The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Last month I visited the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, an organization designed to “inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.”  My friends raved about this place that combines a zoo, botanical garden and natural history museum all in one gorgeous setting.  The animals and plants, which are all native to Arizona, are displayed in large, natural habitats.  All the animals looked calm and comfortable.  I did not observe any abnormal, stress related behaviors.  Please enjoy the pictures and visit their website, for more information.  Better yet, visit this special site in Tucson in person!

Diagnosis Of Hyperthyroidism In Cats

Diagnosing hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) is much easier than hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone).  A blood sample is collected and analyzed for the total amount of T4.  In general the normal range of T4 for a cat is 0.5 to 4.7 micrograms/deciliter, although this might vary slightly depending upon the lab.  A T4 greater than 4.7 is indicative of hyperthyroidism.  Cats with values in the upper end of normal might require additional testing to detect hyperthyroidism.     

Because hyperthyroidism is often associated with other medical problems, I always include a complete blood count (CBC), chemistries and a urinalysis with the total T4.  We also check blood pressure as many older cats suffer from hypertension.  Lastly, the ocular pressure is measured.  

The results of these tests will determine the treatment options available for the cat.  Because hyperthyroidism may mask kidney disease, it is extremely important to monitor kidney function.  Before pursuing a permanent treatment for the excess T4, I like to perform a therapeutic trial of methimazole, a medicine that binds thyroid hormone.  When the total T4 is within normal limits, I recheck blood and urine to make sure the cat’s kidneys are functioning well.          

Thank You Macerich

Today’s Arizona Republic has an article by Eugene Scott with wonderful news for animal lovers who oppose puppy mills.  Macerich is a developer and the parent company of Westcor.  They own many shopping malls in the Phoenix metro area.  Macerich malls will not renew the leases of pet stores who sell live animals.  Instead, they are going to partner with animal rescue groups to get adoptable animals into the malls.  At the successful Petique store at Biltmore Fashion Park and Petopia store in Desert Sky Mall, over 1,500 pets have been adopted in the past two years!

This is a great idea for all involved – the animals, the rescue groups and it should put a real dent in puppy mills.  It is important to note that not all pet stores who sell live animals get them from mills, but this is a great idea.  I commend Macerich for their decision.  Thanks also to the Arizona Republic for reporting this great story.  I hope more developers around the nation will embrace this idea quickly as it will be terrific for animals and for their business.

If you are interested in raising funds for a humane society, through purchase of an e-book of Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life, you can support the Animal Humane Society of Minnesota, the Humane Society For Seattle/King County and the Arizona Humane Society through December 31st, 2011.  For Arizona, the employees of Avnet, Banner Health, Basha’s, Catholic Healthcare West, Freeport McMoran, Honeywell, Intel, Pinnacle West, Scottsdale Healthcare and US Air have a chance to win a donation in their honor.  The links are below to both my blog and the newspaper story.

Wash After Handling Pet Food

Unfortunately, pet food can be contaminated with a variety of pathogens including salmonella and E. coli.  Dry and canned food, treats and supplements formulated for animals may all be contaminated just like food produced for human consumption.  Feeding raw diets to dogs, cats and ferrets are especially dangerous because freezing and/or refrigeration does not kill bacteria or parasites. 

As reported in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 2, 2011, “the Food and Drug Administration has begun a nationwide effort to test pet food for salmonella contamination amid evidence that it is sickening pet owners. FDA investigators started taking samples in October of dry pet food, pet treats and diet supplements from distributors and wholesalers. . . .”

Therefore, please handle all animal food with care.  Wash well after feeding your pet.  Keep children and immunosuppressed individuals away from pet food, bowls and utensils.  Wash pet food and water bowls regularly to protect all the members of your family.  Also, make sure any human products used on animals are not under a recall.  Remember the Peter Pan peanut butter recall?  I used a teaspoon of Peter Pan to give my dog, Susie, her medicine.  Unfortunately, I bought a recalled jar and Susie got diarrhea.  It was off the market for some time before returning to store shelves after they had resolved the issue.   

Let’s Help Pigs Going To Hawai’i

Typically I try to keep the blog upbeat.  But I have to share my opinion about Matson Navigation and their treatment of pigs sent to Hawai’i.  At the same time, it is important to commend their competitor Horizon Lines.  I also invite your help in signing a petition and passing this along to others who care about animals. 

As you many of you know, Hawai’i is my favorite place on earth.  Right now, Matson is transporting pigs from the midwest to the islands in conditions that I doubt any human with a heart could find acceptable.  I have reviewed the Matson website for a statement on this issue and found none.  I certainly invite them to comment – hopefully that they are changing their policy!  Horizon Lines has announced it will no longer transport live pigs to Hawai’i.  I applaud Horizon Lines for their decision and Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui for launching the petition.
If you are squeamish, you may not wish to read further.  However, the pigs need our help.  As a veterinarian, I am an advocate for animals.  I invite you to be one as well.  Please sign the petition at to end this horrible practice.  Here is the link and more detailed information:


Free Sterilization of Feral Arizona Cats

Attention all feral cat guardians!  Friday November 11, 2011 is Free Feral Friday.  The Altered Tails Barnhard Clinic is waiving the normal $25.00 sterilization fee and will spay or neuter feral cats for free.  Each cat will also be vaccinated for Rabies.  A donation is requested but not mandatory.  Bring the ferals in humane cat traps, no kennel cabs or crates will be accepted.  Call (602) 216-1160 to make an appointment.  Space is limited so call as soon as possible.  More information is available at

I want to thank the Arizona Companion Animal Spay/Neuter Committee and an anonymous donor for making this event possible.  I also want to thank Pfizer Animal Health, the sponsor of World Rabies Day Campaign.  Lastly, heartfelt thanks to all the feral cat guardians out there.           

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

This week, November 6th-12th, 2011 is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week.  Given all the animals who need homes and the wonderful people who undertake this emotionally hard work, I am delighted to pause and honor the shelters.  I also have an idea – wouldn’t it be grand if from now until year-end we could collectively raise a great deal of money to assist their important work?

Regular readers of this blog know that last year at this time I was in the hospital fighting cancer.  Fortunately, the cancer is gone and like many survivor’s I reflect on life’s path so far.  Three key places in my life are Minnesota where my book is based, Washington – I attended Seattle Pacific University and Arizona where I now live.  In business, it is always good to construct a win-win collaborative so I have an idea to make a difference that I hope you will also find creative.

Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life is a great holiday gift for animal lovers and those who want to be veterinarians.  Author’s long to share our work.  So I’ve created a fundraiser to expose more people to the book and, at the same time, help three animal shelters:  The Animal Humane Society in Minnesota, The Humane Society For Seattle/King County and the Arizona Humane Society.  Their websites are and  More about my background is at and the book’s website is

At Smashwords, the book can be downloaded in any electronic format – Kindle, Nook, iTunes and any other e-reader.  I wanted people who get e-readers as gifts to have time to download after the holiday.  So, until December 31, 2011, you can buy the e-book from Smashwords and earn credit in a friendly competition for your company.  I will donate 25% of the proceeds in the name of the employees and retirees of the winning company to the humane society from each state.  Thus, all three shelters will benefit.  Note I’ve taken a few liberties as not all companies are headquartered as indicated (e.g., Google isn’t based in Seattle but they have a great dog policy!).  Generally though, these companies have a meaningful presence in the state.  If I omitted your company, let me know and I will add it!  If you don’t work for one of these companies, pick a favorite and they will get the credit.  Please pass this along to colleagues who love animals.

To summarize all three shelters will receive a check in early January in honor of the employees and retirees of the winning team.  If interested, please go  to and when you go to purchase the book, enter your respective company code.  You may also download free samples.  If you have questions, please e-mail me at  Thanks and let’s raise a lot of money for these shelters – they do such vital work! 

Minnesota (note the codes are not case sensitive)

3M Company                     KT62S
Ameriprise Financial          NT23W
Best Buy                           RY34H
Cargill                               NE85B
Delta Airlines                    CZ24K
General Mills                     QT88D
Medtronic                          XN86T
Regis                                 MH48L
St. Jude Medical                QH38P
Supervalu                         ZU42X
Target                               ZR26M
UnitedHealthcare              CB62D
US Bank                            GC92F
Wells Fargo                       NY45Z
Xcel Energy                       JT66A


Boeing                              UA66L
Costco                              FB64G
Google                              LY34N
Microsoft                           PA585
Nordstrom                        NX82T
Russell Investments         QQ96J
Starbucks                         MZ42T
Weyerhaeuser                 LN45R


Avnet                                    DA64Z
Banner Health                      ZE34T
Basha’s                                KF76Y
Catholic Healthcare West     BD45F
Freeport McMoran                PM64M
Honeywell                            SD85W
Intel                                     NA32K
Pinnacle West                      SP94A
Scottsdale Healthcare          RM77D
US Airways                           UJ65R

Good luck teams!

Foothills Animal Rescue

I was honored when asked to speak about the human-animal bond to the volunteers and staff of Foothills Animal Rescue.  The event is their volunteer appreciation day on November 13th.  This is a wonderful rescue organization in my neighborhood in Scottsdale.  They have a great heart for animals.  Here is more information about Foothills Animal Rescue:

Clinical Signs of Hyperthyroidism In Cats

Hyperthyroidism or excess thyroid hormone production is a common problem in older cats.  For unknown reasons,some cats develop tumors on their thyroid glands as they age.  Although the majority of these tumors are considered benign because they do not metastasize, that does not mean that they do not affect the cat.  Thyroid ademonas secrete large quantities of thyroid hormone, far more than what the cat needs.  The high level causes a host of effects all related to an increased metabolic rate.

Clinical signs of hyperthyroidism: 

1)   Tachycardia (increased heart rate usually over 200 bpm).
2)   Gallop rhythm.
3)   Weight loss even though the cat eats well.
4)   Increased activity.  People often tell me the cat is running around like a kitten.
5)   Diarrhea.
6)   Vomiting.
7)   Hypertension.
8)   A thyroid nodule felt on the cat’s neck. 
9)   Acute blindness caused by retinal detachment secondary to the hypertension.
10) Vocalization.  Cats meow in a long, drawn out fashion.

*In my experience, weight loss is the most common sign of hyperthyroidism.