St. Paul Public Library

Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life is now available at the St. Paul Public Library!  Since my first book chronicles a Minnesota Veterinary Clinic, it was a great joy to learn that the St. Paul Public Library found it worthy to put on the shelves.  Every library that adds it to their collection brings me joy.  I hope you will forgive me for wanting to celebrate just a bit.

As a young women, I never thought I would write.  However, I was often at the library checking out any book they had about animals.  Libraries are a gift in our communities.  Just as our local library contributed to my desire to become a veterinarian, that dynamic continues  now for young people every day.  All who love animals can learn so much and explore the human-animal bond through books by Dr. James Herriot or any of the other wonderful authors whose work on this topic enlightens us.  I hope my book inspires others to pursue this wonderful profession of veterinary medicine.
2012 has become a great year for me in interfacing with libraries. I am deeply honored to present to the Arizona Library Association at their annual conference next month.  In December, I am the speaker for the Pima Library Foundation in collaboration with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.  It will be fun to celebrate animals and books with people who love them both.  

I am almost done with the first draft of the second in the series, Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love.  It will be published in 2013.  The writing is a joy given the support this new author receives from the St. Paul Public Library and many others.  If you have not been in awhile, I encourage you to visit a library and undertake a new and wonderful exploration of their riches.


You Make The Diagnosis: Iguana With Swollen Jaws

Iguanas require a lot of special care to keep them healthy in captivity.  This iguana suffered from anorexia, lethargy and reluctance to move. 

Examine the image carefully, before answering the following questions; Name the medical condition this iguana suffers from.  What causes it?   

Diagnosis:  Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease is a common disease of captive iguanas.  Lack of vitamin D3 from ultraviolet light leads to improper calcium absorption.  As the disease progresses, the bones suffer from calcium depletion causing fractures of the long bones and swelling of the jaws.  Look closely at the lower jaw.  See how swollen it is.  This condition is called rubber jaw because it feels soft and squishy when touched.  
Unfortunately, few captive iguanas receive enough of the ultraviolet radiation needed to prevent this condition.  In my experience, the number one cause is a burned out full spectrum light bulb.  The ultraviolet part burns out before the visible light does.  Naturally, many owners think that if the light is on, it is working.  The second most common cause is an improperly balanced diet with too little calcium.  The third most common cause is not exposing the iguana to the light for enough time each day.  The light must be suspended within eighteen inches of the iguana for twelve hours a day.  

When the metabolic bone disease becomes as severe as pictured above, it is extremely difficult to save them.  This iguana spent two weeks in the hospital receiving tube feedings and calcium injections.  He made it but his jaws never returned to normal.  He also suffered from a lot of back pain that limited his climbing.  He required a cage with ramps instead of branches because he couldn’t climb. 

Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs

    As a veterinarian, I dread diagnosing hemangiosarcoma in my patients because there are no successful treatments for this aggressive cancer.  Hemangiosarcoma originates from blood vessels so it can occur anywhere in the body.  In dogs, I see it most commonly in the spleen, heart and skin.  German Shephards and Golden Retrievers are the breeds most affected by hemangiosarcoma.  
    Traditional treatment centers around removing the tumor by performing a lumpectomy with wide margins on skin masses or a splenectomy for splenic masses. Even with removal, metastasis to the liver and lung are common.  Most patients die or are euthanized within two to three months of diagnosis.  
    Drs. Dorothy Cimino Brown and Jennifer Reetz decided to try a polysaccharopeptide (PSP) from the Yunzhi mushroom.  PSP is believed to have the ability to fight tumors as well as boost the immune system.  They took a group of 15 dogs with hemangiosarcoma, divided them into three groups and placed them on 25, 50 or 100 mg/kg/day.  The results were astounding.  The median survival time for the 100 mg group was 199 days.  For patients without any treatment median survival was  86 days.  Best of all, no side effects were reported.  Based on the success of this study, more research is planned to confirm their results.  Although this is far from a demonstrated standard of care, it is quite encouraging.  I look forward to monitoring progress in this line of research and desperately hope to have a treatment in the future that offers realistic hope to animals and people.

More info at:

Cat Hairballs

Before I examine a cat, I usually ask the owner if the cat has any problems with coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea.  Even though the cat will vomit hairballs, most people will answer ‘no’ because they think vomiting up a wad of hair is normal.  But is it?  Probably not based on observations of wild felines who consume hair from their prey as well as grooming, yet do not vomit hairballs. 

Although it is still a controversial subject among us veterinarians, I believe that hairballs or trichobezoars are a sign of poor intestinal motility.  Instead of passing through the gastrointestinal tract, the hair sits in the stomach growing bigger and bigger until the cat finally vomits.  In my experience, vomiting hairballs is often an early sign of a inflammatory bowel disease.  Inflammation interferes with normal peristalsis which is why hair accumulates in the stomach.  If a cat is vomiting up hairballs on a regular basis, further diagnostics are recommended to rule out inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal lymphoma and other conditions.

For many years, flavored petroleum jelly was the basis of therapy.  A one to two inch strip was feed to the cat in order to help the hair pass more easily by lubricating their insides.  When prescription diets hit the veterinary market, it wasn’t too long before diets formulated to prevent hairballs appeared.  Most are formulated with increased levels of fiber to raise motility.  Unfortunately, the fiber blends are often proprietary so it is hard to know if the fiber is soluble or insoluble.  Soluble fiber is digested by microbes living in the gut while insoluble fiber passes through unchanged.  Neither one of these specifically treat inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract.

To decrease inflammation in the intestinal tract, I recommend a novel, limited antigen canned diet.  Since cats are strict carnivores, they do not metabolize carbohydrates as well as humans or even dogs do.  Feeding a canned diet dramatically reduces the carbohydrate load as long as it does not contain gravy.  In my experience, the frequency of hairballs will slowly decrease over time.  


Salmonella Infection in Dogs and Cats

    Today CNBC reported that Nature’s Recipe announced a voluntary recall of their product, Nature’s Recipe Oven Baked Biscuits with Real Chicken due to possible salmonella contamination.  So far, there have been no cases of animal or human illness caused by this product.  Because of all the recent recalls, I thought it would be a good idea to review the clinical signs of salmonellosis in dogs and cats.
    Dogs and cats develop infections three to five days after exposure.  Clinical signs include fever, lethargy, anorexia, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting and/or abdominal pain.  Diarrhea can range from mucous to bloody in nature.  In severe infections, shock may develop requiring immediate medical intervention.  Salmonella may also affect the central nervous system causing seizures, paralysis and blindness.  Pregnant dogs and cats will often abort their litters or give birth to stillborn babies.  Humans have many of the same clinical signs as animals namely, headache, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.  Please seek medical help immediately if these signs develop after contact with any contaminated products or animals.   
   More information on salmonella is available at the Centers for Disease Control at  For more information on the Nature’s Recipe recall go to  

You Make The Diagnosis: Name This Naughty Cat Behavior

This blog post is for adults only as it contains mature cat images.  Pictured in the video is a 10 year old male/neutered cat.  When one of the humans in this cat’s family lies down, the cat will jump on top of them and start to knead with all four paws.  At first, he placed his front feet on the bed and kept his back legs on the human’s abdomen.  Now, he straddles a leg and sometimes holds the blanket in his teeth.  Watch the video and name this common behavior.

Diagnosis: Feline Masturbation

In my experience, cats have a strong sex drive. Even after males are neutered, it is common for them to masturbate on soft items. Stuffed toys, fluffy cat beds and comforters are favorites. The cat in the video prefers fake fur. Spayed females also enjoy this guilty pleasure. So the next time your cat jumps on you in bed and starts kneading, you will know what they are really doing. Isn’t it great to know you’ve still got it!

Saddlebred Rescue

On this post I would like to highlight the work of a wonderful animal rescue group for horses; Saddlebred Rescue located in Hardwick, New Jersey.  Saddlebred Rescue is a verified member of the global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.  This organization buys horses from livestock sales that would otherwise be sold for meat to Canada or Mexico.  I was surprised to learn that American Saddlebreds are a favorite of the Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  As you probably know, most Amish are prohibited from using automobiles so they rely on horses for transportation.  When the horse is unable to perform their duties, they are sold at a livestock sale in New Holland.  I was disheartened to learn that after serving the community for years, this is often the next step for these horses.  I would hope they could remain on the farms where they so faithfully served.  Nonetheless, it is good that Saddlebred Rescue is available to provide the retirement these horses deserve.   

Once the horses arrive at North Wind Stables/Saddlebred Rescue they are quarantined and provided with medical care.  An extensive evaluation process begins to discover what are each horse’s abilities.  Do they have good ground manners?  Are they good under saddle?  Do they prefer driving?  After determining their strengths and weaknesses, including any chronic physical problems, the matchmaking process begins with the goal of placing each horse with the perfect adopter. 

More information, including pictures, may be found at  I hope you will take the time to visit this site and learn about the wonderful work they are doing with horses.  Below, are the before and after pictures of Baby Girl.  Thanks to the folks at Saddlebred Rescue, she has a wonderful home with a woman who adores her.  You can read more about Baby Girl under the testimonial button.

Baby Girl May 3, 2011 upon her arrival at Saddlebred Rescue

Baby Girl July, 29, 2011 at her new home.  Her transformation is nothing short of amazing! 

If you would like to contribute to the amazing work at Saddlebred Rescue, please go to