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Archive for the ‘Animal and Veterinary Stories’ Category

Patent Ductus Arteriosus, also known as PDA, is a congenital heart defect that can be found in any breed or species of animal including humans. When I graduated from veterinary school in 1960 we were taught about this condition but very few, if any, veterinarians were prepared to do thoracic surgery to attempt a correction.

One of the most helpful things I learned, after graduating from veterinary school, was that most clients wouldn’t talk to me when I had a stethoscope in my ears. It was a perfect time to think about what I had observed and how to communicate with the client.

While I was in school Dr. Smith lectured to our class about heart murmurs, including the continuous murmur associated with a PDA. I remember him standing at the lectern making a very particular noise, mimicking this murmur. The sound was “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.” I never heard the murmur in an animal while still in school but the first time I did hear the murmur it sounded exactly like the noise Dr. Smith made while leaning into the microphone in the lecture hall. The condition can also be detected by feeling the animal’s pulse detecting what is described as a water -hammer or continuous pulse.

When trying to explain this condition to a client, or to students while I’m teaching, I resort to a sketch where I draw a rough outline of the heart with the aorta coming off the left ventricle and supplying the body with arterialized blood and the pulmonary artery coming off the right ventricle going to the lungs so carbon dioxide can be expelled from the blood and oxygen taken on.

Before any mammal is born the lungs haven’t inflated yet, the fetus doesn’t need blood to go the lungs. There’s an opening between the pulmonary artery and the aorta so the blood can cross over into the aorta because until the lungs are inflated the pressure in the pulmonary artery is higher than the pressure in the aorta. The blood crosses over through a structure called the ductus arteriosus.

As soon as the newborn takes a couple of breaths the alveoli, the little air sacs in the lungs, open and the blood vessels that surround each alveolus also open. The resistance to blood flow into the lungs is reduced and the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery drops below the blood pressure in the aorta. This causes the aortic side of the ductus arteriosus to close since the ductus is more of a slit than a tube. So normally the ductus closes shortly after the animal starts breathing. Unfortunately sometimes, for reasons not yet completely understood, the ductus stays open. When that happens, it’s called a patent ductus arteriosus. Since the pressure in the aorta is higher than the pressure in the pulmonary artery, the blood leaks continuously through the opening. With each heartbeat, the pressure increases in the aorta and that causes the leak to be greater.

When we listen to the heart of a normal animal it makes a noise that sounds like; lub dub . . . lub dub . . . lub dub.” A continuous murmur makes the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh sound as the pressure and blood flow into the pulmonary artery increase with each beat while the blood flows continuously surging with the beating heart.

The defect causes both the left and right sides of the heart to work harder and harder. The heart enlarges and finally it fails. Since my time in practice veterinary medicine has made enormous advances. We now have board certified veterinary surgeons capable of performing the relatively simple surgery to tie off the patent ductus. We also have board certified veterinary cardiologists who, if they make the diagnosis early enough, can use a catheter system to deliver a plug to the ductus and correct the problem without surgery. The key to a successful outcome is early diagnosis before the animal goes into heart failure and that means a thorough physical examination by your veterinarian for your new pet while it is still young.

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I am running this post again because too many people seem to be searching for a way to kill their neighbor’s dog or cat. Since it was originally posted on Jan. 31, 2012 this post receives the most hits almost every day and many reach it by searching, “how to kill an animal with antifreeze” or similar queries. Find information here about how to save your pet if it drinks antifreeze.

This is one of the most common forms of poisoning seen in dogs and cats. It usually happens when the antifreeze drips from your vehicle’s radiator forming a puddle on the garage floor or driveway. The active ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol a syrupy liquid that seems almost addictive to some pets. You must take special care if you change your antifreeze yourself, since pets can get into containers left open or spilled. It is possible for a cat to poison itself by walking through a puddle then licking its paws. As little as five tablespoons of commercial antifreeze is enough to kill a medium sized dog. If you see or suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze you should make it vomit, by giving it a teaspoonful of hydrogen peroxide per five pounds of body weight, but not more than three teaspoonfuls at a time. If it vomits or not, take it to your veterinarian as quickly as possible and explain what you think has happened. If your pet has already vomited, do not try to make it vomit more. Do not try to induce vomiting if the pet is showing signs of distress, shock, difficult breathing or is unconscious.

Ethylene glycol is also an ingredient in some liquid rust-inhibitors, incorporated in solar collectors, used in many chemical manufacturing processes and can be found in a variety of household products. Check the labels! To be most effective, your veterinarian must administer treatment within three to eight hours. Ethylene glycol is actually an alcohol converted, by enzymes in the liver, particularly alcohol dehydrogenase, into oxalic acid. The oxalic acid combines with calcium in the blood to form calcium oxalate crystals that block the nephrons in the kidneys and result in kidney failure.

Since ethylene glycol is an alcohol, the early signs of poisoning resemble drunkenness; euphoria and/or delirium, wobbly gait, uncoordinated movements, nausea as evidenced by excessive salivation, lip smacking, dry heaving, and vomiting. This phase can persist for about six hours and the animal may appear to be better, not so! If untreated the signs progress to excessive urination, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, depression, weakness and eventually into fainting, tremors, convulsive seizures, and coma, all signs of kidney failure.

If you arrive at the animal hospital in time and give a history of your pet ingesting antifreeze, or your veterinarian runs appropriate tests and makes the diagnosis, before signs of kidney failure occur, there is a good chance your pet will be saved. Treatment involves the induction of vomiting. Using activated charcoal to bind any ethylene glycol still in the digestive tract is not effective, but may be indicated when other toxins are suspected. Since 1996, your veterinarian has had access to fomepizole (Antizol-Vet). This drug is an effective antidote, if administered intravenously before kidney damage occurs. Back in the olden days, we used grain alcohol as an antidote, significantly less expensive than fomepizole. Alcohol dehydrogenase has about 100 times the affinity for grain alcohol than it does for ethylene glycol. When used as an antidote the liver metabolizes less ethylene glycol and fewer oxalate crystals form. Depending upon the severity of kidney damage it still might be possible to save your pet with aggressive fluid therapy to flush the kidneys, and other supportive treatment. Some specialty practices may be equipped to provide kidney (renal) dialysis. You do not want to know how much a kidney transplant will cost, but it is possible, in both dogs and cats, in specialized centers with the necessary equipment and experience.

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As a Pre-Thanksgiving offer Travels With Chalize will be available on Kindle for free downloads starting Sat. Nov. 21 and ending Tues. Nov. 24. It is available now and will continue to be available for KDP Select downloads. Don’t miss this opportunity.TWC-front cover

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Writer’s Digest Judge’s Commentary*:

So much personality shown in Charlize–we get real emotion and expression in the way the author has painted every scene with the dog. We also get deep emotion (and tears) in the early conversation with his wife, where she says that he can get a dog now that her demise is near. What a selfless statement, a deep realization, and a wish for her husband to be okay after she is gone. This is truly moving, and we long for the author to find the perfect dog to connect with.

“Hope is the mantra of anyone sitting on a boat” on page 75 is a true gem of this book. Author peppers the story with these resonant thoughts. Well done. They stay with the reader.
The ending just drops off when he’s home again and happy to have arrived safely. We could use a description of his home that has been colored by his travels along the coast, the same excellent skill in capturing scenery and feeling. That would round out the story beautifully. A very good read.

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I have just set up a free giveaway for the electronic copy of ANIMALS DON’T BLUSH. The giveaway starts this coming monday, Nov. 9 and will run all week. Tell your friends!

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I received notification this morning that TRAVELS WITH CHARLIZE was the winner of the NATURE/ANIMALS category for the 2015 Great Midwest Book Festival

TWC-front cover

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Dogs have been in close contact with humans for thousands of years. Estimates range from 9,000 to 30,000. Due to this long association dogs are thought to have the ability to not only understand but to communicate with humans. Many researchers in this field attribute these communication skills to the manifestation of unique traits that enables dogs to be acutely sensitive to cues supplied by their humans.

 

Recent research in canine cognition has shown considerable variability, depending upon the design of the experiment(s) and probably the agenda of the person(s) doing the research but it seems clear that at least some dogs can and do follow pointing and gaze cues, can fast map novel words and according to some studies have emotions. Since they cannot communicate with us with spoken language researchers have mostly had to closely observe behavior in a wide variety of experimental designs and infer how the canine brain functions by speculation.

 

Now we can use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain function. Gregory S. Berns, MD, PhD is a neuroscientist and director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University. He recently published a book entitled: HOW DOGS LOVE US: A neuroscientist and his adopted dog decode the canine brain. He describes in this book and in articles published in scientific journals how his group trained dogs to lie still in the MRI machine while fully awake and found that the reward-prediction error hypothesis of the dopamine system provided a concrete prediction of activity in the ventral caudate of the dogs studied, i.e. the dogs were able to respond to specific hand signals associated with either giving a food reward or withholding it. During the experiment the dogs were not given the reward, just the hand signals they had been conditioned to. The results demonstrated the specific areas of the brain that anticipated the pleasurable reward. These same brain locations have been associated with dopamine release in many studies conducted in awake humans and primates. There was significantly less dopamine sensitive response when the withholding reward signal was given. The interpretation of these results indicates the dogs brains responded THINKING they were going to receive the treat.

 

Dr. Berns and his research group believe they can extend these studies to characterizing many questions about our ability to communicate with dogs including their ability to respond to human facial expressions and how dogs process our spoken words. Perhaps we are on the verge of understanding how dogs respond to our emotional state and perhaps if and how they grieve for a lost loved one. Maybe we can even find out if they really do love us or just manipulate us so we will feed them.

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Official Apex Reviews Rating:

Animals Don’t Blush takes the reader on an enjoyable, eye-opening journey through the ups and downs of a first-year veterinarian in Montana. In accessible, often hilarious language, author David Gross shares a variety of different anecdotes highlighting his rather entertaining experiences as the primary caregiver for a wide cross section of four-legged patients. Throughout the pages of Animals Don’t Blush, Gross’ considerable expertise shines through, as well as the deep-rooted compassion he has for both animals and their owners. Informative without being pedantic, and amusing without being pandering, this page-turning tome is sure to please more than just the animal lovers amongst us.

A highly satisfying literary treat from a truly gifted storyteller.

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The Animal Poison Control Center was started prior to my arrival as Head of the then named Veterinary Biosciences department in the College of veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. After I took office the Center was taken over by the ASPCA and has grown and become more effective as a result. The service answered more than 167,000 calls in 2014 all involving exposure of animals to possible toxicants. Nearly 16% of those calls were about pets getting into medicines intended for human use, the seventh year in a row that this type of exposure was the most common.

Here are the most common pet toxins of 2014 as reported by the ASPCA:

  1. Human prescription medications. Especially dangerous are ADD/ADHD drugs.
  2. Over-the-counter medications including herbal and natural supplements as well as cough, cold and allergy medications. Many of these contain acetaminophen and/or pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. All are highly toxic to pets. Glucosamine joint supplements are often flavored and will appeal to some animals, particularly dogs. Overdose can result in diarrhea and occasionally in liver failure.
  3. Insecticides particularly insect bait stations can result in bowel obstructions from ingesting the plastic shell containing the bait.
  4. Household items including paints and cleaning products.
  5. Human foods. Dogs were usually the culprits getting into serious trouble by ingesting large quantities of onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and particularly a sugar substitute xylitol found in sugar-free gum and other products.
  6. Veterinary medications, particularly chewable medications are particularly attractive to some pets.
  7. Chocolate, discussed in a previous blog.
  8. Plants, a long list of plant poisons have been covered in this blog.
  9. Rodenticides, haven’t discussed these but toxicity is obvious.
  10. Lawn and garden products, these include fertilizers as well as weed killers, etc.

Other potential hazards include:

  1. Oxygen absorbers and silica gel packs often found in packages of pet treats, jerky and other edibles. These can result in iron poisoning.
  2. Toxic lily plants including the Tiger, Asiatic, Stargazer, Casablanca, Rubrum, Day, Japanese Show and Easter lilies. Some cats are attracted to these plants and a small amount can result in kidney failure. The Calla, Peace and Peruvian lilies are relatively non-toxic but can result in GI inflammation and upset. These were also described in a previous blog.
  3. For reasons unknown some cats are attracted to antidepressants such as Cymbalta and Effexor. Ingestion can result in severe neurological and cardiac toxicities.
  4. Cats are also more sensitive to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Don’t be tempted to treat your cat or dog with these agents.
  5. Glow sticks and glow jewelry contain dibutyl phthalate. If your cat’s mouth and/or skin are exposed from chewing on these objects it can result in a chemical burn.
  6. The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocado trees, particularly those from Guatemala, commonly found in our supermarkets, can be toxic to birds, rabbits and horses resulting in respiratory distress, pulmonary congestion, pericarditis (inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart) and death from large doses. Dogs and cats seem to be much less sensitive to avocado toxicity.
  7. Raw bread dough made with live yeast when ingested, usually by dogs, can expand in the stomach resulting in gastric dilatation that can be life threatening.
  8. Ethanol poisoning, inebriation, was recently discussed along with hops poisoning.
  9. Grape and raisin poisoning has also been covered previously.
  10. Macadamia nuts are attractive to some dogs but are not usually fatal. After ingesting a sufficient quantity dogs may show weakness of the hind legs, demonstrate pain behavior, may show muscle tremors and/or develop a low-grade fever.
  11. Moldy foods can produce tremor genic mycotoxins. Since it’s not possible to determine whether a particular mold is producing these toxins the safest thing is not to empty that container from the back of the refrigerator into your dog’s dish. Cats will just turn up their nose and walk away. Also be on the lookout for garbage, road-kill, fallen fruit or nuts that could be moldy. Don’t let your dog get to them.

As always if your pet is showing any kind of suspected toxicosis get it to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Seattle author David R. Gross practiced veterinary medicine for ten years.   He returned to school and earned his PhD in cardiovascular physiology then he taught and did research in that field for more than three decades. After retiring, he and his beloved wife Rosalie looked forward to traveling, writing, and focusing on social action causes together. In Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone, Dr. Gross tells a gentle and open story of recovery after the death of his wife of fifty-two years. He must go forward and face a new future, but that road carries rough spots. Memories spring up to hold him back. Revisiting friends reminds him of who no longer accompanies him. Home, to which he must return, still stores a profusion of painful memories. It is the presence of Charlize, his newly adopted rescue dog, that keeps Gross steady and willing to see a brighter tomorrow around the bend. Based on a compilation of chronicles from his popular blog, this compelling and enchanting book hit the shelves in February.

The dog loving couple had talked about getting a new pet, but with Rosalie’s diagnosis of lung cancer, those plans were put on hold. After she succumbed to illness in 2013, David adopted Charlize, a German shepherd rescue dog with problems of her own. He bought a travel trailer, closed his house and the duo started their travels. The two troubled souls embarked on a yearlong journey visiting parks and vistas, rain forests and deserts, family and old friends, to discover how to accept and craft a new life with each other’s help.

Travels with Charlize is available from any independent bookstore, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble. The Kindle e-book edition is currently available as are versions for Kobo and Nook. Dr. David Gross has published over ninety papers in refereed scientific journals and over a hundred abstracts in proceedings of scientific meetings. He co-edited three multi-authored textbooks and his single author text, Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research, can be found in most medical libraries. Since retirement, Dr. Gross has been busy writing both fiction and non-fiction. His published books include Manhunt (historical fiction), Animals Don’t Blush (a memoir of his first year in veterinary practice) and the soon-to-be rereleased, Succeeding As A Student (a self-help guide to efficient and effective studying, learning and test taking).

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