Monday, July 30, 2012

Lives Saved: Sammy by Erin Selby

Name: Sammy Sugimura 
Age: 7 1/2 years 
Breed: Pug
Diagnosis: Intestinal Obstruction

Memorial Day weekend is usually a time of relaxation, good food, and fun, family outings. But the Sugimura family was having a very different kind of holiday experience. Sammy, their beloved 7-year old Pug, had not eaten for two days. In addition to the lack of appetite he was vomiting bile.  Extremely worried, Sammy’s family took him to a veterinary clinic they had used in the past. After numerous tests they were unable to find anything conclusive. The Sugimuras took Sammy home fully hydrated, hoping he would get better. Instead, Sammy continued to get worse and began vomiting bile several times a day. After doing some research online, Sammy’s dad Jeff decided to call Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care. “Renee took my call and her genuine concern for Sammy shone through on the phone.  He had started breathing heavily, like a canine version of Darth Vader, and he was getting cold . . .” said Jeff.  Renee had Jeff bring Sammy down immediately for Urgent Care.

Upon presentation Sammy was very weak and had difficulty getting up.  When Dr. Larry Gilman examined him he found Sammy to be very cold with a painful abdomen. Even his breath was cold! It was determined that Sammy was in shock and probably had an intestinal obstruction. Dr. Gilman and his team of technicians immediately sprang into action by using special medical equipment to help heat Sammy up as well as placing him on an IV in order to administer large doses of fluids to combat the shock. Dr. Gilman’s next step was to talk to the Sugimuras about developing a plan of action. Additional diagnostics needed to be performed including blood work in our in-house laboratory, digital x-rays, and possibly an ultrasound. While these tests were being performed Sammy was started on critical care support consisting of fluids, hetastarch, antibiotics, and pain medication in order to combat his severe state of shock and dehydration. Just as Dr. Gilman suspected, his x-rays showed an intestinal blockage in his small intestines which was confirmed with an ultrasound. To complicate matters, Sammy’s blood work revealed that he was in acute kidney failure due to his shock and the length and severity of his illness. 

Dr. Gilman knew that once Sammy’s shock was managed surgery would be necessary in order to remove the blockage and that some of his intestines would have to be removed. Because of Sammy’s critical condition, his chances of surviving surgery were about 50/50. Dr. Gilman delivered the sober news to the anxious Sugimuras. According to Jeff, “I was very impressed with Dr. Gilman, who told us that he would require surgery and that there was a good chance we could lose Sammy due to his already compromised condition.  You never want to hear news like this, but we appreciated his candor and how straight-forward he was.  You can't sugar coat things like this and many try and do this in the same situation.  For my wife and me, it wasn't a difficult decision aside from a costly one.  Sammy is our ‘first child’ and we weren't going to just give up on him.  So we authorized Dr. Gilman to perform the surgery and hoped for the best.”

The next few hours were spent treating Sammy’s shock, dehydration, pain, and kidney failure. As soon as his temperature was back up and his pain was under control it was time to go into surgery. Jeff and his wife came in to see Sammy prior to surgery. This was a very emotional time for them since they knew Sammy might not make it. Dr. Gilman had prepared them and let them know that even if he made it through the surgery, there was a still a risk that Sammy might succumb to his injuries during recovery.  Jeff shared, “We took our 4 1/2 year old son, CJ over to see Sammy before they put him under.  We wanted to say our goodbye's just in case it was the last time we saw him.  Unfortunately, our son didn't really ‘get it’ and was more interested in the other dogs at the hospital and why some of them had cones on their heads.”

The surgery was performed and a 24-inch section of Sammy’s intestine had to be removed since the foreign body had caused severe compromise of the intestinal tissue and its blood supply. Sammy was closely observed throughout the surgery using our specialized equipment for monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and respiratory rate. The foreign body that was causing the obstruction was removed and revealed to be a mass of human hair. It turns out that Sammy had a bad habit of licking the carpet and over time had accumulated a mass of hair in his intestines. This was difficult news for Jeff’s wife, as she had the long hair in the family. To make matters worse, she had to leave town the day after surgery on a business trip for two weeks. Needless to say it was devastating for her to have to leave Sammy’s side not knowing if he was going to survive or not.

Sammy’s surgery was a success but the next 48 hours were critical to his recovery. He needed to stay at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center in order to receive post-operative critical care so we could monitor his kidneys and the healing of his intestines. 24-hour care from highly trained veterinary technicians was absolutely essential during this sensitive window of time.  Sammy was in Patient Care for three days. He was making a very good recovery – his vitals looked good, he was responsive to treatment, and was getting happier every day. The only problem was he wouldn’t eat. Dr. Gilman discussed the situation with Jeff and they agreed to see how Sammy would do at home on medication and a bland diet. Since all of his vitals looked positive and proper nutrition is important for the intestines to heal, home treatment was the next logical step in Sammy’s recovery. Their decision was the right one. Once he was back in the familiar comfort of his own home, Sammy began to regain his appetite. 

Dr. Gilman was in contact with Jeff daily for the next few days in order to make sure Sammy was still on the right track. When the tough little pug returned two weeks later for his suture removal he was completely back to normal and had made a full recovery! Sammy is back to his favorite activity of running around outside chasing the birds and squirrels, his appetite is as healthy as ever, and loves playing with his best human friends – the Sugimura’s two children CJ and Jace!
Jeff had the following to say after Sammy’s harrowing ordeal, “If you looked at him today, you'd never know he went through all that he did.  And that's exactly how I like it.  We're so fortunate to be able to have more time with him and that he was such a great fighter.  It also was another reminder about how you can't take each day with others for granted (or take others for granted) because you'll never know when you might face losing those that you love.  I have to say that everyone that I came into contact with was courteous, polite and you could tell that they really cared about the animals as though they were family (Sammy HAD become family after all he went through as most of the staff recognized him by the time we left!).  The professionalism and kindness exhibited throughout the clinic is stellar. . . Dr. Gilman was a breath of fresh air as a doctor.  He is a straight shooter, gets right to the point and doesn't sugar coat anything (which I really appreciate).  Throughout the process, Renee would sit down with me and go over the bill and specific charges so that we always knew where we stood.  Was it cheap? No.  But what kind of quality care is?  They were very straight-forward with the financial side of it and I very much appreciated it.  Dr. Gilman saved our Sammy's life and I am truly thankful for everything that he and the rest of the staff did for our dog.  Our kids are thrilled to have Sammy back at home safe (OK, our 2 year old has no idea what happened and what Sammy had been through, but they're still best friends). As far as I am concerned, Dr. Gilman is Sammy's new vet and the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center has gained a new client in our family.”

The staff and doctors at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care work together as a team in order to provide the best possible care for your pet and for you! Life does not slow down for emergencies but we are here to help you and your pet when you need it the most.

Ask the Vet: My Dog Does Strange Things by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then dogs must be from Pluto!  This article focuses on some dog behaviors that make us go “huh?”

My dog has these scary fits of wheezing and snorting with a scrunched face.   What is he doing?
These fits are called reverse sneezing and we think they occur when a dog has a tickle or irritation in his or her throat.  Allergies, mites, infection, a foreign object (like a blade of grass), or even excitement can cause reverse sneezing. Small breeds tend to do it more than large breeds, although it can happen to any dog and has been reported in cats. Reverse sneezing is normal and not harmful. If you feel like your dog reverse sneezes excessively bring it up at your next veterinarian appointment.

Why does my dog eat grass?
We think dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons. Some dogs only eat grass when they have an upset stomach and the grass makes them feel better or helps them to throw up. Other dogs like the taste of fresh grass and graze on it regularly. Other theories are that grazing is an ancestral behavior, that dogs have a nutritional deficiency and yearn for fresh greens, or that dogs eat grass out of boredom. If your dog is vomiting and acting sick while eating grass I recommend you take him or her to see your veterinarian. Otherwise eating grass is a normal dog behavior. Avoid using fertilizers or pesticides on your grass if your dog is a grazer.

Why does my dog scoot around the house, dragging his bottom on the floor?
Dogs scoot when something is itchy or uncomfortable around their anus. For example, full anal glands, allergies, or dingle-berries (my favorite term for feces stuck in the hair) may cause discomfort and lead to scooting. Parasites, a skin infection, or an anal gland abscess can also cause scooting. If your dog is scooting, I recommend having your veterinarian check him or her out.

My dog is obsessed with chewing on his feet, why?
The most common reason for dogs to lick or chew on their feet is allergies. Dogs may lick their feet because of an allergy to trees, grass, bushes, flowers, etc, or certain foods. Other than allergies, dogs may lick their feet because of a wound, infection, foxtail, tumor or arthritis. Talk to your veterinarian if your pet is licking his or her feet more than normal, the paws are red or swollen, or if it is interrupting daily events such as walks, play or sleep.

Whenever my dog meets another dog, he instantly goes to sniff the other dog’s butt.  Why are dogs so rude about sniffing private areas?
Sniffing another dog’s backside appears to be the socially acceptable method for dogs to greet one another and say hello. We really don’t know why they do it, just that it’s normal. Dogs have multiple glands around their anus, including their anal glands, which produce unique odors, and approximately one third of a dog’s brain is devoted to processing smells, so we speculate dogs gather information about the other dog by sniffing under the tail. If only they could tell us!

When your dog is doing something that seems odd, it might be that he is just “being a dog”.  What do you think dogs think about us? After all – we’re “only human”! Next month we will cover the strange things cats do. Send me your questions about wacky feline behavior to, subject line: My cat does strange things.

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Pet Tip!

Monday Pet Tip: Trim your pet's toe nails frequently! There are many benefits to this. First, the more frequently you handle your pet's paws and trim their nails, the more used to the process they will become. Hopefully, with regularity a squirmy or unruly pet will learn to calm down. Secondly, trimming the nails often helps keep the "quick" from growing out. The quick is the area that provides the blood supply and nerves for the toe nail. When pet's toe nails bleed it is because the quick has been nicked. It is much more difficult to avoid nicking the quick when it has grown long. Lastly, frequent toe nail trims means short nails all the time -a major plus for most pet owners! 

 P.S. If you do happen to cut into the quick when trimming your pet's nails - don't worry; accidents happen. To stop the bleeding you can keep a store bought styptic powder such as Kwik-Stop on hand or use a home remedy such as flour or baby powder. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Communication Enhances Medical Care: Treating Finnian by Janice Cain, DVM, DACVIM

Finnian's face before.
When Nancy agreed to adopt Finnian, a handsome and affectionate cat, from a rescue group, she knew she had a battle ahead. Finnian had been tentatively diagnosed with pemphigus foliaceus, an uncommon skin disorder that causes the skin to literally peel off, leaving painful scabs and crusts behind. At the time of adoption, Finnian's skin disease was under control, but he was having serious side effects to his medication, including diabetes, and his skin was so thin that it would easily tear. After several frustrating weeks of trying to manage his condition, Finnian was in trouble. I had treated Nancy's other pets in the past, so she brought Finnian to the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center, to see if I could assist her with this challenge. 


Finnian's face after!
We have won and lost a few of the battles with Finnian's complicated illness. Nancy has been very faithful to bring him in for numerous recheck examinations, but at times his condition would change almost daily. We constantly needed to modify his mediations and doses. We found that through intense email communication, that we have been able to form a partnership that has been extremely successful. After a severe relapse of the pemphigus, and an amazingly nasty ear infection, we finally have achieved a balance of medications that are working. Between Nancy's diligent nursing care and my counsel regarding the medical management of his numerous problems, I am happy to report that Finnian has dramatically improved. 

The art of communication is the key to any successful relationship. Today's technology strengthens the bond between veterinarian and client, allowing us to successfully manage even the most challenging of medical conditions together.   

Dr. Cain graduated from the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis in 1984. Following a residency there she became board certified in Internal Medicine in 1989. Her special interests are Internal Medicine, Oncology, Endocrinology, and Canine Reproduction. She is a nationally recognized expert in Canine Reproduction, and has lectured at veterinary conferences around the country. She lives in Pleasanton with her husband, 3 children and their dog.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ask the Vet: Summer Adventures with Swimming by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

With the weather warming up, I’d like to take my dog to the lake.  How do I teach him to swim?

Before putting your dog in the water consider his breed. Retrievers and spaniels were bred to hunt in the water and typically love swimming. Bulldogs have short legs with a heavy body making it impossible to stay afloat. I recommend a life jacket until you’re confident of your dog’s ability or if your dog is swimming in open water, regardless of his breed or ability.

The first step in teaching your dog to swim is how to exit the water safely. A dog unable to get out of the water can drown from exhaustion. Stand at the exit site and call your dog to be sure he knows how to get out. If needed, wade in and assist your dog out of the water until he gets the hang of it.

Second, practice swimming in shallow water where you can support your dog. Dogs should use both their front legs and back legs to swim. If your dog is just paddling with his front legs, provide support under his chest until all four legs are going. Use calm, positive reinforcement to encourage him to swim and develop confidence.

Third, build up his endurance by gradually increasing the amount of time in the water. As dogs get fatigued they drop lower into the water and pant harder. Encourage breaks and don’t push your dog to exhaustion. 

After swimming rinse your dog with fresh water. Chlorinated water, lake water or salt water can make them feel itchy and uncomfortable. Flush his ears with a drying ear flush to prevent ear infections.

In addition to teaching your dog to swim I have a few water safety tips: 
  •  Dogs should NEVER be in the water unsupervised.  It is tragic and devastating when accidental drowning occurs.
  • Extreme caution should be used when dogs and kids are in the pool together as they can climb on each other and hold one another under water.
  • Dogs that are swimming in lakes and rivers should be vaccinated for leptospirosis - a water borne bacteria that can cause liver and kidney failure.
  • Discourage your dog from drinking ocean water as it can give them an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.

With the right training and the proper precautions swimming can be a great activity for your dog and fun for the entire family.  If you think your dog will enjoy swimming, I hope these basic tips get him paddling safely!

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email