February 12th, 2013

Dr. Michael P. McTigue, Dr. Brian C. Hurley and the rest of the Gardner Animal Care Center team are pleased to welcome you to their hospital blog. This fun and fact-filled blog is updated regularly and includes up-to-date information about your pet’s health care. Also included in the blog are fun, pet-related news stories that we want to share with you and photos and information about our hospital and staff members.

We invite you to check our blog often.

Thank you for visiting.

– The veterinary team at Gardner Animal Care Center

Day 8 Nicaragua Mission trip 2016

January 9th, 2016

I am writing in an airplane between Miami and Boston, American Airlines seat 11A with the broken seat so I can’t lean back, drinking water, no peanuts supplied. It’s funny how things have changed, but I’m not complainin, cause I am still surprised how easily we can get back and forth between countries, between continents even, by just going online, searching a few of the common travel sites, picking the cheapest and best flight, giving them your credit card info and voila (I should be using Spanish since I just came from Central America but I don’t know the Spanish word, and southerners don’t know French or the queens English so they won’t get it either), you get a ticket, a seat, and an adventure. It really is pretty cool. That’s not how it is everywhere, Nicaragua being a good example. Some people never leave their home village, staying near family, working a small country farm with a few horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens (which means they have to have them dang roosters too), as well as dogs and even a few rabbits. The one thing we did not see that was surprising was wildlife. For a tropical country, there are almost no wild animals or birds. Our hosts said it was because of the lack of hunting regulations that allowed people to hunt with no restrictions, causing unsustainable pressure on the birds and animals. Hopefully that can change soon as they enact some restrictions. I have nothing against hunting, other than coming back empty handed when I go, but there does have to be limits. Now I do have to hand it to the southern girls on our team, most of them hunt, both bow and rifle or shotgun, and they actually get deer, ducks, geeses, and they think it’s weird that around me in Massachusettes, hardly anyone hunts. I may pick on their accents, but I really think that’s pretty cool. Maybe I will go back to Gardner and see if any of the ladies at work want to go a huntin. I think I know the answer and I can’t print it, but you never know, sometimes you can’t predict which dawgs will hunt, as they say in Texas. 
We had to come to the airport in an old flatbed truck, that had temporary seats in the back, enough room for 10 people, because the van, which seats 18 people (unless you are in Mongolia, where you could stuff in 25, but that story was blogged 3 years ago and I hate to repeat myself because I might make up a new number) had broken down the day before on our way to the volcano. There are no tow trucks in Nicaragua, so they just called up Oscars brother and voila, a flatbed showed up. They are very resourceful people, and they always seem to find a solution regardless of their means. That is another reason I really like the people, they find a way, no matter the limits. I wish we could do the same with less, as we have become a disposable society, and we sometimes don’t value things rightly. I will miss them.
I was talking with our group about the things I do and do not like about Nicaragua. In the no list are things like roosters, Nicaraguan dogs when the sun goes down, bugs in the outhouse, and not knowing the language. It is frustrating not to be able to talk with the people, but on the other hand, sometimes a smile can go a long way to bridging the gap between languages. It is a universal connector, something everyone understands, and it does connect us in a real and personal way. The people smiled a lot while we were there. I will miss that. As for the things I did like, besides seeing Gods creation from another perspective, like the birds eye view from the top of a volcano, was the excitement and joy on the students faces as they placed their first catheter, anesthetized a horse for the first time, and especially when they finished their first spay or neuter. It was a joy and honor to be part of it, and I will not forget it. Most of all I will miss our prayer and devotion time as we circled each night to talk and pray and sing. It is not common to have a group of people together without cell phones, homework, emergency calls, home and kid chores, tv, and all the other distractions of modern American life. We were unencumbered by time and distractions, free to listen and pray and participate, the way I wish it could always be. We come back and resume the old, but we have been changed by something new, something good, something God. My hope and prayer is that the mission trip is not over, but would start when we get home, where God has planted us. We live in the now, and the not yet; 2 kingdoms, one here on earth, another to come, but not yet here. So what do you say we look for the next opportunity, a divine appointment, a chance to be a funnel, a light, to someone who doesn’t know the answer. Since we know the end of the story, let’s fill in some empty spots here and now, using what God has graciously given us. 
Well thats all for now, till the next mission trip. Until then, adios amigo, Bon jour baca verde, and bye bye all y’all!
Many more Blessings

Dr Mike

Day 7 Nicaraguan Mission trip 2016

January 8th, 2016

This was our last full day in Nicaragua, and it was a good one. We started the day, after morning quiet prayer time and breakfast, going to the base of a volcano, Mt Mombaso, for some zip lining. Now I have done this twice before but it never loses its fun and excitement. You go zipping along on a wire through a tropical forest, with the high wires suspended between some very large ficus trees, and the Nicaraguan guides let you go down in all these different positions, from just sitting down, to upside down, to the superman position, to upside down swinging from side to side like a monkey, to the last one where they bounce the wires as much as they can, probably not so much to scare you as to see if there is any lose change left in your pocket. It was really cool to watch everyone, most of them having never been on a zip line before, go from nervous and tentative to hootin and hollerin upside down all the way. I was especially proud of Nicole who was so nervous of heights that she almost didn’t go, but she overcame all her fears, and by the end she was upside down hootin and hollerin like all the other southerners. Now I should probably explain something: most of our group is from Texas and Tennessee and Virginia and places like that, where the queens English has been twisted enough that sometimes you aren’t sure what they are sayin or meanin. Like they have a drawl, don’t put the G sound on the end of words, and say things like yawl, or worse, all-yawl, and then expect you to understand it. At least the Spanish speakin people know they sound funny and don’t expect you to understand them, but the southerners, which is anyone south of New Jersey, and New Jersey is its own country anyway, they think they are talkin normal and you should understand them and talk like them. I am really a bit concerned that Ima comin back with an accent that’s so strong even my dogs won’t understand me. I tried really hard to get them some culture, but there were so many of them, and they all hunt and shoot, and go about hootin and hollerin so much I was a tad bit scared, and even backed off callin our team the Bruins, as they were gettin a bit ornery bout it. So please don’t go a hatin me if it takes a bit to start talkin nermal agan, it will hopefully pass like a temporary infection.
After zip linin we went to the volcano natural museum, and then up to the top of a big old volcano. One of the craters was still a-belching smoke like it was ready to bring up some cookies but thankfully nothing spewed out. We had a nice little hike up to the top, which had a great view of the whole area, and then we could run down the loose volcanic ash rock path like we were skiing in Vermont, but the southerners didn’t quite get the hang of it, and tried to trudge down it like they were still huntin deer, but they did the best they could considering their accents.
After that we went and had pizza, which was pretty good, as good as anything we can get in Ashburnham, and we all chugged our gatorades cause we was so thirsty we was like a dusty ol hog in the back country of Texas when they find a waterin hole. I kinda made that up cause I really don’t know how thirsty hogs git down they’re, but it sounded pretty good, cept they probably don’t think so. I really shouldn’t go a pickin on em so much cause I really do like every one of em, but dang, I still can’t get this accent out of my typin.
After some swimming (that’s better) we had dinner, and then our final group devotion. Now this is my favorite part of the day, and the part I will miss the most. Everyone shared about what this week meant to them, and how God had been such an important part of it. Our team really came together and bonded and cared for each other. The cooperation and encouragement between all 19 people was really something to see. We were blessed in so many ways, as we learned and taught and helped and laughed and loved, that we will not easily forget. And maybe the biggest lesson we learned isn’t here in Nicaragua, but back home when we go back to our normal, and we can share the blessings that God has graciously given each of us. We need to be funnels, not buckets, of Gods grace, so we can pass it on to others, and not just hold it in ourselves. If we could do that, share Gods love more when we get back than we did before we left, then this has been a great trip indeed. And to top the evening off, 2 of the young ladies, “Teddy” and Lena got baptized! It was the best ending to an amazing week that we could possibly have. There were a lot of tears and even more joy. Thank you Lord for this week!
Tomorrow we have to leave at 5:00am for the airport, then on to Miami, then home. And even though the week has gone by much to fast, we know we will see each other again someday. In the mean time, I better be gettin ta bed so I can git up on time to kitch the arrplane. The longer I stay a down here the longer itll take to git rid a this thing!
Many Blessins

Dr Mike

Day 6 Nicaragua Mission trip 2016

January 7th, 2016

The day starts early, about 4:00am, when the trucks start going by on the road 30ft from our head, honking their horns as they enter the nearby rotary, or roundabout as some call it, and they don’t have the right of way but they don’t want to slow down, so they just lay on the horn for 3-4 seconds, which apparently is the traffic loophole that allows them to bogart into the traffic without yielding. It reminds me of Boston, except they have no malice down here, they just don’t want to slow down. Now I completely understand and agree with that concept, so I think I will try that back home, honk the horn, give a wave, make a smile, just like the Nicaraguans, and watch the other drivers just smile back and yield the right of way. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, or worse, some kind of delusional psychosis, and no I have had nothing to drink or smoke other than pineapple/grapefruit juice and diesel fumes, but wouldn’t it be a fun place to live in a place like that? 
Today we worked right here at Tamy and Oscars house in Catarina. We set up shop in their driveway, put out all our drugs and supplies, and got to work. People would just come steady throughout the morning and afternoon, mostly dogs, but also a few cats, rabbits, pigs, and horses. We would deworm, apply the topical flea and tick meds, spay the dogs, castrate a few pigs, horses, and dogs, check over the sick animals, and treat them the best we could with our limited supplies. There were quite a few kids, because this is their school vacation, all of Central America actually, from the end of November thru early February, 2 1/2 months of “winter break” even though it is in the 80s every day. They don’t seem to mind the fact that their is no skiing, skating, pond hockey, snow shoeing, or snowball fights on winter break, but I suppose they don’t know what they don’t know, which is still better than not knowing what they do know, and knowing what they don’t, and not knowing both of them. I wish I knew why, but I just don’t know. 
We have special prayer and group times every night, and I especially liked the night in las lamos when Oscar gave his testimony. He has had a very interesting life, from an early start to preaching at the age of 14, to forced induction into the army during the Sandinista revolution, to many miraculous escapes from death, to an 8 yr courtship with Tamy, the growth of all of his village churches, his miracle adoption of Lidia and Ostali, to the growth of his ministry. It is very encouraging to know that the local people that come to him because he bought in veterinary teams who could help their animals, then trust him enough to start a relationship, that often leads to them coming to their home church, and salvation and eternal hope. That is why we are here. And it is an honor and privilege to be part of Gods plan. I don’t know a lot of things, and I’m not sure of the rest, but I do know the one who knows it all, and I am glad I am part of His team! Since we all have to pick a side to be on, you should probably pick the one that never loses, that has the eternal incredible happy ending. Yes their is a multiple choice test at the end of our life, and there is one right answer, and if you don’t know the answer I will give you a hint: begins with J and ends with esus, and that my amigos, is not a foreign language, and is something you might want to remember. And “I don’t know” is not the right answer. That much I do know. 
I think it is time for bed even though it is only 10:00, because the day starts early, and maybe I will go outside at 4:00 am and smile at all the honking trucks that go by. Or maybe I will just stay inside and count barking dogs and crowing roosters and try and sleep in. So many choices, I just don’t know…
Many Blessings

Dr Mike

Day 5 Nicaragua Mission trip 2016

January 7th, 2016

Today was a slower paced day in small animal veterinary care. We were in a small village of Los lamos, or something that sounds like that. As you know I am an expert in espaniol and in fact I am teaching new words to the people, or at least words they have never heard before. When you mix English, a little French from high school, a titch of Spanish, and a Yankee accent, you get something that sounds spanglishench-ish, which apparently no one understands but it must tick off the dogs and roosters. However little Ostali and I see and hear things the right way, and he laughs with me, not at me, even if he doesn’t understand anything other than baca verde. 
This trip we have 2 large animal vets with us, Dr Mark who is a mixed animal solo practioner from Texas, who is a big guy with a bigger heart, and Dr Justin, an equine practioner also from Texas. If they think I have an accent… Well having them here makes it great for me, especially Dr Justin, because otherwise I would be doing some horse work, and that would not be beneficial. He did a cryptorchid surgery on a horse today, and could not find the hidden biscuit, but he gave it a good try, something I would not have done. Most of what we do is teach, guide, and encourage the students, 8 veterinary students and 5 vet tech students. They each rotate thru the different groups, so they all get an opportunity to work with the different animals. They are very quick learners, dedicated, and always cheerful and trying to help each other. The first day they are nervous and feel a little intimidated, for good reason, as they have never done a spay before or worked around cows and horses that are a bit on the wild side. But very quickly they pick up on the details and technique, always asking questions and learning. It is such a pleasure to watch them complete their first catheter placement, anesthesia dose calculation and administration, or surgical procedure. Of course I probably don’t help by mentioning that if they figured it wrong or make a mistake they can have minor complications, like death and stuff like that, but you know how I like to stay on the positive side. Then they have to take pictures and post them online and send them to their parents to justify all the money they spent on vet school and vet med mission trips. Their enthusiasm is infectious, in a good way, not in a contagious disease way, which is always a little on your mind when you have tropical diseases all around, like that show monsters inside us, that cause unpleasant symptoms, like death and things like that, but so far we have been spared.
As I mentioned, the food is very good, with rice and beans, fresh fruit and juice, rice and beans, and fresh hot corn tortillas, chicken or ground beef, and rice and beans. The houses are very simple: brick, wood, clay shingles, no insulation, plumbing or electrical needed, and an outhouse. Oh yeah, the outhouse. Now in general I don’t mind outhouses. But for some reason most girls do, like some kind of genetic defect. Growing up, my daughters feared the outhouse, like something was going to come up out of the whole and bite them. How ridiculous is that. Boys on the other hand think it is kind of fun, like a carnival funhouse contest, and besides we can usually stand at a distance just to be sure. Well, in Nicaragua they don’t have those plastic portable, chemical filled, regularly emptied (well most of the time) outhouses. They dig a deep hole, put a cement throne on it, and use it for awhile, a long while, until it fills up. And they have things down here that like those holes, matter of fact, they feel so good about that hole that they make it their permanent home, like a well fortified castle with a constant stream of nutrients. And it must meet all of those bugs daily nutritional requirements because they grow big and strong and ugly. And eventually everyone, even boys, have to sit down, and when you see things that look like cockroaches that are the size of small mice, well it is enough to give anyone the willies. We heard more than one scream coming from that outhouse. I used to love that movie “It” by Steven King where this evil clown pops out of sinks and sewers and toilets and eats little children, but I think I have changed my mind. It hits close to home now. There are some things that are better left unseen and unspoken, and that’s one of them. Now I am not trying to gross anyone out, as I would never do that just ask my daughters, but I just want to give you a truthful picture of life in the countryside. You might even thank me for it one day.
The weather has been very difficult, sunny, mid eighties, low humidity, the kind of weather that skiers hate, but I am doing ok, thanks for asking. Well it is time to go to bed, and since we came back to Oscar and Tamy’s this afternoon, we should have a quiet night, no roosters or rabid dogs, and flush toilets! And no clowns, I really don’t want to see any clowns!
Many Blessings

Dr Mike

Day 3 and 4 Nicaraguan mission trip 2016

January 6th, 2016

By the time you are reading this it will already be day 5 of our mission trip because we have no cell phone or wifi or any other kind of power, except maybe what comes from rice and beans, but that is mostly unproductive and difficult to utilize, so this day 3 and 4 blog will be a little late, as are most things are in Central America. We are working in the countryside, which is a great way to see and experience life in Nicaragua. When you are a tourist and visit an area you can get a good feel for the geography and flora and fauna. But when you live and work and eat with the people, it is a much richer experience; you get a feel for the people and culture. And Nicaragua has wonderful people. They may not have much material wealth, but I do not consider them to be poor. In some ways they are richer than most Americans. 
The day enfolded with a 2 1/2 hour drive into the mountain and volcano region of central Nicaragua. The roads changed from smooth paved roads, better than any in Ashburnham, to yellow brick roads – ok they were actually gray, but following a gray brick road just doesn’t sound as good. But the roads were actually hand constructed by teams of people who used nothing mechanical, just hand shoveling,raking, laying the paver bricks, and filling in the edges, and they were still smoother and longer lasting than ours. However we could only follow the yellow brick road for so long until it turned into a dirt road, then a rutted dirt road, finally a rugged, rocky, rutted, rough dusty road. When we finally arrived we split into 3 teams, a cattle team, and equine team, and a small animal team. Then we go to the farms for the large animal work, or stay at a central place in the village for the small animal work. Most of our time is spent on vaccinations, deworming, applying tick medications, dog spays, and some equine castrations, pig castrations, along with some basic veterinary care for wounds, skin, eye, GI upsets and other common problems. Sometimes it’s real busy with lines of people waiting, and sometimes there is no one. But even then you get a good look at the rhythm and pace of life in the countryside, with no hurry, or anxiety, or complaining, or ADD. And the best part, no cell phones or TV or anything electrical or mechanical. The only sounds are more natural, with people talking, dogs barking, chickens clucking, breeze blowing. I wish we could hear more of that all the time. Well, except at night. That’s when those sounds aren’t as pleasant. Especially the roosters. I just don’t get them. I always thought they were supposed to harken the dawn, be the sentinels on a new day, protecting and guiding their flock from danger. I guess I had the cartoon Disney version in mind. Well down here they have never watched TV, so I don’t think they know what they are supposed to do. So they just cackle away, not all the time, just mostly at night, all night, when any civilized bird would never consider yacking away. It doesn’t seem to bother the locals though, they have just grown up with uneducated birds, and they don’t seem to mind. I will have to do a little poultry research, and see if there is some medical solution to this condition. The only thing I can think of at the moment involves shot guns or flame throwers, and that doesn’t look good from a veterinary team. Maybe the good Lord is just trying to teach me patience and love. After all I wonder what I sound like to Him, so I’m glad he doesn’t throw me in the flames. Thank you Lord!
I do enjoy the meals down here. Basic natural foods, not processed, no additives, cooked over brick ovens. Lots of fruit, natural native fruit juice mixtures, eggs, chicken or beef, and lots of guya and pinto, rice and beans, sometimes 3 times a day. Good stuff, keeps things moving in the right direction, no need for antacids or Alka seltzer. And bucket showers: pump up some water in a 5 gallon bucket, take a small bowl, pour over head, lather, rinse, and repeat. Just right after a long hot dusty day. Thank you Lord
Every night we have devotions, and we all get together, sing some songs, pray, and talk about the day, what we learned, what we saw, and how God revealed Himself. Sometimes we can get so focused on our work, on our goals, on ourselves, that we lose the right perspective. We see only what we need and want, we see as in a mirror. But when you are taken out of the familiar, out of your comfort zone, and especially out of your normal, you have to loosen the reigns; you become vulnerable because you are not in control. We strive for control, we are obsessed with it, and we think we can get it. We spend our whole life chasing that one more thing that will bring us happiness, that will finally fulfill our deepest desire. But that’s the ironic part, because we are never really in control; we are like a vapor, a mist, a little light that soon fades away. And the only thing that really matters, the one thing that never fades away, the one thing we can never lose

Jesus God
It’s always right there in front of us, but we just can’t see it, we don’t have the right perspective. Sometimes we need to get a different view, and allow our limits, our weak spots, to open our hearts and minds to something other, something outside us. I don’t need more me, I have had too much of that all my life. Out here in the countryside of Nicaragua, I have less me, and that turns out to be the best thing that could ever happen. I don’t know if this makes much sense to you, but out here, things look different, and it looks more like God. And it’s not because I am in a foreign country on a mission trip. It’s because I am in the presence of God. We all are. All the time. You can’t see it with your eyes or find it in a place or a thing, you just have to let go, lose control, surrender. It’s the upside down way of God. Turns out it’s the right perspective after all.
So I wake up to the sound of crackling roosters, except it’s like having Dolby sound with 12 speakers all crowing out sounds of different volume, direction and rhythm at the same time, and dogs barking at them, and the 4:00am bus blowing it’s horn to tell people it’s coming so it doesn’t have to completely stop and they hop on while it’s moving, and all the bug bites on my itchy arms from newly fed no see-ums who are quite happy fair skinned and good tasting gringos are here, and I have to smile inside. It’s life in a new part of creation, and I think I’m seeing it from Gods perspective. 
I still don’t like the roosters.
Many Blessings 

Dr Mike


Day 2 Nicaraguan mission trip 2016

January 4th, 2016

Today is Sunday, the day of rest, and guess what…it kind of was. Sometimes it gets so busy and hectic that you don’t have time to stop and smell the…whatever flowers they have here. But today we could smell the bogenvelias, or whatever they were, I could just make something up and you wouldn’t know the difference anyway. But I am not like that, so we actually did smell some things, like the cinnamon tree leaves and the chocolate plant, and the chickens, though they weren’t really flowery smelling. 

We started off going to childrens church, and we all split up into smaller groups and went to the houses where the kids had gathered. Then we would lip sinc some Spanish songs, play games, and watch Oscar give the kids a simple gospel message. Our group had some younger children, so we were coloring with them. I was helping Oscars little boy, Ostali, to color. I picked him because I figured I could color better than him so I wouldn’t have to listen to some little girl laugh at me again (yes, again, since it also happened last year) because I don’t stay in the lines. Well neither one of us was very good, but at least Ostali had an excuse, since he is only 2, and he thought I was pretty good, because I kept picking up all the crayons that he dropped. I learned 2 Spanish words, baca verde,  green cow, and I thought it turned out pretty good, as you can see below. I can almost hear my daughters laughing, but because we don’t have cell phone service, I actually don’t have to listen this time. It was a good start to the day.
Then we had lunch, went to the “lookout”, which is not a bar,  but the highest point in the area which overlooks the lagoon, which is a volcano crater filled lake, walked around town, and came home. We went thru all of our supplies and equipment to get ready and pack up for our 6:30 departure for the countryside. That is always the best part of the trip, as we get to work alongside the people in the small country towns. The biggest problem is at night when we have to listen to the ignorant animals who think nighttime is for keeping the Yankees from sleeping by constant cackling, barking, or snoring. I forgot my flame thrower again, so I am not sure how I will handle it this year. I hope better than the past, but you will have to read my old blogs if you want to read about my regrets or failures the last 2 years. And if you are the type of person who likes to dig thru the past to find the disasters, I bet you also are the type to rubberneck at accidents, or the type who reads tasteless blogs. So just keep reading if the shoe fits. 

We had really good group time tonight, and I really like our team. We sat in a big circle and introduced ourselves and gave a brief bio, then discussed what we saw and learned and how we saw God in and thru it. It is great to get to know and build relationships with fellow Christians, so we were all very encouraged. We went to Oscars newest church for 5:00 service and he did a good job of preaching and leading. He is a wonderful pastor. 

Well that’s all for now, as I am a bit tired-ish. So I will say good night in Spanish….Bon jour baca verde, not that you would know anyway.


Dr Mike

Day 1 Nicaragua mission trip 2016

January 2nd, 2016

Well I’m back, not sure if that is good news for you or not, but you are making the choice to read this, so reader beware. This will be the only disclaimer you will receive, and if you continue reading I cannot be held responsible for any consequences or damage. My granddaughter Lucy, not quite 3, can already pronounce Nicaragua better than I do, and she has already asked for videos of me riding the escalator, sky train, and eating a Cobb salad, the latter which was actually sent as a picture so she would not pick up any bad eating habits. I am waiting in Dallas, gate D21, for the flight to Managua, Nicaragua. It is a 5ish hour wait, so that gives me time to collect my thoughts to write this blog…it hasn’t worked as no clear thought has occurred, so I will write this anyway, hence the disclaimer, which is actually the second time I have warned you. No more Mr Nice Guy, something I have never actually been accused of anyway.

This is my third mission trip to Nicaragua and I am very happy to be returning to Oscar and Tamy’s with another group from Christian Veterinary Missions, (CVM). Our group this year is large, 19 people, with 4 vets, 8 vet students, 6 vet tech students and 1 spouse. We will be working alongside Oscar and Tamy Gaitin, who live in Catarina, and they will be our hosts. They have a lot of experience hosting all variety of mission groups, and they have been working with CVM for many years. Oscar is a pastor who has planted many small churches, 12-ish, (I like to add ish to words, i think it’s because I am ir-ish) and he takes different mission teams as he makes his rounds in the countryside. He has veterinary, dental, construction, teaching, and other team-ish types that help him serve the people that may not have access to the care that we can provide. As we care for the needs of the animals, Oscar and Tamy can connect with people and try to build bridges and establish relationships with them. They are invited to the church, which is always led by local people, and hopefully can lead to a relationship with God thru Christ. It is a privilege to serve alongside him.

The weather this time of year is actually quite harsh; it is upper 80s during the day, 70ish at night, and has never snowed. I can’t imagine the sadness from never having seen snow, much less never having skied, so I feel it is my duty to help them thru this. Now some of you misguided people may think sunny and upper 80s everyday is a vacation, but I can assure you that this is no picnic, even if we do have one, because I cannot ski for a whole week, and I could get sun burned pretty bad. Never mind that we hardly have any snow to begin with at home, but this is work, and I don’t want to be told by anyone, especially from work, that I was on vacation. As I have said before, this counts as Continuing Education and not vacation, so don’t use that time off vacation shade on your I-calendar. That being said I will try to have fun in the pool, or swimming in the lagoon, or visiting a tropical forest or volcanoes. I mean if I have to be working I might as well try to enjoy it. I just hope you understand how difficult this can be and you have to have the right attitude to help others thru the tough times.

I just want to say hello to Nancy, who faithfully reads all my blogs, and stands by me anyway. She is the biggest blessing of all. And my 4 daughters also, hi girls, and Lucy, and Ryan and Justin, and of course my 2 goldens, Lexi and Sam, who were the saddest of all to see me go, because running thru the snow is the funnest thing in the world for them too. Don’t worry dogs, I will be home as soon as I survive this mission trip.

Well time to go and practice my Spanish, so Bon jour for now. And remember, I did warn you.


Dr Mike  

Hi Nancy!

Vaccine Available for New Dog Flu Strain

December 1st, 2015

A vaccine protecting against a relatively new – and sometimes deadly – strain of Canine influenza, or “dog flu,” has just been released by two major veterinary pharmaceutical companies.

The strain, known as H3N2, had been limited within Korea, China and Thailand since 2006. However, an outbreak in the Chicago area occurred earlier this year which prompted fast action. Beginning in mid-April, more than 1,000 dogs in and around Chicago were identified as being infected. H3N2 then spread to Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Texas and California. Of the 2,000 confirmed cases, most dogs recovered; however some dogs died.

The U.S.-based H3N2 strain is 99% identical to the Asian one and, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there have been rumors that it was imported from Asia through rescued dogs.

“Unlike human influenza, this virus is not seasonal, so it can be contracted at any time of the year,” said Dr. Susan Nelson, a clinical associate professor at Kansas State’s Veterinary Health Center. “Dogs that are at greatest risk for exposure to this disease are those who frequent areas where lots of dogs are in one place, like kennels, dog shows, shelters and doggie day care facilities.”

The History of H3N2

Vaccinations against the more common H3N8 dog flu strain have been available for years. However, none existed for the new and highly contagious strain when the outbreak occurred.

“There are differences in the genetic sequences of the two strains that suggest that [H3N8] vaccines would be poorly effective or ineffective in protecting dogs against the H3N2 virus infecting dogs in the Midwest,” said Dr. Colin Parrish, of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in April.

Now, pet owners can protect their pooches and other pets from the pesky flu. Cats, guinea pigs, and ferrets can possibly pick up the flu from their canine housemates, but it cannot be spread to humans. The virus can, however, be spread for up an “unusually long period” of up to 24 days and can live on a person’s hands for approximately 12 hours.

Symptoms of Canine Flu

Canine influenza is an extremely contagious respiratory infection. If you notice your dog is coughing, sneezing, or has a runny nose you should not shrug it off as a little cold or even allergies. The early signs of canine influenza are coughing or gagging. Clinical symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, lethargy, depression, and a fever as high as 103-107 degrees typically appear within 7 to 10 days post exposure. The severe form of canine influenza can lead to viral pneumonia.

While highly contagious, the good news is that the virus is easily killed by soap and water, disinfectants and 10 percent bleach solutions. Transmission can be prevented by isolating all suspected dogs, thorough cleaning of all cages and exposed surfaces such as floors, kennels food dishes and bedding.

Almost all dogs exposed to canine influenza become infected; about 80 percent fully develop the illness, while about 20 percent do not. Most dogs recover quickly; however, some dogs may contract pneumonia due to a secondary infection.

While the death rate for canine influenza is low, secondary infections and other complications can sometimes lead to death. Recently, two Philadelphia animal shelters were quarantined due to the death of six dogs from canine influenza. It is spread wherever dogs are in close contact with one another. Dogs that stay at home or have limited contact with other dogs are at low risk.

Treatment for Canine Flu

Like the flu that you contract, canine influenza is mostly treated by providing supportive care while the virus runs its course. Antibiotics may be used if secondary infections develop. The canine influenza vaccine is a is recommended for dogs at high-risk of contracting the virus.

Canine influenza does not infect humans. Call Gardner Animal Care Center today if you believe your dog has contracted canine influenza or if you’d like to make an appointment for the vaccine.

Certain Dog Breeds are Prone to Cancer

November 16th, 2015

Golden Retrievers have long been the poster breed for family pets. Friendly, obedient, and intelligent, Goldens are ranked as the third most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club. Although you wouldn’t suspect it from their care-free demeanor and smiling faces, the breed is plagued by a devastating predisposition to cancer. Approximately 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer, a number more than double the average of all other breeds.

While Goldens in the United States are most likely to develop hemangiosarcoma, those from the United Kingdom are more prone to lymphoma. The cause is both genetic and environmental, but researchers are still unsure exactly which genes are involved. Cancer is the leading cause of death in all but 11 purebred dog breeds.

Additional Breeds Prone to Cancer

  • Great Danes – Prone to short lifespans, dogs of this breed are most likely to die from cancer.
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs – Also a breed with one of the shortest average lifespans, Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to several forms of cancer. Studies have reported that half of this breed will succumb to cancer.
  • Boxers – No other breed has a higher rate of mast cell tumors, which are slow-growing and can occur at any age.
  • German Shepherds – Hemangiosarcoma is the most common form of cancer in this breed. Clinical signs are often not apparent until the internal tumor ruptures, causing extensive bleeding and collapse or death.
  • Poodles – An estimated 40% of all Standard Poodles will die from some form of cancer.
  • Rottweilers – This breed is prone to a variety of cancers, including that of the lymph nodes, bones, soft tissues, bladder, and blood vessels.
  • Cocker Spaniels – Cancer is the most common cause of death for this breed, affecting as many as 23% of Cocker Spaniels.
  • Doberman Pinschers – One of the top five breeds most prone to cancer, a leading cause of death in female Dobermans is mammary cancer.
  • Beagles – With 23% of Beagles affected by cancer, lymphoma, osteosarcoma and bladder cancer are the most common types in elderly Beagles.

The Boxer is highly prone to Mast Cell Tumors.

Signs to Recognize

Regularly checking your beloved companion for new or unusual lumps or bumps is the most proactive step you can take toward catching skin cancer as early as possible. Since early removal of a tumor is the best course of action, a doctor at Gardner Animal Care Center may recommend removing this mass or growth from your pet’s skin.

If you notice a major change in your pet’s health, eating habits or lifestyle, call Gardner Animal Care Center immediately to make an appointment. Cancer treatment is becoming more available for dogs due to advances in technology.

Other general symptoms of cancer include skin wounds that will not heal, weight loss and loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, any bleeding or discharge from any orifice, loss of energy, persistent lameness or stiffness, and difficulty breathing or going to the bathroom.

November is Pet Diabetes Month

November 9th, 2015

November is National Pet Diabetes Month, but with more than 50% of the nation’s cats and dogs overweight or obese, raising awareness of the common endocrine disease has been extended to pets – rather than just their human caretakers. It is estimated that one in every 200 cats may be affected by diabetes, being the most common endocrine condition found in felines. The numbers for dogs are similar and only expected to increase.

Diabetes results when a pet’s body doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type I DM) or doesn’t process it properly (Type II DM). When your pet eats, carbohydrates found in his or her food are converted into simple sugars, one of which is glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestines and travels to cells throughout the body. Inside cells, insulin typically helps turn the glucose into fuel. However, when there isn’t enough insulin, glucose can’t even enter the cells to be converted into energy and instead just builds up in the bloodstream.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats & Dogs

• Lethargy

• Excessive Thirst

• Frequent Urination

• Always Hungry, Yet Maintains or Loses Weight

• Thinning, dry, and dull coats in cats

• Cloudy Eyes, in dogs

At-Risk Pets

• Those with genetic predispositions

• Those with other insulin-related disorders

• Those who are obese &/or physically inactive

• Dogs who are between 4- to 14-years-old

• Unspayed/intact female dogs are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes

• Dog breeds with greater risk for development: Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Pomeranians, terriers, and Toy Poodles

Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed so that symptoms are reduced or eliminated entirely. If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, the veterinarians at Gardner Animal Care Center will decide which treatment options are best. Often, changes in diet and lifestyle, with or without daily insulin injections, can help your pet live a happy, healthy, active life.

If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms in your pet and suspect he or she may have diabetes, call the hospital today. Veterinarians are the only professionals who can accurately diagnose your pet and provide proper health management.

Diabetes can affect a pet differently over time, even if he or she has experienced a long period of stability. The sooner your pet is diagnosed, the better, and the less likely you’ll incur the cost of an expensive emergency visit for diabetic complications.