Milestone for the Nielsen’s

This month I am diverting from Veterinary advice and sharing a personal moment that our family experienced in July. Our daughter, Jaclyn, was married to Rich in Omaha. They met the summer after high school graduation. Their relationship survived the distance as Jaclyn attended UNI and Rich ISU. Rich is a medical sales rep and Jaclyn teaches in Omaha Public schools. This wedding was a first for our family of six. It was wonderful to have us all gathered for this event. A number of people had shared that a wedding is even more intense than a high school graduation. It is a whirlwind of emotions and activities. Those people knew what they were talking about.

Jaclyn spoiled us by handling the wedding plans with great efficiency and effectiveness. It was a magical few days celebrating with the family and friends that all gathered to wish this couple well as they began their life as husband and wife. A saying that I love is “The roots of a family tree begin with the love of two hearts.” I have been digging into my family tree in recent years and have discovered a new appreciation for my heritage. The challenges that my ancestors endured to come to America and the great losses they encountered are all a part of my legacy. I now see the continuation of that legacy with Rich and Jaclyn. Instead of a unity candle for their ceremony, Jaclyn asked me for a portion of the fern that was on the altar at our wedding 35 years ago. I repotted a portion of that plant and she then collected soil from Dan’s family Century farm, my family Heritage farm, Rich’s family farm, and our current farm in Madison County. During the ceremony, they added the soil to the fern and watered it, and now will watch it grow over the years. This representation of how we are all connected was very meaningful to me.

In 2017 my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. We honored them with a celebration at my country church that just celebrated its 150th anniversary this summer. We have had a family member sitting in the pews of that church for over 100 of those years. My grandmother was confirmed there and my mother and myself were baptized, confirmed, and married there. During this 60th wedding anniversary we had a program. My 3 daughters and my niece modeled wedding dresses from 4 generations. My great grandma was married in 1906, my grandmother in 1932, my mother in 1957, and myself in 1984. What is really exciting to me, is we now have a fifth generation wedding dress with my daughter’s dress. Love this quote, “The roots of our family tree run strong and deep, like our love they never end.”

If you have never dug into your family’s legacy, I would encourage you to find out whatever you can and write it down. The stories of the past connect us to one another in a way that enriches our lives. “Family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots keep us together.”

Was That a Seizure?

Pets can have seizures. They come in all varieties and it Is impossible to know how frequent or how long their duration may be. Years ago it was thought that all seizures were hereditary, poison related, or idiopathic. With the advancement of technology, machines that can measure brain activity and scan brain tissues have raised awareness to a large number of other causes. The challenges of diagnosing a cause are many. Difficult to determine when a seizure may occur so that brain activity can be monitored. The expense of brain scans are cost prohibitive for many clients. Most practices do not have the equipement to diagnose a cause. The results often indicate that surgery is not possible based on the location of the problem. The cost of surgery is not within a clients budget. These are only a few of the reasons seizures are a challenge.

Seizures are more likely to be seen in a dog than a cat. Seizures can begin at any age.  If seen early in life we assume it is congenital, poison, infection, or trauma related.  If beginning later in life, we consider recent trauma, poisons, or brain disease. If seizures develop after 6 months of age but before 5-6 years of age they may be classified as epilepsy. Epilepsy is a form of seizure activity where no underlying cause can be found.

When poisons are a factor we rely on owners to tell us what they were exposed to. Often a diagnosis will not be made in this category without an owners knowledge of the toxin. Simply put our patients cannot tell us what they ate or were exposed to. There are tests that can be done in a laboratory setting but we must tell them what to look for. If we did not see them consume the toxin it will be difficult to ask them to look for it. Occasionally the symptoms will give us a high suspicion of a toxic exposure and we will discover the offending product. If we do not have a clear idea of what the poison is we will treat the clinical symptoms and hope the body can clear the poison. Medications to control the seizures along with fluid therapy and activated charcoal are standard treatments for many suspected poisons that cause seizures. The need to start treatment immediately to reduce clinical symptoms is crucial. Yet if we did not see the pet consume the poison we do not know about its negative effects until the clinical symptoms begin to occur. Recently I discovered a common product used in humans called 5-fluorouracil is extremely toxic to dogs and cats if accidentally consumed. Within 30 minutes of chewing on the tube the dogs start to have seizures and die. If you know of anyone on this product please share this article with them to raise awareness of the risk this has to pets. Even licking this cream can cause toxicity in pets:

5-fluorouracil: Lifesaving for one species, deadly for othersveterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/5-fluorouracil-lifesaving-one-species-deadly-others

Congenital seizures can stem from Portosystemic shunts(PSS) in pets. These liver shunts direct the blood away from the liver. Surgeries are available to correct the shunt and stop the seizures caused by it. These seizures can be caused by hydrocephalus or more commonly called “water on the brain” in young pets. This condition has varying degrees of clinical symptoms but seizures can be seen in severe cases. Certain breeds are more prone to these conditions.

Traumatic injuries at anytime in a pets life can lead to seizure activity. Pets fall down stairs, then get hit in the head by large objects, they are hit by cars, they run into objects with their heads, etc. Any of these situations can potentially lead to seizures. Some will have their first seizure at the time of the injury. Others do not start them until later in life. I was hit in the forehead with a baseball and most likely had a concussion. That could lead to issues for me in the future. There is no way to know what may develop in the future when the brain has been injured.

Medical conditions of the of the brain and even some within the body can have seizures as possible side effects.  The list is endless but I feel as a whole the human and veterinary medical teams are learning more every day about the brain and how to treat some of these medical conditions.

After all of this information you may be asking yourself, “What can we do if a pet has a seizure?” First and most important, stay calm and move the pet carefully to a safe area. Do not stick your hand in the pets mouth or attempt to hold their tongue. They will not choke or swallow their tongue. The actual seizure is often short. The seizure can be mild and just be a pet staring off into the air and not responding to your voice. Maybe an ear will be twitching or an eyelid. They are still and unresponsive. The seizure could be a full blown grand mal like seizure where the animal is on its side rigid and paddling, having irregular breathing, drooling, unresponsive, it may pee or poop or both during the episode. After the seizure is over the pet has a stage called the postictal period where they are confused, uncoordinated in their movements, hungry, thirsty, exhausted, etc. This may last longer than the actual seizure but your pet will recover 100% if given time.

Please notify your veterinarian if you suspect your pet had a seizure. Treatment is not always begun at the first sign of a seizure. If the seizure was mild and they are infrequent then you may be encouraged to wait to start medications. It is important to let your veterinarian know if there are any concerns about poisons or infections that may have caused the seizure. If you have had a history of trauma with your pet you should share that information with your veterinarian. The recommendation on when to begin medication is varied between practices. It is best to speak with your veterinarian so you can discuss options available. Blood work is required to begin seizure medication and also annual exams.

Pets can live normal lives with seizures being controlled by medications for a number of years. Some activities seem to lead to seizures for some pets. Good record keeping can be helpful in determining the proper way to treat your pet. There are new diets and medications available to help maintain a good quality of life. If you have concerns about whether your pet is needing medication for seizures contact your veterinarian for more information.

Hype About CBD Oil Use in Pets

In recent months more questions are being asked about using Cannabidiol (CBD) oil in pets for different aliments. I want to start by defining these substances to avoid confusion for pet owners. The two plants that are being grown are called cannabis(marijuana) and hemp. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the hallucinogenic property that differentiates between these two plants. If the plant has more than 0.3% THC in it, that plant is considered cannabis(marijuana) and is illegal in Iowa. If that plant has less than 0.3% THC it is considered hemp. Hemp oil comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. The hemp oil has been called a superfood and has a nutty flavor. It has been used in cooking, soaps, and lotions. CBD oil comes from the flowers, leaves, and stem of the hemp plant. CBD oil is used for its medicinal properties. The current Iowa law allows for medical use of CBD oil for certain aliments in humans but not in animals.

These oils are considered supplements not prescriptions. CBD oils made from hemp and containing less than .3% THC will not have any mind altering effects. The source you get your supplement from must be researched since some products contain “whole hemp extract” not CBD oil. Those products may not contain any CBD oil at all and be completely legal to sell to consumers. We all have heard how unregulated the human supplement market is and these hemp products are no different. BUYER BE AWARE.

In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law that legalized cultivating and producing industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% THC at institutions of higher learning and State Departments of Agriculture. Since it is legal at the federal level each state must now decide what its regulations will be and how and when to enforce those laws. With this bill in place more research can be done on the health and wellness benefits of these hemp plants. As veterinarians we look forward to the day when we are given clear details on our right and responsibility of prescribing and dispensing these products. Until that day we can discuss the potential benefits being seen within the pet industry, but in Iowa we are not allowed to sell or prescribe the CBD oils.

All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) with receptors built in to interact with cannabinoids naturally produced by the brain but also those derived from plants. When the CBD oils are supplemented to dogs and cats one can see benefits such as:

DOGS

  • Pain Killer
  • Anti-cancer Effects
  • Antiemetic

CATS

  • Appetite Stimulation
  • GI Tract Issues
  • Asthma

BOTH

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anxiety/stress reliever

Looking at this list one would get the impression that this plant may fix all our pets health issues. This is far from the truth but it certainly indicates that once regulations are removed we may be seeing a steady increase in the use of CBD oil supplements by pet owners. Some veterinarians within the USA are already using these products in a large number of health conditions and I know CBD oils will eventually be encouraged in daily practice. Since there are still legal hurdles in all states around the use of these products you must stay tuned as we continue to learn more about these products in the human and animal markets.

I spoke with a representative at the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA) about prescribing CBD oils. He indicated that the use of CBD oils in all 50 states is illegal in animals at this time. Whether a seller or prescriber of CBD oils is prosecuted is currently a gray zone. At Winterset Veterinary Center we have chosen to wait until more direction is given on the use of the CBD oils in private practice. For each of the above named benefits there are numerous other traditional treatments available to cure or relieve pain and suffering in our patients. We will continue to monitor developments on this hot topic and will keep you informed. Our main concern is the health of our patients and safety of all products that are recommended or prescribed. If you would like more information about this topic feel free to contact me for the information that I received from the IVMA. We welcome your thoughts and comments about this blog or any others that you may have an interest in.

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