Category Archives: veterinary care

What is White Shaker Syndrome?

By Langley Cornwell

White Shaker Syndrome is a condition that’s known scientifically as idiopathic cerebellitis; it’s a disorder that causes a dog’s entire body to shake uncontrollably. The word idiopathic means the condition or disease is of unknown origin, and may or may not arise spontaneously. The word cerebellitis lets you know the condition is located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that regulates voluntary muscle movement (like shrugging your shoulders when you don’t know something or crooking your finger repeatedly when you want someone to come to you). The cerebellum is also responsible for common coordination. So cerebellitis means that an important part of your dog’s brain is inflamed.

The condition has taken on the nickname White Shaker Syndrome because, while pets of any color can be affected, it appears that dogs with a white coat are more likely to suffer from the condition. Medical literature has determined that white West Highland terriers and Maltese dogs seem to be predisposed.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that one of our dogs is tremendously shy and fearful. When we were first introduced to her, she shook so badly that her legs buckled and she fell to the floor.

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Being a Responsibly Informed Pet Owner

By Julia Williams

We live in interesting times. It’s true that every generation has it decidedly different than the one before, but the disparity seems to get wider with every decade. One reason for this is the internet. I used to get answers to all my burning questions by phoning the library reference desk. If the librarian didn’t know the answer, she always knew where to find it… in those archaic things called books. Remember those? LOL. Now, I can find the answers online in less time than it takes to pick up the phone.

It’s easier than ever to be an informed pet owner nowadays, provided you know how to tell the difference between reputable websites providing accurate information, and sites looking to make a quick buck with keyword-stuffed content. Just because you see the same info on many websites doesn’t mean it’s correct; online information tends to multiply like rabbits, and the “daddy” site that everyone else copied from could be erroneous.

So I always approach my online research with a healthy dose of caution, especially if it concerns my pets’ health or my own. I also do not attempt to self diagnose, and I never substitute the opinion of my trusted vet with information gleaned from a website. That being said, the internet can complement veterinary care because it allows you to ask your vet more questions and gives you the opportunity to learn and become a more informed pet owner.

I always thoroughly research anything my own doctor recommends or prescribes for me, and I do the same for my cats. I have a wonderful vet; she doesn’t roll her eyes when she seems me getting out my “list” of symptoms or things I want to ask her about. (I can’t say the same about my M.D.). My vet always takes the time to discuss all medications, treatments and options with me so I’m confident in the decisions we make together about my cats’ care. I trust her expertise completely, but I still believe a responsible pet owner has a duty to be as informed as possible about the various options.

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Helping Animals in Third World Countries

An Unforgettable Trip to Nicaragua   

Suturing post surgery with the supervision of Dr. Carvajal

Hello! My name is Jaimie Spitz, and I’m a fourth year animal science major at California Polytechnic State University. With the help of CANIDAE Natural Pet Food Company, I was rewarded a sponsorship that granted me the opportunity to work with the Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA) and travel to Nicaragua, one of the poorest nations in Central America. I participated in a volunteer program that established a temporary veterinary clinic, assisting over 200 malnourished animals in a two week span.

VIDA is a nonprofit organization that sends groups of students to third world countries in Central America. The participants are comprised of mainly pre-vet, med, and dental students who are given the rare opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience while aiding the disadvantaged communities of people and the overpopulation of stray animals that inhabit the area. The majority of these people are living in poverty, making less than $2 a day, and don’t have the necessary knowledge or resources to care for their pets or children, let alone themselves.

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

With the kind help of CANIDAE, I was able to join a team of 40 pre-vet, med, and dental students from the University of Madison, Wisconsin. Our mission was to learn and help as many animals and people as possible in the duration of our two week program. With a group of 7 pre-veterinary students, a translator and a lead veterinarian, our team set up a makeshift veterinary clinic in a local elementary school on the beautiful Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. Our supplies were limited by donations, so we had to work with what we had. The clinic consisted of three intake tables covered with large plastic bags, a pharmaceutical table, a surgery prep corner, a surgery table centered in the location with the most access to direct sunlight, and a recovery area identified by laid out newspaper and used towels.

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Tips to Help Avoid Costly Vet Visits

By Langley Cornwell

If you have a pet, you already know how costly it can be to go to the veterinarian’s office or worse, the emergency animal hospital. The best possible scenario is one in which you keep your dog or cat perfectly healthy and out of harm’s way, and only go to the vet for regular checkups. If only it was that easy.

Having lived with multiple animals my entire adult life, I could write volumes about all of the middle-of-the-night emergency vet visits I’ve taken. If I could have avoided some of those visits I might be driving a more reliable car, too – but that’s another story.

So what can you do to avoid some of those costly visits? I’ve compiled a list from a variety of resources as well as my personal observations and experiences. While most of these tips are common sense, it helps to have a reminder once in a while.

Socialize your dog at a young age. Dogs that are comfortable around strangers and other dogs are less likely to show aggression toward humans and they get into fewer dog fights.

Get your dog or cat used to simple grooming. Start this early too. Pets that have been acclimated to simple grooming tasks at a young age allow their owners to trim their nails, brush their teeth and clean their ears so you don’t have to pay groomers or the vet to do these things.

Take basic obedience classes. As with socialization, a dog that is good with basic commands is generally better-behaved. If your dog listens to you and obeys you, you are better able to protect them. Once I was playing fetch with my dog in the back yard. Something caught her attention and she became fixated on an object in the grass, which was unusual because she loved to play ball. I issued the ‘leave it’ command as I was running over to see what was in the grass. Upon my command, she backed away from a copperhead snake.

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How to Know if Your Pet is in Pain

By Langley Cornwell

Years ago I was away on a business trip and had a pet sitter stay at my house to help with my two dogs. When I got home, one of my dogs was acting funny. Her energy was low, she wouldn’t eat, and her breathing was labored. Even though there were no visible signs of an injury, I knew immediately that she was in pain. The problem was, I had no idea why (or for how long, the pet sitter hadn’t noticed). Because it was after-hours, we went straight to the overnight emergency clinic. The veterinarian agreed she was in distress but couldn’t make an immediate diagnosis. Because she was also dehydrated, my sweet Lab was put on fluids and pain meds. I was frantic with worry but did take comfort in knowing that she wasn’t in acute pain any longer.  

As hard as this is to imagine, there was a time when veterinarians thought pain was good for animals if they were hurt. The logic was that the pain kept the animal still and quiet, which helped expedite the natural healing process. Fortunately, that belief is antiquated and, as in the case with my dog, vets now practice the opposite.

Pain management for animals is an important issue in veterinary medicine. An animal’s pain is now managed until the pain is believed to be completely gone. The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners both support the theory that pain management improves an animal’s recovery process in all cases including injury, illness and surgery. Moreover, since pain management reduces the stress an animal feels and increases their sense of well-being, it may help a pet live a longer, more comfortable life.          

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Debunking Common Pet Health Misconceptions

By Langley Cornwell

Statistics point to an alarming trend in pet health care: even though the population of pet owners has increased, the number of dogs and cats that are getting formal veterinary care has sharply decreased. The study, commissioned by Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division and conducted by Brakke Consulting in collaboration with the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, was comprehensive and well documented. It included two phases, answers from pet owners and consultations from veterinarians. The study indicates that the decline in veterinary visits may be due to misconceptions people have about their pet’s health. These misconceptions can stem from a combination of factors including the glut of information – some accurate and some not—available on the internet, and economic drivers enticing people to independently diagnose their pet’s health problem and explore home remedies.

While it’s not necessary to run to the vet every time your dog has hiccups, there are times when proper veterinary care is the right choice. Here are some common pet health myths and accompanying facts to help you determine the best course of action for your animal companion:

Are annual wellness exams really necessary? Nothing is ever wrong with my pet.
95 percent of veterinarian involved in the study strongly suggested that both dogs and cats need at least one veterinary wellness exam annually. Conversely, a lot of pet owners believe the only time their pet needs to go to the vet is for shots or vaccinations. Routine checkups are important because that’s when the vet examines your pet’s eyes, ears, heart and lungs. Additionally, the vet may take x-rays and do a blood workup. These examinations require specialized tools and techniques. If your pet is examined on a yearly basis, the veterinarian can catch problems or conditions before they become serious and costly.

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