Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The art of urine collection

We call it “liquid gold” because it’s such a valuable diagnostic tool. With as little as a teaspoonful of urine, we can detect a multitude of ills including kidney disease, endocrine disorders, liver disease, urinary tract infections, even bladder cancer. We realize that the request to “please bring in a urine sample” can cause angst in even our most intrepid clients.  So I’m coming to the rescue with some hints on how to collect urine from your dog or cat.  You’ll never look at popcorn the same way again!

Collecting urine from your dog

Some of our clients prefer that we collect the urine sample. And of course we will, but there are still some guidelines you’ll need to follow. Give your dog plenty of water to drink, and make sure you keep him from urinating for several hours before his veterinary visit. Obviously, you can’t take him for a walk, or let him into the yard, but don’t forget to prevent him from eliminating on the way to the car or once you get to our office. That means you’ll need to pick up your small dog, or run up to our front door with your bigger dog on a leash. If you give him time to sniff, it’s game over! You can also bypass the mad rush to the hospital entrance:  Let us know you’ve arrived, and we’ll come out to your car and collect the urine while you walk your dog.

Before collecting urine yourself, it’s important to clean the tip of the prepuce (the skin that covers the penis) in a male dog and the vulva in a female dog. If that isn’t done, dried cells and mucus can contaminate the sample. Use a clean, moist cloth or a baby wipe.

Containers that can be used for urine collection are limited only by your imagination; the lid from a small jar is suitable for a toy breed, and a margarine container serves well for a bigger dog. Just make sure they’re spotlessly clean, and the right size for your dog. It may be easier to use a ladle or a paper cup that’s taped to a yardstick so you don’t have to bend over.  Or you can borrow our fancy Olympic Clean Catch, which is a professionally designed ladle-like gizmo with a long handle and a removable plastic container on the end. It makes collecting urine easy-peesy!  We also provide free urine collection kits, with a banana split container you can use to catch the sample and a sterile container in which to transport it to the animal hospital. Do you see a disturbing trend using food-related items here?

Collecting urine from your cat

Here’s where the art comes in. We cat lovers know how our feline friends hate it when we tamper with their litter box, but collecting urine necessitates some modification of the status quo.

Try this method, which I find works about half of the time: Place a clean litter liner over the existing litter, or put the entire litter box in a plastic garbage bag. Press the plastic against the litter so your cat can feel the litter through the plastic. She’ll urinate on the liner, and you’ll get a nice, clean sample.

A commonly used method of collecting urine from cats entails replacing their litter with inert substrates. Before using any litter substitute, make sure you wash and rinse the litter box well, or use a litter liner. We sell two litter replacement products that work nicely. One, Kit-4-Kat, is a hydrophobic sand. Urine beads up on the surface and is collected using the provided pipette. Because cats like the feel of the sand, Kit-4-Kat is readily accepted by most felines. Another product we sell is called NOSORB. It consists of tiny, non-absorbent black beads that you scatter in an empty litter box. I prefer that cat owners use one of those commercial products, which are clean and prevent debris from getting in the sample. But I’ve had clients successfully use unpopped popcorn kernels, and even quartz fish aquarium gravel (thoroughly rinsed). With all methods, tilt the box and use a spoon or a syringe to collect the urine. 

Whether dog or cat urine, a fresh specimen is best; samples checked within a couple hours of collection yield the most accurate results. That’s not always possible, so we tell our clients to do the best they can and refrigerate samples that can’t be brought in right away. Any urine is often better than no urine.Occasionally, neither pet owner nor animal hospital employee has success in collecting urine. If a urine sample is essential, or if we need a urine culture, the veterinarian can collect it via cystocentesis. We insert a small needle through the skin directly into a full bladder and withdraw urine. It sounds nasty, but it’s actually painless. Nevertheless, some dogs and cats will need sedation because they don’t tolerate being restrained.

If you want to borrow our Olympic Clean-Catch, need a urine collection kit, or simply need further advice, give us a call; with our assistance, urine good hands!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Finding Rover

Today’s technology is amazing, but it also can be disconcerting. Take facial recognition: This incredible (but creepy) technology can identify individuals in photos even if they are barely in the picture, far in the background, or in a photo within the photo. And it might be able to recognize your photo even if it was taken 30 years ago, when you were in elementary school!

Government agencies aren’t the only ones that have a huge database of faces. So do some churches! If your church employs this software, you might get more requests for donations if you attend regularly, or you might get a call if you stop attending.

Now there’s a new use for facial recognition software that’s amazing and not creepy! It’s an app called Finding Rover, and it helps reunite lost pets with their people by using this technology. 

The CEO and founder of Finding Rover is John Polimeno, a former construction business owner. He had his aha moment as he stared at a lost-dog poster while sitting in a California coffee shop:  If facial recognition software works for people, why can’t it work for pets?

Millions of dollars later, after working with scientists at the University Of Utah Software Development Center and with app programmers, Polimeno saw his idea come to fruition, and Finding Rover was born. A cat version, Finding Kitty, will operate within the app and will launch soon. 

The app, which can be used on a desktop computer or a smartphone (both Android and iOS operating systems are supported), is free and user-friendly. Launch the app, enter your personal information and choose a password. Touch the “More” icon at the bottom of the screen, then touch the “Add Pet” icon. The camera will open. Your four-legged friend won’t sit still? Press the dog head icon next to the shutter button, and immediately a one-second whining puppy cry is heard. Your dog should turn his head toward the camera.

After taking a picture of your pet’s face, you adjust the photo to align his eyes with a horizontal line, filling the frame with his entire head. The instructions then direct you to drag circles around each eye and a triangle around his nose. After filling out your pet’s information, you’re done.

The technology uses 128 facial markers and is highly accurate; 98% of dogs and 99% of cats can be accurately photographically matched.  What about dogs of the same breed, some of whom appear to be identical? It turns out that the more similar a face is to others, the easier it is to identify. 

Once you have installed the app and registered, you can report a lost or found dog. Alerts go to nearby members, dog organizations, and social media. The idea is that when a pet is found, its picture will be added to the network, and a match will be made.

As wonderful as this new use of facial recognition technology is, it doesn’t replace other methods of finding a lost pet:
  • Microchip all pets, even if they’re indoor pets only. Log on to your microchip provider’s website and report a lost or found pet.  If you find a lost pet and can find their microchip number (it may be on a tag, or we can access it with our chip reader), you can often find the owner online by going to Pet Microchip Lookup.
  • Have an ID tag attached to your dog’s collar.
  • Put up posters around your neighborhood with your pet’s picture and your contact information. Ask neighbors, postal workers, and delivery people if they have seen your pet, and give them a poster. Drop some off at local veterinary offices, too.
  • Drive around your neighborhood several times a day.
  • Call nearby shelters to alert them that your pet is lost, and check with them frequently. You can also contact shelters by computer on various websites such as PawBoost. A poster of your pet will be sent free to area shelters.
  • Use a GPS tracking device for your dog; very cool, and a subject for another blog post!
Many of us consider the loss of personal privacy in our society from facial recognition as being ominous. But it’s heartening to know that at least our furry friends can benefit from it!