Water: What’s best for your pet?

There are basically five kinds of water: Spring water, Well water, Tap water, Bottled water and Distilled water. Spring and Well water come from the earths aquifer, rain and melting ice. Tap water comes from rain water stored in reservoirs, Bottled water from commercial companies and Distilled water also from commercial companies. Spring and well water are the most natural, and if not bottled the water is unfiltered and untreated. Tap water is treated with fluoride and other chemicals and is also filtered. Bottled water is not only filtered but many impurities are also removed by chemical processes. How thoroughly and which of the many impurities removed depends on the company  producing it. Lastly, distilled water is made by boiling regular water and capturing the steam under pressure, into sterile containers. By d oing this, most impurities and important electrolytes and minerals are also removed. If you go “online” there are many conflicting articles about the benefits and hazards of distilled water. This ranges from treating urinary tract infections, causing urinary infections and stones, causing and/or treating cardiac disease, and even tear stains, etc.  Now, which one is best for your pets?  Spring water, which is fresh water from springs, is not so fresh as one might think. Animals urinate and defecate in those rivers “upstream” that become springs “downstream”. In fact, even in Canada, the ice melt water coming directly from the polar ice cap has impurities and tastes of sulfa. Well water is from the earths aquifer which has a natural filter. However, it still is not always safe to drink it.  In general, the safest water is using any source of water suited for human consumption, filtered and treated. The general consensus of my research is distilled water is NOT recommended. Although most electrolytes and minerals important for good health are found in all commercially prepared dog and cat foods, many pets do not get balanced diets. Drinking regular water is not only important for proper hydration but is also a source of these necessary minerals and electrolytes that your pet might not get if he/she is a finicky eater. Actually, water is more important for survival than food. Remember, always provide ample fresh drinking water for your pets on a daily basis, the same water that you drink. Please note: Drinking water from glass rather than plastic bottles is better as the plastic bottles leach harmful oil based chemicals into the water over time.

Household Products (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about harmful products used indoors that can be harmful to pets and humans. Many cause indoor pollution of the air. This week I am writing about “pet friendly” and “people friendly” products that can be used to clean and are considered safe and DO NOT cause indoor pollution, BUT, they are not to be licked, swallowed, inhaled or applied topically to pets. Baking soda cleans, deodorizes, scours, and softens water. It is noncorrosive, slightly abrasive and is effective for light cleaning. Borax cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, and softens water. It is also effective for light cleaning, for soiled laundry in the washing machine, and for preventing mold growth.  It is a natural alternative to color safe bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, drain deodorizer, surface cleaner, oven cleaner, tile cleaner, degreaser etc. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is effective in removing mold stains from nonporous surfaces. Purchase a 10 %  food-grade solution. (The solution most commonly sold off the shelf is only 3 %.)  Use protective gloves to apply. A 10 % solution will bleach many types of surfaces. A 35%  food-grade peroxide  is available through many health food stores, but must be used with caution and the container must be refrigerated and kept clean. The 35% solution will burn skin and must be carefully diluted before it can be safely used. ONLY the 3% Peroxide sol. can be given orally to induce vomiting in pets, AND only with a veterinarians guidance. Soap (as opposed to detergents) biodegrades safely and completely. It is an effective and gentle cleaner with many uses. For hands, dishes, laundry, and light cleaning, use the pure bar or soap flakes without perfume additives. TSP (trisodium phosphate) can be used according to the manufacturer?s instructions for grease removal. TSP is available in hardware stores. Surfaces cleaned with TSP should be neutralized with baking soda prior to the application of finishes. Fluids containing TSP should not be disposed of in septic systems or sewer systems because of their high phosphate content. Vodka is effective for dissolving alcohol-soluble finishes.  Use a high-proof (high alcohol content) product. Washing soda (sodium carbonate) cuts grease, removes stains, disinfects, and softens water. It is effective for washing heavily soiled laundry and for general cleaning. White vinegar cuts grease and removes lime deposits. A safe and useful all-purpose cleaning solution can be made from distilled white vinegar and plain water in a 50:50 ratio. Vinegar has been used to clean and control mold growth.  It is also very helpful in eliminating urine and feces odor from pet accidents. For window cleaning, add five tablespoons of white vinegar to two cups of water. The solution should be placed in a glass spray bottle.  Glass is preferred because plastics are known to release hormone-disrupting chemicals into bottle contents. Please note: your drinking water should also be in glass bottles.

Household Products: Watch Out (PART 1)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published reports that states the air inside the typical home is on the average 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside. In extreme cases, this number can be as high as 100 times more contaminated. This large variation is strictly related to the type of household cleaners and pesticides you use, and where you reside. Some of these cleaning products are loaded with harmful chemicals and the EPA estimates that at least 50% of indoor pollution is the direct result of these products. Many prestigious research organizations, including the MIT/Harvard Broad Institute, the Animal Cancer Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, and the Morris Animal Foundation have published reports that one in four dogs will die or be euthanized because of cancer. Cancer is the No.1 cause of disease-relate d death in dogs over the age of two. These numbers have been substantiated in Locust Valley and the surrounding towns on the North Shore. Rarely does a day pass when we do not make the diagnosis of some sort of cancer in a dog or cat. Many can be saved with surgery. Some we can help with Chemo or radiation, but the fact remains that we see a lot of it. The cause has never been definitely discovered. We know genetics plays a role, but what about all these chemicals and pesticides? Most of our pets live indoor most of the time, especially in the colder months. Dogs and cats have a much more rapid metabolism, breathe more rapidly, and have smaller lungs so they are at great risk. They are also directly on our lawns, more than us, which leaves them more susceptible to pesticides. Stay away from cleaning products that contain phenols, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, petroleum based solvents, chlorethylene and ethoxylate. There are many more. Use “Green” or Organic products only and lawn products that state “safe for pets”.

Why Adopt a Pet?

The ASPCA recently reported that at any given time there are between 5 and 7 million animals up for adoption in shelters across the country. Of these, more than half, 60% of the dogs and 70% of the cats, will not be adopted and will be euthanized.They also reported that only 10% of new pet owners adopt from these shelters. The simple answer is “there are not enough people to adopt them” and there are just too many dogs and cats. Yet, the breeding of dogs and cats continue in puppy and kitten mills through out the country. It is not just mixed breeds, but pure breeds also as, according to the ASPCA again, 25% of all dogs euthanized are purebreds. Apparently, the novelty of new pet ownership wears off, or training was done improperly, or they found that they couldn’t care or afford them, etc. The reasons go on and on. Some people living in large cities and renting homes for the summer in suc h places like the “Hamptons”, adopt dogs from the shelters in the beginning of the summer and then “dump” them around Labor Day. The Shelters out east are filled beyond capacity every September. Each year when the Best in Show at Westminster is picked, there is a mad rush to breed that particular type dog. This year (Sept. 2013) it was the Affenpinscher. Although this toy breed is adorable and loving, they are very active and demanding. This eventually leads many to be brought to shelters and put up for adoption. Only a small percentage of this latest “fashionable” breed of dog is adopted, most are not. The decision to adopt or purchase a pet is a major one. Many things should be considered, such as: are there children in the household, are you experienced and willing to devote time, effort and money to properly care for your new pet, do you have enough room for proper exercise, etc.? Don’t act on impulse, think it out carefully. There are literally hundreds of studies showi ng that pet companionship is good for humans, adults as well as children. These benefits range from physical to spiritual. For example, recent studies have shown pet owners have lower levels of cardiovascular disease, spend less time and money on their own self indulgences, have stronger immune systems, and are in better physical  condition. In addition, several studies have shown that pet ownership improves self-esteem and lessens depression. Amazingly, an organization known as the K9 Connection has reduced the number of teenage suicides by adopting pets out to high-risk teenagers. This impact on the teens is profound. They have shown that the healing power of the human-animal bond does work.

CBC: What Is It?

CBC stands for “complete blood count”. But what is it and what does it mean? The CBC is one of the most important blood tests a veterinarian or physician can perform.  The CBC determines various type of blood cells and their quantity. This number is extremely important in determining the health status of the patient being tested and sometimes the number can even diagnose a specific disease. Within the blood there are many different cells, which will briefly be mentioned: 1. RBC or red blood cells can indicate anemia, traumatic blood loss, dehydration, certain parasitic diseases, bone marrow status, etc. Hemoglobin is within the RBC’s in the blood. Its primary purpose is to carry oxygen throughout the body, and transport CO2 to the  lungs to be expelled. 2. Platelets: are involved with the formation of blot clots. If the number is too low excessive bleeding can occur, if too high clots can form and obstruct blood vessels which can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or block blood flow to other parts of the body such as the lungs. 3. WBC or white blood cells. There are many different types and each have a specific meaning: a) Neutrophils: These are the most abundant  type of WBC and form an essential part of the immune system. They are the first responders to infection, certain environmental exposures and some cancers. Generally, in bacterial infections their numbers increase and in  viral disease their numbers decrease. b) Lymphocytes: the amount of this type of white blood cell is very helpful in diagnosing certain diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, infection after surgery, trauma, etc. They are very important cells that help fight off cancer and help control immune responses. There are 2 types of lymphocytes and they create antibodies for the immune system and fight off inf ection and cancer. c) Basophils: another white blood cell used to help diagnose certain cancers, allergic disorders parasitic disease, etc. d) Eosinophils: also fight off disease and elevate in allergic reactions. e) Monocytes:  the last type of white blood cell that also fight off disease and aid in the immune system. These cells sometimes indicate a chronic state of inflammation, infection &/or immune response. This article is just a simple overview of the importance of the CBC test. It is used daily in all veterinary/medical practices.

Halloween Pet Hazards

It’s not only the “treats” that can be dangerous, but other things as well. The most dangerous foods include: chocolate, nuts, raisins, mints, chewing gum, and many baked goods. Anything that contains xylitol, an artificial sweetener, is particularly toxic. This product is 5 x sweeter than regular sugar and is frequently found in chewing gum and baked goods and “diet candies”. Xylitol must always be avoided as it can cause liver failure and death. Any and all treats should be avoided as even the colorful wrappers can cause a problem. Also the colorful decorations like “Glow sticks” and Glow Jewelry” and cutouts, foam figurines, tempt playful pets to investigate and sometimes take a bite. Small ornaments are particularly dangerous to puppies and kittens because if swallowed Intestinal blockages can result. Watch out for exposed electric cords. Some pets become frightened and eve n aggressive with all the noise and front door bells ringing. Especially when strangers in costume show up at the door. Those pets that do not join in the the festivities should be consoled, confined in a quiet room, and some may need veterinary help in the form of mild sedatives. Get them ahead of time and have them handy, just in case. Make sure proper identification is on your pet. With the front door opening and closing, many dogs and cats will want “escape” from all the noise and excitement. Use a quick release collar for cats and a good strong leather collar for dogs. Both must have identification tags and Rabies tags. Permanent identification in the form of a microchip is always best.

Human Medications are Toxic to Animals

The ASPCA has reported that as the human population ages, more and more medications are prescribed, and more poisonings occur in our pets. In fact, last year more than 1/3rd of all pet poisonings reported were in fact from ingesting human medications. That figure is actually over 3000 cases in New York State alone. The most common reported is the moisture absorbents found in most medications. These are little silica packets that prevent moisture from ruining the medicine. They cause gastric upsets and can cause an intestinal blockage. The two most commonly reported over the counter NSAIDS are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Naproxen). All are toxic to animals. All cardiac medications should be avoided and kept locked up. Non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) are also very dangerous. Other type of medications include cold medications, cough and allergy medications, and antidepressants. Although, many of these cases are accidental, all are avoidable. You must make sure no medications fall to the floor and all must be put away and out of reach. Puppies and kittens are usually the more likely candidates for playing and consuming these items listed above. Keep activated charcoal and hydrogen peroxide in the house, just in case, but do not use unless advised to do so. Please note: the direct line of the Animal Poison Control Center is 888-426-4435.

Coughing and Gagging in Pets

Dog and cats do not get the common cold. When they cough or gag it is usually a concern, especially if it persists for more than a few hours. There are many causes of a cough or gag and rarely is it caused by “something caught in the throat”. However, on occasion we see a bone or piece of wood, a lego piece, rawhide, or awn lodged either in the throat or between the teeth. Other more common causes include the following: Dental Disease: Infection in the mouth often causes pharyngitis and tonsillitis and usually results in gagging and/or coughing. Requires dental cleaning, possible extractions and antibiotics. Kennel Cough. This is a highly contagious virus that can be picked up in boarding kennels, grooming shops, pet stores and places dog frequent. It is treatable and there is a vaccine to protect your dog against it. Influenza. This also is caused by a virus and is ve ry contagious. Left untreated it can progress to pneumonia. A vaccine also is available. Heart Disease. This occurs more in smaller breed dogs and can cause coughing especially at night when fluid accumulates in the lungs. Lack of energy and heavy breathing after minimal exercise also can occur. It is treatable when diagnosed early. Distemper. Rarely seen anymore in this area. It is a viral highly contagious disease rarely seen in privately owned dogs unless the owner is not diligent in vaccinations. Often found in kennels and shelters. Tracheal collapse. Usually hereditary and seen mostly in toy and very small breeds. Surgical correction is available but very dangerous and costly. Parasites. Heartworm and roundworms are the usual cause in this area. Both can be very serious but avoidable with monthly oral medications and topical medications. Lung Cancer. Primary lung cancer is very rare, metastasis from cancer in another area is the usual cause. Cough is only one of the symptoms. Surgery and/or chemotherapy is the recommended course of therapy. Fungal Disease. Usually in dogs living closely with birds and their droppings. Treatable but not always successfully, especially if not diagnosed in the early stages. Pneumonia: Usually secondary to other infections such as kennel cough or influenza that went untreated for too long. Chronic Bronchitis. Often caused by tobacco smoke, pollens, and dust in the environment. Usually secondary to allergies. Hard to determine cause but treatable.

Leptospirosis (Sept. 2013)

“It’s out there.” Recent research reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that at least 8% of the dog population has contracted Leptospirosis. They report that it can only take a few minutes outdoors to contract this disease and that it is also transmitted by squirrels. This recent report (September 18, 2013) also stated that Leptospirosis is on the increase in the Northeast. Leptospirosis (Lepto) is a contagious disease affecting both animals and humans. This terrible disease is caused by several bacterial pathogens called Leptospira which can cause serious liver and kidney disease. Leptospira thrive in wet soil conditions and moderate temperatures support their surviving in the environment. The organism can be found on the grass, an d even on wet sidewalks. Infection is spread in humans and animals by contact with infected areas from the urine of squirrels, raccoons, fox, horses, rats, mice, opossum, skunk, dogs, and other animals that urine outside. The bacteria can enter the body by licking contaminated areas on the paws or body, or by drinking contaminated water, or through open wounds. Stagnant water such as small ponds and lingering puddles should be avoided. Initial symptoms include fever, decreased appetite, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. If a diagnosis is not made early and treatment initiated the disease can progress to kidney and liver failure and be fatal. Since Leptospirosis poses a risk of spread to other animals and humans, any suspected contaminated area should be avoided and the area should be thoroughly drained, washed and disinfected with an iodine-based solution. It is almost impossible to keep dogs off grass or other potentially infected areas so vaccination is the wisest cho ice. The vaccine is safe and effective. If you know there are squirrels, raccoons, and or rats, etc. on your property and your dog goes outside where they might have been, your dog is at risk and should be vaccinated. Contact your veterinarian for current vaccination protocol.

Human Medications are Toxic to Animals

The ASPCA has reported that as the human population ages, more and more medications are prescribed, and more poisonings occur in our pets. In fact, last year more than 1/3rd of all pet poisonings reported were in fact from ingesting human medications. That figure is actually over 3000 cases in New York State alone. The most common reported is the moisture absorbents found in most medications. These are little silica packets that prevent moisture from ruining the medicine. They cause gastric upsets and can cause an intestinal blockage. The two most commonly reported over the counter NSAIDS are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Naproxen). All are toxic to animals. All cardiac medications should be avoided and kept locked up. Non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) are also very dangerous. Other type of medications include cold medications, cough and allergy medications, and antidepressants. Although, many of these cases are accidental, all are avoidable. You must make sure no medications fall to the floor and all must be put away and out of reach. Puppies and kittens are usually the more likely candidates for playing and consuming these items listed above. Keep activated charcoal and hydrogen peroxide in the house, just in case, but do not use unless advised to do so. Please note: the direct line of the Animal Poison Control Center is 888-426-4435.