Preventable Illnesses on the Rise for Cats

Pet health care is more sophisticated currently than it has ever been in the past. We have vaccines at our disposal to prevent many common viral diseases. We have flea and tick products that are more effective and more easily used than previous products. We have quality foods available that fit the needs of almost any pet and pet owner. We have a wide variety of technology that can detect many diseases early in their course when treatment is most likely to be successful. Despite all of this, preventable …

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7 Steps To Prevent Accidental Poisoning In Dogs

Every year people lose a beloved dog to some kind of accidental poisoning. In most cases that poisoning could be prevented if the pet owner used reasonable care with certain products around the home.

Various medications made for people have resulted in dog illness and death.

Medications such as:

  • NSAIDS ( i.e. advil, motrin),
  • Acetaminophen ( i.e.Tylenol)
  • Antidepressants
  • ADD/ADHD medications ( i.e.Ritalin, concerta,)
  • Benzodiazepines (xanax,ambien)
  • Birth control
  • ACE inhibators (i.e. zestril or Altace,)
  • Beta blocker (i.e. Teprol, coreg)
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Cholesterol lowering agents, are just some of the many medications that can harm your dog.

While these are the most common medications that vets see in dog poisoning cases, any human medication may prove deadly to your dog.

Following these 7 steps to keep your medications out of your dogs reach and prevent accidental poisoning will result in less worry for you and a safer, healthier life for your dog.

  1. Always keep medications tightly closed and high up out of the reach of your dog. Even the best behaved dog likes to explore and finding that plastic medicine bottle may well look like a chew toy to him.
  2. Never medicate your dog with a human medication unless specifically advised by your Veterinarian and then only use the recommended dose and only for the condition it is prescribed. If in doubt contact your vet and double check.
  3. Don’t assume because a medication is safe for a child it is safe for your dog. Pets metabolize medications far differently than humans and something that may be mild and harmless for a child may be deadly to your pet.
  4. Don’t leave loose pills of any kind in a zip lock bag. The pills showing through the bag are an invitation to your dog to explore and zip locks are easy to rip open. Again keep medications in safe containers and out of your dogs reach. Encourage guests in your home to also keep their medications high up or locked in their suitcases.
  5. If you store your medications in a weekly pill container,make sure that this container as well as the medicine bottles are out of your dogs reach.
  6. Never store medications for your pet along side your medications. Having a separate place for your pet’s medications will prevent any accidental mix up.
  7. Always hang your purse up even if you aren’t carrying medications it is a great habit and dogs can get sick from cosmetics as well so it is better to be safe than sorry.

By keeping all medications out of your pets reach you can help keep your beloved dog safe and reduce the risk of accidental poisoning greatly. If your pet does ingest any human medication either over
the counter or prescription, please call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison helpline immediately.

The Helpline’s 24 hour number is (888) 426-4435.

Keeping the helpline number posted prominently near the phone may save your dogs life in an emergency.

Download your free Pet Poison Guide from the ASPCA

Pets Can Get Cancer

Cancer of the Liver

Cancer in the Liver

Pets are living longer now and like their humans, our pets are also getting diseases that are also common in our elderly. Cancer can also affect our pets. Some cancers, such as some forms of leukemia in cats, are caused by a virus, the Feline Leukemia virus. Some cancers may have a genetic or inheritable factor. Boxers tend to have a higher rate of cancer than other breeds of dogs and Golden Retrievers have a higher rate of lymphosarcomas. Some cancers may be due to our environment, insecticides or toxins.Caring for the Older Dog
As a pet owner, you may do the very best with your pet by providing the best food, nutritional supplements, preventative care such as heartworm prevention, vaccinations and wellness care, but still, your beloved pet can develop cancer. No one or no pet is immune to the probability, but diligent care and wellness exams can detect some cancers early when they are still treatable. One of the best preventatives is spaying and neutering your pet. In the female, each heat cycle releases the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which then activates the mammary glands. This in turn increases the risk of developing mammary cancer or breast cancer with each heat cycle. The current recommendation is to spay your pet before their first heat cycle or before 6 months of age which will reduce the risk of developing breast cancer to less than .05%. In the male, neutering reduces the hormones and can eliminate the risk of testicular cancer and reduce the risk of prostate and perianal cancers that can develop from the release of testosterone.

Semi-annual physical exams are recommended for pets over 7 years old. Small changes that may be overlooked by you can sometimes be found by your veterinarian. Small lumps and bumps that you may discover on your pet should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. A simple needle aspirate of the lump can sometimes tell if it is a benign (harmless) tumor, or something more that warrants further investigation. Tumors in your pet’s mouth can also occur and your vet will often examine the mouth during the exam.

wellness_dog_geriatric-3Annual blood exams can give a baseline and any change in the blood work from year to year can help identify problems earlier. In some cases, I have had blood work in normal limits and have only found the cancer with radiographs (x-rays) or ultra-sound. Purchasing pet insurance will help defray the costs of diagnostics as your pet ages and can also cover surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy if your pet should develop cancer.

Cance Metastasis to the Lungs

Cancer Metastasis to the Lungs

Because pet insurance will not cover pre-existing problems, it is best to buy the insurance before your pet develops a problem. Some cancers when caught early are curable and many others can be put in remission and extend the life of your pet. Unlike human chemotherapy, pet chemotherapy is aimed at extending their life and making them comfortable, so many of the unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss are avoided.
Supplements containing anti-oxidants may help reduce cancer risks by freeing the body of the free-radicals that occur. Sam-e is another supplement that aids the liver and glucosamine and chondroitin help with joint health. No firm data has established if these supplements truly reduce developing cancer but they do not harm your pet either. Golden Years vitamins are designed for older pets and make an excellent supplement.
Develop a wellness plan with your veterinarian as your pet ages. Some pets can live as long as twenty years of age with a little help from you and your veterinarian.

Prosthetics Help Pets Find Balance

Prosthetics are commonly seen in people, but uncommon in pets. Now, veterinary surgeons, engineers and prosthetic specialists are teaming up to look at new ways of giving our pets the support they need!

Three legged dogs and cats are not an unusual sight in veterinary clinics.   Whether the loss of the limb is due to severe trauma, cancer or even a hereditary defect, many pets live out their lives on three legs. But, on-going research in the field of prosthetics may allow these pets to function like their four-legged friends and just might benefit humans as well!

Dogs and cats appear to move almost normally with three legs and amputation is often done in severely traumatic injuries or with certain cancers.  But, new insights into how our pets manage pain and disabilities may soon change pet owner perceptions.

Dr. Kim Danoff, a veterinarian certified in canine rehabilitation says that “a three legged gait can take a toll on other limbs and the spine due to abnormal posture.”  Young pets could experience even bigger problems.  “Living longer with 3 limbs makes these animals more prone to disc problems and possibly severe cases of arthritis”, Danoff adds.  Additionally, pets with concurrent problems, such as hip dysplasia and cancer, could do worse after amputation.

But, help appears to be on the way.  Martin Kaufmann of Orthopets ( is working with veterinary surgeons to utilize titanium implants in the pet’s leg bone as an attachment for prostheses.

Most prosthetic devices are known as “socket prosthetics”, that is, the stump of the limb is placed inside the prosthetic and everything is held up with straps and other attachments.  Owners often find these cumbersome and pets are likely to chew on the apparatus. For human amputees, small variations in their body weight can change the balance and fit of the device.

New technology, known as an integrated prosthetics, may open up more possibilities for how prosthetics are used in humans.  By using the implants, Kaufman says that these devices appear “to allow the patient a greater sensation of the ground.”

Kaufman also says that one day the use of integrated prosthetics will allow amputees to change their prosthetic foot as easy as someone can change their shoes.  These functional prosthetics will allow amputees, or pet owners, to change their device as weather or environment demand.

Many animals benefit from the work at Orthopets.   In his workshop in Colorado, Kaufman has developed orthotic braces and prosthetic devices for llamas, orangutans, and even sheep.

One of his famous cases involves Kandu, a small terrier mix born without front legs.  Occasionally, this rare birth defect shows up in dogs and many have been euthanized because of this handicap.  Although Kandu was very capable of moving himself with just his back legs, his owners worried about damage to his chest.  Kaufman used his expertise to design a rolling ball to ease Kandu’s movements, a padded vest to stop rug burn, and a ski to use during the snowy Colorado winters!

Although all of this is great news, there are still some obstacles to overcome.   A big concern with the new integrated prosthetics is how the skin of the pet will mesh with the titanium of the implant.  Additionally, providing the needed education to pet owners and veterinarians will likely take time.  Both integrated and socket prosthetics require that enough limb is left after amputation to control the device.  Finally, many pet owners may be concerned with how much a prosthetic might cost in relation to simply removing the leg.

Kaufmann says that his prosthetics will generally start at $600 for the device and can run as high as $1800.  The higher priced equipment is known as a “dynamic foot” and is similar to the devices worn by the Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who is known as the “Blade Man”.

These prices are for the prosthetics only and don’t include surgeries, implants, rehabilitation and therapy, or any follow up visits with the veterinarian.

The good news, though, is that options are available for pets whenever serious disease or trauma threatens one or more of their four legs.  If you are faced with an unfortunate circumstance where you and your veterinarian need to contemplate removing a pet’s leg, ask how the surgery will affect your pet and whether prosthetics is an option.

Debra Garrison, DVM

Diarrhea in Pets

As a pet owner it is often distressing to have a sick or ailing pet. Diarrhea in your pet is one such ailment that can often cause discomfort for the owner as well as the pet by causing accidents around the house. Diarrhea is the passage of unformed, loose stools and may appear for many different reasons. This handout will review the causes of diarrhea, treatments for diarrhea and observations that will be helpful for your veterinarian to diagnose the problem.

Diarrhea occurs when digested food speeds through the digestive tract too quickly and forms loose, watery stools. It is also marked by the decreased absorption of water, electrolytes and other nutrients. The causes of diarrhea are wide ranging. Some animals experience mild diarrhea due to stress, allergies, change in food patterns, or stomach irritants. This stomach irritation can range from mild to severe and may be caused by some form of bacteria, virus, plant or chemical. It is important to remember that while diarrhea by itself is not a disease, it may be a symptom of a larger more complex problem.

Remember that variations in stools occur for many reasons. However, one of the concerning complications of prolonged diarrhea is dehydration. Observe your pet closely and if your pet has experienced diarrhea for two days, seems lethargic, refuses water or has other symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Before a treatment can be started, the cause of the diarrhea must be determined. There are many different tests that can be performed to determine the many causes of diarrhea. However, initially, a more generalized, cost effective and less invasive approach is often tried first. This approach calls for withholding food for 24 hours while encouraging water consumption. This allows the irritated stomach and bowels to calm down. Then gradually and in small portions, bland foods are offered to the animal. The foods most often recommended are white boiled rice, pasta, chicken broth and skinless chicken breasts. As the animals stools return to normal, then small portions of their normal diet may be gradually incorporated with the bland foods. If this generalized approach does not seem to be calming your pets diarrhea distress, then your veterinarian may perform more tests to determine if the diarrhea is a symptom of larger and more far reaching problems. Clinical workups may include blood work, stool samples, urine cultures and food trials. These tests will determine if the diarrhea is simply caused by a bacteria, virus or food allergy or if the distress is a symptom of larger issues, such as cancer.

In order to assist your veterinarian with the proper diagnosis, observe the following details about your pet:

  • How frequently is your pet defecating?
  • What are the consistency, smell and color of the stools?
  • Is your pet exhibiting any other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting or weight loss?
  • Has there been any change to your pets normal routine, food or environment?
  • Does your pet have access to small objects that might have been swallowed?
  • Has your pet escaped your house/yard recently and had access to foreign objects?

First Aid for Pets

First Aid for Pets

Our hope for you, as a pet owner, is that you will never encounter an emergency situation. However, reality is that accidents happen. In the event of an accident or emergency, it is always best to be informed and know the proper first aid procedures for your pet. This handout will outline the basics of canine first aid that every pet owner should know.

If my pet has been injured, what should I do first?

  1. Remain Calm. The key to any emergency situation is to be able to remain calm and avoid panicking in order to think clearly.
  2. Assess the Situation. While remaining calm, assess the situation and determine the proper first aid techniques to administer.
  3. Administer First Aid..
  4. Call or Transport your pet to the Veterinarian. After stabilizing the situation, contact your veterinarian for assistance and to give them advance warning of your pets condition and the care he may need to receive.

First Aid is considered to be the initial treatment given in an emergency situation. This treatment is given for the purpose of saving life, minimizing pain, and reducing the risk of permanent injury. First aid for pets is often administered by a knowledgeable owner and greatly assists the veterinarian in making your pets long term recovery a success.
American Red Cross Deluxe First Aid Kit for Pets
Before beginning first aid procedures on your pet, it is important to remember that if an animal is in pain, it may react differently to those around them. Therefore, care and caution should be taken to avoid being bitten by your pet out of pain, fear and panic. To begin First Aid on an injured pet:

  1. Assess your pet for Shock. Shock is the bodys response to a serious injury. It includes a severe drop in blood pressure and unresponsiveness. Some other indications of shock are rapid breathing, pale mucus membranes, vomiting and shaking. If your pet displays these symptoms, try to keep the animal as calm and as still as possible. Cover your pet with blankets, coats or newspapers to maintain and conserve body temperature.
  2. Assess and apply the ABCs of First Aid.
    A. Airway– Assess your pets airway to make sure that there is not any foreign object blocking the flow of oxygen to the brain. You should observe for things such as vomit, saliva, sticks, balls or other objects. If your pets airway is obstructed, do your best to clear or remove the objects, but make sure that you do not further lodge the item in your pets throat.
    B. Breathing– Observe your pet for breathing. If the animal is unconscious and is not breathing, apply chest compressions with the palm of your hand. With your other hand, feel for the animals pulse just above the elbow. If your pet is still not breathing, then close the animals muzzle, cover the animal’s mouth with yours and breathe in firmly and slowly. Remember that if you are unsure of the animals health history, vaccination records or veterinary record, it is best to avoid contact with all bodily fluids and blood.Dog First Aid book - With DVD

    C. Cardiac Function– If, upon feeling for a pulse, one cannot be detected then it may be necessary to perform chest compressions as well. Press down firmly, but controlled, with the palm of your hand on your pets chest. A simple form of pet CPR is to perform five (5) chest compressions to every one to two (1-2) breaths.

  3. Assess your pet for other injuries. Observe your pet for broken limbs or bleeding and administer the appropriate first aid.

American Red Cross First Aid Pack for Pets
Administering First Aid for burns, cuts or heat stroke?

  1. Burn– If your pet has been burned, cool the area as quickly as possible with cool water and cover it with cool, damp towels. If the burn was caused by a chemical, flush the area with cool water for at least fifteen minutes and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
  2. Cuts– If your pet is bleeding, examine the area for foreign bodies. If none are present clean the area and cover it with a gauze pad. Many cuts require medical attention and it is best to call your veterinarian immediately. If a wound is treated professionally within four hours, it can usually be sutured with successful results. However, after four hours of the accident, wounds have a greater risk of infection and serious complications.
  3. Heat Stroke– Heat stroke typically occurs in the summer months when pets are left in sweltering situations without adequate ventilation or water supplies. If your pet demonstrates the signs of heat stroke, which are excessive panting, distress and coma, then immediately call your veterinarian and take measure to reduce your pets body temperature. Soaking with cool water and fanning your pet, will allow evaporation to cool its body. Avoid using ice or ice water as these may bring down your pets body temperature too rapidly and cause complications.