Clients think I am kidding when I make this diagnosis. In actuality, false pregnancy can and does occur in dogs, cats, mice and occasionally in humans. It is a bizarre condition that can be explained medically and physiologically. Medically, it is known as pseudocyesis. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones and is seen most frequently in unspayed dogs, and less so in unspayed cats. The “pregnancy” hormone, progesterone, is usually produced by the ovaries after a mating occurs, but on some occasions cysts develop on the ovaries and the progesterone hormone is produced without mating, and in excess. This causes changes in the body that manifest itself in some bizarre behavior that includes “mothering” a toy doll, making a nest in preparation of having a litter, seeking solitude as if going into labor, enlarged mammary glands, milk production, and even dripping milk. Pseudocyesis is a self limiting condition which subsides after six weeks, but during the time of symptoms it is overwhelming to the pet as well as the owners. It can and does reoccur, usually after the dog or cat goes into heat again. The veterinarian usually has to take an x-ray or perform an ultrasound to make sure it isn’t a real pregnancy. The only cure and permanent prevention is spaying, which is also known as a panovariohysterectomy: the removal of the ovaries, horns and body of the uterus. It can be done at any age, but this procedure is recommended to perform before the dog or cat ever goes into heat. It prevents real pregnancy, false pregnancy, mammary cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and infections in the uterus known as metritis or pyometritis.
It’s like “which came first, the chicken or the egg”? Does a dog or cat vomit because it eats grass, or does it eat grass to vomit because it has an upset stomach? The frequently asked question is “Why does my dog or cat eat grass or plants“? For many years it was thought that there was a nutritional deficiency in the diet, or that they eat grass to induce vomiting because they are sick. Now a recent study of over 3000 pets revealed some interesting facts: 68% of the pet owners said their dogs eat grass or plants on a regular daily or weekly basis, only 8% reported that their dogs showed signs of illness before ingesting grass or plants, and 22% reported that their dogs regularly vomit after ingesting grass or plants. The study also found that younger dogs eat plants and grass more frequently than older dogs and the young ones were less likely to appear ill before, or vomit afterward. Cats, on the other hand, often eat grass or plants intentionally to induce vomiting because of hair balls. However, a few cats can eat grass and plants and do not show signs of illness before or vomit afterward. Regardless of the quality of the diet, eating these non nutritional members of the plant kingdom had little to no effect on the overall well being of the dog or cat. In the wild, cats, dogs, fox, wolves, etc. frequently eat grass and plants to vomit up worms. This definitely has a beneficial effect on their overall health, as worms are parasites and if the numbers get too high they can cause serious harm and even death. But, this is not the case in the well cared-for domesticated pets in civilized countries. The conclusion of the study was that this tendency of some dogs and cats to eat plants or grass is an inherited trait from their wild ancestors and is considered normal. Most importantly, keep your pets away from toxic plants and grass that has been treated with pesticides not listed as “pet friendly. If your dog or cat does not normally eat grass or plants and suddenly just started to do so, and is vomiting, your veterinarian should be consulted.
Fleas season is upon us. Every day we are seeing dogs and cats with a flea problem, and it gets worse in the fall when the nights get cooler. Fleas are “heat seekers”, they are wingless, blood sucking parasites that can affect not only dogs, cats, horses, and most wildlife, but humans too. They are very prolific–a pregnant flea can lay hundreds of eggs. The eggs are resistant to most household products including alcohol and cleaning solutions. There are two types of flea problems: flea allergy, called flea bite dermatitis, and flea infestation (lots of fleas). Interestingly enough, some of the dogs and cats that have flea infestations suffer less that those with flea allergy. One flea bite can cause a dog or cat to have a serious reaction if they are allergic to the saliva of the flea. They bite and scratch intensely and can open their skin to secondary infection. In addition to hair loss, the skin is very irritated and sensitive to the touch. The dog or cat often can not sleep and become very irritable. You have to be very determined and diligent in the flea eradication process. The prescription flea products work better than the over the counter products. Topical flea products are applied to the skin (not the hair) 1 x each month. It is dispersed into the fatty layer under the skin and stored in the oil secreting glands. These products kill the parasites, inactivate the eggs, and kill the immature form of the parasites known as larvae. They break the life cycle of the flea. Vacuuming the entire house is a must, as it sucks up live and dead fleas, AND their eggs AND larvae. The bag should then be placed in the garbage where it will eventually be burned. Avoid the areas you have previously walked your dog and treat the outdoors with “pet friendly” insecticides. The allergy, if present, must also be treated. Don’t wait, see your veterinarian in the early stages and discuss the latest recommended products.
This time the recall is for possible Salmonella contamination of nutritional supplement products used by dogs and cats. United Pet Group of Cincinnati, Ohio is recalling its line of Pro-Pet Adult Daily Vitamin Supplement tablets and powder for dogs and also the Excel brand of products for dogs AND cats. The recalled products are sold nationally at various retailers and the affected products are those with expiration dates of between Jan 2013 to June 2013. ALSO, Merrick Pet Care of Amarillo, Texas, recalled their 10 ounce bags of its Beef Filet Squares for Dogs with an expiration date of March 24, 2012 for possible salmonella contamination. The signs associated with salmonella infection include the following: lethargy, diarrhea with or without blood, fever, and vomiting. Some dogs and cats have abdominal pain and a lack of appetite. However, some animals can show no signs and become carriers. Humans are also susceptible to salmonella poisoning and have the same symptoms of infection as well. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a possibly infected cat or dog OR suspected pet food or supplements. Also always wash your hands after preparing raw meat and vegetables for cooking. Don’t just rinse, use water AND soap. If you have been feeding any of these products to your dog or cat, contact your veterinarian immediately. You can also contact these companies directly: United Pet’s phone is 1-877-399-5226 and Merrick Pet Care’s phone is 1-800-664-7387.
As of May 24, there is a new online pet and human adverse reaction reporting system available to all of us. It’s purpose is to improve the country’s national surveillance system and strengthen the ability of protecting the nations health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) new web site is: www.SafetyReportingPortal. This web site gives the public, any pet owner or veterinarian the means of reporting a problem directly to the government. This includes pet related products such as food, treats, toys and eventually it will include drugs. This portal is designed to keep track of adverse reactions to a wide variety of products before it gets out of hand. It is not only designed for the public, but also for drug manufacturers and researchers in the human and animal medicine fields and public health officials. Included in the wide array of acceptable reportable issues are the human food industry, animal food industry, drug manufacturing and even biomedical researchers involved in human gene transfer. In the future it will also include clinical trials and safety problems from all manufacturers of products the public uses. Basically, it centralizes the reporting process so all governmental agencies can see it and “strengthen our ability to protect the nations health,” as per the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Margaret A. Hamberg. This new portal will also redirect individuals who want to submit reports about other products regulated by the FDA, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The FDA states that this is a first step toward an electronic reporting system that will allow consumers as well as professionals to file a single report to multiple agencies for the publics protection. While still in development, this portal will also direct the public to the correct reporting agency.
Veterinarians have been asked to participate in a New York State supported campaign to protect our water supply. The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation through the NYS Veterinary Medical Society advised us to display the notice in our waiting rooms and any other conspicuous location for our clients to read. Basically, we must all be aware of the proper disposal of unused medications. This includes over the counter drugs as well as prescriptions. It also includes expired medications such as hormones, steroids, antibiotics, vitamins, supplements, anti-depressants, beta-blockers, medicated shampoos, etc. We do not want any of these items to get into our lakes, rivers and streams. Not only does it affect the fish and other aquatic wildlife, but it can affect our drinking water. Researchers fear that antibiotics in our water supply will lead to more and more antibiotic resistant bacteria. So this important message is for all of us, to “Help Protect New York’s Waters.” The slogan is: “DON’T FLUSH Unwanted Household Medications or Pour Them Down the Drain.” However, it is ok to put them into your garbage can or mix them with something undesirable such as coffee grounds, dirt or even kitty litter. They recommend taping up all containers before you put them into the garbage. It is also recommended returning used insulin syringes and needles to your veterinarian for proper disposal in OSHA endorsed closed plastic containers. These containers are picked up by State Certified Disposal Companies. For more information call 518-402-8678 or go to www.dontflushyourdrugs.net.