Sunday, July 27, 2014

Osteoarthritis and Your Pets by Kathy Gagliardi, Guest Blogger

Many of us have pets, and nearly all of them, at least at one point in their lives, will be affected by something that only a trained veterinarian can help with.  But vets can't do it all themselves: they need you and I, the servants caretakers of the pets to be able to recognize something is wrong in the first place.  I asked Dr. Kathy Gagliardi whether she would be interested in sending me an article that I could post on here, and she was kind enough to oblige!  Here's a little bit about Dr. Gagliardi:

Dr Kathy Gagliardi is a veterinarian that works in Louisville, Colorado at VCA Centennial Valley Animal Hospital with small animals and exotic pets such as snakes, lizards, bunnies, ferrets, rats, birds, etc.., She loves the variety of animals she gets to work with and the variety of people. Her favorite part of her job is the human animal bond and getting to help keep that strong. She graduated from CSU Vet School in 2010 and has traveled a lot since graduating. She has done a variety of work in rural areas like southeastern Colorado and remote places in Africa.

Today, Dr. Gagliardi is going to be telling us a little bit about osteoarthritis, and what you can do to help out your beloved master pet!  
Osteoarthritis is a painful disease that affects many people and affects many of our beloved animals. Knowing what to do and how to recognize this disease is very important because it is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs and cats. In the United States it is estimated that one out of five adult dogs suffer from arthritis. The definition of osteoarthritis is: progressive disease of inflammation and deterioration of the soft tissue, cartilage and bone in one or more joints. It is a chronic disease (develops over months to years) leading to pain and decreased mobility. The disease worsens as cartilage in the animal’s joint breaks down and friction between the bones causes pain. Inflammation in the joint also can cause abnormal bony growths on the joints and thickening of the surrounding soft tissue.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

The first step in helping your pet is to recognize the signs of arthritis and tell your veterinarian. Ask yourself if you have noticed any of the following signs (be aware, the signs may not be present at all times): reluctance to climb stairs, difficulty jumping, stiffness after exercise, limping, difficulty rising, difficulty with positioning to eliminate, loss of appetite, and changes in behavior. Some animals are at greater risk for arthritis due to the following factors: being overweight, breed (a large or giant breed), previous joint injuries, and previously diagnosed elbow, knee, or hip dysplasia.

If you suspect your dog has arthritis, your veterinarian can do a physical exam on your pet to help determine the location. Also radiographs (X-rays) of the joints are often needed to confirm the diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been reached, there are many different treatment options that can be offered. Treatment options include: pain medications, diet, exercise, joint supplements, physical therapy sessions, and acupuncture. Medications that are commonly used to treat osteoarthritis include: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), joint supplements (like chondroitin and glucosamine), and pain medication like Tramadol. The chondro-protective joint medications like chondroitin and glucosamine are similar to those used in people however often have different doses or formulas so it is important to discuss the best one for your pet with your veterinarian. Alternative medicine is another great option for pets with osteoarthritis the benefits of physical therapy and acupuncture have proven to be an effective treatment in animals as well as people. Also being overweight and not exercising can make osteoarthritis worse so many pets treatment plan will also include diet and strict/set exercise routine.

The wide range of treatment options can often make it overwhelming for a pet’s guardian to decide what is best for there pet. Therefore it is best to discuss the options in detail with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is right for your pet. Your veterinarian will let you know which treatment modalities would best suit your pet.

VCA Centennial Valley Animal Hospital is a full service veterinary hospital in Louisville, Colorado. We are accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). We provide care for dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, rabbits, reptiles and exotics. Our Services include Preventive Care, Laser Surgery, Digital X-Ray, In House Pharmacy, Full Dental Care, In House Laboratory, Hospitalization, Acupuncture/Herbs, and Pain management.  Our Doctors and staff are compassionate, certified and friendly. www.cvah.com

I would like to thank Dr. Gagliardi for helping us out and letting us know all about osteoarthritis.  In the future, keep an eye out for a few more posts from Dr. Gagliardi!  Thanks again, and we look forward to hearing from you again soon!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Barely Skating By: You Better (Os)Prey That I Stop Trying to Force This Pun (Day 3, SC 2014)

On our third day in South Carolina, we played some games in the morning, but by about noon everyone else was exhausted and had to take a nap. I was not tired, so with a small-footed, friendly companion in my ear, I set out on a quest to find some more excitement! Compared to the events of the day before, I didn’t find much (which is good considering that the day before I had walked into a banana spider web, and almost been bitten by a lone star tick). I did find several creatures, though, including this small green anole (Anolis carolinensis), pictured below.
I also got my first good look at the Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis).  We don’t have many kites in Colorado, with the Mississippi kite only occasionally in the state, and the swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) a vagrant, so I don’t know as much about them as I do about some other raptor groups.  Apparently, the Mississippi kite is primarily an insectivore, and only sometimes will kill prey such as frogs and snakes.
Now this next identification I am not terribly certain about. Here in North America, we actually have two types of crow. Most people are familiar with the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), which lives all over the United States. However, we have a second type of crow, the fishing crow (Corvus ossifragus), native to the eastern United States. The fishing crow looks very similar to the American crow, and the best way to tell the two crows apart is to listen to their respective calls. The American crow has the well know “caw, caw” sound, while the fishing crow has a much more nasally cry. Some websites do list other, physical characteristics to distinguish between the two, but for the most part, it seems like auditory verification is the best way to go. I also seem to remember thinking to myself that this crow, as well as five or six others nearby, were making noises that I didn’t think sounded like a normal crow.
After my fun-filled walk, I arrived back at the Beckley’s house, where people were starting to wake up. Jim asked if we wanted to go out gator hunting (I’d like to point out that when I talk about gator hunting I mean trying to find them to take pictures of them and get really excited and embarrass myself in front of the locals by making it abundantly obvious that I am, indeed, a tourist), and so my parents, sister, Chris, Jim and I all prepared to head out. While we were waiting in the driveway for everyone to get ready, I noticed one of those eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) running around. They really shouldn’t be this exciting for me, but for some reason even they seem exotic. Just like our fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), the gray squirrel has very flexible ankles so that they can climb down trees headfirst, like you can see here.
We also saw a male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) flitting around in the trees. This bird is sexually dimorphic, with the females mostly pale brown, with tinges of red.
As is always the case, we were never far from a banana spider web. What was interesting about this particular web was Chris wasn’t really paying attention, and was spinning his iPod earbuds, and accidentally smacked one of the support lines of the spider web that was attached to a nearby clump of saw palmettos (Serenoa repens). Amazingly, it didn’t break: in fact, it barely even budged! It’s incredible how strong the tensile strength of this particular type of spider’s web is.  We've talked about similar-looking spiders that inhabit the South Pacific who also have incredibly strong webs, sometimes used by fisherman to catch fish!
At last, everyone was assembled, and we headed out. As we drove, I noticed an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) sitting in a nest very close to the road. I made a note of it, and decided to check it out the next day. Below is a picture from the next day. This is a story for another day. Maybe the next day. Who even knows.
We arrived at the first potential gator pond, one where Jim, Chris, my dad and I had fished for a few minutes on our last visit two years ago.  On that trip, I had spotted a gator track on the bank, so we know that they were sometimes in there.  But despite this, and despite a warning sign that graces the bank of nearly every pond close to human habitation in South Carolina, we saw no sign of a gator. Turtles, yes. This interesting looking fire ant (Solenopsis sp.) hill, now abandoned? Interesting, yes, as were these orange mushrooms and little burrows dug out by some sort of crab. But no gators.
On our way to a second pond, we stopped at a small crab dock that people use for fishing, crabbing, and shrimping. We likely wouldn’t see any gators here, since it was a salty, brackish area. The alligators here prefer fresh water over brackish or salty water, although I suppose anything is possible. It was pretty quiet and peaceful. Looking out over the water, we could see a laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) flying nearby, and a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) taking off from the water across the Wando River.
Looking down between our feet, we could see why it was called a crabbing dock. Marsh crabs (Sesarma reticulatum)  are all over the area, and we could see many of them hanging out on the wooden poles supporting the dock. Just beneath the surface of the water, we could also see a blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) hanging onto one of the supporting pillars.
Jim pulled up a few of the traps hanging off the side of the dock to show us what was going on inside.  The first trap was a minnow trap, and inside were several mudminnows and finger mullets.  The central mudminnow (Umbra limi) is a member of the mudminnow family, family Umbridae.  Despite their name, mudminnows are not actually minnows, and are instead more closely related to the pikes in the family Escoidae.  The two families together make up the order Escoiformes.  Meanwhile, finger mullets seems to be a colloquial term that applies to any small member of the mullet family, family Mugilidae, although I'm not entirely sure how precise I am about this definition.
The other traps were for blue crabs, whose scientific name apparently translates to "savory beautiful swimmer."  Blue crabs are omnivorous, and can find themselves prey to herons, sea turtles, and large fish.  Inside one of the crab traps was a large portion of a bottomfeeding critter, like a ray or a skate.  It was a little tough to identify, but I think that it might have been part of a clearnose skate (Raja eglanteria), a relative of stingrays and, more distantly, sharks.

Just as we finished investigating the traps, one of us spotted something: a dorsal fin, slicing in and out of the water! It was a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the first sighting of the trip! We watched for several minutes as it cruised by a few times. It looked like there was at least one other dolphin out there, which comes as no surprise considering their gregarious nature.  Jim was telling us how he had seen a bottlenose dolphin actually send a wave of water and fish up onto a sand bank, and intentionally strand itself on the bank to snap up some fish, before sliding back into the water.  This behavior has actually been filmed on the fantastic BBC program "Planet Earth!"
After the excitement of the dock, it wasn’t even disappointing to not see anything at the third pond. Besides, we had many more days of gator-hunting filled vacation ahead of us! When we got back, we spotted a good-sized skink, I believe a five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) hanging out on the wall above their garage.
That night, we decided to go to dinner at the Morgan Creek Grill.  This is a double-decker restaurant, with a fancier side below, and a less fancy level on top, where we have eaten at the last two times we visited. With a very nice view overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, we’ve seen dolphins there in the past. As we waited outside for our table, I was able to get some nice pictures of some very exciting seabirds, including this juvenile gull. Lots of brown pelicans and laughing gulls were flying by as well, and several times we were able to watch as several gulls swooped and dove at each other, fighting over scraps of food. We also got to watch a group of laughing gulls diving at the water to catch fish, which was cool as well!
As we ate, a cute dog sailed by, manning the helm of the boat.
I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but this ship’s anchor looked a lot like a shark tooth!
So here we have the new and improved, updated faunal list after Day Three:

Amphibians:

American Toad (Anaxyurus americanus)
Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)
Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)

Birds:

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Fishing Crow (Corvus ossifragus)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Fish:

Central Mudminnow (Umbra limi)
Clearnose Skate (Raja eglanteria)
Mullet (Family: Mugilidae)

Invertebrates:

American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus)
Banana Spider (Nephila sp.)
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
Fire Ant (Solenopsis sp.)
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
Marsh Crab (Sesarma reticulatum)
Mosquito (Family: Culicidae)
Squareback Marsh Crab (Armases cinereum)
Wolf Spider (Family: Lycosidae)

Mammals:

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Plants:

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans)

Reptiles:

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Five-Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)



Works Cited:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Critter Huntin' With Chris (Day 2, SC 2014)

On the morning of our second day in South Carolina, we visited the farmer's market, and then the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston.  The museum was incredible, especially for a small college museum, and they had so much cool stuff that I am in the process of writing a Top Ten post just about the museum.  We will also feature lots of the pictures that I took there in future posts, as a lot of the fossils that they had there are animals that have popped up on the blog, and will likely continue to do so.  Now, though, I'm sure you all are being eaten up from the inside with questions.  "What did you do for the rest of the day, Zack, after you returned from the museum?  I'm sure it was something fascinating, no doubt!"  No doubt.
When we got back, Chris and I decided to go out critter hunting.  The Beckley's live next to a golf course with several small ponds fairly close by, and we decided to look into two of the closest ponds to see if we could find any gators (Alligator mississippiensis) or cottonmouth moccasins (Agkistrodon piscivorous)!  In the first pond, we startled an anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), and it flew up into the trees.  The anhinga is a type of cormorant-like bird, and spends most of its days either swimming through freshwater in search of tasty fish, or sunning itself and preening on the bank.  They are not only very good at swimming underwater due to a reduced buoyancy created by heavy bones and wet feathers, but they are also very good at soaring and riding the thermals, similar in fashion to certain types of raptors.  Turns out, I would be seeing more of this interesting bird on our trip.
In Colorado, it is not altogether uncommon to spot a great blue heron (Ardea herodius) hunting along the banks of a pond or lake, or flying overhead with their impressively elongate neck drawn back in a tight s-curve, reminiscent of certain types of theropod dinosaurs (such as Compsognathus, pictured below).  However, in South Carolina, you can hardly go anywhere without seeing a heron, be it a great blue heron, an egret, or some other type of heron.  Right after spotting the anhinga, we noticed a great blue heron on the opposite bank.  In the picture below you can see the usually majestic bird caught in the not-so-majestic act of shaking itself dry.
A picture of a first generation cast of Compsognathus from the Solnhofen Quarry of Germany.  Although this animal almost certainly lived a very different lifestyle than the anhinga, it is interesting to compare the necks of these two animals.  You can also compare the anhinga's neck with the neck of another theropod dinosaur Coelophysis (who has a neck more similar to a heron's than that of Compsognathus) by clicking HERE to check out a short feature we did on this dinosaur awhile back.  This cast is a first generation cast in the collections of the Morrison Natural History Museum.
As we went around the pond, I got an opportunity to take a shot from much closer.  Check out how long that neck is!!  It always makes me think of other, extinct animals that are thought to be piscivorous, or fish eating.  The protorosaur reptile Tanystropheus, the long-necked plesiosaurs and nothosaurs, and many types of pterosaurs are all thought to be primarily piscivorous, based on studies of their dentition, anatomy, depositional environment, etc.  The long neck seen in many of these animals seems to be pretty similar to the long neck that I see in the great blue heron, which is a pretty good design for catching fish.  If you are trying to sneak up on something, the less of you the animal can see, the better!
The protorosaur Tanystropheus.  Photo Credit: Sam Lippincott
Inevitably, we got a little too close to the great blue heron, and it took off for the far side of the pond.  As it was flying away, almost out of sight, it got dive-bombed by a red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)!  I thought that was kind of interesting.  It's relatively common place to see smaller birds attacking larger predatory birds like hawks or eagles, who potentially might bring them harm.  Apparently, great blues will also eat other birds, but I suspect that would be more of an opportunistic feeding opportunity, and not something the heron would purposely go out with the intention of catching.
As we continued our search, two more members of the heron family (family Ardeidae) graced us with their presence, the reddish egret (Egretta rufescens) and the great egret (Ardea alba).  I'd also like to point out that the egrets aren't really a natural grouping of birds, and is simply just one name, like heron, that is frequently attached to different members of the heron family, family Ardeidae.  For example, both the great blue heron and the great egret are in the same genus, the genus Ardea, while other herons and egrets are in different genera.  Kind of like how frogs and toads are all in the same family, the family Anura, but toads are generally characterized as having dry skin, while frogs are characterized as having wet skin.
The reddish egret.  It's a little tough to see, but the bird is flying roughly in the middle of the photograph, a little more on the left hand side.
The great egret.  It's a little tough to see, but the bird is flying a little below the middle of the photograph, and a tiny but further to the right of center.
With nothing but birds and turtles in the first pond, Chris and I headed over to the second.  The second pond was much more secluded, surrounded by more trees and bushes.  We couldn't really see anything in their either, but we skirted around the edge of the pond through the trees.  Suddenly, Chris spotted some bones a few feet to the right of us.  He had spotted the skeleton of South Carolina's state animal, and only resident species of deer, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)!  This deer is actually the state animal of Illinois and Pennsylvania as well.
I'm definitely not an authority on such matters, but the teeth looked really sharp and not very worn down, so I was thinking maybe it was a younger animal.
The skeleton was pretty well articulated, with the front legs being the only major part of the body that was missing.
We moved on from the deer skeleton, and I promptly walked into a spider web.  Now, the thing about the spiders in South Carolina is that some of them grow nasty-big, and seem to have a propensity to spin their webs in between hip and head height for your average adult human.  I'm specifically talking about the banana spiders (Nephila sp.), or golden silk orb-weavers.  I'm not entirely sure how large the biggest banana spiders get, but I've seen ones that look like they have a leg span of three to four inches.  Disgusting.
Anyways, the one I walked into had spun a web at hip height.  Despite the fact that the web was between two ferns, I did not find the situation to be amusing in the slightest.  For a second, I thought I was going to be alright, and that maybe I had walked through a web without a spider in it.  But of course this was not the case, otherwise I would not be weaving you the tale of woe, much like this particular banana spider wove it's irritating web at hip height right in my path.  The spider started to stir, and crawl towards my crotch, which is one of the top two places that I don't want a spider to be, right after in my face holes.  I started moving my right hand, still holding my camera, away from my body to try and grab a stick to get it the heck off of me, when the spider started crawling up a line of web that it had somehow attached to my camera.  As I continually called out pitifully to Chris for help (he was probably laughing to hard at me to come and help even if he wanted to), the spider continually crawled toward my camera, which was in my hand, strung around my neck, and also several hundred dollars.  Too expensive to drop.  Right before the spider reached the camera, I was able to brush it off onto a nearby leaf.  Then, my desire to get a picture of the disgusting little arachnid overrode my other desire to get the heck out of there, so I was able to snap the picture that you can see above you.  Now you can understand the terror that I had to go through to get that picture.  Enjoy it.  Please.

Before we got out of the woods, I found a raccoon skull with both jaws nearby, as well as some other isolated bones.  I saved the skull, and hopefully I can remember to upload a picture later!  Raccoons are omnivorous, so they have fun teeth, an interesting combination of carnivorous and herbivorous dentition.

We also found a pair of what definitely looked like burrows.  We found lots of bones in the vicinity of the burrows, clearly from different animals, so I think it likely that they were created by a more carnivorous critter, likely a fox.  Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) not only climb trees, but also don't seem to burrow under the ground, unlike the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), so if it is a little carnivorous mammal burrow, I think that the red fox is a good guess as to the den maker!
Chris also spotted a small crushed turtle shell which I also collected, and hopefully I will remember to upload a picture of that specimen, too!

On our way back to the house, I noticed an interesting flower that I later identified as the trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) which, according to the USDA, can cause itching, redness, and swelling amongst mammals if the leaves and flowers are touched.  Well, later on, I picked up a flower, and did not find that to be the case.  Perhaps I didn't touch it enough, or maybe different people experience different reactions.  I thought they were interesting because I noticed that the long, tubular flowers might be a perfect example of a type of flower that has coevolved (learn about coevolution HERE) with hummingbirds and butterflies, pollinators with the means of reaching nectar from deeper within a flower, and it looks like that might indeed be the case!  Interestingly, for the first half of the trip, I don't remember hearing or seeing a single hummingbird...odd.  The trumpet creeper is a member of the Bignonia family, the family Bignoniaceae.
After we returned to the house, I thought the excitement was temporarily over.  That turned out not to be the case, as I promptly realized my right leg was under an attack from a small arachnid: a tick.  Ticks, spiders, scorpions, and solfugids (amongst others) are all members of the class Arachnida.  I believe that the tick I had on my was an adult female lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum).  The adult female is the only one with the little white dot on her back, which was something that my tick had.  Again, disgusting.  Fortunately, I was able to brush the little bloodsucker off my leg before he could bite.  Jean Ann, Mary Sullivan and I then tried to kill it with our shoes, my laptop, Honey's dog bowl, and Kleenex, but nothing worked.  I eventually just crumpled it up as best I could in several Kleenex, and then shoved it in the trash.  Ticks are tough to kill, they seem pretty well armored, and they are pretty flat, too, which makes them tough to even brush off.
Several life stages of the lone star tick.  The one that I almost got bit by was the one on the far left, the adult female.  Photo Credit: www.cdc.gov
After a few hours of downtime, we went down to the beach as the sun set.  Didn't see much, except part of a molted horseshoe crab shell, the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).  Once they reach adulthood, horseshoe crabs shed their shells annually, usually in July or August.  Arthropods shed their shells, or exoskeletons, as they grow larger, kind of like how snakes will shed their skin as they grow larger.  Turns out, I would also be seeing a whole lot more of these later on, too!
After we got back from the beach, my father, sister and I all went gator hunting.  This was to be our first gator sighting of the trip, although we really couldn't see much.  The small reddish dot in the photograph below is actually the eyeshine of the gator, created by the reflective tapetum lucidum (read more about that interesting bit of eye anatomy by clicking HERE).  So we really couldn't see much unfortunately.
We also saw another American toad (Anaxyurus americanus), possibly the same one that I spotted the previous night!
So as of the second day, here's a faunal list of the animals that I've spotted and identified thus far.  I haven't identified really any of the plants, so I will just include plants that I've included on the blog.  Some of the animals on the list I didn't blog about, usually because I didn't get good pictures.

Amphibians:

American Toad (Anaxyurus americanus)
Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)
Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)

Birds:

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Invertebrates:

American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus)
Banana Spider (Nephila sp.)
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
Squareback Marsh Crab (Armases cinereum)

Mammals:

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Plants:

Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans)

Reptiles:

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Works Cited
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