Ebola And Pets


“Hmmm,” said Max. “I know Willie might be an Ebola carrier, but if I pounce from here I think I can do him in before he gets to me. Oh, wait. Then who would I play with? I’ll just stay here and be King.”


First, let me put your mind at ease that the current strains of Ebola virus cannot kill your dog or cat. That said, dogs and other pets are not totally without worry from Ebola.
You see the phrase “abundance of caution” in every Ebola report discussing pets. The real message behind that phrase is that there are many unknowns about Ebola and our four-legged babies.

Epidemiologists depend heavily on a study published in 2005 from an Ebola outbreak in the Gabonese Republic which ran from 2001 to 2002. French researchers had previously shown that the reservoir for Ebola virus consists of commonly-occurring animals in the vicinity. Gorillas, chimpanzees and duikers (a small antelope) were the main sources of human Ebola exposure as villagers dressed the kill of what they call “bushmeat.”

Prevention of future epidemics begins with data collection and analysis. In every outbreak there is a percentage of human cases with no exposure to a human Ebola patient or animal contact. Therefore, researchers look for other means of transmission such as respiratory tract (aerosol droplet) dissemination. They also investigate previously-unknown animal species that might be involved.


Dogs in many African villages are kept as pets and hunting dogs, but they are not fed; instead they must scavenge for food. They frequently catch and eat small animals as well as the body parts of animals their hunting owners discard. They lick the bleeding wounds and eat the vomitus of human Ebola victims.

It is in these ways dogs become exposed to the virus.

The French study evaluated 439 dogs, including 102 in France as negative controls (having had no possible exposure to Ebola). African dogs showed Ebola antibodies in their blood, which means that the Ebola virus had entered their bodies and the dogs’ immune systems had responded to the virus. The French researchers concluded that these dogs had become infected, although other scientists stop short of using the term “infected” and say only that the dogs were exposed and produced antibodies. The next statement is easily the most important for dog owners: “No circulating Ebola antigens or viral DNA sequences [parts of viruses] were detected in either positive or negative serum specimens, and attempts to isolate virus from these samples failed. These findings indicate either old, transient Ebola infection of the tested dogs, or antigenic stimulation.”


In other words, not only were there no viruses in these dogs capable of causing human infection, there were not even any parts of viruses detectable.
Furthermore, it also helps to explain why dogs are not among the list of animals known to become ill from Ebola.

That said, many, many more dogs need to be tested to determine whether viable virus is ever released from the canine body. Only then will we be able to say with total assuredness that dogs exposed to Ebola are completely safe to be around humans. Such a study will be performed someday, but that information is not available yet, which is why extreme caution has been taken in the current outbreak.


Spanish officials have been widely criticized for euthanizing Excalibur, the dog belonging to the lone Ebola victim in Spain. The officials’ decision was based on current information, which is admittedly incomplete. Still, they were driven by “an abundance of caution.”

In the United States, officials in Dallas, Texas, took the approach of isolating Ebola-infected nurse Nina Pham’s dog, Bentley. An adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bentley is being quarantined under extremely close observation. His caretakers provide playtime, but they wear the same protective suits that nurses and doctors caring for his “mom” wear. The time period for Bentley’s observation is 21 days. Given the above information, the selection of a 21-day time period seems arbitrary, except that 21 days is the usual incubation period in humans. That said, at least one expert questions the generally-accepted 21-day incubation period for people.

Bentley’s urine and stool will be tested for Ebola virus three times during his confinement.  As of October 23, 2014, his first test was negative.  (That’s the good one!)

One concern that health officials have is that pet owners who become ill might not seek medical attention for themselves lest their pets become victims of the system. That alone is reason enough to have a workable quarantine period for pets.

Following up on Dr. Greg McGrath’s Your Pet’s Doctor column on the topic of “One Medicine” last week, the same concept is being applied to Nina Pham and Bentley. Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at Texas A&M University (TAMU), Dr. Eleanor Green, says, “One Health [TAMU’s specific program] refers to that inextricable link between animal, human and environmental health…Bentley and his owner demonstrate this.” Two CVM faculty members are in charge of Bentley’s care in Dallas, TX. Dr. Green goes on to say, “It will be better for her [Pham] if she has the confidence that Bentley is being well taken care of, too. That will make her better. We know there are very positive health effects from the interaction between animals and people.”


Experimentally, Ebola virus has been transmitted from infected pigs to nonhuman primates. Whether such transmission occurs in nature between pigs and monkeys or pigs and humans is unknown. What risk a Ebola-exposed pet Vietnamese potbellied pig might pose to its human owner is also unknown.

Little is known about Ebola’s relationship to cats.

PS:  Bentley was released to Ms. Pham’s care October 31.  As you might imagine, Bentley showered her with kisses.


Fake Medicine Advice From Two Physicians


Maxxi is SUCH a help when I’m painting. Here, you see him holding the ladder for me. Can’t you just see how much stability he adds?

Drs. Mike Roizen and Mehmet Oz co-write a column that appears in many newspapers around the country. Their posts appear in our regional newspaper, The Sun Herald about four times each week.

Recently they wrote a piece entitled “Beware those fake meds online.” In it, they identified the impetus for these scams, “they’re big business.” Some examples:
• In Britain, 237 people arrested for storing $31 million of phony “meds” scheduled for distribution from 10, 600 websites worldwide. The two doctors say 72% of the fakes were from India, 11% from China.
• The FDA blocked the sale of a “weight loss med,” B-Perfect, contained a pulled-off-the-market, controlled substance called sibutramine and a known carcinogen, phenolphtalein.
• FDA also blocked the sale and distribution of erectile dysfunction (ED) medications, “Full Throttle” and “Hard Up” that contained impure toxins along with the active ingredients found in Viagra and Cialis. If taken with certain medications, such as nitroglycerine, they can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. ED is common in patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, so the combination is not unlikely.
• They also say, “Recently, the FDA shut down 1,677 illegal pharmacy websites that sold fake ‘brand name’ and ‘FDA-approved’ meds that were neither.” They recommend checking www.FDA.gov “to identify dangerous supplements in ‘miraculous’ weight loss, muscle building and sexual enhancement products. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

If scammers will take advantage of people with people medicines, they will certainly not hesitate to ruin your pet’s life and health.

The good news is that you have a way to check on such products marketed for people. The bad news is, there is no such central clearinghouse for pet products. What’s a pet owner to do? The simple answer is deal with someone you know.

Your veterinarian may have been in his location for years, and he’s likely going nowhere. Veterinarians purchase our medications directly from manufacturers or distributors, so we are confident of the genuine source of the pharmaceuticals, and, if there ever is a problem, you know where to find him. Furthermore, if a problem needs to be addressed, you can look him in the eye as you discuss the event.

Try doing that with an online pharmacy.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.


This Year’s Friend-Eddie Donation Story


Sweet Scooby, diabetic poodle, helped along by Eddie’s annual donation and a ton of love from his owners.

Regular readers will remember that my high school best friend, Eddie, sends a gift each year to be used to help a pet or pets whose owners cannot afford their care. Click here to read the original story. Each year I write about the recipient(s) of Eddie’s largesse.

Here is this year’s story.

It was a Monday, in fact, a week ago today. I was at a regional grocery-store chain, Rouse’s, that is based in Louisiana but has several stores here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They have an eat-in/take-out food bar and I try to eat there at least every Monday (and, usually, several other days of the week) because Monday is traditionally Red Beans and Rice Day. The legend goes that the custom started when housewives assigned washday duties to Monday, which took all day. The ladies needed a hearty meal that didn’t take much time to prepare. A pot of white rice could be cooked up quickly. Dried beans could soak all Sunday night, be thrown into a pot to simmer Monday morning, adding onions, sausage and spices, then the dish was on autopilot for the rest of the day while washing went on.

Son of a real Louisiana native, I grew up with red beans and rice in my baby bottle. To this day it remains one of my most favorite meals. Mama served them with sliced bananas with sugar sprinkled on them. With or without the sugar, bananas and red beans and rice have a wonderfully complimentary taste. As a kid I drowned the beans in catsup, too. I can no longer “afford” the calories in the white sugar or the red!

A week ago today I was enjoying my RB&R at Rouse’s when my cell phone rang. Well, it didn’t actually ring, because the clinic’s ringtone is actually a barking dog. Assistant Sicily was on the phone, telling me that another doctor’s office had seen a canine patient, tested its blood sugar and found it to be 344, and was sending the poodle and his owner to us for a diabetes mellitus workup.

Scooby was his name, and he belonged to a local pastor and his mother, both residents of Long Beach. Scooby was pitiful, his once-pretty grey hair dull, mucus draining from his eyes, no appetite and dehydrated. It was going to take a lot of work, and money, to turn Scooby around, but Pastor Jerry was determined that Scooby would make it.

Scooby was in DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis, meaning that in the absence of insulin his body had to convert from metabolizing glucose for energy to burning fats. Ketones are a byproduct of fat metabolism. That meant his condition was particularly worrisome, especially since he had not eaten in two days.

“Proper” treatment of DKA is highly intense and very expensive. We needed to find a way to treat Scooby and provide for as many of his needs as possible while still controlling costs. The good news is that we did, and today Scooby is having his first glucose curve, which shows that he is responding well to treatment. He is mostly eating on his own and is back to running and playing like he used to.

Thanks, in great part, to Eddie’s gift Scooby has a new lease on life.

Pastor Jerry, his mother and I give thanks to God for sharing His healing power, and for Eddie’s love and generosity.


Getting Good Information Online


Maxx and Willie know they will always be able to obtain the best in health care because their owners don’t trust potentially-unreliable sources of information.

MyPetsDoctor.com has reminded readers many times that 64% of the medical information online is either outdated, or just plain wrong.

Drs. Mike Roizen and Mehmet Oz have recently written pieces in their weekly newspaper column about inaccurate online medical information.

Of Wikipedia, they say, “A new study compared info on Wiki’s medical articles to facts from peer-reviewed medical journals: 90% contained false or misleading information!”

They go on to say, “reviewers spotted mistakes that could lead you to treat yourself incorrectly or pass along faulty info to your doctor.” Wikipedia “often had missing or incorrect info on dosages, interactions and contradictions.”

These physicians recommend using the site of the National Institutes of Health instead (nih.gov). They also endorsed other .gov sites.

For example, I like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site, cdc.gov.

Because there are many diseases that affect people and pets similarly , a search on one of these reliable sites may lead you to information you can extrapolate to your pet’s health.

You can always have confidence in the information you read on MyPetsDoctor.com, also, because we study thoroughly before posting.  And, if any information we’ve provided previously goes out of date, we remove it from the site.

Ultimately, however, you should discuss your findings with your pet’s doctor before taking any medical steps. He is the expert who can tell you when the information you’ve read is accurate, or inaccurate.

Visit often, Dr. Randolph.


Jerky Treats Sicken Humans And Dogs


No Chinese treats for Maxx or Willie! No jerky treats for ANY of our patients!

Can you believe it? Pets are still getting sick on jerky treats, despite the widespread dissemination of information about how dangerous they are. Click here to read MyPetsDoctor.com’s original post about jerky treats.

Now, not only have additional pets been injured, some humans foolishly ate the treats and were made ill.

Even after seven years of looking into the problem, the FDA has not been able to determine a cause for the deaths.

However, one child who recently ate the dog goodie was diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.

Two national chain pet stores have promised to remove Chinese treats from their stores, but not immediately.
You can, however, stop buying them immediately.

Pet owners, there are simply too many non-jerky, American-made treats available to take a chance on sickening your dog or cat with jerky, regardless of where it is manufactured.

And, what if it was your toddler who got into the dog’s chewies and was sickened? You would never forgive yourself.


Hemangiosarcoma In Dogs


Golden Retrievers are substantially overrepresented among hemangiosarcoma patients. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study evaluates them for osteosarcoma as well as hemangiosarcoma.

Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a common cancer of dogs, usually occurring beyond middle age and the following breeds are most frequently afflicted: Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Portuguese Water Dogs and Skye Terriers.
Hemangiosarcoma is one of the cancers being studied in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Roughly 20% of Golden Retrievers will suffer from hemangiosarcoma in their lifetimes.

Although it is a long word, hemangiosarcoma can be understood by looking at the etymology: “Hemo” is from the Greek haima or haimatos meaning “blood.” “Angio” is from the Greek prefix angeion, meaning “vessel.” “Sarco” comes from the Greek combining form sarcos meaning “flesh” or “body.” Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines sarcoma as “a tumor made up of a substance like the embryonic connective tissue; tissue composed of closely packed cells embedded in a fibrillar or homogeneous substance. Sarcomas are often highly malignant.”

We often oversimplify the explanation of hemangiosarcoma by saying “it is a tumor composed of blood vessels.” Actually, the body has made an even more serious mistake, because the mass will consist of endothelial cells and a fibrous component. Endothelial is the adjective form of the noun endothelium, which is the lining of the inside of blood vessels. It comes from the Greek prefix endo, meaning “inside,” and thele, meaning “nipple.”

Not surprisingly, endothelial cells arise from the bone marrow, where most red and white blood cells originate. Starting as stromal cells, they differentiate in several stages into cells lining the inside of every blood vessel.


HSA typically is found in the spleen, right atrium of the heart and skin. Hidden deep inside the body, it has usually progressed far beyond treatment by the time it is observed.


Most of these patients expire due to fatal hemorrhage. Because the cancerous endothelial cells are imperfect, they are fragile and subject to failure.

Some patients experience small bleeding episodes, resulting in weakness, fainting and lethargy. If the tumor is in the spleen, the abdomen can swell and contain a large amount of blood with no other signs.

Bleeding from a tumor on the right atrium may fill the pericardium (sac surrounding the heart). If the bleeding volume results in pressure becoming great enough to interfere with cardiac function, the patient may become weak, with low pulse strength and rapid, labored breathing. A larger volume of bleeding may so compress the heart that it is unable to pump, and circulation failure occurs. If the pericardium ruptures and blood escapes into the chest, lungs may be compressed, again resulting in difficult breathing, but with stronger pulses unless a critical volume of blood has escaped.

Stopping an internal bleeding episode is impossible.

There is little to be done therapeutically for visceral hemangiosarcoma patients, as the masses do not lend themselves to surgical removal and frequently will have metastasized to other organs by the time of initial diagnosis.  Chemotherapy can extend lifespan minimally, with median survival time about six months.


The cutaneous (skin) form can respond to surgical resection, and its tendency to metastasize (spread) has been found in one study to be proportional to its depth in the skin; i.e., deeper lesions are more likely to show up again in the same or a new location.  Chemotherapy is somewhat more helpful in cutaneous hemangiosarcoma compared to the visceral form.


Use Caution At Your Pet’s Doctor’s Office


When you walk into your pet’s doctor’s office, you never know who or what you might encounter. All dogs must be on a leash or held in the owner’s arms. All cats must be securely in carriers.

PLEASE keep your pet on a leash!

I needed to stop in at a colleague’s office this afternoon on a matter of mutual interest. Parking in front of the clinic, I headed for the front door, where I was greeted through the glass by the cutest little brown dog, about 6 inches high. Barely cracking the door open, I asked her owners, “Do you have a good grip on the leash?”

“Oh! She’s fine,” said the young lady with the dog, at which point she flung the door open, revealing the sweet pup to be totally leashless, not 50 feet from one of the busiest streets in our town.

I cringed.

Earlier, at my own office, I had to warn two pet owners not to let their dogs touch noses, as one had a cough and neither owner knew the temperament of the other person’s dog.

Without a leash or carrier, your pet is vulnerable to attack by a bigger and/or more aggressive dog. Once the fight starts you may be helpless to rescue your pet without a lanyard with which to extract him from the battle.

Or, he might be attacked by an aggressive airborne disease.
When you enter your veterinarian’s hospital, treat every other animal there like a leper. There is nothing to be gained by interaction and potentially much to be lost.
And there is no shame to your pet’s wearing a leash attached to a collar or harness.
It could be a matter of life and death.



Steps For Spoiled Pets

Oscar Sunny

Oscar in one of his favorite places: Sunning in a window.

This post combines three things I’m passionate about: pets, writing and woodworking (I couldn’t figure out how to include bass fishing). When my Wisconsin pen-pal and fellow worker in wood, Steven Johnson, told me he was building a piece of furniture for his cats, I thought, “Now, there’s a blog post being written for me!”

Steve and I both write for Highland Woodworking’s online magazine about woodworking (more on that below).

You’ve seen Steven’s cats on MyPetsDoctor.com before. Pictured at right is Oscar and at lower left is Dewey.
This is the text of the message Steve sent me recently:

Thought that you being ‘My Pet’s Doctor’ you might enjoy seeing one of the projects I Deweywill be covering in the next Down To Earth Woodworks column… this started as an idea for a simple set of pet steps for my spoiled kitties, then morphed into ‘Oh, it could also have some storage,’ to ‘Oh, it’s going to be in the house so I better make it pretty,’ to ‘If I am going to put doors on it, I might as well put them on both sides so I can orient it either way and still have access,’ to ‘curly maple.’ There’s not much left to say after ‘curly maple.’
“I also figured that it would make a pretty plant stand if someone wanted to build it for that purpose. Do your projects ever get out of hand?

Well, no, I told Steve, because (a) I’m not talented enough for my projects to blossom beyond their basic destiny, and, (b) I don’t have enough woodworking time to let my mind go beyond a specific task. Those are two pretty limiting characteristics.


Doesn’t Steve do beautiful work? And his design is proportional and flowing.

At the time of that e-mail Steve already had the project mostly finished, and sent me these photos below:

It occurred to me that other pet-fanciers might also like to build this project, so to read Steve’s post on their construction, click here.

If you would like to subscribe to Highland Woodworking’s free monthly online magazine, click here.

As you probably already figured out, Steve’s column is called Down To Earth Woodworks. Mine is Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop and to see this month’s column you can click here.


Here is Oscar checking out the steps for the first time. You can tell by his expression that he’s a little leery. In a short time, however, he will be enjoying the view from every perspective.

If you decide to build Steve’s design, please send photos so that we can see how yours turned out. Be sure to include pictures of your pets enjoying it!  There is an e-mail link at the bottom of my Tips column.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.


Standard Time Undone


Maxx doesn’t like Daylight Saving Time. It makes him sleepy and messes up his schedule.

I gave in.

You may recall that we recently made the decision to leave our Maxx’s automatic feeder on Central Standard Time so that he didn’t have to make the ridiculous adjustment we humans must. (Click here to read it if you missed it.) We made that decision based on the assumption that he could continue to eat when his biological clock told him it was feeding time.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out that he keys more on what we are doing than what the clock is saying. He would “forget” to eat at some of the times his feeder was putting groceries in the bowl, but he would stand on my bathroom vanity and look at me when I got dressed in the mornings, because he associated that activity with food appearing in his bowl.

Just add one more clock to adjust this Fall when we “fall back.”
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.