Tuesday, February 27, 2007 , evening

Spay Day USA

February 27, 2007 is Spay Day USA!  Hysterectomies for everyone (humans excluded).  Find out more by visiting the Doris Day Animal Foundation.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/27 at 08:52 PM
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Missy Mae goes to the dentist

I’m still working on my second set of product reviews from the WVC.  And I still owe you Madison’s five-week photo.  However, today all you’re getting is the tale of Missy Mae’s trip to the dentist.

When we took Missy Mae to the vet for the first time last year, we were told her teeth were in terrible shape.  They were - they were so covered in tartar that it looked as if she’d eaten a big wedge of chocolate cake and hadn’t brushed her teeth.  She had gobs of tartar so thick you had to assume they were kibble pieces, but no, they were hard as a rock and stuck to her molars.  Unfortunately, we just couldn’t afford an expensive elective procedure for a cat we didn’t even plan to keep.  With pre-op blood work, a dental cleaning was estimated to cost about $300.

Fast-forward eight months, and I finally made an appointment to have those teeth cleaned.  February was Dental Month, and a $50 discount was offered.  I also got my first Care Credit card, so I was able to have the procedure done with no interest for six months.  We took her in this morning, and I asked if the vet could please use the opportunity to take an x-ray of Missy Mae’s “lower end”, because she walks oddly and has a deformed foot.  I wanted to know if she had an old fracture, and/or arthritis, because I’ve suspected she could be in some discomfort when she walks.  The vet was also to do the dental cleaning, pre-op blood work, and a cleaning of Missy Mae’s badly deformed ear.  It’s hard to do while she’s awake because it’s uncomfortable, so anaesthesia seemed the perfect opportunity to get her ear squeaky clean.  The one other thing the vet did when we dropped Missy Mae off was to scan her for a microchip.  I couldn’t recall if we’d had this done before, because we sort of “knew” her former owner, but she was essentially a stray and could have once had a real home.  But nope, no chip.  I should have had one put in and it didn’t even cross my mind.

The cleaning went great - her teeth look amazing and truly pearly white.  She had two extractions—the vet said one tooth practically fell out on its own, and then the tooth next to it was removed as well.  An x-ray of Missy Mae’s back showed that she has some ankylosis of the spine, aka, arthritis.  No past fractures were evident, but her deformed foot is actually four fused metatarsal bones.  The vet said it was impossible to know if it was an old injury which didn’t heal, or a birth defect.  Missy Mae is to start taking Cosequin to help her joints.  She came home with a box of Cosequin powder, pain medication, and antibiotics.

I went to pay for the procedure, and my $300 special discount dental cleaning cost $660!  The two “minor” tooth extractions, plus the necessary pain meds and antibiotics, made the cost of the dental itself jump up to $490.  Add to that my $140 radiograph and some Cosequin, and you’ve got yourself one impressive vet bill.  I was able to pay it, as our financial situation is looking somewhat brighter, but I would have still preferred the $300 I was imagining in my head.  I’d planned to get Frank’s teeth cleaned, too (his are black in spots, but his gums look good), but now he’ll be pushed back.  Next on our vet necessities list are required vaccinations for both Phoenix and Cricket, and Eli’s annual physical, then maybe we’ll get to Frank.  To keep things interesting, that lump we had surgically removed from Dante’s foot last year has started to peek through again, but it disappeared as soon as I washed the foot and gave Dante a dose of prednisone.  It’s absolutely an immune response to something—I’m going to have to make him wear shoes.

The moral of the story is:  take the estimate, and double it.  And don’t ask for x-rays :)

Missy Mae is eating well tonight, although she’s a bit wary of me, and keeps spitting out her pills.  She’s letting Madison curl up with her, though, so she can’t feel too awful.  By the way, we finally had Miles cremated and he’s now in a nice little wooden box on my desk.  The box even has a lock and key.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/27 at 06:03 AM
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Friday, February 23, 2007 , late at night

WVC part two - the free samples

I didn’t realize how much from WVC I had to write about until I sat down to do it.  Here’s the first of two blog entries about new products which were on display at the convention.  In this entry I’ll write about the products I was able to bring home and try, aka, the free samples.  In the next entry I’ll just write about some of the neat things I saw that didn’t come home with us.

  • Muttrooms:  Muttrooms are dog biscuits made from… mushrooms!  They’re certified organic, are a blend of five mushroom species, and were invented by Paul Stamets (he’s the author of many books about mushroom cultivation).  The packaging says they help promote healthier joints and mobility, which is a benefit of mushrooms I’m not familiar with.  I gave a cookie to each of Eli and Dante, and they ate them with the same enthusiasm they show for most dog biscuits.  The cookies were apparently tasty, but not “over the top” tasty.  They smelled good to me—nutty, like peanut butter (which is another ingredient).  They’re a completely vegetarian cookie, which some dog owners may appreciate.

  • Flavor-Doh:  This is an item for pilling dogs and cats.  It’s an edible dough/paste, available in different varieties like chicken, fish, and liver.  You pull a gob of dough out of the container, and embed a pill in it, then hopefully your dog or cat will happily take their medication.  The packaging says that if the dough dries out, you just need to add some water to it—just like when the tub of wall patching material runs out!  My initial impression was that the dough was too sticky to be effective - I gave it to Jackson, and he licked at the paste instead of chewing/swallowing it.  If I’d been trying to give him a pill, I think the pill would have been spit out.  I wonder if it would work better if I left the pill ball sitting out for a while to try to get it to dry?  I don’t think it would be a huge problem with dogs, who tend to gulp their snacks, but it may not work well with delicate eaters.  On a positive note, I put a few balls of dough out and all the cats were interested in it, and many of them ate it.  They definitely approve of the flavour.

  • Ziggies:  The Kong Company makes Ziggies, a new chew treat for puppies.  It’s made to not splinter and to digest easily, and it’s higher in protein and calcium than most chews.  We don’t have any puppies, but we figure we can test them on our two small dogs.  Report to follow!

  • Kitty-Stim:  I’m anxious to try this product when I have my next batch of foster kittens.  Kitty-Stim is a nutritional supplement especially for newborn kittens.  It contains colostrum, probiotics, and a number of stimulants to help give neonates a boost.  The manufacturer is in the UK, so I’m not sure if the product is available here yet, but I’ll feel good having it in hand if I ever have another weak kitten, like Miles.  It’s got a shelf life of two years, and is good for three months after it’s been opened.  I figure I’ll definitely have another set of foster kittens sometime in the next two years.

  • Cat Attract:  You know I love my Dr. Elsey’s products!  The show rep offered to let us have as many bags of Cat Attract litter as we could carry, but frankly, the thought of carrying any at all made me want to cry (I was sore and tired).  Instead, we took a sample of something we’ve never tried before - Cat Attract Litter Additive.  It’s a mix of herbs designed to encourage cats to return to the litterbox, and I think it also helps deodorize.  I sprinkled a bit in one of our litterboxes and the cats didn’t seem to mind it at all.  It smells neutral and inoffensive.  If you have any cats who are bad about using the litterbox, this is really worth a try (as is the regular Cat Attract litter).  I also can’t recall if I posted about it, but there’s a rebate form on the Dr. Elsey’s site and you can use it to get a full refund of the purchase price of any bag of Precious Cat litter.  I absolutely swear by this stuff when I litter-train kittens.

  • Dentinary Chews:  These are good.  An unqualified two thumbs up from me, but you may have a problem finding them if you want to buy them!  Dentinary Chews are a rawhide chew which is fibrous, so it acts like floss when your dog gnaws on it.  They also say it’s easy to digest.  The chews come as either a large, rectangular rawhide strip and a smaller rawhide roll.  I gave a large chew to Eli and it actually took her a while to eat it, which is very impressive.  Flippy reports that the small rolls had good durability with our two small dogs.  I think the product is designed to be sold through vets’ offices, so you might want to check with your vet if you’d like to try the large size.  The small ones are sold online through CalVetSupply.

  • Soft Paws:  There’s just nothing bad to say about Soft Paws, the product which has probably spared many a cat from an unceremonious trip to the animal shelter.  The Soft Paws folks were at WVC debuting a kit designed to work on cats during their first year of life.  The kit, (called “Kitten’s First Year”), contains 40 nail caps for a growing kitten, from age eight weeks to one year.  This would be a great gift to send home with families adopting kittens.  I may try the caps out on Madison, although TJ needs them more than she does.
Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/23 at 11:24 PM
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Thursday, February 22, 2007 , the wee hours

Wow, you’re THE Dr. Harrison - a fangirl’s account of the 2007 WVC!

This is when I realized I’d become a full-blown science/biology/veterinary geek:  I got all gushy today at the WVC when a man started talking to me, and I realized he was the Dr. Greg Harrison.  I even said that, “Wow, you’re the Dr. Harrison!”  He replied something along the lines of, “That and a buck eighty-five will get you a cup of coffee,” perhaps because he’s not used to lesbian fangirls.  He’s such a legend to me, though… when I inherited my first parrot back in the mid-1980s, and that parrot got sick, there were only two vets of note who were known for working with birds.  My bookshelves are filled with the books he’s written, and they’re the same books my own vet consults when I take parrots in to have problems treated.  Dr. Harrison retired in 2005, but it still works in research, and today he gave me some new products to try to help Keno with her feather-plucking problem.  He has a brand new set of books that I would love to have purchased (and yes, like the geek I am, I would have asked him to sign them), but the set was $275.

I also met avian nutritionist Tom Roudybush.  He gave me some hypoallergenic parrot food, which is something else I hope might help Keno and her feathers.  Meeting him was pretty cool, too, although I didn’t realize who he was until I was leaving the booth.

I did not make any large purchases—the Lyons Electric booth, where I’d hoped to buy a discounted, floor model “pet intensive care unit” was unstaffed!  It’s that damn Murphy’s Law!  There was no one there, nothing!  I was able to see the models of PICU, and to figure out which one I liked best, but I wasn’t able to haggle for any great deals.  I was offered a couple of great deals on some beautiful cat display cages (like you might see at Petsmart in the adoption area), but the “great deal” was still about $1200.  I’d eventually like one or two units so I can foster or do rehab without having strange cats running loose around the house.  It’s something I can plan for, perhaps next year.  We’d also need to arrange for one of Flippy’s brothers to help us get it home.  I also didn’t buy any books from the incredible “all vet books, all the time” store which was set up in the conference hall, because I don’t think there were any titles which cost less than $100.

Here’s what I did buy at the conference: a pair of elbow-length elkhide gloves for handling cats (half price), and a very handy brush for heavy-coated dogs called “The Furminator”.  We also shelled out $3 for a new pet snack product whose name eludes me… Toro?... Yes, it was “Toro Puppy Rolls”, made by the Nylabone people.  We made a $5 donation to the AVMA and got a stuffed toy cat wearing vet scrubs.  My heaviest purchase was a copy of the book, “Scientific Proceedings from the 12th International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium”.  It was a fraction of its original price at just $20—I think it was reduced so the publisher didn’t have to lug too many of the 997 page books back on the airplane.

I did buy one more thing - I bought the WVC Encore DVD-ROM, which is a multi-DVD set with copies of every seminar and lecture offered at the conference.  It comes with audio, video, and text notes as well.  It wasn’t cheap, but it will give me access to every session I missed, including all the ones which overlapped.  So, instead of getting up at 6:30 in the morning tomorrow, I’m going to sleep in, and I’ll receive all the seminars on pediatrics and fish medicine (and everything else), on my DVD.  I hope it will prove to be a good investment for me.  If I’d had more money to burn, I could have purchased the Encore program already installed on a brand new iPod, but that seemed a bit excessive.

I’m so tired… I’m out of “spoons”.  Tomorrow I’ll post about all our great freebies, and about a number of really, really exciting new health products for pet owners.  I promise we found some great stuff which might help make your lives easier.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/22 at 02:57 AM
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Monday, February 19, 2007 , terribly early in the morning

Happy Chinese New Year!

Yesterday/today (it’s very early Monday morning), was Chinese New Year.  I read newspaper articles about some amazing dinners which were planned in celebration, dinners with multiple courses which cost thousands of dollars per person.  I had to break the news to Flippy that Bird’s Nest Soup is made from bird saliva.  If you’d like to try bird’s nest soup yourself, this wonderful online store will sell you the birds’ nests... for about $600 per pound.  May I suggest you go with the prepared soup at just $55?


Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/19 at 05:33 AM
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Sunday, February 18, 2007 , evening

Western Veterinary Conference 2007

I’m very excited because I’ll be attending the Western Veterinary Conference this week.  I’ve wanted to go for the last few years, but I couldn’t get in because I didn’t have the correct credentials.  This year I’m able to get in as a vet tech student, and Flippy is attending as my “spouse”.  Heh.  It was sort of pricey (I’m spoiled by all the free conventions we attend), but I hope I’ll get a lot out of it.  My biggest problem is that we live so far from the Strip I won’t be able to attend every day, so I’ve been carefully planning my conference agenda.

Right now, I plan to go to the exhibits on Wednesday.  Vendors will often sell their display products at a discount on the last day of a convention, and I’m hoping to score a pet intensive care unit from the Lyons Electric people.  I’ve had one on my wish list for a long time, and I think it will be a good investment for raising foster kittens, and for caring for sick birds.  Even though the last day of exhibits is Wednesday, there will still be seminars until Thursday, and they’ll have an entire day of pediatric and aquatic-themed lectures starting Thursday morning at 8am.  The two sets of seminars I’m most-interested in are pediatrics and fish medicine, so of course, Murphy’s Law says those are all being held on the same day at overlapping times :p There are dozens of other great seminars on other days (starting today, I think), on topics like feline behavior and geriatrics, but I can only do so much.  Given how I love caring for foster kittens, I figured the seminars on neonates/pediatrics were most crucial.  Here are the Thursday seminars:

  • Examining the Neonatal Puppy or Kitten
  • Managing the Sick Neonate
  • Care & Feeding of Orphans
  • Standards of Care in Pediatrics
  • The Top 10 Problems in Pediatrics
  • Puppy & Kitten Mortality

I can squeeze in “Fish as Patients”, but “Medical Care for Pet Fish” unfortunately overlaps with the “Care and Feeding of Orphans”.  I hope we’ll get to “Intercat Aggression” on Wednesday, after we’ve viewed the exhibits.

Check back in on Friday to find out if I learned anything!

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/18 at 09:25 PM
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Saturday, February 17, 2007 , terribly early in the morning

Madison at four weeks

She’s suddenly turned into a real, live, cat.  Today she used the litterbox for the first time, and she ate a bunch of canned food.  She’s started to play with toys, and will chase balls around, and swat at dangling strings.  She’s very cuddly, and loves nothing better than lying back in the crook of my arm after eating, cleaning her paws and reaching up to lick my chin.  She also likes kisses on the head.  I think she’ll be a very sweet cat.



Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/17 at 06:18 AM
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Wednesday, February 14, 2007 , terribly early in the morning

L-lysine for herpes infections in cats

Despite my best efforts, our previous batch of foster kittens brought feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1) into our household.  I do attempt to quarantine all foster kittens downstairs, but I think Derek (who travels between downstairs and upstairs), must have been some sort of vector, because Frank, Tie, Scampi, Bing, and Jackson all came down with eye infections shortly after the foster kittens arrived.  Tie’s infection was especially bad, and he had full-blown conjunctivitis which required antibiotics.  I can’t say for sure that our cats didn’t have the dormant virus before the kittens arrived, but none of them had ever had an eye infection.

Since the first flare-up, the cats each periodically present with a gooey eye, or what we scientifically call, “winky eye”.  I did some reading about FHV-1, and discovered that the amino acid L-lysine is often recommended as both a treatment and a preventative.  It’s quite inexpensive, so I bought a pound of powdered L-lysine on eBay (it cost about $16), and I’ve started to mix it in with the wet cat food.  I was skeptical, but the treatment really does seem to work!  If this can keep eye problems at bay I’ll be happy to keep using it.  When I started giving it, Tie had just developed a runny, squinty eye, but after a couple of days of L-lysine it was gone.  Maybe it was a coincidence, but perhaps not.  It seems to have even helped Bing, who had a mild rhinitis.

I’m all about taking our pets to the vet whenever I think there’s anything wrong with them.  However, there are times when I know that something is a bit “off” - not bad enough to require veterinary attention, but not normal.  I’ll definitely take any cat to the vet immediately if I notice eye redness or any signs of discomfort, but for now I’m happy to keep trying the L-lysine to cut down on needless vet appointments.

If you happen to stumble upon this entry because you’re looking up information about L-lysine for cats, I want to suggest that you purchase it from California Veterinary Supply (do a search on their site for “Viralys”).  They carry both a powder and gel version of L-lysine, and their prices are very competitive.  I bought the gel from them because people had raved about how much their cats liked it, but none of my cats were thrilled by it.  It’s flavoured with maple, and sort of looks like thick corn syrup.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/14 at 06:53 AM
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Eli turns 11

I’m a tad belated in announcing that Eli, my German shepherd, turned 11 this past Monday February 12th.  She’s in pretty good shape for her age, and I don’t see a lot of difference in her from when she turned 10 years old last year.  She’s grown more deaf, but that’s been mostly a blessing because it means she’s less terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms.  I still speak to her as if she can hear, but I think she follows most commands because she knows the expected routine.  She can also understand some hand gestures.  She still enjoys chasing a ball in the yard, but doesn’t run around acting goofy without a good reason (she’ll still bark without a good reason).  Rimadyl has done a fine job of helping her arthritis pain - I’m assuming this because since she started Rimadyl, she’s stopped the “nervous habits” she used to keep up—things like licking the floor aimlessly.

She’s due for her annual physical, a pricey proposition because it includes x-rays and blood work.  Last year it cost about $400.  I’m curious to see if we’ve been able to stop the progression of her hip arthritis, though, as I’ve really increased her glucosamine/chondroitin.  She also has some vertebrae which are fusing, and if I could stop these problems from getting worse, I’ll feel assured that she’s staying comfortable.  The biggest problem with the vet visit is just getting her into the car, because she doesn’t have a lot of strength in her back legs.  Last year we bought a ramp for her, but she’s not very good at using it, and she still tries to jump out of the car without the ramp (it’s hard to stop a 100 lb. deaf dog from doing something she insists on doing).  I’ll plan for the checkup soon, though.

In other vet news, Missy Mae is scheduled to have a dental cleaning at the end of the month.  We knew she needed dental work when we took her in last year, but I had no idea just how bad her teeth were until I took a look myself.  Yuck!  Her gums don’t look terrible, but her teeth are caked with hard, crusty tartar—tartar that’s incredibly thick!  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  Maybe a good dental cleaning will cheer her up.

Today is Valentine’s Day.  We don’t have any plans, although I’d like to pick up Eli’s prescription refills if we can get up at a decent hour.  It’s almost 5am, so things aren’t looking good :p We can also pick up Miles’ ashes from the pet cemetary today.  We took him in last week to be cremated, and he’ll come back to us in a nice little box.  I sure wish he was still around for so many reasons, but one big one is because Madison has started playing.  She’s still a bit wobbly on her feet, but just loves rolling around, swatting at things with her paws, and grabbing my fingers (her teeth just appeared 48 hours ago).  I wish she had a playmate her own size.  We’ve sent TJ in to visit with her, and TJ thinks Madison is great… to sit on.  It’s like some bad WWE event when he goes in to see her, wraps his paws around her neck, and then sits down on her.  I’m glad he’s still fairly small himself.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/14 at 06:33 AM
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Sunday, February 11, 2007 , early morning

Sad lessons learned at Lied Animal Shelter

I knew this type of story was inevitable, I just had no idea how bad it would be.  Our local “no-kill” shelter invited the Humane Society of the United States to come and inspect them (this may have been in preparation for applying for some sort of grant, or asking for more money from the city).  The result of that visit was that HSUS declared the shelter an emergency, shut it down, and hundreds of animals were euthanized because dangerous diseases like parvo and distemper were running rampant all over the facility.  The shelter manager then came up with the brilliant conclusion that they should vaccinate all incoming animals when they arrive at the shelter, not at some point down the road (or never, which also happened).  I wonder how many people around Las Vegas today realized that their dear little Fido or Fluffy that they surrendered to the shelter for some stupid reason (“we have a new baby and just don’t have time for a dog anymore”), may have been euthanized?  Many people get the idea that a no-kill shelter means their pets are guaranteed to find a home, and that’s just not the case.  Today also verified our suspicion that that the stray cat we took to the shelter a couple of years ago probably died of disease and not from being euthanized.

Here’s the link to the whole, horrible story:  Disease shuts animal shelter

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 02/11 at 07:51 AM
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