Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Sabal Chase Animal Clinic
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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cats and Essential Oils: A Hidden Hazard

March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month!  Many pet parents are aware of the dangers to pets posed by cleansers, medications and table foods. But what about those all-natural aromatherapy diffusers and sprays? While the essential oils used in these products can be beneficial for humans, some can cause problems for pets. Others still can be fatal to our cats.

Our pets rapidly absorb essential oils via the mouth, or over the surface of the skin. They are then metabolized by the liver. Cats, however, lack the enzyme they need to process and eliminate the toxins which occur naturally in certain oils. They are also inclined to develop respiratory problems from inhaling vaporized oils. While the full scope of essential oils known to sicken cats is not currently known, the following is a list of oils with a well-documented history of toxicity. They include, but are not limited to, pine, citrus, eucalyptus, Ylang ylang, peppermint, pennyroyal, sweet birch, wintergreen, cinnamon, clove, and tea tree oils. Until more is known about the potential dangers of these products, pet parents are advised to use extreme caution when using essential oils near pets. And under no circumstances should essential oils be given orally to a cat, or applied directly to a cat’s body.

The essential oils used in air fresheners, odor removers, and aromatherapy diffusers can sicken our cats.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Meet Oliver, Our March Pet Of The Month!

World, meet Oliver - our March Pet Of The Month!

Oliver is a two-year-old Russian Blue who was abandoned by his owner just days before Christmas Eve. While we can only imagine how betrayed he must have felt, no Grinch was going to steal his Christmas - a holiday angel stepped up to the plate and gave Oliver the forever home of his dreams. Of course, his new mom thinks she hit the jackpot, so we'll just call it a win-win.

Congratulations Oliver, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet Of The Month!

Oliver scored a new home for the  holidays! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Canine Flu-Watch 2018

This year, humans aren’t the only ones at risk from the misery of influenza. The newest strain of Canine Influenza Virus, strain H3N2, is causing serious problems for our colleagues and fellow pet parents in other parts of the country. As of this writing, the more serious outbreaks are being reported in a handful of states, including, but not limited to, Pennsylvania, Montana, Missouri, Washington, and California. One animal hospital in the San Francisco Bay area has seen over 50 cases since the beginning of 2018.

H3N2 was first identified in 2015 after an outbreak in Chicago. This particular strain was originally an avian virus which mutated and began to affect dogs. While several cats have been infected, their risk for falling ill is very low. At this time, it is believed humans are NOT at risk from contracting the flu from their pets. Our hospital treated roughly a half-dozen cases last year, and we have yet to see any for 2018.  That said, the country is experiencing record cold temperatures, and South Florida is expected to enjoy a robust tourist season as our neighbors to the north and west seek refuge from the bitter cold. It stands to reason that many travellers will bring their dogs - and potentially the flu - along with them.

Clinical signs of H3N2 include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, inappetence, fever and lethargy. Should you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible. There is a vaccine available to prevent H3N2. Our two dachshunds received the first doses to arrive at the hospital. The vaccine is safe and effective, and we are recommending it for any dogs who frequent grooming salons, kennels, dog parks, dog shows, training facilities, doggie day care centers, or any spaces where multiple dogs are present. Additionally, we are advising owners of brachycephalic  or “smush-faced” breeds to consider vaccinating. H3N2 becomes pneumonia in over 95% of cases, and has a 10% mortality rate. Sickened pets may need to be hospitalized for extended periods of time, leading to costly and unexpected veterinary bills. Now is therefore a good time to talk to your pet’s veterinarian, and determine if the vaccine is recommended for your individual pet.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Meet Baxter, our February Pet of the Month!

This February, our Valentine Sweetie/Pet of the Month is Baxter!

At sixteen years young, this sassy senior is still the apple of his momma's eye. He loves coming to see Dr. Kupkee and all of his friends here at the clinic. No matter how busy we may be, there's always time for a snuggle and a selfie with our Vintage Valentine. And if he's not in the mood for a portrait, we can count on his his goofy brother for a photobomb!

Congratulations, Baxter and share with all your friends - you're our Valentine and our February Pet of the Month!

Always such a good boy - even when his brother steals his thunder!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The House That Irma Built: How A Hurricane Changed Our Home

The House That Irma Built: How a Hurricane Changed Our Home

 By Dr. Ian Kupkee

What could possibly be more important?

I thought my wife was playing Pokemon Go.

We had been in Ireland for several days, visiting the neolithic monuments of County Meath. The summer's caseload had been especially gruelling; the restorative hush bought by stone circles, holy wells and fairy trees was exactly what my ragged spirit needed. The nights, however, were for Dublin. If there was live music and free wi-fi, we were there - me with my pint, my wife with her phone, tapping...tapping... tapping.

I was less than thrilled. But it was her vacation too. In fact, it was her birthday. And at the end of the day, a happy wife means a happy life. That said, I was beginning to feel as if there were three of us on this trip - myself, my bride, and Mr. Mime! We'd spent all summer looking forward to this trip - what could possibly be more important?

"You guys must be freaking out!"

When we finished exploring ancient sites, we joined a tour group in Dublin. A tour of the city filled most of the day. Our guide enthralled us with tales of Viking raiders, Celtic warriors, martyred patriots, and of course, the subject of one of Ireland's most beloved folk songs, sweet Molly Malone. (Apparently, the real-life Molly was…"lady of the night." Who knew?) Our guide offered to snap some pictures, but my other half was forever lagging behind, enraptured by the ever-present phone. I decided to talk to her about it over dinner.

By the time the tour ended, the group had started to relax, and introductions were being made. A boisterous gentleman in a baseball cap, clasped my hand and asked me where I was from. When I said, "Miami", his eyes widened.

"Whoa!" he gasped. "You guys must be freaking out!"

Perplexed, I turned to Lynn. "About….?"

Cap Guy still had my hand in a death grip. "The Category 5 hurricane that's headed your way! That thing's a monster!!"

For what felt like the first time in a week, Lynn put down her phone. "I was going to talk to you about it over dinner," she sighed, looking suddenly exhausted. "But...yeah. It's a monster. And it's headed our way."

I no longer cared about Mr. Mime. I was freaking out.

"Forget the cone. We have a plan"

Sensing my state of mind, Lynn suggested we proceed to Emergency Management Headquarters (read, the nearest pub), so she could bring me up to speed. It might not hit as a Cat 5, and landfall was anyone's guess. But it was going to be bad.

"Bad as in, we might be in the cone?" I asked. She started to say something, then stopped. "Forget the cone," she answered matter-of-factly."We have a plan. I've been back and forth with Tiffany (our head nurse) and we made some executive decisions. I also had the bank give her the extra house keys from our safe deposit box, and I gave her the alarm code to the house. Her husband's between contracts, so he storm proofed the house. We'll owe him money, but that's fine. The house is secured. Now for the clinic…"

While we waited for Mr. Guinness and Mr. Jameson to arrive at the meeting, I was briefed on the preparations that were made while I was enjoying my vacation. Extra water was ordered. Extra pet food was on the way. They had shut down boarding - travel plans had been scrapped anyway, and the whole area floods. I was reminded of the catfish that swam into the clinic from the parking lot after Hurricane Katrina.

No boarding. Good call.

The house's generator was better than the clinic's, so perishable medications and vaccines were being transported there. A skeleton crew was assembled in the event some of our employees would be forced to stay home after the storm. They set up a way to take credit card payments via Square. If that system was down, they were ready to go old school. Computers? Useless. They had printed out price sheets and were practicing making carbon copied invoices. Lynn had cancelled all the pre-scheduled social media posts and was keeping clients up to speed.

From Ireland.

"Oh!" she added. "I also hacked into your Google Drive account, updated the hurricane prep article from last year, scrounged up a different picture, and sent it to Brian at NBC 6. So that's running. I posted some preparation tips on Nextdoor…"

"Wait," my head was spinning, and not from the Guinness. "You hacked...when did…?"

She nearly choked on her drink as she shook her phone in my face. "What do you think I've been doing with this thing?!" she howled. "Catching Mr. Mime?!"

Indeed, the force of nature in that cozy little pub had a plan. Hurricane Irma had no idea what she was up against.

Sweet Molly Malone

Our next hotel was in a far-flung, pastoral village, light years from the whirlwind that is Dublin. Upon hearing of the guests from Miami, the proprietor quietly pulled Lynn aside and pointed her to a single chair in the corner of the lobby. From there, she could get enough of a wifi signal to "watch the wee hurricane." I knew I would find her there early the next morning. The 11 p.m. advisory had probably been out for an hour. I had only to look at her face to know the news was not good.

"So?" I asked, bracing for the worst. "How screwed are we?"

She sighed as she handed me her phone. "Think Sweet Molly Malone.

Still a Cat 5, Irma had made the turn no one in Miami wanted to see.

"We've just been evacuated."

Breakfast. Silence.

Packing. Silence.

Checkout. Silence.

 The satellite image of "the wee hurricane" had smothered all words, leaving what little air remained hanging thick with dread. As we sat on the bus, waiting for stragglers, a breath of a wifi signal wafted in with the morning mist. Jarred into life, our phones suddenly clamored for our attention. The messages from friends in Irma's path came flooding in.

"Been here before. But this one scares me." 

"Stuck in a gas line. No water. Evac routes gridlocked."

"Those of you with God in your lives, please make contact now."

And perhaps the most heartbreaking, "I feel like nowhere is safe. I'm 40 years old, I'm raising two kids, and all I want is for a grown up to tell me what I should do."

Then came the message from our head nurse, Tiffany - our general whose boots on the ground had secured both our home and our business:

"We've just been evacuated."

The bus ambled into gear, severing the invisible cord connecting us to the people we loved. Our phones went blank as the outside world was left behind in the mist.

"You will die in your cars."

Our next stop was a ruined monastery called Glendalough. "I'll catch up," Lynn clipped as she hopped off the bus. "You can fill me in on the history after I find a signal."

I hyperfocused on the guide's presentation in the hopes of quieting my churning thoughts. Glendalough means place of two lakes. It was founded by St. Kevin, a mystic of sorts who is known as the patron saint of blackbirds. Its iconic stone tower served as a place of refuge from regular Viking raids...

A place of refuge.

I was gawking skyward at the towering fortress when Lynn caught up with the group. She was expressionless, nodding as I gave her the short version of St. Kevin's bug-out station. "What's the status back home?" I asked.

"Panic. Paralysis. Most of the staff's been told to evacuate. Ditto for their families. They have nowhere to go. The whole state's under threat, no one knows where it's going to make landfall, and even if they did, it's taking people five hours to drive to Broward. Some of the guys are talking about going to Tampa, Ormond Beach, Jacksonville - they won't make it. They'll die in their cars."

"So what did you tell them?"

"'You will die in your cars.'"

"Please tell me you put some lipstick on that." 

Nope. But I told them we'd think of something."

"Have you thought of something?"

"Nope." She sighed as she frowned across the toppled stones. "We need another plan."

Saint Kevin and the Blackbird

We were left on our own to explore the moss-hewn monuments of St. Kevin's legacy. While other matters loomed in the forefront of my mind, thoughts of the eccentric monk rattled around in some unused nook of my brain. Despite more pressing concerns, I found myself liking the guy. He felt most at home in nature. He had a soft spot for animals, which they seemed to sense. Yet when he would emerge from solitude he was a force to be reckoned with, a builder of the fortress known far and wide across the medieval world.

I never understood the concept of praying to saints - perhaps I'm still missing the point. But in that helpless moment, I needed to talk to a friend. And strangely, I felt like I'd found one in St. Kevin. So in that quiet corner of my brain, I had a talk with the patron saint of blackbirds. He'd sheltered many frightened souls from danger - surely a hurricane was something he could handle. I needed some advice from an expert. I needed a plan. I stared dumbly into the tumble of rocks at my feet, as if hoping the answer was spelled out in tree roots, or carried by the voices of brambles and blackbirds. I heard only our tour guide as she gathered her charges, reminding us we had run out of time.

Out of time. No help. No answers.

As I turned to go, a blackbird feather hovered briefly on the cusp of a breeze, then came to rest in my line of sight at the foot of the silent stones.

"It's practically a fortress."

By nightfall, news of "the wee hurricane" in the U.S. was the lead story on every newscast in every local pub. We had our dinner in one of them, a local watering hole with a chatty barkeep who took great pride in relating the building's long history. Weather, age and fire all had roles in the story, but where some saw ruin, others had seen opportunities. The proprietor was especially proud of the roof. "Don't let the weathered shingles fool you," he beamed. "It's practically a fortress!"

We could relate. We'd lived in our house for just two years, and at the time of purchase, it needed some work. A LOT of work. Between the roof, the doors, the windows, the fence, the garage doors, the generator - the parade of workmen seemed endless. But by the time the literal dust had cleared the finished product was - I stopped in mid-sentence as the same thought struck us both at the same time. "Which zones were evacuated?" I asked Lynn.

"A, B, and parts of C."

We were in D. "You know", I offered, "they've got the key and the alarm code anyway…."

She took the ball and ran with it. "The roof is new, there's a generator, impact glass, the garage doors are storm rated. The place is…"

I finished the sentence for her. "Practically a fortress."

Lynn turned to the barkeep. "What's your name again?"


"Of course it is," she smiled. "Tell you what, Paddy. If I can borrow your wifi password, we'll keep ordering drinks."

Life charged through her phone. Soon the peat-scented air of the pub hummed with the sound of clinking glasses, fresh energy, and a crackling fire.

And while in hindsight, I realize it was probably the Guinness talking, I could have sworn I heard St. Kevin laugh.

"Ding dong, grown-up calling!"

The next two days were filled with nearly non-stop communications with Tiffany. Looking back at some of those messages, I have to laugh.

"Our house isn't childproofed. Lock the cabinets, hide the shotgun."

"Got it. We locked up the axe as well."

"Whoa. Forgot about the axe. Good call!"

"Jose's dad is getting dialysis the morning it's supposed to hit. Then he's driving back to Homestead."

"The hell he is! Tell him he's staying at our place."

"So I invited the admin from one of my Facebook groups. And her family. They're nice - you'd like them. Kids are keeping the dogs happy. Husband lowered the water level in your pool. And put oil in the generator."

Generators use oil? Awesome. Tell him thank you. And nice to meet him. Sort of."

"Pool fence down. Dog fell in. Had to dive in to get her. Glad I brought extra clothes."

One in particular jumped out at me. It was to the friend who lamented that at age 40, she needed a grown up to tell her what to do.

"Ding dong!" Lynn wrote, "Grown up calling! Pack up your man, your kids and your dogs. You're staying at our place. Call Tiff for details. Bring toilet paper."

"Not that it matters," I mused at one point, "but exactly how many people are we taking in?"

She took a deep breath and studied me with that look which told me I was better off without the details. "Well," she ventured, "remember the plaque we bought on our last trip to Ireland? The one that says '100,000 Welcomes' in Gaelic?"

I was stunned into silence. Then, for the first time in a week, I laughed.

One hundred thousand welcomes

As expected, the Irish blessing cead mile failte was a bit much. But the spirit of it was alive and well at Casa Kupkee. The final head count was eighteen people, ranging in age from two to eighty-something. Some had known each other all their lives, others had just met, thrown together by the winds of storm and circumstance. With them they brought their humor, their fears, their abuelas, their dogs, and enough alcohol to rival the storm surge from which they fled.

As they hunkered down, the mood of the messages changed from readiness to resolve. Did we have any dice? Playing cards? And how psyched were the kids to discover our nephew's Minions dinnerware! Our dogs made the rounds of the many laps from which they had to choose, and frolicked with the nine other dogs, who like their owners, now found themselves part of an unexpected pack. Surprisingly, they all seemed to roll with it, the only infraction having been committed by own young dachshund, who deftly pilfered a Cuban galleta from our youngest house guest's little hand. Our refugees treated us to news from the front, and photographs of our kitchen, now piled high with enough non-perishables to feed a small battalion. Tiffany's daughter gifted us with a drawing of a blackbird flying under a rainbow - which looked remarkably like a hurricane hunter aircraft charging through a wind speed graph.

What's that expression? Out of the mouths of babes? The crayons spoke a thousand words, none of which seemed to speak of dread or fear. Indeed the pictures sent to us seemed to portray the mood of a party rather than that of an impending natural disaster. As we stood on Galway's high street, the strains of "Blooming Heather" echoed through the damp air, courtesy of an especially talented busker. We thought of our guests - St. Kevin's modern day blackbirds, having found both roost and refuge half a world away. We had no idea what we would go home to, if anything. Yet somehow, we felt the sense of peace which comes from knowing all is unfolding exactly as it should.

Some serious cleanup

Over the next few days, reports came less frequently and with less urgency. While other parts of the state had been far less lucky, our beloved Miami had survived. We were told to brace ourselves for some serious cleanup. Our neighborhood was thrashed by tornadoes - we would return to a yard and street that looked like a giant salad gone wrong. But our house and our clinic were still standing. Our dogs and our loved ones were safe. As power was restored, and roads were cleared, our guests began trickling out of our home and back into a semblance of their normal lives. By the time door was locked for the last time, the house was cleaner than we had left it. Eighteen people and eleven dogs had left behind nothing but letters of thanks, and a fully stocked pantry. "Wow!" Lynn marvelled as she surveyed the shelves. "They brought the good toilet paper!" There were steaks in the freezer, clean sheets on the beds, and a boatload of leftover alcohol.

They had brought the good liquor as well.

But our trip was not over just yet. It was finally time to enjoy Ireland. And the first order of business was some hard core shopping for thank you gifts!

"Make that the second order of business," Lynn quipped as she headed for the hotel lobby. She was back within minutes, triumphant and smug. "Finally!"

Mr. Mime had joined the party at last.

As we crammed our suitcases full of souvenirs, Game Of Thrones kitsch, fairy garden furniture, and snarky t-shirts, Lynn pulled out a gift she had picked especially for Tiffany. On a ceramic Christmas tree ornament, an Irish blessing professed the musing of a wise, yet unknown soul:

"May the roof above us never fall in, And may the friends gathered below it never fall out."

I let it sink in before saying the only words that came to mind. "It's perfect."

"Not quite." Lynn scowled as she pulled a marker from her purse. She wrote something on the back of the ornament, then handed it back to me. "Now, it's perfect."

Painfully neat and tastefully small, the note read:

 2017: The House That Irma Built

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

A blackbird, a rainbow, and Mr. Mime

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Runner's Guide To Off-Leash Dogs

If getting into shape is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you may be one of the many Americans who decide to take up running. And it won’t take you long to realize there are many dog owners who seem to think leash laws do not apply to them! While I am in no way giving these inconsiderate folks a pass, forewarned is forearmed. And knowing what triggers a dog’s chasing behavior can prevent a bite or attack. While we may love our dogs like family, it is important to remember that first and foremost, they are animals. Perhaps more importantly, they are predators. Predators chase prey. And prey runs.

Simply put, running, along with skateboarding, biking, or any activity involving rapid movement, can ignite a dog’s prey drive. If you are approached by a dog while out on a run, the first thing to do is stop running. When we teach young children how to react to an approaching dog, we tell them to “be a tree.” Relax, but hold still. Do not touch the dog, speak to it, or make eye contact. If the dog does not retreat, or it’s behavior worsens, give it a familiar command such as sit, stay, off, or go home. Remember, this is a command - use a strong, authoritative tone, but continue to avoid eye contact as some dogs see it as a challenge. Do not move erratically or scream. These are the behaviors of prey animals. Behaving like prey can cause the dog to continue to perceive you as prey. To help avoid such a close encounter, try running with a marine air horn. If you feel threatened by a dog, give it a blast. Few dogs have ever encountered this sound, and while it’s likely to terrify them, it is harmless. This should give you enough time to get out of the area. And do have a word with the dog’s owner. Off-leash dogs are dangerous and illegal, and leash laws apply to everyone.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pet Toys That Teach

If your furry friends have been good this year, and you plan to hang their stockings, consider asking Santa for toys that do more than simply entertain. As animal behaviorists learn more about the way our pets’ brains are wired, many of these experts are citing boredom as a reason for some of their unwanted behaviors. Most of us work throughout the day, leaving our pets to their own devices. It should come as no surprise when they amuse themselves by eating our socks, scratching our furniture, or nuisance barking.

When it comes to toys that teach, pet parents have a lot of choices. Food puzzles for both dogs and cats encourage pets to think and interact with a toy that dispenses food. If your pet is not particularly motivated by treats, consider a toy that encourages them to chase or play. A remote control mouse on a timer is irresistible to most cats, as it stimulates their natural instincts to hunt. A set of small squeak toys stuffed inside a larger toy will require a dog with a strong prey drive to “work” in order to get to the prize. And the viral video of the dachshund repeatedly loading tennis balls into an automated, pint-sized pitcher put The iFetch on every dog’s wish list. Whatever you put under the tree this year, remember -  the toys that teach are the gifts that keep on giving.

This food puzzle requires the dog to roll the ball in order to dispense the treats inside. Looks like somebody's got the hang of it. More treats please! Image courtesy of Pixabay.