Monthly Archives: May 2010

Summer Hazards

Our pets “get into trouble” more often in the spring, summer and fall, than in  the winter, when they are inside more. They encounter more hazards being outside, even when fenced in or being on a leash.  Everything from cat fights, dog fights, lacerations from sharp objects, fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, infections, and of course avoidable accidents like being hit by a car. Here are some of the more frequently encountered conditions veterinarians see in the warmer weather 1. Heat Stroke & Burns: Dogs only have sweat glands in their paws and cool off by panting, so heat stroke  is common from      lack of shade, being left in a hot car, and/or not having fresh cool water available. Walk your dog early in the morning or late in the day when it’s cooler and avoid hot asphalt and sand. You’re wearing sneakers or sandals, your dog isn’t, and their feet can (and do) get burnt. 2. Drowning:  Swimming accidents occur from lack of use of life jackets made for dogs, and hypothermia from falling into a cold pool, lake, or from a boat. Secondary pneumonia often results.  3. GI Upsets: Stomach and intestinal problems occur from drinking salt water, algae laden ponds, eating dead fish, sea shells, bird droppings at the beach, and eating with guests at barbeques. Specifically avoid raisins, grapes, avocado, chocolate, fresh garlic and onions, and artificial sweeteners. Be careful what lawn products are used if your pet goes on the grass. There are “safe for pets” lawn fertilizers. Secure all garbage cans. Avoid pool chlorine spillage and muriatic acid.  4. Sunburn: Use sunscreen on the hairless sensitive areas, especially long snouts, and provide ample shade if left outside. 5. Parasites:  Apply flea and tick protection, but avoid DEET in repellents and use heartworm with intestinal parasite preventative. Lyme Disease is very prevalent, so vaccinate against it and apply tick protection.  6. Be Prepared: If you are traveling with your pet, make sure vaccinations are current and you have proof, and a current health certificate. Officials will prevent your entrance to state parks without it and some airlines demand the documents. If you need motion sickness medications or mild sedatives they are readily available from your veterinarian. Bring along a pet “First Aid Kit”. 7. Identification: Have your pet micro chipped  for permanent ID or at least put ID tags on the collar.  Most importantly, keep your dog on a leash and your cat properly contained.  8. Infections: Doggy play areas are notorious for spreading diseases such as Parvo or intestinal parasites and fleas. Protect your dog with appropriate vaccinations, flea/tick preventatives and have your dogs stool checked by your veterinarian 1-2 x yearly.

Allergy Testing in Pets

By definition, an allergic reaction is when an individual reacts to a normal substance in the environment. These substances are called “allergens” and include pollens, molds, animal hair/dander, household dust/mites, fleas, insect bites AND ingredients found in commercially prepared foods as well as table food. The symptoms manifest themselves differently in dogs and cats. In dogs, usually intense itching and scratching, paw licking/chewing and face rubbing are the primary symptoms, while in cats it is sneezing, coughing and watery eyes (like in humans), and less so scratching/licking. Because the only reliable drug to treat allergies in animals is cortisone or derivatives of cortisone, the long term use is dangerous and not recommended. Your veterinarian first must eliminate other causes of dermatological problems such as mange and skin infection, and then discuss with you allergy testing and treatments. In the past, only intradermal skin testing by injections was moderately reliable, but now a simple blood test is now considered the preferred way to diagnose inhalant, and contact sensitivities, and less so, food sensitivities. The blood is tested for everything, including trees, grasses, weeds, shrubs, fungi, and dust/mites, and food, etc. This blood test will indicate what substances in the environment and what ingredients in food the pet is allergic to. A list is provided indicating which allergens the pet must be desensitized from and which foods are free from those ingredients the animal tested positive too. Dogs and cats can not be hyposensitized to foods so elimination is the only form of treatment in the case of food allergies. All other allergies can be treated with a series of “allergy shots” customized for each pet, which, in essence, is a process of causing a hyposensitivity to the offending allergen, such as ragweed or oak tree leaves. This requires a series of injections which either the owner or veterinarian can do. Although none of the skin testing is 100% this test is simple, fast, and gives the veterinarian and owner the direction to follow in eliminating the offending substance(s) and/or food.

Pain–has important purpose

There are two types of pain: Acute and Chronic. Acute is sudden and occurs immediately after a shock to the system, such as trauma. Examples of this type include surgery, lacerations, a broken bone, or even a broken nail. Chronic pain is usually after the acute phase has waned but there still a sensitivity in the area. This type is more bearable but still is uncomfortable. An example of this is after surgery, a healing wound, or arthritis. It is very important to note that PAIN HAS A PURPOSE. Pain is saying to the body “don’t do that”. A body part is hurt, inflamed or broken and continuing whatever you are doing is going to make the problem worse, so don’t do that. In the case of post-injury, the healing process is being interfered with and you should stop. An example of this is giving too much exercise too soon to your pet after surgery or an injury. The old adage used in human exercise/training: “No pain, No gain” is not applicable to medicine or surgery pertaining to the healing process. There are many many pain relievers available to the medical professions. Most veterinarians today are using NSAIDS, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The pain relief part is actually a side effect or secondary to the therapeutic part, which is anti-inflammation. By reducing the inflammation (swelling, redness, etc.) the pain indirectly subsides. Examples of NSAIDS are: Rimadyl and Previcox. The side effects of NSAIDS are minimal., but long term use must be monitored by a veterinarian with periodic blood tests. Most pain-only medications are usually reserved for in-hospital use as many are narcotics and can make the patients very groggy. They do not do anything to help the healing process except relieve pain. Examples of pain-only medications are: Morphine and Demerol. So, in short, when your dog or cat is in pain or is favoring a leg such as limping, there is pain. Your veterinarian will find out what’s causing it and treat it accordingly. Don’t forget pain has a purpose.

Kitty Litters and Potential Problems

There are 4 types of  kitty litter: Clay-Based Clumping, Clay-Based Non-Clumping, Crystal, and Biodegradable. The Crystal is basically sand or a sand blend and the Biodegradable is made from paper, wheat, corn or pine. The Clay Based can be a problem and the clumping type is mostly what concerns me as a veterinarian. This type of kitty litter is convenient for the litter pan emptying person, because the feces and urine are  easy to locate and discard neatly from the cats litter pan. Also, this type of kitty litter does not require total emptying, but, it is questionable if this  litter is healthy for the cat. This clay based litter has been around for the past 2 decades but there have been many articles written about its hazards. However, there have been no extensive clinical trials done, other than by the manufacturers. Not only have there been respiratory problems reported in cats using this litter, but also gastro-intestinal problems. Briefly, the causative agent is a chemical known as sodium bentonite, a natural clay ingredient. Sodium bentonite can swell up to 15 times its size when moisture is added to it, like urine. It expands and forms a hardened mass.   When the cat stirs the litter up with his/her paws, a dust is formed, and the cat can and does inhale it, and some then get respiratory problems.  And, because of the fastidious self-cleaning nature of the cat, some of the litter gets on their paws and coat and when licked is swallowed. In time, this can build up in the intestinal tract as digestive fluids cause it to swell, and a partial or even a complete obstruction can occur. Veterinarians occasionally see constipation directly related to this kind of kitty litter. Granted it is not a very widespread problem, but it certainly is a serious one if it affects your individual loved cat. Many humane adoption organizations such as the ASPCA does not recommend this type of litter when they adopt out kittens. Even dogs can be affected, as some dogs have an inexplicable “taste” for kitty litter and when the digestive fluids add to it, the litter enlarges. There have been reports of  severe constipation and partial blockages in dogs too. Read the label and if your cat has respiratory &/or digestive problems try to avoid a litter with sodium bentonite.