Honoring Four-Legged Veterans

On Memorial Day, I was reflecting on veterans.  I believe it is fitting to honor all veterans. both humans and animals, who served in the armed forces. The humans return to the United States but what happens to the animals?  In the case of working dogs, many are left in the country where they served even though their handlers want to adopt them. I was recently shocked to learn that highly trained dogs are often left at animal shelters.  In 2013, Congress passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that made it easier for handlers to adopt their dogs.  They streamlined the process for adoption and provided a system for veterinary care.

Unfortunately, the amendment only really works for dogs who are retired while residing in the United States. The amendment had a loophole, one little word that still allows dogs to be left behind when retired in foreign countries.  Now a group a military dog handlers with the help of the American Humane Association are working to remove the loophole. They urge legislators to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to read , “Military dogs shall (not may as it is currently worded) be returned to the United States after their service ends.”

Currently, dogs that are retired out of country face a long tough road getting back to the United States. Cost is a big factor.  According to reporter Stephen Gutowski, “The American Humane Association spent nearly $6,000 to bring a dog named Maxie back from Japan last year.” Most handlers simply can’t afford this kind of expense without help.

Many of the handlers suffer from a variety of health conditions when they return.  We know of PTSD and how difficult it is for those who suffer from the condition.  It is important to know the vital role animals play in helping those with PTSD.  Many veterans are able to leave their homes because they know their animal has their back.  The confidence and peace of mind these dogs bring their old friends has a healing quality for both sides of the leash.

So I join many others in asking Congress to change “may” to “shall”.  It is the ethical response a grateful nation owes to the animals who served us so well.  In so doing, their service will continue for their human partners.



-Congress Passes Legislation Protecting Military Dogs” ASPCA, December 21, 2012.

-Gutowski, Stephen. Military Dog Teams Push to be Reunited After Their Fight is Over. Washington Free Beacon2012.

-Quinn, Melisssa. Four Legs and a Life of Service: The Fight to Allow Military Working Dogs to ‘Retire’ an U.S. Soil, The Daily Signal August 23, 2014.

Plague Found Again in Desert Southwest May 2015

On May 13, 2015 I received an update from the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association warning veterinarians that plague was diagnosed in Jerome, Arizona. A cat tested positive for Yersinia pestis and it is suspected in three other cats. Y.pestis is endemic to the southwestern United States as well as semiarid areas of Asia and Africa. The virus is found in rodents with rock squirrels, prairie dogs and ground squirrels being the most susceptible in the U.S. Fleas carried by the rodents transmit the bacteria to other animals and humans through their bites. An interesting fact is that dogs are much more resistant to the bacteria than cats. Hunters may contract the disease after exposure to infected tissues. Veterinarians have contracted the disease when caring for infected cats. The unsuspecting doctor fails to take appropriate precautions because they think they are treating a cat fight abscess.

Once infected, plague manifests itself in three different syndromes depending upon the route the bacteria entered the animal’s body. 1) Bubonic- After a flea bite, the bacteria is carried to the nearest lymph node (gland) where the bacteria replicates until it forms a bubo. The center of the swollen lymph node (bubo) forms an abscess. It will eventually break open and drain. 2) Septicemic- If the bacteria is able to enter the bloodstream, it will spread around the body causing sepsis. 3) Pneumonic- In the pneumonic form, bubos form in the patient’s lungs. This occurs when the bacteria is inhaled. The bubonic form carries the best prognosis.

Clinical signs of plague start with fever, anorexia, lethargy and enlarged lymph nodes. In cats, the lymph nodes under the jaw are the most commonly affected. Since abscess all look alike, take precautions before treating any animal with an abscess. Use masks and gloves to prevent transmission of the bacteria.

To prevent plague, the Arizona Department of Health Services recommends flea prevention for all pets. I recommend using flea and tick repellant.  The Brown Dog Tick found in Arizona carries Erhlichia canis which causes tick fever.


-Morgan, R. Plague(Zoonotic) Vin Canine Associate 10/11/2003, Revised by Rothrock, K. 3/5/2013.                                                              -Plague in Jerome, AZ, Email from Arizona Veterinary Medical Association, May 13, 2015.


You Make The Diagnosis: Dog With Tooth Problem

During every exam, I always analyze the teeth and look for signs of periodontal disease, malocclusion, masses or other dental problems. When I opened this dog’s lips, the left side of his mouth was normal but the right side had a serious problem. Study the image and answer the following questions: Which tooth is abnormal? What is wrong with the tooth? Is it in the correct position?

Enamel Defect

Diagnosis: 1) Upper right canine tooth 2) Enamel defect 3) No, it is out of alignment.

When I examined this dog’s mouth, I noticed the upper right canine tooth or fang was half the size of the left. It also had a defect in the enamel at the tip. (See the discolored area.)  Possible causes include trauma, enamel hypoplasia, enamel hypomineralization and enamel dysplasia. Since all the other teeth are normal, I think this tooth suffered some sort of traumatic event that pushed it up, backward and chipped the enamel. Next step, x-ray the tooth to see if there are any additional problems. If the tooth is healthy, the defect could be patched with composite although it often cracks off on the canine tooth. Other options include prosthodontics therapy or crown replacement like the dog had in the picture below.

Dental Implant Snip 2015