Urge Officials To Increase Cage Size For Laying Hens

There are two amendments working their way through Congress to provide more humane conditions for egg-laying chickens.  I will never forget walking into an egg-laying facility in  during veterinary training.  Three hens were crammed into tiny cages, cages smaller than most people use for finches and canaries.  The next time I needed eggs, I made sure they came from free range hens. 

Although I think cage-free is the best option, this current proposal would make life much better for egg-laying hens.  Please contact your senators and representatives to voice support for the farm bill.  In the senate, support Amendment 2252.  In the house, support H.R. 3798 – Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment 2012.  Below is a link to the Humane Society of the United States that contains more information and provides a link to find the contact information for your senators and representatives.  Thank you!


Please Help Dogs Trapped In Puppy Mills

    Right now the United States Department of Agriculture is considering a proposal to crack down on puppy mills.  Because of a loophole in the law, many dogs live in filthy conditions with no medical care.  The females are bred back to back which means after they whelp a litter of puppies, they are bred again on the next heat cycle.  Reputable breeders give the girls at least one heat cycle off to recover from the stress of raising a litter.  The new rule would require large scale puppy producers who sell directly to the public to be licensed by the USDA just like producers who sell to pet stores.  That means passing regular inspections to insure the facilities meet minimum care standards. 

    Of course, the above presumes the USDA does their job and puts animals first.  In my experience, this has not always been the case.   
    The USDA will be taking comments from the general public until July 16th, 2012.  Please go to the Humane Society of the United States website or click on the following link that will take you directly to the comment page right away.  Together, we can close the loophole that allows this horrible abuse to continue.  Also, please adopt from a shelter.  If we buy from puppy mills, we are the problem.  Thank you!


Tips For People Who Are Allergic To Pets

As a veterinarian, I receive calls from distraught pet owners who think they have to get rid of their pets because a family member is allergic on a regular basis.   It breaks my heart to see these pets ripped from their homes when there are other options available.   In my experience, some physicians recommend getting rid of the pet without even discussing (or being knowledgable about) other alternatives.  Here are my tips for handling this common problem broken down into two situations, depending upon where the animals and allergic people live.

Animals live apart from allergic person: This is a relatively easy situation to manage.  People with pet allergies should refrain from visiting homes with pets.  Friends and family members with pets should shower and put on fresh clothes before visiting the allergic people.  I encounter this frequently with grandchildren who are allergic to their grandparents pets.  Thank goodness, many children will outgrown their allergies in time.  Remember to refrain from contact with the pet when leaving your house if you are headed to see an allergic person.

Animals live with an allergic person:  For this situation, I recommend bathing the pet at least once a week to remove dander and then applying a leave-on conditioner to hold the dander on the pet.  Keep the pet out of the allergic individual’s bedroom to give them a pet-free zone.  Set up air purifiers in each room to clean the air.  They have made a huge difference for my clients and even pets who suffer from allergies.  Remove or minimize things from the environment that trap dander such as drapes, rugs, horizontal blinds and upholstered furniture.  Clean sofas, blankets, pillows and tablecloths frequently to remove the allergin.  Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum several times a week to keep dander levels low.  Frequent vacuuming has really helped my clients.     
    I also recommend giving the pets as much outdoor time as possible to reduce allergins.  Fenced in yards with protection from the elements work well for dogs.  Cats enjoy screened in porches as long as you provide perches for rest and play.  Rabbits love to spend time nibbling on the grass.  I like the portable play pens with a top to keep predators from grabbing them.  Watch rabbits closely in warm temperatures as they overheat easily.  Also watch closely for rabbits that dig holes under the sides of the play pen. 
     Lastly, people who suffer from pet allergies should consider desensitization therapy to treat this problem, especially if prone to life threatening symptoms.  It is extremely difficult to avoid pet dander in the real world.  Children come to school with pet hair on their clothes.  My suitcase is often coated with fur from my cat.  There are also therapy animals in public places.  One of my best friends in veterinary school was allergic to cats.  Her parents decided to get rid of her cat instead of using medications and pursuing desensitization therapy.  When she became an adult, she underwent therapy and now treats cats.  Unfortunately, she still feels guilty about her childhood pet.  Contrary to what some physicians believe, getting rid of the pet is not always the best solution.             

Shar Pei Wrinkles and Mucinosis

Shar peis are known for their wrinkles, deep dermal folds that make them look like the Michelin Man.  What causes the wrinkles?  Hyaluronan the major compoment of mucin.  Shar peis have a genetic defect that leads to excess production of hyaluronan, formerly called hyaluronic acid.  Although the excess hyaluronan makes this breed of dog very cute, it does have a down side.  When hyaluronan is broken down, the degredation products cause inflammation leading to a painful condition called mucinosis.  Prednisolone will decrease production of hyaluronan but will also also decrease the wrinkles.  Pictured below is Lulu, one of the most beautiful Shar peis I have ever seen.  I hope she never gets mucinosis because I love her wrinkles!

Source:  Zanna, G., et al., Hereditary cutaneous mucinosis in shar pei dogs is associated with increased hyaluronan synthase 2-mRNA transcription by cultured dermal firbroblasts. Vet Dermatol 2009;20(5-6)377-82.

You Make The Diagnosis: Shar Pei Health Problems

This beautiful girl is Lulu, the most well behaved Shar pei I have ever met.  She greets everyone with a sniff before retreating to her gaurdian’s side.  Shar peis are known for their wrinkles and rough coats which may cause a rash in humans.  Name the most common health problems associated with the Shar pei breed of dog and then scroll down for the answers.


Here is a list of the most common health problems I see in the Shar pei breed of dog:

1) Skin fold infections, pyoderma and pododermatitis
2) Entropion
3) Hypothyroidism
4) Ear Infections
5) Demodectic Mange
6) Swollen Hock Syndrome which is also called Familial Shar Pei Fever