LBAH Informational Articles

Black Rhino Conservation Trip

Dateline 1995

Dr. P went on an Earthwatch trip studying Black rhino’s in Zimbabwe for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks of looking for rhino’s in African bush he spent some time traveling around the area. This is his report, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

For you photo buff’s, the pictures on this page were taken be a Canon EOS Elan camera with slide film and a Canon 100mm-300mm zoom lens. This was the midd 90’s and there were no digital cameras available or even on the horizon.

One of the most endangered mammals on the planet is the Black Rhinoceros. Their numbers have plummeted from 65,000 in 1970 to just a few hundred or less wild individuals today. This has been due to poaching for their horns, which are used for two main purposes. The first is for dagger handles for the men of Yemen, although recently the handles have been replaced with materials other than rhino horn. The other main use has been for medicinals (not aphrodisiacs as is commonly thought) in China, particularly when the horn is powdered. Recently (as of 2010) the people of Vietnam have the mistaken notion that powdered rhino horn will treat their cancer, dramatically adding to the problem.

Unfortunately, for all the effort put into saving this species, the future is bleak in this part of Africa.

This is an article from the Los Angeles Times.

Dr. P went on this trip for several reasons. The first and main reason of course was to help with conservation work on the black rhino. The second was to raft the Zambezi river.

The 3rd reason was to work with the British who were in charge of this project. The are organized and have a great (and ongoing) sense of humor to put it mildly. This is an excerpt from the exhibition briefing written by the British researcher in charge of the project describing what happens when (if) we find a black rhino.

Just in case you have never seen one of these before, this is a Brit. Many of them have this silly grin on their faces, even when they are not drinking (which is rare).

When we first arrived at the camp and told them we are the American contingent, they greeted us with “oh, so you are from the colonies”!

This sign upon our arrival at camp should read “Earthwatch Earth Corps, Come Help a Changing Planet. After the Brits got to it the message came out a little different.

Enough of the Limeys, let’s get on with the expedition…..

The Black Rhino trip started in the country of Zimbabwe, formerly know as Rhodesia. It is the same size as Texas. It is here that conservationists are waging an all out battle against the poachers. The park rangers in Zimbabwe have license to kill poachers on sight. Unfortunately corruption is ever present, and makes their job difficult. Our exact location was Hwange National Park, in the western section of the country.

The blue horizontal line denotes the equator, so we are in the southern hemisphere. The blue arrow points to Zimbabwe.

Lets take a quick tour of the Sinamatella camp before we start looking for those rhino’s.

The resident hornbill that kept us company at our campsite.

Two person tents gave us plenty of room to store all those supplies we brought along and never used.

After a hot, long, and dusty day in the bush we came back to some nice showers.

We even had our laundry washed for us whenever we needed.

Believe it or not he actually put hot coals in the iron!

There is a reason they did our laundry for us besides just being nice. They ironed our clothes because it kills the eggs of the Putzi Fly (African Tumbu Fly). This fly lays eggs in clothes that are moist from perspiration. The eggs turn into larvae (maggots) and burrow into your skin when you put the clothes back on. Routine washing does not kill the eggs, you need the heat of the iron to do this.

Here are some of the characters on the trip. Anton, a south African who works at the camp, was a sheer joy to work with. He is on the left wearing the green shirt. Do you notice what is in his left hand? Sue is on the right, and even though the expediton briefing clearly, unequivocally, emphatically, and succinctly told us to break in our hiking boots, Sue purchased hers just prior to the trip. So she has a blister. You can guess what Anton is going to do……

…..yes, he is going to stick a needle in her blister and take off the fluid!.

Anton told Sue not to worry because he sterilizes all his surgical equipment with Jix. We have no idea what Jix is, and neither did Anton probably. We do know though that the HIV prevalence in this part of Africa in 1995 was 30% !

Evening meals brought visitors from throughout the area for some good food and cold beers. We stayed up late many nights around the campfire talking the night away.

This is the view from our campsite. Lets test your game viewing abilities. The blue arrow points to a white windmill off in the distance. Use this as your landmark. Is there anything else of interest in this photo, perhaps and animal or two. Look closely…

When we zoom in a little more you can visualize the white windmill much easier. Now do you see anything?

Lets try a little closer…..Look at the top left of the picture. Those are elephants.

One last zoom of the camera and a lone elephant is apparent.

Lets try another one. Do you see any wildlife in this picture?

Its an elephant again, in the top left quadrant in the photo above.

Now that you are an expert give this one a try……

If you want the answer you have to email us with your guess. Good luck!

Our day started early, before the heat became too intense. We were required to take at least 2 liters of water before we were allowed to leave camp. When we were picked up by the jeep at the end of the day they had to bring water because we were out.

First thing every morning our leader Skye meet with the park rangers to determine what areas were too dangerous to enter. Dangerous meant poachers or large amounts of lions.

We were then assigned sectors for our transect, always walking from north to south.

Once we had our water and sector it was time to pile into the jeeps for the 1-2 hour ride to our transect point.

These roads aren’t exactly paved, so we had to hang on for most of the ride.

We would spend 6-8 hours walking a specific transect looking for any evidence of rhinoceros. Hard to believe there are any animals in this dry brush.

One of the park rangers always lead the way carrying an AK-47, his main anti-poaching weapon (although a poor weapon against big game). This guide’s name is Zhou. These men are rugged individuals that can function in this environment with minimal food and water.

We looked for any evidence of rhino. This shows how they browse and leave evidence of their presence.

Whenever we came across a Black rhino footprint we did two things after the park ranger verified it was the right rear foot of a Black Rhino. First, it was logged into our notes, measured, and a picture was taken. Next we traced it with acetate paper for later scanning into a computer for identification. Rhino’s are so scarce that just finding a footprint of one was considered a successful day.

Where we found the tracks was of critical importance. In addition to our maps and compass, we used a GPS system to help increase the accuracy of our data.

When we got real lucky we actually saw rhino. This is a radio collared female. Notice how the mother’s horns have been trimmed. This is an effort by the government to decrease poaching, since if a rhino has no horns, it is not worth it to kill it. Unfortunately this did not work.

Her calf was with her. If you look carefully you can see the oxpecker on the mother’s back. Rhino’s have terrible eyesight but keen senses of smell and hearing.

There are several safety precautions to take when a rhino starts moving towards you like these two did. One of the most important ones it to get into a tree ASAP. An added advantage to being in the tree is it decreases their ability to smell you, allowing for some great photographic opportunities when they wander close.

The calf came into the open so I shot a quick photo as I shimmied up the tree.

You can see the 3 toes on her feet. This classifies her as a perrisodactyl (having one or an odd number of toes).

Most of the time this is the photo you get of a rhinoceros- the south end while the rhino is going north.

This day was very successful. Our group came across 3 rhinos, while the groups walking other transects saw none. As a reward I gave Zhou my Swiss army knife.

You can see from his smile the knife was well appreciated. Without the skills of the park rangers there is minimal chance we would see any Rhino’s.

After a long and hot day walking the transects a pickup truck (with water, thank you) was there to greet us and take us back. Hmmmm, hope there are no snakes in this grass.

Some of the best game viewing occurred standing in the bed of the pickup while driving back to camp. While everyone else was inside nodding out Dr. P enjoyed the African bush as the sun was setting and creating his shadow.

>Our africa adventure does not end here though. After working hard for 2 weeks it is time for some game viewing in other areas of Zimbabwe. The first area I went to was called Nemba camp. It was much more luxurious then our tents at Hwange. The proprietor of the camp was Chris, a former big game hunter. Like all guides his knowledge of the area was impressive.

Dinner time was announced with a little more style

We went from only beer at Hwange to “would you prefer white wine or red wine with your meal sir”

After dinner we indulged in some of the finest scotch available. This is Gordon, an Irishman on the trip that brought along some scotch that was over 35 years old. The “lion attacking the guides” stories started flowing after a few sips of this rare vintage…….

Accommodations were a permanent tent.

Your morning shower was outside with the blue sky as your backdrop.

At Nemba camp the guides were professional game scouts and not park rangers. Our first guide was Mark, who preferred an elephant gun (like all the guides) to an AK-47, since he was not concerned with poachers. As you can see from the picture with the elephant, it is rare for them to use their weapons. They have a profound understanding of when an animal is bluffing, like this elephant, and when there is an actual charge.

These guides are naturalists and have knowledge of all the plants and animals in their area. Anthropology time- did you know these are Baboon skulls on the left, and a Vervet monkey skull on the far right?

It is ironic that a country with a plummeting population of Black rhinos can have a surplus of elephants. There is such a surplus of elephants that they have to be culled. Some of the old bulls are quite large, as evidenced by this thigh (femur) bone.

You can tell the age by the molars. Look how the molars on an old elephant on the left are worn down much more than the young elephant on the right.

This place was lots of fun. At tea time (4 PM) we would climb a tree over a waterhole and watch the elephants as we sipped our tea. One time Dr. P asked if we could have Jamba Juice next time instead of tea. The joke did not go over very well.

From this vantage point the elephants didn’t seem to care about us

Chris set us up with camouflage around a waterhole to get close to the action

As the afternoon progressed the herds start coming in from the distance

When they arrived at the waterhole they seemed to all drink on cue

The wind was just right, so some of the wildlife literally walked right past us

This cape buffalo gave us quite a stare before he felt comfortable enough to proceed for his drink

The baboons put on a continual show. This large male was the king of the hill.

While this little guy (he reminded me of my nephew) bounced on this branch continually

Eventually the sun settled, and so did the baboons, in the branches of a tree

Dr. P got one last shot of the elephants at the waterhole to end a successful day

Time for a change of scenery and a new guide (Andy)

This new location was 3 houseboats in the Lake Kariba area. Talk about quaint! In the morning someone from the dining room (the houseboat on the picture on the right) would bring morning coffee via canoe.

Dr. P had Andy to himself and got to track some lions. Andy got a little too close to a lioness with her cub. Here she is after a bluff charge telling us not to come any closer.

We wisely decided to vacate the area and went out in a skiff to look for wildlife. Andy saw vultures circling in the distance and new something was up, so we investigated.

As we followed the vulture by boat we came across two lionesses that just made an impala kill at the waters edge.

This was a great chance to get close since we were in a boat and lions do not like to go in the water. So Andy manuevered the boat within 20 yards. Neither lion was happy about us disturbing their meal.

They got used to us after a few minutes but kept a continual eye on our actions as we slowly moved closer.

We explored the lake further and found a darter drying her wings

She flew off and landed on a nearby nest.

We wanted to get a better look at the chicks, so after the mother flew off again we climbed an adjacent branch.

Do you see the 3rd chick in the lower right corner?

We continued our exploration of the lake and came across this guy at the waters edge. This is a cattle egret on top of a Cape buffalo’s head. Do you also see the oxpecker in front and below the egret?

As the sun started to go down we drank “sundowners” and toasted to a very successful day!

In the last leg of the trip Dr. P went to a place called Mana pools in the northern part of the country. Instead of walking in the bush, most of the time was spent in a canoe. This guide was named Dave, and he specialized in the river.

Dr. P had the opportunity to sit in the front of the lead canoe. This led to many a good photographic opportunty.

On this segment of the trip there was an eclectic group of doctors and nurses from Arizona

Whenever we took a break Dave would walk around an make sure all was safe. He is checking out what he calls “adrenaline grass”. Its his way of saying that it could easily hide lions.

We canoed along some very scenic water

There are numerous reasons why not to venture into the water in Africa. There are many parasites along with crocodiles. This tigerfish is another reason.

The main reason not to go in the water, at least on this canoe trip, are the hippopotamous. They are highly territorial and aggressive. When you are in a canoe at the same eye level as they are you realize how vulnerable you are. This is why you are with a guide that specializes in this river.

We apparently got a little to close for his comfort and he gave us the signal to keep on moving……

… opening his mouth and rapidly moving towards us

He became moret emphatic by chomping at the water as he came closer

On one occasion we had to put on the breaks and yield to a herd of cape buffalo who decided to cross in front of us

The area abounds with bird life. This is a yellow billed stork.

This is a carmine bee-eater and a little bee-eater

The cattle egret would follow between the elephant’s legs and eat the insects that were stirred

After a long day of eating insects they had their own sundowner

The river was an elephant haven. These females got into a protective posture as we floated by.

Dave assured Dr. P it was OK to get close to this male on the bank

We got so close to this male we could literally reach out and touch the tusks if we wanted

Anatomy lesson time. These huge ear veins, as the elephants continuously flop their ears, is a mechanism they use to stay cool in the intense heat.

Crocodlies commonly lined the banks, although we rarely saw them in the water

The four week trip finally ended with a visit to Victoria Falls, one of the 7 wonders of the world. The Zambezi river at the base of the falls is a great place to go whitewater rafting, especially if you don’t mind getting wet!

The End!

Continue Reading

Rwanda 2011

The mountain gorillas in Rwanda are a success story. Their numbers are increasing (720 in the world, 480 are in Rwanda), poaching has diminished, and the local people are reaping the benefits of tourism. There are 16 groups in Rwanda- eight are for tourists to view, 8 are off limits to tourists and are used to study their behavior.

When it comes to primates its all about the eyes, especially for an animal that is closely related to us. We found his silverback (he is at least 12 years old to attain this status) on the first day of our trek.

I love their hands also because they are so human-like

The scenery in Rwanda is lush and beautiful. This is the view from our hotel. The
gorillas are at the base of those mountains. 

Theo was our guide for the trip. His professionalism was a huge part of making this trip successful, especially when he bartered the purchase of fruit for us!

The Rwandans are warm and friendly towards tourists. Our hotel had a “welcome” dance for us by some cute kids. Click on the photo below to see 15 seconds of this dance

Gorilla Dancers

Almost everywhere you go in Rwanda people come to greet you, especially the children. This gives you a feel of why the wildlife are being pushed out by the burgeoning people needing land to feed themselves.

They carry everything on their heads. This rock weighs over 70 pounds.

Rwanda is a mountanous country with a dependence on agriculture

All groups meet at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters for instructions and guide assignments. The maximum number of people in each individual group is 8. 

The mountain gorillas were identified here in 1902


Our head guide Francois and his assistant are showing us which group we will be
visiting. They know each individual gorilla and its social standing in the group.

Click on this picture to hear a 5 minute detailed introduction to the gorillas by Francois’ assistant. He has an accent so you have to concentrate on what he is saying.

Gorilla briefing

After this introduction Dominic and Francois do their best gorilla imitation to show the silverback who is the boss 

Francois was a porter for Dian Fossey and as such has extensive gorilla knowledge. Francois is showing us the noises he makes to calm the silverback in our presence.

Click on his photo below and you can watch a 1 minute video of him(and Dominic) on how to approach a silverback as we start our trek- he is quite the showman! Once you watch Francois in this video you will swear he is the silverback!

In the video he describes the sounds the silverback makes to give you an indication of his mood. During our actual encounter with the gorillas Francois and his assistant made these friendly and comforting sounds constantly.

Franois Gorilla Imitation

Francois instructed us in proper gorilla behavior in the presence of the silverback. We learned you are to stay 21feet (7 meters) away from them. Looks a little less than 7 meters to me in this photo.

Click on the picture and watch the silverback go right past me as Francois implores me to move out of the way. In the beginning you can hear Francois making his gorilla sounds. As the sliverback gets near me (I was busy filming through my point and shoot camera and not really paying much attention) Francois says “move, move”

Silverback Walk Past

In the recent past some groups had to walk for the better part of the day to find the gorillas. We had an easy 1-2 hour trek to meet the trackers who  watch over them. We start the trek through agricultural land at the edge of the mountain.

Can you guess what we are hiking through?


Francois is in the back, a porter carrying our backpacks is in front of him, and at the very front is a ranger with an AK-47. His primary role is to scare away the occasional cape buffalo that roams the area. 

We enter the thick vegetation at the base of the mountain to find the trackers.
The two men on the right are our porters, the two in the center are the trackers
that keep continual watch on the gorillas, and Francois is on the left.

Francois giving us final instructions before we meet our distant cousins. Click
on the photo to hear several minutes of it.

In the beginning he talks about a wall to help keep the cape buffalo and elephant away from the potato crops.

Final Gorilla Briefing

We leave everything but cameras and follow our guides as they machete through
the thick jungle

The gorillas seem to appear out of nowhere because they are well hidden and you are concentrating on your footing in the jungle. This was our first encounter.

This little guy came closer and proceeded to feed right in front of us

Guess who was keeping an eye on us as we watched this youngster?

Its easy to see why he is called a silverback

This is the silverback that walked right past me in the video above

This is a different group we encountered the next day. Rumor has it there are twins in this group……

This silverback weighs 440 pounds

During our trip we found out that a female gorilla had twins on February 3rd.

We found the mother of these twins as she was hiding from us

We slowly got closer to her to try and get a glimpse of her babies. She stayed behind the leaves most of the time

As she felt more comfortable with our presence we got to see them

Many females in the troop had babies

They were as curious about us as we were about them

The youngsters spent lots of time frolicking

Sometimes they play with the silverback (this is the 440 pounder from above)

The youngsters seem to have no fear of people and come up so close that Francois has to remind you to back away. Notice how this gorilla’s left eye deviates?

The gorilla-meisters!

Continue Reading

Rwanda-Tanzania 2011


In February we went to the southern Serengeti to watch the wildebeests calve. It is quite a spectacle, especially when tens of thousands of female wildebeest calve within a two-week period of time. We decided to stop off and visit the gorillas in Rwanda on the way to the Serengeti, and ended our trip with the Hadzabe (Hadza) in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. These fascinating people were on the cover of National Geographic last year. It was such a good trip that I would like to repeat it in the near future. 

This page has links to 3 aspects of this trip-

1. Rwanda with the mountain gorillas

2. The Serengeti with the wildebeests and the predators

3. Two days spent with the Hadzabe while they were hunting

All of the pictures on this page are low res for rapid downloading. If you are interested in the high resolution version let me know.

Click on any of the 3 pictures below to see many more and learn some details of these animals and our trip. These pages also have links to several short and basic videos to give you a better idea of what we saw and heard.

A  silverback gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Click on him to see our trip and lots of gorilla pictures


Sunset over Lake Ndutu in the southern Serengeti
Click on this photo to see the animals of the Serengeti, especially the big cats



Continue Reading

Northern Michigan Wildlife


Some of the wildlife and scenery around Harbor Springs, Michigan

Male bald eagle returning with fish to feed chicks





Snapping turtle baby




Pileated Woodpecker


Sandhill Cranes

Whitetail deer and fawn

Whitetail buck

Local Lake

Great Blue Heron

Belted kingfisher

Gosling chick


Red Fox at Nub’s Nob

White throated sparrow


Turkey Vulture


Female Belted Kingfisher


Garter snake


Male Turkey


Female Hooded Merganser and Merganserlings


Painted turtle


Barred owl

Tern with fish in mouth



Continue Reading

Dental Kits

These kits are highly effective at minimizing plaque and tartar build up. Without their use your dental prophylaxis (preventive) plan is incomplete. They are to be used in conjunction with scaling of the teeth.

These kits are formulated specifically for use in dogs and cats, and have been designed for ease of use. We realize it is difficult to brush a pets teeth, especially in older pets and cats. We have some common sense techniques that can aid you in your endeavor.

This kit contains a toothbrush, finger brush, and toothpaste. It can be used for pets of different size. The toothpaste has been designed especially for animals. It has a taste they find very palatable and it also contains enzymes to help breakdown the plaque.

This kit is for pets that will not tolerate a toothbrush. It contains only a finger brush, and is ideal for use in cats and small dogs. The finger brush is used in the same motion as a toothbrush.

Enzyme chews are ideal for medium and large dogs. The enzyme in these rawhide chews helps minimize tartar formation. They should not be used as a replacement for brushing, but as an additional preventive modality.

Hill’s makes a highly effective food called t/d which helps keep the tartar off if you cannot do any of the above treatment.

Continue Reading

How We Diagnose Liver Disease


A thorough approach is needed for a correct diagnosis of any liver problem. An organ like the liver that is so intimately involved with other important organs will exhibit symptoms that mimic disease in these other organs. Also, what initially might appear as a diseased liver is in reality a disease elsewhere in the body that is involved with the liver secondarily. This is why it is crucial to follow a thorough and methodical approach called the diagnostic process.

1. Signalment

Liver disease can occur in pets of any age. If it occurs in young animals we tend to think more of toxicity, a liver shunt or a viral disease like adenovirus in dogs, or FIP in cats. In older pets we tend to think more of inflammation and cancer as the cause of the liver problem.

Several canine breeds are prone to getting liver disease:

Bedlington terrier’s, Skye terriers, Doberman pinschers, and West Highland White terriers get a problem with excessive copper accumulation that results from failure of normal biliary excretion of copper.

Cocker spaniels have an increased incidence of chronic hepatitis.

2. History

Early signs of liver disease are subtle, and might exhibit as some of the symptoms described above. It is important to remember that some pets do not show any symptoms early in the course of the disease. This is another reason for yearly exams, along with blood and urine samples in dogs and cats 8 years of age or more. Even though many cancers do not show up in a blood sample, we can sometimes get indirect evidence there is a problem, leading to additional diagnostic tests that might find cancer.

The recent use of pesticides, insecticides, and drugs might give us a clue. Some Labradors are sensitive to the use of the arthritis medicine Rimadyl. These dogs should have a blood panel analyzed prior to initiating Rimadyl therapy. Every 6 months this panel should be repeated.

A history of poorly controlled diabetes mellitus might also clue us in to liver problems. Pets with liver shunts might have stunted growth and become depressed right after eating. In cats with hepatic lipidosis the history usually involves a lack of appetite (anorexia), especially if the cat was previously obese.

3. Physical Exam

Routine physical exam findings might include:

Distended abdomen due to enlargement of the liver (hepatomegaly) might be found. This can be palpated in some situations, especially in the smaller animals. an enlarged liver from a disease other than liver disease can cause hepatomegaly. This includes heart disease and Cushing’s Disease.

Enlarged lymph nodes due to secondary bacterial infections or spread of a primary or metastatic liver tumor.

Bruising (hematoma) might be observed under the skin, or when a blood sample is obtained. This is due to the liver’s affects on the clotting mechanism.

Fever- a rectal temperature of greater than 103 degrees F could accompany liver disease when inflammation or infection is present.

Skin infections and wounds that do not heal, or recur after antibiotics are stopped.

Yellowish discoloration (icterus or jaundice) of the ears, gums, or hairless areas of the skin

Anemia might be observed by checking the mucous membranes for a normal pink color.

4. Diagnostic Tests

Several tests are used as an aid in making this diagnosis.

Blood Panel

A CBC (complete blood count) and BCP (biochemistry panel) should be run on every pet 8 years of age or more, especially if they have any of the symptoms of liver disease.

The CBC might show a decrease in the number of red blood cells (RBC’s). This decrease in RBC’s is called anemia. The white blood cell count (WBC) might be elevated (leukocytosis), normal, or decreased (leukopenia), mostly depending on the cause of the liver problem and how long it has been present. A change in the WBC’s does not necessarily indicate there is a liver problem.

This older dog with liver disease shows a normal Alk Phos, a significantly elevated ALT, a normal GGT and a normal albumin and Total Bilirubin.

This older dog has all the classic blood parameters of a dog with liver disease. The Alk Phos, ALT, GGT, and Total Bilirubin are significantly elevated. Even the cholesterol is high, which sometimes accompanies liver disease.

This older cat does not have liver disease, even though the enzyme levels are high. The lower arrow points to the real reason for the high liver enzymes. This very elevated thyroid level is a sign of Feline Hyperthyroidism.


After 2 weeks of treating for the thyroid problem the thyroid level and the liver enzymes started returning to normal.

Bile Acids

This is liver function test, not an enzyme test, and is not a routine part of the BCP. We will request this test when we suspect a liver problem, whether the enzyme tests are normal or not. This test is performed by taking a blood sample, giving a meal, then taking another blood sample 2 hours after the meal. Comparing the pre-meal and post-meal blood results gives us valuable information. The bile acids test is an accurate measure of liver function.


A urine sample can give us important clues as to the existence of liver disease. The specific gravity might be below normal, an indication that PU/PD is present. Bilirubin might be present, a finding that is always abnormal in cats. There also might be ammonium biurate crystals, a sign of improper ammonia metabolism found in Hepatic Encephalopathy.

This urine sample from a dog shows a trace amount of bilirubin, which can be normal in a dog.

This bilirubin in a urine sample from a cat is a sign of liver disease or anemia.


Analysis of the fluid obtained from a pet with ascites can give valuable clues as to its cause. There are numerous causes to ascites, some of the more common ones are heart disease, liver disease, and cancer.

Fluid is removed from the abdomen with a special needle and syringe.

Liver Biopsy

This is a very valuable test in the diagnosis of liver disease. A sample of the liver can be obtained during an exploratory surgery or during an ultrasound procedure. The pathologist can look at the hepatocytes microscopically and determine if disease is present and what the cause is.

This report is from a very ill cat.

It is helpful to run a coagulation panel prior to any liver biopsy. A diseased liver might not be able to clot properly, and a biopsy could cause hemorrhage into the abdomen.


A dog that excretes stool without normal pigmentation could indicate liver disease. It occurs when there is obstruction of the biliary system and normal bile pigments are not secreted to cause the normal dark color of stool.


An enlarged liver on a radiograph is called hepatomegaly, an abnormally small one is called microhepatica. Either one can be a sign of a liver problem.

In addition to plain radiographs, contrast media can be put into the arterial or venous system to help outline the liver. These tests go by various names; cholecystography, portal venography, and hepatic arteriography.

The liver in this radiograph is enlarged because the edge of the liver is protruding far beyond the last rib. The edges of this liver are very sharp and clearly outline its borders.

This radiograph also shows hepatomegaly, but in this case the borders of the liver are not as sharp. This could be due to a swelling of one of the lobes or fluid in the abdomen. An enlarged spleen can look like this also.

Some radiographs of a liver with hepatomegaly don’t show the routine shape of the liver lobes. This case of a liver cancer has a very rounded appearance. A tumor of the stomach, spleen, or intestines can also have this appearance.

Sometimes we diagnose hepatomegaly or microhepatica indirectly by looking at the angle of the stomach This picture shows the angle of the stomach in a normal radiograph of the abdomen. Compare it to the radiograph below.

This abnormal liver is pushing the stomach (S) towards the rear, an indication of hepatomegaly, even though it is difficult to clearly see the liver.

Sometimes we can not say for sure whether an enlarged organ on a radiograph is the liver. This mass, located near the liver, could also be an enlarged spleen, small intestine, lymph node, stomach, or even pancreas.


Ultrasound is highly beneficial in the diagnosis of liver disease. We recommend ultrasounding a liver when the liver enzymes tests are elevated over time, or the bile acids test is abnormal.

The internal structure (called parenchyma) can be analyzed, and post-hepatic liver disease can be differentiated from hepatic liver disease. This can be very important because disease in the liver can often be diagnosed with a biopsy during the ultrasound. Post-hepatic liver disease cannot easily be diagnosed in this matter. Instead it is diagnosed and treated with an exploratory surgery (called alaparotomy).

This liver ultrasound reveals a mass in the liver. Can you see its circular appearance at the arrow? It also shows abdominal effusion (this is the ascites described previously).


The final report summarized the problems this dog has with its liver and spleen:

The gall bladder can be seen with ultrasound also. This is a printout after an ultrasound has determined this dog indeed has a stone in its gall bladder.

This short Quicktime movie shows you how a stone in the gall bladder looks during the actual ultrasound. You will have to look fast, the stone is the whitish are in the center of the movie. Click on the link below for it to play. This movie gives you an idea of the skill that is needed by the ultrasonographer in making this diagnosis.

Ultrasound of the Gall Bladder

The liver can get cysts, which are also diagnosed with ultrasound

Our next page on Liver Disease shows graphic pictures of a surgery. You can skip this section and continue on to routine medical treatment of specific liver diseases by clicking here.

Continue Reading

Traveling With Your Pet

Before you hit the road or fly the friendly skies there are numerous preparations and precautions to take to make the experience easier for you and your pet. Traveling with pets can be nerve racking and frustrating, so after you take your own dose of valium to calm you down here are some things to think about.

A copy of your pet’s recent medical problems and the phone number to your veterinarian’s office should accompany you. Knowing the phone number to an emergency hospital along the way if you are driving, or at your final destination if you are flying, can also be information you should gather ahead of time. If  you are a client of the Long Beach Animal Hospital and you have an emergency when you are out of town call us and we will interrupt one of our doctors to talk to you or another veterinarian.

When crossing state lines or flying it is always a good idea to get a health certificate within 10 days of leaving. If you are traveling to a different country this is mandatory. Certain countries do not have some of the diseases we encounter in the U.S. and have very stringent requirements upon entry so as to keep these diseases out. Please be sure to research these requirements carefully, and even think about hiring a professional pet travel service to guide you in this paperwork if you are going to an unusual destination. Plan far in advance to sort out this paperwork because of inefficiencies in other countries and stringent requirements (not to mention the bureaucracy).

Put a current ID tag with your phone number on a secure collar. Microchipping is very popular, and most locations have scanners to properly scan your pet.  If your pet is crated place your name and contact information, along with a copy of your pets medical records, on the outside of the crate.

When deciding on a crate or carrier size is important. Make sure your pet has room to stand up and turn around during the trip. Check with your airline for their policy on type and size of crate, and whether your pet will go under your seat or in the cargo hold.

In cold weather and in the cargo hold of an airplane put in several fluffy towels for warmth. Let your pets spend time in this crate prior to travel. Every airline has specific policies so check with them first.

Your pet should not be loose in your car, so use that carrier again.  It is far too easy for a scared pet to bolt out of an open door at a rest area, or fly out of a crack in the window. Cats are masters at finding the most inaccessible areas of your car when they are scared, especially under the power front seats. You might even have to go to the car dealer to have the seat unbolted to retrieve your cat. Also, what will you do when you apparently calm cat gets scared and one second later goes under the driver’s feet and ends up under the brake pedal? These scenarios, although unlikely, have happened before.

Since most pet travel is in the summer heat stroke can occur easily. Stop often for bathroom breaks and to let your pet drink fresh water. Never leave your pet in the car unless it is in a shaded area and several windows are rolled down for proper ventilation. Solar powered fans are available to circulate air and keep your car cooler. When in doubt do not leave your pet unattended in the car due to the serious potential for heat stroke and death.

If your pet suffers from anxiety please see your veterinarian about tranquilization. This medication also has an anti-vomiting effect to help prevent car sickness. Give the medication several days prior as a test dose to see how your pet reacts. On your travel day give the tranquilizer several hours prior to leaving to make sure it has time to take effect before the last minute commotion of departing.

Try to schedule feeding so your pet eats only after the day’s car ride or flight, although make sure it has access to water. Feeding the night before the trip is an easy way to minimize car sickness and having to clean up a mess in your car. Take your car-sick prone pet on short car rides prior to any long trip helps in conditioning.

Familiarity can help soothe your pet and keep it calm. Bring blankets, bedding, towels and toys your pet is familiar with. Don’t forget its favorite food and a leash.

Continue Reading

Masai Mara 2007

In October of 2007 I took a group of people to the Masai Mara in Kenya for a photographic workshop during the wildebeest migration. Even though we literally took tens of thousands of photos by the time we were done (in spite of the fact we missed many great photo ops), it was primarily a fun shop. Our goals were to travel to an exotic locale, have an adventure, enjoy each other’s company, get some memorable photos, and view some spectacular wildlife. We scored on all accounts, and want to share this adventure with everyone.

We will be going on future trips, so if this type of travel interests you let us know soon because we have to plan several years in advance. After 1 1/2 years of planning for this trip it’s hard to believe that we have already gone on the trip and have been back for a few months. Time to start planning our next adventure…..

The location of our trip was the Masai Mara, the northern end of the Serengeti which is located in southwest Kenya. It is here that the wildebeest and and other plain’s animals migrate in numbers that go up to 1.5 million in some years. This is also near the Great Rift Valley, which is the area that our earliest ancestors originated from as they colonized the world. It is fascinating to be in this area, imagining them coming down from the trees millions of years ago and adapting to this environment as they evolved into human beings.

The wildebeest migration was at the heart of our trip

The Masai Mara is in the southwest corner of Kenya, at the black arrow. We were 1 degree south of the equator.

A more detailed view of the Mara with the black arrows at Rekero and Ol Seki camps. Each group stayed at one of these two camps. At the end of their 5 day stay each group flew to a camp called Lewa in the central part of Kenya for 3 days.

The Mara is part of the greater Serengeti ecosystem. As you can see from this map, even though I spent 3 weeks in the Mara and thought it was huge, it is tiny compared to the Serengeti.

It is the wildebeest migration from the Serengeti into the Mara and back each year which is the source of one of the greatest animal migrations on our planet, and what we went to see.

We took lots of photos. Some of them even came out good enough to show you. Be thankful we are only going to make you endure a fraction of the pictures we took. I am happy that everyone had a great time and nothing rained on our parade.

This page is broken down into 6 main sections. Click on the main photo for each section and you will be taken through a succession of pages within that section.The 6 sections are in this order:

  • The 3 groups that went on the trip over a 3 week period of time- if you want a good laugh this is the section for you
  • The Wildlife- predators, plain’s animals, bird, etc. This section has some of our better photos
  • The Masai people in their native villages
  • The very capable and “eagled-eyed” guides that were crucial to our wildlife viewing
  • How we got the shot- we show you the technical details of one of our shots
  • Our camps- Rekero, Ol Seki and Lewa
  • The photographic equipment we used

All the wildlife photos on this page have been decreased in size and resolution for faster downloading on the web, so they do not show their true beauty. They are available in very high resolution and suitable for customizing and printing out at professional quality at 30 ” x 20″. Let me know if any individual photo interests you.

You can email me any time with questions regarding information on this page:

The 3 groups and their nicknames

The Ibble Dibbles

You have to click on the link to understand what an “Ibble Dibble” is

The Cheetah Chasers

Their nickname originates from the fact they worked hard to find cheetahs. They did see lots of giraffe though.

By the way, do you know the current proper name of a group of giraffe ?

The Shotmeisters

Their nickname derives from the number of photos they took (and unfortunately, I had to edit) for this page

The Wildlife of Kenya


Plain’s Mammals


The Masai people and Guides



How we got the shot

This page gives you the technical details of how we used our equipment to shoot a hunting cheetah

Get the Shot

The Camps


Ol Seki


Photography Equipment


Continue Reading

Puppy’s First Vet Visit


To prepare your puppy to be handled, restrained, groomed, and vaccinated throughout its life.

Tools you will need

Your pup, some yummy treats, and some time.

Yummy Treats


Ask any veterinarian or groomer what they dislike most about their profession, and they are likely to say, “Handling uncooperative or aggressive dogs!” In many cases, the aggression that veterinarians and groomers deal with could be avoided if we taught our dogs, from a very early age, to put up with the discomfort that often accompanies visits to the doctor and the groomer. We can accomplish this by “desensitizing” our puppies to many of the typical procedures they will encounter through life.

Between the ages of seven and sixteen weeks of age, your puppy goes through an important developmental stage. This is the time when puppies learn (whether we teach them or not!) which things in life are good and which are not. This developmental stage used to be called a “fear period” by many behaviorists because this is the period when many animals develop lifelong fears. Now commonly referred to as a critical socialization or developmental stage, this is a rare window of opportunity for us to teach puppies to become confident, psychologically healthy dogs.

Unfortunately, this is the exact same time period during which puppies receive their first examination and vaccinations from your veterinarian. Many puppies learn to be afraid of the veterinary office and staff during this time, and some puppies actually will learn to growl and/or bite during subsequent visits.

It is very important, then, to take some basic steps to help your puppy avoid such negative, lasting impressions. Your puppy will be happier, and so will your veterinarian and his/her staff!

Our Handling and Grooming page provides specific instructions for teaching your puppy these valuable lessons. This section addresses how to prepare for your puppy’s first veterinary visit, which unfortunately, must take place during one of the puppy’s most sensitive developmental stages.

Step-by-Step Tips

There are three things you can do to help prepare for your pup’s first visit to the veterinarian.

Encourage Participation of Clinic Staff

Call your veterinarian and ask for an appointment at the quietest time of day. Tell the staff that you want your puppy to have a good experience, and ask if there is time on the schedule for a few extra minutes that may be needed so that the puppy isn’t stressed by having people moving too quickly. Be willing to pay for extra time, if necessary. ask the staff if you can come by a couple of times before the appointment and just let staff members pet and give treats to your pup. Make those first experiences positive and upbeat.

Handling Exercises Before You Go

See Preventing Behavior Problems page for specific exercises to practice before going to the veterinarian for an examination or vaccinations.

Desensitization and Counterconditioning

Sometimes, you simply don’t have the opportunity to adequately prepare (as outlined above) for your pup’s first visit. In that case, follow the instructions below.

Desensitization/Counterconditioning for Veterinary Visits


Lore I. Haug, DVM

Texas a&M University Veterinary Teaching Hospital

College Station, TX

(used with permission)

Many dogs experience considerable anxiety and fear while at the veterinary clinic. These dogs may show aggression, escape attempts, or severe fear reactions. Dogs with these reactions are more difficult to handle, and, subsequently, are often subjected to heavy restraint techniques to allow the staff to accomplish the required procedures. Over time, these behaviors typically worsen as the dog has repeatedly more unpleasant experiences.

This situation places the animal, the owner, and the staff at risk for harm, particularly if the dog is showing aggression. In addition, the dog may receive suboptimal medical care due to his or her inability to be examined and handled safely. Most of these behaviors can be modified with a well-planned desensitization program.

Depending on the level of the dog’s anxiety, the program can be started at various points. Most dogs begin showing anxiety before actually entering the clinic. This may occur in the parking lot or as early as when the dog is put in the car at home, especially if his or her only car rides culminate in veterinary visits. For such dogs, the desensitization process should begin with the car, not the vet clinic. Once the dog is comfortable riding in the car, the following program can be implemented.

During the program, your behavior toward the dog will be important in aiding the dog’s success. At no time should you try to punish or comfort the dog if he or she shows anxiety, fear, or aggression. If the dog reacts in any of these ways, calmly abort that trial. Resume the program at a previously successful level and remain there until the dog is completely comfortable. Progress to the next phase only when the dog is comfortable (not showing any anxiety or stress) at the current step. During the modification program, the dog ideally should not undergo any routine veterinary attention. Vaccination schedules may need to be altered to allow the dog to complete the entire program before being subjected to “the real thing.” Discuss these options with your veterinarian.

Step 1 – Take the dog to the parking lot of the veterinary clinic. During the first several trials, and depending on the dog’s anxiety level, you may only be able to drive through the lot without stopping. Alternatively, you can park the car but remain inside. Play with or food-reward the dog in the car for a period of time and then drive home.

Step 2 – Drive to the parking lot, and take the dog out of the car. Walk the dog around the lot and play with or food-reward the dog during this time. When the dog seems relaxed (and not concerned about entering the clinic), take the dog home.

Step 3 – Repeat Step 2, but play with or food-reward the dog on the front porch of the clinic near the entrance. Remember to not progress to subsequent steps until the dog is very comfortable with the step at which you are currently working.

Step 4 – Take the dog into the waiting room and repeat the reward steps described above. Over consecutive trials, have the veterinary staff also play with or food-reward the dog while in the waiting room. During each session, these periods of play and/or food reward should be alternated with short periods where the dog is asked to sit or lie quietly. This helps teach the dog to be calm and more closely mimics some of the usual waiting process.

Step 5 – Repeat Step 4 in the examination room. Do not progress to Step 6 until the dog is comfortable waiting in the exam room and having both the technical staff and the professional staff (i.e., veterinarian) repeatedly enter and interact with the dog (playing, petting, etc.). The staff should periodically assume postures and positions near the dog that are routinely observed during physical examination and restraint, although no such procedures should actually be done to the dog at this stage. Small dogs who are normally handled on the table should undergo an additional step where the counterconditioning process occurs on the table.

During the above steps, you should begin handling exercises at home. This involves conditioning the dog to being handled and manipulated. Handle and gently restrain the dog’s body, head, legs, and feet. In addition, you should begin gently rolling the skin on the dog’s neck, back, and sides between your fingers. Progressively apply slightly more pressure (e.g., mild pinching) as you do this. Always reward the dog during these sessions if he or she remains cooperative. Remain calm, and do not lose patience with the dog. This should become a game associated with fun things (e.g., food, play, and attention from you).

Step 6 – This step should be discussed with your veterinarian to solicit his/her personal approach. These are my personal recommendations as a practicing veterinarian and may or may not be the same steps taken by your veterinarian.

Ask the veterinarian to begin a partial physical exam. This should not start with the dog’s head, as many dogs find this phase intimidating. It is typically easiest to begin with chest auscultation. Distract and reward the dog with food or a toy during this process, even if the dog does not stand completely still. The goal at this point is not to actually do the exam, but to accustom the dog to the procedure in small increments to aid the dog in overcoming anxiety. During subsequent sessions, progress through the process in a more thorough manner. The staff should repeat the same handling exercises that you have been doing at home. Make this fun!

When your dog’s vaccinations are due, have only one injection given the first time. If the dog requires more than one vaccine, schedule another appointment (one to two weeks later) for the remainder. You may have to schedule a separate appointment for each injection. During the dog’s first few “real” veterinary visits, it is important to maintain a fun, relaxed atmosphere and avoid overtaxing the dog’s tolerance level. Over time, practice doing slightly more aversive procedures with the dog, using food rewards or toys to distract the dog during the procedure.

Step 7 – Once your dog has become comfortable with the above steps, it will be necessary to take the dog to the clinic for fun visits periodically throughout the year. For example, drop by the clinic and, if there is a scale in the waiting room, simply weigh your dog, feed him/her some treats, and go home. Many dogs will revert to their fearful behavior if they resume going to the vet only once or twice a year for procedures. The more frequently you and your dog are able to visit the clinic and staff, the more comfortable your dog will remain when being handled there.

Recommended Reading

The Perfect Puppy: How to Raise a Well-Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey

Good Dogs, Great Owners by Brian Kilcommons (Note: only pages 60-61 address veterinary visits; ignore other training sections that promote physical corrections as a training method.)

Continue Reading

Socializing Your Puppy

Goal of Socialization

To help your puppy get along well with others; to become a well behaved member of the community; and to be a confident and psychologically healthy dog.

Tools you will need

Just you and your dog and some yummy treats and fun toys.


There is an important developmental stage that occurs in all dogs between the ages of seven and sixteen weeks of age. This is the time when puppies learn (whether we teach them or not!) which things in life are good and which are not. Now commonly referred to as a critical socialization or developmental stage, this is a rare window of opportunity for us to teach puppies to become confident, psychologically healthy dogs. We do this by exposing them to the myriad of things they will encounter in their lives: people (young, old, different colors, male, female, with mustaches and beards, with eyeglasses, with hats, with mailbags), other animals (cats, dogs, horses), sights and sounds (trash trucks, blimps, fireworks, thunder, lawnmowers, weedwackers), etc.

Although weeks 7-16 are the most critical, it is important to continue to expose your pup to sights, sounds, animals, and people through the first year or two of her life. Otherwise, your pup may become fearful and timid, and suffer from unnecessary stress throughout his/her life.

Note: Many veterinarians recommend waiting until after all vaccines are given, often four months of age, to take your dog outside of your home. Talk with your veterinarian and your trainer to come up with a workable socialization plan that won’t put your pup at danger for infectious diseases, but one that will still adequately socialize your pup. For example, use good judgment: don’t go to dog parks (too many unknown dogs and feces); carry your pup to places where there are a lot of people (malls); and don’t let your pup around other dogs’ feces.

Step-by-Step Tips

Try to go on socialization outings two to three times a week or more. Hunt out things your pup hasn’t seen yet. Make a list (for an excellent socialization chart, see the appendix of Gwen Bailey’s “The Perfect Puppy,” listed under Recommended Reading), and take it with you to ensure you aren’t missing something that will become a problem when your pup gets older.


  • Adults (men, women, different sizes, shapes, colors, facial hair)
  • Crying babies
  • Toddlers
  • Young children
  • Teenagers
  • Delivery people
  • Postal service employees
  • Gardeners
  • People in uniform
  • People in wheelchairs
  • People walking with canes
  • People with umbrellas
  • People who are loud
  • People who are shy
  • People with big boots (see “Real Life Lesson” below)


  • Clanging and banging (things dropped, things banged/clanged)
  • Sirens
  • Trash trucks
  • Motorcycles
  • Balloons
  • Veterinary offices
  • Groomers
  • Boarding kennels
  • Shopping malls
  • Schools
  • Others’ homes
  • Dog shows


  • Other puppies
  • Adult dogs
  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Horses
  • Cattle
  • Any other animal you want them comfortable with

Of particular importance is to introduce your puppy to other puppies of different sizes, shapes, hair length, and age. Many dogs become afraid of other dogs simply because they have not had the opportunity to mingle with their own kind. Dog-dog aggression (fear-based) is a very sad behavior problem that can take months to overcome at older ages.

Additionally, many puppies who are never introduced to babies have a hard time later on adjusting to new family members. Many dogs become aggressive with children, not because they have been teased by them (although that does happen a lot), but because they are simply not accustomed to the way they look, act, and sound.

Real-life Lesson: Panda and the Mukluks

This is a story Pam, a friend of mine, told about her Australian shepherd puppy, Panda. Pam is an experienced dog owner and trainer. She knows all about the importance of socializing her pup to a variety of things in the early months of life. Pam introduced Panda to all kinds of people, sights, sounds, animals, and so on, thinking she had done a pretty good job. At seven months of age, she took Panda with her on a trip to colder climates than she is accustomed to in Southern California. During this trip, they met a lot of new people, one of whom Panda took a strong dislike to. She tucked her tail between her legs, folded her ears straight back, raised her hackles, and barked and growled before “escaping” to a safe distance. What was this all about? Panda loves everyone! As Pam watched Panda, looking for clues, she realized Panda was barking and growling at the person’s big boots, the kind with the big tread and heavy fur lining. Aha! This was something Panda had never seen on human feet before. Imagine what it must have looked like from the puppy’s perspective. Dead animals instead of human feet? Yikes!

Although everyone tried to convince Panda that the boots were safe to approach, she was having none of it. Pam’s homework: Go to a thrift store or army surplus store and buy a pair of big, furry boots, and desensitize Panda to them by associating them with fun things, like treats, games, and dinner.

Recommended Reading

The Dog’s Mind: Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior by Bruce Fogle, DVM, MRCVS

The Perfect Puppy: How to Raise a Well-Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey

Superdog: Raising the Perfect canine Companion by Dr/ Michael W. Fox

Genetics and the Social Behavior of Dogs: The Classic Study by John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller

Continue Reading