Yes, time is ticking. But it’s not that tick I’m referring to, but those dangerous critters that will soon be on the attack. Our heavy snow cover is making the calendar hard to believe, but every plant and animal knows that spring is coming. Our outdoor animal friends are getting prepared for, well, you know what.

Unfortunately this also means that ticks and other parasites are about to come out of their semi-hibernation and will wake up hungry! After over-wintering without a meal both juvenile and mature ticks will need to start feeding to get their growth processes restarted.  Many ticks are not killed by our winter conditions and there will be a new crop waiting to literally suck our blood.

There are several tick species that call the Hudson Valley home with some new ones beginning to pop up in this region too. Most dangerous is the Deer Tick. We know that nearly 40% of the deer ticks in our area carry Lyme Disease and possibly other diseases as well. Other ticks carry serious diseases, such as Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and others not yet detailed. Have you read about the recent death of a Kansas resident who was infected with a newly discovered tick borne disease called Bourbon Virus? Unfortunately, it’s even more dangerous than its namesake. Learn more at http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/bourbon/.

 While all of these tick borne diseases  can cause serious illness, Lyme disease is the best known. This bacterium can infect people, dogs, horses, sheep, goats and cattle. Cats seem somewhat resistant.  The ticks need to attach and feed (nice term – for sucking blood) for at least  24 hours to transmit the disease. Fast detection and removal is key to preventing  transmission of this  disease.

How can you prevent ticks and some of the diseases they carry?

Dogs: Use an external product. Topicals such as Frontline and Advantage have never been very impressive. My patients have had the most success with the Seresto Collars and Vectra topical control products. I’ve used the Seresto Collar on my dogs for two summers now and have seen an impressive reduction in the number of ticks on them. This collar lasts up to 8 months and is waterproof. There are two new oral medications that are said to control ticks but neither is labelled  for control of deer ticks.  I also recommend the Lyme Vaccine for dogs which will be exposed to ticks. This vaccine has become more effective with reduced side effects. Discuss your tick control options with your veterinarian before the season starts. Many people are reluctant to use chemicals and insecticides due to possible side effects. While these may be valid concerns, the risk of contracting a disease of known seriousness seems more important than unknown risks from control methods. The herbal collars available are completely ineffective.

Horses and livestock: Most topical dips and sprays have some efficacy against ticks. Make sure the label lists effectiveness against tick species. Remove ticks  as soon as possible when observed. Keep pastures mowed to decrease contact. There are no approved vaccines for livestock. The dog vaccine has been used with some apparent success in horses. Discuss which insecticide is safe for your farm animals with your veterinarian.

People: Avoid exposure when possible by staying out of tall grass and weeds. Keep lawns, fields and trails mowed. There is always a recommendation to wear light colored clothing and tuck your pants into your socks when walking and hiking. I have yet to find light or white colored hiking pants (who’d want to) and find that when I tuck my shorts into my socks it’s really hard to hike. Applying insect repellents with DEET are helpful although may not be safe for children or perhaps for adults tool. Try to remove ticks as quickly as possible. Examine yourself  thoroughly after being outdoors. The CDC has a new recommendation that treating with a single dose of doxycycline within 24 hours of a tick bite may prevent Lyme disease from developing. Discuss this with your physician if bitten. There is no evidence yet that this may prevent the disease in dogs, but seems to make sense and I will sometimes use this approach with my patients. There is no current vaccine available for people .  I did receive one years ago during the testing phase with no ill effects. There is discussion that one may be brought back to the market in the near future.

The clock is ticking. Now is the time to begin thinking  about insect control and avoidance techniques before the season gets into full swing. Ticks carry many devastating diseases. The best way to avoid the disease is to prevent tick bites. Start planning your defense now!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Cat Declawing – Just the Facts, Cat

There has been quite a bit of discussion recently within the veterinary community in New York State regarding a bill banning the declawing of cats within the state which has been introduced in the state assembly. Assembly Bill A01297 can found on the following link:http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A01297&term=2015&Summary=Y&Text=Y

This bill would make New York State the first state in the nation to ban this procedure. Some localities in California and elsewhere have restricted this surgery, but none on the state level. While the procedure remains somewhat controversial, there is great misunderstanding about what it entails. Here are the facts supported both by the New York State Veterinary Medical Society (on whose board of directors I serve as the representative from Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Putnam and Dutchess Counties) and the American Veterinary Medical Association:

FACT: Declawing is a major surgical procedure performed only by a licensed veterinarian while the patient is under general anesthesia. It does involve amputation of the last part of each toe in order to completely remove the nail bed and prevent the claw from re-growing. It is similar to removing the end of each finger at or just beyond the last knuckle. Because of this it is never a decision that is taken lightly.

FACT: The procedure is painful. With up-to-date pain medications and protocols we are able to minimize the pain just as in any surgical procedure whether performed on animals or humans. We use regional nerve blocks with drugs like Novocain, and injectable and oral pain medications similar to those given to humans after major surgery. Cats respond well to these medications and are up and walking on their feet the same day. Full healing takes about two weeks after which there is no indication of further pain.

FACT: While it does involve amputation of the end of the toe it is not a disfiguring procedure. Once completely healed it’s virtually impossible to tell a declawed cat from one with claws.

FACT: Declawing a cat does not change its behavior. A declawed cat will still use a scratching post and rub its paws on furniture, etc.  This is actually a territorial behavior as a cat is rubbing scent glands in its feet on surfaces to send messages to other cats – “Hey I’m here”. They do not do this to sharpen their claws. A declawed cat will jump normally, run and play like every cat. They even seem to do well outdoors. I have seen declawed patients still able to climb trees and hunt. Behaviorally it’s impossible to tell a declawed cat from one with claws.

FACT: Declawing a cat can save a life. Humans that have suppressed immune systems, bleeding disorders or are more susceptible to infections are at risk from becoming ill from even an innocent small cat scratch. Declawing a cat can allow such a person to continue to enjoy sharing a house with a cat while reducing the risks involved. If a declawed cat is less likely to be left outdoors or turned over to a shelter because of these health risks or destructive behavior, the procedure can even save that cat’s life too.

FACT: Declawing is a rarely done procedure. As people have become more aware of behavioral modification techniques and sensitive to what’s involved in this surgery, it’s become a very rare occurrence. Our hospital performs less than five per year. The decision to proceed with declawing a cat is never taken lightly. We always discuss alternatives with our animal lovers. We are able to determine alternatives to declawing in most cases.

Declawing a cat is a serious procedure. It should never be taken lightly. It is not cruel, inhumane and dangerous. Performed properly with great pain modification it can improve the lives of both cat and cat lover. It doesn’t need to be legislated out of existence. The veterinary community already has taken steps to perform this only when absolutely necessary.




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


What is a COHAT?

You often hear how important dental health is for our animals. Many of you likely have had your dog or cat’s teeth cleaned or had a “dental” performed. As the annual Pet Dental Health Month comes to a close, here’s the full story about why dental care is so important for our companions.

Over time, and without regular brushing, tartar or calculus will build up on animal’s teeth just like it will on your own teeth. This starts as a discoloration and continues to build up until there is a thick, brown almost cement-like layer on the teeth surfaces. This tartar can start irritating the surrounding gum tissue leading to inflammation (gingivitis) and infection. This will eventually lead to problems in the tooth root resulting in tooth loss, pain and discomfort. Ever have a toothache? It feels the same for our animals. If an infection starts, bacteria can be spread through the blood stream lodging on the heart or in the kidneys leading to severe health issues and even death. Horses, rabbits and rodents can develop sharp edges on their teeth which need to be smoothed down. These too can lead to weight loss and infection if not treated. Studies have shown that bad oral health shortens an animal’s lifetime. Taking good care of your animal’s teeth can help ensure a long, happy lifespan together.

Once you “flip the lip” and see that there may be a tooth issue in your companion animal it’s important to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. She’ll recommend a COHAT and develop a proper treatment plan. So what is a COHAT?






A proper COHAT involves several steps:


For all of our companion animals a true COHAT can only be performed under anesthesia. They don’t like the sound of the equipment any better than you do. It’s pretty hard for you to sit still in a dentist’s chair isn’t it? Imagine what that would be like for our animals. It’s much safer for both the animal and veterinary staff for the patient to be under anesthesia. Some places and groomers may discuss teeth cleaning without anesthesia. A proper job can’t be done this way. It’s the wrong approach. Your veterinarian will require an exam and possibly bloodwork prior to the procedure to determine the safest anesthetic regimen for your animal.


A licensed veterinary technician (LVT) and a veterinarian will closely examine each tooth for wear, fractures, cavities, and looseness. The gum line will be probed for pockets which can lead to infection. Radiographs (xrays) may be done to assess the tooth roots just like at your dentist. The entire oral cavity will be examined for tumors and inflammation.


The teeth will be cleaned using both hand and ultrasonic scalers just as at your twice yearly teeth cleaning. A polish will then be applied to slow down redevelopment of the tartar. Teeth that need special treatment may need filling, sealing or extraction. Special situations may warrant eventual referral to a board certified veterinary dentist. It’s similar to you being referred to an endodontist.

Horses often need to have their teeth “floated” which removes the sharp edges that have developed with wear. This is often done with some sedation as you can imagine how pleasant it must feel. This procedure can only be performed by a veterinarian.


Once your animal is back home, it’s important to develop a good oral health care regimen just like you do for yourself. Regular brushing with a pet toothpaste or baking soda is most important. Human toothpastes can upset their stomachs. You can also rinse with approve products and even use specially prepared chew products. I always recommend products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. You can find a list on http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm.

Studies have shown that chewing bones, rawhide, antlers and hard kibble have no effect on tartar build-up. Only you can keep your animal’s teeth in good shape! Ask your veterinarian how to do that. Remember, you’ll be helping your companion live a longer, healthier life.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It Really Does Take a Village

It Really Does Take a Village

I’ve thought about this phrase, an African proverb made famous by a New York politician, a few times recently. I’ve been practicing veterinary medicine in Orange County for twenty years. Our location is right outside the Village of Maybrook. My children attended Maybrook elementary and continued through the Valley Central Schools. It’s both amazing and heartwarming how any time I come across a student or now young adult that attended school with them, these youngsters are always willing to stop, say hello and fill me in on their lives and families. I’ve watched them grow up, sometimes even pitched to them during their T-ball days, and now as young adults they’re still respectful and pleasant. I’ve realized that in a small way, even in an “advanced” society like ours, we’re lucky to still be part of a village. I’m sure that it’s this way in all of the towns in our area. We’re so fortunate to live where and as we do.

Think about it. Your local community, neighbors, classmates, and fellow soccer moms make up the “village” that helps our youngsters grow, learn and develop into responsible adults. We’re in this together. In ways you may never realize, you have a meaningful effect on those people around you.

Many of these young adults are now bringing their own companion animals into our practice. As part of their village we helped teach them about responsible pet care when they were young. Their parents and neighbors modeled good animal care and now they’re doing it on their own. That’s really heartwarming. Here’s a youngster that at one time was literally swinging from the exam room table now doing the right thing for her beloved cat. It takes a village to help pass this on.

Responsible animal care means not only providing the proper care for your companions, but also  assisting stray, feral and wild animals when needed. A good villager makes sure the neighbor’s dog has good shelter and fresh water during the cold weather these days. I’ve seen people do this. We’ve seen feral cats rescued from near freezing and wild geese that can’t get to open water or food. It takes a village to watch over all of its animals as well as its children.

This really shows how much we are ALL in this together. American society, politics and the world at large can seem so fragmented these days. It’s so much “us against them”. This can make one want to just shut the curtains and hunker down.  But you can’t. It takes a village to care for our children. It takes a village to care for our animals too. Keep up those life lessons. You’ll never know when one of those “kids down the street” will become that young adult that greets you with a smile and lends a hand. Keep up the good work!



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If You’re Drunk You Cannot Buy a Puppy

If You’re Drunk You Cannot Buy a Puppy

I recently heard this amusing song by clever, comedic singer-songwriter Christine Lavin. It’s based on a sign she once saw in a Greenwich Village Pet Shop. The song continues on to outline other things you can’t (or shouldn’t) do if you’re drunk. It started me thinking. Not so much about drinking but about responsible pet ownership. Buying a puppy while you’re drunk amounts to an impulse buy. Choosing to bring a companion animal into your home should never be done on spur of the moment basis.“Dad can we keep him?” “Oh, mom, look how cute!”.  “She looks so sad, let’s take her home.”“I promise I’ll take care of it.”  “You’ve always said I could have a pet.” I’ve heard these plea bargains in many a pet store. Yes, I do often “lurk” around pet stores to see: 1) how well the animals are cared for, 2) How knowledgeable the staff is, 3) to see if the store is complying with the law, 4) To see how the public reacts to animals and makes choices.  It’s usually an eye-opening investigation.  It always leads to me wanting to shout out, “Choosing to bring a companion animal into your home should never be done on a spur of the moment basis!” (or something similar using much less and shorter words).

I’ve shared my thoughts and statistics about responsible pet ownership in some of my previous posts. Remember that you need to budget $300-500 per year for any kind of companion animal.

This includes, the proper diet, environment, housing, fresh water, routine veterinary care, and love, attention and regular exercise.  Choosing to share your life with an animal is a commitment. This can range from a 1 year commitment to share your home with a mouse, 9-15 years for a dog, 12-18 years for a cat, 20-30 years for a horse, 30-50 years for a parrot, and 70-150 years for a tortoise. Now multiply those years by the average annual animal care cost above and that cute little kitten in a box in front of Shop-Rite is going to cost you a potential minimum of $6,000 dollars over its lifespan. No animal is ever free. Choosing to bring a companion animal into your home should never be done on a spur of the moment basis.

So what if you’re not drunk and want to buy a puppy? Do your research. There’s lots of information on line: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/choosing-puppy-litter, https://www.akc.org/future_dog_owner/find_breed.cfm, there are even breed match sites to help you select a good breed for your family: http://www.animalplanet.com/breed-selector/dog-breeds.html. Be sure to ask your veterinarian and her staff for recommendations. Visit your local shelters but take time to get to know an animal before adoption. Work out your family budget beforehand. Make sure you can make the commitment both in time and financially to provide everything your new companion animal needs. And remember, if you’re drunk you cannot buy a puppy. Choosing to bring a companion animal into your home should never be done on a spur of the moment basis.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



The first Arctic cold snap of the winter is now upon us. Just as hot weather can pose problems for our animal companions, cold temperatures can create some health risks as well. I’d like to share some tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association for keeping your animal safe during cold weather. Please add your comments and tips as well.


Cold tolerance can vary from animal to animal just as it does from person to person. I spend the winter at home in shorts and a t-shirt while my life wears 3-6 layers. Your dog and other outside animals can differ just as well.  Learn your animal’s tolerance and adjust accordingly. You may need to shorten your walks. Small dogs and short-coated breeds may benefit from a dog coat. Older animals can have their arthritic issues worsened by cold weather just like us. Pain medications may need to be adjusted accordingly.  Animals with health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature. So do very young and very old animals. If you have questions about your animal’s temperature limits and susceptibility, ask your veterinarian.


Animals are pretty good at figuring out how to regulate their temperatures. Make sure you give them some options like sleeping in front of a warm vent, heat source, etc.  Outdoor animals should have access to shelter out of the wind  with warm bedding to help them regulate their temperature. Indoor temperatures can also drop during cold spells. Animals that require strict temperature regulation like fish and reptiles may need to have their heat sources adjusted. While it’s true that dogs, cats and other animals are wearing fur coats, they are still susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Even “arctic” breeds with thick coats can have trouble in cold weather if not well adjusted. Don’t leave any animal used to being indoors, outdoors for long periods during freezing weather.


If your car is left outdoors, bang on the hood before getting in. Hopefully, this will scare away any hitchhikers. Outdoor or feral cats and other wild animals will seek the warmth of a hot engine to spend at the night. There can be horrific injuries from fans and belts when you start your car.  Try to scare them away first.


Your dog’s feet are most susceptible to the cold because of their contact with the frozen ground. Check for cracks, bleeding and wounds regularly. Ice can accumulate between their toes. You can decrease this by trimming the hair short. Sometimes applying Vaseline to the feet before going out can decrease the accumulation. It may be a good idea to wipe your dog’s feet after going out to remove any salt/sand that may have accumulated. There are supposedly “pet-safe” de-icers on the market. These are urea based compounds and while they may be easier on your dog’s feet, they don’t melt ice. Don’t bother with them. Simply clean your dog’s feet, monitor for any irritation and things should be just fine.


Car anti-freeze is highly toxic to animals. It’s also sweet and pretty tasty. (And yes I do know this. While in vet school I worked on a research project to find an additive to make it less likely to be ingested. This work led to the addition of bittering agents to anti-freeze which you can now find added to many products.) Clean up any spills thoroughly and keep containers sealed and out of the reach of animals and children. Animals will be spending more time indoors, so continue your usual precautions to avoid exposure to household toxins.


If you’ve made a family emergency kit to be ready for power outages and severe weather remember to include enough food water and medicine for your animals for at least five days. 


If your animals must remain outside, make sure the have complete shelter and protection from the elements. Dog houses should be raised off the ground and insulated if possible. Bedding for all out door animals should be thick, dry and changed regularly. Access to fresh, unfrozen water must be continued. This means either changing the water frequently or  using tank heaters or heated bowls. Outdoor animals will have higher calorie requirements to keep warm. You may need to offer more food, or food that can provide more energy such as higher fat feed.


Above all else, use common sense. If it’s cold for you, it’s cold for our animals. Since you provide everything they need to survive, it’s important to be aware of what needs to change during this cold weather. Ask your veterinarian if you have specific questions about what would be recommended for your animal. I encourage you to share any thoughts and tips that have worked for you here under the comment section. Stay Warm!




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is “Natural” Pet Food?

What is “Natural” Pet Food?

An article published in this month’s Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Society discusses the “Awareness and evaluation of natural pet food products in the U.S.”. It shared several insights into this topic that is very important to me, any responsible, caring pet family and many fellow veterinarians. I thought I’d share the highlights with you to help you in providing the best food for your dog and cat.

The natural pet food segment is the fast growing portion of the pet food industry with sales jumping from $2.0 billion in 2009 to $3.9 billion in 2012. Why? Many people perceive that diets consisting of whole grains (or grain free), whole meat and few byproducts are healthier for their animals. In fact, this has never been conclusively proven. Most of us are guided by our intuition that whole foods and recognizable ingredients are better for our animals just as they are for us. Truth is, no-one knows for sure. Pet food manufacturers take advantage of this by using catch-words (many of which are undefined or meaningless) and pretty pictures on their packaging in order to fool the consumer into believing that their food is better.  As in everything, buyer beware. Some of those ingredients and pretty pictures may make up a very small portion of the food.  You may not actually be feeding a diet that’s as good as you think.

Let’s take a look at some of the terminology used in the pet food industry. While the FDA does regulate some portion of the industry, most manufacturers voluntarily adhere to standards created by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This association has no regulatory functions, but is a voluntary group providing advice and standards for companies.

The AAFCO definition of natural states the following: “a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic.”   Not exactly the pure, minimally processed foods you were envisioning, huh? Corn, soy and animal by-products are all considered natural in this definition, but may not really be so for our animals.

Many of the premium foods also carry great sounding catch –phrases on their packaging. These sound great, but many are not well defined, or actually carry no meaning attached to the quality of the food. Take a look at these:

Term                                  Defined by a regulatory body?                               Definition or description

Ancestral or  Instinctual                            NO                                            Generally mean a diet                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                         similar to diets of evolutionary                                                                                                                          ancestors or foods self-selected in

                                                                                                                         the wild.


By-products                                                YES                                            Secondary products produced in

                                                                                                                        addition to the original product


Fillers                                                            NO                                            Digestible carbohydrate and fiber



Holistic                                                          NO                                            A philosophy for eating based on

                                                                                                                         nourishing an animal’s mind,

                                                                                                                          body and spirit. Has no bearing

                                                                                                                          on quality


Human Grade                                              YES                                             Must comply with FDA regulations

                                                                                                                           for processing of human food     


Organic                                                         YES                                              Must comply with USDA regulations

                                                                                                                            For production of organic food


Grain-Free                                                     NO                                              Pet food does not contain grains.

                                                                                                                             It does contain carbohydrates

                                                                                                                             Sometimes in even higher

                                                                                                                             Amounts from foods such as

                                                                                                                             potatoes, sweet potatoes,

                                                                                                                             chick and split peas. May be better

                                                                                                                             carb sources but unproven


This demonstrates how manufacturers can use advertising words and phrases that are not really well defined or regulated by any portion of the industry. It may sound good, but is it?  “Holistic” make look good on a package but it is really meaningless when it comes to the ingredients or quality of the food. “Natural”  is almost just as unhelpful.


What should you do?  I always recommended purchasing the best animal food you can afford. Those available from pet stores are generally better than those in the supermarket. Make sure it’s from a major manufacturer. They often are doing the best they can at monitoring the quality and testing of their ingredients. Generic foods can be risky and have been associated with health issues in pets. The number one selling dog food in the country is sold by the largest retailer in the country. It has one of the poorest ingredient lists of any food. Veterinarians often joke that it’s made from shoes and old phone books. While that isn’t true, there is an awful lot of variation in the ingredients in pet foods.  Don’t be misled by phrases such as those above or by pretty pictures on the package.  Look for a food that lists whole meat as the first ingredient. Make sure the package states that the food meets the AAFCO  standards for basic nutrition which means it is guaranteed to be balanced and provide the minimal ingredients your animal needs.


If you have questions ask your veterinarian. Be aware that the pet food industry courts us vets pretty heavily so you may not receive an unbiased opinion.  (We’ll talk about “prescription” diets in a future post. Raw diets too.)  If your veterinarian doesn’t seem very knowledgeable, ask another. We all have to educate ourselves on animal foods too. After all, we have our own to feed.                             




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Not to Feed Your Animals on Thanksgiving


Be sure to thank your companion animals during the holiday. Please don’t thank them with food.  We all know that animals are often the definition of unconditional love. We often can’t thank them enough. We also know that to too many of us food is love.  Did you know that some of the foods that are customary to eat on Thanksgiving can actually be harmful to animals?

Take a close look at the picture above. Find anything there that surprises you?  We see many patients with gastro-intestinal issues right after every holiday. It’s easy to think that it’s fair to share a little leftovers with your dog or cat.  Parts of a turkey or other meat which are particularly fatty such as skin, drippings, fat trimmings, etc. can actually cause inflammation of the pancreas as well as the intestines leading to painful pancreatitis that often requires several days of hospitalization.

Bones are generally not good for dogs and cats, particularly the cooked ones. Poultry bones can splinter which can cause severe intestinal distress and in rare cases, punctures and life-threatening infections.

Many spices and desserts such as chocolate can be directly toxic to cats and dogs. Even onions, whether cooked or not, can be toxic even to the point of death. If in doubt whether something is safe for you companions, don’t share.  Yes, it’s true that your pup can go outside and eat the grossest, rotten carcass she can find  and be ok yet many human foods can cause problems.  Bottom line, don’t share table food as tempting as that is.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a holiday without any religious or government ties. It’s simply a day to celebrate family, friends, food and football.  Make sure you celebrate your animals too. Just don’t share any foods that can cause them harm.  They’ll be thankful that you didn’t.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dr. Google and the Smoke Monster

Dr. Google and the Smoke Monster


Are you the type or patient/animal caregiver that likes to do a lot of internet research prior to making an appointment for an examination?  Great! That shows that you are really invested in finding the right answer to you or your animal’s health issue. So is your doctor. Chances are your doctor will also be searching for some answers on the internet at some point. One veterinary school professor recently complained that when he asked students a question during rounds, rather than stating the answer, they googled it first. Be aware that “Dr. Google” (health answers resulting from an internet search) can be both a help and a hindrance in getting to the bottom of a health issue. Perform your research wisely and use the information obtained carefully.  Here are some simple dos and don’ts for you to help you in your research:


Use proper and widely recognized and monitored websites to begin your search. WebMD is a good place to start and has a section for animals. Most universities and veterinary schools have sites with good searchable information on many diseases. So does NIH (National Institutes of Health).



Think that your search as led you directly to the exact problem your animal has. While it probably got you pretty close, it can’t have made a diagnosis without physically examining your companion. Nothing can take the place of a physical exam. In fact, this is required by New York State Law for both people and animals before a diagnosis and treatment recommendations can be made.  Forums where non-professionals can share their experiences and thoughts on conditions are not great places to get good information.  It’s easy to be swayed by persuasive posters. Most are not doctors and most posts don’t contain information obtained from evidence-based medicine, only personal experience.


Bring a list of all the information you’ve collected. It can serve as a great starting point for a conversation with your doctor/veterinarian. It can also allow her to explain why some of those illnesses on your list don’t apply in this particular situation. I love to see a client come in with a sheaf of paper. It indicates that he really cares about his animal.


Bring only a portion of the information. We can’t help you understand this without seeing all that you’ve found.


Allow you doctor to develop her own list of possibilities (called the differential list or problem rule-outs) before sharing your list.


Fall victim to the smoke monster. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of information you’ve found on the internet. Locking in on a single diagnosis and forcing your doctor to comply can have dangerous consequences. You may have to saw your way through a dense jungle of mis-information before you go to the right side of the issue. I have seen doctors misled by a client’s self-diagnosis. While the initiative is commendable, the results can be disastrous.


Understand that sometimes your information may just not apply to the situation at hand.  We may have totally different views of the same health issue.


Be insulted that your doctor may disagree with your thoughts. Don’t become angry. It’s best to work together to find the right diagnosis and treatment plan.


Understand that some doctors can be threatened by your opinions and well researched information. However, a good doctor will be appreciative of your dedication and assistance. It’s impossible for us to know everything about every disease or condition. It’s important for us to work together as a team in order to properly treat every problem. Good health care is a combined effort from patient/client and doctor.


Give up. If you’re not satisfied with a diagnosis, treatment or outcome get a second opinion. Not from Dr. Google, but from a board certified specialist familiar with treating the condition you’re dealing with. How do you find this doctor? Why on the internet of course.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ebola Virus and Your Dog and other Animals

Ebola Virus and Your Dog and other animals


I’m sure that you are aware that Ebola Virus has finally made it into the U.S.  We have been expecting it to escape from Africa for a long time. In today’s global village it’s extremely easy for biological agents to spread from source areas to the entire planet in a short period of time given the ease of human travel. In some regards, it’s a bit surprising that it’s taken so long for Ebola to begin its spread. This is a credit to containment procedures that were in place before it began its spread in Africa. What’s surprising is how, given this long period before beginning an epidemic, our government and health care system still does not seem to have been completely and adequately prepared. This is much more alarming than the arrival of the disease itself.

Viruses and other infectious diseases are spread from animal to animal (remember humans are animals too) through either direct contact or indirect contact. Some diseases can be carried and spread without making the host sick.  Animals that carry and spread disease are known as vectors. Inanimate objects that can carry and spread disease are known as fomites.  The humans which were infected with Ebola in Africa and carried it to the U.S. are the vectors for this disease.  It’s not yet clear whether non-human animals can serve as vectors although it’s likely.  You most likely have some experience with a  vector borne disease common in our area – Lyme Disease.  Several different animals serve as vectors in its transmission; some are necessary for the organism’s development. Ebola doesn’t seem to need any intermediate vectors or hosts and transmission appears to be through direct contact with infected body fluids. Which leads us to the big question:

 Can animals be infected with, carry and transmit Ebola Virus?”

The Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association are closely monitoring the situation in an attempt to learn more about this.  It is thought that Ebola virus emerged from non-human primates and or bats in Africa so we know they can be infected.  There is a study indicating both infection and the presence of antibodies in dogs in Africa in the epidemic area. Because of poor and differing sanitation techniques, these dogs may have had direct contact with contaminated tissues, possibly even ingesting portions of infected patients. This scenario would not happen in our country.

Currently, there is no evidence that dogs, cats or other companion animals can be infected and spread the disease to other animals and people. Animals that have been in contact with infected individuals are being monitored and tested closely. While an Ebola patient in Spain’s dog was euthanized out of precaution, the dog belonging to the nurse infected in Texas is in quarantine and being monitored for any disease to help answer this question. At this time we don’t really know the answer to the question.  We do know that  primates and bats can be infected. The medical and veterinary professions currently don’t feel this is likely in our pets and are actively investigating this issue.

So don’t panic. The media is over-hyping this situation as is customary. Many more people die from the flu in this country (30,000!) every year then are likely to develop Ebola during this epidemic.  Rest assured that our profession is continuing its vigilance in containing this infection and monitoring other infectious disease threats.  Orange County is home to one of only a few USDA animal quarantine sites in the U.S. adjacent to Stewart Airport. We have highly trained disease containment specialists already in place in our area should Ebola or any other infectious disease appear here. We’re better prepared here than many areas of the country.  You don’t have to worry. But stay informed, cautious and take any precautions that may be advised. I’ll continue to monitor developments as this epidemic develops and will keep you informed. Stay safe with Pets Power. You can find the CDC’s statement on Ebola Risk with Pets on this link: http://files.dvm360.com/alfresco_images/DVM360/2014/10/14/4fd95878-3d91-4501-b5d0-3e8c855d13bc/Ebola%20handoutAJFV2.pdf




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
  • Blog Author

    Dr. James Zgoda

    Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. Animal Behavior 1980 Rutgers Univ., M.S. Zoology 1981 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, D.V.M., 1985 Owner and chief veterinarian of Otterkill Animal Hospital in Campbell Hall, NY ... Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives