ASK DR. CHIP - NOVEMBER EDITION

 

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About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.


Question:

Thank you for this service.  I am worried about flying our year old golden retriever on a 4 1/2 hr direct flight. I’m worried she will freak out, and I’m a bit concerned because the cargo bay will not be heated.  She does not sleep in a crate although we will be buying one shortly to get her used to it.  Flight is in two months.  What can we do to make this successful, not stress or scare her?  What about sedation on the flight? She will have to do this flight back and forth a few times a year.  Again, thank you for this.

Jaime

Answer:

Hello Jaime,

Thank you for your question and no doubt many of our readers will be contemplating the challenges of travelling with their pet by air. Because I don’t know which airline or your destination, it is difficult to be specific on what the cargo conditions would be like. This type of detail your airline can provide. If they will accept your pet, then the minimum conditions would be controlled pressure and the temperature is either the ambient temperature at the departure city with a minimum of above zero, or more likely your pet would be placed in a cargo section that is heated. If you are travelling in two months, that is right in the middle of the holiday season and most airlines won’t take pets at this time, due to the heavy passenger and concomitant baggage loads. Although it won’t apply to your Golden, airlines have a number of restrictions on what breeds they will accept based on size, perceived temperament and head structure (specifically brachycephalics are forbidden due to potential respiratory issues).

Try to purchase an IATA approved crate for your Golden as soon as possible (there are many sources on the internet). The intent is to get her as comfortable in her crate as possible. Essentially you are now crate training a one year old dog. Your veterinarian likely has handouts on how to do this and there are good articles on line. However, time is of the essence, as some individual dogs settle into the idea of being in a crate better than others. In the days leading up to departure wear a T-shirt 24/7 and without washing it, leave it in her crate for travel. Airlines generally don’t allow toys, so this “piece” of you will act as her security blanket for the 4-5 hour trip.

Whether or not she requires sedation is a decision you need to make with your veterinarian, as each dog is different. As a general rule, sedation should only be used if deemed absolutely necessary. If this is your collective decision, then your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate drug and you should have a few “trial” runs with the sedation process in advance to ensure your dog’s response is the anticipated one.

Finally, when you’ve done all your homework and discussed the trip with your veterinarian, if the overall process is too stressful for both you and your dog, depending on your circumstances (how long you would be away and how often these trips will be), it might be worthwhile to contemplate leaving her with friends or family. You would miss her terribly, but it might be easier on both of you!

Enjoy your travels!

Dr. Chip


Question:

Is giving my dog green lipped mussel powder good for his joints as a preventative? He’s a 120 lbs pooch and 5 1/2 years old. Also how much should I be giving him?

Thank you,

Franca

Answer:

Hi Franca,

There has been enough research work done on New Zealand green lipped mussel powder that indicates it does, indeed, provide some relief for arthritis through its anti-inflammatory effects. It appears to be the shell itself that provides this effect vs. the actual mussel inside. How it provides this anti-inflammatory effect is beyond the scope of this short response. However, it appears that the positive impact comes from the fats contained in the shell, specifically omega 3 fatty acids, as well as furan fatty acids and luprinol lipid.

There are a number of supplements that can provide a benefit to arthritic patients, including glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM to name a few. These products are designed to provide either a pain relieving benefit or to help prevent the destruction of joint cartilage. When being used as a preventive vs. active treatment, the benefits for all patients are somewhat more challenging to prove. However, there is enough evidence that there are preventive benefits for many patients. The difficulty is that none of these products are considered drugs, rather they are supplements. Consequently, there is very little oversight as to the quality of what you are buying. There can be significant variation between one commercially available product to another, so one needs to some homework to determine which product to buy. What you are looking for are independent studies to prove that what is stated on the label is actually in the product. 

At the same time, I would also suggest purchasing a product that has more than just green lipped mussel extract in it. Finding a reputable product that has multiple supplements in it just enhances the likelihood that it will benefit your dog. As for the amount to administer, the label is your best guide, as the concentration of ingredients varies from brand to brand.

Dr. Chip


Question:

Can you please tell me why my 8 year old cat vomits after she eats?

Linda

Answer:

Hi Linda,

Without actually examining your cat, you can appreciate that I can't tell you the exact cause. However, assuming that she is acting normally in all other respects helps to narrow down the most likely causes. One possibility is that she is inhaling her food, as though it were her very last meal. Eating very quickly can often cause reflex vomition when the stomach is extended too quickly.

Another possibility is that she has an intolerance to the food that she eats. This can be a canned vs kibble issue. So if you only feed her canned, then you could try a kibble and vice versa. Alternatively, it may be the protein source in the food that you are presently feeding that is triggering a negative response. So you could try slowly switching brands, including trying a hypoallergenic food or highly digestible food available from your veterinarian.

That said, the most likely cause is that your cat may well have a mild form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This is a disease that is manifested by the immune system causing a chronic state of inflammation in part or all of the gastro-intestinal system. In the case of your cat, the negative impact (for the time being) is limited to the stomach lining. IBD is actually a common problem with cats. Cats who vomit hairballs usually have a mild form of IBD. It is considered mild at the hair-ball stage and consequently is usually not treated. Your own cat may well have a slightly more advanced stage of IBD; not serious enough to make her clinically ill or to cause diarrhea, but certainly enough to cause you headaches cleaning up the impromptu surprises that she leaves around the house.

Should she have a mild form of IBD, there are numerous potential solutions you can discuss with your veterinarian, including feeding very small amounts frequently and using a highly digestible, hypoallergenic diet. If this does not reduce the frequency of vomiting episodes there are anti-inflammatory drugs that could be used, if deemed appropriate and necessary. They do have side-effects with long term usage, though, so the situation must justify their usage. 

One of my own cats has the same problem as your cat and it can be challenging, especially when all the furniture is covered to prevent the fabrics from being permanently stained. However, the frequent feeding of small amounts of hypoallergenic food has managed to control the vast of her vomiting episodes. Hopefully, it will work for your cat.

Dr. Chip