You Make The Diagnosis: Name The Most Common Arizona Tick

Pictured below is the back of a boxer rescued by Boxer Luv in Arizona.  When I first saw the photo, I thought the dog had a thick crust of dried blood on its back.  Closer inspection revealed the truth.  These are ticks!  This is one of the most concentrated infestations I have ever seen.  What kind of ticks are these?  What diseases do they carry? Hint:  This is the most common tick found in Arizona.


Diagnosis:  Brown Dog Tick

The brown dog tick is the most common tick found in Arizona.  The tick has four stages in its life cycle – egg, larvae, nymph and adult.  The size of the tick increases with each stage.  The larvae are sometimes referred to as “seed ticks” because of their small size.  Adult females may have a blue-grey color because of ingested blood.

It is important to protect pets from ticks as they often carry tick fever.  Ehrlichiosis or tick fever is a serious disease that requires veterinary care.  Thank goodness, the dog shown above tested negative for tick fever.  Thank you to Sarah Moravitz for providing this picture and all the other wonderful volunteers at Boxer Luv.  Keep up the great work!

Source:  Allen, Debbie. Ticks in Arizona, Arizona Cooperative Extension Yavapai County, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bulletin #77, December 10, 2008.

2011 Animal Charity Grant Winner – Spay Neuter Project of Los Angeles

Congratulations to the Spay Neuter Project of Los Angeles!  You are the winner of the 2011 Animal Charity Grant.  Pet overpopulation is a terribly difficult problem throughout America.  SNP LA is Los Angeles’s largest spay neuter provider.  They offer low cost surgeries to help the Los Angeles community prevent the suffering, hardship and too often, euthanasia that result from unwanted animals.  I look forward to speaking on behalf of SNP LA!

You can learn more about their great work at  I am pleased to join the Heigl Foundation, PetSmart Charities, Found Animals Foundation and many others who support this nonprofit organization in Southern California.

As a veterinarian, speaker and author, I have found offering this grant immensely rewarding.  So, around year-end, look for details on the 2012 grant.


Animals Pay The Price

The news from Ohio regarding this senseless and preventable tragedy breaks my heart.  Terry Thompson was convicted in 2005 of animal cruelty!  Yet the lack of laws in Ohio which would prevent him from housing animals, the incompetence, negligence or both of USDA and other regulators led to this enormous loss.  

This is not an isolated incident.  As a country, America needs to develop national and robust standards toward individuals in this sordid trade in wild animals.  In the meantime, I call on Ohio, my home state of Arizona and the other states without laws related to housing and trade in wild animals to immediately correct their oversight.  In all jurisdictions, animals must come first.  Permits to have these animals should be granted rarely – exceedingly rarely.  Both oversight and penalties for violations must be vigorous.  In my experience, USDA, Game and Fish regulators and the like are not up to the task.  I find they do not err on the side of animals and far too often, have coddled, shielded and obfuscated for those negligent or worse in the care of animals. 

It is not acceptable when known sites like this exist, that local law enforcement does not have contingency plans and tools ready to respond.  Shooting to death these innocent animals is not appropriate when for not much money, they could have tranquilizers ready should an escape or release unfold.  They should also have predetermined places to take the tranquilized animals.  Of course, I understand that being ill prepared, the officers had no choice but their leadership should have made sure the officers in the field were prepared in advance.  It’s not like they and USDA didn’t know about Terry Thompson.

As a veterinarian, I am an advocate for animals.  As a citizen, I am appalled by the state of animal protection in our country through the law, regulators and preparedness for those called to respond to a crisis such as this.  The loss of these magnificent animals is staggering.  They are irreplacable.

Franciscan Blessing Of The Animals

Saint Francis is revered through time for many reasons – including his love of animals.  I have been privileged to travel to Assisi and highly recommend the trip to that tranquil and beautiful town.  Saint Francis understood the interconnectedness humans share with the planet and other creatures.  It is therefore fitting that centuries after his death, the Franciscan’s celebrate animals and invite God’s blessing upon them. 

Next Sunday, October 23rd, 2011, I look forward to joining the second of a two day event at the Franciscan Renewal Center (also known as “The Casa”) to celebrate animals.  I will also sign copies of Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life, with a portion of the proceeds going to the good work of The Casa.  Here is a link for more information:
The Franciscan’s make our world a more peaceful, loving place.  Their love of animals is one wonderful example of that spirit.  I hope you can join us for this blessing of the animals.

You Make The Diagnosis: Airedale Terrier Health Problems

This is Lotar, a well-behaved Airedale terrier.  Notice his handsome red color?  This is a rare color in Airedales.  Among his many other wonderful qualities, that makes Lotar a special dog.     

Name the most common health problems observed in airedale terriers.


1) Hip dysplasia
2) Allergies/atopy
3) Hypothyroidism
4) Gastic dilation-volvulus (bloat)
5) Autoimmune hemolytic anemia

In my experience, these are the most common health problems I observe in airedales.  Some veterinarians would also include malocclusion (poor alignment of the teeth) and cataracts, although I have not personally seen these problems at a greater rate than in other breeds.   Fortunately, Lotar does not suffer from any of these. 

National Veterinary Technician Week 2011

October 9th through the 15th, is National Veterinary Technician Week.  The theme for 2011 is “Pets & Vets Need Techs!” which is absolutely true.  Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with many outstanding technicians.  Men and women who dedicate their lives to working with animals, sometimes at great personal risk.  I know several technicians who volunteer with shelters to save animals.  Other vet tech’s foster litters of orphans and bottle feed them through the night.  When an animal with a health problem is abandoned at a clinic, it is usually a technician who takes pity on the critter and gives them a home.  I could go on and on with stories of amazing veterinary technicians but suffice it say, veterinary technicians are special people.  

During this week long celebration, I want to express my gratitude to veterinary technicians.  I could not do my job without your help.  Thank you for your friendship, professionalism and unwavering dedication to animals!   

You Make The Diagnosis: Name A Jaw Disease Of Cairn Terriers

Pictured below is Delta Dawn, an adorable Cairn Terrier.  This ball of fur is in constant motion, exploring the world around her.  She loves to make new friends.  After a quick sniff, she wiggles into your arms and gives lots of licks. 

Cairn Terriers are prone to a bony disease that makes it difficult to eat.  Name the disease and other breeds it affects.

Diagnosis:  Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO)

Craniomandibular osteopathy is a proliferative bone disease that affects the bones of the head.  In my experience, the mandible is the hardest hit.  Puppies with this condition have problems opening their mouths making it hard to eat.  They may also have fevers from the inflammation and atrophy of the muscles of the head.  On x-rays, the bones look fuzzy with diminished calcium content.  It usually occurs in puppies, age three to ten months.   

Although this disease has been reported in many breeds, it is most commonly seen in Scottish terriers, Cairn terriers, West Highland white terriers and Boston terriers.  Craniomandibular osteopathy is an autosomal recessive disease of West Highland white terriers.  A genetic inheritance pattern has not been established in the other terriers listed.  In general, I do not recommend breeding any individual who suffered from this disease as a puppy. 

All 4 Fun Dog Festival at Circle of Friends Humane Society

Last weekend, I was in North Dakota for the Grand Forks Women’s Show.  At the show, I learned that the Circle of Friends Humane Society is having a special event next weekend.  On October 9, 2011 they are hosting the All 4 Fun Dog Festival.  The event starts at noon with an alumni reunion i.e., dogs adopted from Circle of Friends Humane Society.  Lunch will be served by the Manvel Fire Department.  After that, the contests start.  Besides the usual categories of best costume, best tail wagger, best trick and owner look-alike, they have a special one . . . most disobedient.  The day wraps-up with doggy games and a silent auction.  If you live in Grand Forks or the surrounding area, I hope you will spend some time at the All 4 Fun Dog Festival.  See the website for more information. 

Just a quick word of thanks to all who attended the Grand Forks Women’s Show.  I had a wonderful time talking about animals with you all.