Happy 1st Birthday Reese!

Happy 1st Birthday to Reese! About 10 months ago, I adopted her from the Kitchener-
Happy 1st Birthday Reese!Waterloo Humane Society at 9 weeks of age. Her pregnant mother had been seized from an unfit home and eventually came to term at the shelter. On September 16, 2011, she gave birth to 9 healthy puppies, one of which was my beautiful girl. Reese is a red Doberman. Because she was born at the shelter, she was left un-cropped — meaning she has two big floppy ears and a full tail. A lot of individuals I have met often can’t tell what breed of dog she is because she looks so different from what you’d expect. In a way, her appearance really works to her advantage because unfortunately her breed often gets a bad reputation for being vicious or scary. A lot of the time, this can be based on looks alone. It’s a shame, and really couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

Any dog can be gentle and well-mannered if you are willing to make the effort to understand the importance of properly training and socializing your puppy! And also, the realization that bringing a new pup into your home is not just about having something cute and cuddly to keep you company. It’s a full-time commitment that requires a lot of time and effort on your part. It’s also a financial responsibility that you can expect to fulfill for at least the next 10-15 years of your life. It is NOT a decision to be taken lightly or to be made in haste.

Which brings me back to Reese. We were not her first owners. In fact, another couple took her home a few weeks before we did only to return her to the shelter 2 days later. The reason? They did not expect a puppy to be so much work. And while I’m sure their decision to send her back was a difficult one, it was the responsible thing for them to do. And now we get to enjoy her and can offer her the time and attention that she needs and otherwise may not have received.

Don’t get me wrong, things with Reese are not always sunshine and roses. The first day we brought her home, she spent the first few hours tearing around our living room at full speed. She was everywhere and into EVERYTHING. My husband and I both wondered – what have we gotten ourselves into!? You would think having been a technician for the last 8 years would make raising a puppy a cinch, right? Wrong! It never ceases to amaze me what a learning experience this is. I can talk to you until I’m blue in the face about nutrition, crate training and how to trim your puppy’s nails, but it’s the little things that sometimes leave me at a loss. She can really be quite the handful sometimes! For example, she used to steal dish-towels all of the time. And by the time I would retrieve the towel, put it back in its rightful position on the stove and get back to what I was originally doing, she would have the thing in her mouth all over again! It was extremely frustrating. How did I overcome this problem? By filling a can with coins. I’d place it on the dish-towel rack, so that when she tried to grab her prize, the can would fall. It caused a horrible racket, but deterred her from the behaviour. Until finally she stopped doing it altogether.

She also used to bark a lot in her kennel when I would bring her to work with me. She would see a new face or pet in the treatment area and the excitement would start! ‘Pay attention to me!,’ she’d bark. Only, when the barking is happening ALL THE TIME, it’s hardly endearing. Solution? I covered her kennel with a blanket when she was barking. When she was quiet, the blanket came off,  and she was given a reward. I did this over and over again until she learned that she was only uncovered an able to see others when she was quiet and well behaved. Best of all, it didn’t take her long to learn.

The fun thing about having a puppy of my own is that it allows me to learn from my own experiences and pass my newfound knowledge onto our clients. It’s so much easier to discuss things with you guys when I can directly relate. And when I think back to that first day she was a part of our lives, it doesn’t seem so bad. And I really wouldn’t change any part of it for the world.

Diana Hunsberger, RVT


Integrative Therapy for Arthritic Pets

Integrative Therapy for Arthritic PetsArthritis, also referred to a Degenerative Joint Disease, is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in dogs and cats.  It can affect almost any joint but is commonly found in the elbows, neck, back, knees and hips on both cats and dogs, especially as they age.   Some studies have shown that the majority of cats over 8 years of age have some arthritis present.   Signs of pain from arthritis can be subtle, often beginning with pets that are less than enthusiastic about climbing up or down steps, jumping into the car or onto their favorite piece of furniture.  They may be less interested in walks or quit earlier during play time.

I tell my clients that there are three main areas to focus on in order to help their pet get the best response to other therapies and to help slow the progression of arthritic changes.

  1.  Achieve or maintain an ideal body weight and condition
  2. Maintain appropriate activity level to keep joints and tissues mobile and sustain suitable muscle mass.
  3. Feed a properly balanced diet that includes supplements with a focus on promoting lean body weight while providing a source of high quality protein, antioxidants, a therapeutic level of Omega 3 fatty acids as well as a source of glycosaminoglycans.

Without an emphasis on the above three factors, the results of any additional therapy will often be less than optimal.    For obese pets, weight reduction may have the most significant effect on chronic pain by reducing the level of inflammation as well as reducing the weight that each individual joint needs to support.

My Top 10 Recommendations for an Integrative Approach to Arthritis

  1. Start with a clear expectation of what will likely be required including the importance of diet, exercise and appropriate supplementation.
  2. Provide immediate pain relief to allow your pet to become more mobile so that appropriate activity can be maintained.  This may include acupuncture, laser therapy, initial short term use of anti-inflammatory drugs (called NSAIDs), or any combination of these or other therapies.
  3. Herbal and homeopathic therapies can be individually tailored to each pet’s needs where appropriate.
  4. Pharmaceutical drugs have a valuable role they can play when used appropriately.  NSAIDs (“aspirin” type drugs) should be used for the shortest required duration or when necessary maintained at the lowest dose needed.   At least twice yearly blood screening, particularly for kidney and liver function, should be monitored for animals on long term NSAIDs.  Narcotic and other adjunct pharmaceuticals such as Tramadol (a narcotic) and Gabapentin (used for chronic pain wind-up) can help improve overall response and reduce the require dose of NSAIDs.
  5. Therapeutic Laser can offer a convenient and cost effective means for long term pain management as most sessions can be performed by a veterinary technician in less than 20 minutes.
  6. Acupuncture can provide significant benefits for many pets and can be coupled with Laser Therapy for an even greater overall effect in some patients.
  7. Chiropractic Therapy can significantly improve mobility and help manage pain in many patients.
  8. Biotherapeutic, homeopathic drugs such as Traumeel® and Zeel® have good scientific evidence to support their use in veterinary patients.  Some patients may respond as well or in some cases better to these than conventional NSAIDs, particularly when administered by injections, IV, SQ, IM or into specific acupuncture points.
  9. Injectable Disease Modifying Drugs such as Adequan® or Cosequin® (that help preserve the cartilage within the joints) can provide additional long term benefits and have a sparing effect on the need for NSAIDs or other pharmaceuticals.
  10. The importance of daily activity/exercise cannot be overemphasised.  For those pets with more pronounce mobility issues, muscle wasting or neurologic deficits, rehabilitative therapies such as underwater treadmill, supported swimming, massage therapy or Chinese tui-na is recommended.

Stem Cell Therapy is a relatively new treatment that can provide long term relief for some pets with arthritis and may be even more effective when administered in the early stages of the disease.  After a short surgery is performed to collect fat tissue (usually from the abdomen), this tissue is sent to a laboratory where the stem cells are isolated.  These stem cells are then injection directly into the affected joints as well as given intravenously while the pet is under sedation.

Most pets will do best with a combination of some of the recommendations listed above as a single medication or supplement in and of itself may not be enough.  If you pet is suffering from arthritic pain, I recommend you schedule an assessment with one of our veterinarian to discuss the best options for your pet.