Author Archives: vmceastonvet

Six degrees of separation: what okra and worms have in common

It was meant to be an idyllic vacation in sunny southwest Florida. We – husband and I, left pets and the Pennsylvania winter behind for a week of fishing the mangrove flats.  Days and nights were all blissfully the same.  Days consisted of breakfast (coffee, grits) and fishing all day (the fish gods were with us, plentiful redfish, snook and perch).  Evenings started with cocktail hour (pickled okra and tonic drinks), and finished off with a delectable filet of that day’s catch.  The weather was sunny, humid and breezy, the smells of Florida such a welcome change to concrete rooms and exhaust fumes.  The stresses of vet school and living in the busy city quickly faded to a dim memory.

Until……

One morning the husband seemed pretty blue.  Didn’t even finish his grits.  It was unnerving.  Before I could ask- whatsa matta with ya? He leaned across the table and softly whispered words no one could imagine:

“Lizzie, I think I have worms”

WORMS??

A miserable semester of parasitology came barging back from my altered reality.  What kind of worms?  Nematodes? Flukes?  We had been eating fish, maybe we didn’t cook it enough.  I asked all the questions an enthusiastic over-achieving doctor should ask: does it itch?  Burn? What do they look like? Are they wiggling or egg like? Flat or round?  I continued to describe every type of internal parasite I could remember. I even got to say “maybe you have macrocantharincus hirudinacious,” which I knew was impossible because it is a pig worm, but I just love to say the word and I wanted to sound smart and scary.

The husband was not impressed and wondered if he should go to the doctor.

“You mean not go fishing today??” I squealed and wailed.

That was not ok with me. Leave it to the husband to ruin a perfectly good vacation by getting worms. Now it was time to think rationally and save the day.

“It’s a weekend and there is no way we are going to get this fixed today. You have no symptoms, so let’s go fishing and worry about this next week”.  Reluctantly he acquiesced.

In a few hours our worries were forgotten in the summer sun and sparkling blue water.  The okra and tonic drinks were delicious. Maybe it was a bad dream.

Until the next morning.

As a scientist, I have insatiable curiosity….

I wonder if I have worms too?  Won’t hurt to check…….

The litany of cuss words from the bathroom could be heard next door.

#**¥*#. “I have the worms too!”  ##%**€#

The husband tried to calm me, but this was serious. And all his fault. He got them first. So we did what any parasite infested person on vacation would do: went fishing.

 

Cocktail hour arrived too soon. I was afraid to go to the bathroom. So far no serious symptoms. Maybe the tonic drinks would kill the interlopers…

The husband took a bite of his umpteenth pickled okra. The broad smile on his face and chortle shocked me. “What do you have to be so happy about?”

He showed me the guts of his okra: it had worms too!!!

 

Vets are People Too!

Hello everyone! I am so happy to have joined such a great practice and I am enjoying living on the Bay with my husband and our dog Chief, a lab mix who is the perfect dog; as long as you don’t leave bread on the counter, a full trash can, let him socialize (read fight) with other dogs…OK he’s not perfect but we love him anyway! We’ve wandered the Eastern Shore, eaten crab cakes and even have some Old Bay in our pantry. Chief had his own plans of welcoming us to the area however. Just a few short weeks after moving we woke up at 4 o clock in the morning to him suddenly being so congested that he could not breathe through his nose and was opening his mouth with every breath. All I had on hand was some allergy medication and a pain medication which helped him some but he was still quite miserable a few hours later, necessitating a trip to VMC, on one of my first days off since starting work of course!

As anybody who lives with a veterinarian can attest to, we love our work and can do so many different types of procedures on many species, but ask us to do a physical exam on our own dogs and we absolutely quiver with fear! Our own Dr. Bruce was kind enough to fit us into her busy schedule and worked with us over the next few weeks as we tried to get Chief sorted out. We tried stronger allergy medicine, stronger pain medicine, two different antibiotics but nothing helped. We finally came down to the decision of having to pursue further diagnostics under general anesthesia, a fact which I had been trying to avoid.

All of the same questions run through our heads as it would yours. Do I want to accept the risks of general anesthesia? Do I want to know if there is cancer present? What if we go through all this and it doesn’t work, if he doesn’t feel better? Then what? But, as happens most of the time, my worries were laid to rest. We were as prepared as we could be. Clean pre-operative bloodwork, clean pre-operative chest x-rays and an excellent team in place. Dr. Bruce and our wonderful technical staff babied Chief as if they were his own, and kicked me out of the surgery suite so I couldn’t stand there and worry. His x-rays came back clean, he had his nasal passages flushed,  had a mass removed and, as a  bonus, got his teeth cleaned. He has been feeling and breathing great ever since! He must have just wanted me to get familiar with the hospital and the excellent team that works here.

I wanted to share this story so that everyone would know, just because we have this knowledge, these skills, and the white coat does not mean we don’t share your fears and know exactly how you feel when we ask you to trust us with your beloved pets. Don’t be afraid to tell us you are worried. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. We will do everything we can to make you comfortable and make sure your pet is as prepared as they can be for their road ahead in hopes of the best outcome possible! I look forward to meeting everyone and their pets and becoming a part of this wonderful community!

Rebecca Bacon, DVM

Equine Coronavirus

What is Equine Coronavirus?

Equine coronavirus (ECoV) is well known as a cause of gastrointestinal disease in foals.  However, recently this virus has been linked with intestinal diseases in adults.

What are the clinical signs of ECoV?

Infected horses tend to develop high fevers (>103oF), inappetance, dullness, and lethargy that may last two to four days with minimal treatment.  Some horses may experience soft manure to diarrhea with mild colic signs such as flank watching and/or lying down.  In rare cases, ECoV may lead to translocation of bacteria from the intestinal tract and lead to serious complication like septicemia, endotoxemia, and encephalopathy.

How is ECoV transmitted?

ECoV is spread horse to horse by manure-to-mouth. Both symptomatic and non-symptomatic horses can transmit the virus in their manure for three to four weeks that may lead to clinical disease.  Research is ongoing to assess sources of outbreaks.  The disease is highly infectious and appropriate biosecurity measures are essential during an outbreak.  Although many horses may become infected (high morbidity) overall mortality is low.  The virus is suspected to live in the environment for up to 72 hours.

How is ECoV diagnosed?

Gold standard for diagnosis of ECoV is submission of manure sample for PCR testing for presence of the virus genetic code.  Such testing may take several days to perform thus treatment is started prior to confirmed diagnosis in many cases.

How is ECoV treated?

Main goal of treatment of ECoV is supportive care for the clinical signs displayed such as IV fluids to avoid dehydration, medication to reduce fever such as Banamine®, and gastrointestinal/anti-ulcer protectant medications such as BioSponge® and Gastroguard®.  Close monitoring for laminitis and preventative measure of deep bedding and/or hoof padding is recommended.

How to limit spread during an outbreak?

Strict biosecurity measures must be established.  Affected horses must be kept separate from unaffected horses. Separate barn equipment must be used when handling/treating sick horses.  It is recommended to handle sick horses last and limit the overall traffic occurring in/out of barn during an outbreak.  Veterinarian grade disinfectants are required to inactivate the virus.

Denise Newsome, BVSc, MRCVS, DABVP(equine)

Food is Love, but so is Quality Time

by Dr Maddie Scofield

As the air becomes crisper and the holidays creep around the corner I become increasingly excited about many things associated with season changes.  Most important for me is food.  I’d be lying if I told you Halloween candy has not constituted over 80% of several meals earlier this November!  As I think back on delicious memories of previous holidays, my throat tightens as my belt loosens at the thought of those extra 5-10 lbs. I will gain during these times of love and food.   Which bring me to my main topic of discussion, the concept of food as love.   Food is given and shared as a gift of friendship, fellowship and sympathy during all types of celebrations, family events, and holidays.  Food is love for us as humans to humans but also as humans to our beloved four legged companions.

I would be lying to you if I told you I never give food (i.e. people food) to my animals.  I fondly remember sharing a soft serve ice cream cone between me and my dogs in the Mc Donald’s parking lot one afternoon.  It was a happy moment in a sad time, as it was just after our Labrador “Abbie” had her chemo treatment for cancer.  In the middle of our gastronomic bliss I hear following words emanating from the car parked next to us: “I bet your veterinarian wouldn’t approve of you feeding your dogs that ice cream!”  These were words coming from a concerned busybody in the neighboring car.   I couldn’t help but bellow a response: “Well…..I am my dogs’ veterinarian.  Besides, they ran 3 miles today and this one is dying of cancer…. but thank you for caring!”  The interloper immediately rolled up their window and resumed eating the not so healthy junk food.

I understand the concern that you may have feeding your dog “people food”.  There is the likelihood your veterinarians at VMC are going to chastise you for feeding your dog anything but pet food and pet treats.  But what joy and happiness we feel giving them something they love!  Feeding homemade snacks from the farmers market…….watching that reward center of the brain light up as they smack peanut butter from the roof of their mouth, or eat meat drippings on their dry kibble.  There is no doubt that food helps bond us to our pets and patients.

Unfortunately, all these extra treats can bring problems.  There is the ever increasing concern for weight gain, and with this obesity can come other health problems which can severely impact the quality of our pet’s lives and their longevity.  That’s why this year I’m promising myself to try to light up the reward center in a more healthy way!  I’m sure we will indulge in snacking, but this year I plan to pursue moderation in the indulgence!  The same will go for my beloved 4-legged friends, and I encourage you to do the same.  Your dog can have a tiny taste, but remember they don’t need a huge portion.  A taste will often satisfy your need to give in and share as well as avoid the food coma or overload lethargy from a true gorge of indulgent calories (i.e. “Thanksgiving”).  It will also help prevent the inevitable gastrointestinal ailments we see in dogs after the holidays.

I’m going to put effort towards another, perhaps more rewarding way to bond with my pets this holiday season: we are exercising together!  This exercise will induce natural endorphins and give us the quality time we need together.  Our companions get the most reward from just being with us, especially when we are active with them.  A 10-15 min sojourn around the block will not only help slim our waist lines and invigorate our mental health, it will also strengthen our human-animal bond.  My challenge for all of us is this: for every extra snack or treat we eat, we must be more active, and take our pets out for a “sniff” walk or game of catch, while we enjoy this beautiful time of year.  I’m hopeful that this holiday season is magical, and that you and your pets will enjoy this time together even more with more activity and exercise!  If you have any questions about breaking the rules…you know where to find me, just don’t tell your veterinarian!

p.s. – I’ve made it to the gym 3 times in the past week!!

“H-O-R-S-E”

To most of us, spelling that word is not a huge accomplishment however, to a four-year old boy learning the alphabet saying that word aloud was very significant; certainly, worthy of a treat after school.

I used to practice that word every day as my father drove me to school in his old black 4×4 GMC. We would drive past the different horse farms in Elkton, MD pointing out the many color variations.

I was so proud when I actually spelled “HORSE”. And since that time, horses were an important part of my life. I remember my first pony, Buttercup. He was a little miniature Shetland pony that I eventually outgrew. Then I took riding lessons in Fair Hill. I never did any shows or competitions outside of trail riding, however I simply loved everything horse!

My parents and family encouraged this love buying numerous books, games and figurines. In fact, I remember (and my mother recalls this tale well) my first toy horse.

We were on a family vacation at Disney Land in Orlando Florida. I don’t remember much of it; however, I do remember having to wear a leash on my wrist so my parents could find me (I was a very active child) and sitting in my blue stroller when I got tired.

One afternoon, we visited the Budweiser horses. I remember the powerful animals sitting calmly there in their stalls letting numerous people walk by and stroke their flaxen manes.

Of course, I asked my mother, father and aunt if I could have a horse. And they said “Why, YES! Of course I could have a horse!!!” So, they all took me to the gift shop and bought me my first horse; a plastic horse that is. And boy, did I love my horse! I carried him with every day that vacation until the second to last day, when I couldn’t find him.

I was beside myself! As my parents recall vividly, I cried and cried until my face was beat red then I cried some more until I couldn’t cry. My parents tried to get me numerous replacements that day! They offered me cotton candy, ice cream, a trip to Mickey Mouse and even another stuffed horse; however, nothing worked.

As they tell the story, after they saw my sobs sinking into depression, they had to go all the way back to the gift shop across the park to buy me an exact replica of my Clydesdale horse that I had carried around with me for the whole week. This time, my parents decided to buy two horses,  just in case something ever happened to one on the ride home.

Finally, I could sleep at night having my horse.

After that time period, I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, and for all kinds of animals too.  My experience with my own pets has helped me be a better vet.   When I was in high school, I got a Chesapeake Bay Retriever who had a variety of different aliments; everything from hypothyroidism to a torn ACL.   I also had a cat with kidney failure that was a handful to manage.  While in veterinary school, I leased a horse, Spud, so I could expose myself to problems horse owners dealt with on a regular basis.

A career in veterinary medicine was always in my future, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Robert Campbell, DVM

 

Horse People are Born, not Made

I remember the day well.  Four years old, my first pony ride at the zoo, it was the most fun ever!  I had to wait two long years until my first real riding lesson.  It was at a heads up heels down riding academy, George Morris style.  I worked hard the next 12 years for every ribbon, and tried hard to try to get to know and understand horses.  What are they thinking?  Why do they do what they do?  How can I communicate better?  Eventually I figured out if I was honest with them and explained what I was doing, I was able to fabric a sort of communication with horses, though Buck Brannaman I was not.  So I rode horses and treated sick horses and was feeling somewhat like I had arrived.

For almost ten years the husband put up with this horse infatuation.  I would try to get him involved, with no luck. “Overgrown dogs” he called them.  “Nothing but money pits”.  But it was uncanny when one of the students or interns called about a sick or colicky horse. “How much reflux?” He would ask.  Or “did you walk it and give banamine?”

On occasion he would stroll through the barn full of sick horses and sneer, “What good are they, nothing but hayburners!  I wouldn’t give a nickel for one of these beasts” he brayed, until he saw Ada.  She was a gorgeous Belgian mule, smart and trained to the nines.  When her owner whispered “whoa Ada,” she planted all four feet and didn’t move a muscle, let alone flick her tail.

This mule?  Why a mule?  Sure, she was cool and well trained, but why would he choose her as his favorite equid?  Why not of one of the lovely paints, quarter horses or warmbloods?  It was inconceivable and totally beyond me.  Then he proceeded to tell me why mules were far superior to horses; he knew all about their attributes and sturdiness.   I never knew he even thought about mules….  “If I had an equine, it would be a mule!” He claimed. I was shocked.

Two years later we were living in rural Georgia.  Free time after work and weekends was spent trail riding with friends.   The husband sees what a great time we are having and feels a bit left out.  One morning over breakfast came the ultimatum: “I want to start riding.  It looks like fun.”   “What?  How? You don’t know how to ride!” I reminded him.  He was completely nonplussed. “Not a problem.  It doesn’t look that hard.”  So before I knew it he had borrowed Beau for the summer, a 14 hand blonde coonhunting mule, tack and all.

And…. off we go trail riding. I tried to give helpful tips about his seat; I reminded him to keep his heels down….but he would emphatically tell me to shut it.  “I need to figure this out on my own!”  Funny though, I never needed to say a word about his hands.  Most beginners bounce all over the place, and their hands bounce with them. Not his; they were always quiet and low. He was frequently heard cooing to Beau. It was uncanny and annoying. What were they talking about?  How can he communicate with him so well?  What had taken me years to master he picks up in a week.

We all knew there was no doubt about his gift the evening we were out on the trail too late.  The sun sank behind the lake, we were all enjoying the dusk, when suddenly it got pitch dark. I mean so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We were an easy mile from the trailers through a narrow woodland trail.  We all started to panic- how to find our way home?

“Never fear!” shouts the husband.  “Beau and I will get you all home safely!  Follow us!  Put your hands on their withers,  give ’em their heads, and let’s go!”  Before we knew it we were crashing through brush and back on the trail.  We did as we were told, and made it to the trailer all safe and sound.  No one ever told said husband how to ride again, or questioned his knowledge and ability.  I guess horsemen are born not made. As it turns out, his grandfather ran a thoroughbred horse farm in upstate New York.  The husband never met his grandfather Matthew Linn, but I reckon he did inherit those horseman genes……

Dr. Elizabeth Bruce

10 Reasons Why I Still Love Veterinary Medicine

2015 is the 30th anniversary of my graduation for veterinary school.   I am one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to practice my passion every day.  After 30 years, I am surprised and delighted by my profession.  So today, here are ten things that still amaze and delight me every time I see them (not necessarily in any order…)

  1. Every year brings a new technique, knowledge, or procedure that improves my ability to care for animals. We can offer so much more now than I did 30 years ago.  I love learning.
  2. Seeing a newborn foal and still being amazed on how it ever fit in the mare and how it can straighten out legs that have been bent for 6 months…
  3. Watching cows run in a field- they always look like they are having so much fun – even if they aren’t true athletes!
  4. The people I work with all share the same compassion and commitment to improving animal’s lives. I am such a lucky person to have the staff I do.
  5. How fast sheep can move when you are trying to catch them – who knew?
  6. The amazing healing powers of cats – the old  veterinary saying that you can put the two ends of a bone in the same room and a cat will heal is really  true.
  7. How ferrets “flow” instead of run. They almost slither.
  8. The fact that newborn guinea pigs look just like tiny adults and can eat solid food as soon as they are born.
  9. The ability I have to end suffering and relieve pain, painful as it is, is a gift that I am privileged to share.
  10. And finally, the love and devotion that people share with their animals is truly humbling. I know how I feel about my pets, and I get to work every day with people who share that.

Here’s to the next 30 years!

Elizabeth H. Bruce, VMD, DACVIM

Spring is Here!

It has been a long and dreary winter that has seemingly had no end. I for one am ready for spring. The sweet smell of fresh cut grass, the chorus of peepers singing in the night, and the sense of wonder watching the bluebirds return to their birdhouse to raise their next brood; it is all just around the corner.

However, it is predictable how the seasons bring back unwelcome problems in our pets as well. The return of seasonal allergies is as anticipated and expected in many pets as the first blossom of forsythia. Many pets will start to display symptoms at the exact same time each year.  There are quite a few options available to relieve allergy suffering in pets. Dogs will often manifest seasonal allergies, also called atopy, with itching. Very often licking, biting and chewing of the feet marks the beginning of signs. Redness, inflammation and irritation between the toes can lead to painful infections and continued self trauma leading to lameness and lethargy. Identifying the symptoms early and talking with your veterinarian about what treatment options would be best for your pet will help prevent this condition from escalating to a vicious cycle of constant chewing and scratching, chronic swelling and inflammation, and help to relieve the suffering of this unwelcome springtime guest.

Dr. Dean Tyson

Veterinarians are not smart clients!   

By  Dr. Casey Beck

I’d like to say it was my first year of veterinary school but I’ll be honest and admit I was actually a second year veterinary student when this event occurred.  Like any good veterinary technician (now working her way through vet school) I had already seen and learned a lot about the profession and all the different types of cases that come through the doors, especially since my experience was mostly obtained in the emergency clinic near my undergraduate college.

Like most vet students I acquired a very sweet and happy 1 year old mixed breed dog during my first year of study in the Caribbean. These dogs were fondly called “island dogs” in Grenada and were known for being robust, healthy and sturdy companions. He was of course still a puppy and very good at chewing up or taking apart almost anything in my apartment. Through long hours of study he often would distract me by eating a pair of headphones or barking incessantly at the feral cats outside running through our yard. This particular day when I heard him making a strange noise from the living room I was sure he had yet again gotten into something or torn apart my favorite pair of running shoes.

When I entered the living room I was surprised to find that nothing had actually been destroyed but rather my adorable little guy seemed to be struggling to breathe, coughing and gagging like something was stuck in his throat! I immediately yelled to my medical school boyfriend at the time, “Quick, quick, help! Carib is choking!!” I was so worried I believe I was actually shaking! I frantically tried to think of what to do and who to call when my boyfriend entered the room, calmly staring at my hacking dog and said, “You know, I bet he just has kennel cough”.

Now I hate to admit this, especially since my boyfriend and I were in constant debate about whose profession was more challenging and interesting, but he unfortunately was right. Carib had acquired kennel cough, (infectious tracheobronchitis), from the neighbor’s puppy.  This particular playmate was just diagnosed with kennel cough the week prior. D’uh!! Slap on the head. So much for being the straight-A, very knowledgeable veterinary student!

Like my concerned pet owners that I see every day, I experienced firsthand that rush of distress and fear that my pet was sick and I needed to get him help. I felt helpless.  No matter if the problem is life threatening or more subtly just a minor concern, as veterinarians we can honestly always understand our pet owners stress and concern when they don’t know if their pets are seriously sick or not. As always, it’s better to have us tell you “it’s nothing to worry about” than to hear us say “we wish we had seen your pet sooner.” Though I do have to admit, I still probably would not ask a medical student boyfriend his opinion on the matter!

Should I blanket my horse?

By Teresa Martinoli, DVM

This is a common question asked by horse owners every fall and winter.    The short answer:  Probably not!

Most horses do NOT need to be blanketed.  Horses are naturally equipped to handle cold weather, and do not get cold nearly as easily as us humans do.   Their long and thick winter coat can “puff out” when it’s very cold outside, and the air between the hairs acts as an insulator.  This natural insulation does a better job keeping them warm than a sheet or light blanket can; those cause the hair to flatten out, therefore preventing the “air” insulation layer.

The ones that may need blanketing include newborn foals, thin or debilitated horses, sick horses (possibly) and, of course, body clipped horses.  One possible exception to healthy, hairy horses needing a blanket is if they do not have adequate shelter in their field and there is a cold rain causing them to get chilled.  Horses with a nice shed available to get out of bad weather typically do fine all winter without blankets.

If you do decide to blanket, here are some blanketing basics:

Be sure the blanket fits properly!  An improperly fitted blanket can cause rubs, muscle soreness, and even lameness. One that is too large may cause the horse to get tangled in the straps, or even for the straps to get caught on fences, gates, or buckets, causing injury.  (If the straps are too long, try tying them in knots to shorten them.)

Be sure the horse isn’t too hot!  They get warm a lot easier than we do, so just because you need a jacket does NOT mean the horse needs a blanket.  Many horses end up sweating under their sheets and blankets, which can lead to them actually catching a chill when the temperature drops, or to them getting skin disease, or sick.

Take the blanket off periodically (AT LEAST twice a week) to examine the horse’s weight, and check for any cuts, scrapes, or skin problems.  Every spring I see thin horses who were wearing a blanket all winter that prevented the owners from realizing how thin they had become.

Make sure the blankets are still waterproof! Sometimes they look soaked on the outside but are dry next to the horse; this is OK.  However, if you find the horse is wet along their topline or shoulders despite being blanketed, you’ll need to re-waterproof it or replace it.

If you are unable to check/change blankets up to twice daily if necessary, then I would recommend NOT blanketing at all.  More damage can be done if the horse gets overheated, if  he gets caught up in the blanket,  if the blanket has slipped or is not fitting properly, or his weight is not being monitored properly, than if the horse is not blanketed at all.

If you have questions about your horses’ body condition/weight please don’t hesitate to contact me!