We veterinarians have been hearing this question a lot lately. The short answer is yes! The long answer is it depends. Every pet and product is different and there are guidelines for choosing the right patients and medical conditions to use it for, and for finding a safe, effective, reputable product. Cannabis products can help a variety of conditions including pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, seizures, inflammation, and more. If you want to use cannabis for your pet, we are here to help! I am currently enrolled in a class called Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine through Curacore (I am also enrolled in their acupuncture class) so I can stay on top of the latest scientific and regulatory information. If you are using or considering using cannabis products for your pet, I have found a wonderful, informative, simple web page that every pet parent should read first. Please check out the link below!
Telemedicine is simply using technology such as video, photo, text, to diagnose and treat illness. There is a lot of telemedicine in the human medical field, but it has not been used much by veterinarians. Why? The main reason is we (vets) are federally mandated to make all medical decisions within the context of a valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VPCR). What does that mean? A valid VCPR must have all the following elements:
1. The vet assumes responsibility for the health of the animal
2. The pet parent has agreed to comply with the recommendations of the vet
3. The vet has sufficient knowledge of the animal to make medical decisions on its behalf
4. The vet assumes responsibility for follow up care and adverse events
5. The vet keeps a record of all they do for the animal
As you can see the vet has a lot of responsibility in this scenario. The definition of item #3 has always included a “recent” in person physical exam or farm visit as part of the requirement to diagnose and treat illness
Enter Covid-19. Veterinarians are now being asked to do as little in-person work as possible to do our part to slow the spread. Thus, our in-person work has been limited to vaccines, life threatening illness, painful conditions, and euthanasia. Also, the FDA has temporarily relaxed the rules requiring a physical exam for every patient in order for medications to be prescribed.
What does this mean for you and your pet? It means if your pet has a minor illness (examples: skin or ear infections, diarrhea, urinary tract infections) we may be able to do a telemedicine consult and get you medications without you having to take your pet to a clinic or, in our case being mobile, us visiting your home. It means if you have a pet with a chronic illness on medication and it would normally be due for a check up or labwork (examples: thyroid medications, arthritis medication, incontinence medication), we may be able to help you get those prescriptions without those things. It means if you are in need of flea and tick or heartworm medications because SPRING IS GOING TO COME I SWEAR, we can help you get those too. It also means that there will be cases that are not appropriate for telemedicine and it will be my judgment as the doctor whether to proceed, recommend a physical exam, or recommend you be seen right away at a clinic.
We have teamed up with Anipanion to bring you telemedicine services. Their app is free to download and you can request either a video call or a chat. It allows us to save all communication to your pets medical record in our system. We are new to this too, doing a trial to see if we like it so I welcome your feedback! Stay home and stay safe everyone!
A client posed a question about the food she was feeding her cat, which is a well known national brand hairball formula. Since it also happens to be National Hairball Awareness Day (I didn’t know that was a thing until this morning), I’m going to address Feeding the Feline today. The two most important things I want people to know about feeding their cat are: 1. Cats are obligate carnivores and 2. Hairballs are almost never just hairballs.
What does is mean to be an “obligate carnivore”? Cats in the wild will eat prey. Their diet consists of mostly protein (55%), fat (45%), and trace carbohydrates (1-2%), typically whatever was actually in the stomach of their prey. Most commercial dry cat foods are higher in carbohydrates than is optimal for a cat. I know people want to feed their cat what is best, but how do you tell what is best? And its just so darn convenient to open a bag and fill a bowl, right? Lets look at the label for the cat food in question and see what it has to tell us. Here are the first 5 ingredients of their original formula, copied and pasted from their website.
WHOLE GROUND CORN, SOYBEAN MEAL, CHICKEN BY-PRODUCT MEAL, CORN GLUTEN MEAL, BEEF TALLOW
The nutritional analysis states 30% protein and 11% fat. Carbohydrate % is not listed but we can all do the math.
The hairball formula does have meat as the first ingredient, but overall is not that much different and there is still only 31% protein.
CHICKEN BY-PRODUCT MEAL, CORN GLUTEN MEAL, WHOLE GROUND CORN, BREWERS RICE, SOYBEAN HULLS
What is the problem here if you are feeding a carnivore? Can cats eat corn, rice, soy, etc? Sure they can and they obviously do in the foods we give them. Is this the optimal nutrition for the health and longevity of the individual cat? No. What are the features then of a good quality cat food for optimal nutrition?
Protein, protein, protein, fat, essential amino acids and vitamins/minerals, and water.
The optimal diet for a cat is actually canned food (but what about their teeth??? Doesn’t all that kibble keep tartar away? Nope, dental disease is a disease of genetics and inflammation and the best way to prevent it is daily tooth brushing – another blog post for another time). Canned food is higher in protein and moisture and much lower in carbohydrates. I often recommend it for cats with chronic kidney disease, lower urinary tract disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. The research suggests that I will see less of all those things more cats ate canned food right from the start. That being said, I have a cat and I actually feed him both dry and canned food. I did a lot of research before choosing a dry that I thought was trying to follow the rules of holistic feline nutrition and I went with Dr. Tim’s Chase cat food, and there is a canned version as well. The first five ingredients of the dry are as follows:
Chicken meal, brown rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed natural tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), dried egg product, catfish meal
Three protein sources, a fat, and one carbohydrate. The nutritional analysis states 37% protein and 22% fat. This is not necessarily the only good one, its just the one I went with. Hopefully I’ve given you enough info to examine your pet food label with a critical eye. If you want to know more or find out where you can get Dr. Tim’s check out https://drtims.com/. I get mine right next door at Northern Tails Pet Resort in Thompson, MI. For more information and myths about general cat nutrition see this excellent article from Veterinary Partner https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=9063758. I will add a caveat to the article that I am also not a fan of raw diets, however I am in favor of home prepared diets if done properly. Doing it properly often ends up being prohibitively expensive and time consuming for the pet owner so not many people do it, but I am happy to help anyone who wants to do this find the resources to do so.
Now what about hairballs? If your cats vomits intermittently, whether or not it contains hair, this is not normal and there is an underlying cause. Disease problems which can cause what looks like “hairball issues” include overgrooming due to skin disease, pain, and anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders such as food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, abnormal intestinal motility, parasites, and cancer, and metabolic disorders such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. Hairball foods and other remedies that are symptomatic and do not address the underlying disease only delay diagnosis and treatment of the real problem. If you have one of these “chronic puker cats” (a phrase I heard the exam room all the time) I strongly encourage you to mention it to your vet. For more information please check out this article https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=6183225
It was November 2006 and I was standing in the treatment area of the clinic writing my records at the end of the day. I looked up when a staff member walked through with an absolutely adorable little white puppy.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“He is a stray that someone just dropped off. He is going to the shelter tomorrow morning.”
“No he’s not. He is going home with me.”
And that is how I got Viggo (named from Ghostbusters 2) my first dog ever, and it’s been quite an adventure! Through the years he has helped me raise a litter of dachshund puppies, has been a friend to other dogs and cats that have come and gone from our house, donated a lot of blood to my patients, gone hiking and camping, gotten skunked and porcupine quilled, welcomed my two children when they were born, and begged for pizza crust like a champ.
But at almost 14, he was tired. His legs didn’t work as well, I was afraid one of these days he wouldn’t make it up or down the stairs and would maybe lie there until I came home. His appetite was sketchy. He did almost nothing but sleep. I decided it was time.
I helped him cross the Rainbow Bridge in a lovely home euthanasia. I wanted to share a bit of his life and his last day, as a tribute to a great dog and to show how much love and peace can be present even in a day so full of emotions.