by John Dillberger, DVM

Reprinted from the November/December 2008 Claymore

Medicines are wonderful things—miracles, really, that conquer illness or let us live with it on terms we can accept. Dogs and people both have benefited from the discovery and development of new medicines in the 20th century. We take these medicines for granted most of the time; specifically, we take for granted that they will be safe and effective if we use them as prescribed or as the package label instructs. Have you ever thought about why that is so? This month I want to explore that subject.

History in a Nutshell

Today’s abundance of medicines can be traced to breakthroughs in chemistry made in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not that there weren’t medicines before then. There always have been, and always will be, medicines derived from plants and animals, such as willow bark and opium for pain. Chemistry’s contribution was to extract the pain-relieving substances in willow bark and poppy sap, deduce their molecular structures, and figure out how to make them in a laboratory and then in factories. Suddenly, we could have an endless supply of aspirin or morphine instead of being limited to what we could get from willow trees or poppies.

But that was just the beginning. Once we had the blueprint for a medical molecule, we could tweak its structure in a hundred different ways to see if we could come up with an even better version—one with longer-lasting activity, or that was stronger, or non-addictive, or more stable. This is the history of the medicines that fill today’s pharmacy shelves. And the process is still going on today in pharmaceutical companies and university research labs around the world. Read more

by John Dillberger, DVM

Reprinted from the September/October 2010 Claymore

I have not written about diarrhea before now because, frankly, the subject is too large and complicated to tackle in a monthly column. That is partly because diarrhea is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of disease. The list of diseases that can have diarrhea as part of the picture would itself fill many pages of this magazine.

Given the plethora of causes for diarrhea, where should an owner or veterinarian begin when presented with a dog having diarrhea? Intuitively, the best chance of ending an episode of diarrhea is to identify the underlying disease and treat it. For that reason, diagnostic tests are often part of the initial response to diarrhea. But while diagnostic tests are often helpful, one can also treat diarrhea directly, without knowing the cause. How a dog responds to treatment can provide a valuable clue to the cause of the diarrhea. This month’s column deals with an example of this approach. Read more