Plague Found In New Mexico and Arizona

Another outbreak of plague has been found in New Mexico and Arizona. From January to July 2017, New Mexico has three confirmed cases of Yersinia pestis.  This bacteria causes plague in humans. Arizona prairie dogs in Cocinino county near Williams, Arizona suddenly started dying this summer. Testing revealed Y. pestis bacterium caused their deaths. Now, fleas in Navajo county have tested positive as well. Plague often occurs in the desert southwest states from May through October.

People develop plague after being bitten by a flea infected with Y. pestis within 2 to 6 days. If the bacterium is inhaled, the onset of clinical signs is only 1 to 3 days. Unlike people, cats contract the plague after eating infected rodents. Clinical signs in animals and people include swollen lymph nodes, fever and general malaise. Plague has three different syndromes in humans and cats.  Dogs are naturally resistant to the plague. Bubonic plague is the first stage that occurs when the bacterium settles into the lymph nodes of the head and neck. With time, the glands may rupture and drain a bloody material. Pneumoic plague occurs when the bacterium spreads from the lymph nodes to the lungs. Septicemic plague occurs when the bacterium enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. This form is rare in cats.

Intensive treatment with antibiotics and fluids must be started early to prevent death. Infected patients, animals as well as humans, are quarantined to prevent infecting others. Because of the extremely poor prognosis and rapid progression of the disease, treatment is often started before an actual diagnosis is confirmed. If plague is suspected, start treatment.

Avoiding the bacterium is the key to prevention. Keep cats indoors to prevent exposure to rodents. For the benefit of humans and cats who live with dogs, routinely use flea control products on the dogs. Clear out rodent habitats around homes. Humans should wear gloves when handling wild animals. Most human deaths are in either hunters who were bitten while handling their prey or veterinary professionals who were exposed when treating a sick cat.  This happens to vets and staff because draining buboes on the head and neck look similar to cat fight abscesses. More information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control.


-Hafner, John. ‘Plague in Arizona: fleas found carrying the infectious disease.’ USA TODAY Network, Published 8/16/17.

-Morrison, Wallace. ‘Plague’. Balckwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult, Canine and Feline, 5th edition, Wiley-Blackwell Publishers




H3N2 Dog Flu Hits Arizona

H3N2 dog flu has come to Arizona.  In 2015, a new strain of canine influenza hit the Midwest sickening more than 1,000 dogs.  At first, the outbreak was attributed to Influenza A H3N8, a virus that was first observed in the United States in 2004. But further testing by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University identified a new virus, H3N2. This avian virus was first found in 2007 in Korean dogs.  The H3N2 canine flue virus has also infected cats. So far, this influenza has not spread to humans. The virus spread across the United States until it finally came to Arizona. Now, two years later, two dogs at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control tested positive for the virus. Both are responding well to treatment.

Clinical signs range from mild malaise to anorexia, coughing, fever and a runny nose to severe pneumonia. Coughing lasts 10 to 30 days and fevers range from 104 to 106. The normal range for dogs and cats is 100 to 102.5. Deaths are rare but seen most often in brachycephalic breeds such as Shit tzus, Pekinese and pugs. Treatment is supportive as there is currently no cure available. Severely affected dogs and cats are placed in hospital isolation wards and treated with fluids, antibiotics and nebulization. The goal is to prevent a secondary bacterial pneumonia which can be life-threatening.

Since no specific treatment is available for this virus, prevention is the key to protecting both dogs and cats. I recommend vaccinating all brachycephalic breeds of dogs, immune suppressed and dogs who frequent dog parks, pet stores, boarding facilities and shelters. Since this is a new virus, dogs do not posses a natural immunity against it. There are two types of vaccines available for canine flu, one for H3N8 and one for H3N2. It is important to get the H3N2 vaccine because the H3N8 does not cross protect.  Take precautions to avoid accidental transfer of the virus from sick animals to your pets. Disinfect clothing, equipment and hands after interacting with other animals.


-Brooks, Wendy. “Canine Influenza (H3N8)”. The Pet Health Library, VIN, Published 10/24/2005, Reviewed 4/30/2014.


-‘Key Facts about Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)’. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-Rishniw, Mark. ‘Canine Influenz’. VIN: Veterinary Partner, published 04/17/2015, reviewed and revised, 06/19/2017.

-Schwartz, Joe. “Midwest Canine Influenza outbreak caused by new strain of virus”. April 12, 2015.



Blue Buffalo and Wellness Voluntarily Recall Dog Food After Three Dogs Suffered From Thyroid Toxicity

On March 17, 2017, the FDA announced that Blue Buffalo and Wellness dog food companies were voluntarily recalling some of their products because of excessive levels of beef thyroid hormone. The food contained gullets which are the larynx from cows and steers. Unfortunately, the gullets were not properly cleaned and contained thyroid glands which was the source of the toxicity. Three dogs from different households including a Shetland sheepdog, Tibetan terrier and Labrador retriever became ill. Thankfully, all of the dogs recovered once the food was taken out of their diets.

Clinical signs of thyroid toxicity, also called hyperthyroidism, include increased appetite, thirst and urination. A common clue is that weight loss despite an increased appetite. Another common clue is restlessness or an increase in activity in a senior pet. Some people describe it as, ‘acting like a puppy again.’ If left untreated, chronically elevated thyroid levels may cause vomiting, diarrhea, heart disease and death.

Diagnosis of thyroid toxicity is based on physical examination and laboratory testing. Animals with hyperthyroidism have elevated total thyroid hormone levels in their blood. They may also have other blood and urine abnormalities due to the far reaching effect of this hormone.

If you feed BLUE WILDERNESS or WELLNESS, please check for the following products that have been voluntarily recalled, stop using them and contact the company immediately. Here’s the list:

WellPet 13.2 ounce cans of Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs, best by dates of Feb, 2, 2019, Aug 29, 2019 and Aug 30, 2019. UPC code 076344894506. More info at

Blue Buffalo 12.5 ounce cans of BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe, Red Meat Dinner Wet food for Adult Dogs, best by date of June 7, 2019, UPC code 840243101153. More info at:


-News Desk. “FDA alerts consumers, vets to watch dogs for hyperthyroidism: ‘Extensive testing’ shows thyroid hormone in canned food from Blue Buffalo, Co., Welllpet” Food Safety News, March 28, 2017 email alert.

Update on Coated With Fur: A Veterinarian’s Heart

As many of you know, I am the author of the Coated With Fur series of books.  They recount stories from my days as a young veterinarian owning the Minnesota Veterinary Center. The first book, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life, covers the first year of the practice. Readers meet Ivan, the timid doberman,  a wonderful gerbil and a three- legged cat with attitude. The second book, Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love, continues the stories of the wonderful animals from the first book and then adds a few new ones including Radar, a kitten who was born without eyes.  This amazing cat became the Chief Comforter at the clinic. The third book in the series is called, Coated With Fur: A Veterinarian’s Heart. I started working on it 3 years ago, anticipating I would be writing the fifth book in the series by now. But, I bought Arizona Skies Animal Hospital and upgrading it required more work than I realized.  As one example, converting the handwritten medical records to a computer based system was a big job.  The animals and clients of Arizona Skies Animal Hospital are a tremendous gift in my life.  My only regret is that I am so far behind in writing book #3.

I am happy to announce that I am back to writing again. Dr. Kendra Roberts is now working Wednesdays allowing me time to write. I am currently on chapter 3 and hope to have the first draft done by late summer. So the book will be finished sometime in 2018.  For those of you who I have kept waiting to hear what happens to Butch, Ivan, Genny and the other campers, I am truly sorry. Thank you for hanging in there with me. I will try to provide updates as the writing progresses.

China Announces Decision to End Ivory Trade

On December 30, China announced that ivory sales would be banned by the end of 2017. As the largest consumer of ivory, this news is welcomed by wildlife advocates who believe it will put poachers out of business. The ban will start with the shuttering of legal ivory processing factories by March 31st. The Chinese government will transition legal ivory to museums and help affected workers find other jobs. Collectors of legal ivory products may keep what they already have and obtain government approval for sales.

Researchers estimate that over 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last 10 years for ivory. Poachers have taken advantage of the strife and corruption in central Africa. Rebels sell the tusks to raise money to buy weapons. “Like blood diamonds in West Africa in the late 1990s, ivory has become Africa’s new conflict resource,” write Edward Wong and Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times. Ending the trade of ivory may save human lives as well as elephants.

African elephants are divided into two subspecies, savanna and forest. They live in herds led by the most dominant female called the matriarch. Babies or calves are born after a 22 month gestation and are cared for by the entire herd. Males leave the herd at 12 to 15 years of age. They may join a bachelor group or remain solitary. Elephants are vegetarians that consume grass, leaves, bark and roots. An adult eats 300 to 400 pounds a day. Elephants are extremely intelligent with good memories. The females form strong social bonds with their relatives. Scientists have documented many human emotions in these magnificent creatures including anger, grief and joy.

Thank you to Yao Ming and countless conservation groups who worked tirelessly on the behalf of elephants. Since retiring from professional basketball, Mr. Ming has advocated for sharks, rhinos and elephants by denouncing shark fin soup, rhino horn medical remedies and ivory carvings.


-‘Basic Facts About Elephants’ Defenders of Wildlife, Elephant Fact Sheet,

-Wong, Edward and Gettleman, Jeffrey. ‘China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching.’ New York Times Asia Pacific division, Dec. 30, 2016.


Herding Trials for Dogs

Last weekend, I had the privilege of watching a herding trial at Double M Stock Dogs in Mayer, Arizona. I love watching these highly trained working dogs display their athletic ability. According to the American Kennel Club, “The purpose of the competitive herding trial program is to preserve and develop the herding skills inherent in the herding breeds, and to demonstrate that they can perform the useful functions for which they were originally bred.”  With help from their handler, the dog will guide a group of sheep, goats, cattle, ducks, turkeys or geese through a course in a set period of time while judges watch. After the performance is over, the dog is treated to a dip in a water tub to cool off.

danny-2The exercise starts with the dog waiting quietly for instructions. At the handler’s signal, the dog runs away from the handler to the stock and then gathers them into a compact group. In a controlled manner, the dog brings the animals back to the handler.  Now the handler and the dog work together to move the animals through a series of obstacles. Sometimes the pair work together to hold the animals in place or split an individual from the group in what is called ‘shedding’. These dogs are so intelligent that they understand the difference between moving clockwise with the command ‘come by’ and counterclockwise with the command ‘away’. A more detailed description including terms and definitions can be found at The Straight Poop. 


Many different breeds of dogs like to herd. The most common ones I see in Arizona are Border Collies, Australian cattle dogs, Australian shepherds, Australian kelpies and Catahoula leopard dogs although there are many more breeds that can herd. A complete list can be found at the American Kennel Club. For obvious safety concerns, deaf and/or visually impaired dogs are excluded from herding trials. Besides the AKC, more information can be found at: American Herding Breed Association, Australian Shepherd Club of America and National Cattledog Association

There’s even a fun blog about herding called Herding Dog USA!


The dog in the picture is Danny, a purebred border collie. Danny is competing in the advanced level of herding. Although he is good with sheep, he prefers herding geese or ducks. Danny came into the trial needing one more point in two days of competition to  attain his Herding Champion title. He clinched his title on Saturday and then went on to win High in Trial on Sunday with a score of 99 out of 100. Congrats to Danny, his handler/trainer, Molly Wisecarver and his owner, Judy Schrader!

danny-and-molly-5 More information about Molly and the Double M Stock Dogs can be found at or going to her Facebook page.

In Honor of The Search and Rescue Dogs of 9/11

Fifteen years ago, search and rescue dogs descended upon the world trade center in search of survivors. Dogs and their handlers worked day and night to help the victims. One of those teams included a young Golden retriever on her first deployment, named Bretagne and her handler, Denise Corliss. It was the first deployment in a distinguished career of helping people in many disasters including hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ivan.

Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States (SARDUS) is a non-profit that provides training and certification for dogs and their handlers. The dogs use their powerful noses to find missing children, Alzheimer’s patients, drowning victims and people trapped in collapsed buildings. The black Labrador retriever pictured below helps find skiers and snowboarders trapped in avalanches. More information may be found at


Today, as we remember the victims and their families, I would like to also remember the search and rescue teams. Thank you to all the brave dogs and their handlers who dedicate their lives to helping people caught in disasters.


-Coffey, Laura T, “Never Forger: Last 9/11 Ground Zero search dog dies just shy of 17th birthday”, TODAY June 6, 2016.

Keep Pets Safe from Firecrackers Hidden in Tennis Balls and Other Household Items

The Fourth of July is a dangerous time for pets. Backyard barbecues lead to dogs and cats eating all kinds of things that are bad for them. From the high fat ribs that cause pancreatitis to chocolate laden deserts, our feasts create a lot of problems when shared with our pets. Another common problem is injuries when animals try to escape the loud noises. The Fourth of July is one of the worst holidays for escaped pets. And now, there is a new danger to watch out for – firecrackers hidden in normal household items.

In 2000, a man found a tennis ball when walking his dog. He tossed it to his pet not knowing what was inside. When the dog bit the ball, it exploded. The dog suffered severe injuries and was euthanized immediately. People will remove the explosive material from firecrackers and place it inside other items to watch them explode. Beside tennis balls, other items include pipes and ping pong balls. Some of these homemade bombs explode prematurely, injuring the person who made them. Others, smolder for longer than expected before detonating. According to Jarod Kasner for the Kent, Washington Police Department, “People light them, leave them thinking it’s a dud, but who knows what’s happening on the inside. Then a dog comes and picks it up . . . .”

To keep you and your pet safe over the Fourth of July, stay away from abandoned items in public places. Before picking up an unfamiliar item including bottles, pipes and balls, look for burnt areas where someone may have tried to lite them. Also look for tape or a wick that might be used to set off the explosion. And leave the fireworks to the professionals to keep your home safe for everyone.


-Earl, Jennifer. ‘Dog owners warned about “tennis ball bombs” ahead of Fourth of July weekend.’ June 29,2016.

Zika Virus in Dogs and Cats

Zika virus was first discovered in Africa back in the 1940’s in a monkey with a mild fever. Since then, the disease has spread all over the world. In humans, the virus causes a birth defect called microcephaly which means ‘small brain’. In animals, the virus has  been found primarily  in non-human primates. Most exposed monkeys and apes show no signs of illness. A small number will develop a mild, short-lived fever.  The virus tends to appear in monkeys and apes that live close to humans who have the virus. A recent study of Brazil’s monkeys identified the virus in a small number of monkeys. So far, no monkey or ape babies have been born with microcephaly from Zika. It is unclear at this time whether the monkeys and apes are getting the virus from humans or vice versa. The prevalence of the virus in non-human primates is also unknown.

Other than the non-human primates, there  is no evidence of Zika virus infections causing disease in other animals. One study from Indonesia performed in the 1970’s found that the virus could infect livestock and bats but there are no documented cases of any of these animals transmitting  Zika virus to humans. More research is needed to determine if Zika is a zoonotic disease meaning animals can infect people (examples are rabies, ringworm and leptospirosis) or a reverse zoonotic disease meaning people infect  (example is MRSA ).

Like dengue fever, yellow fever and West Nile virus, Zika virus is transmitted  by mosquitos of the Andes species. Female mosquitos need the protein contained in blood to lay eggs. When mosquitos bite, they inject saliva into the wound that contains an anticoagulant to keep the victim’s blood from clotting. Their saliva can contain all kinds of infectious agents including viruses, bacteria and parasites (heartworm disease, malaria, etc.) contracted from prior victims. Once infected, a single mosquito can transmit disease to many animals and/or people.  When monkeys and apes are infected with Zika, they develop antibodies against the virus in approximately 14 days. The antibodies clear the virus out of the blood stream stopping the spread of the disease. Since monkeys and apes are quarantined in screened in facilities for 31 days when entering the United States, this should prevent the disease spreading into local mosquitos. Currently, it is unknown if monkeys and apes are reservoirs for the disease.

The bottom line is that Zika virus is not a threat to dogs and cats. There are no studies that show canines or felines can be infected with the virus or spread it to humans.


-‘Questions and Answers: Zika Virus and Animals’, ARIZONA VETERINARY NEWS, Aril 2016.

-‘Zika and Animals: What we know.’ CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, Update June 8, 2016.

Envision Equine Therapy

Envision Equine

Envision is an Arizona non-profit dedicated to utilizing the wonderful gifts of horses to help people.  I am honored to be the keynote speaker for their inaugural fundraiser at Silverleaf Gold Club on Thursday April 28th.  If you are able to join us, I would love to see you.  Further details about Envision and the luncheon can be found at the following link.

Horses Delivering Hope