Friday, July 23, 2010

It has to be a full moon…

A couple brought their dog in because her stomach was getting larger. As I did my physical exam, I asked certain questions, such as “Is she spayed?” (No), “When was her last heat cycle?” (Two months ago), “Was she around any intact males while unsupervised?” (Yes). As you can probably guess, the top differential (aka “possible cause”) would be pregnancy. This was confirmed when I palpated her abdomen and felt puppies moving. Upon further discussion with her owners, we decided our plan of action would be to do a radiograph (x-ray) to see how many puppies she would be having and get them information on how to deliver a litter of puppies. The owners left her with us so they could run some errands.

The radiograph was both cute (little babies) and a bit alarming – one of the puppies was already in the pelvic canal! We then took her temperature, which was 37.5’C. Normal is 38.5’C. This is important, because after a pregnant female’s temperature drops one degree, we generally have puppies within 12 to 24 hours. As my staff was setting up an area for her, in case she started to whelp, the first strong contraction came. During the next hour, out came five perfect little healthy puppies. In my line of work, we usually see the cases with problems, not the naturally occurring miracle, so we were all a little excited.

Now, you need to imagine yourself as the owners. You have just been told your dog is pregnant; you go do errands and then return to the hospital to look at a radiograph that will tell you how many puppies to expect. Instead, you enter the clinic, and are greeted with “ “Congratulations, you are the proud grandparents of five puppies, here they are!” Your vet isn’t pointing at a radiograph, she is pointing to your dog with puppies suckling from her. To this day, I wish I had a picture of the looks on their faces when we gave them the news.

This is a compilation of a few cases and I have been thrilled with the miracle of each one.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Missing Jewels

Many people who know me have figured out that I like jewelry, especially the kind that includes diamonds. When I was thinking about topics, this case just popped into mind.

A couple of years ago, my staff booked an appointment for a dog that may have eaten a foreign body. I entered the room to find Horatio, a wiggling spaniel, happily waiting to see me. His owner, on the other hand, was upset because she was afraid he had once again eaten something he shouldn’t have. Horatio is not a picky eater and had recently decided that shiny things were his new snack of choice. The item that was missing today was his owner’s brand new engagement ring.

Knowing Horatio, we decided to do a radiograph to see if he’d actually eaten it and if so, where it was in his abdomen. You can imagine my surprise to see not just any ring, but a huge 2 carat diamond ring in his colon. Since the colon is wider than the small intestines I knew there would be no risk to Horatio and he would be able to pass it very easily.

I sent him home to be closely observed. The next morning, we received a call from the owners to say the ring had been retrieved without incident. Apparently Horatio watched his humans with a bit of puzzlement as they “dissected his feces” instead of just bagging it. After some extensive cleaning, the ring was brought in for me to see. It looked much better on his owner’s hand than in Horatio’s abdomen!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Animal Behaviour

One of my greatest passions in veterinary medicine (other than smelling sweet puppy breath and watching playful kittens) is animal behaviour. I have always been intrigued by why animals do what they do, how they use their body language to talk to one another, and how can I help the animals who have difficulties such as anxiety and aggression. In the future, I plan to become board certified in animal behaviour so I can be a behaviour specialist.

As my blogging continues, I will introduce you to some of my “special needs cases”. I will start with Max (yes, I have changed his name to protect his identity), who is now a 5 year old, male neutered, Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier. His folks brought him to me because he had multiple aggression issues. The first consultation was an interesting one, to say the least. When I entered the room, he barked, growled, and snarled while showing other signals (lip licking, yawning, paw up) to say he was very nervous and wanted to leave. During the two hour appointment, he was not happy when I moved at any time. Any of you who know me know that I tend to use my hands a lot, especially to reach for my Tim Horton’s coffee. Max was not a happy camper. We went over the behaviour modifying exercises we could use to help him relax.

In most cases, and this one especially, using any form of punishment will make the behaviour worse. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not know that the punishment and “dominance” based methods used on popular TV were scientifically disproven over 15 years ago! Using only positive behaviour-modifying exercises, Max’s dedicated owners now have him under excellent control It is not reasonable or possible to “cure” behaviour problems – the goal is good management. Two years later, Max has been able to attend obedience classes and was the happiest and most relaxed dog there. Max also thinks I am a treat dispenser and will do almost anything, including hitting the Staples easy button, to make me click and treat him. Max can now ignore the types of people who used to make him very anxious, which allows him and his owners to have much more pleasant walks around Calgary.

Positive training methods and behaviour modification can be successfully used with most pets with behaviour issues, along with obedience classes and adequate exercise. Please let us know any issues you may be having with your pet, either at your annual check-ups, or call us at any time. We will be pleased to work with you to develop the best possible relationship with your best friend.