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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Online "Expert"

I recently applied and was accepted to be a pet health expert on
If you have any questions related to dog or cat health, you can visit the site and ask your question. In fact, you can essentially get expert advice in just about any field (medicine, law, mechanics, etc, etc). You can even request the "expert" you want to respond to your question. There is a fee involved and the "experts" are paid a percentage of that fee.
Click the link above to be directed to the site. My site name is "Dr. Cliff." Hope to hear from you!

NB: Remember that online advice is for information purposes only. It does not replace a thorough physical examination by your veterinarian. The acquisition of vital information may be omitted through online communication.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Warm Welcome

I left NYC on a high. A super high. It was a spectacularly good time. Yes, it was difficult at the beginning as I was lonely and stressed. Soon afterward, however, I quickly got used to work, made close friends, and started enjoying myself.
I'm home because I don't want to make my life in NYC. I knew from the beginning that I would return to Canada, and it is here where I feel the most comfortable.
From the day of my arrival, I have been welcomed warmly. I wanted to thank all those who have greeted me with such warmth and enthusiasm. I have returned for you - you know who you are. I hope to meet all of you and be of help with your veterinary needs.

-Dr. Cliff

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cold weather

By now, those who know me are aware that I'm not into dressing up dogs. That said, exercising your dog every day is of utmost importance, even if it means taking her outside when you have no desire to feel the blustering cold on your exposed cheeks. Some dog breeds don't have the fat or coat to handle freezing temperatures and so should be "clothed" appropriately. The sauntering Saluki sporting a winter coat in my neighborhood the other day had no qualms about the feet of snow underneath her snow-coloured feet. Her elegant trot was testimony to her comfort outside. I had no qualms about her wearing a camouflage-style (though she stood out like a performing clown at a bar-mitzvah) winter jacket in the sub-zero temperature that day. She was not sporting booties, but they would not have shocked me either, though typically I find them unnecessary (unless the streets/sidewalks are full of salt or ice or other potentially paw-damaging obstacles).

The Akita and Samoyed do not require winter-wear. The Greyhound and other sighthounds, yes indeed. The smaller dogs will lose heat more rapidly due to their relatively larger surface area-to-volume ratio. So you can certainly clothe the little guys, though some Shih Tzus (one of the ancient breeds - see previous post below) have such thick coats, it is difficult to imagine them as not being "made" for the snow.

The Saluki: breathtaking... Take a good look: a coat in the winter?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Evolution of the dog

Having a deep interest in both dogs and evolutionary biology (I failed Creation 101 in university), I recently started thinking about the evolution of the dog. There is much variation within the species, Canis familiaris (i.e., there is a huge number of dog breeds and yet all belong to the same species). Studies suggest that the wolf ancestors of dogs diverged from other wolves around 100,000 years ago, and that domestication occurred sometime around 15,000 years ago. Studies of mitochondrial DNA date the evolution of humans at around 150,000 years ago. It is easy to imagine that dogs (or their ancestors) have been with us, evolved right along with us, for many thousands of years. Not only did we contribute to their evolution (especially recently), but they may have shaped a part of ours.

Though it may be difficult to train a Yorkshire Terrier to herd a flock of sheep, he is still constrained by his genes to behave like a dog. An English Bulldog may be constrained by his stature (and a lack of a thick coat) to pull a sled in the Arctic, though this (or similar) behaviour may still be elegantly encoded in his genes.

Recent DNA analysis has led to the identification of 14 ancient dog breeds, excluding a few breeds previously thought to be the most ancient. While some of these dogs exhibit a phenotype (physical appearance essentially) that is similar to wild dogs (i.e., wolves), I was shocked to see a few of the smaller breeds included in this group of 14. I'm not shocked to see this breed on the list:

The Siberian Husky.

But this one?

The Shi Tzu: an ancient breed. Incredible.

This very fact underscores my long-standing view that 1) these dogs are constrained by their genes (and look how far back the Shih Tzu goes!), and 2) their genetic similarities require us (pet owners) to treat them as equals.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


... is the name of a bacteria (bacterium actually), that can be found within the stomach wall in humans, and other species including dogs and cats. They thrive in the acidic environment of the stomach, which caused a sensation when first proposed, as it was believed that nothing could survive in an environment with such a low pH. That is not the case.
This bacterium, which literally, reminds me of a helicopter due to its propeller-like flagellum, is responsible for over 90 percent of cases of peptic ulcers and other serious gastrointestinal disorders in humans. Ulceration is cured with the eradication of the infection. Period. Barry Marshall, an Australian scientist, went so far as to infect himself with the bacteria in order to prove his theory. Indeed, he became severely ill and developed gastric ulcers. For his work, in 2005, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Dr. Marshall and his long-time collaborator Dr. Warren "for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease".

Interestingly, the role of Helicobacter infection in dogs and cats is not known. Many clinically healthy dogs and cats harbor Helicobacter in their gut - and show no signs of disease. However, some dogs and cats with clinical and histological (sections of tissue) evidence of inflammatory bowel disease/chronic gastritis also show the presence of Helicobacter bacteria in their GI tissues. Just FYI, Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease in humans.
So what to do? Thus far, it is recommended to treat the Helicobacter infection first. If symptoms disappear: great. If not, treatment for inflammatory bowel disease is instituted, consisting mainly of immunosuppressive doses of prednisone or prednisolone.

I have just recently diagnosed a cat with inflammatory bowel disease with evidence of a concurrent Helicobacter infection.
My plan is to treat for Helicobacter infection, then re-evaluate. It will be interesting to see what develops.

Little spirally helicopters.
More FYI: Heliko = spiral or helix in Greek.