Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Snake Oil

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

There has always been fertile ground for those selling hope to those most desperate for it, witness the $30 billion spent each year on weight loss products in the USA alone (sadly, for most of us, it’s making sure calories in = calories burned;  a pill would be a lot easier since I drive by Krispy Kreme every day).  Hair replacement pills, hair removing potions (if only we could figure out a useful exchange there, huh?).  These have proved to be staples of hucksters for over a hundred years, and while the individual products come and go, the categories themselves are perhaps timeless.  In addition to those, I add much of what passes for nutraceutical/herbal/holistic products–these are not regulated for efficacy, and indeed–holistic remedies are defended by their proponents are being very useful/excellent, but inconveniently immune to traditional demonstrations of efficacy.  That is, you cannot conventionally prove they work.  Let that sink in a bit–”please give me $$ for this highly effective remedy that cannot be shown to be effective by any traditional scientific inquiry”.  Nice work if you can get it, right?  Here’s a great resource for debunking a host of quasi-medical scams:

A little about veterinary holistic medicine.  There is no “holistic veterinary school”, so any knowledge about this topic must be acquired from sources other than traditional Western veterinary schools.  That means a rather substantial lack of academic rigor in the “certificate” courses that allow you to graft extra capital letters behind your name.  Colleges must meet certain educational standards–certificate programs have no such oversight, and are often nothing more than a pretty piece of paper in exchange for some amount of cash–sure, you have to attend 125 hours of coursework, but nothing more than buzzwords and nonsense about “ancient healing techniques”, “energy balance”, etc.  BTW–for all the references to “ancient healing” methods, the ancients had, in about 3,000 years of trying, not improved human lifespan by any great degree.  Please notice that lifespan chart–in just over one hundred years of interventive, problem-based (non-holistic) Western medicine, discovery of the germ theory, clean water, disinfection, aseptic surgery, antibiotics, and vaccines DOUBLED human life expectancy.  Take that reiki, Chi, herbs and spices!

So imagine my head explosion when I was sent a link to Galaxy Jackson’s line of cat holistic remedies.  Things like “Bully Remedy”, formulated for “all species”  (really–marmosets, oryx, cat, dog?) composed of “natural spring water, alcohol, essence of Lotus (presumably not the British sports car Lotus, unless you want your cat to leak oil, too), Full Color Spectrum (um, light?), Reiki Energy–in a bottle (?!?), gem infusion, plus other various essences. The sales page is festooned with testimonials from users singing the praises of how effective these remedies have been, so it must be true, right?  Deep breath.  I’m sorry, but you can’t bottle reiki energy, whatever that is or isn’t.  Or “gem infusion”.  And while there may or may not be other herbs and spices present in infinitestimally dilute concentrations, this, pardon the term and apologies to Penn and Teller, is bull**** in a bottle.  There is no potion or lotion or scent that will make your cat less of a bully or more tolerant/resistant to bullying.  It’s not possible.  There are behavioral modification techniques, environmental modification and optimization techniques, enrichment and play techniques that can be helpful, but the preying upon false hope that goes along with the sale of voodoo quack medicines is unconscionable.  Outrageous.  Shameful.  This creeps into other areas, too, as there are countless topical products or nutraceutical products for decreasing shedding, solving complex skin/allergy issues, slowing the development of cataracts (nothing, nothing slows cataract development, sorry folks).  At least once a week I treat an ear infection that has been smoldering for a while despite an over-the-counter potion (often for ear mites, which are pretty uncommon in dogs, BTW).  Oh–I also see a lot of improper treatment technique on the part of owners;  there is a skill level required for the successful treatment of ear disease, not a hard skill, but a particularly important one to learn well.  In a lot of cases, these product are not actually harmful, but they delay or substitute for proper treatment and therefore contribute to pet discomfort and decreased quality of life.  That’s frustrating to see, and sad for the pet to endure.  I’m sorry to see Galaxy Jackson prostitute himself in this way, when the cat owners buying and trying these bottles of false hope will be utterly scammed and their cats’ problems untreated.  Sad, but it is Mr. Jackson who deserves to be ashamed.

If your cat does have a problem getting along well with other cats, not using a litterbox correctly, human-directed aggression, destruction of furniture, etc., there are in fact treatments that can be helpful.  It’s just not in a little bottle.




Recycled Cats

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Recycled Cats "Desmond" and "Dasher"

The thing about cats is, they’re wonderful, funny, cute, some are cuddly, others are not, but sometimes they just aren’t working out for a particular household.  I know this from my practice, and recent experience with re-homing (hence, recycling) of some really special cats.

“Desmond” and “Dasher” are my cats, they have to be full brothers, but about a year apart in age.  They were both found by the same vet student near his apartment and passed through other student hands before ending up with me.  I met “Desmond” (his earlier name has been withheld for security purposes) as a four month old kitten–he spend a few hours in my office at Penn in a carrier before going to “foster” home with a vet student.  I got a call from her a day or so later, when she described the kitten as being unable to jump up on her lap, though he was wanting to pull himself up with his forefeet;  since he had looked so darned normal just a short time before, we both thought this was odd.  I suggested an exam, and met her and “C” at my practice.  He was painful on his  mid-back, and it was deemed best to sedate to do a proper exam.  A growing abscess was disclosed, the area prepped, and the abscess drained.  I am pretty sure we castrated him at that time, too.  We started him on antibiotics, and he proceeded to win his household over to the point of becoming what we in the shelter world call a “foster failure”–he became one more cat in this cat-rich household (three Savannahs, two other DSH’s, for  a total of 6, plus a rotation of foster cats and kittens).  “C” was remarkable for his willingness to play with their newest Savannah, a very large specimen who was quite intimidating to the other cats.  In a multi-cat household, there are often cats who are stressed enough to begin “thinking outside the box”–using other surfaces/textures to eliminate, most commonly urinate.  So, after over a year of keeping him, although “C” was a plus in some ways, the household cats were not 100% reliable in their litter habits, and there were challenges around how to manage the group.  Ultimately, and luckily for me, “C” was offered to me, I stashed him at the practice for a bit, and then brought him home to meet “Dasher” (found about a year after “C”, “Dasher” stayed at the practice and with my staff for about a week before being voted into the Moyer household).

The short version of the story is that “Desmond” and “Dasher” are absolutely perfect cats here, amazingly well-adapted to three young children, perfectly happy with the 85 lb. Labrador.  “Desmond” loves to be picked up and carried, often upside-down, and is uncanny at detecting fleece or warm laps.  He needs to be watched, though, when hungry, as he’s famous for biting your feet in the kitchen if you haven’t fed him yet in the morning.  He is, in my professional and personal opinion, the world’s most perfect cat (except for the biting feet in the morning).

If there is an action step for you to consider, it would be giving cats a shot at recycling–they may do very well with you in your household, even if they were not perfect (or were destabilizing) in another household.  Also, if you like cats–have at least two;  they are much better at playing with each other, and that social play outlet is crucial for their enrichment in your home.  And it makes for cuter pictures, too.

Canine Flu

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

An acknowledgement up front–I am a compensated speaker for Intervet Schering Plough Animal Health, makers of the canine influenza vaccine currently on the market (there may be others on the way).  But my interest in canine flu preceded Intervet having a product on the market.  My interest began in the intake facility in Philadelphia’s animal control facility, where part of my world of shelter medicine took place for several years.  Canine infectious respiratory disease complex, overly-reduced to “kennel cough”, troubles every shelter from time to time.  In very high volume shelters, it is more or less persistent.  There isn’t much control over the intake numbers of dogs, and given the strain on the facilities, upper respiratory disease (sneezing, nasal discharge, spontaneous cough) is pretty common, and the risk increases with each successive day in the shelter.  Such was the environment in 2007.  And then, the number of dogs increased dramatically, and the persistence and severity of the cough changed, too.

Flashback to Florida, 2004.  An outbreak of severe Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex was under investigation in a Greyhound kennel in Florida.  An influenza virus was isolated, related to equine influenza, but now established infectious agent of dogs, complete with dog-to-dog transmission.  This was the first description of influenza jumping from horses to dogs and staying to dogs.  The lead investigator,

Cynda Crawford, is in the Maddies’ Shelter Medicine program at the University of Florida.  What she found was that influenza of horses somehow got transmitted to these Greyhounds and then changed-mutated, and became a stable infectious influenza of dogs.  Since that initial description in a Florida Greyhound kennel, the virus has been confirmed in 30 states, and is considered endemic (common) in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, and Florida.

With consultative assistance from the ASPCA, canine influenza was confirmed in Philadelphia.  At the Vet School at Penn, we also saw cases coming in from the shelter, and did develop some experience in treating these patients as part of our student surgery program and from cases seen through the Ryan Hospital.

Canine Influenza Virus is highly contagious from dog to dog, and since most dogs are not vaccinated and are considered immunologically naive (no prior “street” virus exposure), most dogs are susceptible.  There is no breed, age, or sex predeliction

Michael Moyer and Cynda Crawford

, and vaccination statue (apart from influenza vaccination status) is not important.  Dogs vaccinated for Bordetella and parainfluenza are still highly susceptible to canine influenza virus.

In my mind, I always thought of respiratory flu as primarily an upper respiratory (cough, sneezing) problem, until I saw the pathology wrought by canine influenza in the lungs of affected dogs.  This is a profound lower respiratory disease, and can easily result in pneumonia. When I saw the lung pathology images, it was no surprise that these dogs cough and will not typically respond to cough suppression–huge amounts of goo and damage lung bits means lots of coughing for a long time.  With luck and support, most dogs will survive, but a very small unlucky few will decline in their breathing to a point where ventilatory support is needed.

So, is Dr. Moyer recommending vaccination across the board for all dogs?  No, but if you think that your dog’s risk for plain old Bordetella was worth the vaccination, you should probably add Canine Influenza Virus vaccination to your “To Do” list for Fido.  Dogs that kennel, go to doggie day care, high traffic dog parks in at risk communities (it isn’t in every community, but it is certainly in and around Philadelphia).  I pose some mild risk to my own dog, because I see the students’ pets at the Vet School, many of which are rescued from very high risk environments.  Please note–it is not a disease of shelters, but one that is more likely diagnosed and detected in shelters, owing to their constant intake and turnover.  But it is a disease of the community of dogs in an area, and other dogs are also at risk.

For my clients’ dogs, I recommend consideration if the dog kennels or is going to doggie day care facilities.  Some grooming facilities are requiring it, as are many boarding kennels. Oh, and I’d make sure the Bordetella and parainfluenza was updated by the intranasal spray vaccine, too.  Canine flu is new;  not every vet has experience with it yet, and the jury is still out on how widely this thing will spread.  Virologists familiar with influenza are watching this one carefully;  it isn’t behaving quite as aggressively as other flu viruses–if it changes, it may become more “successful” at infecting dogs.  Until then, though, it looks as though it has restricted itself to a handful of states, with Pennsylvania being one of those lucky few.