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Guest Post: All About Cats with Dr Patrick Mahaney

This month we’re all about cats at Embrace so we have some intriguing questions from Embrace facebook friends on the topic.

Cat issues are also very interesting for Dr Patrick as he can sometimes be seen treating cats on the Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell”, now going into its fourth season.

So let’s launch into it. In the podcast below, you will hear the answers to the following questions: 

Monica B: My 12 year old cat pulls his fur out periodically. It is usually when he is very hungry. He has “hot spots” along his spine that I massage on a daily basis and this is where he pulls. Is there anything else I can do to alleviate these hot spots?

Lynn-Ann G: We are at our wits end. Our 12 year old cat, Butch, has begun to urinate everywhere. Carpet, bottom of curtains, on shoes, etc. We’ve taken to keeping him confined to the basement where the litter is. He does not seem to be in any pain. We have taken him to the vet and they think he might just be senile. That sounds odd to me, but of course I’m not a vet. Some members of the family have had it and want to put him down. That seems extreme to me, but we have two other cats and we want to allow them to run around the house so the “cordoning off” of the one cat that we have to do is just a big pain. We do love our felines, but this is really testing our patience.

Andrea C: Why does my cat like to chew my hair (On my head)? Especially after it’s freshly dyed?

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney All About Cats

Related Posts
December is All About Cats at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Indoor or Outdoor Cat?
Guest Post: All About Cats with Dr Patrick Mahaney

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney





Guest Post: Indoor or Outdoor Cat?

Our post today by Dr Rex Riggs addresses the indoor/outdoor dilemma that we all face as cat owners. I have one cat, Lily, who goes out during the day and two younger cats, Rocket and Rosie (aka The Kittens) who stay in all the time.  I know which one I have to take to the vet for accidents more – Lily. And there’s that fox that runs by our house every now and then… Here’s what Dr Riggs has to say on the topic.
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Indoor or outdoor? That is the question. The question I get when a new kitten comes in for its initial shots.  My answer…..keep the cat inside! I don’t hesitate. There is nothing good for a cat to be outside.  I will get people who grow up on a farm or in the country and they say “we always had cats that were outside cats, that is where they should be.” Then I ask “what were the names of the 10 cats you had growing up?

The outside is full of dangers for our feline friends and their lifespan is greatly diminished.  I know I will not convince everyone but I will try to convince you to keep your cat indoors.

Cats can decimate the rabbits, chipmunks moles and any other little critters you can think up.  It is estimated they only bring home 30% of the little carcasses as presents for you.  They eat about 20% of what the catch and leave about half just to rot. Cats are the only other creature other then man, to kill for sport.

Eating raw carcasses is. like buying sushi at a gas station. It is never a good thing.  A number of parasites are passed this way, including intestinal worms, toxoplasmosis, tapeworms and various other disease-causing nasties.  These not only are potentially dangerous to your pet but also to you and your family.  Children can get what is called visceral larva migranes, in which immature worms get into the body of kids and migrate to the eyes and brain.  This is very rare but is a threat.

While we are on the subject of eating, I am sure all of you are aware of the influx of coyotes in every part of the US. These are one of the most adaptable creatures around and can, and do, live just as comfortable in the city as in the country.  They are very efficient hunters.  They love cats, not for their companionship, but to dine on.  If a cat is outside and there are coyotes around, it is often just a matter of time.

What about viral diseases that are passed from cats to other cats.  Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Herpes and Calici virus are just of the few of viruses that are passed from cat to cat, either through bite wounds or direct contact.  This year we were “lucky” to get the Black Footed Tick, better know as the Deer Tick in our area.  This is the tick responsible for Lymes disease.  These are the size of a freckle and can be carried by the cat right into your warm house. You do not want Lyme disease!

Lastly we need to talk about fleas.  This has been a bad year for fleas and ticks mainly because….it is 65 degrees in central Ohio in December!  I would bet that these warm winters will be with us for a while, and that means the bugs will just hang around also.  Fleas are having a heyday.  Did you know that if you throw 3 adult fleas in you house, that within a month, you will have 250,000 fleas in your carpet??  You don’t want a quarter of a million fleas in your carpet.

I could go on and on with the subject, but if you can’t tell by now that I think letting your cat outside is mistake, I won’t convince you. 

Now having an indoor cat does require some work on your part.  Don’t just fill up a bowl of food and walk away.  It is best to feed your cat two equal servings daily, and only use ¾ of the amount recommended on the bag. The Indoor Pet Initiatives is a great website which was set up by Dr Tony Buffington of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine that has good ideas to keep you pet happy indoors. I highly recommend it. 

Related Posts
December is All About Cats at Embrace Pet Insurance

Other posts by Dr Riggs
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Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.





December is All About Cats at Embrace Pet Insurance

IMG_20100918_120132The vast majority of the Embrace Pet Insurance insured pets are dogs (85%) but we’ve noticed more people adding cats to their policies so we thought it was about time we did a little feature on the fabulous feline at Embrace.

Of course, I’m biased because I’m the crazy cat lady at Embrace but those of you with cats know that while they may not get sick as often as dogs, when they do get sick, they are just as expensive.

Crazy Cat Lady Facts about cats and pet insurance:

  • pet insurance premiums are lower for cats than dogs, all else being equal
  • indoor cats get just as sick as outdoor cats, except with different conditions
  • cats and dogs can, and do live together, no mass hysteria, making us all very happy indeed

Do you have pet insurance for your cats? Have you had to use it for anything?

(bonus points for spotting the movie reference)





Claim Example: Ruby the Dog is kicked by a Moose

When I was looking for claims that related specifically to Winter Dangers, this one stuck out as rather unexpected – poor Ruby gets kicked by a moose! We asked Elizabeth B, her pet parent, to tell us what happened and this is what she said:

Ruby in AlaskaRuby is proof that old dogs can learn new things.  We moved to Alaska in the winter of 2012.  Our dogs, Ruby (age 12) and Willow (age 3) , instinctively knew to be cautious around the bears we crossed paths with on our hikes.  But our dogs did not see moose as an obvious threat.  Although moose can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds, they come off as curious, docile, and almost clumsy creatures, and accordingly are easy prey for dogs. What our dogs didn’t know is that while moose tend not to run from a perceived threat, they can and will kick forward with their front feet, knocking down and trampling the threat.  

This fall, we came across a female moose on one of our hikes.  Ruby and Willow circled around it, barking until the moose became agitated and kicked Ruby in the hip.  Ruby lumbered out of the brush with an immediately swollen hip and back. Fortunately, she did not break any bones, but did tear a muscle which is still in the process of healing.  

We are fortunate to be covered by Embrace, which reimbursed us for the majority of the emergency visit and follow-up care she needed.  And now when we see moose on the trail, Ruby keeps her distance.  Willow is another story!

So there you have it – moose are not as docile as they appear to be! Ruby’s claim details look like this:

Ruby's vet bill for moose kick
Ruby's claim payout calculation
Ruby’s policy costs $12.59 a month for her accident-only policy, living in Anchorage AK.

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney
Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets
Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?
Claim Example: Ruby the Dog is kicked by a Moose

 





Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?

Continuing the theme of Winter Dangers for Cats and Dogs, Dr Laci Schaible joins us today to talk about something I had no idea occurred – increased blocking of cats in the autumn! Dr Schaible fills us in on this odd phenomenom.
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Barnes making me smileYou may have heard of this serious condition, but did you know that autumn is the most common time of year for male cats to “block?” This happens when small stones and protein-rich material are formed that literally block the flow of urine from the bladder through the urethra, preventing the cat from urinating. If your pet is straining to go to the bathroom, vocalizing excessively, or seems to be in pain when his abdomen is touched, a veterinarian should check him IMMEDIATELY!

Why this time of year? Pets typically drink plenty of water during the hot summer months. As the staggering summer heat eases up and the seasons quickly shift to cooler fall temperatures, pets are more likely to consume less water. Noticeable effects can even be seen in indoor cats. Don’t forget to leave fresh water for your pets at all times.

A detailed looked at blocked cats

Feline urethral obstruction (the “blocked cat”) is a potentially fatal condition, usually seen in male cats, during which urine is prevented from leaving the bladder. The urethra may be plugged with mucus, urinary sediment, inflammatory cells, or small bladder stones. Diet and bladder infections can have a role in the formation of urinary stones and sludge.

What animals can experience a urinary blockage?

Although any animal is susceptible to a urethral obstruction, male cats are at greater risk for urethral blockage than dogs or female cats because their urethras are narrow and long, making them easier to plug.

Side note: I have seen a female dog present for urethral obstruction. Recognizing the signs of urinary blockage is important for male and female pet parents and dog and cat owners alike.

How serious is this?

Urethral obstructions are life threatening! If urine is prevented from exiting the bladder, pressure within the urinary tract can damage the kidneys. Urine contains metabolic waste products that the body must eliminate; urethral obstruction causes these toxins to build up. In addition, the bladder wall may be stretched to the point where muscle function is lost; in the worst cases, it ruptures.

A urethral obstruction is an emergency situation and you should go to your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your pet is “blocked.” If not treated quickly, pets with a urinary obstruction can die a painful death from complications.

Signs to watch for

If your pet tries multiple times to urinate and produces just a few drops of urine or none at all, chances are good that he is completely or partially blocked. As the condition progresses, he may show evidence of abdominal pain and howl when touched or when trying to urinate. Your normally sweet cat may even swat or bite you when you try to touch him. This is because he feels horrible. Within 24 hours, he may become lethargic, not wanting to get up, move, or eat.

What happens at the vet

As soon as you arrive at your veterinarian’s office, your pet will be examined to determine if his bladder is enlarged and whether an obstruction is likely. This is a quick and easy diagnosis. If an obstruction is confirmed, your pet will likely be rushed to the back where emergency treatment and stabilization will be initiated.

Your veterinarian may recommend any or all of the following diagnostics and procedures:

  • Blood work to assess toxin levels and hydration status
  • Urine exam to look for an infection and/or crystals
  • Urine culture to determine if there is an infection and, if so, what bacteria may be responsible
  • X-rays to look for bladder or urethral stones
  • IV catheter placement, which allows for fluids and medications to be administered
  • Removal of urine directly from the bladder, which allows for easier urinary catheter insertion
  • Urinary catheter placement, which provides a way to flush the bladder and keep it empty for several days while inflammation subsides

Treatment involves IV fluids, antibiotics, medications to relax the urethra in order to allow material to pass through it, surgery to remove bladder stones, and sometimes a surgery called a “P.U.” or a perineal urethrostomy. This surgery makes the urethral opening permanently larger, thus reducing the risk of future obstructions.

Vet Tip: If your cat does block, you should discuss with your vet if he/she thinks your cat is a good candidate for a P.U. Many vets are hesitant to mention this initially, as the cost to hospitalize a blocked feline can easily reach $1,000. Sadly, if vets initially disclose that the condition might later require a P.U. surgery, yet another pricey invoice, many pet parents choose euthanasia. Please forgive us if your veterinarian doesn’t mention this. If you were faced with cat owners choosing euthanasia after learning that this isn’t a one-time solution, you would quickly learn to keep your mouth shut and only initiate that discussion when and if it is applicable.

Can this be prevented?

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to prevent feline urethral obstructions, as it is not always known what causes them in the first place. Bladder infections may have a role in the formation of urinary sediment, stones, and scar tissue, so infections should be treated promptly.

IMG_0073Increasing water intake may also be beneficial. Several diets can help reduce the risk of urethral obstruction in cats that are prone to this problem. Your veterinarian can tell you if your cat should be on a special diet to reduce the risk of urethral obstruction. Wet diets are higher in water, and therefore keep the urine more dilute. Running fountains also encourage many cats to drink more water, but some cats refuse to use these fountains all together.

Keeping your cat at a healthy weight is a final way to help prevent the chance of urethral obstruction. Though we don’t quite understand the connection, overweight neutered male cats represent the majority of blocked pets.

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney
Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets
Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?





Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets

I have to admit, I’ve been rather selfish in wanting another warm winter like we had last year in northeast Ohio. I run and I can’t bear to use my treadmill so a milder winter means more time outside for me; however, the milder weather isn’t necessarily good for pets as Dr Riggs points out below.
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Well it looks like the winter months are coming.  Usually that means snow ice and slush… and slush… and slush (I live in Central Ohio). We need to buy cute coats and bundle our dogs up when they go outside and make sure their feet are clean of salt and ice as they come into the warmth of the house. 

That was the way it use to be … but last year was not like that at all. The decade of 2000-2009 was the hottest decade on record, with eight of the hottest ten years having occurred since 2000. Hmmm what is in store for this winter?? 

I, and everyone else, have written blogs and articles about how to protect your animals of cold winter threats and you can reread all of those great blogs.  Being a sound believer of global warming, and whatever the precipitating cause may be, I am betting on another mild winter again in central Ohio.  We will need to see if I am right or not.

So does the warmer weather adversely really affect my pet?  Yes it does.

Many animals and birds, have historically traveled to warmer climates, for breeding purposes. Many of the migratory routes and habitats have been devastated forcing many of them to not migrate at all. So they stay where they are.  Canada Geese are everywhere all year long now.  Some people call them “flying rats” because of their propensity to carry and spread diseases. Please don’t let your dog eat goose poop! They carry giardia, cryptosporidium and goodness knows what else. All that can make your pet very sick.

There also has been an influx of foxes and coyotes coming further north as the temperatures warm.  Coyotes love cats, but not in a good way.  It has been said that cats are the preferred food of coyotes. That is just another reason to keep your cats inside. Something to think about is some hibernating animals (Lions, tigers maybe not) such as bears have been observed to wake up earlier or to stop hibernating all together. So they will need to eat when awake and if their normal food sources are not there and cats and dogs could look appetizing to them.

Warmer temperatures also mean more bugs.  We have seen ticks all year long in our area. We even have a new resident this year in the Deer Tick.  This is the tick that carries Lymes disease, which is a serious threat to pets and humans alike. What about those discussing fleas?  Fleas have been a bumper crop this year, all year long.  Fleas can spread diseases like tapeworms and can cause allergies in many pets. I am recommending flea and tick medications be given year long this year.

Numerous studies have shown an increase of heartworm disease in all areas of the country, due to the increase in the duration of the mosquito season.  In order for mosquitoes to be able to carry heartworm disease, it needs to be 50 degrees or warmer for 15-20 days consecutively. Increased temperatures are happening in more places then ever in the winter months so the use of heartworm preventatives for the majority of the year is now warranted in many areas.

So if we have the cold harsh weather of old, we won’t need to pay attention to this blog, but if it is warm like last year… beware!

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney
Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets
Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?

Other posts by Dr Riggs
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Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.





Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney

Living in Cleveland OH, where it’s rather chilly in the winter, we’re always focused on our weather and the changing seasons, and of course, winter is definitely with us. We can expect temperatures below freezing at night starting about now, developing into snow and ice on the ground permanently in January; however, other parts of the country have winter in different ways so Dr Patrick and I discuss winter dangers for pets in all parts of the country, chilly or not.  

The audio recording below covers the follow topics:

  1. Warmer clime winter issues
  2. Flea and ticks in dogs and cats in winter
  3. Ice and cold protection for your dog
  4. What to do if your dog falls into cold water
  5. Older dogs and cats and the cold

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Winter Dangers

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney

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Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney’s house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick’s Blog) for www.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton’s TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2013 through Havenhurst Books.





Claim Example: Mast Cell Tumor in German Shepherd/Golden Retriever/Labrador mix

Embracer Lea has been off on maternity leave with her super cute daughter Stella but she has been going through some tough times with her dog Lyger, which she wrote up for us. Here’s Lea’s story of Lyger and his mast cell tumor.

FYI we know Lyger’s breed mix because he’s Embracer Lea’s dog and we did the genetic test on him as
part of an Embrace contest. He’s a very happy German Golden Lab :)
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Lyger and his red boneMy old retriever Lyger has more bumps and lumps than I can count–he’s had lypomas for years.  Sometime in the summer, I noticed a new, soft, squishy bump on his neck.  I was a working student, very pregnant, and had just been joking with my vet tech about the possibility that I have Munchausens syndrome with my dogs–taking them in for any little thing.  So, I figured I’d just take a wait and see approach with this lumpy bump, keep an eye on it for any changes.

Fast forward a few months later and I’m in my vet’s office for a senior check up–Lyger’s been acting a bit sluggish.  The vet checks his hips, his neck, looks at a mole, does bloodwork.  Everything appears normal–it appears to be just  normal aging.  As an afterthought I mention the neck lump.  He does a needle aspirate to check the fluid in the lump.

Now, here comes the one downside to having a good relationship with your vet: You know when he sees something bad but is trying not to scare you.

He sends it out for pathology and calls me the next day to say it’s cancer–but, a very treatable form of cancer, mast cell.  I confirm with some of my vet tech colleagues–they agree, this is a good cancer prognosis, if such a thing exists.  I never thought I’d want to put him through surgery at his age, but it was the best chance he had.

Lyger's mast cell surgery incisionTo remove a mass that was only about half the size of a ping pong ball required a very large incision, about 7 inches, to get clear margins.  But, we got very lucky–the vet was able to remove all of Lyger’s cancer.  He won’t require chemotherapy or other treatments.  But, as grade 2 mast cell tumors have a 50% chance of recurrence, we’ll have to watch that area carefully.  A sample biopsy from his lymph nodes indicated that the cancer had not spread, despite my decision to “wait and see”.

Speaking of the wait and see, that’s what I’m here to tell you.  Don’t do that.  First of all, the cancer could have spread to other systems, causing the prognosis to be much worse.  Secondly, I was waiting to see if the lump would get bigger.  It never did–but I later learned that’s a characteristic of mast cell tumors: they can get bigger and smaller again!  Sneaky!  These tumors are especially common in senior dogs, particularly Retrievers, Boxers, Beagles and Bully breeds, among a list of others, and are
often found on on a dog’s extremities.

This was a very costly close call, with about $1,000 in diagnostics and the surgery. But, I learned a very valuable lesson–don’t play wait and see when it comes to health concerns, whether it’s for your pet or yourself.  I could have lost the friend that’s been by my side for over a decade, and would never have forgiven myself for it.  Fortunately,  Lyger is doing fine, enjoying the extra hugs he’s been getting, and will continue to get for a while to come.





November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance

Last I noticed, the weather was hot and dry and I was worried about my oversized air conditioning bill. Now, we are seeing our first flakes of snow and the deer are popping up all over the place (literally ran into the side of my Embrace partner in crime’s car tonight – ouch!). Where did the year go!

With Thanksgiving coming up and the cold weather upon us in the North, we thought we would visit the topic of dangers your pets can face in the winter months.

From holidays foods and drinks (don’t leave those beer bottles on the floor in reach of inquisitive Shetland Sheepdogs is all I can say) to ice and sharp objects hidden under the snow, there are many unexpected conditions that even the most experienced dog and cat parent might not be aware of.

In the meantime, if you have any recipes for dog- and cat-friendly treats to share, post them in the comments below. Just because they can’t have people food doesn’t mean we can’t make them a little something special for their own celebration, right?

 





Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

Today, Dr Patrick Mahaney and I talk about the medical aspects of adopting a pet and we talk about:

  1. Is there anything I should look out for when adopting a shelter pet?
  2. How do you recommend selecting a brand of food for a newly adopted pet?
  3. What should I know about transitioning an adopted pet from the rescue/shelter/breeder’s food to the food of my choice?
  4. Any suggestions on how to select the best vet for my newly adopted pet?
  5. What, if any, veterinary history, should I expect to get when adopting a pet from a shelter, rescue or breeder?

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Pet Adoption

Related Posts:
October is Pet Adoption Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog
Claim story: Ozzie’s “perfect storm of a stomach” surgery
Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney

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Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney’s house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick’s Blog) for www.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton’s TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2012 through Havenhurst Books.