Tuesday, January 07, 2020

One Who Licks & Scratches

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku

"Missy" came in frequently to our clinic because we loved to see her, and also because she got allergy shots. It wasn't until we started the shots, that her non-stop scratching, rolling and rubbing slowed down. At times it flares up again, but for the most part, she was a much happier little Cocker Spaniel.

Missy would come in for the same problem again and again: she was itchy! I would look her over and find not one flea. I would comb through the fur carefully and find not one speck of dander or even a pimple. We tried oral antihistamines of varying size, shape and color, vitamins in various forms, diet changes, sprays, ointments, and still, she scratched and rubbed and rolled.

Now if any of you have ever lived with an itchy pet, you know exactly what Missy and her owners were going through. At night there is the constant thump, thump thumping of the leg as it reaches over to scratch the itch. The slurpy licks that go on as quietly as possible so as not to waken the wrath of the owner. The rubbing up against the blankets for some - any - amount of relief! And the horrible feeling one gets, that one's pet is terribly miserable.

Sacramento, like much of California, enjoys many types of beautiful flowering trees, shrubs, and plants that unfortunately contribute to high pollen and mold counts much of the year. Many people in Sacramento suffer from allergies, and so do their pets. While we sneeze and rub our eyes, they primarily scratch, bite, and chew on their skin. Inhalant allergies are probably the most common cause of what is known as pruritis (or better known as "itchiness") in our pets, second only to flea allergies. Food allergies can also cause itchiness, but this represents a much smaller percentage of cases. Many novel protein and carbohydrate sources in diets have been developed to address this problem, and prior to embarking on allergy shots, we usually do a trial elimination diet to see if this will help. If it works, the difference is remarkable, but unfortunately, only about 20% of the time will this result in a more comfortable pet.

Luckily, there are several new products that are very effective at controlling fleas, with minimal pesticide exposure and minimal effort on our part. The allergic dog or cat that doesn't have fleas, is a bit more challenging. Often antihistamines can alleviate much of the discomfort and are generally safe to use on a regular basis. We use many of the same antihistamines in animals that we use in people, but the dosages differ. Benadryl is one such antihistamine used in both dogs and people. We would start with approximately 1mg/lb. in dogs, or in Missy's case, a 25 mg adult capsule three times a day. We also tend to use them in combination with fatty acid vitamin supplements, which seem to improve our results.

Occasionally, as with people, antihistamines are not as effective alone, and periodic use of steroids or other anti-inflammatory agents may be helpful during severe flare-ups. Allergy testing and allergy shots are available for both cats and dogs, and are often very effective. They do require a fair amount of patience; however, as the goal is to desensitize the animal to the allergens over time.

In Missy's case, her shots take care of 90% of her itchiness. Occasionally she needs a topical spray, and she still takes her vitamin supplements, but overall, her comfort level, and therefore that of her people, is much improved!

If your pet is itchy, don't assume that this is normal grooming behavior for most pets. In Sacramento, it is often the result of allergies, but there are things that can be done to minimize the urge to scratch! If left untreated, allergies can also lead to secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections that can make the solution more difficult. In any case, please consult with you veterinarian if you have any questions about your itchy pet!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Toxic Foods: Did You Know?

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku

Grape FruitsGrapes and raisins could be potentially toxic to dogs, and probably cats as well. It is currently unknown what part of the grape causes renal failure, but some animals are particularly sensitive to ingestion of grapes and raisins, to the point that a small amount can lead to kidney failure in some susceptible animals. Not all dogs and cats are susceptible, but those that are can become very ill. Until more is known about this potential danger, it is best to avoid giving them to your pet in appreciable amount, and to be sure they are not available through refuse containers, countertops and well-meaning visitors.

Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that has recently been used in some sugar-free chewing gums, candies, and baked goods can be harmful to dogs as well. It is somewhat dose dependent, but can cause marked hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and seizures in as short as 30 minutes.
 Chocolate pieces on aluminum foil
Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to dogs as well. Fortunately for most dogs, milk chocolate contains a relatively small amount of this product, whereas baking chocolate or dark chocolate, contain much larger amounts. Theobromine can cause heart arrhythmias, tachycardia (fast heart rate) and even seizures. It is somewhat dose dependent, but a small dog (such as a Chihuahua) would only need to eat an eighth of a bar of baking chocolate to ingest a potentially fatal dose. What makes chocolate so dangerous for most dogs is that they will often consume large amounts at once (having no fear of weight gain or acne to stop them!), and the added ingredients of fat and sugar in many chocolate products can also cause severe gastroenteritis.
Onions Beside Sliced OnionsAnd don't forget about onions. Onions (and garlic) contain a chemical which both dogs and cats are susceptible to that can cause severe anemia and blood in the urine. Whether or not onions are cooked does not necessarily lessen the toxic effect, and ingesting as little as 0.5% per kg body weight can be toxic. That translates to less than 1 tablespoon for a 5 lb. pet (e.g. Chihuahua), 1/4 cup for a 20 lb. pet, and 2/3 cup for a 60 lb. pet. Dogs and cats are likely to eat more if onions are cooked because they often carry the flavor of whatever they were cooked in as well. Kittens and cats seem especially susceptible to the toxic effects and can be affected by onion and garlic powders. The anemia can be profound and may even require a transfusion. The effects tend to be most pronounced 2-4 days after ingesting onions, and can be cumulative too (i.e. smaller amounts on a regular basis can also lead to toxic effects). Garlic is less likely to be consumed in larger quantities, but again, when used in cooking they can be ingested in larger amounts more readily.
The important thing to keep in mind is that not everything we eat is good for our pets, and often it is exactly the opposite. A covered garbage container, and extra care to put our food out of reach of our pets can do a lot for preventative health care. Remember, their keen sense of smell will lead them to it - every time!
Orange Tabby Cat Beside Fawn Short-coated Puppy

For more information about pets and toxic foods, plants and household products, please click this link:
Looking for a mobile app with a database on pet toxins?  Check out ASPCA's Animal Poison Control App!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Meet Our Team: Dr. Ku & Dr. Chen

Dr. Gloria Ku

What part of your work do you enjoy most?  
I enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best way to keep the pet as healthy as possible while meeting the goals of the owners and the reality of how we can make that all happen.  And of course, I enjoy seeing the pets do well and thrive with great care, no matter their age or issues!

What is the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?
The improvements in dental care and how we address dental issues has really been a big change from when I first started in practice 28 years ago.  So many dental issues are treated with more care for the patient’s comfort and recovery now.  Also, the accessibility and improvement in technology with abdominal ultrasound has been a great non-invasive diagnostic tool. This has made identifying internal medicine problems a lot easier from the patient’s perspective, and more straightforward from the client’s perspective.

What change(s) in veterinary medicine do you hope will occur in the next 50 years?
The cost of veterinary care is rising and the cost of running hospitals is getting really expensive as well.  Because each hospital has to have all of the expensive equipment needed to do lab work, take X-rays, do dental work and dental xrays, and a surgical suite, it makes more sense to have these procedures only at certain facilities, and routine office visits at doctor’s offices like the human model.  The drawback is that the patient has to potentially go to multiple or larger facilities and owners currently are used to only going to one. It’s costly to reproduce a full hospital without having bigger practices to justify the expense, so unfortunately something is going to have to change to keep costs from continuing to rise and squeeze out smaller practices.  I feel fortunate to have practiced at a time when we can still do most things under one roof. I suspect that will not continue into the next 50 years as the cost of care continues to rise, and we can, and want to, do more to optimize our patient’s care. 

What books are you reading now?  What book would you recommend?  
I enjoy reading a lot of different things.  Recently I’ve read and liked The Sixth Extinction, Americana, Becoming, and Crazy Rich Asians! ;)

What makes a good veterinarian?
A curiosity for how things work, patience, and a big heart with enough grounding to let our emotions thrive without consuming us. 

Dr. Brian Chen

What part of your work do you enjoy most?
I enjoy the fact that being a veterinarian at Hatton Veterinary Hospital allows me to meet and build relationships with my clients and patients. It is also extremely rewarding to see staff members develop and foster an interest in the veterinary profession.

What is the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?

The quality of medicine and quality of care we are able to offer our pets compared with even 5-10 years ago.

What changes in veterinary medicine do you hope will occur in the next 50 years?I hope that veterinary school will be more affordable for future generations (it costs over $300,000 for undergraduate and vet school studies).

What favorite musicians or songs would you include on your personal jukebox?Anything by Jason Mraz. Classic rock is a favorite genre as well.

What makes a good veterinarian?  
A good veterinarian must be able to show empathy for both their patients and clients. They should enjoy working in a fast paced environment and work well with others. And of course they have to enjoy playing with all the dogs and cats (and other pets) that come in to see us.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Is it Mange or What??

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku

Mange is a scary word because it has connotations of disease, infestation, and being contagious!  So naturally, we all sort of recoil from the thought of it being an issue for our pets.  Turns out there are several types of mange.  The one that we can catch is called Sarcoptic Mange and is thankfully less common than Demodectic Mange.

Mange is caused by a mite, and most mites are associated with a specific species and do not cross over (i.e. cats get cat mites, dogs get dog mites, etc.).  Unfortunately Sarcoptic Mange can cross over, and that’s why we can get it too.  But luckily, it is far less common in our practice than Demodectic Mange. 

Demodex mites cause Demodectic Mange.  These mites are microscopic and live deeper in the skin below the surface, so they cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Cats have their own species of this mite, as do people. Most of the time, in cats and people, the mite is harmless and in relatively low numbers.  Dogs also have their own species of this mite (and therefore it is not contagious to people or cats). Most of the time it is also found naturally on your dog, in low numbers.   But sometimes it can lead to hair loss, secondary skin infections, and itchiness, particularly in young dogs with an immature immune system. 

A diagnosis is usually made with a technique called a skin scraping.  A small amount of the surface of the skin is disturbed with a blunt blade, and the material that is lifted is examined under a microscope.  The mite has a distinctive look and is not hard to find if present.

In young dogs, we  often will treat small lesions with a topical ointment, or if it is more widespread, we can use an oral medication like Bravecto or Nexgaurd for a few months to control the infection until the puppy’s own immune system can control the mite population and the secondary skin lesions resolve.  Some breeds seem to be more susceptible in general, such as Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Shar Pei dogs.   But it is important to realize that any dog can be affected, especially as a puppy.  In some cases, adult dogs may also have symptoms with Demodectic Mange and require treatment.  In these cases we will often look for other underlying causes for immunosuppression in case that is making the dog more susceptible, and try to treat that as well.  In cases where secondary bacterial infection is present, antibiotics may also be required.   

In most cases, the mites can be treated, and although it may take a few months, the skin and coat should return to normal.  At least in this case, the mites are not contagious, and there is no need to recoil from the diagnosis, should your pet be given one of… Demodectic Mange! 


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Meet Our Team: Veterinary Assistants

Our veterinary assistants are helpful all around the hospital!  You may have seen an assistant helping one of our veterinarians in an exam room. When you board at our hospital, our vet assistants are the heart of our boarding facility--they take care of greeting our clients and boarders, taking care of the pets staying with us, and make sure to get pet belongings together for their trip home.  Vet assistants are also a major help for our technicians as they assist in blood draws, communicating with clients about pet care, keeping our technicians safe with great pet handling techniques, and more!  If the assistants aren't helping in our treatment area or boarding, you may also see them helping to answer phones and charge out clients in our front desk area.  Our veterinary assistants are a very friendly and helpful team!

Why do you like being a Veterinary Assistant?

  • I actually LOVE being a Veterinary Assistant.  I love meeting all of the new furry friends that come visit us here at the hospital.  Also, making sure all of the animals are comfortable and taken care of is very important to me and drives me to be the best veterinary assistant I can be.   -Sami
  • Wearing the same uniform each day makes morning routines easy, haha! But seriously, it's been an amazing experience to get to know our clients and patients that I've met these past 14 years.  This position challenges both mentally and physically which makes each day different and interesting.  I've learned a lot about animal behavior, pet health, and many useful techniques.  And of course, it's so much fun to see new puppies and kitties!    -Danielle
  • Being able to help with sick and healthy patients is very rewarding.   -Laura
  • I like being a veterinary assistant because I have always had a passion for animals.  I love seeing different personalities in different breeds and enjoy working with them.   -Maleah
  • I love working with the animals!  My goal is to make their experience enjoyable.  My heart breaks when my patients are anxious or scared.                     -Rhea
  • I get a closer look on what the doctors and technicians do.  I also form relationships with the animals.   -Sophia

What skill did you learn that makes you feel the most proud of?

  • My favorite skill I have learned at Hatton Veterinary Hospital is being able to assist on surgeries.  This is a skill I take a lot of pride in because it is important that I do my very best and pay attention to many different things in order to ensure the safety of our patient.   -Sami
  • I am one of the assistants that takes care of our Facebook page and helps Dr. Ku with our monthly blogs.  I am proud to be a part of our social media presence!   -Danielle
  • Drawing blood and learning how to take care of patients.   -Laura
  • Throughout my time at Hatton Veterinary Hosptial, I have learned a lot about animals and their behavior.  I am able to identify when an animal is in distress and handle the situation accordingly.   -Maleah
  • Skills learned: behavior and obedience training.  I have gone through many years of obedience training for my own dogs (smart, difficult Border Collies and Australian Shepard) and have learned a lot.  Those skills have helped me understand the behavior of dogs and have make my animal handling skills better.  I've also taken many CE (continuing education) classes on animal behavior which I'm able to implement with my job.  Over the past 19 years of working at Hatton Vet and taking CE classes, I have learned many skills to give my kitty patients a positive experience.  I adopted a kitten a few years ago named Banshee.  We named him that because he would scream for attention.  While growing up, we noticed if he did not want to do something, he would get aggressive with us and try to bite and attack us.  We tried multiple traditional behavior training techniques that were not successful.  After many conversations with Dr. Ku, we figured out a way to correct his behavior enough that I can now trim his nails and he stopped attacking us.  He still has a hard time when he has to come in for treatment, but I am able to handle him.  This experience and my years of training has made me a better kitty handler and I am able to educate my patient's parents on behavior training.   -Rhea
  • How to communicate with the animals and help them have a better experience.   -Sophia

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

  • I would love to travel to Dubai because it's known for luxury shopping, ultra modern architecture and a lively night scene.   -Sami
  • Any Disney Parks!  The dream is to go to Disneyland Paris one day...in the meantime, my Husband and I love going to Disneyland or Disney World--our favorite places to have fun, enjoy good food and escape reality; Hakuna Matata!   -Danielle
  • I would love to travel the world!!!  There is so much to see and explore.                         -Laura
  • If I could travel anywhere, I would go to Paris because I have always been amazed with their sights.   -Maleah
  • Hawaii; I've never been and I want to explore and see all of the different animals.   -Rhea
  • Anywhere in the Caribbean because it's the right amount of tropical and warm weather and I love beaches.   -Sophia

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Meet Our Team: Registered Veterinary Technicians

We are thrilled to have such wonderful RVTs on our team!  Most of our technicians have been working at Hatton Veterinary Hospital for over 20 years!  Our techs are an important part of assisting our veterinarians and caring for many of the pets that come in to the hospital.  If your pet has had surgery, a blood test, anal glands expressed, or hospitalization, one of these great gals have most likely been helping with your pet's care.  Our technicians have a lot of heart and take on a lot of challenges each day--we appreciate them!

What wisdom would you like to pass on to veterinary technician students or new vet techs?

  • Be observant, every doctor does things a little different, all surgeons have their particularities.  Have patience.   -Judy
  • Take the time to be patient and listen to clients, sometimes they just need to feel heard.   -Suzanne
  • Vet tech students: When you are in school, flashcards are your friends! There is a lot of memorization and flashcards are the best way to test yourself.  New vet techs:  Get to know your doctors!  Each doctor is different, and the faster you can learn what they like and how they operate, the easier your job will be.  There is a lot of communication, and you have to know what you should ask your doctor in order to provide the best patient care and most up-to-date client information.   -Katie
  • I got into this career to help animals and be their voice.  I try to stay focused and keep that in mind.  This job can be extremely exhausting and heartbreaking, but for every bad day there is, there's twice as many rewarding days.  Always remember, put yourself in your client's shoes, be compassionate without being too empathetic, and always remember: how would I want my pet treated?   -Lisa

What do you say when people tell you, "It must be so cool to be a vet tech"?

  • It is fun, but everyone has to deal with poop, pee, anal glands, vomiting and trying to communicate with owners.   -Judy
  • It has its moments!  Sometimes it can feel very rewarding, but it also has tough moments that are hard to get through.   -Suzanne
  • "It has its moments.  I enjoy working with animals and helping clients."                          -Katie
  • The job of a veterinary technician can be tremendously difficult, but also tremendously rewarding.  You may be surprised that you do need to have people skills since you will be treating the owners as well as their pets.  You need to embrace learning how to do a lot of different types of things, you learn to love new challenges, you are diligent and careful with details--mistakes can be costly.   -Lisa

In your spare time, what do you like to do outside of work?

  • Spend time with family and church/Sunday school activities (local and national levels).   -Judy
  • Watch sports, go to the movies, chill with my cats.   -Suzanne
  • I enjoy reading, gardening, and needlework.  I also will occasionally paint pottery!   -Katie
  • I love spending time with my daughter and husband, we enjoy vacationing together.  I love taking my dogs on their daily walks.   -Lisa

Monday, June 03, 2019

Meet Our Team: Receptionists

These great ladies are ready to welcome you when your pet comes to visit us!  We rely on our friendly receptionists to greet our clients, answer your questions, and help organize the veterinarians' schedules.  When you come in to pick up medications, check in for exams, come by to drop off your pet for boarding, or call with concerns, chances are that you've been helped by one of these lovely girls.  Our receptionists will do their best to help our clients feel heard and understand who hard it is when your pet isn't feeling well.

Why do you like being a Receptionist?

  • I like being a receptionist because I get to interact with all the friendly clients and their pets.  It is very rewarding to help clients get their questions answered and to greet pets at the front desk.   -Lily
  • I love interacting with clients and their fur babies and really enjoy holding conversations with them.   -Corina
  • I like getting to interact with patients first.   -Tasha

What skill did you learn that makes you feel the most proud of?

  • Multi-tasking!   -Lily
  • I am proud of being able to multi-task.  Being in this field, as in with other fields, it's always a great quality to have.   -Corina
  • Learning how to handle nervous animals.   -Tasha

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

  • I would travel to Costa Rica because there are many animals there!   -Lily
  • I am a huge history geek and would love to visit places like Rome and Egypt, just to make a couple.   -Corina
  • I would travel to Ireland, Scotland because it's beautiful.   -Tasha