High Rise Syndrome in Cats

July 9, 2014
Cat peeks out an open high rise window

Cat peeks out an open high rise window

Warmer weather ushers in “high rise” season: the time of year when The Animal Medical Center’s ER sees an uptick in the number of cats injured as a result of an accidental fall from their apartment windows. Dogs also fall from apartment windows or terraces, but not as often as cats.

Not Just in New York
In the early 1980s, The AMC was the first to report on what was dubbed “high rise syndrome” in cats. Over a five month period, we treated 132 cats that had fallen out of a building and 90% of these cats survived. High rise syndrome is not unique to New York City. Recently, a study of Croatian cats found most cats who fell were less than a year old and those who fell more than five stories had more serious injuries. In a study of Viennese cats published last year, inflammation of the pancreas was a common sequel to the trauma of falling from a building.

Triad of Injuries
High rise cats seen at The AMC suffer from a common triad of injuries: chest trauma, head/facial injuries and limb fractures. Prince Michael, Sox and Tyra are three recent AMC high rise patients who have this classic set of high rise injuries. Prince Michael was only 12 weeks old when he fell four stories from his West Side apartment window. He must have landed on his chin and chest. He fractured one of his upper fangs, abraded his chin and suffered lung bruises. The fracture of the tooth opened the pulp cavity, or central blood vessel supplying the tooth, and to prevent an infection from moving up through the open pulp cavity, the tooth was extracted a couple of weeks after his fall.

Sox, a four year old cat, fell five stories onto his head and was badly scraped up. The force of the fall caused a tear in his lungs, allowing air to leak out and into the space between his lungs and ribs. The accumulation of air prevented his lungs from expanding and he was experiencing respiratory distress when he arrived at The AMC. Our ER doctors removed the excess air, restoring his ability to breathe. The fall also fractured the roof of his mouth and a back leg. Once the lungs were healed, AMC surgeons repaired the roof of his mouth and splinted the leg.

Current Record Holder

Fractured humerus

Fractured humerus

So far in the 2014 high rise season, the highest fall seen at The AMC has been 17 stories. Tyra, a six month old kitten, suffered a fractured hip socket and lung bruising. Fortunately, Tyra’s orthopedist recommended cage rest and not corrective surgery. Most people wouldn’t think lungs could get bruised, but the impact from a fall can bruise the lungs, the same way you can bruise your elbow if you fall off your bike. When lungs become bruised, they cannot exchange oxygen well and Tyra required oxygen cage therapy until the lung bruises resolved. Happily, Tyra was discharged three days after her fall.

High Rise Syndrome is Preventable
Although all three of these cats were fortunate enough to eventually go home, not all high rise cats survive. Take these steps to keep your cat safe:

  • Keep window screens tightly in place
  • Close windows if you don’t have screens
  • Prevent falls by keeping your pet off open terraces and balconies

Protect Your Pet Against Summertime Hazards

July 2, 2014

The Hunt for Huckleberry: Finding Your Lost Pet

June 25, 2014
Huckleberry

Huckleberry

A couple of evenings ago, I received a frantic phone call from one of my cat-owning clients. Their young cat, Huckleberry, had been missing for a couple of hours and had not come to the kitchen at his appointed dinner hour.

Search Everywhere
When my clients discovered him missing, they took immediate action: opened all the room and closet doors in their apartment in case Huckleberry had accidently been shut in or out of his favorite hiding places, checked the dryer for a cat toasting in a pile of warm, clean, fluffy towels and looked in the hallway outside their apartment door. They even went so far as to disassemble some electronic devices. But, no Huckleberry.

Alert the Veterinary Community
I emailed the front desk and the Emergency Service at The Animal Medical Center alerting them to a possible “injured stray cat” meeting Huckleberry’s description. The front desk in turn emailed Huckleberry’s photo and microchip number to all of the 24 hour emergency hospitals in our area and gave Huckleberry’s home phone number in case a good Samaritan found him and took him to a local animal emergency room.

Use Social Media
Next, I tweeted Huckleberry’s photo, giving his New York City neighborhood and The AMC’s phone number in case someone recognized the little guy on the street looking for a way home. If I had a “do over” I would use a neighborhood hashtag and would have tagged some neighborhood and cat Twitter handles. Still, over 5,000 people got the tweet.

A Happy Ending
This story has a happy ending. After ten hours of searching, Huckleberry was discovered, hungry and in serious need of a litterbox, in his apartment building’s freight elevator. His family speculates the curious cat hopped a ride with a repairman earlier in the day.

I hope none of my readers ever have to search for a missing pet, but the hunt for Huckleberry brings up some important points and ideas for finding lost pets:

  • Be sure your pet has a microchip and the information in the microchip database is up to date.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet readily accessible for making “lost/missing” posters, emailing and posting on social media.
  • Use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to broadcast photographs of your missing pet. The wider you broadcast, the greater your chance of finding your pet.
  • If you live in an apartment building with security cameras, ask the building staff if you can review the security tapes for clues to your pet’s whereabouts.
  • Check strange places like inside a box spring or an electronic device with an open area inside the case.

Fifty Years of Postgraduate Education: A Look Back

June 18, 2014

50 years of postgraduate educationThe next two weeks at The Animal Medical Center mark an important milestone for the institution, veterinary medicine and pets everywhere. On June 24th, we are celebrating the graduation of the 50th class of veterinary interns. Earlier this week, we welcomed the 51st intern class at our annual White Coat Ceremony.

Over the past 50 years, more than 1,200 veterinarians have completed a formal internship at The AMC and many have gone on to become leaders in our profession. Today, AMC-trained veterinarians work in all facets of veterinary medicine including teaching, research and clinical practice. The first intern class graduated in 1965 and consisted of three men and one woman. The members of this class embody the mission of The AMC: teaching, research and clinical service. Dr. Daryl Biery retired as a professor of radiology from The University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Stephen Ettinger is best known for his Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, now in its seventh edition, and Dr. William DeHoff founded MedVet, a specialty hospital which was just named “Hospital of the Year” by the American Animal Hospital Association. The first class was also the smallest class to graduate. The largest class graduated 31 years later and had 35 members.

Training the Leaders of Tomorrow
Currently there are over 50 AMC-trained veterinarians who are members of the faculty at colleges of veterinary medicine throughout the world, and another 30 who have retired from their faculty positions. These numbers do not include a handful of AMC-trained veterinarians who serve as veterinary academic leaders such as deans, associate deans and program administrators, such as Dr. Mark StetterDr. Rodney PageDr. Claudia KirkDr. Robert Mason, and Dr. Joseph Taboada. I would venture to say nearly every AMC alumnus has, at one time or another, helped to train a future veterinarian when they have taken a young aspiring veterinarian under their wing and into their practice.

Discovering Knowledge for the Future
Part of The AMC’s mission is the discovery of new knowledge through research into naturally occurring disease. This month’s scientific publications in veterinary medicine highlight that mission through the publications of AMC alumni. In the current issues of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, there are eight publications by AMC-trained veterinarians. These topics include the equine athlete, canine urinary tract infections, polyarthropathy, and the minimum clinical database. There are two articles each on feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and lymphoma. In the past, AMC alumni were instrumental in identifying feline taurine deficiency cardiomyopathy, West Nile Virus infections in the United States, hepatic copper toxicosis in Bedlington terriers and techniques to repair kneecaps in dogs.

Saving Animals Every Day
The accomplishments listed above are noteworthy, groundbreaking and important to the veterinary profession, however most graduates of AMC training programs are like me, providing medical, surgical and preventive healthcare for animals of all species, day in and day out. Some of us are specialists and others are your favorite neighborhood veterinarian, but we all love to celebrate a new puppy, reflect on the life of a 19 year old cat, piece together a fractured bone, or put cancer into remission.

So, happy 50th birthday to AMC’s Postgraduate Education program, congratulations to this year’s graduating class and welcome to the incoming class of interns. Click here to see an extensive list of the accomplishments of AMC alumni.


Keep Your Kitties Safe from these 10 Potential Toxins

June 11, 2014

Resources for Summer Pet Travel

June 4, 2014

traveling dogMemorial Day has passed, school will soon end, and then comes the annual family summer vacation–an event which now more than ever before includes the family pet. Because pets are not always welcome at hotels, parks and on public transportation, planning ahead for your furry friend will help make your summer vacation memorable for fun and not for travel headaches. Here are some tips and websites to help you plan the perfect pet holiday.

General Travel Tips
For a good overview of traveling with pets, try one of these sites:

Public Transportation
During the busy travel months of summer, finding a parking spot for your car can be difficult, making public transportation especially attractive. Petsweekly.com gives information on pet travel on trains and buses

Parks and Recreation
America’s National Parks have been called “our best idea” because they preserve the most spectacular natural wonders for all Americans, except pets. Because of their fragile ecosystems and the risk to pets’ safety from large predators such as coyotes, pets are only welcome in a limited number of National ParksPetfriendlytravel.com has information on the accessibility of state parks throughout the country.

Pet Friendly Hotels
Westin Hotels, W Hotels, Kimpton Hotels and a number of other hotel chains advertise pet friendly rooms. Be sure when you make a reservation to request a pet friendly room and also inquire about additional charges to have the pet stay in your room.

International Travel
Taking your pet on an international vacation requires the investigative powers of Sherlock Holmes and better planning than the D-day invasion of Normandy. Start your investigation with the United States Department of Agriculture’s website.

Pay close attention to the rules for export (taking your pet out of the USA) and import (getting your pet back into the USA). Also check the website of the country you plan to travel to on your vacation. Every country’s entry requirements for pets are different and your pet may need special paperwork, blood tests or vaccinations months in advance of the trip. If your trip stems from a job-related relocation, you may want to use a professional pet shipper to help you interpret and follow the travel guidelines. For more information about international travel with your pets, read our archived blog.

Here’s to safe travels for you and your four-footed companions this summer!


Is Your Dog Down in the Dumps?

May 29, 2014

depressed dogRecently, I answered questions from a New York Times science writer who inquired about depression in dogs for an article she was writing. The short article received a lot of attention, so I decided to expand on the topic for my readers.

Dogs Have Feelings Too
Depression is a specific psychiatric diagnosis in humans. If you look at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) definition of depression, many of the symptoms of depression cannot be applied to dogs, since they revolve around feelings. While we believe dogs have feelings, they cannot articulate sadness, helplessness, pessimism or suicidal thoughts as would humans suffering from clinical depression.

Yet, there are some signs of depression in dogs similar to those experienced by humans. Their owners may notice abrupt changes in behavior including irritability, loss of interest in activities, decreased energy and changes in appetite, all of which may signify depression. Dog owners frequently report these symptoms in their dog when a child in the family goes away to college, a favorite human or animal family member dies or the family moves to a new home. But because these are non-specific findings, they could be attributed to medical conditions as well. So it is wise to bring your pet to a veterinarian whenever you see behavioral changes in order to rule out illness.

Depression Means Two Things
Because veterinarians use the term “depression” in a different way than physicians do about their patients, some pet owners may misunderstand a diagnosis of depression. Veterinarians use “depressed” to describe one of five levels of consciousness in their four-legged patients:

  1. Normal. Of course there are many variations of normal between pets of the same breed. Veterinarians will require input from owners to determine if the pet is behaving in its normal manner.
  2. Depressed, dull, quiet. These pets prefer to sleep and have responses to stimuli that are appropriate. Animals diagnosed with a disease may be dull quiet, or depressed. A thorough examination of a pet with these signs and symptoms is required to rule out behavior resulting from a change in environment or illness.
  3. Disoriented, demented. This is similar to a dull animal, but responses to stimuli are inappropriate. Pets may be hyperactive, hysterical or irritable.
  4. Stuporous, obtunded. These pets do not respond to normal stimuli but will respond to strong, noxious stimuli such as a toe pinch.
  5. Comatose. These pets are unresponsive to all stimuli.

Not Just Depression
The NIH says depression in humans is often associated with other mental health disorders such as anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias and obsessive compulsive disorders. Veterinarians do diagnose obsessive compulsive disorders, PTSD, aggression, separation anxiety, and noise phobia (commonly fear of thunderstorms) in dogs and urine spraying and predatory aggression in cats. These disorders are commonly treated with antidepressants and behavioral modification therapy, suggesting depression may also be associated with these other mental health disorders in pets.

Antidepressants for Your Dog and Cat
Some of the antidepressants veterinarians use in pets include:

  • Clomipramine [Clomicalm®] is approved by the FDA for treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.
  • Fluoxetine [Reconcile®] is approved by the FDA for treatment of separation anxiety in dogs and contains the same active ingredient as Prozac®.
  • Selegiline (L-deprenyl) [Anipryl®] is approved by the FDA for treatment of cognitive dysfunction in dogs.
  • Nortriptyline, amitriptyline [Elavil®] and doxepin are not FDA approved for use in dogs or cats, but are frequently prescribed by veterinarians “off-label.”

If your pooch is punky or your cat is catatonic, it is important to find out the cause. Have them checked by their veterinarian immediately.


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