National Cat Day 2013

October 29th is National Cat Day, a day to celebrate all things feline.  Contrary to popular belief, cats do not sleep all day.  They cycle through times of play, eat, grooming and sleep.   My cats seem to repeat this cycle twice each day with sleep periods that run approximately 6 hours in the younger cats. 

Interacting with a cat after a long day at work is a great way to lessen stress.  Studies performed by Dr. Karen Allen demonstrated that people who live with pets enjoy lower heart rates and blood pressure than people who live without pets. 

This National Cat Day will always hold a special place in my heart.  Tonight I received the copy of Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love back from the editor.  She loved it so I look forward to the final steps in advance of publication. 


Tapozole (Methimazole) in Cats

Tapazole is a drug used to treat hyperthyroidism in cats.  The generic name for tapazole is methimazole.  It acts by inhibiting iodine incorporation into thyroglobuin thereby interfering with the synthesis of thyroid hormones.  Originally, the drug only came in a pill form.  Since pilling cats is not always pleasant, the medication can be compounded into a liquid or cream by a compounding pharmacy.  The liquid is often flavored to appeal to a cat’s sense of taste although I have to warn you, most owners still have to force it down their cat’s throat.  If you can’t pill the cat, I recommend the cream.  A small amount is applied to the inside of the ear flap as directed.  The cat absorbs the medicine through its skin.  Side effects of this medicine include vomiting, anorexia and depression during the first three months of therapy.  The more serious side effects that occur with this drug are liver disease, blood abnormalities and self-induced excoriations which means the cat chews on its own skin causing harm.  To prevent these problems, cats on chronic therapy should visit their veterinarians for a physical and blood work every 6 months.     

Here’s a link to a video of Dr. Nelson discussing this top at

Coconut Oil for Dogs and Cats

Coconut oil has become a popular fatty acid supplement for humans.  Some of my clients who supplemented their pets with fish oil have switched to coconut oil because they thought it was better.  Unfortunately, this is only true for patients with severe gastrointestinal disease or cognitive dysfunction.  Unlike fish oil, it does not help with inflammation.  Let me explain:

Dogs and cats need omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.  These long chain fatty acids are considered ‘essential’ because dogs and cats cannot manufacture them from other food sources.  These fatty acids play a vital role in many body functions including development, reproduction and the integrity of cell membranes.  The most important of these essential acids for dogs and cats are linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid which are both derived from plants.  Believe it or not, corn oil is a great source of linoleic acid with a smaller amount of alpha-linoleic acid while canola oil has more alpha-linoleic acid with lesser amounts of linoleic acid.  Olive oil has very little of these two substances which is why I don’t recommend it as a fatty acid supplement. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are made up of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosohexaenoic acid (DHA).  EPA and DHA are the best at reducing inflammation.  They are produced by algae and plankton and then accumulate in fish that ingest them.  Currently, the most cost effective source of EPA and DHA is fish oil.  I recommend using a product made from fish at the bottom of the food chain.  This avoids the build-up of toxins like mercury in the fish at the top of the food chain.  Coconut oil does not contain EPA or DHA.     

Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid and does not act like a long chain fatty acid.  It does not contain linoleic or alpha-linoleic acid.  Long chain fatty acids are compacted into chylomicrons and transported through the lymphatic system.  Medium chain fatty acids bypass the lymphatics and are absorbed directly into the portal system.  I use coconut oil as a source of calories for patients with damaged lymphatic systems or decreased absorptive capacity as in short bowel syndrome.  I am also starting to recommend it for senior dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction based on work done in people.  So far, my small sample size shows that one dog improved greatly while the other three stayed the same.    

Again, I would like to repeat that coconut oil is not a replacement for fish oil.  I only recommend it for animals with severe gastrointestinal disease or animals with cognitive dysfunction.  In my experience, it does not help with osteoarthritis, dermatitis, allergies or asthma.  Before using coconut oil, speak with a veterinarian.  Coconut oil is very high in calories leading to weight gain.  Please have a veterinarian calculate how many calories to cut out of a patient’s diet before starting this supplement.  Also, be very cautious in animals with hyperlipidemia syndrome or animals prone to pancreatitis.  Lastly, stick with fish oil for helping cats and dogs with inflammation.    

Lexox, Catherine, Small Animal Nutrition, Continuing Education through VIN, 2013.  


2013 National Veterinary Technician Week

October 13th-19th is National Veterinary Technician Week.  I want to dedicate this blog to all the veterinary technicians who dedicate their lives to saving animals.  These gifted health care professionals are the wind beneath a veterinarian’s wings.  We simply couldn’t do our jobs without them.  Let me give you a peak into what veterinarian technicians do with the following story.

Last winter, I treated many, many puppies for parvovirus enteritis.  The pups caught this life-threatening virus because their families either didn’t vaccinate them or purchased ineffective vaccines from the internet or feed store and gave them without veterinary supervision.  Since there is no medicine to ‘cure’ the virus, infected pups are given supportive care until their own immune system can get rid of it.  The virus destroys the cells lining the intestines of the pup as well as their bone marrow.  This leads to severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.  Sometimes the diarrhea is so bad it looks like dirty blood.  To make matters worse, bacteria are able to enter the pup’s bloodstream through the damaged intestines.  Without white blood cells which are made in the bone marrow, the bacteria infect the pup’s internal organs.  

This is a terrible disease and caring for these patients requires intensive care.  Sick puppies are isolated to prevent spread to other dogs.  Gowns, gloves and shoe protectors are required to enter the isolation ward.  Imagine how stressful this is to the sick puppy to be isolated away from their families while they fight for their lives.  Stuck in the quarantine ward surrounded by beeping equipment, the pup would be all alone if it weren’t for a veterinary technician.  He or she patiently cares for the pup by administering medicine, monitoring their lungs for signs of overhydration and cleans up the putrid diarrhea that would make most people queasy.  Most important, the technician reassures the pup through a gentle voice and comforting touch.  It’s the intangible factor that often makes the difference between life and death.  

Please thank the veterinary technicians who care for your pet.  From my perspective as a veterinarian, they are vital members of the healthcare team and quite often, the difference between a pet making it when the odds of survival are long.   

How to Separate Cats With Colds

Most colds in cats are upper respiratory infections caused by a virus.  These viruses are highly contagious.  If one cat is sick with an upper respiratory infection, it is important to separate them from other cats to prevent spread of the disease.  Here are my recommendations for isolating a cat at home. 

1) Isolate the sick cat in a room or crate with a comfy bed, food, water and a litter box. 
2) Cover your clothes with a protective gown and wear gloves while working with the sick cat. 
3) Immediately dispose of feces, urine and left over food into a sealed garbage bag and trash can. 
4) Disinfect anything the sick cat has come into contact with such as bowls, towels and litter before using it with healthy cats. 
5) When the sick cat feels better, do not let them play footsie under the door as they can still transmit the virus.  Keep the cat isolated for at least 2-3 weeks after their clinical signs resolve. 
6) Make sure other cats in the household are current on their vaccinations. Since cats infected with feline herpes virus 1 are infected for life, vaccination is the only way to protect the other cats

See Dr. Nelson discuss this in a video clip at


You Make The Diagnosis: A Dog’s Painful Encounter

Last Saturday night, I treated a unusual case for a city clinic.  A dog went out into his fenced backyard before retiring with his family for the night.  When he returned, blood covered his paws and face.  He was in extreme pain.  Please examine the picture of my patient’s paw then answer the following questions; What happened to this dog?  How is this treated?


Diagnosis:  Porcupine Quills

I was shocked to find porcupine quills embedded in this city dog’s paws, chest and mouth.  These quills are extremely painful and razor sharp.  I immediately gave this dog medicine to control his pain then sedated him while the quills were removed.  Several quills had buried under the skin requiring surgical removal.  He went home on antibiotics and more medicine to lessen pain.  Although he was sore for a few days, this dog went on to make a full recovery.  Below is a close up of a few quills.  


You Make The Diagnosis: Strange Structure On Paw

Pictured below is the paw of a dog who came in for veterinary care.  During my examination, I found this structure on the inner side of the dog’s leg.  Look at it closely then answer the following questions:  What is the structure?  How is it treated? 

Diagnosis:Overgrown Dewclaw(360 degrees)

I have never seen a nail grown in a perfect circle before.  Luckily for the dog, the nail grew around the pad instead of through it!  Even so, I suspect it caused pain from squeezing the pad.  To remove it, I used a small nail clipper that functioned like a scissor.  Even with medicine on board to block pain, it really hurt when I pried the nail off the pad.  Please check your dog’s paws regularly to prevent them from suffering from this condition.