Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 53
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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Does Everyone Deserve a Second Chance?  Even Michael Vick?

Aug 17, 2009 - 36 comments

michael vick


dog fighting

As you have no doubt seen, the sports world is "abuzz" with the news that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed Michael Vick for the upcoming season.  His return is conditional and he is going to be mentored by Tony Dungy during this rehabilitation and reassessment time.

As you recall, Vick was found guilty for his involvement with a large dog fighting ring run from his property in Virginia (Bad Newz Kennels).   He has spent 18 months behind bars and was released earlier this year.

In the meantime, he has negotiated with the Humane Society of the United States to function as a spokesperson against dog fighting.  In fact, he and Wayne Pacelle (CEO of the HSUS) have already made two anti-dogfighting presentations in Atlanta and Chicago.

His return to the NFL is certainly causing a lot of controversy.  Dog lovers from across the US are denouncing him, the Eagles, and the NFL.  There are calls to boycott the Eagles season.

What do you think?  For me, its been tough trying to come up with a good defendable position on this issue.   I firmly believe that everyone deserves a second chance (heaven knows that I have had plenty!!) so from that aspect, Michael should be afforded that opportunity.   As long as he is keeping to the straight and narrow, I suppose that it is only fair that we let him do his job (play football) and leave it at that.  With a mentor like Tony Dungy, I think Michael has a better than average chance of staying true to his word and working to help resolve some of the damage he has done.   For those of you who don't know Coach Dungy, he was here in Indianapolis for many seasons coaching the Colts.   During that time, there were very few cases of any kind of criminal or deviant behavior by any Colts player.   Compare that to the Pacers (our NBA team) who routinely have 3 or 4 players arrested each year!

But, what about the dogs?  Shouldn't someone speak up for them?   Shouldn't Michael be forced to live a life of regret of what could have been?

My empathy for all of the dogs involved in this horrendous sport is great, but I think we do have to look beyond the past and look towards what we can do to eliminate this crime in the future.  Maybe Wayne Pacelle has the right idea..turn adversaries into allies (I hate to admit that I agree with Humane Wayne...).  How would a continued punishment of Michael Vick stop dog fighting?  How would keeping Michael from doing a job that he is qualified for and (in some people's eyes) good at, stop the murder of other dogs?

I firmly believe that education is the key to stopping so many of our cruel acts against our furry friends.  It's really one of the top reasons that I am so excited to get out of bed each and every morning. log on to sites like this and start sharing knowledge with people.  If Michael can get out there and change the minds of young men (and women) across the nation who think that it's ok to fight dogs, then I think that we need to give him the chance.

Ok..now it's your turn...let me hear your thoughts.

Home-cooked meals and raw diets...Helpful or Harmful?

Aug 10, 2009 - 3 comments

raw diets


home cooked meals pets


raw diet

I know that there are still a lot of pet food myths, misconceptions and “old wives tales” out there, but I think I am going to end my “series” on pet foods with a brief discussion of raw food and homemade diets.   These diets are becoming more popular with pet owners, especially in light of the pet food recall of 2007.

Back in the spring of 2007, veterinarians and pet owners alike were shocked at the extent and severity of the pet food recall.   It seemed as if every day brought word of a recall of yet another brand of food.  Over the course of two months, dozens of companies were affected and hundreds of brands were pulled from store shelves.

Because people were afraid, many started cooking at home for their pets.  And while this action was helpful in the short term, the long term use of a homemade diet can have detrimental effects on the pet.  Simply put, making a diet for your pet at home sounds easy enough, but studies have shown that about 90% of diets prepared at home by individuals are lacking in nutrients needed by the pet.

As our pets have become a bigger part of our families and our lives, pet owners want to do what is best for them and for many that means avoiding the commercially prepared diets.   Some people fear their pet being sickened by another supply problem, others think they can do just as well with their own cooking, and still others simply don’t like the idea of a corporation making their pet’s food.

Whatever the reason, IF you choose to try a homemade diet, you must talk with your veterinarian first.   He or she can give you trustworthy resources to help design the diet and you might even consider consulting with a veterinary nutritionist.  It is vital that you follow the guidelines for balancing nutrients to avoid any long-term problems.  There is a website (balanceit.com) that was set up by veterinary nutritionists to help people who are considering this type of diet for their pets.

That said, I applaud people who can effectively prepare diets for their pets at home.  I personally feel that I don’t have the time (and I know myself well enough to know that I won’t make the time) to spend balancing and cooking a diet for my pets when there are sound, well researched, and very good diets available on the shelves of my local pet store and/or veterinary office.  My pets are on a premium commercial diet and, in my opinion, they are doing just fine.

Raw diets are also another popular alternative for some pet owners.   Using the fact that dogs and cats are taxonomically classified in class Carnivora, the theory is that they need to have a diet that is composed of a high percentage of meat.

I have no real big issue with people who choose to feed raw diets other than, as mentioned above, it needs to be properly balanced.  A diet of strictly meat can predispose animals to bone fractures as there is not near enough calcium in meet to balance with the excessive phosphorus.

My other concern with raw diets is that many people dismiss the potential for bacterial contamination (Salmonella).   I am not sure I understand this casual dismissal given the number of human food recalls I see every week due to Salmonella contamination.  Look at the recent peanut/pistachio recalls!   More than 2000 products recalled over a period of 4 months because of potential Salmonella contamination and hundreds of people were sickened.

Proponents of raw diets maintain that dogs and cats can tolerate Salmonella and other pathogens and aren’t sickened by the bug.   In essence, this is true.  Most pets won’t get sick from ingesting Salmonella, but, (and this is what the proponents forget) your pet can be a reservoir for Salmonella and that means your family is at risk.   Kids playing in the grass where the dog was defecated can pick up Salmonella…a dog who just ate raw chicken and now wants to lick your face can give you Salmonella…and so on.

And, some pets do get sick from Salmonella, especially if their immune system is compromised in some way (Feline Leukemia, chemotherapy, etc).  

Some people have the belief that raw diets are more “natural” for the pet.   While I understand this belief, again, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.   “Natural” would be allowing your cat to hunt small rodents, birds, lizards, and other critters to her heart’s content.   “Natural” would be putting a goat in your backyard and letting your dog’s kill it and gorge on the carcass.  My point here is that if you are going to feed a raw diet, fine, just don’t say you are doing it because it is natural.   The raw meats we feed our pets look nothing like what they would go in kill in the wild.   As one veterinarian put it, packs of wolves don’t hunt in meat processing plants.

Again, if you cook for your pets at home or feed raw diets, I commend you for your commitment.  I don’t think either are necessarily wrong, but I when I see people promoting “recipes” or raw diets without recommendations or oversight from veterinarians, it bothers me and I truly believe some of these pets are at risk for a multitude of problems.  Similarly, when people dismiss the potential human health risk of Salmonella, I believe they are doing a disservice to people who don’t understand the potentials risks.

So…now that I am off of my soapbox…what are your thoughts?   Any raw diet feeders out there?  Also, I am planning a brief discussion of flea and tick products soon…any other thoughts for blogs you would like to see?

Banfield Bans Tail Docks and Ear Trims

Jul 31, 2009 - 31 comments

ear trims


tail docks





Interesting news today…according to USA TODAY, Banfield, the Pet Hospital has banned tail docking , ear cropping and “de-barking” in dogs at all of their hospitals.

In case you don’t know them, Banfield is the USA’s largest network of animal hospitals.  Many of them can be found in the local PetSmart store, but I believe some of their hospitals are free-standing as well.

This policy, like many that deal with cosmetic surgeries, has a lot of controversy associated with it.  We have already seen how passionate people are about declawing cats so I am interested to see responses to this entry.  Let’s take a quick look at what each of these surgeries entail.  Note, I do use some graphic detail…if you don’t want to know about these surgeries skip the next several paragraphs.

Tail docking is probably the least controversial of the three.  2-3 day old puppies (dependant on breed) are brought to a veterinarian (hopefully) who then will take each individual pup, briefly examine it for problems like a cleft palate and then the assistant shaves the tail.  Again, depending on the breed, an incision is made all the way around the tail at a joint in the tail vertebrae and the tail is sliced off.  Skin sutures are placed to help aid in healing.  Done correctly, the process is relatively safe since no drugs are used.  Also, some breeds have their dewclaws removed at this time as well.  Tail docks are commonly done in Cockers, Rottweilers, Min Pins, and Yorkies.

Some DVMs have discussed using epidurals or local anesthesia for some puppies but the results are mixed and there is no consensus as to the effectiveness.  Given the state of the immature nervous system in these days old puppies, it is likely that they don’t “remember” the event and past the initial shock, the discomfort seems to fade quickly, similar to a circumcision in a male infant.  Although complications are rare, some pups can get bone infections post operatively if littermates chew on the tail stub.

Ear cropping is a little more serious surgery, although it is still most often performed on puppies.  This time, the puppy is closer to 10-16 weeks of age and intravenous and gas anesthetics are used.  Breeds commonly presented for ear cropping include Dobermans, Min. Schnauzers, Boxers, Great Danes and the various Pit Bulls and their crosses.  After a sterile preparation of the ear, the surgeon will make a cut down the ear and remove about half of the ear flap.  An artery is quickly removed and after some finessing by the surgeon, the outer (cut) edge of the ear is sutured.  This surgery is often referred to as one of the most artistic surgeries because each surgeon must learn the appropriate cut for individual breeds and adapt it to the individual puppy.  After surgery, many breeds (esp Boxers and Great Danes) have their ears taped in a standing position.

Thankfully, pain relief for these dogs has advanced greatly in the last 15 years.  Although it is still an uncomfortable surgery, veterinarians now do a much better job of managing the pup’s pain.

Owner compliance and rechecks are extremely important in the proper healing of ear crops.  Many ears fail to stand simply because the owner allowed the tape props to get wet (other dogs chewing on the ears) or failed to show for rechecks.

Some animal behaviorists have stated that a permanent “ears up” look on a dog impacts how other dogs perceive him and that it is perceived as a permanent threatening signal.

Finally, devocalization, or the “de-bark” surgery provides a lot of fuel for intensely heated discussions.  Most veterinarians will not do this surgery, but a few will for special clients with special needs.  Some will opt to remove the vocal cords altogether by making an incision in the throat and others choose to go through the mouth and remove pieces of the vocal cords with elongated forceps and curved scissors.  According to my research, about 65% of dogs “de-barked” with an intra-oral approach have some form of bark return.

Sadly, many breeders and hobbyists feel that they are qualified to do all of these procedures.  I have seen rubber bands on tails in attempt to dock the tail, bloody ears from someone using pinking shears and/or a meat cleaver to do an ear trim and the mess inside a dog’s throat from a breeder using a sharpened PVC pipe to “de-bark” his breeding stock.

While I heartily agree with Banfield’s decision to avoid these types of surgery, the policy does not help resolve the overall situation of cosmetic surgeries in general.  Many breed standards still require docked tails and although natural (floppy) ears are allowed to be shown, are those dogs winning enough to sway the breeding community into considering a movement away from cropped ears?

Regardless of how you feel about these surgeries, I am hoping that you will agree that it won’t matter how many veterinarians stop doing the surgeries or how many laws get passed, it won’t mean a thing unless the breed clubs themselves and the kennel clubs actively find a way to change their breed standards to allow for more “natural” looking dogs.  When these surgeries are unavailable or illegal, they will go underground and animal ERs will see more bloody ears and infected tail stumps.  I congratulate the kennel club in England for actively taking a stance to improve the English Bulldog’s conformation by changing their standards to reflect a longer nosed dog.

Devocalization is a little trickier and we will get into a similar debate as we did with declaws.  Imagine you have a dog that has been a big part of your life for a period of time and he is a great dog other than excessive barking.  Now, your landlord/homeowner’s association comes to you and says that you need to get rid of the dog or face removal from your home.  You are not wealthy enough to afford a new home nor can you afford the time/effort to move.  Would you consider devocalization in an effort to keep your dog and your home?

I apologize for any graphic images I may have portrayed, but I think everyone should know about these surgeries so that they can make an informed decision (like with declaws).  I personally would like to see ear cropping go away in my lifetime, but even I have to admit that a Doberman or Great Dane with floppy ears looks weird, even funny to me.  There is an aesthetic beauty to a dog with well done ears, but I realize that these dogs are not here for me to simply change and admire.

So…let’s hear from you…do you own pets with trimmed ears?  Has anyone experienced a de-barked dog?

"A rose by any other name..."

Jul 14, 2009 - 12 comments

by products


pet food

William Shakespeare wrote "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet".  This quote hit me today as being applicable to our next topic of pet food myths.

I am not sure if I will get more comments on today’s blog than I did on the last one in which we reviewed the myth of corn allergies and corn being bad for pets.   Today, we are going to tackle the infamously and unfortunately named “BY PRODUCTS”.  (Cue intense music soundtrack).  So, to paraphrase William "what's in a name, would by proudcts cause as much disgust by any other name?"

People hate the term “by-products”.  It conjures up disgusting and gory images straight out of some low budget horror film.  The truth of the matter though is that by products simply refers to the parts of the poultry or meat source that the human food industry is not using.  Before we go any further, let’s look at the two definitions of by products from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO):

Meat By-Products: the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs.

Poultry By-Products: must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I see some pretty nutritious stuff in these definitions.   Weren’t you told as a kid that you should eat liver to help you grow?

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (The Highlander) has Christopher Lambert describing haggis to Sean Connery.  After Connery questions what haggis is, Lambert replies “sheep’s stomach stuffed with meat and barley”.   Connery replies “how revolting” and dumps Lambert into the lake.   I bring this up because it is not uncommon in human culture to also partake of these “by-products” yet other cultures may find them less than palatable.

What we have to remember when dealing with our pet’s nutrition is that our aesthetics (what seems tasty or pleasing to us) is in no way associated with how nutritious the ingredient might be.  

As I mentioned to a poster in our other forum, pets need NUTRIENTS, not specific ingredients.  The most important issue is can the food (and the ingredients within the food) deliver the appropriate type and amounts of amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, etc to the pet in a form that is highly digestible and the pet finds acceptable?

Millions of pets and pet owners have determined, meat and poultry by-products can provide their pets with a great source of protein and they are often as palatable, sometimes more so, than “true” meat sources (i.e. skeletal meat).  In other words, it really doesn’t matter what the label says is IN the food, it matters what the animal gets OUT of the food (digestibility and quality of life).

Even if the above arguments don’t convince you, maybe this one will.   We know that many cows, pigs, chickens, etc will go to slaughter each year to feed humans.   What should be done with all of the “by products” if they aren’t used in pet food?   If we don’t use the “by products”, will we need to slaughter even more animals to feed our pets?  To me, and this is my opinion, we are better off using as much of each individual animal as we can in order to save waste and other animals’ lives.

So, now it’s your turn…tell me what you think.