Goldilocks and the three dogs

One of the most common comments I get when I tell people I work in #vetmed is “I could never do that. Putting animals to sleep would be too sad”.

There are so many happy parts of my job, euthanasia has never been a deterrent. Of course it’s hard, but in many ways ending their pain feels like a gift we can provide – so we choose to look at it that way. Ending their pain and suffering and allowing them to drift away peacefully.

A common question we get from clients is “how do you know it’s time”. There are QOL (quality of life) assessments and countless articles we can send you when it’s time. I wanted to provide some personal experience though.

I have had three dogs in my life that have needed end of life euthanasia. I liken their stories to the three bears. One was too long, one was too short and one was juuuuuuust right.

Stinky was my first love. My first dog. My first roommate. He experienced every college boyfriend and every up/down I had in my life. I got him as an adult dog from a rescue I volunteered at as a sophomore in college. He went everywhere with me. He met my last boyfriend, my now husband. He was here for all the important things in life. I knew it was time for him, but I wasn’t ready. I feel like I waited too long to make the decision. By the time I did, he was a walking skeleton in diapers who had to be hand fed and medicated numerous times per day.

My second dog who needed euthanasia was Bonnie. She was a mean 17 year old rat terrier with only enough teeth left in her mouth to bite you. She saved those just for that occasion. She was a dog I acquired when my aunt passed away from cancer. Who better than the vet employee to take over a dog? She was actually a great dog and she loved my husband. When she began to decline (and had gone blind and fallen in the pool a few times) I emailed my family and let them know they could come say their goodbyes. I quickly made the appointment and helped her cross the rainbow bridge. I probably could have waited a bit longer – she was comfortable with pain medications and she was happy. She was just really old and was starting to have “old dog issues” and I thought it was the right decision. I didn’t want her to suffer like Stinky did.

My last dog was Bo. Bo was a 90 lb coonhound golden mix and was sweet as pie. He let my toddler crawl all over him like a jungle gym until his last day. Bo was Stinky’s dog and was my last reminder of Stinky. Bo was starting to have some rough days. He had cancer and didn’t do well on chemo, so I stopped. I knew he was hanging on for us, but we knew it was time. I asked Dr. Hurley “how will I know? He still seems to have good days”. Her reply which has always stuck with me was “you don’t want to wait until he has no good days”. I started keeping a calendar and when the good days begun being outweighed by the bad days, we made an appointment.

We brought Bo in and he was still able to walk inside, unlike Stinky. Bo still took a few treats from our hand but he laid still and gazed into our eyes softly as if to say thank you. He has lived a good, long life with us and he knew he was as good boy. Bo’s euthanasia felt like the timing was juuuuust right.

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we’d finally found the sweet spot. The perfect timing for an end of life visit. He left the earth with dignity and I know all three are waiting for me over rainbow bridge 🌈 🐾

-Christen Lynch, Hospital Administrator

The Importance of Keeping Your Pet on a Leash or In a Carrier

One of the most basic things we can all do for the safety of our pets and others when we enter the veterinary environment is to keep our dog on a leash or our cat, little dog, or pocket pet in a carrier. This reduces the risk of the animal escaping, getting hurt, or hurting others.

If your pet is coming in for a rabies vaccine because he’s past due and he escapes and he bites a person, this will be problematic for you, your dog, the clinic, and of course the person who was bitten. Every state’s rules regarding rabies may be variable, but in Texas, the state is not going to care that you were on your way to update your pet’s rabies vaccine, they will make you put your pet in rabies quarantine. This is just one reason we should all keep a good handle on our pets and keep them secure, and a reason that is backed by state law.

Occasionally during my reception shifts, I’ve had pet parents place their tiny dog loose on the reception counter (which is high off the ground) and the dog steps backward and falls off, sending the pet parent and staff into a figurative heart attack. This likely would not have happened if their little dog was in a carrier…

There have been cats that have escaped their pet parent’s arms in transit from the car to the clinic and ran away – thankfully in the case I’m thinking of the cat stayed hidden under their parent’s car and he was able to get his fur baby. And if you do have your cat in a carrier – which or course is important in itself – you may consider the differences between hard shell vs soft shell carriers. Soft shell carriers are cute and may be easier for the pet parent, which is fine. But let me just throw out some information to keep in consideration. In a car accident, a hard shell carrier would likely better protect your cat than a soft shell carrier. There is no reinforcement in a soft shell carrier pushing back against bending metal, bursting air bags, breaking glass, or etc; the fabric walls are all that would stand between your cat and a crushed car. With a hard shell carrier, it would be at least a little more difficult for the outside dangers to pierce through or re-shape the carrier. And in situations where you have a fractious cat who has to be dropped off at the clinic, a soft shell carrier is typically a difficult obstacle because these soft shell carriers typically do not have top openings that make it easy for the staff to reach in with a thick blanket to retrieve the cat. There of course could be exceptions to this, there are indeed so many different types of carriers out there. I only speak from my own experience and my veterinarians’ usual recommendations.

“But my pet is well trained.”

That may be so, but, there are extenuating circumstances where it would not necessarily matter how well trained a pet is, things can still happen, and we don’t want that thing – whatever bizarre or not-so-bizarre turn of events which would lead to trouble – to happen to you.

With multiple dogs barking, regular noisy sounds of the hospital going on (and if you’ve ever been to the clinic while our internal vacuum system is going on, you may have thought you heard the sound of a distressed elephant), clients and staff members going every which way in the clinic, it can make an animal stressed/terrified, overly-excited, or on defense/protect mode. There have been times a pet parent has let their dog loose to run about the lobby and walk right up to another dog to greet because they are very friendly, but the dog they walked up to may not be. The pet parent who let their dog loose may say something along the lines of “oh they’re friendly; they just love meeting new people”. That may be so, but this is still not acceptable in our clinic. What if someone opens the front door while that client’s friendly dog is loose? They can run right out the front door and into the busy street. What if that loose dog runs right up to an aggressive dog and gets attacked? What if that loose dog runs up to a cat carrier as a cat parent is entering the building and scares the living daylights out of the cat, resulting in the likely possibility that the cat will be too scared to allow us to do an exam and get lab samples, making the experience unpleasant for the cat and its parent?

If a pet parent lets their dog loose, let us say a large dog who is unpredictable around other dogs, and this said dog takes off and attacks another dog or pet parent sitting in the lobby, how is this fear-free or remotely safe? We are an AAHA accredited hospital that takes great measures to make it a fear-free environment for all involved, especially the pets. This situation of a pet parent letting their unpredictable dog loose should never happen. Our clinic is a professional, family-oriented, welcoming safe place – we do not want dog fights, animal injury or injury to the pet parent to happen in or around our building.

For the safety of your pet, other clients and their pets, and our staff, we ask that you keep your pet on a leash or in its carrier during transit from your car until you get into the exam room and the assistant or nurse closes the door.

A side note about those retractable leashes…you know the ones. The hard plastic handled kind that’s supposed to let you lock the length of the leash or extend it however you want, and it clasps onto the dog’s collar? Those are infamous around here. I will tell you a little known secret about those retractable leashes your vet clinic won’t tell you. We don’t actually like those leashes… Sometimes the mechanism that is supposed to lock them does not work, sometimes the pet parent does not even have them locked when they come into the lobby and the dog runs as far as he wants (often tangling his pet parent in the process), it’s difficult to get a grip on the handle, they’re not very comfortable to grasp and it is easy to slip out of one’s hand if the dog pulls hard enough, it’s often not very practical in a clinical setting, and if the dog pulls so hard he snaps the connection – or slips out of his collar because it is not properly fitted – then there is nothing keeping that dog at your side and he will run off. Following the collar, often dog collars are fitted too loose, so we do see dogs slip right out of them. And I know many pet parents like these retractable leashes. That’s perfectly fine. They seem to be popular because I see them everywhere. But an important part of keeping your dog on a leash, is making sure you have a secure hold of your dog, and that his collar is properly fitted so he can’t slip out of it. Same goes for harnesses that are too loose. So yes, usually your vet clinic does not look lovingly at these retractable leashes. We prefer slip leads. You’ve seen them, they’re the blue leashes that are hanging next to the dog entrance to the clinic. They’re designed so if the dog does pull, the leash is still connected to him. There are circumstances where we have a dog who cannot have anything around his neck due to trachea issues, breathing issues, back issues, neck issues. But a properly fitted harness, hopefully connected to a regular leash, works just fine for securing the pup.

Cat Trees

A cat tree is a wonderful way to add some environmental enrichment into your cat’s life. Any cat parent knows that their furry feline likes to be in high places away from all the hustle and bustle of their human’s daily routine. Cats have an instinctual inclination to climb trees and be perched in places where they have the best aerial view of their surroundings, potential dangers, and prey. But, in most circumstances, the average living room or bedroom does not have a tree, so a fun cat tree with sisal posts and carpet-covered enclosures with a cat bed hidden away is the next best thing. Or, if you are handy with tools, you could also build shelving along your walls to allow your cat height for the full range of a room.

Why do cats love to be in high places? Being up high gives them the best vantage point and is a good way to protect themselves. There may be something outside that has captured their attention, or there’s a particularly inviting patch of sunshine. Or they know food is sometimes on your kitchen counter and they gamble they can get some tidbits. You may have noticed that your kitty jumps on your counters or your dining room table – places you’d rather them not be. So instead of yelling at them, or spraying them with squirt bottles, or getting frustrated at constantly setting them back down on the ground – which none of these options really work, at least for my cat Charlie – you can direct their inclinations to a more acceptable perch, like a cat tree. The posts giving the tree height are typically wrapped in sisal, which gives your cat a vertical place to scratch and stretch her claws. You could spray the posts with a synthetic feline pheromone to attract them to do this. Or you could put treats in the little hidey holes or carpet-covered steps to help them feel that this new piece of furniture is safe. You can find some really cute cat trees online, of varying sizes and shapes so you can choose the one that fits best with your home and budget. And ultimately, as long as it’s secure and allows your kitty a high perch and hiding spaces, she won’t notice that it’s more plain than the really expensive cat tree online that looks like a giant flower (cute but I’ve noticed these are very costly). This is just one way you can enrich your cat’s life; there are many other toys, treats, food puzzles, window attachments, and cat furniture you can explore. But a cat tree is a great place to start!

Books For The Animal Lover In Us All

As an avid reader and someone who loves animals, I have picked up my fair share of books whose featured main character is a cat or a dog. These stories are meaningful to us because they illustrate the bond between us and our furry friends, or the hardships that many of them endure, the joy and laughter we have spending time with them, and the heartbreak that inevitably – through one way or another – touches each of us who have lost a pet. Animals are a subject matter usually of interest to mankind; we’re entertained by or learn from their stories. In this list you will find some classics as well as some you may not have known about. Stories aimed for young readers and some for adults, but ultimately these are stories we can appreciate and enjoy at any age.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson – the story of a dog who finds a home with the Coates’ family, proves his loyalty by rescuing them in various dangerous incidents, and becomes the devoted friend of the young boy, Travis. Gipson leads us to an ending where Travis has to make a difficult decision when his loyal canine friend becomes in danger of succumbing to rabies after being bitten by a rabid wolf.

Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron – found as a kitten shivering in a book return box, Dewey finds his way into the hearts of the librarians and the whole town. This is an excellent read to lift your spirits after shedding tears for the canine protagonist of the aforementioned book above.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo – one summer and one dog change everything for the protagonist of this beloved children’s classic. The story involves a young girl and Winn-Dixie, and how our animal companions can help us through the hard times in life, and help us to be brave.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – the story centers on a young boy who lives in the Ozarks and his close bond with two hounds. The trio grow up together and gain recognition as good hunters until a tragic incident with a mountain lion.

Warriors book series by Erin Hunter – a series of children’s books about the harrowing adventures of feral cats. Makes me wonder about my neighborhood’s own feral cat colony and what they get up to.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London – a famous book detailing the life of Buck, a St. Bernard mix, who, through one way or another, passes from one person to another, each presenting challenges for the canine protagonist, until he finally reverts to a life in the wilderness, closing the gap between the domesticated sheltered life of a pet and the ancient natural instincts of his wolfish ancestors.

The Fur Person by May Sarton – based on the author’s own cat, Tom Jones, this is the story of a vagabond kitty who takes up a life as a housecat and his adventures along the way.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Edward Gorey – a collection of feline-centric poems written by the very same man who wrote The Wasteland and the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I recommend the edition with illustrations by Edward Gorey. Eliot’s collection of poems is also the source of inspiration for the musical Cats.

Marley & Me by John Grogan – this story is autobiographical, about Grogan, his family, and their relationship with their destructive, lovable Labrador Retriever Marley. It is often recommended to read this with a box of tissues!

Simon’s Cat comic series by Simon Tofield – also a Youtube series, this comic shows the zany daily antics of the cat, Simon, as he tries to get his owner to feed him right after he just ate, sneaks food from the table, squabble at a bird who laughs at him, or innocently wrecks havoc on his owner’s belongings. It’s chuckle-inducing and very reminiscent of what any cat parent goes through on a daily basis.

She and Her Cat by Makoto Shinkai – a story about a young woman living alone through adulthood, told from both the cat and the human’s point of view.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford – a children’s book about two dogs and a cat who, after their family leaves them with a caretaker to travel to England, go in search of their owners and their home, which is miles away. They face various challenges along the way until they finally reach home. Burnford’s book was the inspiration for the beloved movie Homeward Bound.

What are some of your favorite cat or dog-centered novels?

The Puppy Appointment

One of the best parts about working at a veterinarian’s office is the opportunity to see all the puppies and kittens that come in – the snuggles, the baby noses, the pink toe beans, little whiskers, and sleepy puppy eyes. The cuteness overload is enough to make anyone melt into a puddle of mush. Getting your puppy or kitten started off on the right foot – or shall I say paw? – you must ascertain what a puppy or kitten needs, which can be very different considerations. So for this post, let’s explore the canine side of things and what happens in a typical first puppy exam at AHR.

It’s crucial for a dog’s first impression of their vet’s office to be very positive, and the only thing they should remember from that initial visit should be the cuddles, adoring attention, and all the treats. We want the dog to only have positive associations. Of course that isn’t always the case, we cannot forgo much-needed vaccines or bloodwork, but we can distract your canine cuddle bug with all the spray cheese, cookies, and ear rubs we can muster. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Besides the reception staff, the first point of contact with a puppy during their visit to our office will be the nurse. She will guide puppy and pet parent to an exam room and offer treats and maybe even a toy if we have our toy box supplied as she asks the initial pertinent questions: How long has the puppy been in the home, what is he being fed (and what are the ingredients, is it formulated for puppies, is it formulated for a large breed puppy if the puppy is a large breed), how is potty training going, which vaccines has the puppy had (and when and given by who), have they already started a heartworm prevention, is the pet parent having any concerns at home? Then it’s time for the puppy’s photo session! You may have seen some of our young patients on the clinic’s Facebook page (either Heath’s or Rowlett’s). We do our best to post everybody so if we missed your fur baby, please send us a cute picture to our texting number 972-805-1451 so a member of our staff can brag about them on Facebook! During this time, the nurse may also talk about the necessity of weighing the puppy each month for an appropriate dose of heartworm prevention – and the necessity of being on monthly heartworm prevention year-round. Mosquitoes are sneaky little buggers who transmit the microfilaria to the pet and show up inside the home even during winter months, that’s a terrible parasite! And speaking of parasites, the nurse will get a kit together to send home with the pet parent after the puppy visit. This is for a stool sample for an Intestinal Parasite Exam. Even if they have been given deworming, we still commonly see puppies who test positive for intestinal parasites like tapeworms (they look like grains of white rice) or microscopic nuisances like giardia or coccidia. But not to worry! Most of these the doctor can treat. The nurse may then take the puppy to our treatment area to trim his nails and show him off – and believe me, everyone wants a chance to snuggle him. This gives him exposure to other people, socializing him with the staff that will see him each step of the way of his life journey. Massaging his face, ears, muzzle, belly, and toes will help get him used to examinations and frequent nail trims (with spray cheese distraction) will desensitize him to the initial fear of having his toenails cut. At last, the nurse will bring the puppy back and mark this sweet occasion by getting a paw print made. His feet won’t necessarily be that little forever, and they grow up so fast, so we like to send his pet parent home with a memento of when he was a baby, when he has so many adventures ahead of him. And all this generally happens before the doctor steps into the exam room. Although what happens most of the time is that his doctor saw him in our treatment area and carried him off in her arms, followed by the nurse prodding the doctor with “okay, I have to take him back to his mom now.” As you may have guessed, none of us can resist fawning over the new addition to your family.

Next comes the doctor. She is the pet parent’s ultimate guide for their puppy’s life journey. Her first exam with the puppy will establish that needed doctor-client-patient relationship, and will be the first indicator if anything is amiss. Things like open fontanelles, retained baby teeth, umbilical hernias, early patellar abnormalities, closed nostrils, or cryptorchidism are better known early on when we can make a plan to fix them. This part of the visit will be the pet parent’s chance to ask any questions and delve into any concerns they may have. Which food to feed their puppy, when to get them spayed or neutered, which chew treats are best, how to stop them from pottying in the house or chewing socks and underwear, do they really need to have a Leptospirosis vaccine? And the answer to that last question is typically a resounding YES. I say typically because I do not have the right to say what your fur baby needs, and there may be exceptions when it comes to vaccines, but this should come from your vet and only the vet. I can only relate what I’ve learned from the wonderful knowledgeable doctors I work for. Rabies is needed because this is required by the state and it is a zoonotic disease, our pets can give it to us. Rabies can be given once the puppy is 12 weeks old. Bordetella (a puppy needs two, the first booster, and the second booster in two to four weeks after) is not only for “kennel cough” or dogs who go to boarding, grooming or dog parks. It’s for upper respiratory infections which are airborne. Distemper-Hepatitis-Parvo-Parainfluenza (or DHPP) is necessary. A dog needs boosters of this vaccine every two to three weeks until he is past 16 weeks of age. Parvo is such a nasty disease, and we’ve had our hearts torn out at the tragic results. And Lepto, which follows the same boostering guideline as Bordetella, is a zoonotic disease that they can get from any surface area and effect their liver and kidneys. But the point being, let the doctor be your guide. She is helping to pave the way for you and your puppy to have a happy life together. The doctor will explain the basics of puppy-rearing, start puppy vaccines if the timing is appropriate, and create an action plan for the next few months of booster visits, all the way up to the point where the puppy is spayed or neutered, and then yearly visits are needed from then on, unless he’s sick. Then of course come see us sooner.

A large part of what these first puppy visits do if not only to get your fur baby started on the right track, is to also to prepare you for everything to expect. Arm yourself with knowledge and enjoy this time of your puppy’s first explorations of the world around him – your world. We are truly blessed if we get a chance to be there for these wonderful animals. It is truly worth the time and effort. And of course, that initial vet visit is the very first step.

9 Things Your Pet Store Won’t Tell You

Anyone who has a pet has walked into their local pet store for food, toys, treats, bedding, etc. And so, you would know that there are a lot of choices out there for things every pet parent needs to keep their cat, dog, guinea pig, etc happy and fed. Occasionally, the store clerk will come up and assist you in making a selection, or finding just the right thing for Max or Ms Whiskers or Squeakers the mouse. Or, during your perusal of whichever isle you’ve walked down, wording (basically marketing buzz words) on a particular food package caught your eye, or the price has you speculating (though we all should know more expensive does not always mean better quality), or you’ve recognized a dog toy that your neighbor down the street has for her dog and he seems to enjoy it, after all, it’s en vogue. The purpose of a pet store is to sell their inventory. And that’s okay, that’s the idea, and whoever has a pet needs a pet store, regardless if they go to Petsmart, Petco, Hollywood Feed, or But the catch is, now you have to discern what is best for your pet, and with all the variety of products, it can be difficult to choose (or difficult to break away from a product you’ve “been feeding Max for years”). Let’s get into some points of interest in regards to what your local pet store has, and the things the store clerk won’t divulge.

One. Grain-free food.

You’ve seen this phrase listed on so many packages of dog food, sometimes even advertised in commercials. You think it’s better for your dog because some humans have grain allergies. Plus, some of these are expensive foods from boutique brands so surely it must be a top-notch food, right? It sounds like a good thing, right? Wrong. Grain-free is not indicated as a medical necessity, in fact, in some studies from the Food and Drug Administration, some grain-free diets have been linked to the development of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. This is a condition in which the heart muscle has become weak and flaccid so it cannot pump properly. It is also not enough to add in some cooked rice to a kibble that has a grain-free formula. It’s what the food manufacturer uses in place of the grains that is the danger. Through evolution and years of domestication with human companions, dogs have developed a dietary need for grain. If you suspect your dog has allergies from its food, investigate further with your vet. Of the dogs who have allergies, about 10% of them have an allergy to their food, and that allergy is usually to the protein source (chicken, for example) which is why some allergy diets use “novel proteins”, meats that your dog has never been introduced to before.

Two. OTC flea preventatives.

They may be inexpensive, but often times, they do not work well and in some cases, can make your pet sick. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian about which products are best for your pet. And no, Advantix is not a heartworm preventative. Heartworm prevention is prescription only, please make sure your pet is on this. Fleas are easy to treat, heartworms are not.

Three. Rawhide chews.

There are so many of these on display in the pet store, and there’s no doubt many dogs like them. But you need to be wary of most rawhides, they can contain a lot of hidden calories that your dog doesn’t need and often present a choking hazard, so you should never leave your dog alone with one. And the safe chews at my vet that are designed to dissolve vs getting stuck in the throat, the doctors still recommend you keep a close eye on your fur baby if they are chewing on one. And to let you in on a little known fact, those Bully sticks that are so popular, they are actually a stretched out and dried bull penis.

Four. Bones, elk antlers, hooves, etc.

If it’s too hard for you to break with your own hand, it is much too hard for your pet’s teeth.

Five. Pet store grooming.

If your local pet store has grooming services, odds are they may only require your pet to be up to date on Rabies. This of course is to protect the staff in the (possibly) likely event that Fluffy bites them when they try to trim his nails or clip hair around his face. But having just a Rabies vaccine on board is not enough to afford sufficient protection for your cat or dog. In my state, in my area, a dog is not considered fully protected unless they have an up to date Rabies, Distemper-Parvo, Bordetella, and Lepto vaccine, and cats are not protected unless they are current on Rabies and FVRCP (feline Distemper), with the addition of a feline leukemia vaccine if they are also outdoor cats.

Six. Treats with hidden calories.

Be careful with the treats you give to your furry friend, they often contain a lot of hidden calories and fat content that your pet doesn’t need. We all know what happens if we humans eat cookies all day made with shortening and lard. We don’t want the same results happening to our pet. Even treats that seem designed for the health benefit of your pet can hide extra calories. For example, Greenies. This is a good product, if your pet actually chews it up so the Greenie treat can help break up any tartar build up on the teeth. But maybe look for the low calorie version. And remember, everything in moderation.

Seven. En vogue foods.

This follows the aforementioned point that the more expensive a food is, this does not necessarily correlate with its quality. There are buzzwords on the packages or cans that lure you in. Gourmet, Natural, Organic, Chicken “Recipe”, even the whole “Grain-free” epidemic. You want to know a trick? The next time you pick up a bag of kibble or a can, look at the wording on the label. Does it say something like “ocean fish recipe” or “chicken dinner”? Then take a look at the ingredients list on the back. Oftentimes the first ingredient listed is something like corn-meal or by-products. Not the protein listed on the label trying to draw you in. Certain words on the label indicate how much of that protein source is actually used. It’s marketing’s job to manipulate you. If a food says “chicken recipe” this could very well mean the food only contains 20% chicken and the remaining 80% are other ingredients, some of which your pet may not even need but will drive the cost up. Most of these food companies do not have a veterinary nutritionist on staff helping to come up with the formulas that contain the precise nutrients your pet needs to have a healthy diet. Having raw pet food delivered to your home or buying raw pet foods from the store is very expensive, and not recommended. You expose your pet and yourself to food-borne diseases. Your dog is not a wolf. A premium price tag does not a quality food make. If you want a food that is recommended by a doctor, ask them! Or start looking into Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Purina Pro Plan. Purina even has tiers of foods that may not be as expensive as their top prescription diets but still offer more nutritional value that the homemade recipes your neighbor sells online…

Eight. Cat food that boasts veggies and fruits as an ingredient in your cat’s food.

Cats are obligate carnivores, not vegetarians. Ingredients like spinach and blueberries and other human-healthy foods are not detrimental for your cat’s health. They need protein and water. And dry food, as I’ve discussed at length in a previous blog post, is not good to give your cat as his main food source due to all the carbohydrates your cat neither needs nor can process in his body, leading to obesity and potentially diabetes. Canned food is infinitely better for your cat. If asked which canned food is preferred, your doctor will likely say any brand is okay as long as it is a canned food. You can also go down the path of Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Purina Pro Plan if you want a suggestion. As a cat mom, I feed both Purina Pro Plan canned and Fancy Feast canned. And if your kitty absolutely refuses canned food, Dr Elsey’s Clean Protein dry and Zero by Young Again are preferred because they have very little to no carbohydrates in their formulas.

Nine. Toys.

That light up mouse with all the ribbons? Sure, it may look really cute and it may be advertised on that famous person’s cat’s Instagram, but make sure your kitty is not the type to chew up and swallow pieces of their toys. If they have a habit of chewing plants at home or eating the ends of your shoelaces (I speak from experience with my cat Polly), then maybe getting that little toy full of ribbons and jingly attachments isn’t such a good idea. The same goes for dogs who make quick work of their toys. Just monitor your fur babies, an obstruction surgery is not what anyone wants for your pet.

So next time you go shopping for pet supplies, do your research first. Don’t rely on advertisements, commercials, claims made on the package, or hearsay from your friend. You owe it to your furry friend to choose what’s best for them because I know you love them very much.

Rescue Roundup: Kit Kat

It all starts somewhere, whether it be your neighbor you espy feeding a stray cat on their front porch, or news feeds on social media about a dog stranded in a horrible situation. But somewhere along the way you may find yourself in a situation where a lost animal comes into your life at the right moment, an animal who needs your help whether they’re feral or not. My hope is that there is still a large part of humanity who will listen to their silent calls for help and do what they can, even it means just putting a bowl of fresh food and water outside on their front doorstep. Animals cannot use words to tell you what they’ve just endured, they cannot tell us when they are suffering, so our job as genuinely decent human beings is to not ignore that dog sitting by itself on the side of the road or the unkempt kitten who comes ambling into your yard because “someone else will take care of it” because, most of the time, they won’t. Most of the time we have no idea what an animal went through just to get to our yards or to the side of the road where they are visible to the public (and sadly some of them are just dumped there). We don’t know what they went through, and when we spot them, we can’t know if anyone else will see them before it’s too late. We cannot rely on the goodness of humanity to come by and miraculously and conveniently save them because, sadly, the only caring person that will appear in the lives of these animals in that precise moment, is you. That is the moment they are not alone: the moment you see them, the moment you as an individual can do something about it. So do something about it. Or else, they will suffer or just toil for survival alone.

A “rescue”, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is an act of saving from danger or distress. Unfortunately, the world we live in requires acts of this nature, even more so for those who cannot defend themselves. All I ask is that you don’t ignore their cries for help. The more we ignore, the more desensitized we become to their plight. And then we’ll have even less caring people in the world.

In order to advertise just how rewarding animal rescue can be, I am starting an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting the stories of pets and the people who helped them. I would like to preface the following by saying I am only initially writing about my own experience as an example that I have at this current time. There are so many more people who do so much more than I and I want them to be recognized and appreciated for their love and hard work.

About a month or so ago, a pair of kittens, close to adolescence, started to appear on my back patio. One was solid grey; the other was grey and white. They were incredibly skittish, each time I even came near the back door they’d take off into the woods behind my apartment. I would leave plates of canned cat food and a bowl of dry cat food and fresh water on the patio, in the hope that these two fidgety felines would start to trust me enough not to run away when I opened the door. I never really reached this goal BUT I managed to acquire an animal trap. One day I had noticed that the tail of the little grey and white kitten was degloved. There could’ve been any number of causes, she could’ve been in a cat fight, a fight with another animal, or in an erratic attempt to flee was caught on something that managed that much damage. I had no way of knowing, but I can’t imagine it felt good. My initial intent was to catch the grey and white kitten. However, it was the solid grey which walked into the trap and set it off. As a rule, I understand that cats are smart and if I release this grey kitten, he will probably not fall for the same trick a second time and he would be lost to me. So I pursued veterinary care for him. Due to possible underlying health conditions, this baby did not survive his journey, but I hope he felt, at least for this short time, that I cared about what happened to him.

But grieving and shock aside, I still had work to do: catching the grey and white kitten with the degloved tail. Thankfully, I was able to trap her with little difficulty. She was taken to the Animal Hospital of Rowlett and, like my little grey feral, had the best care. I’m happy to report that she did survive. I had her scheduled for a spay and tail amputation (ruled as medically necessary) so now she is recuperating comfortably in my bedroom, in her own pet playpen with plenty of soft warm blankets, fresh food and water, and constantly cleaned litter box. And now, as I write this post, I am working on getting her socialized so she can be adopted to a good loving home.

My progress is slow, but we are making progress. I named her Kit Kat because, knowing I’m the type of person who gets attached way too quickly, was not sure about giving her a name at all. For awhile she was just “Feral Kitten 2” in her medical chart. But Kit Kat seems to be a good medium between calling out “come here, kitty kitty” and an actual name. Kit Kat lets me pet her…sometimes. She has not bitten me or swiped out with her paws. She still hisses from time to time but she is clearly still fearful of her surroundings. Like everything worthwhile, it will indeed take some time. But we’ll get there. So the next time you see an animal in need, do what you can for them, because maybe no one else will step up.

The Nose Knows

Did you know…

Dogs can contract Lepto from the mucus membranes in their nose.

Lepto is a bacterial infection that spreads through the urine or other bodily fluids of infected animals (such as squirrels, raccoons, mice, etc) and this urine can leach into the soil or water. If this bacteria reaches broken skin, or the mouth, the eyes, or, the mucus membranes of the nose, your pet can get this infection. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning your furry friend can pass it along to you and vice versa. If your dog contracts Lepto, they may exhibit fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal and muscle pains, destruction to the kidneys and/or liver, and severe weakness among other symptoms, and perhaps death. Treatment is a long and arduous process, and in my experience, not often a good prognosis. So if you have a dog who uses their nose to sniff around in the backyard, on the patio, or in the garage, or even any place a mouse could get to (like inside your house), please consider getting them vaccinated against Lepto.

Did you know…

Some dogs can smell cancer.

Since 1989, studies have been conducted that test and confirm this theory. Cancer can leave specific odor signatures from their malignant organic compounds throughout the body and its secretions. Our very cells create these specific odors so dogs, usually if trained for this, can detect these odors in our sweat, excrement, skin, and breath.

Dogs can smell fear. In a 2018 article regarding “interspecies emotional communication” it is explained how we humans give ourselves away without even trying: our chemical signals, our body odors or chemosignals, betray our emotions. Dogs can pick up on these chemical signals and any secondary odors that follow. For example, if someone is afraid of a dog, their hands and armpits may sweat and dogs can smell this stress sweat as well other chemosignals. The two emotional states that a dog can distinguish are fear and happiness, which may be integral for a nervous pet parent to realize the next time they are with their pet at the vet. Dogs are attuned to us, especially the humans they live with and love. If you are nervous, this may very well make your dog or cat nervous and impede the exam or blood draws, etc. They feed off of our emotions.

How do dogs have such amazing nasal superpowers? Humans have about 6 million scent receptors in their nose; cats have about 45 to possibly 80 million; and dogs have over 100 million. That’s a lot of olfactory information compared to what we humans have! Dogs and cats also have a full functioning Vomeronasal organ (or Jacobson’s organ) whereas humans do not. This Vomeronasal organ, located underneath the nasal passageway, is used to detect many types of specific pheromones. There are more biological functions that give our furry friends an olfactory advantage. Humans have only two scent-distinguishing proteins in their nose whereas dogs have about 9 and cats have about 30 (as a cat mom I found this interesting). Dogs also have the ability to distinguish which of its nostrils detected a certain scent, which in turns helps the dog to follow that scent. It’s no wonder that dogs are employed to search out missing persons and sniff out drugs. Their noses are, by nature, simply superior to ours.

Did you know…

Brachycephalic (essentially meaning “short head”) refer to any breed of animal with short noses and/or squished faces.

They can have varying degrees of narrowed nostrils or, stenotic nares, which can of course impede their breathing and so they resort to heavy panting or open-mouth breathing. The Bracycephalic skull is so cramped that it is difficult for this breed’s thick tongue and elongated soft palate (tissue that separate the oral and nasal cavities) to all fit.

Brachycephalic breeds (Chinese Pugs, French Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Boston Terriers, Persian cats, British shorthairs, Himalayans, Burmese cats, etc) require particular anesthetic protocol because they are typically more likely to have airway obstruction risks during the pre-anesthetic period, which is also why any anesthetic procedure done will cost more time and possibly particular medications (minimal sedative meds and required quick intubation) and which is why a pet like a French Bulldog probably cannot and should not have a surgery done with a “next in line” type of spay/neuter clinic. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) is a term which refers to the abnormalities of the Brachycephalic breeds like narrowed nostrils, elongated soft palates, thick enlarged tongues, hypoplastic trachea, and laryngeal collapse among other conditions and a term all parents of a Brachycephalic breed should know.

  • Resources used:

10 Things Every Cat Parent Knows

  • 1. If a cat falls asleep on you, you are now stuck there for the next ten hours.

We’ve all been there. One moment you’re lounging on the couch, watching your favorite TV show after work, and then the cat jumps on your lap and settles in. Your leg cramps, or you have to get to the remote, or you need to go to the bathroom, but you just can’t bring yourself to disturb that little sleeping ball of fluff. Or, if you’re like me, you have several balls of fluff trapping you in your corner of the couch.

  • 2. If your cat shows her belly, you know that it’s a trap.

Sure, she looks cute and sweet – who can resist those innocent eyes and that fuzzy belly? But the minute you touch that sweet fuzzy belly, she’s all claws and teeth.

  • 3. Cats get the zoomies at dusk and dawn.

You want those extra five minutes of sleep before you have to get up and get ready for work? Or you’re just settling in for the evening with a good book and all seems peaceful? Forget it. Your cat will be zooming all around the house, racing across your legs (or your head, which has happened to me), and just making all kinds of noise. Such is her inclination at bedtime and the morning, when throughout the day she mainly slept.

  • 4. That expensive cat bed or awesome Jackson Galaxy toy you ordered? The cat prefers the box it came in.

You thought that new cat toy looked really cute, like something that would entertain your cat for hours. But when you present it to her, she bats it around for two seconds and then commences to chew on the packaging. Or that beautiful plush cat bed that came in the mail? She hides in the box it came in and then falls asleep on the floor. Right next to the expensive cat bed.

  • 5. You’re always covered in hair (and that brand-new, never-been-out-of-the-closet black shirt? Yup, it already has cat hair.)

You never have enough lint rollers. You vacuum each day but somehow there is still hair floating around – how can that be? And you get dressed up for a night out, and you look down and see your cat’s fur clinging to your sleeve. Or worse…you sit down to eat dinner and what’s that on the edge of your plate, mingled with the spaghetti sauce? Yup, it’s a cat hair.

  • 6. You may not be able to have things (particularly fragile things) on any tables or counters or TV stands or bookshelves, etc.

The cat will just knock them down. And it’s quite a feat actually. My cat will manage to jump high enough to reach the books on the third highest shelf and pull them down. I’ll find them with her teeth marks in their covers, sprawled on the floor. I can’t have real candles or else I risk my cat hurting herself on the flame, or causing a small fire. Suffice it to say I’ve invested a lot in battery-operated candles. And forget about putting something like a crystal vase on the coffee table. My cat looks at those pretty breakable things as a challenge.

  • 7. You’ve learned to work with cat butt constantly on your computer keyboard.

Sometimes, our cats just want our attention. And when you’re working on something – like this blog post – she will plop down on top of your laptop and dkshjgekahnn54jrsh…. Sorry, that was Polly, my cat’s doing. I don’t know what she was trying to type.

  • 8. The cat does not belong to you, you belong to the cat.

She marks you with her head-butting. She rubs up against your leg, against your furniture – or should I say, her furniture. Because really, this is her house. You just live there to feed her and clean her litter box. But she appreciates it! Cats choose who their person is. I’m happy to have the love of a sweet little feline.

  • 9. Cats are not indifferent.

They just do things on their own time, at their own pace. If they want affection, they’ll seek you out. If they just want to nap, they’ll walk away from your cooing and your pspspspsps sounds.

  • 10. Life is much more fulfilling and much more interesting with a cat. Or any pet for that matter.


Almost all of us have experienced the loss of a beloved pet at some point in our lives. For reasons I won’t delve into here, this topic has been on my mind. The pain, the confusion (the “he wasn’t that old” or “she seemed healthy”), the ultimate mourning period where we all handle depression in our own ways. It is sad. There’s no other word for it. And it’s something those of us in the veterinary field never get used to. Those kind of appointments. I myself still falter at times in my professionalism and have to excuse myself to cry in the bathroom after end-of-life appointments. It takes its toll on you. But to anyone struggling with the loss of a pet, know that you are never alone. To those in the veterinary industry struggling with euthanasia appointments, you are not alone. It may seem silly to say, but I just wanted to send that message out in the world to anyone who needs to hear it. From doctors I repeat their words in my head like a mantra: they are not suffering anymore; they knew you loved them; they had the best life with you; sometimes humane euthanasia is the most loving decision we can make for them; in a way this is a gift that we can give to our pets that is not used in human medicine – we can ease their pain and suffering. And even words from my mom help me with end-of-life decisions for my own fur babies: she will say, though it may seem silly, look at her [the pet] and tell her if she is ready to go, you will let her go. It was quite awhile ago, but that was when my cat Kiki had bile duct carcinoma. It happened suddenly and she went downhill quickly. She was hurting, and I had a decision to make. I don’t know who needs to hear it, but you are not alone. It will be okay. Take it one day at a time. If you have other pets, be strong for them because they still need you. Lean on your friends and family, take comfort in them. It’s okay to be sad.

Helpful resources from the Cornell University website:

“Euthanasia: What to Expect and What Questions to Ask First”

“Ask Elizabeth: Is it Time to Say Good-Bye?”
“Facts About Euthanasia (Small Animals)”
“Difficult decisions”

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