoid dusty litter .
    The other option is to place the litter box in a closet or room and then limit access by chaining the door.  Use a rope or security chain that allows enough space for the cat to pass but not the dog.  Make sure the dog cannot force its head through the opening.  I don’t want anyone getting stuck.
    Working with small dogs is much easier.  As long as the cat can jump normally, elevate the box by placing it on a table or counter.             

A Veterinarian’s Opinion On Doggy Doors

With people working long hours away from home, more families are installing doggy doors for their canine companions (and the feline variety for cats).  Although doggy doors are convenient, they also have risks.  It is important to weigh the risks versus benefits before installing one. 

Here are common problems associated with doggy doors:
1)  Allows uncontrolled entry to houses.  Robbers gain access by crawling through the doggy door.
2)  Allows wild animals into the house.  I heard about a woman who fed a coyote over her yard fence (I agree with you readers who believe this is a bad idea at many levels).  One night she didn’t have any leftovers.  The coyote ran into the house through the doggy door and grabbed her cat.  Kitty was never seen again.
3)  Dogs with poor vision, dementia or orthopedic problems have trouble getting back inside.  Depending upon the weather, hyperthermia or hypothermia may result.  I recently treated an elderly Pug for heat stroke because she couldn’t find her way back inside the house due to poor eyesight.  Thanks to the quick action of her family, and a great medical team at the clinic, she made it.  
4)  Escaped cats.
5)  They allow access to the pool.  Although most dogs can swim, getting out may be a problem.  If you have a pool, please show your dog how to get out.