Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aging Pets and Fall Weather


It’s officially fall. The leaves are changing, the air is getting colder, and the days are getting shorter. This is a great time of year, but it is also when I see a lot of my older patients come in for age related conditions.

One of the most common problems I see older pets for is arthritis. Just like people, pets get arthritis in their joints. Often times people think their animals are just “slowing down” as they get older, but in reality it’s usually arthritis that is slowing them down. I see older pets this time of year because the cooler weather makes arthritic joints hurt more than usual. Fortunately there are many things you can do to help your pets deal with arthritis.

First of all, visit your vet. Your pet needs a physical exam to make sure there isn’t something else causing the pain, like an injury or tumor of some kind. Then they will do blood work to make sure your pet is healthy enough for arthritis medicine. The most common way to treat arthritis is using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). People NSAIDs include aspirin, Advil, and Aleve. But human NSAIDs cause stomach ulcers and bleeding disorders in dogs and cats. NEVER give your pet medicine without first consulting your vet. Years of research and millions of dollars have provided us with several pet safe NSAIDs that we can use to help our pets without hurting them. Dogs and cats are very still very sensitive to these meds, and they can’t be mixed together. If a pet is on one of these drugs, they can’t be given a second type of NSAID or a steroid, because they will interact and cause GI ulcers and/or bleeding disorders. So, leave the pharmacy decisions to your vet, and don’t change or mix meds on your own.

The second most important thing in treating arthritis is weight control. I see so many overweight pets. Carrying around all that extra weight really takes a toll on those joints. Studies have shown that keeping a dog slightly underweight can delay the need for arthritis meds 1-2 years compared to a dog who is at an normal weight or is overweight for most of its life. So, if your pet is overweight, decrease their food by 20-25% and increase their exercise to help burn those calories. If you’re having trouble getting weight off of a dog, ask your vet if you need to test for hypothyroidism. Most of the time my patients are just fat, but sometimes they have decreased levels of thyroid and need to be on supplementation. Other signs of hypothyroidism are lethargy, skin irritation, and a droopy look to the face.

There are several other supplemental medications that can help with arthritis. Nutritional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help keep joints healthy. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for healthy joints, and in addition they help with skin, kidney, heart, and brain health. There are also injections called Adequan your vet can give them to help keep the cartilage health.

Another age related change I sometimes see is Canine Cognitive Disorder. Basically this is doggy Alzheimer’s. Signs of CCD include barking at people they usually like, not being able to settle down at night, getting lost in familiar surroundings (like the living room), and forgetting that they’re house trained. CCD is hard to diagnose, because there’s not an actual test for it. First your vet will run blood work to make sure there’s not an underlying medical condition causing these symptoms. Arthritis pain can also cause dogs to be irritable, have trouble getting comfortable to sleep, and have trouble making it outside to use the bathroom. If you’ve ruled out or treated any other conditions and you’re still seeing signs of CCD, the next step is trying treatment to see if they improve. Again, there is no definitive treatment for this disorder, but there are things you can do to improve your pet’s quality of life. Medicine, like a drug called selegiline, can be used to lessen the symptoms. Melatonin supplements may be able to help your dog settle down at night. Proper exercise can also help, as can limiting stressful situations that might trigger confusion.

Other common, though not age related, problems I see when fall weather hits are allergies and bladder infections. The fall pollens can trigger ear infections and foot licking. If you see evidence of increased itchiness in your pet contact your vet to see if you can use over the counter antihistamines or if they recommend an exam to look for signs of infection. Bladder infections are more common this time of year because of the colder, drier air. Pets don’t drink as much water when it’s not so hot, so they don’t empty their bladder as often. The decreased humidity adds to the tendency to become dehydrated, and the two factors can lead to urine that is more concentrated and stagnant. Signs of a bladder infection include urinating in the house (or not in the litter box for cats), pain when urinating, urinating small amounts frequently, and blood in the urine. Not all pets show all these signs, so if you think your pet may have a bladder infection schedule a visit to the vet right away. They will collect a urine sample and see if your pet needs to be on antibiotics.

Fall is beautiful, but it brings its own set of medical problems. Enjoy this wonderful season, but keep your pets safe and healthy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Planning for your pet

So this month's theme is spontaneity, but instead we're going to discuss the opposite. Because sometimes spontaneity in pets isn't such a good thing. When they spontaneously run into the path of an oncoming car, when they spontaneously develop cancer or another debilitating disease, or when your kids spontaneously bring home a kitten from the litter the stray cat had - not so good. So, let's talk about planning ahead.

For starters, you need a plan when you get a new pet. Puppies and kittens need multiple vet visits their first few months to keep them healthy and up to date on their vaccines. They need more intense training than older dogs usually, and are more likely to have accidents in the house and chew up things that aren't toys. If you are gone 10 hours of the day and have expensive rugs and shoes, you might want to rescue a pet that's already been trained and is past that stage. If you have lots of time to dote on your new pet and have the patience and room for training, than by all means go for the younger animal. If you live in a tiny apartment don't go for the Great Dane, try the small mixed breed or an adult cat instead. Plan ahead and know what you're looking for before you go to the shelter and fall in love with the first thing you see (because you will).

Then plan ahead for their wellness visits. Just like people, pets need regular medical care. They need vaccinations every year, they need heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, and some of them need grooming on a regular basis. Don't let that slip up on you. Schedule your vet and groomer visits a few weeks in advance and then put it on your calendar or have your phone alert you so you don't miss the appointment. Make sure you have plenty of parasite prevention and don't run out, because it is much easier to prevent these parasites than treat them once they've arrived.

Plan on how you will pay for your pet and their continued care. Pet insurance is an up and coming business. The best time to purchase pet insurance is when you first get your pet. Most likely that's when your rate will be the lowest. You want to get a plan in place before you have an illness or injury occur. There are several pet insurance companies, and no one company is right for everyone. Just like with car or home owner's insurance, shop around and find the right plan for you. Ask your vet for their opinion. Most of the time you still have to pay your vet up front, submit the bill, and then wait for a reimbursement from your insurance company. Some of the plans have exclusions, so be sure to read the fine print and ask questions before you sign anything. The company I am currently recommending is Trupanion Pet Insurance. But again, no one company is best for everyone, so do some research and find the plan that works best for you.

Lastly, how do you emotionally plan for unexpected injuries or illnesses? To be honest, it's hard. You don't want to think about that ever happening. But the reality is that it will, at some point. We need to prepare ourselves and our kids that our pets will eventually leave us. Talk to your kids about any illnesses your pets may have, so they understand what's happening. Be honest with them, don't try to hide the truth. Kids are very perceptive and surprisingly receptive. When I was in grade school my mom read me a book about a child who had a cat who got sick and eventually died. We cried together as we read it, thinking about how someday that would be us and our cat. When we read the Little House books we cried when Jack died (and named our next car after him). Both of those books helped me be prepared when our cat was sick and had to be euthanized. I knew that it was ok to be sad, and I was better prepared to deal with my emotions.

So plan ahead for your pet's well-being. Reserve your spontaneity for tug-o-war battles, racing around the back yard, and special treats brought home from the pet store!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-a, gay marriage, and Christianity

I'm confused, and somewhat annoyed, about this whole Chick-fil-a fiasco that the news, and social media, have created.

How does eating a chicken sandwich suddenly become a political stance? Why on earth are we focused on a fast food chain instead of on the government officials who actually have the power to grant or deny the right to marry? If I chose to indulge in a yummy milkshake from this restaurant am I insulting my homosexual friends? If I don't buy food from this restaurant does that mean I'm no longer a Christian?


This is crazy.

Chick-fil-a is run by Christians. Christians, in general, believe that homosexuality is a sin. They believe that allowing homosexuals to get married will degrade the value of marriage. So, in general, Christians are opposed to allowing homosexuals to get married. So, why is anyone surprised to find out that the people who run Chick-fil-a are opposed to gay marriage? Seriously, this caught people by surprise?

Let me start at the beginning. I support gay marriage. I support gay people.

Wait, let me go farther back.

I am a Christian. I believe in the Bible. I believe that God loves people, all people, and that he sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of people, all people. I know what the Bible says about homosexuality. I also know that it says a whole lot more about love. When Jesus was on this earth he didn't spend all his time trying to stop homosexuality. He showed the love of the Father to people who needed it, regardless of their background.

Most Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That is not what I'm debating right now. I'm debating the right of a person to be legally married to the person they love.

So, my question to those people who believe gay people shouldn't get married because they're living in sin is this: what about the other sinners who get married? Adultery is a sin. Theft is a sin. Murder is a sin. Physical abuse is a sin. People who do those sins get married all the time. But I don't see petitions to keep them from getting married.

People say they're opposed to gay marriage because it corrupts the sanctity of marriage. What about people who get married for the wrong reasons? What about people who don't marry for love? Or who marry and then get divorced right away? Doesn't that corrupt the sanctity of marriage too? Why doesn't that invoke the same outrage?

Why this issue? Why is this particular group of people being singled out? Why are heterosexuals who are sinners and don't respect the true meaning of marriage allowed to get married, but monogamous gay couples who love and are committed to each other have to jump through hoops to be able to be legally married? Seriously, I really don't understand.

I believe that if two people love each other, are committed to their marriage for the long term, understand the risks and benefits that marriage can involve, and want to be married then it should be their right. The marriage of two men or two women does not void the value of a marriage between a man and a woman. Allowing gay couples to reap the financial and emotional benefits of being legally married will not decrease the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. That's already been done by heterosexuals.

So, about this chicken sandwich mess. Will I boycott? No. Will I increase my purchases there? No. I didn't change my McDonald's eating habits a while back when it was "revealed" that they supported gay rights. I don't make my political stance with my lunch. Do I agree with the Chick-fil-a president's stance on gay marriage? No, not at all. But I also don't think that every single employee who works for that company is against gay marriage. I don't believe that they would refuse service to a gay couple. And I believe that they probably do support some good programs with their corporate money - environmental stewardship, programs for children, overseas ministries, etc.

Does the fate of marriage in the United States of America rest on the shoulders of a fast food chain? I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Do we still have discrimination, hate, and fear plaguing our society. Definitely.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pet Heroes

Many little kids think that their pets are superheros. They comfort them when they're sad, they play with them when they're lonely, they eat unwanted vegetables when Mom's not looking, and they make a pretty good pillow and snuggle buddy when it's time to sleep. But our pets really can be heroes for our kids sometimes.

Researchers have shown that kids who are raised with animals tend to be healthier than those who do not grow up with animals. Children who are exposed to dogs especially have fewer respiratory and ear infections than those who only have occasional exposure. Exposure to cats can also be beneficial, but the research showed the highest health benefits in infants who were around dogs on a daily basis.

Our pets can also be real heroes when there's an emergency. There are stories about pets waking their owners during a fire, barking and alerting neighbors if their owner has collapsed, pulling kids out of water, fighting off snakes or other dangerous animals, and protecting owners from intruders. There are also numerous types of therapy pets who help with physical and emotional disabilities as well as alerting their owners to seizures and other medical issues. Our pets truly can be our heroes.

So, we need to be our pets' heroes. Make sure they are up to date on the vaccines they need. Not every dog or cat needs every vaccine that's out there. Talk to your veterinarian and see what vaccines your pet needs and how often they need them. Take your pet in for regular visits. I recommend exams every 6 months to catch problems before they get too big. Dogs and cats don't tell us how they're feeling, and they're very good at hiding symptoms. Having a physical exam twice a year can really help stay on top of things. We monitor things like weight loss or gain, dental health, and mobility during the exam. We also listen for heart murmurs and unusual lung sounds and feel for changes in abdominal organs that may point to health problems that haven't yet become obviously apparent. Yearly blood work can also help to catch serious problems before they even start showing signs. It's a good idea to do blood work once a year on any animal, but I especially recommend it for older animals. Depending on the breed that may mean as early as 6 years old.
There are plenty of things you can do at home to take better care of your animal too. Make sure your pet is on the proper parasite control. Both dogs and cats can get heartworms from mosquito bites and they can pick up fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites from grass in the yard. Run your hand over your animal's body often to look for lumps, bumps, or balding areas. If you find anything unusual make an appointment right away - catching these things when they're small can really make a difference in treatment and outcome. Make sure you're feeding your pets a healthy diet and don't give them people food. People food can cause stomach and intestinal irritation in dogs and cats, and that can lead to things like pancreatitis. Monitor how much your pet is drinking and urinating. There are several medical conditions where the first sign is increased thirst or increased urination. This could be as simple as a bladder infection or as serious as diabetes or kidney failure.

The easiest thing you can do is spend time with your pet. Include them in activities with your kids. Go on walks, throw balls around the yard, snuggle on the couch together while watching TV. The emotional support you can give each other is wonderful. Kids and adults are healthier when they spend time every day playing with an animal. It also give you more chances to catch things like arthritis, weight changes, and skin changes early on. So be your pet's hero, and let them be yours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beat the Heat

It's Hot! It's officially summertime here in the US, and for most of us it's gotten pretty hot. Down here in Alabama it's gotten over 100 already, and the humidity is quite oppressive. This time of year we really need to be careful about how much time our kids and our pets spend outside.

Every year there are stories about kids or pets who were left in cars during the summer. It gets hot quickly inside a car, even with the windows down. Anytime it gets over 70 degrees outside it can become too hot inside a vehicle. So don't leave your little ones (2 or 4 legged) in the car unless the air conditioning is running. It's best not to leave them at all, but certainly don't leave them alone without any air. Make sure that vacant cars are locked so kids (or pets) can't climb in and get stuck inside.

Heat stroke is something we see every summer at the vet. That's what happens when an animal's body temperature gets too high. It happens most in dark colored animals or in those with shortened noses, like bulldogs and pugs, but it can happen to all pets. Cats and dogs can't sweat very much. They only have sweat glands in their feet. The only way they can cool down is to pant, which releases hot air from the body in the hopes that the incoming breath will bring cooler air. When the air is really hot or humid, that cooling mechanism breaks down and the animal overheats. Their normal body temperature should be around 100-102, but with heat stroke we often see it between 105-109. These temperatures will cause organ breakdown very quickly. If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, take them to the vet right away. On the way there, cool them down with wet towels soaked in cool water - do not use ice or ice water. Take a rectal temperature if possible so you can tell the vet how high their temp was before cooling was started. Direct fan vents to blow over the animal. If they are awake and alert they can drink water, but do not force it down their throat if they can't drink on their own. Call ahead to let your vet know that you are coming, so they can have an area prepared to continue to cool down your pet and get IV fluids running to get them rehydrated. I have lost several patients to heat stroke over the last few summers, and it's heartbreaking. Most of these cases present during the hot part of the day, but I've seen patients who overheated on early morning walks just because of the high humidity. So please, please be careful. If you're outside with your pet, and you're sweating, it's probably too hot for your pet. Make sure they're drinking plenty of water and have plenty of shade to cool down. Check out for more information.

We all know the dangers of sunburn for people, but pets can get sunburned also. Light colored animals can burn if they stay in the direct sunlight for too long. The main problem though is melanoma. This can affect any animal, but is seen often in white dogs and cats who like to sunbathe. You can buy pet friendly sunscreens at most pet stores. If you see an unusual spot on a light colored area of skin, have the vet check it out. Not all spots are bad, but it's hard to tell which ones are which.

Enjoy the weather with your 2 and 4 legged kids this summer. Stay safe, use caution, and keep everyone cool!

Monday, June 11, 2012


Yesterday was all about timing, and the timing was a little off. But somehow it worked itself out.

Tommy usually wakes up around 6:30-7ish. Sunday is my only morning to sleep in a little. So, yesterday he woke up at 5:15 with a soaked through diaper and didn't go back to sleep. Timing issue #1.

So we took turns getting him food and milk while he watched TV until it was finally time to actually get up and get ready for church. After church we ate lunch and then got ready to go visit Sam's mom. We had a good visit and headed home around 4pm.

Tommy never naps at home anymore. Even if he falls asleep in the car he wakes up when we get home. Yesterday he fell asleep in the car and didn't wake up when we got home. Timing issue #2. I transferred him to his bed and fully expected him to wake up before too long. At 6:30 I decided he'd napped long enough and should probably wake up so he could eat supper and have a bath before his actual bedtime. He disagreed. So I held him while I bounced and rocked back and forth on my feet until he went back to sleep, then laid him down in his bed and covered him back up. (Let me tell you, it's much more difficult to hold a 35.5 pound 39 inch long toddler over your shoulder and bounce him back to sleep than it is to hold the same child when they're a baby.)  So I fully expected him to stay asleep, but 1 hour later he was fully awake and quite happy to get up and eat supper. What a difference that hour made! We all ate dinner, he got his bath (which had been desperately needed), and then it was time for him to go back to bed. He acted sleepy, wanted me to read his books in bed instead of sitting in his chair, and didn't protest when I said goodnight and left his room.

So I figured he was good to go. But when I was cleaning the kitchen at 10:00 I heard his bed creaking. I went in to check on him, and he was still awake! Timing issue #3. So, I got him a drink and restarted his bedtime cd. This time it worked. When I went back in 30 minutes later he was snoring. And he slept through the night and didn't wake up till 6:20 this morning.

So, this morning we're all a little tired, but we're on our regular schedule again. Let's hope today's timing is much more predictable.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It happens every spring...

Last summer I wrote a post for MCG called It Happens Every Summer. Since spring in Alabama is like summer back home, it would be appropriate to revisit this post at this time.

So.....go read my post. And feel free to leave comments. I love comments. MCG loves comments. And read some other articles while you're there. Then like them and share them on facebook.

No, really. Go. Right now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Things I do

So, I had planned this post to be a quick follow up to Things I don't do, but it's taken a bit longer to get back around to this subject. So, without further ado (and since I know you've all been waiting impatiently for it) here is my Things I Do list:

1. Let Tommy watch TV - It's usually Disney or PBS and is somewhat educational. But I don't limit it to just 30 minutes a day. Maybe I should, but I really don't think it's frying his brain. Seriously, he's 3 and he's already spelling and reading - and some of that came from watching WordWorld on PBS everynight before bed. I think his brain is fine. He gets plenty of physical exercise too, so we're all good.

2. Wash dishes 2-3 times a day - Seriously, how do 3 people make so many dishes? I do hate to clean, but I can't stand letting a sink-full of dirty dishes sit there.

3. Let the animals sleep on the bed - I'm cold, they're warm, enough said. Plus, you try kicking 3 cats and a dog off in the middle of the night.

4. Let the dog on the couch - We actually bought the couch in a color to match his hair. We all have our own chairs, and rarely ever sit on the couch. The couch is his. We do clean the hair off and febreeze it when we're having company over, but otherwise it's his.

5. Sing along to the radio - Loudly. Mostly in key. It makes me happy. Unfortunately it doesn't usually make Tommy happy. Sometimes he tells me "Stop singing, Mommy!" Sigh :(

6. Dance in surgery - We always have the radio playing when we're doing surgery. Sometimes a good song comes on and I have to move around a little. I never compromise my patient or surgical field, but sometimes you just have to boogie!

7. Let Tommy use me like a jungle gym - Who needs exercise classes when you've got a toddler? We chase each other, he crashes into me, he climbs my back, I hold his hands while he walks up my legs and flips over, he leaps off his bed into my arms. My muscles are in great shape, but my joints didn't used to make these noises...

8. Skip meals - Somestimes I just get busy and forget. If Sam's home I'll make a meal for the 2 of us, but if it's just me and Tommy I'll usually feed him and then get busy and just snack. I'm better than I used to be, but sometimes I'll still look up at 2pm and wonder if I ate breakfast or lunch that day.

9. Avoid confrontations - Like the plague. I hate to make people upset. Especially upset at me. So I try to fix problems without actually talking to people about them. No, it doesn't work that well. And I'm trying to get better about getting things out in the open. But old habits (fears?) die hard.

10. Speak sarcasm as a second (sometimes first) language - What, you mean everyone doesn't? So, you expect me to NOT be sarcastic? Right, that's going to happen. Good luck with that.

11. Read fast. Like 1-2 books a day. May God bless whoever invented Kindle and the Kindle app.

12. Procastinate - Um, did you see how long it took me to write this follow up post?

13. Love my iPhone - Seriously, what did I do without this thing? It's a phone, a calculator, a flashlight, a computer, a child entertainer, an alarm clock, a book, a child entertainer, a map, a game device, a child entertainer (oh, did I say that one already?).

14. Have an iPhone for my 3 year old - Technically, it's more of an iPod touch. It's Sam's old phone, and it's not connected to phone service or the internet. And it's only got kid apps on it. And it's in this fancy Fisher Price iPhone holder. And he loves it. He doesn't use it every day, sometimes he'll go days without us giving it to him. But if he's really cranky, or if we need him to sit still at a restaurant or in the car, it's a lifesaver. And it's pretty amazing to watch a 3 year old navigate that thing.

So those are some of the things I do that most of you may not have known about. I hope you know me just a little bit better now :)

Organizing your pet's information

Do you know when your cat is due for her next vaccines? Do you know the name and dose of your dog's allergy medication? Do both you and your spouse know the name of your pet's flea and heartworm prevention?

Most of the time my clients don't remember everything about their animal's health. I often have owners call in to refill "the pink pill" or "the flea stuff with the dalmatian on the box" or "the food with the orange label."

So, I recommend making a pet information file. It helps you, the owner, stay on top of your pet's information, and it's also great if there's an emergency and you need someone else to take care of your pets for a while. The file should be organized and easy to find in your house. A folder with all your receipts from the past 10 years of vet visits will not be too helpful if your pet sitter needs to find out when your cat had it's last rabies vaccine if a bat gets in while you're out of town.

The first page should have your name, and the name of any other people your pet's account may be under at the vet. Many times a pet lives at one house, but is under someone else's name (parent, fiancée, sibling, etc) at the vet. Also, list any alternate names for the pet. Many times I'll have a chart on a pet with one name, and the owner calls to see if "Smoochie" is ready to go. I don't know who Smoochie is, since the name on my chart was "Sir Charles of Windsor and London-town."

Next, have a sheet for each of your pets with medical conditions and treatments. At the top have a list of current medications including doses and how often they're given. If you get them filled at a pharmacy instead of at your vet, have that pharmacy's info and the prescription number if you have one. Also list any special food that they're on, how much they eat, and where to buy it. Then, list any current medical conditions that would need to be monitored if the pet was in the care of someone else. This includes allergies, diabetes, kidney or liver problems, pancreatitis or sensitivities to food, heartworm disease, behavior problems, etc. Be sure to list any past surgeries or other anesthetic procedures.

Lastly, have all vaccinations listed with last date administered and the date when their due next. Some vaccines need to be given once a year, and some are every 3 years. I don't know when my own pets are due, so I don't expect my owners to remember that off the top of their heads. Most vets will be able to print off a certificate that lists the due dates of your pet's vaccinations. Keep that up to date every year.

Also, it wouldn't be a bad idea to store all of this information in some type of online file, even if it's just a private note in your facebook account, or a google doc, or an email you mail to yourself and save in a special file. That way if you lose your file, or you need to access the information when you're not at home, you can find what you need.

Staying on top of your pet's medical care wil be much easier if you stay organized. It's even nicer knowing that your pet's information is easily available in an emergency.

Friday, March 9, 2012

For Real

So, the theme this month at Mom Colored Glasses is organization. My organizational style is a bit hidden. As in no one can tell I'm organized. I organize in piles. And closets stuffed with stuff. And random items placed in random places that I may or may not remember later.

My fellow MCGer Maggie has started "For Real Fridays" on her blog. Basically she's showing us a glimpse into how things really are behind the scene at her house, since most of the time when we show pictures our blogs they are carefully cropped to show only the pretty side of our homes.

So, in the spirit of For Real Fridays and organization, I give you my pantry.

A jumble of boxes, bags, and "ready for avalanche" piles of food. I've been perusing some organization pins on Pinterest, and I had a few ideas. So, I bought a few baskets and started working. Mostly, I opened up boxes and am now storing granola bars, cereal bars, and cracker packs together instead of in their own boxes. Same thing goes for instant oatmeal and hot chocolate packets. It wasn't a huge change, but it's working. I need more baskets, but at least it's better.

And this is all the boxes and empty candy containers that I was then able to recycle!

 And, since I was on a roll, I reorganized 2 shelves in my hall linen closet. I didn't get a before shot, but believe me, this looks better :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Too yummy not to share

I finally succumbed to Pinterest. I blame a friend of mine from vet school. She posted pictures on facebook of a dessert she made. She found the recipe on Pinterest. So I gave in and joined. And one of the first things I did was look up that recipe.

It. Was. Scrumptious!

I tracked the recipe back to a blog called Picky Palate. They are Oreo, peanut butter, brownie cupcakes. They were really easy. Here is how you make them.

Line a muffin tin with liners. You'll make between 12-18 depending on how thick your brownie mix is. The mix in the picture made 12, the next time I used a different mix (both said for an 8x8 pan) and I got 18.

Then layer 2 Oreos with peanut butter and drop them into the liner. I haven't tried to use double-stuff Oreos, but since the regular ones get pretty tall with the peanut butter and brownie mix, I'd be afraid that using the thicker cookies would cause the mix to spill over.

 After your cookies are in the tin, then mix up your brownie mix. If you mix it up before hand, it gets a little stiff and it's harder to spoon over the cookies. Try to get it to drip down over the sides of the cookies. It will drip some on its own while they're baking.

After they're done, take them out and let them cool. If you're planning on eating one right away, don't let it cool down much - just enough to keep from burning your fingers. They taste great covered in vanilla ice cream and hot fudge - trust me :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pets and arthritis - how to make them comfortable

This time of year is not good for arthritis sufferers. The cold, wet weather makes joints ache. The weather induced lack of exercise leads to stiffness as well as weight gain. This happens with people as well as the pets we love. But how can you tell if your pet suffers from arthritis, and what can be done to make them more comfortable?

For starters, watch your pet. Does your dog have a hard time getting up when he's been laying down? Does your cat take a few seconds to jump up on a chair when before she'd just leap up? Do you just think your older pet is slowing down from age? These can all be signs of arthritis. Animals often don't act painful until they've had arthritis for some time. It's up to you and your vet to determine if your pet suffers from arthritis.

Next - DO NOT GIVE THEM PEOPLE MEDICINE! Dogs and cats process medicine very differently than humans. The pain medicine that people use can cause ulcers and bleeding disorders in animals. Billions of dollars have been spent researching how pets tolerate different medications, and there are special arthritis medicines just for them. These medicines cannot be mixed either. If a dog needs to switch from one medicine to another, you have to stop giving the medicine (or steroid) for 2-7 days to let the animal eliminate that drug before you can start another one. So, that means that if you happened to give your dog an aspirin (or some old steroid you had lying around, or your other dog's leftover pain medicine from her spay), your vet will not be able to start a new (more appropriate) drug until the other drug has left your dog's bloodstream. So, do not give any meds without talking to your vet, and always (ALWAYS) tell your vet about any medicine (prescription, over-the-counter, or vitamins) that your dog has had within the past few weeks).

So, the most important step in treating your pet's arthritis pain is to make a visit to their veterinarian. The doctor will do a physical and feel the joints to see if there are any injuries. They may want to take x-rays to see which joints have arthritis. They will do blood work to see if there are any underlying issues that may not make it safe to start arthritis medicine. If a dog or cat has increased liver or kidney enzymes then they may have to choose a different medication or decrease the dose. These blood tests will need to be repeated after the pet has been on the medicine to make sure the drug did not change anything. Then they will probably be repeated once a year to monitor their response to the drugs.
There are other things you can do for your pet's arthritis. Most importantly, if they're overweight, put them on a diet and exercise program. 3 extra pounds on a Boston Terrier is the same as 30 extra pounds on a 150lb person. If their joints are aching, wouldn't it feel better to carry around less weight? The easiest way to take weight off a pet is to decrease their food. Talk to your vet about how much your cat or dog should actually be eating - the truth is most of us over feed our animals. If your pet is obese you may need to switch to a perscription diet food for a while. It may be more expensive than the food you get at the grocery store, but in the long run it will be worth it. Low impact exercise like walking and swimming are also a great way to decrease fat and increase muscle on your dog. For cats, buy them feather toys or balls to chase - and then play with them and make sure they're moving around. Most cats eat, then sleep all day. If we can get them moving around we can get some of that weight off.

There are also some vitamins and supplements that can help with arthritis. Omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin are all good for joints. Many times you can buy these over the counter, but check with your vet to determine your pet's dose. Also know that sometimes the human products aren't monitored by the FDA since they're not actually a drug. There are veterinary products on the market that are safer - Dasuquin by Nutramax is my personal favorite, but check with your vet to see what they recommend.

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Physical therapy is also utilized in animals. There are veterinary physical therapists who have special techniques to help animals in pain. They use many of the same therapies that are used in human medicine, including hydrotherapy, laser therapy, balance exercises, and muscle strengthening and range of motion exercises. Ask your vet if they do PT at their office, or if there is a veterinary physical therapist nearby.

Lastly, there are additional medicines that your vet may use to decrease your pet's pain. Adequan is an injection that can strengthen joint cartilage and slow down arthritis. There are other perscription medicines that can be given along with arthritis meds - these are particularlly helpful if the arthritis meds aren't working as well as the dog's arthritis gets worse, or if you need to decrease the arthritis drugs because of increased kidney or liver enzymes. There are also perscription dog and cat foods designed for arthritic animals. They are high in omega fatty acids and in some animals delay the need for medicine.

Our pets give us lots of love. Let's return the favor and take extra special care of them as they get older and their joints get creakier. Make an appointment with your vet today if you suspect your cat or dog has arthritis. With their help you can make a plan to make your four legged kids as comfortable as possible!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I have a lump

So, I need some therapeutic blogging. I'm worried about something, and I need to get it out.

I have a lump. I have a lump in my neck. According to the doctor it's actually two lymph nodes, and he's taking them out on Monday. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

Last August I had a sinus infection. As I usually do, I checked to see if my lymph nodes were enlarged. The one on the left side of my neck was. I had already started antibiotics, so I didn't think anything about it.

In September I noticed the node was enlarged again. But I had some ulcers in my mouth (courtsey of some head butts from Tommy), so I just figured it was from that.

In October, when I didn't have any infections or sores, I realized that the node was still large. I started to wonder if it had been enlarged since August. So I called to make an appointment with my doctor. Due to some scheduling conflicts, I couldn't get in until just before Christmas. I figured that if the node was just from my infection(s) it would have gone away by then and I could cancel the appointment.

So in December the node was still there. I saw my doctor, and she said she thought it was a lipoma, which is a benign fatty mass. She showed me one she had up near her ear, and it felt similar. She said I should see an ENT just to be sure, and her office would set me up an appointment. I told the nurse to make it on a Thursday (my off day) and to call me. I didn't figure I'd hear from them till after the holidays.

So, I still hadn't heard the second week of Janurary. So I called. Turns out, I had missed the appointment on Dec 27th (a Tuesday), and they had my cell phone number wrong and tried calling my work after hours. So, I called the ENT directly and scheduled an appointment for Thursday of that week. After feeling my lump, feeling the rest of my neck, and sticking a scope down my nose to look at the inside of my throat, my doctor said I needed a CT. He said that was not a normal location for a lipoma. He said it could be a cyst, a lymph node, or another type of a tumor. I had the CT that afternoon, but I couldn't come back and see him until Tuesday morning for him to go over the results. I did try to look at the films myself, but since the lump wasn't very big, and I'm not used to looking at either human films or CT scans, I couldn't figure out what I was looking at.

So, back to yesterday. The doctor said it is actually two lymph nodes on top of each other. So we're taking them out so he can send them to the pathologists to see if they are just reactive and benign, or if I have lymphoma. If I do have lymphoma, he said it's very treatable.

So, I'm a little scared. I'd be a lot scared, but I'm not letting myself get that far. Right now, I'm mostly scared about the surgery. No, actually, to be honest, I'm scared of the anesthesia. I'm a control freak, and I'm going into uncharted territory. I've never had anesthesia before, and the unknown of it scares me. What will it feel like, how will I react, what will happen when I wake up. I'm also freaking out about the scheduling. I won't find out till Friday when I need to be there, so I can't make plans yet. Tommy's daycare doesn't open till 6:30, so what if I need to be there before then? Can Sam drop me off, then drop Tommy off, then make it back before my surgery? How will I feel that night? Will I still be able to take care of Tommy? Will I be ok to go to work on Tuesday like the doctor said I will?

So, I need to slap myself. I realize that worrying about this stuff won't fix it. Sam will take care of me and Tommy, both that morning, that evening, and even the next day if needed. The anesthesia will probably be over and done with, and I'll be asleep, before I even remember to be nervous about it. The surgery itself doesn't bother me - he explained the procedure and it's one I've done in dogs and cats. I'll have some stitches, but those don't bother me either. As for the pathology, I'm leaving that one with God. He will guide the surgeon's hand, he will guide the anestheologist, and he will help us deal with whatever the outcome of the pathology is.

So, I do feel better now. Getting it all out in black and white always makes me feel better. Even if no one reads this blog, I feel better just writing it. If you do read it, please pray for us. Pray that I'll be able to have peace about the situation. Pray that Sam will have peace and won't worry too much either. Pray that I don't have cancer. Pray that if I do have cancer we caught it early and we can treat it.

Whew, it feels good to get that out. It feels good to ask for prayer. Thanks for listening :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Things I don't do

Last month two of my friends Maggie and Rachel did posts about things they do and don't do. I thought both posts were fun, so here is my list. I'll start with things I don't do, and then I'll tell you what I do (do do?).

1. Clean - this includes dusting, vacuuming, cleaning up clutter, changing sheets regularly, etc. I know how, I just don't like to. I do a good cleaning a few times a year if we're having company over. For 2 years my grandmother paid for a maid to come in and give it a real cleaning as part of my Christmas present. I hate to admit it, but there may be corners of my house that haven't been cleaned since December 2010.

2. Wear makeup every day. Partly because I don't have much time, but mostly because I just don't really care about it. I was a tomboy growing up, and I never got into doing my makeup. Or hair, for that matter.

3. Return emails. Or texts. Or real letters. I'm horrible about it. If I do it right away I'm good, but if I'm busy or I think I need to think about how I'm going to respond, I'll forget. So, if I don't respond to you, don't take it personally. Just send the message again (and again, and again) until you get what you need.

4. Cook big meals. I love big meals. I even like to cook them. Unfortunately, they require planning. They require making a list for the store, going to the store, remembering to buy everything at the store, finding time to cook, actually cooking, eating, and then cleaning up. I have time to do some of these things, but usually not all of them in the same week. I did, however, cook Thanksgiving this year, with a little help from my mother-in-law, at my house (which I partially cleaned) and it was a success!

5. Swear (or cuss, or curse, or whatever you call it). At least not often. I admit, occasionally I'll get really upset about something and something will slip out. But I don't use it in normal conversation. I don't like it, and I think it makes people sound uneducated when you can't talk to someone without using bad language.

6. Worry. I learned a long time ago that worrying doesn't actually do anything. If I catch myself worrying about something, I'll stop and evaluate the situation. If I can't actually find a way to make the situation better and be proactive about it, I'll put it out of my mind and leave it alone. I know that not everyone has the ability to do that, but it works for me.

7. Eat healthy. I love junk food - chocolate, pizza, burgers, chocolate, candy, steak, fried chicken, chocolate, ice cream, fries, chocolate. You get the idea. I have high cholesterol, but it doesn't seem to make much of a difference what I eat. The only thing that helps is medicine. So I eat what I want.

8. Gain weight. Yeah, go ahead and hate me. I would. I can't help it, but no matter what I eat the scale doesn't go up. Unless I'm pregnant (which I'm not).

9. Go to bed early. I'm a night owl. I've learned to function in the morning, but I don't like it. I like the quiet night hours when Tommy is asleep and I can read, watch TV, surf the computer, or cuddle with Sam without interruption.

10. Exercise. I'm on my feet all day and I have a 2 1/2 year old. Enough said. Also, see #8.

11. Worry about germs with Tommy. The kids a walking mess some days. He eats stuff off the ground before I can stop him. He licks windows. He touches everything. I carry wipes, but not antibacterial liquid. The kid's in daycare - he's bound to have a tough immune system.

12. Stay warm. I'm always cold. That's the main reason I moved from a northern state to a southern one. I wear layers, thick coats, scarves, and gloves. And I'm usually still cold. And can someone explain to me why restaurants and movie theaters are always so cold, even in the summer? Why do I need to bring a blanket and long pants when it's shorts and tank tops hot outside?!?

That's all I can think of right now. If I think of more, I'll come back and add them. What's on your list?