FDA Issues Warning for Dog Bone Treats

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning for dog bone treats. From November 1, 2010 to September 12, 2017, many dogs have fallen ill after eating commercially produced dog bone treats. Unfortunately, 15 dogs died. According to their report, the treats are marketed under the names, “Ham Bones, Pork Femur Bones, Rib Bones and Smokey Knuckle Bones.” Some are smoked or baked with additional chemicals added for flavor.

According to the FDA, the clinical signs reported are:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction (blockage requiring surgical removal)
  • Vomiting
  • Choking
  • Diarrhea
  • Damage to the mouth
  • Bleeding from the anus
  • Death

As a veterinarian, I do not recommend bones of any kind. Beside the problems listed above, I see a lot of tooth fractures from bones. The large upper premolar is often fractured when the dog chews the bone. This results in a painful infection along the roots that causes a swelling under the eye. Removal of the tooth is the only way to end the pain.

More information on the FDA warning can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm208365.htm

Trump Placed Hold on Decision to Allow Elephant Trophy Imports But Still Allows Lion Trophy Imports

It is with great dismay that I read of the Trump administration’s decision to allow importation of lion and elephant trophies. Lions and elephants are classified as ‘threatened’ which means they are likely to become endangered (become extinct in all or part of their normal habitat) soon. The ban was put in place in 2014 because the populations of endangered and threatened species in Zimbabwe and Zambia are dropping due to poaching, game hunts and loss of habitat. Zimbabwe is where the beloved Cecil the lion was killed. He was lured out of a national park for a so-called “game hunter”, Walter Palmer, to kill. These countries also allow ‘lion hunting’ which means shooting confined lions who are acclimated to humans. This is not hunting as the animals do not have any chance of escape.

‘Serengeti Elephants’ taken by Kristen Nelson

The argument made by the hunting industry is that big game hunting brings money to the local communities. According to Richard Leakey of Kenya Wildlife Service, the amount of money generated by killing wildlife is minuscule compared to the millions generated by tourists coming for ecotourism. I was fortunate to go on safari in Tanzania this year. Seeing the animals living in their native habitats was amazing. Based on the number of tourists I saw on safari, I sincerely believe what Mr. Leakey is reporting. The animals are worth far more alive than dead.

On Friday, President Trump said he would halt the import of elephant “trophies” pending his personal review. Unfortunately, he did not halt the importation of lion “trophies”. The Trump family appears to be divided on this issue. Although President Trump has expressed disgust over game hunting, two of his sons have gone on big game hunts in Africa. Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, has been campaigning for several important animal issues including providing therapy dogs for veterans, saving wild horses and burros from slaughter and tighter regulation of puppy mills. Hopefully, she will take up this issue as well.

‘Ngorongoro Crater Lions’ taken by Kristen Nelson

If you care about the ethical treatment of animals and helping Zimbabwe and Zambia care for their greatest natural resource, please express your opinion to the White House, US Fish & Wildlife Service and our Interior Department. Please join me in asking President Trump to please keep the ban in place on importation of elephant and lion “trophies”. Keeping these magnificent animals alive is the right thing to do.


– Eilperin, J & Gearan, A. ‘Trump face public and private pressure to halt elephant hunting trophy imports.’ WASHINGTON POST, 11/18/17, 6:12PM

– https://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/11/interior-department-allow-imports-elephant-lion-trophies-africa-reversing-obama-policies.html



A Tribute to Fozzie the Scottsdale Crisis Response Dog

Fozzie, the Scottsdale Crisis Response Dog died last month. This golden retriever responded to all kinds of crimes providing comfort to people suffering from psychological trauma. From homicides to school shootings and everything in between, Fozzie was there ready to help. His big brown eyes and wagging tail were simply irresistible!

Photo: Jim Vail

Animal-assisted therapy came about after studies showed that spending time with animals decrease blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in humans. According to his bio, Fozzie was the first full-time crisis response dog in America. He was trained by Paws With A Cause and donated to the Scottsdale Police Department where he worked for ten years. Service dogs are also being used in airports, courtrooms, schools, libraries, hospitals and with our military to reduce stress.

Hanna and Topaz help Fozzie celebrate his first anniversary with dog-friendly cupcakes. Photo: Jim Vail

Fozzie will be greatly missed by many citizens and officers of the Scottsdale Police Department. He lived life to the fullest bringing his own special furry love to all he met. Rest in peace Fozzie.

Fozzie with volunteer, Jim Vail


-Friedmann, E. et al, Social Interaction & Blood Pressure:  Influence of Animal Companions. J of Nervous and Mental Disease 17 (8): 461-465.

-Morse, Samantha. ‘Scottsdale POlice bid farewell to beloved 10-year veteran, Fozzie’, SCOTTSDALE INDEPENDENT, November 2017.

-Seigel J.M., Stressful Life Events and Use of Physician Services Among the Elderly:  The Moderating Role of Pet Ownership. J. Person Soc Psych 1990; 1081-1086.

-Serpell, J.A. Evidence for long term effects of pet ownership on human health, Pets, Benefits and Practice, Waltham Symposium 20, April 19, 1990.


Halloween Dangers for Dogs & Cats

Halloween is a fun holiday for people of all ages to dress up, trick or treat and maybe scare a friend or two. But the noises, decorations and costumes can frighten our pets. Here’s a few tips for keeping cats and dogs safe during Halloween:

  1. Pet costumes – Make sure pet costumes do not contain dyes or paints that are toxic if ingested. Costumes should fit the pet comfortably, allowing them to walk and lie down. Check around the neck and legs for elastic bands that may cut of circulation or make it difficult to breathe. Never use rubber bands! Also, make sure your pet can’t chew off and swallow their costume. Cats love to eat costume jewelry and ribbons while dogs favor the fake skeletons.
  2. Costumes – Pets often find costumes scary. People they know suddenly become monsters when wearing a costume with a mask over their face. A normally social pet may bite. As Dr. Kathleen Shaw wrote in her article, Halloween can be Spooky for Pets, “Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he doesn’t bite any guests.”
  3. Decorations – Halloween decorations can be scary as well as dangerous for pets. Fake skeletons may be too realistic for some dogs to resist. Many cats find the fake cobwebs enticing. Eating these items may obstruct the animal’s gastrointestinal system leading to expensive surgery to remove the decorations.
  4. Jack-o-lanterns – Keep all pets away from jack-o-lanterns. Pets, especially cats, are drawn to the flickering light inside. After Halloween, I see many pets with singed whiskers. The battery operated candles don’t cause fires but are highly toxic if ingested. I saw a lab who suffered greatly after eating a pumpkin with a battery operated light inside.
  5. Electric cords – Keep pets away from cords to prevent electrocution.
  6. Accidental escape – The loud noises, scary costumes and open doors for trick-or-treaters lead to many lost pets during Halloween. I recommend letting your pet sit this holiday out with some treats in the back bedroom away from all the action. Play music to distract from unusual noises. Bring all animals indoors. Even when pets are in secure outdoor enclosures, there is a greater risk of theft with all the people coming and going. Please take extra care with black dogs and cats. Over my career, I have seen horrible animal abuse associated with this holiday – particularly with animals whose fur is black.
  7. Candy – Candy possesses a variety of dangers for pets. First, there is the danger of chocolate toxicity from having too many fun bars. Second, foil wrappers and lollipop sticks may causes intestinal obstruction. Third, many candies contain the artificial sweetener xylitol that causes life-threatening drops in blood sugar. One stick of sugar-free gum can kill.

With a little planning, Halloween can be fun for the entire family. Please follow these tips to make sure everyone has a good time. Happy Halloween!



Shaw, Kathleen. ‘Halloween can be Spooky for Pets’, Veterinary Partners, VIN.com, 2013.

Campylobactor Infections After Contact With Puppies

A multi-state outbreak of Campylobacter has occurred in people associated with puppies from Petland as well as private breeders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “a total of 55 people with laboratory-confirmed infections or symptoms consistent with Campylobacter infection who live in Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming have been linked to this outbreak.” The organism is spread through the fecal-oral route which means a person ingests feces from an infected dog. Clinical signs in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Some dogs may be asymptomatic carriers which means they shed the organism without having any signs of illness. Humans often have severe stomach cramps in addition to fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms usually last 5-7 days.

Unfortunately, this strain of Campylobacter is resistant to many antibiotics commonly prescribed for this disease including tetracycline, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin and erythromycin. This makes it a dangerous bacteria for all dogs and people, most especially those with compromised or immature immune systems.

The Arizona Veterinary Medical Association, of which I am a member, encourages people to take the following precautions:

  • “Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after each encounter with the dog, their food, or waste.
  • Pick up and dispose of pet waste immediately, and disinfect the area, especially in areas where children might play.
  • Thoroughly clean areas occupied by sick pets and keep them isolated from other pets in the house.
  • Don’t let pets lick areas around owner’s mouth, face, or areas with broken skin.”
  • In addition, seek medical attention immediately for all sick dogs and/or humans with gastro-intestinal disease.


-‘Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Campylobacter Infections Linked to Contact with Pet Store Puppies’, Outbreak Advisory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, posted Oct. 3, 2017.

-‘Zoonotic Disease Health Advisory: Multistate Outbreak of Human Campylobacter Infections Linked to Pet Store Puppies’ Arizona Veterinary News, AZVMA, October 2017.


National Veterinary Technicians Week begins October 15th.

Happy Veterinary Technicians Week!

October 15th through the 21st is National Veterinary Technicians Week, a time to celebrate the hard-working men and women who take care of our beloved pets. Veterinary technicians require training in a variety of areas in order to do their jobs. Here’s are partial list of all the things they do:

  • Radiology – Take dental and whole body X-rays
  • Surgical Assistance – Set up the operating room, help the veterinarians during surgery and clean-up after surgery is done
  • Anesthesia – Monitor patients during surgery
  • Record Keeping – Controlled substances, medical notes, etc.
  • Laboratory – Collect and process samples
  • Client Education – Help people care for their pets
  • Maintain & Sterilize Equipment
  • Assist Veterinarians – Restrain animals for exams, blood draws and treatments
  • Administer Treatments – Give injections, clean wounds and a variety of other things
  • Phlebotomy – Draw blood for testing and place intravenous catheters for treatments
  • Comfort Patients – This is the most important job of a veterinary technician. When pets come into the hospital, they are often frightened. Veterinary technicians provide a soothing voice and soft touch to reassure the scared patient. Many pets will pick one of the technicians as their substitute ‘mom or dad’. I know it is surprising, but dogs and cats rarely pick the veterinarian for this role!

Thank you for dedicating your lives to helping animals. To my technicians, I am so grateful for all three of you.  Veterinary technicians are the best!

Leptospirosis Risk Increased in Flooded Areas of Texas and Florida

Health officials in Texas and Florida are warning people to avoid standing water. The obvious dangers include poisonous snakes, toxins, alligators and downed electrical lines. The less obvious reasons include infectious diseases like leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a disease carried by rats and rodents. The infective form called a spirochete is transmitted through the urine or tissues of infected animals. Dogs and humans are infected after drinking contaminated water or touching contaminated soil and then transferring the spirochete to food. The flooding from hurricane Harvey and Irma have spread the organism throughout the hard hit areas of Texas and Florida.

Symptoms in dogs include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and extreme abdominal pain. The abdominal pain results from inflammation of the liver and kidneys. Even with treatment, some animals will die. The survivors often sustain damage to the kidneys and liver that require lifelong treatment. Symptoms in people include vomiting, fever and diarrhea. As with dogs and other animals, leptospirosis may cause severe liver and kidney damage that can be fatal.

Prevention is the key to preventing leptospirosis. There is a vaccination available for this disease in dogs. Initially, the dog is given two doses two to three weeks apart then annually. In addition to vaccination, avoid contact with the spirochete by limiting your pet’s contact with wildlife,  no swimming in ponds or rivers and keep them away from sick animals. For humans, follow the guidelines listed for dogs as well as practice good hygiene. Wear gloves when cleaning up after your dog, disinfect any items that come into contact with urine and wash your hands thoroughly.

More information on leptospirosis can be found at  https://drnelsonsveterinaryblog.com/2016/04/leptospirosis-in-dogs/             as well as  www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis.

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”. Mediarelations.cornell.edu. 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 https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm547335.htm

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:  https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm547335.htm


-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.