Monday, December 29, 2008

Polar Seek

I don't think this bear is playing tag! View more images and see how it turned out at this link.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Amazing Aquariums

The site has it cool would a fish highway in your house be?

7 Amazing Aquariums

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas Miracle!

I was on-call over the Christmas holiday and, fortunately, it was fairly quiet. I had several calls, but nothing I needed to go into the clinic for. Most were the typical "my dog ate some chocolate and I know that kills dogs, help!" calls that are easy to solve 9 times out of 10.

Then, the phone rang at 10:30 pm, immediately after I had gotten into bed. A dog belonging to a lady from out of town had gotten into the garbage and devoured the remains of a leg of lamb. For the past 3 hours, the dog (a Setter cross) had been acting painful, unproductively vomiting and her abdomen seemed large. After looking online, the owner was fairly certain her dog had "bloat."

For those of you unfamiliar with this condition, "bloat" (the more technical, medical term being Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus shortened to GDV) is a condition that occurs in large, deep-chested dogs such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, St Bernards, and the like. While those breeds are the most common to suffer from GDV, you will occasionally hear of other large dogs such as Labs, Boxers and Setters also being afflicted.

In dogs with GDV, their stomach literally twists on itself, cutting off passage of food (either up or down) and twisting off the blood supply. Dogs with bloat very quickly become extremely sick as gas builds up in their stomach (further cutting off the blood supply and pressing on nearby organs), their blood pressure plummets (again due to the blood supply issue) and they quickly become septic. Symptoms (often severe abdominal discomfort, unproductive frequent vomiting, visibly enlarged abdomen) typically come on quickly and come on after a large meal and/or exercise. Even with emergency surgery, many GDV dogs die.

So, back to the story: Christmas night, blizzard outside, warm and cozy in bed, possible bloat needing emergency surgery. After talking to the owner about the diagnostics we would need to do, the other rule outs and the likely costs we could be looking at (I've learned to be very up front about prices of everything), she decided to talk it over with her husband for a moment and call me back with what they wanted to do.

For the next 20 minutes I lay in bed in dread. Of all small animal emergency calls vets get, I'd be willing to wager that bloat calls rank up at the top as the most feared. GDVs can be very frustrating things, especially since the survival rate is so variable and often so low depending on the circumstances of each individual case. C-sections, fractures, even hit-by-cars don't scare me nearly as much as bloats do.

Eventually, the owner called back. Turns out the family member she was staying with is good friends with one of the other vets in town, and she was on her way to have him see the dog. After wishing her luck (and wondering in my head why they didn't call him in the first place), I hung up and sighed in relief. When I related the story the next morning, one of my colleagues pronounced it a Christmas miracle. And I tend to agree with her.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wondering What to Get aYour Dog For Christmas?

The Rise of Beds, and Falls of Dogs

Without fanfare or marketing, the bedding industry has been raising the altitude of its products, satisfying customer preferences for ever-thicker mattresses. Yet that preference is creating a hazard for a tall bed's shortest occupant: the dog.

Anecdotally, veterinarians across the country report among house dogs a rise in such disorders as elbow and shoulder arthritis, hip dysplasia and degenerative disk disease. As the lifespan of pets rises thanks to better food and medicine, the old dog that once leapt with abandon now hesitates on the edge of bed -- or jumps and hurts itself.

[A 'designer dog staircase,' featuring cherry staining, carpeted treads and raised wood panels. $109.99 to $169.99 at Drs. Foster & Smith.]

Little dogs like the Pekingese are soaring off of high beds without fear. "For a little dog to take a flying leap off a bed that's five to six times higher than he stands is an act of courage, and a recipe for injury," says Stephen Crane, an academic animal doctor and diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The peril is too new to have generated peer-reviewed veterinary research. But the problem is evident in the white-hot popularity of a relatively new product: pet stairs, specifically designed to lead Fido from bed to floor by land rather than air.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (click for full article)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Are What You Eat

I get calls daily about pets (particularly dogs) eating things they shouldn't. Toys, trash, wrappers, chocolate, bottle caps, squirrels, undergarments, even feces...the list goes on. Amazingly, for all of the things that dogs eat, most of them do just fine. I even had a dog that ate a lightbulb without any untoward affects. Granted, it was a 150 lbs Mastiff and the lightbulb came out of a nightlight, but it was still strangely entertaining to watch it via radiographs as it progressed through the GI tract over the course of about 3 days.

Oftentimes, we aren't sure if a dog ate something they shouldn't have. They just start showing signs of vomiting and/or diarrhea and - depending on circumstances - a foreign object is always somewhere on the rule out list.

Now, it is very politically incorrect to race profile these days for a variety of reasons. However, this practice is used daily in the veterinary field, but we call it by a different name: breed profiling. When it comes to certain problems, the breed of the dog has a huge impact on how likely a given scenario is. This is especially apparent when it comes to the issue of foreign objects swallowed by dogs. If you call me and tell me you have a vomiting Lab or Golden Retreiver, they have swallowed something they shouldn't have until proven otherwise.

Case in point: Bouncy is a 6 year old female Golden. Sweet, affectionate, and utterly untirable, Bouncy is everything typical about her breed (except, strangely, she is not overweight!) Bouncy's owners have been calling the clinic fairly regularly over the last 3 months because Bouncy has been vomiting. Over the course of this period of time, they have spoken to all 4 of the vets that are at the practice and each of us had encouraged them to bring Bouncy in to be evaluated. However, they hesitated...Bouncy's symptoms were somewhat nonspecific and very unpredictible. She would go streches of 4 days at a time with no problems. Then she would have a day where she would vomit everything up. Sometimes she would vomit up only water, keeping all her food down. Sometimes it was the other way around. Through the course of all of this, she never "acted sick" and hadn't lost any weight.

Finally, Bouncy's owners got sick of cleaning up vomit and brought her in. Unfortunately, in cases such as these - even if we are fairly certain there must be some sort of foreign body in the GI tract - sometimes we don't see a whole lot on the radiographs. Fortunately, Bouncy's radiographs gave us an immediate answer. For those not used to reading radiographs, a quick lesson on orientation. Bouncy is lying on her right side, her head going off to your left and her tail to your right. And, as you can likely notice, there are eight very round objects in her stomach that just don't look like they belong.

In surgery, we pulled out 8 golfballs. Yeah, golfballs.....apparently she liked to chase golfballs that her owner hit in the backyard, and he hadn't been keeping track of them all. The balls were too large to leave the stomach in either direction, so there they had sat for months. Oddly, it is not terribly uncommon for a dog to swallow something like this and not show any clinical signs. Only if something happens to block the entrance or the exit to the stomach will you actually see vomiting.

Fortunately, Bouncy is doing just fine now. Her owners refer to her as the most expensive golfball can they've ever owned. And she doesn't get to chase golfballs anymore.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicken Police!

Submitted by my brother....break it up, break it up!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Does Not Approve

I bet I can bet who Barney Bush voted for on Tuesday. Not a happy terrier!

Article: Barney Bites White House Reporter, NBC Chicago

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I spent a few days in Dallas last week at a conference and snapped these pictures of a very bold Mockingbird that was eating breakfast next to me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Solution

Thanks to Richard for forwarding this on!

The Solution to the Economic Crisis

I'm hoping all those in charge of these decisions take note!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

Thanks to Debbie for forwarding this on! This video shows the reunion of a soldier returning home from 14 months in Iraq. I think his dogs missed him. :)

Random Waldi Picture

There he is!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lost! Stray Barn Owl. Tame. Answers to "Roxey"

Dartmoor Roxey the tame barn owl, above, seemed relieved to be found after surviving for four days in the wild. When she was found by a passing motorist she hopped on to his arm and flew into his van as soon as he opened the door.

George Hedges, who has hand-reared the two-year-old bird since she was five days old, said: “I think she was saying ‘take me home’.”

The bird had no experience of hunting for her own food or avoiding predators, but managed to travel 20 miles with leather straps still fastened round her legs.

Roxey escaped from the back of a horsebox travelling at 50mph on a motorway. Mr Hedges, who runs Devon’s Eagles, a falconry centre on Dartmoor, was forced to brake sharply, loosening the catch on the owl’s cage. She sat on the back of the horsebox for 20 miles then launched into space, narrowly avoiding being run over and crashing into a grass banking near Salisbury. Other drivers flagged down Mr Hedges.

He said: “We went back to try and find her but there was no sign. I feared the worst.”

For four days Mr Hedges heard nothing, then he had a call to say that a couple had found the owl.

He said: “When I went to pick her up she flew straight out of the cage she was in and into my hands.”

From The TimesOnline.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Importance of a Complete History

I walked in a room the other day to be greeted by not only the real-life representation of Cujo but also of Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel of Simpson's fame. While digesting the irony of being faced with two caricatures in the same room, I had the more immediate problem of what to do with this case.

The presenting complaint was that "he gots the puppy mange." While essentially all I could see of Cujo was his hugely dilated eyes as he stared me down with all of his 100 lbs of 1 year old St. Bernard, I could also see the spots of hairloss on the dog's side that had Cletus concerned. We eventually coaxed the beast onto an elevator table in the clinic; one that allows us to raise large dogs to our level without having to lift them. This contraption has the secondary effect of often disorienting aggressive or nervous dogs enough for a short period that we can work on them with relative safety if we work before they get their bearings.

So, with Cujo at eye-level and Cletus soothing him up by his head, I quickly went to work gathering the skin scrapings and impression smears I hopped would diagnose the cause of this dog's hairloss. In an ideal world, we would have been able to get a muzzle on him...but it was not to be. I decided to proceed anyway, hopeing I could get my samples before Cujo knew what was going on.

However, it wasn't long until Cujo's patience waned. With amazing speed, he spun his head, and with what I can only describe as survival reflexes, I jumped back. I felt the side of one of Cujo's teeth brush my forearm as I did so, knowing that what samples I had gotten by then were all I was going to get.

"Oh, 'e won't bite 'che," Cletus commented with a laugh, clearly amused by my jump back from his "puppy" which likely wasn't as graceful as the jungle cat moves I was hoping for. I lowered the elevator table and quickly excused myself to the lab and the relative safety of the microscope.

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, I didn't see anything of interest in the hasty samples I had obtained. I was mostly looking for mites as the cause of the hairloss. "The puppy mange," as Cletus called it, is caused by the demodectic mite and is not uncommon in young puppies. If an older dog has it, it can be the sign of very serious disease elsewhere. Demodectic mites are often somewhat easy to find on a skin scraping, but can be frustratingly hard to treat at times, requiring very odiferous mite dips and the like over the period of several weeks.

The other main type of mange mite we worry about is the sarcoptic mite which causes "scabies" as many people know it. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and of human health interest as well since people can catch it from their pets and visa versa. Sarcoptic mites, as opposed to the demodectic ones, can sometimes be hard to find on the microscope, but are relatively easy to treat. In some cases, if we suspect sarcoptic mange, but can't demonstrate the mites via skin scrapings, we'll treat for it anyway to be on the safe side.

As I was explaining these things to Cletus, he perked up when I mentioned that sarcoptic mange was transmissible to people. Suddenly suspicious, I asked him if anyone in the family had been itchy.

"You mean like a rash?"

"Um, yeah...."

"Oh yeah, me an' the boys all gots rashes. The doctor said it could be mites."

I knew I was in dangerous territory. From experience, I know that people have surprising lack of modesty when talking about their own medical conditions with their vet, thinking that we are interested in and/or knowledgable about human health problems because we are doctors. I'm sure all vets can tell you stories about clients showing them their own rashes, lumps, scars and injuries with surprising speed and unembarrasment.

Hoping fervently that Cletus would not show me his own rash, I told him of my plan to empirically treat Cujo for sarcoptic mites and monitor for response to treatment. Cletus informed me that his doctor told him that mites weren't transmissible to pets, so he hadn't thought to mention that. I knew I should have asked initially when faced with a dog with mange, but I hadn't. Being faced with Cujo and Cletus in the same room, who can think of anything except a Simpson's Halloween special?

Monday, September 22, 2008

If you don't have the finances....

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to "Pet Peeves" since that is often what I write about of late. Or maybe I should just post more, so I can post more of the good stories as well as the irritating and bad ones. In which case, maybe I shouldn't work as much so I have more times to post...well, I doubt that will happen. :p

Anyway, on to my topic: Pets and Finances. Since I began my veterinary career a little over a year ago, I have been faced with the question of finances and pets. It's something that is touched on in school, but almost in a somewhat ethereal if costs are something that are important in a parallel universe, but not in the one you are currently in. As students, we didn't have a clue what anything cost. Sure, there are ways we could have looked into it, I suppose, but we barely had the time to adequately SOAP all of our patients, let alone marvel at their bills. Additionally, most critters in a veterinary teaching hospital situation are there because their owners have already spent quite a bit of money and are verging on desperate for a diagnosis if not a treatment. Students have no contact with the client regarding bills or finances and, after being out in practice and dealing with that multiple times on a daily basis, I really think that should be an important part of the curriculum during school.

But that is a topic for a slightly different time. Before I digress too much, I should launch into what inspired today's post. And perhaps the best way to do so would be in list form, so here it goes. Following is a list of the most common ways people complain to me about bills and/or try to get me to reduce them. While I certainly empathize with people with stressed finances (chipping away with half of my pay every month going to pay off my student loan which will take many years to get rid of), I can't help but get a little tired of people blaming me and the rest of the staff at the clinic for their own poor financial decisions. So, before you go to the vet with any of these excuses, know that they have heard these before as well.

1. "I just spent $250 to buy this purebred Shih-Poo, and don't have any money to pay for anything today." This was today's incident, actually. Beyond what I think of paying $250 for a purebred mutt, I had a heck of a time trying to convince this lady that puppies need more than one vaccine to start to induce immunity against diseases. She informed me (in a voice very like a grade school math teacher correcting a student's sloppy multiplication table) that the breeder -- who has been doing this for 45 years -- knows what she is doing, and told her that this puppy was "up to date on all of its shots." She showed me the breeder's card, as if that would impress me of her knowledge and experience. The card proudly advertised at least 8 different breeds, not a one of them not a Something-Poo or a Bichon-Something. Long story short, I finally convinced the lady to at least allow me to vaccinate the puppy against rabies and she was going to need to "think about" boostering the other vaccine.

2. "I just bought these 2 purebred Aussies and adopted these 2 cats. Can you do something like give me a 2-for-1 deal on spaying and neutering them? There is no way I can pay full price for that on all of them." This is another painfully true situation from a few weeks ago. This lady specifically purchased 2 Aussie pups because she had always wanted 2 Aussies. And the farm where she picked the puppies up at had some free kittens up for grabs, so of course she needed some of those as well. Long story short, she didn't get a 2-for-1 deal. Dogs aren't glazed donuts.

3. "I rescued this puppy from being abused. Will you cover part of the costs in treating him?" This one always comes up in a tone and manner that makes the vet sound and feel like a heartless Scrooge if they say "no." What people don't seem to understand is that this one -- maybe of all of them -- gets asked the most. I would also be willing to wager a sizable sum that this is the one that irritates many vets the most. Free services and antibiotics at-cost won't feed the receptionist's kids or make the technician's car payments. People have this strange notion that we become vets purely and simply to "help animals" and apparently all veterinary clinics are charitable institutions or, at the very least, non-profits. Newsflash: it is a business. Businesses that make money stay open. Businesses that give everything away will close. Most vet clinics do an inordinant amount of community service in the way of cheap spay/neuter programs, treating homeless pets and so on. But none can afford to treat every pathetic sneezing kitten found in the gutter for a plate of stale cookies. However, maybe if they were fresh cookies.....

These are the 3 most common comments related to finances and pets. I know there are many more, several of which I havn't touched on for time considerations. Any in the veterinary field, feel free to add your most favorites to the comments page.

On a closing note, let's just say I have gotten really good at making estimates for even the most mundane of procedures and "encouraging" prompt payment despite not getting any training in that at school. Maybe they just figure that is the best kind of lesson to learn "on the job" because it is difficult to teach. Still, I think it would be very useful if some "bounty hunter" classes were included in the curriculum. Maybe right after learning how to play the invisible violin.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Venomous Patients

My work with the aquarium has certainly introduced me to a variety of new species and situations. Certainly the most unique have been some of the new additions to their special venomous exhibit. Over the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to exam and collect blood samples from 3 of the most notorious venomous snakes in the world. Previously -- related to this exhibit -- I had collected samples from copperheads, diamondback rattlesnakes, and pit vipers. But these latest 3 really were amazing.

First was a gaboon viper (which I neglected to take a picture of). Known as having the longest fangs among snakes, this guy was large, broad and amazingly calm.

Next was a king cobra. Huge and fast, this species may be the most photographed and feared of all snakes. With the ability to stand up to 3/4 of their body length, this particular specimen (being 11 feet long) could easily meet most people eye-to-eye. When comparing venoms, the cobra's is not the most deadly of the venomous snakes. However, they make up for it in volume. A fully charged king cobra can deliver 400 grams of venom in one bite...and it only takes 20 grams to kill an adult man. The size of this cobra's head is, more or less, the size of your hand. He is considered a mid-range king cobra in size. A skull of a king cobra has been found that fits snuggly in a gallon jug. That snake is estimated to have been pushing 30 feet long!

Last was the green mamba. Small, fast, and almost unnatural in the brilliancy of its green color, the green mamba is one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Strictly arboreal, the green mamba's venom is less toxic than that of the larger, more aggressive black mamba, but still very deadly. The thing that struck me about this snake (and the cobra as well) was their intelligence. Their keepers have commented that they are much more interactive and seemingly observant of their surroundings than other snakes, besides being amazing and beautiful creatures.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jumping To Conclusions

So, I have been out in practice for over a year already (amazing!) and have seen a lot of things from the mundane to the unique to the ridiculous. Some of those things I have posted about on here, and some I haven't. One case I saw about 2 weeks ago is still haunting me a bit.

I was on call on the weekend a few weeks back and got the fateful and strangely typical Sunday evening call: "my dog Cooper has not been eating and has been vomiting for the last week or so." It is amazing how few of these calls you need to get before you start to get a little tired of them. Honestly, you need to wonder sometimes...if it didn't bother you for the last 7 days, why are you worried about it now, on a weekend evening when it will be infinitely more difficult to do a work-up on it than it would be during the week? Relatively simple procedures like blood collection, IV placement, and radiographs suddenly become next to impossible, because I have learned the hard lesson that -- essentially without exception -- people cannot restrain their animals for most medical procedures. It's not a demeaning is just fact! People think it would be easy to restrain little Fluffy for a blooddraw, but if you aren't trained or experienced in it, forget it!

But before I digress on that subject, lets return to Cooper. After discussing the myriad of issues that could lead to inappetance and vomiting in a 2 yr old Golden Retriever (they are many) and clarifying the clinical signs (will eat treats but not food, sometimes vomits them up, not lethargic, normal drinking/urination, no diarrhea), the owners decided that , yes, they would like to bring him in that evening.

When Cooper came in, I was certainly relieved to see that, yes, he seemed to be a happy, active Golden. Wagging his tail while I examined him from stem to stern and finding nothing particularly alarming, he certainly seemed a happy healthy dog. Given his age and breed, the next step was radiographs to see if there were any obvious signs of a foreign object in his stomach or intestines that could be blocking things up. There really wasn't anything remarkable that I could see.

The next step was bloodwork just to make sure that there was nothing to blame there. I also wanted the firmly establish his hydration status. One would expect a vomiting dog to be at least a little dehydrated, but Cooper didn't seem dehydrated at all on physical exam. However, I wanted to see the bloodwork to confirm that subjective observation. The bloodwork confirmed that he was not dehydrated and didn't have changes in his white blood cells that would indicate any type of specific problem.

Then I looked at his chemistry values......and my heart nearly stopped. The kidney values were higher than my machine could even read. I ran the blood twice to make sure there wasn't something wrong with the machine, though I had run bloodwork on it on a different emergency earlier in the day and had gotten numbers that made sense.

A very long story made very short, Cooper was in acute renal failure, the cause of which we'll likely never know. He may have had access to some antifreeze, but the owners weren't certain. Though his kidney values stayed hugely elevated and his kidneys actually stopped working altogether despite aggressive treatment (he became almost anuric -- he didn't produce nearly the amount of urine he should have, given the liters of fluids I was giving to his through an IV) and he continued to refuse to eat, he still would walk with a wag in his tail and would greet everyone at the clinic with a happy Golden grin. On ultrasound, his kidneys were vaguely the shape they should be, but the architecture was completely destroyed. I sent his blood to another laboratory to make sure that I was getting accurate numbers. What little urine he did have even before fluids was like water, not concentrated at all. Ultimately, he was euthanized, though until the end he didn't look anywhere near as sick as he really was.

Things are not always what they appear to be. Oh how I wish he had swallowed a toy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Birds and the Bees

Since I haven't posted in awhile, I thought I would post something on several cases I have seen lately. With the coming of spring and early summer, the number of people curious about reproduction and their pets has increased of late. Following are several painfully true stories about questions and concerns clients have had lately regarding this delicate and confusing topic. Some are certainly understandable. Others are...not. Note: I'm fairly certain all of the following individuals have kids of their own, so I have to assume they have at least a working knowledge of where babies come from.

1. Question from a client asking about spaying her dog: "after this is done, will she still be able to have puppies?"

2. Question from a client that wants to breed her female Shih Tzu with her friend's Yorkie: "Will she ever be able to have purebred puppies if I breed her to something other than a Shih Tzu?"

3. Question from a client regarding when ovulation will occur in his dog: "Will I hear the egg hit the floor when she ovulates?"

4. I asked the fatal question once after vaccinating a man's two beagles, "Do you have any other questions or concerns today?" "Yeah," he replied. "How do I get my dogs knocked up?" (yes, classy individual)

5. I spent a somewhat silly phone call informing a client that, yes, her 5 month old male Maltese would figure out how to do "it" though she was unable to even say "breed" or "mate" or any related word besides "it."

6. Almost a daily occurrence are the giggles and comments elicited from clients as I check their new puppies to make sure both testicles are there.

7. People are always very incredulous when I tell them that cats in heat will remain in heat, more or less, until they are bred. I'm fairly certain they think I am nuts and making things up.

8. People are always incredibly confused by the fact that most dogs will only be able to be bred twice a year, and then not always when it is convenient for them. Again, they think I am nuts and making things up.

9. People are always very skeptical when I tell them that one litter of puppies or kittens can have multiple fathers. Yet again, I am certifiable and clearly delusional.

10. I have determined that it can be really difficult to encourage some men to neuter their dogs, but very easy to encourage women to do so.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Don't sign me up for one of those

Many of you are probably familiar with the amazing variety of "designer dogs" out there. For some reason, mutts of all types are the in-thing, and if you can give your puppies a cool breed name, you can sell them for big bucks. Labradoodles, Schnoodles, Puggles...the list goes on and on. But today, I was confronted with one I hadn't seen yet. A lady brought her new puppy in today for an exam and vaccinations. This pup was a Shih Tzu / Bichon Frise cross. When she filled out the information, she wrote the following in the breed section: "Shibich."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Backyard Birds

Some more common visitors to our feeders!

--Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
-- Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) -- male-- Eastern Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) -- male, the state bird of Iowa
--Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) -- normally very shy, but they have been visiting our feeders daily for the last few weeks. Named for their cat-like "meow" song. They also mimick other bird songs, but the periodic meow gives them away.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Baby Critters!

Here is a list of link about some baby critters born around the world lately:

Baby Hedgehogs in the UK

Baby Giraffe at the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi

Wolf Puppies in Minnesota (make sure you click through the pictures)

Fawn adopted by a Great Dane in the UK

Elephant Calf at Maryland Zoo

All very adorable!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Week after the Derby

I purposely delayed writing about this year's Kentucky Derby while I waited for the dust to settle. By now, even those who didn't watch the race know that the undefeated favorite Big Brown won the race handily while the second-place finisher, favorite filly Eight Belles suffered an ultimately life-ending injury after the race had finished. The official report is that she broke her two front "ankles" (actually called "fetlocks" or the metacarpophalangeal joint) and had to be euthanised on the track.

The tragedy and triumph of the Derby has once again brought out all those who are against the horse racing industry and those who defend it. PETA has called for the suspension of the jockey, Gabriel Saez, and the forfeiture of the $400,000 purse that the filly won in the race (along with the usual call to end all horse racing). The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA) made a public announcement of sympathy for all those involved with Eight Belles and reiterated their dedication to making horse racing as safe as it can be. The trainer, Larry Jones, has publicly defended the jockey and his actions. An online petition has been started to encourage the ringing of eight bells before the start of next year's Derby in memory of the filly. There are even wrist bands now available, the proceeds of the sale of which benefit a horse rescue organization.

There are many questions about the racing industry being raised, all of which have been asked before with no good answers as yet. Questions about the safety of the track surfaces, the breeding practices that have lead to the Thoroughbred of today, the age the horses are run, the training routine, the running of fillies against colts, the relative short time between the 3 Triple Crown races are continually asked. I won't try to address those questions at present, as I don't think I have enough information on any of them to make an educated answer, but suffice it to say that I am a horse-lover and a lover of horse racing and whatever they can do to make the sport safer, I will support.

In the meantime, Big Brown is off to the Preakness next weekend, and none of the Derby racers will be joining him. In fact, few horses at all will be racing against him. Everything seems to indicate it will be a much smaller field than the 20 horses that ran in the Derby. Many seem to agree that he is simply an amazing horse. While Big Brown's ultimate fate as a breeding stallion is certain, he is a promising candidate to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed in 1978. Hopefully he does, and does so safely.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Derby Day

It's Derby day! In about 6 hours, the most exciting 3 minutes in sports will take place. They have a very nice interactive site at where you can see all of the contenders and videos of their races and some exercise rides. Check it out!

I certainly like Big Brown (he's a monster!) and the filly Eight Belles, but I also like Visionaire and Colonel John.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Brown Thrasher

I caught pictures of a new visitor to the yard that I haven't seen before. This is a pair of Brown Thrashers (Toxostoma rufum). It is a neat looking bird, and is related to catbirds and mockingbirds. They were foraging in the backyard, digging around in the mulch.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Women Veterinarians

This article comes as little surprise to those of us in the field, but it provides an interesting perspective: (I threw in a couple of pictures of my classmates in surgery lab)

Women dominate admissions in veterinary schools --

"Odd hours, physical labor, blood, dirt and the occasional bite or kick. For generations, women were told veterinary medicine was too tough for them.

But now, that longtime bastion of machismo is overwhelmingly female. Changes in culture, pharmacology and even pet preferences have led to one of the most dramatic gender shifts in the workforce.

Eighty percent of the applicants accepted this month by the University of California-Davis' prestigious veterinary school are women. Similar numbers are reported by other vet schools around the country.

Plenty of other once male-dominated fields, such as law and medicine, are experiencing a surge in female students. But nowhere has the gender shift been as dramatic as in vet medicine.

In the past four decades, the number of women enrolled in colleges of veterinary medicine has skyrocketed from about 140 to 8,000. Women's increasing confidence in math and science is giving them a new edge in the fiercely competitive admissions process, experts say. In the mid-1970s, three-quarters of all students were male. Now the numbers are reversed.

"It's unbelievable to watch how it's changed," said Rance LeFebvre, UC-Davis' associate dean of student affairs. "Women are 100 percent capable of doing anything that's out there."

When UC-Davis Professor Carol Cardona graduated from vet school in 1990, she drove eight hours to apply for a job at a dairy farm. "I didn't even get to be interviewed by the vet," she

said. "I was interviewed by his wife. The big question was: 'Why do I want to work with cows?'

"At the time, everyone said that a woman isn't strong enough to handle a cow. Well, a man isn't either," Cardona said. "A cow is 100 times stronger than a man and 100.5 times stronger than me. That's not a real argument."

Education equity laws and a changing perception of women in the workforce are among the significant developments that helped set the stage for veterinary medicine's transformation. Another key change: better drugs.

"We call the tranquilizer Dormosedan 'the great equalizer,' " joked Belmont equine vet Kristin Dietrich.

While farm-based practices still require fitness, improved drugs and handling techniques mean that brute strength is less important, said UC-Davis veterinary Professor John Madigan. "The older practitioners used more muscle. Now vets work smarter."

Physical danger was a greater threat in America's more rural past. Back then, most work dealt with horses and cows - creatures whose medical emergencies often occur in remote pastures, sometimes in the cold, the dark and the rain. To pull a trapped calf from a laboring cow, for instance, a vet must reach shoulder-deep into a bloody birth canal.

As farms give way to subdivisions, vets are increasingly treating a different kind of patient: the family pet. These small-animal clinics allow more time to raise a family, with flexible hours, part-time work and job sharing, said UC-Davis equine vet Professor W. David Wilson.

Women students say they are attracted to newly emerging high-end specialty care, such as kidney transplants, cancer chemotherapy, back surgery, MRI and titanium hip-joint replacements. Many enjoy treating the increasingly popular "pocket pets," like rodents, as well as exotic birds and reptiles.

Modern vet practices also rely more on building strong relationships with people, something many women said they enjoy. There are no insurance companies telling them what to do.

"What we do is motivational speaking. You can't convince a dog or cat to take their medicine - you have to influence the owner," Cardona said. "I think that's something that many women excel at."

The young men at UC-Davis' veterinary school say many of their classmates in calculus and organic chemistry pursued fields that pay more. The average salary of a vet is about $75,000; the average internist makes $175,000.

"My family said: 'You've gone through all that work - why not be a doctor?' " said Andrew Ichord of Hickman, a town in the Central Valley. "Vets aren't as glamorous. People think you've gone through a two-year trade school or something."

Noted UC-Davis' Madigan: "Some men say: 'I could spend eight years in school - and get paid less than the Sears repairman?' Women see that they're paid less and say: 'What else is new?' "

Elena Shirley admits she initially hesitated when, at age 37, she decided to switch from a career in international development to vet medicine. "I asked people: 'Am I crazy?' But I love it. It's great to be part of a solution."

"For me, it's a big deal to see so many young women here doing top-level work," Shirley said. "But for them, it feels completely normal."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tragedy in Kentucky

The Rolex 3-Day eventing competition is going on right now in Rolex, Kentucky. This is the biggest and most prestigious horse show for 3-day eventers in North America and is a major international competition as well. Three-day eventing is one of the most demanding horse-related disciplines, physically and mentally. It involves dressage, cross-country jumping and stadium jumping events over the course of 3 days.

I read today about a tragedy that occurred yesterday on the event course. A horse by the name of "Frodo Baggins" was euthanized after sustaining a skull fracture and a "major lung injury" when he flipped over a jump on the cross-country course. Frodo's rider, Laine Ashker, was hospitalized, but consious and able to move all of her extremities. Frodo and Laine were ranked third in the nation in the eventing world, and were on the short-list for representing the US at the Olympics later this year.

A strange twist to this story that I found out is that Frodo, a 12-year old Thoroughbred from New Zealand, was actually a star of the "Lord of the Rings" movies. He was one of the horses ridden by the Nazgul. I was unable to locate specific information about which horse he was or corroborate that claim, but it is certainly of some interest. Definitely a tragedy for everyone involved. Sources:, Laine Ashker Eventing, Crow's Ear Farm, Rolex official site (scroll down to press releases).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Article Dump

I have a lot of articles that I have saved lately that I have meant to post about. Time to get rid of them!

1. Here is an article regarding the genetic modification of farm animals for improved production, feed efficiency and the like. (Should Genetic Modification and RNA Interference be used on Farm Animals? -- Certainly a touchy subject on many levels. On one side, it is a quick way to improve production, make more meat with less crop input, and have healthier livestock. People have been tampering with the genetics of their livestock ever since they were domesticated, after all. On the other side, there is a great potential for mistakes and misuse of such technology that may put consumers at risk of disease or worse.

2. Scientists have found that birds in groups will have different individuals act as sentries to alert the rest in the area if there are any predators or other dangers around. (Birds Announce Their Sentry Duty to Help Comrades Get a Good Meal-- This news shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone who has feeders and enjoys watching the birds that come to it. However, it is certainly an interesting example of cooperation in the animal world.

3. It also shouldn't be very surprising that people who arrive in an emergency room after hours or on weekends receive less care. (Patients Arriving At Hospitals in Off Hours Get Slower, Less Care -- Just another reason why you shouldn't let things wait until the weekend! This certainly goes for your pets as well. While some things typically do come up in off-hours, it is surprising the number of "emergencies" I see are actually issues that have been going on for several days or more. There are few things more frustrating than trying to work up a chronically sick patient at 2:00 am because the owner insists that it be seen then.

4. An adorable Somali Wild Ass was born in St. Louis on April 10. (St. Louis Zoo Welcomes Birth of Endangered Species - This subspecies of the African Wild Ass is critically endangered, though their descendants (the domestic and wild donkeys/burros we are familiar with) are quite numerous.

5. The European Commission has set aside a large chunk of land for conservation purposes. (More Space of Species in Europe -- The area is some 19,000 square kilometers of land across nearly a dozen countries. Definitely good news for the critters in that area!

6. The entrants for this year's Kentucky Derby are making their final preparations for the race which will take place May 3. (Daily Derby Notes:April 26) The most exciting 3 minutes in sports is only a week away! I'll need to post more specifically about the entrants soon.

That's it for now! Stay tuned for more critter related caperings!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tiger Conserveration

I have posted before (here and here) regarding conservation in tigers. This article from talks about the potential genetic value of many captive tigers.

Conservation value is typically defined as the "closeness" an animal's background is to wild "founder" animals. There are many tigers in captivity, most of them probably in private hands. Surprisingly, in some areas it is cheaper to get a tiger cub than a purebred dog. If some of these animals (most of whom have an unknown genetic heritage) prove genetically valuable, that could greatly help the overall health of all tigers, and may bring some of the most threatened subspecies some much-needed genetic diversity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Falcons on the Roof

This link has some pretty neat pictures of a peregrine falcon in San Jose and a little chick. Peregrines have been released into urban environments in several areas of the country, and are thriving in high-rises. The main reason is likely fairly simple: plentiful pigeons!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Last summer and fall, my horse Yoshi had a rough time. After moving from Ames, he dropped a lot of weight, had a nasty hoof abscess, and ripped up his left shoulder. Fortunately, he had a great winter and is now fully recovered (more or less). The place where his hoof abscess was has grown out, and is now at his hoof margin. Fortunately, it appears that he won't have any permanent changes related to that. Here are some pictures and video I took of him today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Extinct Javan Elephant Returned?

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has reported that the Javan Elephant, thought extinct since the 1800s due to hunting, is actually alive and comparatively the form of the Pygmy Elephant of Borneo. Recent DNA evidence suggests that the elephants on Borneo are actually direct descendants of those elephants rather than of the more common Asian Elephants as has been thought. The current idea is that the Sultan of Sulu, who was known for shipping the elephants around as gifts for various other rulers, sent some to Borneo where they escaped and and have become their own subspecies. Here is a link to the WWF article.

According to the WWF: "Borneo pygmy elephants are smaller than other Asian elephants. The males may only grow to less than 2.5 meters, while other Asian elephants grow up to 3 meters. They also have babyish faces, larger ears, longer tails that reach almost to the ground and are more rotund. These elephants are also less aggressive than other Asian elephants." Sadly, they do remain highly endangered with an estimated wild population around 1,000.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Laika the Space Dog

Laika, the first dog to orbit the planet, has an adorable new monument.


And here is a picture of our own Laika.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just a Cute Dog

This is an adorable dog that was in the other day. He was actually from the local humane society. Yeah....he wasn't there for long!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hamster Trouble

My brother forwarded on this scary story about PetSmart being sued due to the possibility that a diseased hamster with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also known as LCMV which was, incidentally, misspelled in the article :p ) caused the death of her husband. Here is the blog with a link to the article:

Above the Law

Now, a little about LCMV: It is a viral infection of mice (primarily) that is considered "zoonotic" or transmissible between animals and humans. It is transmitted primarily through oral or respiratory contact with infected rodent feces or urine. There have been cases of death reported from a "hemorrhagic fever-like disease," but the more common signs in people include mild flu-like symptoms (and that means the "actual" flu, not the fabled "stomach flu" that so many people seem to get. Sorry....random rant on a pet peeve of mine.) Even in cases that develop a coma with a meningoencephalitis, the prognosis is considered good as long as there are no other complications. Mice are typically asymptomatic carriers, meaning they typically don't show signs of disease if they have it.

--source: Heymann, D.L. , et al. Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. 18th edition, 2004. An Official Report of the American Public Health Association. pgs 320-322.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bald Eagle removed from Florida "Imperiled Species" List

"Florida wildlife officials have removed the bald eagle from the state's imperiled species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bird from its endangered list last summer.

Robin Boughton is the bald eagle management plan leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Boughton says the comeback of the bird has been impressive across the United States, but even more so in Florida.

More than 1,100 active eagle nests were counted last year in Florida, compared with just 88 in 1973. And the state continues with its land and habitat plans designed to protect the bald eagle."

From the Sun Sentinel

That is definitely good news, and shows that the eagle has made a real comeback all over the country. Interestingly, many seem to think that this is a step closer to lessening penalties for killing bald eagles. What this means is that less wildlife department resources will be directed specifically towards this bird, and more can be funneled to programs to protect other endangered species. The bald eagle will likely always remain a protected species.

In many respects, the bald eagle can be considered a "flagship species" meaning that they are (1) an easily recognizable national symbol, and (2) the healthier their species, the healthier are other species that live in their habitat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Death By Prickle

My brother brought my attention to this article where this adorable little hedgehog becomes a dangerous weapon.

I especially like this line: " The police spokesman said the suspect was arrested "for assault with a weapon, namely the hedgehog."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Painting Elephant

Many thanks to my sister for sending this fantastic video. How utterly amazing!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Waldi Update

Just an update for interested parties: Our new dachshund, Waldi (history and pictures posted here), is doing fantastic. Though he will always be smaller than the average mini dachshund, he is doing great! He turned 6 months old this month (and now weighs almost 7 pounds!), and it is amazing to compare the pictures of him from then!

Bat Spy

No matter who technological we get, it seems we still can't do better than what was created first and end up returning to it.
Sensors for Bat-inspired Spy Plane Under Development

Derby Contenders Getting Ready

This year's Kentucky Derby is fast approaching. Here is a short article about some of the preparations that are taking place.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Don't Let Your Dogs Attack

My legally minded brother forwarded this on: Dog owners have responsibility to stop attacks, court says.

"Texas' "first free bite" rule — allowing dog owners to escape most legal liability if a previously gentle dog attacks — does not free owners from the responsibility of stopping an attack once it begins, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The unanimous and emphatic opinion reversed two lower courts, which ruled that Genevia Bushnell could not sue the owner of three dogs that attacked her in Fredericksburg in 2001, leaving wounds on her legs, arms and back that took more than two years to heal.

"We're ecstatic at the result," said Bruce Bennett, Bushnell's Austin-based appellate lawyer. "It's your dog, you have a responsibility to try to stop the attack. That's what the court recognized here."

Bushnell claimed the dogs' owner, Janet Mott, watched the attack from several feet away, did nothing to intervene and even scolded Bushnell's son for trying to calm the dogs so he could rescue his mother.

Mott and her lawyers argued that prior court rulings excused dog owners from responsibility to stop an attack or render aid afterward — if the owner had no previous indication that the pet was potentially violent. The so-called first-free-bite rule penalizes owners who know their pet is dangerous but limits legal liability for those who reasonably believe their dog poses no risk to others."

Read more here

I would have thought that would be something of a no-brainer, but apparently not....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Amazing Picture

I came across this picture, and it is pretty amazing. I don't know if it is doctored, but it is pretty amazing looking even if it is!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dubuque Dog Show

Last weekend I attended some of the Dubuque Kennel Club Dog Show. Here are a few pictures from that event!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dancing Walrus

This critter has moves! Thanks to my sister for forwarding this on.

Take Note: No Horses Allowed in Human Hospitals

article from the AP

"A man hoping to cheer up an ailing relative at Wilcox Memorial Hospital hadn't considered one of the visitation rules: No horses allowed.

The man thought the patient would enjoy seeing his stallion, said Lani Yukimura, a spokeswoman at the hospital. He and the horse entered the hospital earlier this month and rode an elevator up to the third floor, where they were met and stopped by security personnel.

Security managed to get the man and the horse out of the hospital, with "just a few scuff marks," she said.

The hospital has a pet visitation policy, but it's for dogs and cats, not horses.

"On Kauai, we have a very warm inviting atmosphere at Wilcox," Yukimura said. "We just hope people understand this is not a place for a horse."

The man's good intentions were further dashed when his relative was brought out to see the horse.

"That's not my horse," the patient said to hospital staff." (source)

Chihuahua Praying for Treats

Buddhists clasp their palms together to pray for enlightenment, but Conan, a chihuahua, appears to have more worldly motivations.

The dog has become a popular attraction at a Japanese temple after learning to imitate the worshippers around him.

"Conan started to pose in prayer like us whenever he wanted treats," said Joei Yoshikuni, a priest at Jigenin temple on the southern island of Okinawa.

"Clasping hands is a basic action of Buddhist prayer to show appreciation. He may be showing his thanks for treats and walks," he said.

Conan, a two-year-old male with long, black hair and a brown collar, sits next to Yoshikuni in front of the altar and looks right up at the statue of a Buddhist deity.

When the priest starts chanting and raises his clasped hands, Conan also raises his paws and joins them at the tip of his nose.

Visitors to the temple look on with curiosity.

"It's so funny that he does it," said Kazuko Oshiro, 71, who has frequented the temple for more than 25 years.

"He gets angry when somebody else sits on his favourite spot. He must be thinking that it's his special place," Oshiro said.

Conan, originally a temple pet, has become so popular that people come in to take pictures almost every week, the priest said.

Yoshikuni estimated that the temple receives 30 percent more visitors, especially young tourists, than it would otherwise.

"I'm glad that people feel more comfortable visiting the temple because of Conan," he said as he jokingly joined his hands and bowed to the dog. (source)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuscan Dogs

Tuscany has greatly reduced the restrictions as to where you can take your dog.

"Tuscany is about to become a dog-owners' paradise, with a new law allowing pets into art galleries, theatres, restaurants, cinemas, post offices, museums and beaches."

Read more here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Filly Freed From Frozen Fissure

The title says it all! "Don and Carol Ivey Ratcliffe, who live in Ontario, Canada, began looking for their homebred 3-year-old Paso Fino filly named Kayla at feeding time one morning, but were unable to find her. Finally they heard the filly whinny and found her trapped in a hole under a 1,200-pound metal feed bin in freezing cold temperatures. The owners exhausted their options within an hour and called in the local fire department, who managed to save the freezing filly using the jaws of life." For more, click here.

Friday, March 14, 2008


The world "explore" typically brings to mind images of fun and adventure, or -- at the very least -- something interesting and new. Unfortunately, the word has a slightly different connotation in veterinary medicine.

An "exploratory surgery" is when we go into surgery in an attempt to investigate what is going on with a particular case. Sometimes, we have a fairly good idea of what we will find. Other times, we have no idea. Sometimes we do find something interesting. Other times, we don't find a thing which means the surgery ruled out a lot of possibilities, but didn't actually answer any of the questions we were hoping it would. Sometimes you find something you can fix. Sometimes, you find something that you don't.

I had an exploratory this week that was depressingly predictable. A dog had presented 2 months ago for one bout of diarrhea. The dog was an outdoor dog, so the owners weren't certain if he had gotten into anything, and didn't know if he was vomiting. When they brought the dog in, we found that he had lost 20 pounds over the last 4 months, a pretty substantial amount of weight for a dog that had been 80 lbs.

Long story short, he had some abnormalities in his bloodwork that was corrected by a night on IV fluids, but there was something not right. The dog would not eat (wasn't even interested), and had no other abnormalities on physical exam. Abdominal radiographs were unremarkable, and the owners did not want to spend the money on an ultrasound. They took him home to see what they could do.

Over the next two months, the owners called several times with reports that they had gotten the dog to eat some random thing, but it had promptly vomited it back up. We all encouraged them to return for more diagnostics, an exploratory surgery or -- at the very least -- an abdominal ultrasound, to no avail. Then, one day this week, the dog showed up for an explore.

He had lost an additional 10 pounds since his last weight, and looked like a rack of bones. However, his attitude was surprisingly bright, and his abdomen was not painful. I knew this would not be a fun explore. My prediction was a foreign body or an intussusception (where the intestine folds in onto itself) at this point.

It didn't take long to confirm that diagnosis...both parts. The dog had both a foreign body (some carpet impacted with grass) and an intussusception. And, so severe was the tissue damage, that as I handled the grossly swollen, dark intestine, I knew this dog would not be waking up from surgery. Best-case scenario: dog survives surgery, losing 4 feet of intestine along the way. The owner was called, and the decision was made to euthanize.

Looking back, I expect the carpet was there for awhile and the intussusception was a later development. Either way, the dog was definitely having problems for awhile.

That kind of exploring is not fun.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Most Pathetic Picture You'll See Today

Tell me this isn't the saddest picture you have seen! This little fella met the business-end of another, much larger dog. He had multiple puncture wounds on his head that required extensive flushing and placement of drains. And, as you can see, he had quite a bit of swelling. Fortunately, he is doing fantastically now and the report is that he is back to his happy self. He may not even have any visible scars. But he sure looks miserable in the picture!