The Humane Society of Berks County believes that an educated caretaker makes for a better caretaker. Below we have provided some information on topics you may find useful. Just click on a topic to jump to an article. New articles will be added regularly.
The Humane Society of Berks County has long embraced successful traditional methods while it has sought out new and innovative approaches. One new veterinary option offered at the Veterinary Hospital of the HSBC is a new spin on one of the world medicine's oldest practices: acupuncture. Dr. Lee Pickett has prepared the following overview of veterinary acupuncture. Please contact the HSBC to schedule a veterinary acupuncture appointment or to speak to Dr. Pickett about the procedure.
Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine therapy, is used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine to treat dogs and cats with pain or weakness associated with degenerative joint disease (including osteoarthritis due to hip dysplasia), spondylosis, intervertebral disc disease and traumatic nerve injuries. Veterinarians also use acupuncture in allergic skin disease, lick granulomas, seizures and kidney failure, and in birds with psychological featherpicking.
Techniques, Treatment Schedules and Fees
Treatment consists of one or more of the following techniques, depending on the pet’s medical condition: 1) dry needle acupuncture, the insertion of sterile acupuncture needles into the skin at various locations – points – where they are retained for about 15 minutes; 2) electroacupuncture, which provides a small, non-painful electrical current to some of the needles; 3) moxibustion, warming the acupuncture point by burning the herb mugwort (Artemis vulgaris) above the surface of the skin; or 4) aquapuncture, injecting a substance such as Vitamin B complex into an acupuncture point.
Most dogs don’t mind acupuncture treatments and actually come to enjoy them, although not all cats tolerate them well. A family member usually holds the pet during treatment.
A typical treatment schedule starts with two treatments per week for the first two weeks, then one treatment per week for a month. Subtle improvement usually is noted by the fourth treatment. If no improvement is seen by the sixth treatment, additional treatments are unlikely to prove beneficial.
After maximal improvement is achieved, treatments are gradually stretched out to a schedule that meets the pet’s needs. Generally, maintenance treatments are repeated every one to two months throughout the pet’s life. At the HSBC, the first visit is $85, and follow-up visits are $60.
How Acupuncture Works
Some, but not all, of the actions of acupuncture can be explained in terms familiar to conventional Western medicine and science. Acupuncture is thought to exert its pain-relieving effects by releasing brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, and by blocking transmission of pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. Function is thought to be enhanced through increased blood circulation to the area needled.
In traditional Chinese medicine, disease is thought to result from an imbalance of yin and yang (essentially an imbalance of normal homeostasis) as well as abnormal flow of Qi (loosely translated to mean energy) and blood (similar but not identical to the Western concept of blood.) The objective of acupuncture therapy is to restore balance and enhance the flow of Qi and blood.
Before acupuncture therapy begins, a conventional Western workup is done to determine whether other therapies would be more appropriate or even whether acupuncture is contraindicated. For example, it is essential to differentiate joint pain due to osteoarthritis (a chronic degenerative disorder for which acupuncture is useful) from pain caused by Lyme disease or septic arthritis (infections for which other treatment is more appropriate) or bone cancer (which will develop faster with acupuncture treatments.)
Adverse reactions from acupuncture are rare if the correct points, depths of needle insertion, needling techniques and retention times are used. The possibility of infection, though extremely low, is minimized by using sterile needles and needling only uninfected skin. Bleeding occurs only rarely; when it does, the few drops released from the acupuncture point are a positive sign.
For a day or so after an acupuncture treatment, the pet may experience drowsiness or weakness. These transient effects are considered good prognostic signs, but treatments should not be scheduled for the day before competition or heavy exercise (e.g., obedience trials, agility trials or hunting.)
Other potential adverse reactions include hives and increased growth rate of established tumors. Corticosteroids, particularly at high doses, may block some of the effects of acupuncture.
Your cat’s claws are his favorite tools, useful in self-defense, climbing, grooming and hunting, whether for real or just when he’s playing with a ball of yarn. Your job is to help him keep his claws in good shape, trimming them periodically and providing opportunities for sharpening them on sturdy, immovable scratching posts. If you like, you may cover the trimmed claws with soft nail caps, which come in a variety of colors.
Let’s start with trimming your cat’s claws, using a human toenail trimmer or a cat claw trimmer. Choose a time when you and your cat are relaxed. Wrap your left arm around your cat and hold her paw in your left hand, so you can clip with your right hand.* Place your left thumb on top of your cat’s toe and your forefinger beneath it. Gently squeeze to expose the claw.\
When you look at the claw from the side, you’ll see the pink “quick” inside – and the curved hook that forms the end of the claw. With the trimmer in your right hand, cut off the claw’s hook. Avoid the quick to prevent discomfort. Pet and praise your cat as you trim each claw.
If you prefer to trim claws only occasionally, fit your cat with plastic claw caps like Soft Paws. To use them, trim your cat’s claws, apply a bit of the supplied glue to the inside of each cap and slide the cap onto the claw. Cuddle your cat for several minutes while the glue dries. As the claws grow over the next four to six weeks, the nail caps will drop off and you’ll need to repeat the process.
It’s also important to offer your cat scratching posts, because scratching is a normal cat behavior. The posts should be at least three feet high, so the cat can stretch while she scratches. It’s best to situate some posts vertically and others horizontally. The scratching posts must be stable, because cats don’t like posts that totter. Entice your cat to use each post by rubbing catnip on the surface and flicking a feather toy against it.
*If you are left-handed, reverse these directions: Hold your cat with your right arm and clip with your left hand.
Your dog is an important member of your family. To ensure that he remains so throughout his life, we recommend three things:
If your veterinarian recommends that you clean your dog’s ears – either because they are infected or to prevent infection – follow these simple steps.
Use the ear cleaner your veterinarian recommends, or, if your dog doesn’t have an ear infection, use an unmedicated pet ear cleaner. Medicated cleaners are not advisable for routine use, because they kill the “good” bacteria and allow “bad” bacteria and yeast to overgrow.
Hydrogen peroxide is not a good ear cleaner because it forms oxygen and water, which leaves the ear canal moist, inviting bacterial growth. Don’t use alcohol, either, as it stings if the ear canal is inflamed.
Dogs’ ear canals are L-shaped internally, so the first step in cleaning is to straighten the “L” by gently raising the ear flap as far as it will go.
Fill the ear canal with cleaner, and massage the base of the ear to loosen any debris inside the canal. Let go of the ear and let your dog shake his head. The debris will move from deep in the canal up to the ear flap where you can remove it easily with gauze, cotton balls or tissues.
Don’t insert a cotton swab into your dog’s ear canal, because you might push debris deeper into the canal or damage the eardrum.
Finally, give your dog lots of praise while you clean his ears – and a dog treat, too, if he’s especially good – so he always will be happy to have his ears cleaned.
Dogs and cats benefit from good dental care, just as people do. Good dental habits begin early and include a healthy diet (preferably of dry food), regular tooth brushing, an annual physical examination to detect minor dental problems before they progress to major ones, and professional teeth cleaning when needed.
The benefits of good dental care include more than sweet-smelling breath. Healthy teeth and gums decrease the risk of heart, kidney and liver disease, because bacteria in diseased gums travel through the bloodstream to these organs. In addition, good dental health reduces the need for tooth extractions.
Signs of dental disease include bad breath, gingivitis (a red gum line which may actually shrink back from its usual position), loose teeth and decreased interest in food that requires chewing. Some pets even become lethargic as their mouths become more painful.
One of the best ways to maintain good dental health is to brush your pet’s teeth. Start by softening the bristles of an ordinary soft toothbrush with warm water and applying pet toothpaste to the brush. Pet toothpastes, which are flavored to appeal to pets, contain enzymes that are specific to the chemistry of the dog and cat mouth. Human toothpastes are not recommended because they are ineffective, foam too much and cause stomach upset when pets swallow them.
Gently brush the cheek surfaces of the incisors, the front-most teeth. Over the next few sessions, extend the toothbrush further back in the mouth, so that eventually all teeth are brushed. The animal’s tongue removes much of the plaque from the inside surfaces of the teeth, so your brushing should focus on the cheek surfaces of the teeth, where most of the plaque forms. Tooth brushing is most effective if done daily, but every-other-day brushing also is beneficial.
Professional cleaning, when needed as a supplement to brushing, is done under general anesthesia. The crowns of the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, and the portions of the teeth under the gums are hand-scaled to remove plaque that would otherwise damage the gums. The teeth are polished to produce a smooth surface to which plaque cannot easily attach. Finally, a plaque prevention barrier is applied. Teeth are extracted only if necessary to ensure the health of the rest of the mouth. If needed, x-rays are taken and antibiotics are prescribed. The first meal after the procedure should be light. If teeth were removed, your pet may prefer soft foods for this meal.
Good dental care keeps your pet’s mouth sweet-smelling and free of pain – and helps the rest of your pet’s body remain healthy, too.
The Humane Society of Berks County Veterinary Hospital is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday. Click here for information on after-hours emergency care.
1801 N. 11th Street, Reading, PA 19604 - phone 610-921-2348 - fax 610-921-5833
copyright 2013 Humane Society of Berks County