Warm Holiday Wishes from My Amazing Neuro Kids <3

I want to wish all of my neuro patients and their families a very happy and healthy Holiday Season!  This is a special time of year to share with your pet and I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to meet each and every one of you.  Please stay in touch and be sure to give your furry friend a belly rub or a helping of catnip from Dr. T <3

Below are a few emailed notes and photos from this year’s neuro kids <3

HelloDr.T

 

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Rockstar Patients of the Week!

Dr. Talarico truly loves ALL of her neurology kids and every one is a miracle in their own way.  Each week we will begin showcasing patients that have made remarkable recoveries.

This week Dr. Talarico and her entire neurology staff send extra hugs and kisses to Abby and Luna! These two little girls made remarkable recoveries after surgery and went home as good as new <3

Luna was paralyzed before surgery and is now walking like a supermodel again <3 Such a fabulous little Frenchie!!!
Luna was paralyzed before surgery and is now walking like a supermodel again
Abby!  Such a cute little Cavalier King Charles <3
Abby! Such a cute little Cavalier King Charles <3

Come back and visit us Luna and Abby!  We love you both <3

WE RUFF DC feature on The Pet Show!

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We are off to a great start!  Check us out on the Dr. Katy show by following the link below!  Begin a minute 11 for the full story 🙂 I encourage you to watch Dr. Katy’s The Pet Show every Saturday afternoon!

Here is the link:

http://www.wjla.com/blogs/the-pet-show/2014/10/the-pet-show—oct-25-2014-23430.html

Run.  Wag.  Repeat!

xoxo

We RUFF DC!

 

WE RUFF DC!!!!

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It is no secret that we live in a consumer driven society.  It has become our perception that giving our dog a fancy chew toy or dressing them up in cute satin clothing makes them happy.  However, does a stuffed toy in the shape of a Manolo Blahnik high heel shoe that your pooch will devour in 10 minutes really leave a dog fulfilled for the rest of the day?

A human’s brain releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins, when they interact with their canine companion.  Think about how happy you feel when you come home from a long day at work and open your front door to find your dog standing there-smile on their face and tail wagging uncontrollably.  Instant happiness.  No purchase necessary.   As a veterinary neurosurgeon, I have devoted my life to studying the canine brain and how it works.  Similarly to the human brain, endorphins that stimulate happiness and fulfillment are released when an emotional connection is established between a canine and their human.  These same endorphins, are released during physical activity, such as exercise.

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The average person works 6-8 hours a day 5 days a week.  Weekends are typically filled with social commitments and other necessary errands.  Think about how much time your pooch spends alone at home.  You can imagine the mental impact that would have on a person if they were essentially left without companionship for that amount of time.

I founded We RUFF DC, LLC as a way to enhance the quality of life of dogs and their people living in city environments.  This program is designed specifically for dogs and their human counterparts to promote fitness and an overall sense of fulfillment and happiness at both ends of the leash.  I am a firm believer that when paws and sneakers are hitting the pavement in synchrony, it produces a sustainable mental and physical health benefit and an improved quality of life for both pooches and their people.

We RUFF DC, LLC is a free running program for dogs and their people in the Washington DC/Metro area (VA, MD, DC).  Please visit our website at www.weruffdc.com for more information!  Our first group run will start next weekend.  Please come and check us out for yourself!  Don’t be shy…we have groups for all levels of runners!  For example, our “Loose Leashes” program will teach people and dogs how to work together on a leash and start moving in synchrony with one another.   “Laces & Leashes” is a beginner running group for dogs and people that would like to participate in 1-3 mile runs 2-3 times a week.  The advanced group, otherwise known as “Milkbones for Miles” is for pooches and people ready for over 5-6 miles 2-3 times a week!

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Hugs to Hobbes <3

I would like to introduce you all to a fabulous patient of mine named Hobbes <3  He truly is perfection!!

I absolutely love how Hobbes makes me “earn” his love every time he comes to SouthPaws for a visit <3  In other words, Hobbes isn’t like many dogs that lick me the second I walk in though the door…rather he is usually sitting on the big soft chair in my exam room with his back to me and, if I’m lucky, he will turn his head and give me a coy look 😉

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Hobbes and his phenomenal family came to me several months ago.  He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor involving his pituitary gland with an MRI of his brain.  This is a rather rare tumor to see in a dog as young as Hobbes at 6 years old.

Even though surgery was not an option for Hobbes, that didn’t stop his amazing family from doing all they could to save him.  Hobbes had full course radiation therapy to help decrease the size and slow the growth rate of his tumor.  Since his radiation therapy, Hobbes is doing well and is neurologically stable.

Many of you have heard me rave about the families of my “neuro kids.”  Hobbes’ family is truly in a league of their own 🙂  He has such a fabulous support network around him every day cheering him on and giving him the best quality of life a dog could ever ask for.

WAY TO GO TEAM HOBBES <3

Stay tuned for further updates on this long time Dr. T patient!!!

Hobbes and Dr. T <3
Hobbes and Dr. T <3

 

 

Fall is coming! Tips for running with your furry friend

It is no surprise that I am a runner.  But, believe it or not, my personal dogs have always hated running!  Sure they love to swim, play tug-of-war, and chase a ball in the park…but running in a controlled fashion on a leash…forget it!

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Dr. T after the Sea Wheeze Half Marathon, Vancouver 2014-the only thing missing at the finish line was a dog at the end of a leash <3

 

Recently I have made the big decision to get  a puppy.  Yup, you’ve read that correctly!  After over 9 months of research and countless back and forth, I have committed to a male black labrador puppy.  He will be ready to come home with me after the new year.  Now that may seem a long time away, however I have already started to brainstorm ways to get my “new bestie” to run with me!  Here are some tips I’ve come up with so far.  Please feel free to leave comments and other ideas!  I would love to hear what you all think!

CHOOSING A “RUNNING” BREED

Not all of us are naturally born to run.  However, there are many dog breeds that are! Here are a few breeds I believe would make phenomenal running companions: Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Greyhounds, Viszlas, Pitbull/Pittbull mixes,  Dobermans, Standard Poodles, and any medium-large mix breed dog.  I do not recommend running with toy breed dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzu etc.  I also do not recommend running with brachycephalic breeds of dogs (aka: dogs with short muzzles) such as Pugs, English/French Bulldogs or extremely large breeds such as Great Danes and Mastiff breeds.

Please don’t misunderstand, just because I have a list of recommended “natural born running breeds,” it doesn’t mean that the occasional Boxer and small Terrier won’t make a great running buddy…every now and then a certain breed will surprise me and make a great running buddy!  Each dog is different and I am a firm believer in not forcing a dog to run if they aren’t quite into it.

TRAINING FOR A LEASH RUN

I wouldn’t expect your dog to just know how to run on a leash.  Leash training a dog, especially a puppy, can be challenging.  I recommend making sure your puppy/dog is very well socialized and used to walking right next to you ona leash prior to starting a running routine.  I also recommend that you run with your dog on a harness rather than a leash and collar.  Excessive pull on the neck region (cervical spine) can lead to many problems in the future.

During your run, you want to ensure that the leash is kept somewhat loose but that your dog is right by your side. I do not recommend running with your dog’s leash around your waist. If he/she is startled or becomes excited about a new smell, they can easily pull you down and all control is lost.  Having the leash in your hand with a firm grip is best.

TRAINING IS KEY!

Would you go out and run a half marathon for your first run?  Probably not! Please don’t expect your dog to be able to do an endurance run on the first try.  Even though your pup may seem full of energy and can play for hours in the park, running at a consistent pace for a prolonged period of time can take a toll on your pooch. Its important to build up mileage just as you would for yourself.  I recommend starting with a 1-2 mile run at a pace that is comfortable for you both.  Make sure your pup can stay with you at whatever pace you choose.  If you notice them slowing down, consider stopping for a bit and walking the rest of the way.

**Please stay tuned for a specific pooch-in-training running schedule! I will be formulating a step-by-step pooch in training plan over the next few weeks.  Just in time for the fabulous fall weather!

SNACKS AND HYDRATION!

I recommend carrying a bottle of water on a running belt around your waist for your pooch. It is also a good idea to keep a few tiny healthy treats in the event your running buddy gets distracted.  Many pet stores carry small collapsable bowls that you can also attach to your belt. 

WATCH WHERE YOU STEP!

Even though your furry buddy has really thick paw pads, they are no replacement for rubber soled sneakers!  Please be careful running with your dog on rough payment, trails filled with sharp rocks or streets where there may be broken glass.  I recommend packed dirt paths or white concrete when training your pooch pace along your side.  Remember: Black top can get hot!  If your dog starts to limp or appears painful on their feet, stop and go home! 

As mentioned above…please stay tuned for more doggie running tips. I will be expanding this part of my blog over the next several weeks to months. Hopefully you and your pooch will follow along and create a regime that works best for you!  Dogs really do make the best Co-Pilots 😉

FOR FUN:

CHECK OUT THIS AMAZING YELP REVIEW!

http://www.yelp.com/biz/vca-southpaws-veterinary-specialist-and-emergency-center-fairfax?hrid=Ct2b8aFKXTOi1DhU9wbX8g

In Memory of the very Chocolate Delilah <3

On Sunday August, 17th 2014 I lost a very dear patient of mine known as Delilah from severe systemic disease.   She was an incredibly sweet chocolate labrador with eyes that melted your heart and touched your soul.  Delilah’s parents, Jen and Matt purchased her 13 years ago in Ithaca, New York.  They are two of the most kind, loving and genuine people I have ever met and I consider myself truly lucky to have met them.  I really believe it was fate that brought us all together…Ithaca and a chocolate labrador with neurologic disease.

As many of you know, my two most favorite things in the entire world are chocolate labradors and running.  In honor of Delilah Sakai, I will be running the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon  in Vancouver, British Columbia this Saturday in honor of Delilah.  I will be thinking of perfect little Delilah every step of this 13.1 mile race.

Nike Woman's Half 2014 I ran this race "on a flat tire..."  Otherwise known as a stress fracture of my left foot.
Nike Woman’s Half 2014
I ran this race “on a flat tire…” Otherwise known as a stress fracture of my left foot.

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Intense, snowy national mall run. Washington, DC 2014
Intense, snowy national mall run.
Washington, DC 2014

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The Wobbly Walking Pet: What to do when your dog develops difficulty walking

Dr. Lauren R. Talarico, BS, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology/Neurosurgery)

Dr. T and her new boyfriend Max!  This silver fox is doing incredibly well after surgery. He had 4 herniated discs removed!  What a champ!
Dr. T and her new boyfriend Max! This silver fox is doing incredibly well after surgery. He had 4 herniated discs removed! What a champ!

Have you noticed your dog dragging or scuffing their paws on the ground? Does your pet walk with a wobbly gait? Paw dragging, uncoordinated walking, or the development of a hunched back can be early signs of spinal cord disease.

Why does it Occur?

The spinal cord is analogous to a highway. Messages are transmitted from your pet’s toes to their brain and back down again via their spinal cord “highway.” Whenever the spinal cord is compressed, it is similar to traffic on a highway. Ultimately, messages do not travel fast enough to the processing centers located in the brain and back down to the spinal cord. As a result your pet may start dragging their feet and appear to be unsteady when walking. In the most severe cases of spinal cord compression, animals can become paralyzed.

The most common causes of spinal cord compression in dogs is intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), or a slipped/herniated disc. Similarly to humans, dogs have small cushion-like discs between the vertebrae in their spine. These discs are constructed like a jelly donut. In certain breeds of dogs the jelly part of the donut becomes very hard and calcified, making it predisposed to herniation. When the jelly part of the disc herniates, it compresses the spinal cord directly above, causing neurologic signs.

 

Becca (Dr. T's neurology nurse), Casablanca, and Dr. T after the herniated disc in her neck was removed!  Casablanca is 14 years old and so much more comfortable after surgery!  Get well soon Princess Casablanca!
Becca (Dr. T’s neurology nurse), Casablanca, and Dr. T after the herniated disc in her neck was removed! Casablanca is 14 years old and so much more comfortable after surgery! Get well soon Princess Casablanca!

What are the Clinical Signs?


IVDD can occur in any part of the spine including the neck and/or the back. Animals with primary spinal cord compression in the thoracolumbar spine (between the shoulder blades and the start of the pelvic bone) have their back legs only affected. If the compression is in the cervical spine or the neck, all four legs are be affected.

Dogs between the ages of 3-8 are most commonly affected, however any age dog can develop clinical signs. The severity of the spinal cord compression and the corresponding neurologic signs is directly related to the speed or force of the intervertebral disc herniation, or how fast it hits the spinal cord; the amount of disc material that herniates and finally the duration of the compression.

There are two types of IVDD. Type I IVDD tends to occur very rapidly (minutes to days). Breeds commonly affected by type I IVDD include Dachshunds, Beagles,French Bulldogs, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Bassett Hounds, and terriers. Type II IVDD typically occurs in large breeds including German Shepherds, Labradors, Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, Doodle breeds and Rottweilers. Clinical signs seen with type II IVDD develop over weeks to months.

Many dogs with IVDD walk with a very wobbly or weak gait. They often have difficulty rising from a seated position, posturing to urinate/defecate, or walk with a hunched back secondary to pain. Many dogs will scuff or drag their paws or stand with their paws knuckled over. The most severe cases of IVDD can lead to paralysis and even loss of feeling to the limbs.

Dr. T and BlackJack 1 day postop!  This big guy is walking great and you would never know he had back surgery! His dad even built him an outdoor grass patch on his balcony so he can avoid stairs while recovering!  Such a lucky dog!
Dr. T and BlackJack 1 day postop! This big guy is walking great and you would never know he had back surgery! His dad even built him an outdoor grass patch on his balcony so he can avoid stairs while recovering! Such a lucky dog!

How is IVDD Diagnosed?
The earlier spinal cord disease is diagnosed and treated, the more favorable the prognosis. IVDD is diagnosed based on the patient’s age, breed, clinical signs and results of diagnostic imaging. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the two most commonly used diagnostic modalities, with MRI being the preferred method. As seen in the MRI below, the location and severity of the spinal cord compression can be visualized.

Dr. T and Violet!  This stunning long hair dachshund had a herniated disc in her back. Since it was removed, she is walking normally and back to climbing trees again!  That is right...this dachshund climbs trees!
Dr. T and Violet! This stunning long hair dachshund had a herniated disc in her back. Since it was removed, she is walking normally and back to climbing trees again! That is right…this dachshund climbs trees!

How is IVDD Treated?
Based on the severity of the compression seen on the MRI scan in addition to the patient’s clinical signs, surgical decompression or medical management treatment options are considered. Medications often include pain management, anti-inflammatory medications and 4-6 weeks of strict crate rest. Animals that initially respond favorably to medical management are at risk for disease recurrence in the future.
Surgical decompression allows the herniated disc to be removed and the spinal cord to function again. Many dogs that have their herniated discs surgically removed tend to show dramatic neurologic improvements in their ability to walk and their pain is alleviated shortly after surgery.

Dr. Talarico and Sofie 2 days after her back surgery!  This 14 year old Frenchie is walking like a puppy again after her herniated discs were removed!
Dr. Talarico and Sofie 2 days after her back surgery! This 14 year old Frenchie is walking like a puppy again after her herniated discs were removed!

Will my dog be able to walk after treatment?
Overall prognosis with either medical management or surgical decompression depends a dog’s initial clinical signs and degree of neurologic impairment. The severity of spinal cord compression as well as the appearance of the patient’s spinal cord on MRI are additional prognostic factors. Each dog affected by IVDD requires a treatment plan tailored specifically for them. Please feel free to contact Dr. Talarico for more information on spinal cord disease and IVDD

Becca (Dr. T's neurology nurse), Omega and Dr. T at his recheck appointment.  Omega's mom is so dedicated to his recovery! He is doing great at home and walking without a problem!
Becca (Dr. T’s neurology nurse), Omega and Dr. T at his recheck appointment. Omega’s mom is so dedicated to his recovery! He is doing great at home and walking without a problem!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROWDY!!!!

Happy birthday to my very special patient, Rowdy Sencindiver!  I just love this little guy and his entire family!
Happy birthday to my very special patient, Rowdy Sencindiver! I just love this little guy and his entire family!

 

About 2 years ago when I first started working at SouthPaws, a very special patient walked in my exam room…Rowdy Sencindiver 🙂  Rowdy’s parents are two of the most loving, genuine and caring individuals I have every met. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to be Rowdy’s neurologist and a friend of his family <3

Rowdy suffers from late onset idiopathic epilepsy.  He had a full diagnostic workup including a brain MRI and spinal tap two years ago and is currently every well managed on anti-seizure medications.  This very lucky dog gets chiropractic therapy every other week and is incredibly loved and cared for.

HAPPY 15TH BIRTHDAY PRINCE ROWDY!!!  I cannot wait to see you for your recheck in a few weeks!

 

Dr. Lauren R. Talarico, BS, DVM, DACVIM Neurology/Neurosurgery