You Make The Diagnosis: Cat Lower Jaw Problem

When I perform a physical examination on a cat, I try to open their mouth to check their teeth. I say ‘try’ because some cats absolutely refuse to give me a look inside. I hold the upper jaw (maxilla) with one hand and then gently apply pressure to the lower jaw (mandible) to open the mouth. When I did this to the cat in the video, I was in for a surprise. Examine the x-ray then the video clip by clicking below and make the diagnosis.

Video Clip of Cat Jaw

Fractured Jaw x-ray

Diagnosis: Mandibular Symphyseal Fracture

Mandibular symphyseal fractures are the most common type of jaw fracture I see in practice. Usually, the owner does not know that their cat has a fracture. I find it when I open the mouth and the two canine teeth move independent of each other.

Causes of this fracture include trauma from hitting the lower jaw when jumping down from high places or being attacked by another animal. It may also happen when the lower incisors are extracted. Another cause is failure of the growth plate between the right and left mandible to fuse when a kitten enters adulthood. The fracture is highlighted in yellow.

Fractured Jaw x-ray highlight







Even Though Delta, American and United Stopped, UPS and FedEx Still Ship Animal Trophies From Africa

After a Minnesota dentist killed Cecil, a beloved lion from Zimbabwe, the sport of trophy hunting has come under scrutiny. In this so-called sport, wealthy hunters pay local guides to help them bag a prize specimen. In Africa, the big 5 are the most common kills –  African lions, African elephants, cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros. Cecil was a rare black-maned lion that was beloved at his home in Hwange National Park. He even wore a GPS tracking collar and was part of an Oxford University research study.

When news of Cecil’s death went public, three US airlines took the brave and thoughtful step of announcing they would not transport animal trophies. American, Delta and United have banned the transport of the big 5.  They join Lufthansa Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo who also ban these shipments. Hopefully, preventing a hunter from bringing their kill home will diminish this ghastly activity.

Now it is time for UPS and FedEx to do the same. At present, “Shipments of hunting trophies are still allowed by United Parcel Service, a UPS spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Tuesday, noting that the global shipping giant follows U.S. and international laws, not public opinion, in determining what it will and won’t ship.” FedEx won’t ship the entire carcass but will ship animal parts for taxidermy. ” FedEx spokesperson Jim McCluskey emphasizes that these specimens are obtained legally.”

But how do the companies know the animals or animal products were obtained in accordance with all international laws?The authorities in Zimbabwe are trying to extradite Dr. Palmer because they believe he illegally killed Cecil. They believe the lion was driven out of the park to Dr. Palmer for the kill. The dentist responded by stating he relied on his guide to follow the laws and went into hiding. Yet Dr. Palmer has a history of illegally killing animals he wants for a trophy. In 2006, he illegally shot a black bear in an unauthorized zone and then lied about the location of the kill. He was fined and sentenced to one year of probation in 2008.

One of my proudest moments as a veterinarian was turning in an individual who was awarded jail time in Minnesota for abusing cats.  I believe Dr. Palmer deserves to lose his dental license for his clear lack of judgment and compassion.  Further, having failed to learn his lesson before, I believe he deserves to rot in a Zimbabwean jail for many years and I ask our government to extradite him as Zimbabwe has requested.

Conversely, I want to strongly applaud American, Delta, United, Lufthansa Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo airlines for halting the transport of trophy kills. These companies understand that limiting a hunter’s ability to bring home the dead animal will deter the practice.  Their actions also encourage the more enlightened practice of ecotourism to replace canned hunts. Now it is time for FedEx and UPS to follow their leads. Please ban the shipment of trophy animals now.


Gajanan, Majita. “Hunter who shot Cecil the lion illegally killed black bear in Wisconsin in 2006”.

Larimer, Sara. “While airlines ban hunting trophy shipments, UPS says it won’t bow to controversy” Morning Mix, The Washington Post, August 3, 2015.

Staff writer for Reuters, “Major U.S. airlines end trophy hunter shipments after Cecil Outcry”.






Take Your Dog Hiking

Hiking with your dog is a wonderful past time. Recently, I was hiking on the north rim of the Grand Canyon when I met Frankie. He was ‘hiking’ out to Bright Angel Point with his family. Frankie does not like crates because his prior family kept him locked up for extended periods of time.  But, he loves backpack rides! When the hike is over, he naps in the car on the way home. In fact, his family states he has ‘CARcolepsy’, falling asleep soon after the engine starts.

Freddie the backpacking dog 2015

Here are my tips for hiking with your dog:

1) Water – Bring plenty of fresh water for you and your pet. Resting fluid requirements for dogs are approximately 1 ml.  per pound per hour. That means a 10 pound pooch requires 10 mls. every hour just to meet their metabolic requirements at rest. If the dog is running around and panting, another 10 to 20 mls. may be needed to avoid dehydration. Letting the dog lap out of the palm of the hand wastes a lot of water. To avoid waste and having to carry even more water, I recommend a recycled margarine container. Though some people like them, I find the fabric, flexible bowls too cumbersome to use.

2) Food – Unless the dog “hikes” like Frankie, hiking burns a lot of calories. Bring along biscuits or dog kibble to provide energy. Feed every 2 hours of active hiking. Hypoglycermia (low blood sugar) is common in active dogs. Watch for weakness, incoordination and lethargy. Some dogs act drunk when their blood sugar drops. If this occurs, feed them immediately. If they can’t eat, place honey in their mouths and then feed ASAP.

3) Sunscreen – Dog skin, especially pink areas, is susceptible to sunburn just like human skin. Hike before 10am or after 4pm when the intensity of the sun has lessened. Also, apply a pet-safe sunscreen like Epi-pet every 2 hours. Avoid sunscreen with zinc as ingestion may cause anemia.

4) Flexi lead – I love retractable leashes for hiking because they give the dog freedom to explore while still keeping them under control. I also recommend keeping dogs close to prevent wildlife attacks.  Please take extra precautions with small dogs ( < 20 lbs) that may be carried away by hawks, owls and eagles.

5) Make sure the dog is current on vaccinations, heartworm monthly treatment, flea and tick preventative. Although hiking is fun, it also exposes dogs to potential health problems that can be avoided with preventative care. Flea and tick control are vital to prevent disease like the plague in the desert southwest and Lyme disease in the northern US states.

6) First aid kit – a) Bandages, tape and roll gauze b) Tweezers c) Antiseptic solution for treating cuts d) Eye wash                                           e) Diphenhydramine (Bendadryl) for allergic reactions f) Packets of honey for treating hypoglycemia

7) Booties – When hiking in rough terrain, pad lacerations are always a problem. If your dog will tolerate them, booties are a great option for protecting pads. Some even come with cooling packs or heating packs that can be placed inside the bootie depending upon the weather.

Happy Hiking!

Freddie the backpacking dog 2015B

Beneath The Surface: Dental Disease In Cats

Dental disease is a common problem in cats. Some cats get a build up of tartar that is easy to see. Other problems are more subtle and require dental X-rays to assess what is happening below the gums. Look at the teeth pictured below. The tooth on the right (Third premolar,  #408) is normal but the tooth on the left (Molar, #409) is diseased and causing a lot of pain. Look at the reddened gum below it. Inflammation characterized by redness and swelling are common signs of dental disease in animals of all kinds. Now look at the far left side of the tooth. See the reddened area that looks like a piece of enamel was chipped off? This is an odontoclastic resorptive lesion (FORL). It doesn’t look too bad on the surface.

Mauka 3 snip

The truth is that this is a severe lesion. The x-ray below is the reverse image of the teeth above. Now the normal tooth (408) is on the left while the abnormal one (409) is on the right. Almost half of the crown has been eroded by the cat’s immune system. With time the nerves will be exposed causing chronic pain.  When a probe was run over the area, it made the cat’s jaw move even though he was anesthetized!  The pain was immense.

Mauka 2 snip

In practice, I have found that this condition is often symmetrical. Below is the dental X-ray of the same two teeth on the other side of the lower jaw.  The premolar (308) is on the right and the molar (309) is on the left. Although the crown is normal, the root on the left side is not.

Mauka 1 snip

Both of these teeth were extracted shortly after the films were taken. The cat’s mouth was sore for a few days but he quickly returned to normal. Two weeks later, he was eating dry food again.

Dental pain can be excruciating.  Unfortunately, animals deal with it in ways that make it difficult to know they are suffering.  Their stoicism does not help us always appreciate the  pain they endure.  Please make certain a thorough dental exam and treatment are part of your routine animal care.