Dog and Cat Amputees: 'Tripods'

*** If you find these podcasts useful and interesting, PLEASE click on the iTunes icon below, then the "View in iTunes" blue link, and then rate and/or review the podcast. That will be really great and much appreciated. Thank you! ***

Listen to Stitcher

On this episode of the podcast I am joined by Rene Agredano and Jim Nelson of TRIPAWDS, “the world's largest support community for animal amputees”, to discuss how we as veterinary staff can be better prepared to help clients with dogs and cats that are either facing or have had a limb amputation.

After some background discussion of the Tripawds resource, we discuss:

  • Ethical and moral considerations carers may have around amputation
  • Steps carers can take to prepare for their amputee dog or cat returning home for the first time
  • Client concerns about when their pet will be normal again, pain management, and the surgical incision

The following links were mentioned in the episode:

Tripawds - Help For Three Legged Dogs And Cats

The Tripawds charitable foundation

Tripawds on YouTube

Tripawds Downloads

The PBS Show that Rene mentions, “Why we love dogs and cats”

The Tripawds blog by an ECC vet: Hank the Tank
(backstory for Hank the Tank)

[This podcast is closely aligned with the MedEdLIFE Research Collaborative's Quality Checklist for Podcasts.]

Tweet: Check out FREE audio podcasts from @VetEmCC http://ctt.ec/UqL8b+ Also available in iTunes/Stitcher. #veterinary #podcast

A Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Papers Episode

*** If you find these podcasts useful and interesting, PLEASE click on the iTunes icon below, then the "View in iTunes" blue link, and then rate and/or review the podcast. That will be really great and much appreciated. Thank you! ***

Listen to Stitcher

Episode based on May/June 2016 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care

Please get in touch to request a copy of any of the papers discussed in this episode so you can read and critique the paper yourself!

Balakrishnan A, Drobatz KJ, Reineke EL. Development of anemia, phlebotomy practices, and blood transfusion requirements in 45 critically ill cats (2009–2011). J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2016. 26(3):406-411.

Anaemia is a relatively common clinical finding in critically ill patients
Likely multifactorial
Repeated phlebotomy to collect blood samples for diagnostic testing may be one of the causes or at least one of the contributing factors. Has been demonstrated in people, especially children, and suggested anecdotally in small animal patients.

“Critically ill cats that develop significant anaemia are often treated with blood transfusions. Red blood cell transfusions can help improve oxygen carrying capacity and may improve survival. However, at least in people, blood transfusions are associated with an increased expense, longer hospital stays, and carry the risk of several potentially life-threatening medical complications such as immunological transfusion reactions, infectious diseases, transfusion associated circulatory overload, and transfusion related acute lung injury.”

Information on this topic is limited in the veterinary literature and the primary objectives of this study were to:

  • Describe the incidence and development of anaemia in critically ill cats
  • Document phlebotomy practices and transfusion requirements in these cats
  • Evaluate the association between these factors on both duration of hospitalisation and outcome

Retrospective study
University of Pennsylvania ICU from 2009 to 2011
Exclusion criteria:

  • Did not stay in ICU for more than 48 hours (to exclude stable post-operative cases recovering in ICU)
  • Documented to have anaemia secondary to underlying chronic kidney disease
  • Incomplete medical records

Final sample size of 45 cats
Variety of primary diagnoses; respiratory disease, congestive heart failure and neoplasia most common
All of the cats were admitted via the emergency room in which they mostly stayed for less than 12 hours but some up to 24 hours
Approximately 20% were anaemic on admission to the hospital
40% developed anaemia before admission to the ICU (contribution of haemodilution from fluid therapy?)
Approximately 75% of the cats who were not anaemic on ICU admission went on to develop anaemia while in the ICU

Cats that developed anaemia after admission to the ICU had a significantly longer duration of hospitalisation than cats that did not develop anaemia while in the ICU.
Median duration: anaemic group 5 days, non-anaemic group 4 days
Range: anaemic group 3-24 days, non-anaemic group 3-13 days
Development of anaemia in the ICU was not statistically associated with outcome, just duration of hospitalisation.

Cats that required a blood transfusion for anaemia were found to have a significantly longer duration of hospitalisation but transfusion was not statistically associated with outcome. 


  • Median number of phlebotomies per day for all cats in the ICU was 3 (range 1–6).
  • The 20 cats that developed anaemia during their ICU stay had a significantly greater number of phlebotomies per day (median 3, range 1–5) than the 7 cats that did not develop anaemia (median 1, range 1–2).
  • Cats that required a pRBC transfusion had a significantly greater number of daily phlebotomies (median 3, range 1–6) than cats that did not require a transfusion (median 2, range 1–4).
  • Cats that had a sampling or central venous catheter had a significantly greater number of phlebotomies (median 3, range 1–6) than cats without either of these catheters (median 1, range 1–2).

Results suggest that cats that developed anaemia after admission to their ICU had a longer duration of hospitalisation, likewise cats that received a blood transfusion. And probably this is because these cats were sicker.
These cats also had more blood samples taken, again probably because they were sicker.
Vicious circle: sicker cats have more blood samples taken = more blood loss = tendency towards or worsening of anaemia
Sicker cats also more likely to have anaemia as a result of other factors, potentially including a poorer regenerative response

Authors did not attempt to calculate any sort of illness severity scores because of the limitations in getting all the necessary data.

“In light of our study findings, adoption of blood conservation strategies should be considered. Blood conservation strategies are widely advocated in human intensive care medicine, particularly in critically ill children and include minimizing daily routine diagnostic phlebotomies, use of small volume or pediatric phlebotomy tubes, point of care and bedside microanalysis, minimization of blood sample wastage, lowering transfusion thresholds and transfusing only in response to physiologic need, and removing central venous and arterial catheters when no longer needed for patient monitoring purposes.”

For cats that do not have an in-dwelling sampling catheter in place, venepuncture is not entirely benign or risk free; unnecessary sampling can also contribute to patient stress, distress and reduced welfare.

Beer KS, Drobatz KJ. Severe anemia in cats with urethral obstruction: 17 cases (2002–2011). J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2016. 26(3):393-397.

“We hypothesized that cats with urethral obstruction and severe anemia requiring transfusion would have higher morbidity and mortality than cats with urethral obstruction without severe anemia.”

From an evidence-based perspective, this study was not able to prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Retrospective study from University of Pennsylvania over nine year period
Several limitations with respect to materials and methods, including small sample size:

  • 46 tomcats with urethral obstruction and anaemia
  • 17 tomcats met inclusion criteria, one of which was a PCV during hospitalisation of less than or equal to 20%
  • 2132 tomcats were treated for urethral obstruction during study period; 17 study cats = incidence of 0.8%

Authors suggest severe anaemia may largely be due to haemorrhage into urinary bladder – but this study does not provide evidence for this suggestion.

Full AM, Barnes Heller HL, Mercier M. Prevalence, clinical presentation, prognosis, and outcome of 17 dogs with spinal shock and acute thoracolumbar spinal cord disease. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2016. 26(3): 412–418.

“Spinal shock is uncommonly reported in veterinary medicine and occurs when the spinal reflex arcs are anatomically normal but the patient exhibits transient hyporeflexia or areflexia caudal to a lesion….This is followed by a period of gradual return of the segmental spinal reflexes, and eventually hyperreflexia days to months later…In dogs with spinal shock the neurologic examination may yield a multifocal disease process or a lesion within the reflex arc, which could lead a clinician to an inaccurate neuroanatomic localization and differential diagnoses, and inappropriate diagnostic and treatment plan. An increased awareness of the prevalence, clinical presentation, common etiologies, and progress of spinal shock will aid the clinician in recognizing this syndrome.”

Upper motor neuron (UMN) lesion: expect hyperreflexia
Lower motor neuron (LMN) lesion: expect hyporeflexia
Authors key point is: If you examined a patient and found hyporeflexia you may suspect a LMN spinal reflex arc lesion when in fact the actual lesion is an UMN spinal cord lesion cranial to the localisation and the hyporeflexia is the result of spinal shock.

“The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence and clinical presentation for dogs with thoracic vertebrae 3 (T3) to lumbar vertebrae 3 (L3) spinal lesions and suspected spinal shock.”

Retrospective study; November 2005 to 2010; private referral hospital in North America
986 dogs had spinal MRI performed
263 dogs remained after exclusion criteria applied
17/263 (6%) were diagnosed with spinal shock
94% of these 17 dogs presented within 24 hours of the onset of clinical signs 

Spinal shock following spinal cord injury has previously been described in association with severe spinal cord injury or transection causing loss of motor and sensory function in humans.
Also been observed and reported in a limited number of dogs with severe paraparesis or paraplegia.

“Our study is the first report specifically evaluating the prevalence and clinical presentation of spinal shock in dogs with acute thoracolumbar spinal injury.”

Spinal shock pathophysiology:

  • Studied in both human medicine and limited experimental veterinary studies
  • Complex syndrome
  • Underlying disease processes associated with spinal shock not been clearly defined

In people, a 4 phase model has described the alterations in spinal reflexes and time frame expected for return to function:

  • Phase 1: occurs within 0-24 hours; characterised by areflexia or hyporeflexia caudal to the spinal cord injury 
  • Phase 2: begins 1-3 days after injury; correlated with denervation hypersensitivity
  • Phase 3: 4-30 days post-injury; characterized by reappearance of deep tendon reflexes and the flexor withdrawal reflex
  • Phase 4: 1–12 months post-injury with return of all reflexes; reflexes often exaggerated during phase 4
“Mechanisms for recovery of spinal shock have been described including unveiling of latent synapses, alterations to the density or distribution of neurotransmitters and collateral sprouting of intact axons….The timing of segmental spinal reflex return has been suggested to be dependent on the individual’s amount and type of physical fitness prior to the injury. For example, highly trained athletes may have a shorter recovery of reflexes due to decreased tendon excitability, when compared to an untrained person.”

In this study, fibrocartilaginous embolism FCE) was most commons cause of spinal injury (7/17 dogs)
Acute non-compressive nucleus pulposus extrusion and intervertebral disk herniation were other causes

Results here indicate that dogs with clinical evidence of spinal shock have a high probability of at least partial neurological improvement:

  • 88% of dogs with documented neurological examinations at the time of discharge (1–12 days following diagnosis) had improved or normal reflexes, 75% of which specifically had improved withdrawal reflexes.
  • Remaining dogs lacking recorded neurological examinations at discharge, had improved or normal reflexes on subsequent recheck examinations with the exception of 1 dog.
  • Findings consistent with the previous literature suggesting reflexes often recover faster in non-primates compared to people
  • However, recovery of the withdrawal reflex was longer than 48 hours in many of the dogs in this study
“The lack of standardized follow-up time, especially in the immediate post-injury period, limits interpretation of the recovery process. A concise timeline of recovery is difficult in a retrospective study; therefore, caution should be taken when providing expected recovery times to clients.”
“In conclusion, although uncommon, spinal shock should be considered in any dog presenting with an acute history of thoracolumbar spinal injury and reduced reflexes in the pelvic limbs. Imaging should be pursued between the T3-S3 spinal segments in these patients to account for lesions in the T3-L3 spinal cord segment, which may result in spinal shock. The presence of spinal shock should not dissuade a veterinarian from pursuing appropriate diagnostic testing and therapy for the underlying etiology.”

Swann JW, Maunder CL, Roberts E, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for development of hemorrhagic gastro-intestinal disease in veterinary intensive care units in the United Kingdom. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2016. 26(3): 419–427.

In human medicine, stress-related mucosal disease (SRMD) refers to the development of erosive lesions of the stomach and intestines in patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) for management of severe illness.
SRMD covers a spectrum of disease, from superficial mucosal injury detectable only by gastroduodenoscopy to severe ulceration that results in clinically important haemorrhage.
Overt clinical bleeding due to SRMD was reported to occur in approximately 4% of human patients admitted to a group of ICUs in Canada…
…and development of this disease significantly increased the risk of death during the period of hospitalisation.

“Impaired perfusion of the gastric mucosal barrier (GMB) is the proximate cause of SRMD, but development of the disease is reflective of systemic changes in hemodynamic status and inflammatory cascade”
“several factors have been identified in human patients that increase the risk of development of SRMD…particularly respiratory failure necessitating mechanical ventilation and coagulopathy. Administration of prophylactic gastro-protectant medications reduces the risk of SRMD…but this may be associated with development of other complications, such as aspiration pneumonia, because increased gastric pH permits bacterial colonization of the stomach.”

Haemorrhagic gastro-intestinal (GI) disease has not been described specifically in veterinary ICUs

“The primary aim of this study was to determine the proportion of animals that developed overt hemorrhagic GI disease in veterinary ICU patients. It was hypothesized that this would occur at similar rates to those reported in human ICUs, and that dogs would develop the disease more frequently than cats based on previous evidence suggesting that the GI tract is not the shock organ of cats. Secondary aims were to investigate risk factors for the development of hemorrhagic GI disease, and to determine whether development of these signs was associated with mortality during the period of hospitalization.”

Retrospective multicentre study in three UK teaching hospital ICUs; a lot of the data was collected prospectively
All cases presenting consecutively to the ICUs were considered eligible for enrolment during the period of the study if they were hospitalised for at least 24 hours
Exclusion criteria:

  • History of haemorrhagic GI disease in 48 hours prior to hospitalisation
  • Developed signs of haemorrhagic GI disease within the first 24 hours after admission
  • Surgical procedures involving the GI or upper respiratory tracts
  • Presented with or developed epistaxis or haemoptysis
  • Presented for management of GI disease
  • Sustained 1 or more skull fractures

Cases were not excluded if they:

  • Received gastro-protectant drugs, NSAIDs, glucocorticoids, or anticoagulants prior to admission or during hospitalisation
  • Were diagnosed with diseases that may cause secondary GI signs, such as hypoadrenocorticism

SRMD was defined as haemorrhagic GI disease manifesting as hematemesis, melena, or haematochezia or as mucosal erosions and haemorrhage observed during GI endoscopy.

Final sample size: 272 dogs and 94 cats
Some results:

  • 7.0% (CI: 4.5–10.7) (= 19 dogs) of dogs and no cats across the three centres developed SRMD
  • Among the dogs that received prophylactic gastro-protectant medications, the proportion that developed SRMD was 16.4% (CI: 8.9–28.3), compared to only 4.2% (CI: 2.2–7.8) in dogs that did not receive prophylaxis
  • Decreased serum albumin concentration, the ICU in question, and administration of prophylactic gastro-protectant medications were risk factors for the development of SRMD.
  • The proportion of dogs with SRMD that did not survive to discharge was significantly greater than for dogs that did not develop SRMD
  • Placement of a feeding tube and development of SRMD were associated with mortality

SJ comment:

“Now look as always, please don’t just take these points at face value and start repeating them. That would be entirely inappropriate. For starters we would need more studies, ideally prospective and blinded where possible, to evaluate all of this and demonstrate repeatability. And even then we would need to still be careful to distinguish association from causation.”


“Limitations of this study include the relatively small number of cases included, especially for investigation of risk factors for development of SRMD and mortality…it is possible that unmeasured differences between centers could have acted as confounding or modifying factors. Although much of the data included in this study were collected prospectively, some information regarding development of GI disease was collected retrospectively from clinical records, reducing the reliability and consistency of these findings. Data were also collected by a number of different investigators who may not have been involved in the primary care of the case.


SRMD was observed in dogs from 3 different veterinary ICUs but was not observed in cats. Decreased serum albumin concentration was associated with development of SRMD, but, using a clinically relevant cut off value, this variable had a poor sensitivity and specificity for prediction of the disease. Development of SRMD and placement of a feeding tube were independently associated with increased mortality while hospitalized, but further studies will be required to determine the effects and potential benefits of prophylactic gastro-protectant therapy in veterinary ICU patients.”

If you would look a copy of any of the papers mentioned in this episode, let me know.

[This podcast is closely aligned with the MedEdLIFE Research Collaborative's Quality Checklist for Podcasts.]

Tweet: Check out FREE audio podcasts from @VetEmCC http://ctt.ec/UqL8b+ Also available in iTunes/Stitcher. #veterinary #podcast

Antimicrobial Stewardship in Companion Animal Practice

*** If you find these podcasts useful and interesting, PLEASE click on the iTunes icon below, then the "View in iTunes" blue link, and then rate and/or review the podcast. That will be really great and much appreciated. Thank you! ***

Listen to Stitcher

Bacteriology Refresher

Bacteria: single-celled microbes; often function as multicellular aggregates (biofilms)
Five morphological groups: cocci (spherical) and bacilli (rods) most common
Exist as single cells, in pairs, chains or clusters
Gram positive: thick cell wall
Gram negative: comparatively thin cell wall which includes a lipid membrane containing lipopolysaccharides (LPS, endotoxin) and lipoproteins
Also aerobic versus anaerobic growth; obligate or facultative

Antibacterials Refresher

Must remember the distinction between theoretical in vitro assertions and in vivo behaviour/effects in real clinical patients with different diseases and sites of infection

Broad- vs. narrow-spectrum classification according to the range of bacteria they are meant to be effective against. Commonly used but no clear and logical definitions for these terms. 

Bactericidal vs. bacteriostatic:

  • Bactericidal antibiotics kill bacteria directly
  • Bacteriostatic antibiotics stop bacteria from growing
  • May be much more relevant under strict laboratory conditions; more arbitrary and inconsistent in clinical situations

Time- vs. concentration-dependent:


  • Key pharmacodynamic parameter = time that plasma concentration remains above the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) during the dosing interval
  • MIC = lowest concentration of an antimicrobial that will inhibit the visible growth of a microorganism after overnight incubation
  • Higher concentration does not result in greater antibacterial activity
  • Key element is how long the concentration remains above the MIC at the site of infection rather than how high the concentration reaches
  • Dosing interval is critical; missing doses can compromise efficacy
  • Examples include penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems


  • Key pharmacodynamic parameter = ratio between peak plasma drug concentration and the MIC of the antibiotic in question
  • I.e. antibacterial activity is related to how high the concentration reaches at the site of infection rather than how long it remains above the MIC during the dosing interval.
  • Examples include the fluoroquinolones and the aminoglycosides.

Beta-lactam Antibacterials

Most widely used antibiotics in dogs and cats?


Amoxicillin ‘potentiated’ by addition of potassium clavulanate
British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Formulary (8th edn.):

  • Amoxicillin active against certain Gram-positive and Gram-negative aerobic organisms and many obligate anaerobes but not against those that produce beta-lactamases (e.g. E. coli, Staph aureus)
  • Clavulanate increases spectrum of action and restores efficacy against amoxicillin-resistant bacteria that produce beta-lactamases
  • More difficult Gram-negative organisms (e.g. Pseudomonas, Klebsiella) usually resistant 


  • First-generation (e.g. cefalexin (cephalexin)) active predominantly against Gram-positive bacteria
  • Successive generations (e.g. cefuroxime is second generation) have increased activity against Gram-negative bacteria (albeit often with reduced activity against Gram-positive organisms)


British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Formulary (8th edn.):

“Ideally fluoroquinolone use should be reserved for infections where culture and sensitivity testing predicts a clinical response and where first- and second-line antimicrobials would not be effective”.

Active against Mycoplasma and many Gram-positive and Gram-negative organisms, but relatively ineffective against obligate anaerobes


Treatment of anaerobic infections, giardiasis and other protozoal infections

Antimicrobial Stewardship

Derived from this review article:

Guardabassi L, Prescott JF. Antimicrobial Stewardship in Small Animal Veterinary Practice: From Theory to Practice. Vet Clin N Am – Sm Anim Prac 2015. 45(2):361–376.

Nature of the problem:

“Antimicrobial resistance [or AMR] is one of the greatest challenges currently facing small animal veterinary medicine. During the past decade, various multidrug-resistant bacteria (MDR) have emerged and spread among dogs and cats on a worldwide basis. The major current MDR organisms of concern are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudointermedius (MRSP) and Escherichia coli producing extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL). However, these bacteria are just the tip of the iceberg because multidrug resistance has diffused in other common bacterial pathogens encountered in general practice, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and enterococci. Additional MDR bacteria that are more likely to be isolated from animals presenting to referral centers include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), carbapenemase-producing E coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, and MDR Acinetobacter baumannii.

All these MDR bacteria are frequently resistant to all conventional antimicrobials licensed for animal use and therefore pose a serious threat to animal health by increasing the risk of therapeutic failure and the recourse to euthanasia. MRSP/MRSA and MDR gram-negatives are important hospital-associated pathogens that can be transmitted from patient to patient through contact with personnel, with healthy animal carriers, and with contaminated environmental surfaces. Significant public health concerns exist because of the possible risk of animal-to-human transmission and in part also because of the increasing use in small animals of critically important antimicrobials authorized for human use only, such as carbapenems.

From the owner’s perspective, infections caused by MDR bacteria contribute to increased veterinary expenditures because of additional and more expensive antimicrobial treatments, longer hospitalization, more visits, and more diagnostic tests. Moreover, the negative consequences of MDR infections in household pets include emotional and social effects on the owners and their families. Hospitals and clinics affected by outbreaks of MDR bacterial infections also can be impacted economically by the loss of revenue due to loss of reputation and decreased case load, decontamination procedures, closure, and coverage of patient bills. This situation is worsened by the slow development of new antimicrobial drugs observed over the past decades. The few truly new agents are reserved for human use in hospitals and it is unlikely that these drugs will be authorized for veterinary use in the years to come. Thus, it is of paramount importance to preserve the efficacy of the veterinary antimicrobial products available today.”

Antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs) are a cornerstone of the response to the AMR crisis in human medicine; still largely underdeveloped in veterinary medicine.

“the aim of this article is to indicate the necessary steps that should be taken to establish ASPs in small animal veterinary practice, taking into consideration the many and remarkable differences between the human and the veterinary sector, and indeed the remarkable differences within veterinary medicine. Although the article highlights the structural and economic constraints that make implementation of ASPs used in human health care facilities difficult in small animal practice, it provides suggestions and approaches to overcome such constraints and to move toward practical implementation of effective veterinary-specific ASPs in small animal hospitals and clinics. We emphasize the multidimensional and the “mind-set” nature of “good stewardship practice” (GSP), as well the importance of an entire team-based commitment similar to that required for implementation of infection control practices.”

Antimicrobial paradox in small animal practice:

“One of the most effective strategies to manage AMR in human hospitals is to reduce the overall consumption of antimicrobial agents and rationalize the use of the most valuable drugs (eg, carbapenems, fourth-generation cephalosporins, glycopeptides), which are generally reserved for empirical treatment of life-threatening infections or infections that cannot be treated otherwise on the basis of susceptibility data. This strategy is almost completely flipped in small animal practice, where the listed drugs are not authorized and the most powerful veterinary antimicrobials, namely β-lactamase–resistant penicillins, cephalosporins, and fluoroquinolones, are widely used as empiric first-line agents in primary care, including treatment of mild or self-limiting infections….

…High consumption of these drugs provides a strong selective pressure in favor of MDR bacteria resistant to extended-spectrum β-lactams and fluoroquinolones” but the authors acknowledge that “they are indispensable drugs for management of common bacterial infections in small animals, including complicated skin and urinary tract infections and various life-threatening conditions”.

What is antimicrobial stewardship?

“The term “antimicrobial stewardship” is used to describe the multifaceted and dynamic approaches required to sustain the clinical efficacy of antimicrobials by optimizing drug use, choice, dosing, duration, and route of administration, while minimizing the emergence of resistance and other adverse effects. The word stewardship implies the obligation to preserve something of enormous value for future generations, and resonates in a way that “prudent use” or “judicious use” does not. GSP is the active, dynamic process of continuous improvement in antimicrobial use, and is an ethic with many steps of different sizes by everyone involved in antimicrobial use. Stewardship thus links, for example, front-line veterinary practitioners with laboratory diagnosticians, owners, drug regulators, and pharmaceutical companies.”

Examples of elements encompassed by the term antimicrobial stewardship that affect the emergence and spread of resistance include practice guidelines, dosage considerations and clinical microbiology data.
Also “A 5R approach to stewardship: Acceptance of responsibility for resistance as a potential effect of antimicrobial use, and for reduction, replacement, refinement, and review of antimicrobial use on an ongoing basis.”

In human medicine antibiotic stewardship is very much something that is attended to at the individual hospital level. In veterinary medicine it tends to be more about national and international surveillance and guidelines and potentially “legal (regulatory) interventions imposed by national authorities to restrict or ban specific drugs, to limit profit derived from antimicrobial dispensation, and taxes or penalties to prevent antimicrobial overuse”. While the authors support this “broad, multifaceted, approach to sustaining the efficacy of antibiotics for the long term” they also “recognize the need for establishing hospital-based ASPs in small animal practice.”

Establishing an antibiotic stewardship programme:

“No guidelines are available for development of ASPs in small animal clinics”
Article presents information and guidelines from non-veterinary specific resources

Role of microbiology laboratory:

“Liaison with a microbiologist at the diagnostic laboratory, which in contrast to human hospitals is normally placed outside the clinic environment, is an essential aspect for implementation of ASPs in small animal veterinary practice. The microbiology laboratory is not only supposed to provide timely and accurate species identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Its role and responsibilities go beyond correct specimen testing and reporting of results, and include attention to the preanalytical...and postanalytical...components of testing. Selective reporting of susceptibility profiles can be used to discourage unnecessary use of broad-spectrum agents that are not licensed for veterinary use...Indiscriminate reporting of positive culture and susceptibility data on likely contaminants or nonpathogenic commensals should be avoided, because this practice may lead to inappropriate antimicrobial use. Last, but not least, the microbiology laboratory should generate annual reports summarizing the trends of AMR at the clinic level or at least at the regional level.”

Antimicrobial stewardship strategies:

“Various strategies have been shown to improve appropriateness of antimicrobial use and cure rates, decrease failure rates, and reduce health care–related costs in human hospitals”.
Article provides an overview of the most successful strategies used in human hospitals with focus on their implementation in small animal veterinary practice. Including:

Educational approaches:

“outstanding example of a readily and freely accessible Web-based and app-linked resource aimed to support companion animal veterinarians to develop practice policies for antimicrobial stewardship is the PROTECT site of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association”

PROTECT = Practice policy, Reduce prophylaxis, Other options, Types of bacteria and drugs, Employ narrow spectrum, Culture and sensitivity, and Treat effectively.

Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations has released several posters addressing responsible use of antimicrobials, appropriate antimicrobial therapy, and hygiene and infection control in veterinary practice.

Development and implementation of guidelines:

“General (generic) guidelines providing statements of principles of prudent antimicrobial use have been developed in recent years by most national veterinary organizations…Although important from a conceptual standpoint, their clinical guidance and impact is likely limited. Standard texts have included investigator recommendations on first-choice, second-choice, and last-resort antimicrobial agents… More recently, evidence-based clinical antimicrobial use guidelines have been developed using approaches similar to those for human guidelines. These have typically involved national or international expert panels reviewing and assessing the quality and strength of published literature to produce recommendations for diagnosis and management of specific conditions….The impact of national practice guidelines is likely higher than for international guidelines, because they take into account local factors regarding legislation, drug market availability, and prevalence of resistance.

Many veterinary specialty organizations also have developed guidelines, ranging from generic prudent use guidelines to practice-specific or disease-specific guidelines…Veterinary practice guidelines are negatively affected by numerous knowledge gaps regarding dose-effect relationships between antimicrobial use and resistance, antimicrobial consumption, resistance prevalence, drug-to-drug superiority, and optimal duration of treatment. However, although there are limitations, national guidelines are an essential milestone for development of [local antimicrobial policies] and more complex [antimicrobial stewardship programs] at the clinic level”.

Generic guidelines provided in paper (with references):

  1. Antimicrobials should be used only when there is evidence or at least a well-founded clinical suspicion of bacterial infection
  2. Antimicrobials should not be used for treatment of self-limiting infections
  3. Antimicrobial, pathogen, infection site, and patient factors should be considered when choosing an appropriate treatment
  4. Cytology should be used as a point-of-care test to guide antimicrobial choice for relevant disease conditions (eg, otitis and urinary tract infections)
  5. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing should be performed if:
    • There is suspicion of a complicated or life-threatening infection
    • The patient does not respond to initial treatment
    • The patient has a recurring or refractory infection
    • The patient is immunosuppressed
    • There is a need to monitor the outcome of therapy (eg, long treatment period)
    • The patient is at risk of infection with multidrug-resistant bacteria
  6. As narrow a spectrum therapy as possible should be used
  7. Topical therapy should be preferred over systemic therapy for treatment of superficial skin infections
  8. Antimicrobials should be used for as short a time as possible
  9. Extra-label use should be avoided when on-label options are reasonable
  10. Use of critically important antimicrobials not authorized for veterinary use should at least be restricted to rare and severe patient conditions (eg, diagnosed, life-threatening bacterial infections that cannot be treated by any other available antimicrobials, provided that treatment has a realistic chance of eliminating infection)
  11. Antimicrobial therapy should never be used as a substitute for good infection control, and good medical and surgical practices
  12. Perioperative prophylaxis should be used only when indicated, and follow standard guidelines
  13. Clients should be educated to ensure compliance

“Although there has been a marked increase in available guidelines, there has been little assessment of their impact on practice.”

“The effort spent on introducing guidelines, on educating health care providers, and in monitoring the response to guidelines is often slight compared with the effort of development, but critical to success. Compliance with guidelines may be poor because of inadequate communication, differences in opinion regarding recommended treatments, and resentment of measures to prescribe individual decisions….Thus, it is crucial that national and local veterinary professional and regulatory organizations allocate sufficient time and resources to promote guidelines and facilitate compliance.”

Other antimicrobial stewardship strategies mentioned:

  • Prescription approval
  • Post-prescription review
  • Computer-based decision support

Article also covers:

  • Measuring the outcomes of antimicrobial stewardship programs
  • Potential barriers to their implementation

Key points:

  • “There is increasing recognition of the critical role for antimicrobial stewardship and infection control in preventing the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria in small animals.
  • Establishment of antimicrobial stewardship programs requires (1) coordination ideally by an infectious disease specialist or at least by a clinician with strong interest in and good knowledge of antimicrobial resistance and therapy, (2) commitment by the clinical staff, and (3) collaboration with the microbiology laboratory.
  • Even in the absence of specialist help, by accessing the increasingly available resources, veterinary clinics should at least develop, implement, and periodically update local antimicrobial policies indicating first-choice, restricted, and reserve drugs.
  • Educational approaches, clinical guidelines, preprescription approval, postprescription review, and computer-based decision support are the most effective strategies to accomplish best practices in antimicrobial stewardship.
  • The main barriers to implementation of antimicrobial stewardship programs comprise (1) economic sustainability; (2) lack of formally trained infectious disease specialists; (3) limited use of culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing; (4) scientific knowledge gaps for assessment of resistance, development of evidence-based guidelines, and optimization of antimicrobial therapy; and (5) absence of standardized methods for evaluating the outcomes of antimicrobial stewardship programs.”

In 2015 ACVIM published a “Consensus Statement on Therapeutic Antimicrobial Use in Animals and Antimicrobial Resistance” in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

[This podcast is closely aligned with the MedEdLIFE Research Collaborative's Quality Checklist for Podcasts.]

I mention my Small Animal Emergency Medicine App for iPhone/iPad in this episode which you can find HERE. An Android version is in development.

Tweet: Check out FREE audio podcasts from @VetEmCC http://ctt.ec/UqL8b+ Also available in iTunes/Stitcher. #veterinary #podcast

Emotional Well-being in Veterinary Practice

*** If you find these podcasts useful and interesting, PLEASE click on the iTunes icon below, then the "View in iTunes" blue link, and then rate and/or review the podcast. That will be really great and much appreciated. Thank you! ***

Listen to Stitcher

In this episode of the podcast I am joined by Enid Traisman M.S.W., CT, CFS to discuss issues around emotional well-being in veterinary practice. Enid is the Director of Pet Loss Support Services at Dove Lewis, a non-profit emergency animal hospital in Portland, Oregon in the USA.

Topics that we discuss in this episode include the following; where appropriate we talk about prevention, recognition and coping strategies:

  • Pet loss grief
  • When veterinary staff have to deal with loss of their own companion animals
  • Compassion fatigue and burnout
  • Workplace stress and emotional challenges of the veterinary profession

During the episode Enid mentions creating a memorial table at work when a staff member loses a pet. Here are a couple of examples of beautiful memorial tables created by Enid:


You can also find Enid’s overview of the pet memorial table concept here.



Provided by Enid:


Vetlife (UK)
Intensive Care for Intensivists
Managing Exposure: A Grounded Theory of Burnout and Resilience in Critical Care Nurses

Find contact details for Enid here at the Dove Lewis website.

Please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions using the contact form, via email at shailenjasani@gmail.com, via Twitter @VetEmCC or via Facebook at the Veterinary ECC Small Talk page.

[This podcast is closely aligned with the MedEdLIFE Research Collaborative's Quality Checklist for Podcasts.]

I mention my Small Animal Emergency Medicine App for iPhone/iPad in this episode which you can find HERE. An Android version is in development.

Tweet: Check out FREE audio podcasts from @VetEmCC http://ctt.ec/UqL8b+ Also available in iTunes/Stitcher. #veterinary #podcast

What's Magnesium Got To Do With It?

*** If you find these podcasts useful and interesting, PLEASE click on the iTunes icon below, then the "View in iTunes" blue link, and then rate and/or review the podcast. That will be really great and much appreciated. Thank you! ***

Listen to Stitcher

This episode is based on:

Humphrey S, Kirby R, Rudloff E. Magnesium physiology and clinical therapy in veterinary critical care. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2015. 25(2):210-225.

“Magnesium (Mg) is a cation with an escalating role in critical care medicine.”

Is this true?
If it is, is it a good thing?
Is the evidence base supporting this escalating role theoretical, experimental or clinical? 

Background theory

“magnesium plays a pivotal role in cellular energy production and cell-specific functions in every organ of the body. Excess or deficiency of this important cation can result in life-threatening complications.”

Majority (99%) intracellular, especially bone
Plasma magnesium: protein-bound, complexed (anions e.g. citrate, phosphate), ionised
Ionised Mg physiologically active form

Plasma [Mg] may not reflect cellular environment
Changes in plasma [Mg] may not reflect changes in total body [Mg]

Intracellular [Mg] maintained at 0.5–1 mmol/L despite significant fluctuations in extracellular [Mg].

Cellular functions:

“Magnesium plays a pivotal role in the electrophysiology and ion flux across cell and mitochondrial membranes” ultimately impacting on energy production and release.
Affects cellular functions via relationship with intracellular calcium; in general competes with or otherwise influences calcium movement.

Various other functions mentioned in article.

Total body magnesium content dependent upon intestinal and renal absorption and excretion

Measuring Magnesium

“Accurate measurement of total body magnesium is a challenge due to its intracellular location and activity. The current clinical standard is to quantitate serum total or ionized magnesium concentrations…Monitoring the biologically active serum ionized magnesium concentration is preferred over total serum magnesium concentration.”

Serum quantitation may not accurately reflect total body magnesium content – unresolved
Research methodologies that allow intracellular magnesium to be measured may become available for clinical use

Magnesium disorders

“Total body magnesium concentration is affected by dietary intake, gastrointestinal function, hormonal balance, redistribution of the magnesium cation, and excretion into a third body space or urine. Magnesium disorders can manifest with a multitude of clinical signs, none of which are specific for the magnesium disorder.”

Article includes summary of mechanisms, causes, clinical signs, and treatment recommendations for magnesium excess and deficiency.

*Patient may have clinical signs that are compatible with a magnesium disorder – but they will not be pathognomic for one
*Abnormal plasma [Mg] may support that signs are due to a magnesium disorder – but not necessarily
*Decision to treat: empirical; based on risk-benefit assessment

Magnesium excess

“The two most commonly reported causes of magnesium excess in both human and veterinary patients are renal failure and iatrogenic causes…Hypermagnesemia can occur when magnesium-containing drugs such as antacids, laxatives, or enemas are administered to patients with underlying renal disease….Hypotension is one of the key clinical complications of magnesium excess.”

[Martin LG, Matteson VL, Wingfield WE, et al. Abnormalities of Serum Magnesium in Critically III Dogs: Incidence and Implications. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 1994. 4(1):15-20]

  • Naturally occurring total hypermagnesaemia reported to occur in up to 13% of critically ill dogs admitted to the ICU of one teaching hospital
  • Found that dogs with hypermagnesaemia were 2.6 times more likely to die of their underlying disease than dogs with normal serum magnesium
  • Dogs with renal disease had the highest median values for serum magnesium 

Remember to critique the paper methodology yourself before attributing any significance to these reported results!

“The concept that naturally occurring hypermagnesaemia may have prognostic value warrants further study”
Magnesium deficiency

Total body magnesium deficiency can exist despite normal serum magnesium concentration.
“A diagnosis of ionized hypomagnesemia has been associated with a prolonged hospital stay in dogs…ileus in horses following colic surgery…as well as a prolonged hospital stay and a higher incidence of mortality in hospitalized cats…The hospital length of stay for critically ill dogs with hypomagnesemia was reported to be twice as long as those with normal serum magnesium….Hypomagnesemia was also associated with concurrent hyponatremia and hypokalemia in dogs.” Reference canine paper above, one equine paper and one feline paper.

“Hypomagnesemia is common in critically ill human patients”
“Although magnesium-depleted patients may represent a subset of patients with more severe disease, hypomagnesemia appears to be an independent predictor of outcome”. Reference one human study.
If there is good quality evidence that hypomagnesaemia is common in critically ill human patients, does the same apply to critically ill dogs, and what about critically ill cats?

Keep an evidence-based perspective to all this…..

  • Hypokalaemia can become refractory to standard potassium replacement therapy as a consequence of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium replacement may be necessary before potassium supplementation is effective.
  • Magnesium also apparently serves as a cofactor for insulin release and function, as well as in maintenance of appropriate cellular sensitivity to insulin. Insulin resistance may develop secondary to magnesium deficiency.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: “hypomagnesemia is a common finding in diabetic ketoacidotic people. Ketoaciduria and glucosuria promote urinary magnesium excretion, which can be exacerbated with fluid diuresis. In addition, significant cellular redistribution of magnesium occurs as it moves from the extracellular space to the intracellular compartment with insulin therapy. Close monitoring for clinical signs of a magnesium deficit is necessary since a total body deficit may not be reflected in the measured serum magnesium concentration.”
  • Calcium and magnesium are affected in a similar manner by hormones. As many as one-third of human patients with low serum magnesium may concurrently have low serum calcium. Correction of magnesium deficiencies may be required with refractory hypocalcaemia.
  • Magnesium deficiency has been shown to affect gastrointestinal function and motility.  Magnesium deficiency should be considered a differential in any patient with decreased stomach or intestinal motility.
  • “Magnesium has been successfully used in the treatment of preeclampsia and eclampsia in women since 1912…The anticonvulsant of choice for treating seizures due to eclampsia is magnesium…Hypomagnesemia may also be a factor in dogs presenting with eclampsia and should be considered when managing dogs with signs of eclampsia.”
  • "Cardiac conduction abnormalities are one of the most common and serious manifestations of magnesium deficiency. Cardiac arrhythmias associated with hypomagnesemia include ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, digitalis toxicity associated arrhythmias, and torsades de pointes (TdP).” But the authors point out that “Magnesium's role in the pathogenesis of arrhythmias is difficult to ascertain since magnesium deficits often coexist with potassium and calcium deficiencies….Multiple studies in both human and veterinary patients have documented resolution of TdP after magnesium sulfate infusion… Magnesium supplementation decreases the incidence of ventricular arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation following cardiopulmonary bypass and coronary artery bypass in humans with magnesium deficiency.” Some human medics use magnesium in the treatment of ventricular dysrhythmias.

Treatment of magnesium disorders

“The decision to treat a suspected or diagnosed magnesium disorder will depend on the severity of the clinical signs and the magnitude of change from normal range of the serum magnesium level of the patient.”
Provide some more detailed treatment recommendations with mostly human medicine references

Magnesium excess

Hypermagnesaemia treated by replacing magnesium-containing medications or fluids with magnesium-free ones.
Promoting urinary excretion and inhibiting renal tubular reabsorption of magnesium are mainstays of treatment for moderate to severe hypermagnesaemia and when clinical signs are apparent (e.g. cardiac arrhythmia, hypotension). Use IV sodium chloride +/- diuretics.
Acute magnesium toxicity from iatrogenic overdose treated with additional calcium gluconate
“Hemo- or peritoneal dialysis using magnesium-free dialysate may be necessary to treat symptomatic magnesium excess resulting from kidney disease or iatrogenic overdose.” 

Magnesium deficiency

“If the magnesium deficit is mild, dietary changes and oral magnesium salts such as magnesium carbonate or oxide may be sufficient to increase magnesium intake….Oral magnesium supplementation…should be considered in small animal patients at risk for chronic mild magnesium deficit, for example, those with GI malabsorptive diseases or chronic digoxin or loop diuretic therapy.”

“Animals symptomatic for low magnesium should be treated with an IV infusion of magnesium sulfate or magnesium chloride” and they recommend accounting for the magnesium content of any IV fluids being used when calculating magnesium supplementation doses.”

“the optimum dosage and rate of magnesium administration has not been defined for veterinary patients”

Reportedly a single experimental canine study has been the basis of the magnesium sulfate dose recommendation in dogs and cats.

Magnesium Infusion as an Adjunct to Therapy

“The multifaceted role of magnesium in cells has led researchers and clinicians in human medicine to explore the effects of infusing magnesium as an adjunct to therapy for various conditions.”
Cite a reference from 1974 for potential use in shock resuscitation
“Current studies of brain injury, spinal injury, pain, sepsis and systemic inflammatory response syndrome, hypercoagulable states, eclampsia, tetanus, and ischemia have demonstrated potential beneficial effects from magnesium administration. In these situations, magnesium administration is not given to replace a documented magnesium deficiency but instead given for its beneficial effects in specific cells. Though all syndromes reported in people may not be common in veterinary patients, knowledge of the possible mechanisms of action of magnesium infusion on various tissues may allow extrapolation into the veterinary population of patients.”

The authors say that current studies have demonstrated potential beneficial effects in a variety of scenarios. We should explore the evidence for that statement further to ensure that we are happy that it is legitimate.
And, is extrapolating from humans to veterinary patients a legitimate practice?

“Magnesium sulfate has been utilized in the treatment of autonomic dysfunction associated with severe generalized tetanus in both people and dogs.” Reference a single case report from JVECC in 2011. Much greater anecdotal experience exists but to date use of magnesium in tetanus remains inconclusive.

Risk-benefit assessment:

“The administration of magnesium as an adjunctive therapy in the tetanus patient has not been associated with adverse side effects” – may not help but unlikely to do any harm so maybe give it a go?
Potential to actually induce hypermagnesaemia


  • “Magnesium is an important intracellular cation required for energy production and cell function in every organ.
  • Changes in magnesium homeostasis have consistently been correlated with increases in morbidity and mortality in veterinary and human critical patients.
  • Assessment of serum magnesium concentration should become a routine part of critical patient evaluation since the clinical signs and conditions associated with magnesium disorders can be nonspecific and varied.
  • Equipment to measure serum ionized or total magnesium is readily available in-hospital.
  • However, measurement of serum magnesium may not reflect total body magnesium concentration.
  • The serum magnesium concentration combined with clinical signs and conditions associated with magnesium disorders are used to make the diagnosis and to monitor treatment.
  • Research is exploring the role of magnesium infusions as an adjunct to standard therapy for clinical disorders such as head trauma, reperfusion injury, and vascular disease.
  • Future studies are expected to better define the role of magnesium in critical illness and investigate potential benefits of magnesium infusion in veterinary patients.”

SJ: “I guess my position is that when it comes to the clinical aspects and recommendations that the authors make, I don’t necessarily disagree, however I am also not sure that there is the evidence base in dogs and cats to support the statements at this time. So for me it is most definitely an area of on-going interest to see what more comes to light going forward.”

Please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions using the contact form, via email at shailenjasani@gmail.com, via Twitter @VetEmCC or via Facebook at the Veterinary ECC Small Talk page.

[This podcast is closely aligned with the MedEdLIFE Research Collaborative's Quality Checklist for Podcasts.]

I mention my Small Animal Emergency Medicine App for iPhone/iPad in this episode which you can find HERE. An Android version is in development.

Tweet: Check out FREE audio podcasts from @VetEmCC http://ctt.ec/UqL8b+ Also available in iTunes/Stitcher. #veterinary #podcast