Monthly Archives: February 2009

Never Feed Your Pet — Top 10

A recent news letter suggested that all veterinarians notify pet owners of this list compiled by the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center:

  1. Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine: The toxic substance is methylxanthine found in all these items. The darker the chocolate the more dangerous. Can be fatal.
  2. Alcohol: even food with alcohol is very dangerous, even fatal.
  3. Avocado: persin is in the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark which is toxic especially to birds and rodents. Can be fatal.
  4. Macadamia Nuts: often found in cookies and candies loved by dogs. Causes high fever and GI upsets, but usually not fatal.
  5. Grapes and Raisins: Dogs and Cats love to play with them and then often eat them. Toxic principle unknown, but can cause kidney failure and be fatal.
  6. Yeast Dough: Cooked dough is fine in very small amounts, but not uncooked. Causes severe GI upsets with gas, even stomach or intestinal rupture and death.
  7. Raw/Uncooked Meat, Eggs, Fish, Bones: Salmonella and E. Coli can be very harmful and fatal. Regardless of a recent ill advised fad, raw food is dangerous. (see last weeks article). Can be fatal.
  8. Xylitol: A sweetener used in chewing gum, baked goods and toothpaste. Can cause liver failure and be fatal.
  9. Onions, Garlic, Chives: Cats more susceptible than dogs, even in low doses, but still not recommended. Causes GI upsets, usually not fatal.
  10. Milk: Pets lack the enzyme lactase necessary to break down lactose in milk. Causes severe digestive upsets but not fatal.

ASPCA’s Poison Control Centers’ Toll free # is 888-426-4435.

Abscess: What is it?

One of the most common medical problems presented to veterinarians in clinical practice is the abscess. By definition, an abscess is a “localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue.” The 2 most common sites are of the skin and subcutaneous tissue in cats as the result of a cat fight, a bad tooth in the dog, or a foreign body that got under the skin. Although abscesses can and do occur in dogs they are less common because dogs shake their heads when they fight and thus rip tissue. This torn tissue allows for drainage. However, when cats fight they usually bite deeply, the skin closes over, and severe infection develops. It usually takes a few days for this to occur when there is no drainage, so often people are surprised when a swelling develops when their cat has not been outside “for days”. In dogs the most common site for a swelling to manifest itself is under the eye. The large upper 4th premolars are known as the carnassial teeth and they are the main crunching and shearing teeth in the mouth. They are very deep rooted and often the roots become infected and abscess to the outside. The basis of medical treatment in the cat and dog are the same: remove the cause of the abscess (pus, tooth, or foreign body) clean and flush the abscess free of pus, remove any and all diseased tissue, and provide drainage. Antibiotics given by injection, orally, and into the abscess is routine. A treated abscess takes awhile to heal because it must heal from the inside out.

Pet Nutrition: Part 2

Dry food is better for your pet than canned food for several reasons: they have to crunch the food to break it up and in so doing keep their teeth and gums healthy. They eat dry food more slowly so it is better for the digestive tract, and canned food is upwards of 75% moisture which is just water. You can get that cheaper from your tap. Also, dry food is more stable during various temperature changes which may occur from the manufacturer to the store and then your home. Feeding just table scraps or even feeding your meals is also not a good diet as it is not balanced for dogs and cats. Adding table food to just “flavor” the food is okay, but too much table food creates an imbalance in the diet and thus defeats the purpose of feeding a completely balanced food. Always make slow changes in a diet. Introduce something new gradually over a period of 5-7 days so that the digestive tract adjusts to the change. Dogs and cats have very simple digestive tracts, like a baby, and they will have much less digestive tract upsets if fed the same food consistently every day. Do not feed your dog bones of any kind, including steak bones as they break off pieces with sharp edges. I have had to operate many times to remove pieces of bones from a dog’s intestine. Cats should not be fed fish with bones because they can perforate the intestines. The amount of food to feed your dog or cat depends on a number of factors; the genetic makeup of your pet and its metabolism, the amount of exercise it receives, the amount of calories being consumed and the quality of the food. The cheaper the pet food, the cheaper the quality of ingredients, the less efficiently digested, the more waste produced, and thus the more you have to feed just to survive. We all want our pets to thrive, not just survive, and be healthy and happy companions.

Pet Nutrition: Part 1

After the canned pet food problem in 2007, animal nutrition has been a major topic of conversation for veterinarians and their clients. Here are some facts and observations: Dogs are Omnivores (they can survive on a diet of plant OR animal origin), BUT to thrive not just survive they should have animal protein–meat–in their diet. Cats are classified as true Carnivores because they must have meat to survive and thrive. Meat has all the amino acids for a good diet, but an all-meat diet is harmful as it is not balanced. A balanced diet has to have protein, carbohydrates, fat, and the essential vitamins and minerals, in the proper proportions. Meat such as beef, poultry or fish should be the 1st three ingredients listed (by law). The by-products that do NOT include hair, hide, hooves or feathers are also good sources of protein. In fact, the most digestible protein is egg white followed by muscle meats such as chicken, beef and lamb followed by kidney, liver and heart. Next is milk, cheese and fish. Many dogs and cats can not handle dairy products such as milk, eggs and cheese unless they were introduced to them at a very early age and their digestive tract adjusted to it. Grains such as corn, wheat, rice, barley, soybeans are good sources of carbohydrates, not protein. Grains are very low on the list of digestibility but are commonly used because of the availability and low price. In general, the higher the quality of protein, the higher the price, and the less the amount needed, thus less grain “filler” will be needed to meet the nutritional requirements. Don’t forget, we want our pets to thrive not just survive.

Male Neutering… What Is It?

Medically neutering is castration, which is the surgical removal of the testicles. In dogs, an incision is made just in front of the scrotum, the testicles are removed through this incision and the spermatic cord is sutured closed to prevent bleeding. The scrotum is not removed. Usually the incision is closed using self absorbable sutures. The surgical procedure has not changed in the last century In cats, the incision is made in the scrotum and the testicles are removed through the incision and surgically tied off to prevent bleeding. The advantages of castration are well documented. Beside the obvious prevention of causing pregnancy, castration prevents testicular and prostate cancer, prostate problems that can occur later in the dogs life, lessens aggressive behavior and bad sexual habits, and helps in the dogs willingness to respond to training. In cats it prevents urine spraying, lessens the desire to be outside, and has a “calming” effect. The ideal time for this surgery to be performed is before sexual maturity occurs: between 6-9 months of age. Check with your veterinarian for his/her recommendation.

Arthritis & Your Pet

Arthritis is a debilitating disease that affects mostly older dogs and cats over 7 years of age, and younger if they have sustained an injury to a joint. Certain breeds are prone to it and overweight dogs and cats certainly are more susceptible. Medically it is known as Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Osteoarthritis and it is a progressive condition characterized by loss of cartilage, loss of mobility, and pain. The objective of the Veterinarian is to detect it early, treat it successfully, and prevent its progression, so the quality of life for the pet is improved. Previous to last decade, the medical professions (animal AND human) were only able to treat the pain. Now we have products that are not even classified as drugs to help slow down the progression, improve the health of the effected joint by encouraging cartilage repair AND successfully treat the associated pain. Never before have the medical professions been able to actually improve an arthritic condition, today we can. The products that we use are known as neutraceuticals, which are not drugs in the pure sense, but dietary supplements, and are not controlled by the FDA. ( See previous article on Neutraceuticals).These products help produce new cartilage cells, and enhance the joint lubricating fluid known as synovial fluid. In so doing, the joint can actually improve in its function, the inflammation can decrease and thus the pain subsides. Two of the most common products used in veterinary medicine are Cosequin and Glyco-flex. The active ingredients are glucosamine and chondroitin. In addition, the associated pain of arthritis is controlled by using drugs known as NSAIDS. (See previous article on NSAIDS). These are very helpful non-cortisone anti-inflammatory medications that must be used according to proper guidelines of your veterinarian. Remember: early detection and early treatment is the key to success.

Heartworm Disease: A Hurricane Katrina Aftermath

Hurricane Katrina rescue dogs have increased the spread of Heartworm Disease all across America including Long Island. Unfortunately, some of the adoption agencies did not blood screen the dogs and adopted them out anyway. The disease has always been endemic in the warmer southern states, especially the gulf coastal areas around the Mississippi River where mosquitoes flourish, but now we have more infected dogs on Long Island as a result of the large adoptions. What this means is that the northern mosquitoes can bite these dogs and transmit the disease to unprotected dogs, cats, fox and other animals here on L.I. I had my first positive case in a Katrina rescue dog this past February (2008). Heartworm Disease means exactly what is sounds like: worms in the heart, sometimes up to 12 inches long. It is a debilitating, life threatening disease that can be treated but not without tremendous risk and expense. Dogs are considered the definitive host for this parasite and even though the disease is not transmitted directly from one dog to another, untreated dogs and unprotected dogs provide a reservoir for mosquitoes and thus for the disease. It is preventable. All dogs should be blood tested yearly, and if determined free of the disease, be put on a simple inexpensive pill given 1x each month. Anybody who adopted a Katrina dog should get it blood tested immediately or at the very least check with the adoption agency to see if it was blood tested.