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PET BEQUESTS, THYROID DISEASES, AND ANIMAL CSI....

Posted Nov 28 2010 12:00am

The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend has ended, most of you are getting back into your regular routines, and your dogs and cats are still wondering what actually happened over that 4-day period.  Did your pet travel with you?  Did you leave your pet in a kennel?  Did you include your pet in any of your holiday festivities?  Does your pet easily get back into its normal life patterns following such a disruption?  Helpful Buckeye suspects that most pets handle these occurrences better than their owners... except, of course, those pets suffering from Separation Anxiety (as we discussed in the last 3 issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats).

For many pet owners, the Thanksgiving weekend holiday is just a "practice run" for the longer Christmas/New Years holiday period.  Try to learn from what you did right and what you did wrong with your pet over Thanksgiving...then apply that knowledge to the biggie coming up at the end of December.


Most respondents said that a "one dog" regulation would never catch on in the USA (90%)...while just about half of our readers have used a pet sitter (45%).  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Any comments can be submitted to Helpful Buckeye at: dogcatvethelp@gmail.com   or through the "Comments" icon at the end of this issue.

CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST 

1) From the Humane Society of the United States comes this news release
Yesterday (23 NOV) a seemingly odd couple took to the schools of New Haven, Connecticut to talk to kids about animal cruelty.



HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle and the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick—a man on the path to personal and professional redemption after his downfall from dogfighting—visited Pacelle's hometown.


There he delivered the message that dogfighting is a dead-end road that leads dogs to the grave and young men to prison.


Vick honored the commitment he made to Pacelle in a jail cell almost two years ago: to become an anti-violence advocate, helping with The HSUS' End Dogfighting campaign.

Read the rest of the story at: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2010/11/michael_vick_112410.html

This story of dog abuse has received a lot of press coverage ever since it first became public several years ago.  Now that Michael Vick's Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best records in the NFL and Vick is being mentioned in conversations about the league MVP, his history with fighting dogs has started to take center stage again.  How Vick continues to pursue his commitment to helping the HSUS with its anti-dogfighting campaign should count for just as much as his efforts on the football field.

2) Also, from the Humane Society of the United States, is this offer for a Children's Pet Poetry Contest:

Do you know a third, fourth, or fifth grader with a beloved pet (or pets!) and a way with words? Encourage him or her to enter the National Children's Pet Poetry Contest!

The deadline for entries isn't until 31 JAN 2011, so there's plenty of time for you to get a youngster involved: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2010/11/childrens_pet_poetry_contest_112310.html


DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS

All vertebrates have a thyroid gland. In mammals, it is usually bi-lobed and located just back of the larynx (voice box), adjacent to the lateral surface of the trachea (wind pipe). 


Thyroid hormones are the only iodine-containing organic compounds in the body. Thyroxine (T4) is the main secretory product of the normal thyroid gland. However, the gland also secretes several other iodine-containing compounds, which assist in normal thyroid function. Thyroid hormone secretion is regulated primarily by way of a negative-feedback control mechanism that connects the pituitary and hypothalamus regions of the brain with the thyroid gland. The pituitary gland sends its message to the thyroid gland in the form of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).

Causes Of Thyroid Disorders:

Diseases involving the thyroid gland arise either from not enough or too much thyroid hormone being produced. In dogs, Hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone) is by far the more common of these disorders.  With hypothyroidism, impaired production and/or secretion of the thyroid hormones result in a decreased metabolic rate. This disorder is most common in dogs.

Although dysfunction anywhere in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis may result in thyroid hormone deficiency, >95% of clinical cases of hypothyroidism in dogs appear to result from destruction of the thyroid gland itself (primary hypothyroidism). The 2 most common causes of adult-onset hypothyroidism in dogs include lymphocytic thyroiditis, which means that lymphocytes and other types of white blood cells have infiltrated the gland, displacing normal thyroid cells, and atrophy (shrinkage), for unknown reasons, of the thyroid gland. Other rare forms of hypothyroidism in dogs include cancerous destruction of thyroid tissue.
In cats, iatrogenic (induced unintentionally by a medical treatment) hypothyroidism is the most common form. Hypothyroidism develops in these cats after treatment for hyperthyroidism with radio-active iodine, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, or use of an antithyroid drug. Naturally occurring hypothyroidism is an extremely rare disorder in adult cats. Hyperthyroidism in cats will be a topic for discussion in an upcoming issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

Clinical Findings:

Although onset is variable, hypothyroidism is most common in dogs 4-l0 yr old. It usually affects mid- to large-size breeds and is rare in toy and miniature breeds. Breeds reported to be predisposed include the Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, and Airedale Terrier. There does not appear to be a sex predilection, but spayed females appear to have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism than unspayed females.

A deficiency of thyroid hormone affects the function of all organ systems; as a result, clinical signs are diffuse and variable.

Many of the clinical signs associated with canine hypothyroidism are directly related to slowing of cellular metabolism, which results in development of mental dullness, lethargy, intolerance of exercise, and weight gain without a corresponding increase in appetite. Mild to marked obesity develops in some dogs. Difficulty maintaining body temperature may lead to "feeling chilled"; the classic hypothyroid dog is a heat-seeker. Alterations in the skin and hair coat are common. Dryness, excessive shedding, and retarded regrowth of hair are usually the earliest dermatologic changes. Alopecia (thinning of the hair) without scratchiness, usually the same on both sides of the body, may involve the abdomen and sides of the torso, the back surfaces of the thighs, top of the tail, under the neck, and the top of the nose. This can occur in about two-thirds of dogs with hypothyroidism. Alopecia, sometimes associated with a darkening of the skin, often starts over points of wear, such as the elbows, knees, and ankles.

Swelling of facial features resulting in a puffy appearance and thickened skin folds above the eyes, together with slight drooping of the upper eyelid, gives some dogs a “tragic” facial expression.


In un-neutered dogs, hypothyroidism may cause various reproductive disturbances.

Diagnosis:

In dogs, hypothyroidism is probably one of the most overdiagnosed diseases. Many diseases and conditions can mimic hypothyroidism, Definitive diagnosis of canine hypothyroidism requires careful attention to clinical signs, routine laboratory testing, and demonstration of low serum concentrations of total or free thyroid hormones that are unresponsive to TSH administration.

The classic blood abnormality is an increase of the amount of cholesterol, which occurs in about 80% of dogs with hypothyroidism. The value of serum cholesterol determination as a screening test for hypothyroidism cannot be overemphasized.  A regular blood panel can also show anemia if hypothyroidism is a chronic issue. The benchmark test for the disease, though, is a thyroid level called a T4. If it is low and the dog is showing clinical signs consistent with the disease, more likely than not that is the correct diagnosis.

To really confirm the disease, other tests can be performed. Some veterinarians will even recommend a thyroid biopsy if they suspect the low thyroid is secondary to a cancer.

Treatment:

Once the diagnosis is made, treatment is relatively easy.  Your veterinarian will place your pet on a thyroid hormone replacement to supplement its low thyroid levels. This is usually a twice-a -day medicine and almost always must be given for life. Periodically, blood levels will need to be checked, and regular office visits are a must to monitor weight and clinical signs. The good news is that these dogs should on to lead normal lives. The most important indicator of the success of this therapy is clinical improvement.  And once starting treatment, these dogs will magically lose weight...if the weight gain was due to the hypothyroid condition. This always makes owners feel good.  Reversal of the changes in the skin and hair coat and the body weight should not be fully assessed until after 1-2 months of therapy.

If clinical signs of hypothyroidism remain despite the use of reasonable doses of thyroid hormone, the following must be considered: 1) the dose or frequency of administration is improper; 2) the owner is not complying with instructions or is not successfully administering the product; 3) the animal is not absorbing the product well, or is metabolizing and/or excreting it too rapidly; 4) the product is outdated; or 5) the diagnosis is incorrect.

Staying in touch with your veterinarian and having regular exams of your dog will be important as the progress of this therapy moves forward.

NON-MEDICAL CONCERNS

According to Rachel Hirschfeld, an attorney who specializes in animal law and founder of the New York County Lawyers Association's Animal Law Committee, over 500,000 companion animals were euthanized this year because their pet owners died, moved into nursing homes or assisted-living situations, or otherwise were no longer able to care for them, and left them behind without enforceable plans.

As tricky as it is to decide who should care for your human kid, it can feel equally tricky to pick an entrusted pet guardian.

Turns out, designating two sets of potential caregivers -- and a trustworthy executor to dispense the funds over time -- is the first step in setting up a pet trust. In the event that your primary pick is unwilling or unable to take on the responsibility, you have a built-in backup plan.

Once that decision is out of the way, you need to get your wishes down -- -- in writing. If you think that typing up a Word document will cut it, think again. Pet trusts aren't recognized under federal tax law -- the IRS labels pets as property -- but they are allowed under law in 28 states, where enforcement is discretionary. Translation: Consult an attorney versed in estate planning who can advise on how much you should allocate for Fido's upkeep. If you over-fund, the courts can intervene, like during the Leona Helmsley controversy, and pare back huge awards.


"There are so many variables to consider before you can estimate how much to put into a trust," says Patricia Kauffman, Director of Bequests at The Humane Society of the United States. The owner needs to account for the pet's age, health, grooming needs, location and the size of the animal, because a big dog's needs will cost more than a small one (although a smaller breed will most likely live longer).

To get your own pet estate planning off the ground, there are several smart resources online including the Doris Day Animal League ( http://www.ddal.org/  ), the Humane Society of the United States ( http://www.humanesociety.org/  ), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( http://www.aspca.org/  ), and an ASPCA-recommended website, PetTrustLawyer.com ( http://pettrustlawyer.com/  ), which offers legally enforceable document-creation packages from $39.

BREED OF THE WEEK

The Ragamuffin is a large cat with substantial bone structure and a luxurious, medium-long coat. Known for their large, expressive eyes and impressive size, adult males can grow as to be as heavy as 25 pounds. Both sexes tend to be muscular, with a fatty pad on the lower abdomen. The ragamuffin's longish, silky coat comes in all colors and, according to the Cat Fancier's Association, is surprisingly easy to maintain, with little matting or clumping.

The origin of the ragamuffin breed can be traced back to a 1960s car accident, according to the United Kingdom RagaMuffin Society. As the story goes, California breeder Ann Baker developed the breed after a feral cat named Josephine, fed by a neighbor, was struck by a car. Following the accident, Josephine was nursed back to health and delivered a litter of exceptionally sociable kittens. Impressed with the kittens, which would go limp like a ragdoll when held, Baker established the ragdoll breed. Thus, the name has more to do with the cat's personality than its appearance. The name was changed to ragamuffin in 1994 by a group of breeders wishing to sidestep Baker's trademark and continue developing the breed.

The ragamuffin's affectionate, cuddly personality is the hallmark of the breed. According to the CFA, ragamuffins typically thrive on human attention, often greeting their owners from room to room. The breed is also noted to be extremely patient and gentle with children. Known for being calm lap cats, ragamuffins spring into action when their toys come out to play.

PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK

1) From the folks at PawNation.com, comes this list of several sites offering pet product discounts.  Check it out at: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/23/pet-product-discounts-worth-checking-out/

2) The ASPCA Online Store has many holiday selections available for your pet at: http://www.aspcaonlinestore.com/index.php?categoryID=108

3) A great site for all-natural pet treats is ZooToo.  They have several types for both dogs and cats: http://www.zootoo.com/search/?index=all&squery=all+natural+treats

GENERAL INTEREST

1) OK, you may or may not have seen this story this past week about dogs being more clever than cats: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/23/dogs-are-more-clever-than-cats-study-says/?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-w%7Cdl5%7Csec3_lnk1%7C185921

Helpful Buckeye has already received several e-mails from incensed cat owners, disputing the findings of this study.  Not to be outdone, a few dog owners e-mailed to say, "Right on!"

2) As a partly related follow-up to that study, check out these interviews with dog owners about whether or not their dog is "street smart".  Go to: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/18/pet-on-the-street-how-street-smart-is-your-dog/   and click on the video.

3)  During a full moon, we know that tides will shift strongly, animals and people may act weird and strange things can happen that night. Anecdotal stories about animals' reactions to the effects of the full moon abound.

According to a July 2007 study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, full moon emergency room visits for pets increase compared to the rest of the month, to 23 percent higher for cats and 28 percent higher for dogs.

Why? No one really knows.  Any opinions???


4) For all those of you who watch the various productions of CSI on TV, here is a new and very interesting twist on that theme:

"ANIMAL CSI: University of Florida program teaches investigators how to solve crimes against dogs, cats and other creatures"

Read the whole story about the program that Dr. Melinda Merck has pioneered at the University of Florida: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/11/27/1941816/animal-csi-uf-program-teaches.html

5) Helpful Buckeye likes to include at least one "feel good" story each week.  Even though this story will probably require a few Kleenex tissues, it's still about feeling good: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/26/video-loyal-dog-waits-for-dead-master/

SPORTS NEWS

The Pittsburgh Steelers went to Buffalo this week and had to go into overtime to barely beat the hapless Bills, 19-16.  The Steelers were undoubtedly looking ahead to next week's big game at the Raven's.

The Ohio State Buckeyes finished the regular season with a thumping of Michigan, our 7th consecutive win against the Wolverines.  Our record is 11-1 but, even though we'll probably be in one of the BCS bowl games, the loss at Wisconsin cost us a chance at the Championship game.  For almost every other college team in the USA, this would have been a great season.  However, for a team with the realistic goal of a National Championship, this year will be one of muttering, "Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda"....

PERSONAL STUFF

This past Friday, Helpful Buckeye got an invitation to join a good friend at the Arizona State/UCLA football game down in Tempe.  It was a wonderful day for us to get out of the cold temperatures here in Flagstaff and bask in the warm sun of the Phoenix area.  We got to see an impressive offensive production by ASU during the game...which they won, 55-34.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye usually start their annual Christmas movie festival on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.  Some of these we watch by ourselves, others we enjoy with friends.  We have a collection of about 14-15 of these Christmas-themed movies that we really like to see...over and over again!  Our first movie this year was Holiday Inn.  What a great movie, with so many popular songs by Irving Berlin....

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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