Reiki Who?

reikiA few years ago, I was telling my ex vet (one of the reasons, he became my ex vet) that I was taking Zeus to Reiki every week, and he asked me: “Reiki Who?” I can’t get over that one!

As always, I only talk about my experience! When Zeus got older, and started to have arthritis in his joints, I tried to help with anything which could come into my mind. It was so painful just to see him walk. Hey, it was my boy, Zeus, the one who could run away from me with the Thanksgiving turkey, the one who could not resist a chipmunk or who loved to retrieve, but always needed two bumpers at the same time to retrieve. He was not going for only one! He had standards!

Besides the medications for his joints and some anti-inflammatory pain meds, what else could I do to help him? We did acupuncture, and he was totally relaxed after the sessions. So relaxed that he did not even want to climb back to my truck despite of its ramp, and I had to carry his 100lbs. to the truck!

I found a swimming pool for dogs with jets in Virginia and decided to give it a try. It was so sad for me to suddenly realize that Zeus, who loved so much the water, did not enjoy these swimming and retrieving sessions. He was just too tired for them.

At the same place, there was an advertisement for Reiki sessions, and I decided to give it a try!


Reiki is a Japanese healing art for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. The meaning of Reiki in Japanese is “Universal Life Force”, and was synthetized in the late 1800’s by Mikao Usui.

In Reiki, the practitioner is seeking to transmit Universal Life Energy to the patient. The goal is to create relaxation, to help speed healing, reduce pain. It is administered by “laying on hands”. In the Reiki philosophy, the “life force energy” flows through us and is the reason we are alive. If one’s “Life force Energy” is low, we are more susceptible to get sick, and if it’s high we should be more able to be happy and healthy. Reiki can also be practiced “long distance” as a form or prayer.

REIKI and animals: When they are ill: Reiki helps the healing process.

– When they are young or old: You can use Reiki on an animal of any age or situation.

When they have been through a trauma: Animals can use loving energy after they’ve experienced any type of abuse, loss, or move, or if they seem to exhibit depression or other behavioral disorder.

For the last three years of his life, he had a Reiki session with Ingrid on Thursdays at 10:00 am. I swear he knew when it was Thursday! Every time, he was waiting for me by the door. We both loved those Thursdays!

Of course, Zeus being Zeus, he was playing me so well. To go to the Reiki room, we had to go through a pet store with all the possible yummy treats near his nose. So of course, he was stopping every two feet and looking at me like “hey, you want me to walk more? I need a cookie!” We played the game, each time. I was always taking a cookie with me and was putting it in front of him to make him walk to the Reiki room, and most of the time it worked.

Once there, he was going straight to the sheep rug, crashed on it, and allowed Ingrid to do the magic with her hands. He was enjoying those 45 minutes, every minute of them, enjoying the touch, my presence, and the peaceful ambiance of the room.

What was amazing was to see Zeus after the Reiki session. He was coming as an old guy, and leaving as a mature but quite alert pup! He would have probably needed Reiki every day, and sometimes I do regret not to have thought at that time of studying Reiki to give it to him on a daily basis.

Even now, more than four years after his passing, I can still picture him by the front door waiting for me on “Ingrid’s Day”.

Two years after Zeus died, our Golden retriever was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Leukemia. Pouch was the first dog who allowed us to have a long, very long goodbye. We fought that disease. He got chemotherapy, and I remember how the first time I had to give him these little red pills, I started crying like a baby, because I knew that they will change my boy forever as well as weaken his immune system.

I also decided to try Reiki for him. He would need as much comfort as he could get. Reiki gives energy to those lacking it, and here we went again on a Thursday and it was at “Zeus time” which was kind of eerie.

The difference between Zeus and Pouch is that Zeus loved to be in my truck when Pouch was a bit claustrophobic and never enjoyed car rides. After the first session, Ingrid suggested “long distance Reiki”. I was not familiar with it at all, and yes, for me, it sounded a bit sketchy, but hey, anything which could help my boy was worth a try.

This is another day that I will never forget. It was a Monday, and Pouch was supposed to have his first “Long distance Reiki” in the afternoon. I was in my office at my computer, and he was lying in a bed near me. Suddenly I heard him having a huge sigh which make me turn around to look at him, and he was still in the “sigh process” while at the same time stretching his legs. And the phone rang. It was Ingrid who told me she just finished the Reiki session with Pouch and that he needed a lot of energy in his back. After that day, I never had a second thought about it. Pouch got Reiki until he died a year later.

You know, with furry kids, when they are sick or getting older with pains, you can’t explain anything to them, so I am always on the lookout for anything which could make them as comfortable as possible, and Reiki has been a huge part of their wellbeing.

Now, when I look at my pack, I know that in some years, I am going to have 6 senior dogs with pains and aches. I can barely think about it without tearing up, and I need to be ready for them. So, not long ago, I started to learn how to practice Reiki and I am going to go all the way, and one day, when my pack is old and gray, I will be there with Reiki and unconditional love for my furever furry kids.

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Open Letter to George

georgeExactly one year ago, at 4:15 pm, we put you to sleep. Labor Day weekend will always be associated with you, no matter what. Here goes one less holiday to celebrate! I hope you are in peace, free of pain, my beautiful boy.

I am not going to lie to you. This weekend was tough. I was reliving almost hour by hour our last two days together. I still look at the last picture I took from you on that Sunday when you were so vibrant of life.

It was so hard to let you go. I stopped calling your name in the yard which was a way to believe that you were still around. Not because I thought the neighbors would think I am crazy, but because it was upsetting too much your sister, and partner in crime, Sophie. Each time I say your name, she goes by the glass door to wait for you. I just couldn’t do that to her.

A few weeks after you crossed the rainbow bridge, our neighbor, the one with the pool, came all the way to the house to see if you were OK. His wife told him that she did not hear me screaming your name anymore in the yard. My free spirited dog! Even the last night before horror slapped me in the face, I remembered how exasperated I was around 10:00 pm because you were still playing in the yard. But you came, my wild boy, with that grin which got me since the day you were born.

The first few weeks after you left us were tough. I am not going to deny it, and you must have known it. First, there was Sophie who refused to eat for several days and was standing by the door, waiting for you. If my heart had not been already broken, she would have broken it a bit more. My ex vet used to say that animals don’t mourn. This is crap, you know, because Sophie was in mourning for a very long time.

Sophie never replaced you. It would have been easy for her to hang out with one of your siblings, Max or Jackson, but no, since that September 4th, she is a loner. Don’t get me wrong, she does enjoy life, food, walks, and her bumper, but no one replaced you. You were like attached by the hip to her, and now she just stands by herself.

I wish you could have seen us – me and her – when she came home one morning with a dead squirrel in her mouth. She was so proud of herself! And I was so freaking out! Since that morning, you know Sophie, my wild child, and she decided since the squirrel episode, that she can’t have breakfast before killing a stuffed toy! So, while I am fixing their meals, she is running around like a nut with a toy in her mouth, shaking it, until she is sure the darn thing is dead, and then she comes for breakfast.

I talk about you a lot, I think about you a lot, and if I could resume you with one word, it would have been: HAPPY! I never saw a dog as happy as you were. Ever. And the last picture of you, when you were coming from the intensive care unit with all your IVs and catheter, and God knows what else; you were still wagging that tail! My happy boy!

After you left me, I found your spot in the yard where you had buried all your treasures: your candy cane toy, and carrots, lots of rotten carrots! George, you were never starved! Why on earth did you have to bury these carrots like you were anticipating bad days coming?

I have that memory of you when I was coming home, and I was seeing you coming from the back of the house at full speed towards me. You never figured out how to slow down. Always bumping into me at full speed with that big grin! Gosh, I miss your grin!

I don’t know how long it took me until I stopped expecting your 80lbs of full happiness on my lap each time I was sitting down! You were my lapdog! From the minute you were born, you were so glued to me. The first rides in the car, you had to be on my lap! I know that the girls said that our bond was because I cut your umbilical cord, but I don’t know anymore. I just know that my lap is meaningless now that you are gone.

The first Christmas without you around for breakfast was eerie. The year before, you were so proud when you jumped on that chair to be at the table with us.

Rewinding your life, I feel like you were living yours at 100 miles like if you knew that you would not go past 3 years, 5 months and 14 days.

Today, I wanted to tell you George that we are going to celebrate you with a roasted chicken. Remember how you almost took my fingers away one day when you stole a chicken, and I got it back from you, kind of. These were the good days….

I am missing you like every single day since you left us, and I wanted to tell you that I would give anything to have you back just for one minute, just for one minute. RIP my beautiful boy! We had so many great moments together, not just enough years.


Note: George died from Lyme Nephritis. He had no symptoms until the last days. He was “normal George” until September 3rd when he woke up with swollen limbs and was diagnosed with kidney failure. He had his Lyme shot as well as Front line. It was not enough. The vets did everything they could to save him, but it was too little too late. If you have a young lab or golden retriever, be sure to check them for Lyme often no matter what. That specific condition doesn’t happen that often, maybe a dog in thousands, but it really doesn’t matter when it’s yours.


Lost or Stolen Pets: ENOUGH!

Every day, I monitor my Facebook news feed, my emails, and shares the missing or found furry kids in the DC Metro, and let me tell you, it’s quite depressing.

From Abbie, the Rottweiler who went missing or got stolen last July and was never seen again (https://www.facebook.com/HelpUsFindAbby) dozens of dogs and cats disappear every day: what are we doing wrong? How can we keep our pets safe?

There is nothing worse than not knowing what had happened to your furry kid. Some thirty years ago, I left my dog, a Brittany spaniel to my mother while I was going away for a week. Her name was Julie. There was a very famous song in France “Julie the redhead”, and Julie, my dog, had the cutest freckles on her nose.

When I came back, my mother told me that Julie had escaped and disappeared. I was heartbroken, I spent my time putting flyers, checking the equivalent of Humane Society since I was living in France, and Julie was never seen again. For years, I wondered what had happened, if she has been rescued by a family, sold to a laboratory, abused, hurt? For years, I was wondering if I will ever see her again.

Not long ago, my mother casually mentioned Julie and how she was hit by a car and killed. My mother is not an animal person, and in her mind, she was doing me a favor by not saying anything, and giving me hope. Hope it was not. Nightmare would have been a more appropriate word. I finally had closure after so long.

So what should we do to keep them safe?

1. A Safe Yard? There is no such thing.

I still remember when the mutts were maybe 4/5 months old, they were outside in the backyard, and I was in the house. One of them, Sophie, Ms. Smarty Pants to name her, figured out how to open the latch, and suddenly I saw through the window five straight little tails going all around the front yard to the driveway, to the neighbor’s next door. I was lucky: I was home, I noticed them running around, and Jessica, my daughter was home, and we managed to get them back home safe.

I learned something that day:


Needless to say I put padlocks on the gate, but still.

  • Keep an eye on your furry kid(s) when they are outside.
  • If you have a gate or two gates, put padlocks on them
  • Do not leave your furry kid in the yard if you are leaving the house.
  • Even if your yard is safe, there could be a storm, and a tree can fall down and break the fence (It happened to one of my neighbors: her lab was in the yard when a tree fell down, and she never saw her dog again).
  • Check your yard on a regular basis for any digging or broken fence. Not long ago, Ms. Sophie – again – dug a hole against the fence. You should have seen her face when, the next day, she went straight to it, and the hole was gone with a few improvements on top of it.
  •  Invisible fence? Would you leave your kid outside with a collar around her or his neck? Invisible fence might be good for the eyes but it doesn’t prevent anyone to come to steal your dog or another dog that is not invisible fence savvy to attack yours.

2. Microchip

Microchipping your dog is good in the overall. If someone steals your dog though, the microchip might not be of a big help.

3. Collar and Leash


I am totally paranoid about that one. It happened to me with a retractable leash which broke when Maia saw a squirrel on a trail. I stayed with the handle of the leash, and a dog running around. Fortunately for me, Maia is obedient, and came back. The return was not fun, holding her collar. I am not using that kind of leashes anymore since there is not really a way to prevent it. I know that I could have returned the leash, and would have got a new one. But honestly, would I really care for a new leash if my dog had died out of it? I don’t think so. So, extendable leashes are banned forever from my home.


I usually use a choke collar to walk most of them. They are pretty good, but I now make sure that every link is properly “linked” to the next one. Again, I was lucky, but it happened to Jackson in a pet store, and let me tell you, Jack had the time of his life. He managed to swallow for over $ 40.00 of treats before we could get hold of him. That’s my boy!

Regular fabric collars should be checked on a regular basis as well. The fabric can start to “give away”, and you certainly don’t want to stay empty handed with a dog running around in the traffic.

Pepper spray:

I always carry pepper spray with me attached to my belt. I told you, I am totally paranoid! But you know what? If an unwelcome or aggressive dog comes towards us, or if a nut (and there are many around) try to steal my dog (honestly he would have to be on crack!) then my pepper spray makes me feel safer!

Call me paranoid but better being safe than sorry. Every poster for a missing furry kid or every post on the net for lost pets just breaks my heart. Let’s keep them safe!

Healthy Treats for Dogs

Years ago, I thought that buying my mutts treats was a sign of love. I was not going for the cheap stuff, expensive ones that I thought were healthy. Yeah, right! Zeus was always a bit overweight at one point when I was confusing love and food, and he was confusing his food and mine! I remember the first time I bought the dry chicken breast. What a healthy treat! Especially for a Labrador retriever who gained weight just looking at food!

It was some years later that I realized that I had to take my reading glasses for my shopping and the mutts’ shopping. I started by banning anything from China. No offense China, but if you can poison babies with your milk from Hell, I really don’t think you give a damn about dogs when you have them on your menu for dinner!

Those Chinese dry chicken breasts were expensive, but the day I had my reading glasses, I looked at the composition, and almost had a heart attack: sugar, and so many additives, and on top of it, is it really chicken?

That’s when I started a new chapter in my life with my dogs, older and my babies: healthy treats! Dogs are like kids. You are educating them on food, teaching them what to eat and what to like! From cookies, and jerkies and all that crap, I went to carrots, green beans, and a few other treats that I am going to share with you below!

Believe it or not, but when I say “carrots”, I have seven mutts going straight to my fridge and waiting! They love them. As a matter of fact, they have absolutely no manners. I have an order for everything, food, vitamins and treats, and they patiently wait their turn, but when it is their turn, believe me, they don’t bother with “Thank you, Mom!” they grab the carrot to eat it at their favorite spot, except of course, Jackson who eats his carrot at my feet because Jackson is one of those who doesn’t enjoy the present moment, but is living for the future. If he stays there, he might get another one…. And, yes, I am ashamed to say that sometimes, he is right. Sophie is the same way, except that at least she takes her carrot to her bed to swallow it, and then comes right back to grab another one. I put a stop after two carrots, but I am not sure when or if they would stop if it were raining carrots.

I go to get their food at a high end store which sells only good stuff, but good stuff gets really expensive. I do not mind spending a lot of money on their food – which will be the topic of another article – but treats, they are not that deprived!

There is one thing I bought for the mutts, and it’s one of the best investments I have ever made in my life – which might not make me believe in how wise I can be, right? -. I bought a dehydrator, and for instance instead of buying a bag of 20 slices of sweet potatoes for $ 16.00, I made them. So, let’s now get to the recipes: from dehydrated sweet potatoes to summer treats like chicken broth ice cubes!


4 big sweet potatoes usually fill up my dehydrator.

  1. Peel them, and then slice them ¼ inch thick slices
  2. Steam or blanch them until the color turn bright, and you can pick them for a fork.
  3. Line the slices on the dehydrator trays
  4. Dehydrate them at 125 degrees from 9 to 12 hours depending on humidity.

I usually store them in a plastic bag in my fridge. I mean, they are not there for long, but still, I prefer to stay on the safe side!


I am very conscious about the mutts’ weight, and treats don’t have to be fatty to be liked!

Just get ice trays and fill them up with fat free chicken broth.

They love it. My little one, Sammie, still gets very frustrated about it. He usually likes to eat his treats when all the others are done, and can be drooling looking at him! It works with many treats but he still has a hard time figuring out where the ice cube, that he guarded for some time, disappeared and it just drives him nuts but my other ones love them!



  • 1 banana
  • 32 oz of plain yogurt (I take the ones which are fat free)
  • 2 tsp of peanut butter
  • 2 tsp of honey
  1. Mix the ingredients in a blender until well mixed
  2. I use muffins tins but paper cups work as well. Fill them up, and freeze them.

They usually get them when they are ready, but I would suggest to put them all in a freezer bag if you need to keep them for a while. Not everyone has seven dogs! LOL!

I also substitute sometimes the honey and peanut butter for ½ cup of blueberries for an antioxidant boost!


I usually get organic chicken breasts! As I said somewhere, most of my dogs died of cancer, and I do believe that environment, food and water are the major ingredients for that illness. So, I am always on the healthiest side with them.

The good thing about those treats is that I know what’s in it, and that even diabetic dogs can enjoy them!

Of course when you work with raw meat, wash your hands before and after.

  1. Slice your chicken breasts thin (1/8 inch to give you an idea!)
  2. Pat them dry
  3. Brush the slices lightly with olive oil on both sides (I only use olive oil in my household, again my Italian side!)
  4. When you lay the slices on the tray, try to give some space between each piece, it will be easier for the air to flow.
  5. Set the temperature at 140 degrees, and depending how thick the slices are and of your machine, it will take between 3 to 6 hours to cook.
  6. I now know that on my dehydrator, it takes around 6 hours. But the first time you do it, you can check it out by picking up a piece and breaking it up. The inside should be the same color all over, and there should not be any more moisture in the piece. My dogs like them crispy, but check with your furry friends to see what are their preferences.

When the jerkies are totally cooled off, I store them in a zip lock bag in my refrigerator, and I believe that you can keep them for up to 3 weeks.

Bon appetit!


1 bag of frozen green beans

Olive oil spray

  1. With the olive oil cooking spray, spray your multiple trays
  2. Put your frozen green beans on the trays trying to give them some space around
  3. Temperature at 140 degrees for around 6 hours until they are crunchy! I always have one of my mutts who is volunteer to taste one after cooling it off of course!

You store them in a zip lock bag in the fridge and here you have another bag of healthy treats for your furry friend(s).


  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 4 tbsp molasses
  • 4 tbsp of water
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil (I always use olive oil)
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp of baking soda
  • ¼ tps of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of cinammon

These are really treats for the mutts since they don’t get them that often, only on special occasions!

  1. Preheat your oven at 350 degrees
  2. At the same time, mix the pumpkin with molasses, oil and water in a mixing bowl.
  3. Then, add the flour, the cinnamon, the baking soda and the baking powder
  4. Mix until the dough is well mixed
  5. Slightly oil a cookie sheet and make little balls of dough (size of a tablespoon) that you flatten a bit at the same time.
  6. Place the balls on the cookie sheet slight apart to each other and bake for 20/25 minutes. The cookies should be hardened by then.
  7. Store them in a zip lock bag in the fridge after they cool off.

A tip: It’s valid for shaping any cookies, if you wet your fingers with water, the dough will not become a second skin and will stay away from your hands, and will make it much easier to place them on the cookie shit without losing half of the dough on your fingers!

Beware: Martingale Dog Collars and Strangulation

collarsYes, you heard me right, and believe me until four years ago, I had no idea that was such a common thing.

Four years ago, Lola gave birth to my beautiful “mutts”. OK, OK, this is a very affectionate nickname. They are pure breed Labrador retrievers coming from an amazing Dad, FC Honor, and a great Mom, Lola, my girl!

Having five puppies in your house – this is a long story, but I just did not trust anyone enough to take care of them, so we kept the five of them! Thank God it was not a litter of 10! – makes you see things with another outlook on the K9 world!

My other dogs have always been playful, but they were not raised together as puppies. I had rescued ones like the dog of my life, Zeus, and a few others, as well as puppies but that I got separately.

Suddenly, I have five rambunctious pups who were playing nonstop with each other. Everyone had a martingale collar, and my wild children were playing in the fenced backyard with locked gates since one day, they figured out how to open them. Suddenly I heard squealing noises from outside. My blood doesn’t freeze that often, but it was one of the times when it did!

I saw Sophie’s jaws twisted into her brother, Jackson’s collar. Sophie was screaming, and Jackson was losing consciousness. I managed to free both of them fast, and I remember seating in my yard crying like a baby with my two furry ones on my lap. I thought it was just a freak accident, and did not think about it more than that.

A few days later, after feeding them breakfast, they were chasing each other in the house. Again, same squealing noise. This time, I grabbed a pair of scissors and ran to my bedroom when I saw Jackson being strangled again by George whose jaws were stuck, totally entangled in the collar. This time, I don’t think I could have done anything without the scissors. I cut the collar, and my two pups just collapsed on me.

That day, I removed collars from everyone in my pack! I started looking on the net, and was shocked to see how many dogs died when playing with their buddies. Later on, I was talking to my vet about it, and he confirmed it to me, telling me that he had a client not long ago, who had two young dogs, came for shots and left to go home with her two dogs in the back of her truck. When she arrived home, one of them was not breathing anymore, strangled by his brother.

Not having collars on my pack is not easy. It’s so convenient to be able to grab one or two when it’s needed. I looked on line to see if there was any alternative, and found break away collars to prevent strangulation. I think by that time, I was so traumatized that I decided to pass on them, and leave the mutts’ collar free.

Their collars are now neatly on a rack, and are used only for walks. Jackson was my lucky boy. Twice he could have died, twice he survived. But so many dogs died, and it is so easy to prevent it. And I was careful. For instance if they were crated, they were always collar free, but I never thought they could get entangled into their collars.

Just trying to keep everyone safe and happy!


The Distemper Vaccine for Dogs

distemperWe’ve all received the reminder in the mail that our pet is due for a vaccine that we don’t really know how to pronounce, much less know what it does. It doesn’t help that vet clinics may use the abbreviations or lingo that differs from clinic to clinic. In this article, we aim to discuss the “distemper” vaccine and the diseases it protects against. (In a separate article, the feline “distemper” vaccine will be explained).

For dogs, the “distemper” vaccine usually refers to a combination vaccine including vaccines against several common viral canine diseases. Sometimes separate vaccines are used for each of these diseases, but most practices are using the combination for puppies and dogs 8 weeks and older. You may see a variety of different vaccine combinations referred to as the “distemper” vaccine, such as:

DAPP – Distemper/Adenovirus/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus

DA2PP – Distemper/Adenovirus (type 1 and 2)/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus

DA2PPC – Distemper/Adenovirus (type 1 and 2)/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus/Coronavirus

DHPP – Distemper/Hepatitis virus (same as adenovirus)/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus

DHPPL – Distemper/Hepatitis virus/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus/Leptospirosis

*** The “A”, “A2” and “H” all refer to the same thing – typically a modified live canine adenovirus type 2 vaccine, which does protect against type 1 as well.

FAQs: Canine distemper virus

  • Who does it affect?
    It is primarily seen in young dogs (3 – 6 months old). The virus can also infect other canids (foxes, coyotes, etc.), cats, ferrets, and raccoons, and skunks. It does not affect humans.
  • How is it transmitted?
    It is shed through the respiratory secretions of infected animals, and most commonly transmitted by aerosol exposure. Direct contact with contaminated urine, feces, or skin may also transmit the infection. It can also be passed from mother to fetus through the placenta.
  • What are the signs?
    Distemper may cause a range of signs or even no signs at all, and it has a variable mortality rate depending on the severity of the clinical signs. There can be conjunctivitis (eye inflammation), eye or nasal discharge, lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and fever. It can also cause neurologic disease, so there can be seizures, balance and coordination problems, paresis (weakness), hypersensitivity to touch, or involuntary twitching.
  • Is there a treatment?
    There is no specific antiviral treatment available for distemper virus. Secondary bacterial infections are managed with antibiotics, and other signs are treated supportively (e.g. intravenous fluid therapy for dehydration secondary to vomiting and diarrhea).

FAQs: Canine Adenovirus

  • Who does it affect?
    It primarily infects young dogs (less than 1 year old), but can occur in any unvaccinated dog. It also can infect foxes, coyotes, and bears.
  • How is it transmitted?
    It is passed dog-to-dog from contact with contaminated secretions (urine, feces) through the oronasal mucous membranes. It can also be transmitted via contact with fomites (inanimate objects) and ectoparasites (e.g. fleas).
  • What are the signs?
    There are two well-known canine adenoviruses, type 1 and 2. Type 1 causes infectious canine hepatitis, and may manifest as fever, lymph node swelling, increased heart and respiratory rate, abdominal tenderness (with an enlarged liver), and icterus (jaundice). The eyes can also be affected, and have a blue-ish hazy appearance. Sometimes secondary to the liver disease, there can be neurologic signs (depression, seizures, disorientation, coma) or blood clotting disorders (bruising, nose bleeds). Canine adenovirus type 2 can cause a cough, and is one of the potential causes of kennel cough.
  • Is there a treatment?
    Treatment is primarily supportive, including fluid therapy, correction of coagulation abnormalities with blood product transfusion, liver antioxidants, and sometimes steroids for inflammation suppression.

FAQs: Canine Parvovirus

  • Who does it affect?
    It only affects dogs, typically (almost exclusively) less than 8 months old and unvaccinated adults. There may be a genetic predisposition towards the disease in Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, pit bills, German Shepherds and dachshunds.
  • How is it transmitted?
    It is highly contagious and passed from contaminated feces to the oral cavity.
  • What are the signs?
    There can be a wide range in severity of the disease. Signs include lethargy, dehydration, fluid filled intestines on abdominal palpation, diarrhea (often containing blood), vomiting or retching, fever, and even shock (due to sepsis or dehydration, signs including increased heart rate, hypoglycemia, and hypothermia).
  • Is there a treatment?
    Treatment includes supportive care, antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection control. Fluid therapy is of the greatest importance, as dehydration can be fatal. In addition to this, there may be need for antiemetics, pain control and nutritional support. Usually IV medications will be needed initially, especially if there is vomiting (where oral medications wouldn’t be tolerated). The diet should be high-protein and high-calorie foods in small volume.

FAQs: Canine Parainfluenza

  • Who does it affect?
    It primarily affects young dogs, and is more commonly found in dogs that have been kenneled or in close proximity to lots of other dogs.
  • How is it transmitted?
    Parainfluenza is spread by the inhalation of aerosolized secretions from the respiratory tract of infected dogs.
  • What are the signs?
    Parainfluenza virus causes rhinitis (nasal inflammation), conjunctivitis, and tracheobronchitis, usually a fairly short duration. Persistent cough may be the major problem. Bronchopneumonia may develop if the viral infection is compounded with a secondary bacterial infection (such as bordetella), which would show as lethargy, increased respiratory effort, potentially fever and loss of appetite. There is a variant of the parainfluenza virus that may cause neurologic signs such as ataxia and paresis.
  • Is there a treatment?
    Uncomplicated cases of parainfluenza may resolve on their own, but supportive care may be needed such as cough suppressants, bronchodilators, and fluid support to maintain hydration.

An obvious pattern has developed here – in these viral diseases, there isn’t usually a specific treatment but rather management focuses on supportive care. Preventive medicine is often the best choice. Vaccination helps us prevent the spread of these common diseases and protect our pets from serious illness. Many safety studies have gone into producing a reliable vaccine. There are several different vaccine manufacturers so there may be some differences in the exact mechanism of action between the different brands of vaccines (e.g. killed virus, recombinant virus, or modified/attenuated live virus), so if there are any specific questions about what your particular pet is receiving, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian! You should always feel confident and comfortable with what is being used, so be informed and not clueless regarding what all those vaccine reminders are all about!


Leptospirosis: What’s Lurking in the Water

lepto-waterLeptospirosis is a disease that many dog owners are familiar with by name, as it is commonly included in their pet’s vaccine schedule and reminders. However, as a veterinarian I find that most pet parents are unfamiliar with what leptospirosis is or how it is spread. Here we will overview some basic information about leptospirosis so that we can understand the purpose and benefit of vaccination.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is the disease caused by spirochete bacteria of the genus Leptospira. There are at least 16 species of bacteria classified as Leptospira, with each species including potentially over one hundred serovars, or subgroups. This is significant because these different serovars of Leptospira bacteria have different antigens (surface proteins), so vaccines may need to be tailored to recognize these different antigens in order to be effective. In practical terms, the vaccine your pet may be receiving for protection against leptospirosis may include protection against several serovars, but will never be completely protective against all strains of leptospirosis. Dogs appear to be affected more commonly by the following serovars: grippotyphosa, braislava, canicola, icterohaemorrhagiae, and pomona.

How is Leptospirosis spread?

Leptospira bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, commonly stagnant or slow moving water. They can survive for months in wet conditions without a host, and peak incidence of leptospirosis in dogs occurs between July and November, often after periods of rainfall or flooding. Leptospira bacteria are shed in the urine of infected animals, thus it tends to end up accumulating in still water from runoff. Animals become infected when the bacteria enters broken skin. Bite wounds, reproductive secretions, or consumption of infected tissue (eating an infected animal), and contact of broken skin with contaminated water all can transmit infection.

Who is affected by Leptospirosis?

It is common for veterinarians to recommend vaccination against leptospirosis based on lifestyle and exposure risks. In the past, it was often not recommended unless the pet was very active outdoors (e.g. roaming or working outdoor dogs, especially if swimming in natural bodies of water). Today this is not the case; Disease incidence appears to be increasing in suburban and urban environments due to spread by rodent and urban wildlife populations, and vaccination may now be recommended to all dogs – even the little Yorkshire terrier walking down the city street.

Leptospirosis is more prevalent in warm, tropical environments throughout the world. In the United States, dogs are affected in Hawaii, West coast states, the upper Midwest, the Northeast, and mid-Atlantic coastal regions.

Many different species of animals (e.g. dog, mouse, rat, raccoon, cow, pig, horses and humans) can be infected by leptospira bacteria, with certain serovars affecting different species of animals. Younger animals seem to be more severely affected than older animals, and there may be a genetic predisposition for infection in German Shepherd dogs.

Of note, leptospirosis is considered a zoonotic disease, as humans can contract the infection from contact with contaminated animal urine. Veterinarians, animal caretakers, sewer workers, and farmers may be at increased risk due to exposure.

How do Leptospira bacteria cause disease?

Once the bacteria enter the bloodstream, it spreads quickly and begins to replicate in the kidneys. This causes inflammation in the kidneys and can potentially cause acute renal failure. Some serovars of leptospire can cause other organ failure, most commonly the liver. The leptospires produce a toxin which can cause liver damage and acute or chronic hepatitis. Lung tissue can also be injured by the toxin, secondary to vasculitis (fluid leaking from blood vessels).

What are the signs of leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis can be marked by fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and lethargy. Excessive drinking and urination may be secondary to kidney damage, typically starting about a week after the fever. Jaundice and bleeding disorders may be caused secondary to liver damage, resulting in bruises, hemorrhaging, epistaxis (bleeding from the nose), bloody stool or vomit.

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?

Basic blood chemistry can be performed to support a clinical suspicion of leptospirosis before more advanced testing is ordered by the veterinarian. Increased kidney and liver enzymes will often be noted. Blood tests to detect antibodies against Leptospira can be performed. An initial titer of 1:800 or greater supports a positive diagnosis, a second antibody titer must be performed between 2 and 4 weeks later. If the second titer shows a four-fold increase, the diagnosis of leptospirosis is confirmed. Unfortunately, vaccination may affect test results since vaccines cause antibody production. If a dog was vaccinated within the past 3 months, testing may be difficult to interpret due to their high antibody level. If antibodies are detected against a leptospire serovar for which there is no vaccine, it must be a positive test result and the individual has leptospirosis. There is also a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction test), which detects Leptospire bacterial DNA, enabling the lab to detect even small amounts of bacteria present. The PCR test is an excellent choice for a diagnostic test, especially if there has been recent vaccination in an individual.

Urine testing can also be performed, but because the bacteria may be shed only intermittently, detecting the infection may be inconsistent. The bacteria can be seen using darkfield microscopy, which uses a dark background to highlight the paler leptospire organisms. Unfortunately, darkfield microscopy is not readily available to most animal hospitals and the typical urine culture tends not to be very successful.

Kidney biopsy may be also performed, but this is obviously a much more invasive procedure.

How is leptospirosis treated?

Patients with leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics, commonly penicillin and a tetracycline (such as doxycycline). They also need supportive care for their fever and other signs (e.g. blood transfusions if bleeding disorders occur, anti-emetics if vomiting), and require intravenous fluids to maintain good blood flow to the injured kidneys. With aggressive and appropriate treatment, 80 – 90% recovery rate in dogs is reported.

It is also very important to clean the patient’s environment and anywhere the contaminated urine may have touched. An iodine-based cleaner should be used anywhere the urine may have contacted, and gloves should be worn by anyone touching the patient and cleaning up after them.

Conclusions: Should I vaccinate my dog against leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a very serious disease and may be on the rise. Infected individuals may quickly develop signs of illness and have extensive organ damage in a short time. The vaccines available are against the species Leptospira interrogans, including only the serovars canicola, grippotyphosa, pomona and icterohaemorragiae (some vaccines have all four serovars, others only have two of the four available). Though there are other serovars that can cause infection, these are the more common serovars causing disease in dogs. Due to the use of the vaccine for many years, it is difficult to determine incidence of the disease in environment, but reported cases of leptospirosis caused by these four serovars have decreased (as opposed to those serovars for which no vaccine exist). The vaccines are associated with allergic reactions in some patients, causing signs like hives, facial swelling, and rarely life-threatening anaphylaxis. If a patient has a history of significant vaccine reaction, it may be recommended to avoid this particular vaccination. Otherwise, for most dogs it is a useful, relatively safe vaccine due to the seriousness of the disease and the potential zoonotic risk to human family members. As always, the pros and cons of vaccination should be discussed with your veterinarian about your specific pet, as every individual case may be unique.


Morgan, R., DVM, DACVIM, DACVO and Rothrock, K., DVM. Leptospirosis, from VIN libraries. January 2012

http://vetgirlontherun.com/leptospirosis-part-1-geographic-distribution-vetgirl-veterinary-ce-blog/; June 24, 2015.

Brooks, W. Leptospirosis: Client Education, from VIN libraries. August 2011

Am I Poisoning My Dogs?

image003_495This morning, it just hit me. I was fixing their food and as usual, I had a concert of whining because I am never fast enough! Sorry guys, but it takes a few minutes for Honest Kitchen dehydrated food to become REAL FOOD that you can swallow in 1 minute and 2 seconds. Each meal I fix for them makes me laugh…. It’s like Thanksgiving for humans. I spend so much time in the kitchen, and then half an hour later, it’s all done and gone…

Right now, they are all sleeping in my office because that’s what they do, they follow me all over the house. This is their mission in life: giving me as much love, and company they could think of. If I take too long of a shower, I start hearing them getting annoyed on the other side of the door, because, yes, sometimes there is a door between them and I, and I can tell you one thing: they don’t like it. The only time where all the doors within the house stayed open, it was after George’s death. That death hit us all pretty bad. One day, he was there, playful, loving, funny George, the next day, I came back empty handed. September 2012 was the month where I had to take showers with my six labs in the bathroom with me or they were howling at the door and freezing my blood which was already not that warm with George’s death.

There is always a before and after in every story. There is a “before George” and “after George”. During that Labor Day weekend, that Sunday, I had friends over, and they were all over George saying how beautiful he was, how shiny his coat was, how all of them were so healthy and beautiful. Yeah, right, the next day, George was at the emergency, and the day after, I had to put to sleep my sweet boy, so telling me, vets or friends, that my dogs are beautiful, healthy, shiny coats, etc., doesn’t do anything for me now.

George’s death, I tried to understand it. He was diagnosed with Lyme Nephritis. The day after his death, my whole bunch went to my vet for blood tests, and the whole nine yards. They were some off values related to kidneys. My vet suggested I test the well water, and sure enough they were some bacteria in the water. As the well guys explained to me, it’s nothing bad if you are healthy, but if you are not, let’s just say that it’s not going to improve your health. So, since that September 2012, my pack has only bottled water, thanks to Deer Park for that one! I was so paranoid with the water that the summer 2012 was the last time I had their kiddie pool outside.

That water was the enemy. I had to find someone to be guilty for my boy, right, so I took it on the water. It’s an old well with bacteria which go with the fact that it’s old, and there is not much I can do since I don’t own the house. That water is funny, you see, because it’s clear, it’s odorless but in my book it’s the enemy!

George’s death hit me hard, not only because he was only 3 years old, but also because I am so paranoid about what they eat. They had a grain free kibbles which was supposed to be real good, and the treats come out of my dehydrator or my oven. Dogs are like kids, and you get them accustomed to healthy treats. They will get as nuts as if you were giving them dog “fast food”. If I say the word “carrots”, I have 6 labs rushing to the fridge to get one, and when I say one, this is not totally true because Sophie anticipates, and is never satisfied with one. She has to grab at least two or three, you know, just in case of bad days ahead of her! That’s my Sophie. She is the only dog I know who doesn’t live in the present moment but thinks ahead. My tomboy, my love bug, my hunter girl who catches squirrels on a weekly basis. Basically, the squirrels that come to my backyard have to have a death wish!

Every year, they have their annual checkup with blood tests, urine, fecal. You name it, they have it. Last year again, in all six labs, the kidney values were all normal except one: the creatinine. My vet told me not to worry about it. It was probably coming from the food which was a great food. Gosh, I never heard that one before: each time something is off, blame it on the quality of the food you are giving them. It’s too good of a food. Besides the labs, I also have a Cairn terrier, who is without any doubt, the alpha of the bunch. His name is Sammie. I do believe that Sammie in another life was a sheep dog of some sort. When my pack is outside, and I call them in, he goes after each of them to make them go faster by barking at them and maybe chewing a bit on their hind legs if they are not fast enough! So, despite of his exercise, Sammie needs to lose two or three pounds. I started to reduce his calories intake but he doesn’t lose an ounce, Okay maybe one or two. Here again, my vet blamed it on the food which is too good. He gets less than 400 calories a day. How can he not lose any weight?

Six months ago or so, I asked the opinion of a holistic veterinarian to see what I can improve in my pack (it was basically to ask her what I could do for two of my girls who had a high Ph in their urine, and I did not want to give them the meds they were taking for it, and were useless anyway: Methio-Form). That’s another story.

She suggested the raw diet or the best after that would be “The Honest Kitchen”. The raw diet won’t be happening anytime soon. With 6 labs, I would go bankrupt in no time, and then you would see me at the corner of a big intersection with a sign: “Homeless and I need food for my dogs!” Just kidding. So I went for Honest Kitchen “Force” which would be the least processed food. Kibbles are still very much processed, so I was feeling good, and I was not the only one. Gosh THEY LOVE THAT FOOD! I know they are labs, and love any food, but the constant whining, drooling while I fix it is just too funny. The food is organic and human range, and my dogs look so good. Go back, scratch that one!

Anyway, this month was checkup time again, and again the creatinine value is far too high. Most of them are the higher end of normal, but Jackson is not even in the normal range. It’s just high. All the other kidney values are normal, so my vet gave me his explanation: there are 5% of dogs with high creatinine numbers but there is nothing wrong about it. Sorry, but this time, I don’t take it. I don’t like statistics anyway, and yes he blames the food again.

So today, I was in the kitchen, fixing their meals, and thinking: “what if I am the one to poison them?

Instead of the whole nine yards, we are going to the next step “the whole ten yards” thanks to Bruce Willis for this step ahead! The next step is going to be an internist, as a matter of fact, George’s internist at the Life Center in Leesburg, because the 5% is not a good enough answer for me. I am also writing this to see if anyone (who was patient enough to read everything until the last lines) had any similar experience with grain free food? Am I doing something wrong by doing something too good? This morning I am lost, but I know one thing though I am looking for a real answer, not statistics.

A New Year’s Resolution: Getting the Pets in Shape!

It’s the start of a new year, a typical time for many to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. It’s old news that there is an “obesity epidemic” in America, and most people are aware that there is a plethora of health complications associated with being overweight. It is also coming to public attention that there is a similar obesity epidemic in the American pet population. It is estimated by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) that 55.6% of pet dogs and 54% of cats are overweight or obese. Obesity is caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, but can be boiled down basically to taking in more calories than are used by the body. From a cultural standpoint, pet animals are becoming obese because of a modern, first-world lifestyle. Many owners express affection to their pets by feeding them, often overfeeding or feeding rich treats. There was a time when most cats and dogs roamed outdoors all day long, but now most are relatively sedentary. Many owners don’t spend the time to walk the dog, and many cats are indoor only with limited space for activity.

Just like humans, dogs and cats can have many health problems that are secondary to or exacerbated by being overweight. They can develop diabetes, have high blood pressure (which in turn can stress the heart and damage the kidneys), and have increased strain on joints leading to or worsening conditions like cruciate ligament tears in the knees and osteoarthritis. Obesity can even be linked to increased risk of certain forms of cancer. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), studies suggest that being overweight can decrease our pets’ life expectancy (up to 2.5 years). Maintaining an ideal weight for our pets is obviously important for maximizing their longevity and quality of life.

So… where do I start?

A reliable and practical place to start getting in shape is going to the doctor’s for a routine physical exam! Too many humans neglect to do this; many pets are also not checked up unless they are due for vaccines or have a perceived problem. Keep in mind that cats and dogs lifespans are shorter than a human’s, so in a sense an annual physical exam could equate to a check-up every 6 to 8 years – a lot can change in that amount of time! The vet can address any of your concerns regarding your pet’s weight as well. Get their opinion on whether there needs to be any changes in diet, exercise, or if any blood tests need to be run, as there can be underlying metabolic diseases that can affect a pet’s weight.

In evaluating the weight of dogs and cats, it’s not easy to go by numbers on a scale alone. The variety of shapes, body types, and ideal weights, even within specific breeds, can be staggering. The veterinarian on exam will evaluate your pet based on palpation as well as visual appearance, so a target weight can be estimated for your individual animal. For your own reference, you could always compare your pet to a Body Condition Scoring Chart, like the two below. (You can download a PDF version of both charts HERE.)


Very roughly speaking, regardless of the breed of your animal, they should still have a waist (where the body narrows down behind the ribcage, and the abdomen should tuck up) and you should be able to feel individual ribs without putting too much pressure on the chest. Many Americans are accustomed to seeing overweight dogs and cats by now, so our perceptions may be skewed by expectations. While you don’t want to see the spine, shoulder blades and hip bones sticking out, seeing some definition to the trunk of the pet is a good thing!

Selecting a quality pet food is also important to maintaining appropriate weight. While there are thousands of opinions as to what constitutes a good brand, what helps is to make sure the food has clinical nutrition trials to back it up and that it at least meets standards by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO ) for being complete and balanced. Many owners are interested in creating home cooked diets or supplementing commercial pet food with table food, but if this is to be done properly a veterinary nutritional specialist should be consulted and a lot of good research should be put into formulating something balanced and appropriate. Home-cooked pet food recipes found on the internet may result in nutritional deficiencies and significant disease, if owners are not careful.

It is also very important to control how MUCH a pet is fed daily. Many owners will only roughly estimate how much a pet is fed, using non-standard “cups” to measure out portions; some will just “keep the bowl full.” If the food is left out for pets to eat at their own pace, at least a controlled total quantity should be offered. Feeding guidelines on the pet food bag or cans may even be overestimating how much should be fed, so these recommendations should be taken in light of the animal’s current body condition, activity level, etc. Also take into account how many calories are added into the daily diet by treats.

Often, if there is difficulty losing extra weight and other underlying medical issues have been addressed, the vet may recommend a specific veterinary prescription diet to help animals have decreased caloric intake while feeling more satisfied than they would if they just decreased their regular diet quantity. Often these prescription diets are higher in fiber or protein to help the animals feel more full, and some also are formulated to increase metabolic rate to help burn calories. Often, fatty commercial dog treats can be replaced with pieces of vegetables, which are often in large part water and fiber. (Unforunately, cats are carnivorous; but high protein and low carbohydrate diets are important for their weight management!)

Exercise is obviously an important component to maintaining healthy weight. It is also critical for our pets’ overall well-being and can be important for avoiding or resolving behavioral issues like anxiety, supposed hyperactivity, and destructiveness. For very overweight animals, it will be important to slowly increase activity over time to avoid injury. Walks and jogs are obviously mainstays for dogs, but for cats a little more creativity may be required. Investing in toys, laser pointers, etc. may be in your future!

For many helpful tools (such as calorie calculators) and much more information, go to www.PetObesityPrevention.com. Good luck and good health!