20 March 2014

Spring Break, Peripateticism, Pining and Pets

   It’s Spring Break, and we finally accomplish our bucket list goal of traveling to Europe albeit as chaperones for a school trip. Peripateticism takes on a new meaning as we embark on a whirlwind trip to experience three cities in 2 countries in 5 days using subways, trains and buses. On day one, we hopscotch from Dallas to Atlanta to Paris on an overnight flight. As we are about to embark on the last leg of our journey, my nose and throat warn me of an emerging head cold—can’t cancel now and antibiotics out of my reach. On day two, a quick stop at the hotel to drop our bags and brush our teeth before we rocketed out of the gate, fighting a daylight savings time switch coupled with sleepless night on the plane hangover, to walk 10 miles, see the sights and fall into bed after a 17 hour day. Yes, someone wore a pedometer. And yes, breakneck speed not only encouraged but expected—leading to an unfortunate fall on a crosswalk of a busy cobbled street. After I hit the street with a thud and my sunglasses joined me moments after, I lay sprawled on the street stunned by the turn of events like a running back felled by a dirty tackle. Luckily, my knee absorbed the brunt of the energy and the pear shaped hematoma reminded me that fleet feet don’t master cobbled streets. The remaining days involved walking, climbing stairs, sightseeing and sprinting after subway trains. According to another chaperone, we averaged 8 miles a day with a smattering of sleep, as in never enough, in order to stay on track with the tight schedule. Now, I wouldn’t consider this trip a flaming failure as we met some wonderful people, saw the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Versailles, the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe and the Mona Lisa, the Uffizi, the Museo Galileo and the Pont Vecchio. Lunch breaks and the occasional shopping trip were blissful.

  Believe it or not, in the quiet moments, I thought of my animal family at home, not my cushy couch or my favorite tv shows or my must have foods. Pining for and planning to see my beloved pets proved to be my balm, my panacea as I traipsed along the narrow uneven European streets dodging pedestrians, cyclists and smokers. Two goofy dogs, two cuddly cats and four happy horses awaited us back home. Yes, Paris is chic and Florence unforgettable, but I realized I treasure my pets and the moments with them more than any trip taken. The welcome home cha cha of a Great Pyrenees which ends cheek to cheek followed by a wet sloppy kiss, the squinting cloudy eyes and wagging tail of an aging Border Collie who approaches for a much needed embrace, the caress and purr of my cats who jointly decide that catnip can’t compare as they curl in my lap to nap, the pricked ears of my horses as they gallop to great me with a whinny of approval—all special, golden and life-affirming moments. Yes, wonder lust and peripateticism run through my veins as real as blood, but the best journeys the best adventures will always be time spent with my family both human and animal. Home is home only because my family shares it with me.

  With a focus on furry friends, I asked veterinarian, Dr. Sharon Phillips, to answer a couple of questions about keeping our pets healthy and happy. 

Thanks for joining us, Dr. Phillips to answer a few questions.

Is it important to keep a dog on heartworm preventative in the winter? If so, why?  Is that recommendation based on geography?
Heartworms are transmitted through mosquitoes.  While in some areas of the U.S., heartworm preventative can be discontinued in the winter months, here is Texas, the climate is such that we have mosquitoes present even during the winter months.  All it takes is a 68 degree day to hatch mosquitoes and that places your pet at risk for heartworm disease.  That is why heartworm preventative is recommended all year long in Texas.
What are the over the counter painkillers (ie, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) that you should never give your dog or cat? Why?
It is always a good plan to call you veterinarian before giving any over the counter medication to make sure that medication is safe for your pet and the proper dose for their size.  No aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or Tylenol should ever be given to cats.  They do not metabolize these medications like humans do and can have severe reactions to these drugs.  Aspirin can occasionally be given to dogs under a veterinarian’s recommendation but ibuprofen, Tylenol, and naproxen are not recommended. 

For dogs with thick coat like Pyrenees, why should they not be shaved for summer? I’ve been told that the hair doesn’t grow back after repeated grooming on this scale. If that’s true, why would that be the case?
This is always a controversial topic.  Those dogs with long hair and thick undercoats, shaving them for the summer can alleviate some problems with overheating.  Those dogs with long but no undercoat or  thick hair may not need shaving.  If the dog is outdoors a great deal, the hair can be groomed but it is not recommended to shave them so short as to where the dog may get sunburned.  To be honest, I have a pyrenese mix and I clip his hair during the summer leaving at least 1 inch of hair to prevent sunburn.  Repeated grooming should not interfere with hair regrowth.
What’s the most common medical myth about dogs? About cats? 
I think one common myth is that cats are like small dogs, medically speaking.  Cats have very different dietary needs and metabolize medications very differently.  These species cannot be treated the same in the veterinary medical aspect.
Based on your many years of practice, what message do you want to convey to all pet owners?
Please remember that pet ownership requires more than just food and water.  Pets need medical attention, vaccinations, and preventative care.  When thinking about acquiring a new pet, make sure that you can take on the full financial aspect of pet ownership.  People tend to forget these pets need ongoing preventative care, grooming, and other costs such as obedience training, etc.  Vaccinations are so important.  Vaccinations can prevent serious illness and should be given according to the vet’s recommendation.  A $5 parvo vaccine can prevent a $1000 parvo treatment bill.
Why is it so important to clean a dog’s teeth?
Other than the fact that your dog has bad breath, dental tartar can cause serious health problems.  Tartar is laid on teeth by bacteria; so the more tartar, the more bacteria.  Thus, it can potentially cause systemic bacterial disease.  Patients with heart disease, diabetes, or immune mediated disease can be at special risk for secondary bacterial infections.  Add to that, dental tartar can cause gingivitis leading to tooth loss and gum disease.  Abscesses can form when the root of a tooth becomes infected.  This usually leads to the tooth needing to be pulled.  As weird as it sounds, severe dental tartar can also cause a diabetic animal to become insulin resistant leading to difficulty controlling blood sugar.
What do see as the biggest mistake that pet owners make? 
I think one thing that comes to mind is obedience training, especially in small dogs.  Toy breeds are so cute and it is hard to bring yourself to correct them but not training these dogs can lead to behavioral problems later on in life.  What is sometimes “cute” when dogs are puppies, it may not be so cute when they are older.  This goes for bigger breeds as well.  Training a dog of ANY size to walk politely on a leash is so important.  You don’t want a small dog pulling constantly on the leash (can lead to throat problems) or a big dog dragging you through the park.
What about summer temperatures? Conversely, some people think their short haired or shaved pooch has more survival leverage in a hot car. What is the ceiling outdoor temperature for dogs and cats inside   a car in the summertime? 
No dog has survival leverage in a hot car.  Never leave your dog in the car when temperatures rise.  There is not a specific temperature because it depends on if is sunny or cloudy, windy or still , etc.  If it is too hot for you to sit in the care without the A/C for any length of time, it is too hot for your pet.  Better safer to leave the dog at home than to have it overheat in the car.  If a dog is provided adequate shade and plenty of fresh water, most dogs can tolerate heat well.  This does not apply to some breeds however.  Breeds with short noses (bulldogs, Pekinese, shih tzu, pugs, Boston terriers, etc) cannot tolerate heat.  A lot of heat dissipation occurs through the nasal passages and these breeds don’t have those abilities.  Additionally, dogs with heart disease, lung disease, or are geriatric; these pets do not tolerate heat well at all and should be kept indoors whenever possible. 

Thanks again, Dr, Phillips.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Phillips, the following information will be helpful-

Tyler Veterinary Clinic
4505 Old Bullard Road
Tyler, Texas 75703

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