The Bunny: A Tale of Blood Types

January 4, 2011

Photo: Liza Wolsky

This is my patient “The Bunny,” who is not a rabbit but a blue, cream and white Cornish Rex cat. As you can see from this photo, The Bunny is an unusual cat. Her name comes from her dominant facial feature — those large ears, set high above her Roman nose. From the photo, taken by her owner, you can see her short coat has washboard waves. The Cornish Rex is a recognized breed by the Cat Fancier’s Association.

What you can’t see on the photo is another unusual feature of this fancy feline. The Bunny has type B blood. Most cats live their lives without knowing their blood type. But certain breeds have a higher number of cats in their population with this rare type and the Cornish Rex is one of those breeds. From The Bunny’s viewpoint, having blood type B changes nothing. From my viewpoint, if she ever needs a blood transfusion, finding a donor will be difficult, although not impossible, due to the rarity of cats with this blood type.

In the cat population at large, most cats have type A blood. Less than 1% of all cats have blood type B. Cats from certain geographic areas and of particular breeds have a high prevalence of type B blood. If we look at the typical domestic shorthair cat in the United States, California has more type B cats than New York. Worldwide, Australia and Turkey have very high numbers of domestic cats with type B blood, in Turkey nearly 25%. The Devon Rex, a cousin of the Cornish Rex, has a high number of cats in their population with blood type B. British shorthair cats, Abyssinian cats and a whole host of other purebred cats can be blood type B.

Although breed can provide a clue to the blood type of a cat, you can’t look at a cat and know its blood type. But determining the blood type of a cat is simple. Your veterinarian collects a small blood sample and tests it either using a kit in their office or by submitting it to a laboratory for testing.

Cat owners should know their cat’s blood type for a couple of reasons. If there is ever the need for an emergency blood transfusion following trauma or during surgery, you and your veterinarian will know in advance if finding a donor will be difficult. If you have altruistic cat who has the rare blood type B, your cat might want to volunteer to donate blood to help a cat in need.

Finally, if you are a cat breeder, you want to avoid a problem in your cat’s kittens called neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI). Part of the fading kitten syndrome, NI occurs when the queen (mother cat) and tom (father cat) have different blood types and the kittens develop anemia because the two types don’t mix.

Now for those of you interested in pet rabbits who started reading this blog based on the title, here is a prior blog post on rabbits!

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Pet Resolutions for 2011

December 30, 2010

This time of year everyone is making New Year’s resolutions. Our pets are so much a part of our lives that when making resolutions for ourselves this year, why not consider a resolution or two that will help both you and your pet get a fresh start in the new year. Here are some possibilities to consider.

Choose healthy snacks in 2011.

Keep the amount of calories to 10% of your pet’s daily calorie requirement. Your veterinarian can help you assess how many calories this is. Choose healthy snacks like the 5 calorie baby carrot or the 50 calorie ½ apple. CittiKitty now markets Tuna Treats, premium bonito flakes for treating your cat, but a fish loving dog will find them tasty too. Because the tuna is dried and flaked paper thin, one cup has 35 calories. Using 10 flakes a day as a treat will contribute minimal calories and the taste will be a huge hit with your cat.

Get down to and maintain an ideal body condition.

Weight loss is on almost everyone’s New Year’s resolution list. Because pets come in so many sizes and shapes, it is hard to say your cat should weigh 5 or 10 or 15 pounds. What matters is maintaining an ideal body condition. Veterinarians commonly assess this during an annual examination. It is based on your pet having a waist and skeletal features you can feel with your hands. If your pet doesn’t have these, he/she is likely overweight. To see the dog and cat body condition scale, visit:

Take your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year.

Comparing 2001 and 2006, a decrease of 1 million veterinary visits was recorded and visits have fallen further due to the Great Recession beginning in 2007. This means pets are medically underserved and small problems can quickly become big ones. Preventive healthcare prevents potentially fatal infectious diseases and difficult to treat disorders such as heartworms. Senior pets may need twice yearly visits as a pet’s lifespan is compressed into fewer years than ours are.

Give to less fortunate dogs and cats.

Local animal shelters and rescue group are always in need. Cleaning out your old and shabby towels? Call your local shelter and see if they could use them to give a homeless pet a place to curl up. Check with your local rescue group or food pantry about pet food donations. People without enough to eat may also have pets in the same situation. Offer to walk dogs or brush cats at your local shelter. I am sure any help you offer will be more than appreciated.

Spend quality time with your pet.

We all lead busy lives. It is often very easy to overlook spending good quality time with that four-legged, furry member of your family. Instead of just walking your dog to the corner and back, vow to take him to the park, play fetch or check out the new dog run in the neighborhood. Change your cat’s toys frequently to prevent boredom. By giving your pet this quality time once a day or even once a week, your pet will return the favor with love and devotion. And, guaranteed it will improve your own quality of life!

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


The Hedgehog Comes Home for the Holidays

December 27, 2010

While I realize this story is not on par with O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi or Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, from a New Yorker’s perspective and a veterinarian’s viewpoint, it is a truly heartwarming story for the season.

The story starts with the daily 5:30 am email to AMC staff announcing the overnight admissions to the hospital. At first the list did not seem unusual, a coughing dog, a vomiting cat. But then I got to the ICU admission of a “stray” hedgehog. Stray didn’t seem quite right, since hedgehogs are clearly not indigenous to New York City. When I arrived in ICU for morning rounds, sure enough, there was a hedgehog, pictured here, eating cat food pellets from a paper plate.

The ICU staff reported the hedgehog had been found the night before on Third Avenue near Dylan’s Candy Bar and was brought to The Animal Medical Center by a Good Samaritan who kindly took a shopping break to help this poor creature reach a safe haven. The hedgehog was not your “typical hedgehog,” it had a bandage on one of its hind legs and when the ICU staff examined the hedgehog, they found the bandage covered a recent surgical site. The AMC’s Avian and Exotic Pet Service was contacted and they reported caring for a patient matching the description of the hedgehog in ICU. The phone-a-thon to locate the owner began immediately, but was unsuccessful in reaching the hedgehog’s family.

The hedgehog stayed in the Exotic Pet ward at AMC for the next couple of days. Her presence made all of us smile to see such a cute little critter in our midst. At the end of the day, a few days after the hedgehog arrived at AMC, Dr. Cazzolli of AMC’s Emergency Service was heading home on the subway. Posted in the Lexington Avenue subway station were lost pet flyers announcing, you guessed it, a missing hedgehog. Immediately, Dr. Cazzolli called the owner who was overjoyed to learn her hedgehog was safe at The AMC, where she was happily reunited with Madame, the formerly stray hedgehog.

Pretty incredible, a city of millions of people, wrapped up in their pre-Christmas frenzy, a kind stranger and now a 300 gram hedgehog is back with her family for the holidays. As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us every one.”

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Winter Pet Hazards

December 21, 2010

The Arctic Express is moving through New York and the rest of the country in a little pre-holiday blitz. As a result of the low temperatures and last night’s freezing rain, this morning there was salt on all the sidewalks on my route to The Animal Medical Center reminding me it is time to talk about winter hazards for pets.

Salt and Ice Melt

Real salt (NaCl), or a calcium chloride salt substitute used in some ice melts, both contain chloride which is irritating to dog paws and stomachs if they lick the salt off their feet. Calcium chloride can generate enough heat to burn the skin on delicate paws. Several companies make a pet safe (salt and chloride free) ice melt. They are typically brightly colored pellets so dog owners can easily see where the salt has been spread. Morton’s is making an eco-safe/pet safe ice melt with plant fertilizer in it. PETCO also offers a non-tracking, pet safe ice melt

If you and your dog go on long walks and might encounter a non-pet friendly ice melt, you will need to wash your pet’s feet after the walk. You might also consider musher’s wax applied to the footpad or putting boots on your pet before a walk. Sled dog owners apply musher’s wax to the pads of their dog’s feet to provide a protective coating against ice and cold. Personally, I think the boots, which are like little balloons for dog feet, are really cute and the dogs I see wearing them don’t seem to mind. Here are some fun dog boots for the fashion conscious.

Frigid Temperatures

Dogs living outdoors in their own doghouse, a kennel or barn not only need a warm, snug place to sleep with some sort of bedding to keep them up off the cold ground, they also need food and water. When cold weather hits, your outdoor dog can get very hungry and thirsty if their food is outside and frozen. Check your outdoor dog’s food and water frequently to be sure it is edible and drinkable. If the water is frozen, get a dog water bowl heater or consider bringing your dog inside until the weather tempers a bit.

Stray Voltage

Every year there are frightening stories of dogs and their owners who are “shocked” by stray voltage on wet streets. The combination of salt, water and stray voltage from poorly insulated wiring on light posts or street and sidewalk electric boxes can be dangerous. Never tie your dog to a lamppost. To be safe, walk your dog a good distance away from these potential hazards and report any possible sources of stray voltage to the police or electric company. If your dog is the unfortunate victim of stray voltage (they usually cry in pain or collapse while walking near a light post or electric box on a wet or slushy day), it is important to get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Street Zaps has other helpful information about protecting your entire family against stray voltage.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Puppy Problems: Preventing Electric Cord Injuries

December 13, 2010

Photo: Dr. Philip Fox

Although the cute animal pictured here may look like a Jack Russell Terrier, she and her sister are behaving more like beavers. With their razor sharp puppy teeth, they have severed several plugs from the ends of cords, one of which you can see in the photo below, as well as a cell phone charger and the corners of the kitchen cabinets.

Puppies love to chew and their major chewing effort occurs during teething. Peak teething in puppies is between 4 and 7 months of age. Chewing is dangerous because the urge to chew coincides with greater freedom to roam the house as puppies become more reliably housebroken. Electric cords are especially dangerous because if the cord is plugged in during the chewing episode, an ER visit may be required. The electric current traveling through the body can cause severe oral burns, facial swelling, heart arrhythmias, fluid in the lungs and sudden death.

What should a dog owner give to their chew happy pup? Veterinarians have taken some formerly favorite chew toys off the approved list. Veterinary dentists have taken tennis balls off since the furry yellow covering is abrasive to tooth enamel. Hard nylon chew toys are gone too since they can fracture teeth and previously I have recommended bones be taken off the list.

What did I recommend to the frustrated Jack Russell Terrier owner? I recommended distracting the puppies from chewing household items by providing them with plenty of exercise and safe chew toys. Tired puppies are less likely to chew, because they will be napping. A walk around the block may not be enough exercise for a frisky puppy. Make sure your puppy has a good hour every day of exercise, either romping with another dog or chasing balls with you.

A trip to the local pet store is also helpful in preventing dangerous chewing. While browsing the pet store aisles, I found several toys made of natural rubber to recommend. First were puzzle toys. These devices roll and wobble. As the puppy nudges them with their nose, the toy moves and a piece of dry food falls out as a reward. Puppies quickly learn to move the toy around to get more food. Another type of food dispensing toy is stuffed with canned dog food or a sticky treat like peanut butter. The puppy can lick and chew to get the food out of the central cavity and will be so busy they will forget about chewing on electric cords. Yet another puzzle toy is one with a slot holding a specially manufactured treat. As the toy is chewed, the rubber deforms and out comes the treat, rewarding your puppy and encouraging more chewing of the chew toy.

Puppies are spontaneous, delightful additions to the family, but just like a new baby needs nearly constant attention, a new puppy requires supervision, training and medical care to keep them safe and healthy.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Collars and Chips for All Cats

November 29, 2010

kitten with collarWithout research into disease mechanisms, new diagnostic tests and better treatments, there would be no advances in the medical care of either animals or people. Yet some folks think all animal research is bad. Let me tell you about some recently published research that just might save your cat’s life. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has published a study “Evaluation of collars and microchips for visual and permanent identification of pet cats.” Since cats are now more popular pets than dogs are, this research is really important to those of us who love cats.

The lack of identification — either by a collar or microchip — is the main reason a cat’s owner cannot be found. Both indoor and outdoor cats can be lost and end up in a shelter so this study applies to all pet cats. Unfortunately, when cats end up in a shelter they are frequently euthanized if the owner cannot be found, making the question asked in this study, “What is the best method of identifying a lost cat, is it a collar or a microchip?” a matter of life and death.

The owners of 538 pet cats in Ohio, New York, Florida and Texas gave permission for their cats to participate in this creative study. All cats had a microchip placed for permanent identification and each cat wore a collar. To determine which collar would stay on the cat and provide the best opportunity for a cat’s owner to be identified, three different collars were evaluated in the study: a plastic buckle collar, a breakaway plastic buckle safety collar and an elastic stretch safety collar. Owners were surveyed at the beginning and the end of the 6 month study.

cat with microchip readerAs you might expect, the microchips performed extremely well. All but one was working well after 6 months, providing a ready method of cat owner identification. This information reinforces the need for every cat (and by the way, dogs too!) to have a microchip placed. But because this study identified a microchip failure, all cat owner’s should have their cat’s microchip function confirmed during an annual examination. This takes barely a second or two.

Not surprisingly, collars were less reliable than microchips, but they were still effective in identifying a cat. Just over 70% of cats wore their collars successfully for the duration of the study, underscoring the importance of the microchip as a backup method of identification. Owners frequently had to replace all types of collars, but the plastic buckle collar stayed on the best. No collar related injuries were identified, although 3.8% of cats did get the collar caught on an inanimate object or a body part such as their leg or mouth.

Cat owners, this is your call to action. Researchers have provided you with the tools to save your cat’s life. All you need to do is get your favorite feline a collar and a chip.

What kind of collar does your cat like best? Post your response in our comments section below.

Source: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2010:237:387-394. Evaluation of collars and microchips for visual and permanent identification of pet cats. Lord LK, Griffin B, Slater MR, Levy JK.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org/. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Magnets, Toys and Dangerous Objects

November 15, 2010

One characteristic of pets that makes them so entertaining is their unpredictable nature. Some of them will eat anything — and when they do, the veterinarian is presented with a diagnostic challenge.

The veterinarian surgeons here at AMC have exceptionally good stories about the objects they have found jammed up inside of pets. Around the time of the first Toy Story, they removed an entire set of fast food plastic Toy Story characters from the stomach and intestines of a dog from a family with several small children. I remember a particularly challenging case where a cassette tape bunched up the intestines of a dog requiring a major surgical intervention to remove yards of Billy Joel’s “The Stranger.” Then there was the dog who had an entire kitchen knife lodged in his esophagus and lived to bark about it on the Jay Leno show.

X-rays are usually how veterinarians determine if a foreign object has been consumed and has resulted in an intestinal obstruction. Metallic objects like coins and knives, are easily seen with X-rays. Plastic and glass are not visible on X-rays and this is why the cassette tape and the plastic toys were particularly tough to diagnose.

Now, a new foreign body hazard has been reported in the May/June issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association — magnets. Ingestion of a single magnet is not likely to cause a problem. But ingestion of more than one magnet, or a magnet and another metal object, can cause serious problems. If these foreign bodies stick to each other through the intestinal walls of different intestinal segments, an obstruction can result. Even more serious is the potential for perforation. The pressure caused by two magnets, or a magnet and another metal foreign body sticking together, cuts off the blood supply to the intestine and the results can be deadly.

So a word to the wise, if your family has a precocious pup or a curious cat, keep small objects off the floor and provide plenty of safe toys to help prevent the inadvertent ingestion of dangerous objects.

Has your pet consumed a magnet or small toy before? Any close calls? Post your comments below.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Measuring Your Pet’s Medication

November 8, 2010

Medical professionals, veterinarians included, speak to each other in our own language, more difficult to understand than either ancient Latin or Greek. This language is confusing to pet owners and often results in question about medication administration.

This weekend was a case in point. An owner called while she was out of town on vacation. I had completely confused her with my instructions on how much medication to administer. She was hours away and unable to drop by The Animal Medical Center for a refresher course. In giving instructions, I forgot pet owners are not always well versed in scientific weights and measures and the sight of an oral dosing syringe can induce paralysis in even the most educated client. Here are the definitions for some of the most confusing terms.

Milliliter (ml) is a measure of volume and a liquid medication dose is commonly given in milliliters. A milliliter is the same as a cc (cubic centimeter). But a milliliter does not tell how much medication is being given. Medication is typically measured in milligrams (mg). For example, a tablet of the antibiotic amoxicillin contains a set number of milligrams, but the milligrams contained in a milliliter of amoxicillin depend on the particular antibiotic brand’s strength. In other words, all liquid medications are not created equal. Veterinarians will always talk about how many milligrams your pet needs when you want to know is how many milliliters to squirt down the throat of your dog who has its teeth clamped shut and has just slipped under your king sized bed.

A diabetic pet presents a special set of challenges, one of which is how much insulin to give. Based on the comments above, the careful reader would surmise insulin is given in milliliters – it is a liquid medication after all. But no, it is given in units and double no, 1 unit does not equal a milliliter. If you have U 100 insulin, 100 units = 1 milliliter. If you have U 40 insulin, 40 units = 1 milliliter. To complicate matters more, each insulin needs its own special syringe matched to the type of insulin, ie, U 100 syringes for U 100 insulin. Understanding these seemingly trivial differences means success or failure in treating your diabetic pet.

Decimal points are another prescription predicament. The numbers 5.0, 0.5 and .05 are 100 fold different and yet when they appear on a prescription label they can be confusing. Proper prescriptions use zeros to highlight a decimal point. Numbers should have a leading zero before any decimal point, ie 0.5 is correct. Numbers should not have a trailing zero, ie 5.0 is incorrect. These differences highlight how carefully pet owners should read a medication label before administering a new medication.

Finally, because of the obesity epidemic in pets, veterinarians are making pet owners more conscious of how much pets eat. One cup is easy to understand, but calories per cup vary dramatically. One cup of Eukanuba puppy food contains 503 kcal and one cup of their weight control product for large breed dogs contains 272 kcal. Some foods list kcal per kg (kilogram) of food. Converting kilograms (a measure of weight) to cups (a measure of volume) requires advanced math, or a scale from your local cookware shop.

So when it comes to medicating your pet, ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to call your veterinarian’s office for clarification, because a microgram of prevention is worth a milligram of cure.

Have you ever encountered problems with your pet’s medication dosing? Tell us your story by commenting below!

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Halloween Hazards

October 19, 2010

For children, Halloween is a long anticipated holiday featuring parties, costumes and above all, candy. Adults celebrate the holiday too, by decorating their homes and yards with ghosts, goblins and jack o’lanterns. But as you can see by the photo above of my cat, Cheetah costumed as Minnie Mouse, pets don’t enjoy Halloween.

Trick or treaters constantly ringing the doorbell can make an anxious pet even more so. When the treats are passed out at the front door, they may try to escape the commotion, slipping outside unnoticed. I recommend confining your cat or dog in its crate or one room of the house while you receive trick or treaters to prevent your pet from being one of the estimated 3-4 million pets entering shelters annually. Only 25% of these pets are reunited with their families. If confining your pet is not possible, double check their collar and ID tags and if they don’t have a microchip get one to help your pet come home if it succeeds in escaping while you dole out the treats.

Halloween food presents another risk for your pets, particularly dogs. Dogs can have quite a sweet tooth and will devour the entire contents of a goodie bag, but cats are too finicky to be tempted by sweets. Just like with children who over indulge on Halloween, too many treats will cause an upset stomach, or worse, vomiting and diarrhea. So keep the cauldron of treats out of reach of your dog.

Feasting on two specific sweets may end in a scary visit to the veterinary emergency room – chocolate, especially dark chocolate and xylitol. Chocolate contains a substance related to caffeine and the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine like substance it contains. Small dogs that eat chocolate are especially at risk for developing vomiting, diarrhea, an elevated heart rate and hyperexcitability. Xylitol is a low calorie sweetener in some diet foods, gum and mints. It is safe for humans, but lethal for dogs who develop low blood sugar, seizures and liver problems. If your pet eats something other than their usual fare on Halloween, don’t hesitate to call Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 to find out if you should head to the Animal ER. They take calls 24/7.

When pets are around, jack o’lanterns can be risky. Pumpkin is appealing to some dogs and cats, but that is not the problem. It is the candle inside. Pet hair can easily cat on fire if a nosy or hungry pet decides to investigate the jack o’lantern. Better to use a battery operated flickering light, which will be safer for everyone.

And if you want to see some really cute pets ready for trick or treating, check out WebMD or The AMC Facebook page.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Celebrating Key Members of the Veterinary Healthcare Team

October 11, 2010

When you make a visit to your doctor, an entire team of medical professionals work together to provide you with optimal care. A visit to your pet’s veterinarian is no different. The key member of the veterinary healthcare team we are celebrating this week is the licensed veterinary technician, sometimes called registered veterinary technician, licensed veterinary medical technician or certified veterinary technician.

October 10-16, 2010 is National Veterinary Technician Week and celebrates the hands-on contributions these professionals make to animal health. These highly trained team members specialize in being the veterinarian’s right hand and have duties similar to nurses in human medicine. Most of you are familiar with veterinary technicians who draw blood from your pet or help you to administer medications. But, there is more to this profession than pet owners typically see. You won’t usually see them taking x-rays, giving chemotherapy or preparing a patient for anesthesia and assisting in surgery, but veterinary technicians are essential team members throughout the veterinary hospital.

Veterinary technicians are not limited to working in small animal clinics. They help provide medical care to livestock, laboratory animals, wildlife and zoo animals. Their broad training teaches them skills useful in laboratories, medical supply companies or the pet food manufacturing industry. Many are promoted to veterinary practice manager while others pursue additional training in rehabilitation medicine.

Most veterinary technicians have a two-year associate degree, although some veterinary technician programs lead to a baccalaureate degree. Once they have earned a degree, veterinary technicians must pass a licensing examination administered by the state. Each state’s requirements for licensing are different. The job prospects for licensed veterinary technicians are excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth of 36% is expected between 2008-2018 for veterinary technician positions. This is higher than the expected growth for all occupations overall.

A recent innovation in the veterinary technician world is specialization. Now, technicians can be acknowledged as experts in their field. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes eight academies, or areas of specialization, such as internal medicine, anesthesia, and emergency and critical care.  To become certified, technician specialists must complete a formal process of education, training, experience and testing. The Animal Medical Center currently has five technician specialists and more enrolled in the training process.

During National Veterinary Technician Week, The AMC would like to recognize our nealry 80 technicians and thank them for their commitment to their profession.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Prevention

October 4, 2010

In the past month, The Animal Medical Center has received several inquiries about the use of diatomaceous earth (DE) as a flea preventative. I knew DE was used in swimming pool and fish tank filters, in cat litter and in laboratory studies but I hadn’t heard of using it against fleas. I found some interesting information to share with you.

Diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossilized silica skeletons of a unicellular organism known as a diatom. Diatomaceous earth crumbles easily and has the texture of pumice. Many websites recommending natural and organic medications suggest a host of medical uses for DE. Although DE is GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and some forms of DE are considered food grade, there are no FDA approved DE compounds for the treatment of diseases or for parasite control.  

Food and Drug Administration approval of a medication assures the consumer and the prescribing veterinarian that the product meets certain safety and efficacy standards.  In the case of flea and tick preventative medications, FDA approval means the medications are tested for safety in both dogs and cats if the medication is approved for use in both species. The manufacturer also has to prove to the FDA that the medication works against the parasite(s) the label says it kills or prevents. Without FDA approval, I don’t have enough information on the dosage, efficacy or safety of a medication to know how much to give, if the product works, or if it will hurt my patient.

Pet owners wishing to avoid chemical flea control don’t have very effective options. Keeping the pet inside and away from other animals will decrease exposure, but in apartment buildings the little critters can travel between apartments in the hallway carpet. Daily vacuuming of your apartment and disposing of the bag will help to decrease the numbers of fleas and eggs in the environment. Finally, using a flea comb daily will decrease fleas and eggs on your pet.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


World Rabies Day 2010

September 27, 2010

Tuesday September 28 is World Rabies Day. This is the 4th year of the event to raise awareness of and resources for rabies prevention and control.

For most Americans, rabies is not an imminent threat, but worldwide, rabies is estimated to kill 55,000 humans annually. Over 99% of human cases are caused by the bite of a rabid dog. Most cases of human rabies occur in Asia and Africa where rabies vaccination of dogs to prevent human exposure to the rabies virus is beyond the financial scope of these country’s public health system.

Despite the lost cost and ready availability of a rabies vaccine for both dogs and cats in the United States, not all states require rabies vaccines in pets. There are 12 states that do not require rabies vaccinations for dogs and 20 that do not require rabies vaccinations for cats. Rabies has been on the decline in dogs since the early 1990’s. The lower number of states requiring feline rabies vaccinations may explain why the nationwide data for 2008 reports 294 rabies positive cats and only 75 rabies positive dogs.

Rabies vaccination is successful in controlling the spread of this deadly disease. Case in point is New York City, where the canine vaccination requirement has resulted in a city free of canine rabies for over 50 years. Although rabies vaccination is required for New York City cats, 12 cats have tested positive for rabies since feline rabies surveillance started in 1992, mirroring the increase in feline rabies nationwide. Despite the success in vaccinating pet against rabies, New York City is currently experiencing an increase in rabies in raccoons and coyotes in our large parks. Rabid wildlife and rabid feral cats pose a risk to the public since it is hard to resist feeding and petting animals in the park if they appear friendly.

Rabies prevention starts with the pet owner. When your cat or dog makes its annual wellness visit to the veterinarian, ask if a rabies vaccine is appropriate for your pet. Veterinarians consider rabies vaccination a ‘core’ vaccine. This means the vaccination is critical to protecting the health of the pet and the pet’s family. Very few pets will not be given the ‘core’ vaccines. Your family veterinarian is the person to advise you on the laws regarding rabies in your state and the need for your pet to be vaccinated against rabies.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


False Pregnancy in Dogs

September 20, 2010

There has been a recurrent question on the WebMD Pet Health Community website lately. Although the question has been asked in several different ways, the dog owners asking the question needed information about pseudopregnancy in their unspayed female dogs.

Some dog owners questioned the physical and behavioral changes occurring in their dogs about two months after the heat cycle ended. Their dogs developed a distended abdomen and milk in the mammary glands — even though the female dog had not been mated and was not pregnant. Other owners noticed their dog nesting in a dark closet or under the bed. Once the dog made a nest, she collected toys or other favorite objects to put in the nest and protect as if she was guarding a litter of puppies. Gradually, the signs of pseudopregnancy wore off without any medical intervention.

Pseudopregnancy occurs in dogs because the dog’s reproductive cycle is very different than the human reproductive cycle. Dogs are “in heat” roughly twice a year. The scientific term for “in heat” is estrus. Estrus is defined as the length of time a female dog can conceive a litter of puppies. Following estrus, the hormone progesterone is elevated independent of pregnancy status. Progesterone declines more rapidly in the non-pregnant female and this hormonal change tricks the brain and body of a female dog into thinking she is pregnant, hence the name pseudopregnancy. Another name which is sometimes used for this condition is pseudocyesis.

Even though pseudopregnancy does not hurt your dog, you can prevent it since the condition intensifies with each subsequent heat cycle. Spaying is the treatment of choice for this condition and spaying has other health benefits as well. Spaying prevents another progesterone induced condition, pyometra. Pyometra is the fancy term for an infected uterus. If this occurs in your female dog, it can be a life threatening disease requiring emergency surgery. Finally, spaying a female dog before the first heat dramatically reduces the risk of mammary gland cancer.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org.  To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Give a Dog a Bone…Maybe Not!

August 24, 2010

Because of the recent pet food recalls, I’ve been talking to pet owners more than usual about what they are feeding their pets. Some are nervous, worried their pet’s food will be the next one recalled. Some are angry, feeling their pet’s health may have been jeopardized by a carefully chosen food, and others want to feed their pets anything and everything the pet fancies.

An email from a dog owner yesterday asked for advice on feeding bones to dogs. I am sure my response was not what the owner was hoping to receive. I said no.

I know, I know — dogs love bones. My mother cautiously rationed the T-bones from our Sunday barbeque to our pack of beagles. Ok, there were only 2, but they made enough noise to be a pack. These dogs gnawed happily for hours on the bones. Fortunately, nothing bad ever happened to the dogs because of bones, but bones are dangerous.

Sharp pointy bones, like my mother’s T-bones or pork chop bones can be chewed small enough to be swallowed. Once these pointy bones get into the esophagus, they can get stuck in the soft esophageal lining and permanently damage the esophagus. They are also a diagnostic challenge. When a bone is stuck in the esophagus, your dog acts like they want to vomit. In response, veterinarians x-ray the stomach and find nothing, because a bone is stuck in the esophagus. This can lead to a delay in bone removal because your dog can’t say “I got Sunday’s T-bone stuck in my throat.”

Pork and ham bones are especially dangerous. A couple of chomps and the bone is reduced to splinters as sharp as needles. The splintered bone pieces get swallowed and can pass through the stomach and intestine unencumbered, but when it is time for those splinters to pass out the other end, your dog will scream.

Rib bones are another hazard. You put a pile of them in the trash, and your dog thinks it is a buffet and helps himself. The rib bones can lodge themselves between the left and right sides of the top teeth. When a bone is lodged in the dental arcade, your dog might not be able to close its mouth, or he might drool profusely or he might paw at his face trying to dislodge the bone. If you see a bone in there, head straight to your local veterinary ER. Sedation will probably be required before the bone can be dislodged. This is not a do-it-yourself project as you could end up in ER yourself from an accidental dog bite.

The final bone hazard is microbes. The email that started this discussion contained a question about bones from the butcher. One of the reasons we cook meat is to kill any bacteria that might have gotten on the meat during processing. Both you and your dog are susceptible to infectious agents contaminating raw meat and bones. But since you won’t be giving your dog bones, I don’t have to worry about reminding you about the hazards of raw bones!!

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Mosquito Borne Illness and Pets

August 10, 2010

Last week the news out of Florida reported fatal human infections with a virus typically found in horses, and pet owners were worried. Many asked the question, can my dog or cat contract these diseases too? The viruses causing horse sleeping sickness are common infections in horses, but infection of humans with the sleeping sickness viruses is rare. In the United States there are less than 10-20 human cases reported per year. Horses are commonly vaccinated to protect them against sleeping sickness. 

Multiple viruses can cause horse sleeping sickness, but the viruses are related and all found in the Togaviruidae family. These viruses are sometimes called aborviruses —short for arthropod borne viruses since mosquito’s transmission is common to all. The virus implicated in the Florida patients was Eastern equine encephalitis. Western equine encephalitis and Venezuelan equine encephalitis are the other two horse sleeping sickness viruses.

Pet owners should be mildly concerned about the risk of infection with mosquito borne illnesses in their cats and dogs. Although equine sleeping sickness is a zoonotic disease, cats may be infected with the virus, but infection does not make them sick. Dogs too are resistant to Eastern and Western equine encephalitis infection but may show depression, fever and aggressive behavior if infected with Venezuelan encephalitis. Fortunately, this virus is exotic to the United States.

Two other mosquito borne viral diseases are in the news. Dengue fever is making resurgence in the Florida, but it does not affect dogs and cats. West Nile virus does infect dogs and cats. Dogs do not develop clinical signs and cats may show non-specific signs of illness, such as slight fever and reduced activity.

The most important mosquito borne illness of both dogs and cats is heartworm disease. An assessment of your pet’s need for heartworm preventative should be a part of every annual veterinary visit for both dogs and cats.

When people and animals get the same infections, the disease is called zoonotic. In the case of these mosquito-transmitted infections, your animals do not give the infection to you. You and your animal share the same environment and thus have the same exposure to the infected mosquitoes.

Creating a mosquito-free environment is the key to preventing these zoonotic mosquito borne illnesses and will protect your pets as well as your family. Window screens avert mosquitoes from entering your home. Preventing accumulation of standing water in your yard deprives the mosquitoes of the opportunity to reproduce. If you live in a West Nile virus endemic area and your cat is allowed outdoor access to hunt, it may become infected if it eats prey infected with the virus. Finally, talk to your veterinarian about mosquito repellant for your pets. Human insect repellants are not recommended for pets because of the likelihood of ingestion of the insecticide when the pet grooms its haircoat.

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The Animal Medical Center
For 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Medication Toxicity

August 3, 2010

Late last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to women who use the drug Evamist®, made by Ther-Rx Corporation to treat the symptoms of menopause. Exposure to this medication can have negative affects on both children and pets.

Evamist is sprayed on a woman’s arms to reduce hot flashes. Two cases of toxicity have resulted in female dogs and ingestion of the spray was the result of licking or being held in their owner’s arms. Signs of toxicity are not immediate. If contact between the sprayed skin and a pet cannot be avoided, women should cover their skin with clothing.

The Evamist problem is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to medication toxicity and pets. VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) reports nearly 20,000 claims for poisoning of pets during the 4 years between 2005 and 2009. The number one cause of pet poisoning, you guessed it, is accidental exposure to human or pet medications. The average policyholder claim was $791 dollars per poisoning episode.

Medications poisoning can occur a variety of ways. Pet owners may simply want their sick or painful pet to feel better and administer their own medications. This commonly occurs with owner-administered non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Acetaminophen is another potentially deadly pain reliever. Cats are very sensitive to its effects and can develop anemia, but dogs develop liver problems. Pills are easily dropped unnoticed, but if your pet jumps on every dropped object like it is a tasty morsel, down goes the pill. I’ve seen pets ingest their owner’s antidepressant medications this way and end up in the AMC ICU.

Because pets are superbly clever, they always find new ways to cause trouble. Some inquisitive dog got into trouble by prowling in the bathroom trash. He found a cotton swab used to apply a skin cancer drug. According to Animal Poison Control, the residual drug on the cotton swab was enough to cause severe toxicity, even death. Cats are also sensitive to this drug.

Animal Poison Control is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week service, available to pet owners and veterinarians. The $65 fee provides medical advice to veterinarians and peace of mind to the pet owner. Once the fee has been paid for an episode of poisoning, additional calls related to the poisoning incident can be made without additional charges. The Animal Poison Control number is (888) 426-4435.

The Animal Medical Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for emergency, routine and specialty care: (212) 838-8100.

The Animal Medical Center
For 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Battery Ingestion

July 19, 2010

The June issue of Pediatrics contained an article on the hazards of button battery ingestion in children. Button batteries are found in remote controls, battery operated toys and even greeting cards. Because battery operated devices have shrunken, so have batteries, making them easy for children to swallow. As the number of battery operated devices increases in our homes, battery ingestion is rising in children. The 20mm lithium cell was the most common culprit, causing severe injury in children. The study authors hypothesize that the battery’s size is just right to lodge in the airway or esophagus of small children, causing burns or perforation of the delicate tissues.

Because pets and children have many similar behaviors and are often about the same size, I was concerned about battery ingestion in dogs and cats. I called the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888.426.4435), which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get more information on this subject. Although there is a $65 fee to defray costs associated with providing this lifesaving service, it is worth every penny. Once you pay the fee and have a case number, you or your veterinarian can call the hotline as needed to get additional advice on optimal antidotes to whatever toxic substance your pet has eaten.

The staff of the ASPCA Poison Control Center was kind enough to answer my questions about battery ingestion in pets. They too are concerned about this problem in pets and recommend the following steps to owners if their pet inadvertently eats a battery. First, feed your pet a meal. Hopefully, the food will push the battery into the stomach, sparing the esophagus from damage. Then, immediately take your pet to the veterinarian for an x-ray. Fortunately, batteries show up on x-rays making it easy to determine where the battery is and what kind of damage it might be causing.

On a side note, if your child eats a battery, there is a national Battery Ingestion Hotline open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 202.625.3333 or call your local poison control center.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Preventing Lyme Disease

July 12, 2010

If you live in the northern portion of the Mississippi River Valley or in the northeast as I do, June, July and August are peak months of incidence for Lyme disease in humans. These are the peak months for Lyme disease because the young Ixodes ticks (nymphs) carrying the Lyme disease organism (Borrelia burgdorferi) are most active in the late spring and summer.

Peak tick activity coincides with peak outdoor activity for both humans and pets, giving the young ticks an opportunity to attach and transmit the infection. In dogs, clinical signs of Lyme disease develop 2-5 months after a tick bite. Veterinarians can detect evidence of exposure to Lyme disease in the blood of cats, but cats seem to be more resistant to developing clinical signs of Lyme disease than are dogs.

Several different products are available to prevent tick infestation in dogs and cats. These days, the most common is a top spot solution applied between the shoulder blades of your dog or cat. Collars and sprays to prevent both ticks and fleas are also available. Ask your veterinarian which type of product will work best in your neighborhood and on your pet.

Annual vaccination is also an option for preventing Lyme disease in dogs. A vaccine is not available for preventing Lyme disease in cats. The Lyme vaccine is not considered a “core” vaccine and every dog does not require this vaccination. When you make your annual well dog visit to your veterinarian, put this vaccine on your list of topics to discuss.

Your backyard will be a source of ticks on your pet. Keep your dog and cat out of areas where the bushes and grass are not trimmed. Wooded areas should be off limits to dogs and cats in Lyme country. As pretty as deer are to watch in your backyard, they can serve as vehicles for tick transportation. Don’t attract deer by feeding them since they can bring ticks with them.

Should your dog or cat come home with a tick imbedded in its skin, removing the tick immediately will help stop transmission of the Lyme causing organism and only requires a tweezer. Grab the head of the tick as close to where it attaches to the skin and pull the entire head out of the skin. There is no need to use petroleum jelly, a match or a sharp object to remove a tick, and in fact these may cause more harm than good.

Preventing Lyme disease in your pet will have a positive impact on your health as well. Pets cannot give Lyme disease to their human or animal family members. They can, however, bring home ticks which can attach and transmit the Lyme disease-causing organism to your family or your other pets.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. If you want to identify the tick you just pulled from your cat or dog as one that carries Lyme disease or not, most state departments of health have a website for identification of the ticks commonly found in your state. I recommend this website to my New York pet owners: http://www.cals.cornell.edu/cals/entomology/extension/medent/tickbiofs.cfm

Keep in mind a tick bite does not equal Lyme disease. Only a small percentage of tick bitten pets will develop clinical signs of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is not the only tick borne illness of dogs and cats, others include babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. If your pet is acting sick, see your veterinarian and don’t forget to tell her about the tick bite.

For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Salmonella Poisoning in Pets

July 6, 2010

Salmonella is a bacteria we associate with food poisoning from consumption of undercooked chicken or poorly refrigerated picnic food. It is also a zoonotic disease, meaning it is a disease that affects both animals and humans.

You may have heard something about Salmonella in the news recently. Late in May, Salmonella caused the nationwide recall of alfalfa sprouts which made people sick in 10 different states. In the last three weeks there have been three voluntary dog and cat food recalls because of potential Salmonella contamination. Salmonella enters the pet food chain when it contaminates meat processing plants, eggs and, in one recent pet food recall, a vitamin supplement.

Salmonella infection in dogs and cats can be asymptomatic, cause a mild gastrointestinal illness or be severe and life threatening. In severe cases, your pet will stop eating, develop a fever, vomiting or bloody diarrhea. Your veterinarian may find an elevated white blood cell count and will do a test on the feces to determine if Salmonella organisms are present.

The most recent cat food recalled for potential Salmonella contamination was a raw food diet. Transmission of microorganisms is one significant downside to feeding a raw food diet. Some reports indicate up to 20% of raw food diets are contaminated with Salmonella. For this reason, many veterinarians are nervous about the health of their patients fed a raw food diet.

In addition to threatening the health of pets, Salmonella contaminated pet food poses risk to the human family members, especially small children and immunocompromised adults. Handling Salmonella contaminated pet food without proper hand washing could result in a human becoming infected with Salmonella. For tips on safe handling of pet food, read our previous blog on pet food recalls.

The Animal Medical Center
For 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Fireworks and Your Dog

June 30, 2010

The fourth of July is rapidly approaching and with it comes fireworks. Fireworks are a major cause of noise phobia in dogs. Why? Dog hearing is better than human hearing. Your dog probably hears more and louder noises than you do. Your dog’s nose is better too, and maybe the smell of the fireworks is unpleasant. Additionally, fireworks are an uncommon noise, and from your dog’s point of view, an unpredictable event. Your dog never has a chance to get used to the sudden, loud noises accompanied by flashes of light. Dogs with noise phobia pace, run, scratch at the door, shake, drool and can be very destructive. Verbal reprimand or physical cuddling will not help in this case because your dog cannot understand why she should not be afraid of the fireworks.

If your dog is noise phobic, here are some tips on managing the upcoming holiday weekend:

• On July 4th, plan extra exercise for your dog during the day so she is tired and will want to hit the sack early.

• Provide a safe and familiar environment for sleeping. The safest place is his crate. In the room where the crate is located, close the windows and drapes to keep out both noise and flashes of light. Provide some background noise, the TV, radio or air conditioner, to drown out the booming fireworks.

• Aromatherapy is also worth a try. Rub lavender oil on your dog’s earflaps or use one of the pheromone products designed to mimic the comfort signals a mother dog sends to her puppies, such as Comfort Zone.

• Internet testimonials suggest the Anxiety Wrap lessens anxiety in noise phobic dogs. The wrap is made of a lightweight fabric and uses acupressure and maintained pressure to decrease undesirable behaviors associated with stress and anxiety.

• If your dog won’t take a nap, distract him with other activities such as a game of indoor fetch or a feeding toy. These toys slowly dispense pieces of food as your dog plays with them.

• Finally, you can consider desensitization of your dog. This involves playing a commercially available CD with recorded fireworks noise while engaging your dog in a fun activity. The volume is gradually increased while your dog becomes used to the noise. If you need help with this endeavor, you should consider a consultation with a veterinary behavior specialist. This project requires time, and you have plenty of time to start now for next year.

Every year we hear about dogs frightened by fireworks, they escape from home and run away. Be sure your dog is microchipped and has up to date tags on his collar. Also make sure you have a recent photo of your dog in case you need to make a lost pet poster.

If these suggestions don’t seem to help, see your veterinarian to discuss using a tranquilizer on the 4th of July. Remember, your veterinarian will want to see your dog, get an accurate weight and determine the appropriate medication to prescribe.

For some additional tips from Animal Planet, visit: http://ht.ly/24Luc.

The Animal Medical Center
For 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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