GIVING FLUIDS AT HOME KEEPS MANY PETS COMFORTABLE
Last year, my elderly Sheltie, Drew, was diagnosed with canine kidney disease. Medications didn't agree with him, his appetite for a therapeutic diet (or indeed any food at all) was nonexistent, and I was sent home with supplies for giving him subcutaneous fluids at home to see if he could be saved.
I'm not particularly squeamish about needles or, indeed, most aspects of pet care, so I wasn't the least bit troubled about pushing fluids under my dog's skin every morning for the rest of his life. I did suspect, however, that the rest of his life wouldn't be that long a time period.
Turns out, I sold both Drew and subcutaneous fluid therapy short.
Drew turned 15 in December, bounced back last month from a mild stroke, and more recently spent an entire day bouncing happily around dog-friendly wineries in Napa Valley. All because of an inexpensive, five-minute procedure I've taken to calling "the daily re-Drewbinating."
His appetite came back enough that he actually put on weight. And no one can believe he's an old dog, much less one who's basically a hospice case.
Drew's success is not even that remarkable. My veterinarian has other patients who've done well for years on regular subcutaneous therapy at home, either in conjunction with medication and special diets or, as in Drew's case, simply with better hydration.
Is subcutaneous fluid therapy at home right for you and your sick pet? Could be!
Renal disease is not uncommon in older pets. The kidneys are the true superstar organs of the body, with many jobs to do, including filtering waste and extra water from the blood and sending it out of the body as urine. When kidneys start failing, their function can be aided with proper hydration, and that's where subcutaneous fluids come in.
Giving thirsty kidneys a boost can help keep them on the job, allowing them to continue their vital work. By adding fluids at home, these pets can keep their kidneys happy. Fluids in, toxins out.
If your veterinarian thinks home fluid therapy will help your pet's kidneys, you'll be provided with fluids, IV lines and needles, along with the instruction you need. After you've set up the IV bag (I hang it from my dining room chandelier) and readied the line and a new needle, put your pet on a soft blanket or towel on your lap or a table.
Inserting the needle is pretty easy: You pull up skin gently over the shoulders to make a "tent," push the needle swiftly in at the base and unclip the line to let the fluids in, reversing the process when the prescribed amount of fluids has made a bubble that will slowly be absorbed. (The website DVM360.com has produced a wonderful instructional video -- tinyurl.com/SubQpets -- to help walk you through the process if you need reminders after your lesson at your veterinarian's.)
Drew is large enough to get half of a one-liter bag of fluids each day. My veterinarian helped me find the best places to buy fluids and supplies in bulk to lower my costs (about $30 a month for everything). I also invested in a pressure cuff ($20) for the fluid bag to make everything go more quickly. The morning drill is so routine now that half the time, Drew falls asleep before we're done.
When I need to travel, I use a pet-sitting company that hires veterinary technicians to handle this daily task.
While I have no idea how long it will be before Drew's kidneys give out completely, I am grateful for the chance to have more quality time with a very special pet. And the fact that it's easy and inexpensive? Icing on the cake.
Put string toys
away after play
Q: I read an article that strings are dangerous for cats, but toys with string are all over the pet store. Are they safe or not? -- H.R., via Facebook
A: Kittens and cats love playing with string, as well as ribbon and anything that twists and dances. They like to stalk, to pounce, to flip their slender prey into the air, and to start stalking again. That's all good clean fun, but there's always a chance that your cat won't stop with play and will decide to eat his plaything. And that's where the fun stops, because any sort of string can wreak havoc in your cat's intestines, causing a problem that may need to be surgically treated.
That's why string toys such as the popular "cat fishing poles" or other kitty lures are meant for interactive use only. Once you're done playing the game with your cat or kitten, put the toy securely out of reach behind a cupboard or closet door.
Toys probably aren't even the biggest risk in most homes. If you knit or sew, put your supplies securely away after you're done with them, and if you're opening or wrapping packages, clean up after you're done. Packing material such as foam "peanuts" can be a health hazard for your pet, too.
Even if your pet's not really the playful type, she may find one kind of string irresistible: juice-soaked string from a roast or turkey. Dispose of these tempting dangers carefully, putting them in a container your cat can't get into. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.
New guidelines address
overvaccination of pets
-- Veterinarians used to think vaccines were so safe that it was better to vaccinate whenever there was any doubt about a pet's vaccine status. But research has shown that in some pets, the negative reaction to a vaccine isn't a day of just not feeling right: In a small but significant number of cats, deadly cancer was the result. New recommendations by veterinary authorities are a series of vaccinations to initiate disease resistance in kittens and puppies, followed by fewer "core" vaccines at longer intervals for adult dogs and cats.
-- White-coated and thin-coated dogs are vulnerable to skin cancer, and veterinary dermatologists have long recommended sunblock for these pets. Children's waterproof sunblock can be used, and there are even products that are made specifically for pets.
-- Some 80 to 90 percent of the drugs used in veterinary medicine come from human medicine. This so-called "off-label" use of human drugs allows veterinarians to treat medical conditions (and species) that might not be priorities for big drug companies when it comes to developing and selling medications. The reasons for prescribing the medication may not be the same in people and in pets, however. Veterinarians have used Viagra for canine heart problems, for example. More routinely (and less surprisingly) prescribed are "human" antibiotics, anti-anxiety medications and many other drugs that pretty much treat the same issues both in people and in pets.
-- Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.