Canine Flu: An Update

April 29, 2015

Dog flu/canine influenzaFor the last few months, veterinarians and dog owners in the Chicago area and other Midwestern states have been faced with an outbreak of canine influenza. Over 1,100 dogs have been diagnosed with the virus and sadly, some have died. First identified in an outbreak of what was believed to be “kennel cough” in greyhounds, the canine influenza virus was initially described in 2005. Canine influenza virus is just one of the causes of “kennel cough” which is really a general term for canine upper respiratory tract infections.

The canine influenza virus reported in 2005 is an H3N8 strain of the virus which has been documented nationwide. The current Chicago outbreak is caused by an H3N2 virus, which is the virus circulating in Asian dogs. Exactly how the Asian strain came to the Windy City is not currently known. Canine influenza seems to be moving east and cases have now been confirmed in the state of Indiana. Just yesterday, dog flu was diagnosed in Iowa.

Dog to Dog Transmission
Canine flu is transmitted from dog to dog and dogs can transmit it prior to showing symptoms of the virus. That feature of the disease is probably responsible for its rapid transmission within a population. Inanimate objects, leashes, collars, bowls and bedding used by an infected dog could be a source of infection for other dogs coming in contact with those objects. Petting a sick dog and then petting a healthy dog can also spread the infection.

Clinical Signs of Canine Influenza
The clinical signs of canine influenza run the gamut of respiratory disease. Twenty percent of dogs infected with the virus will never show any signs, but still can infect other dogs. Most dogs develop what we might think of as a cold– sneezing, runny nose and a cough. Dogs with the flu feel out of sorts with a fever and a poor appetite. About ten percent of infected dogs will develop a serious complication of influenza – bacterial pneumonia.

What precautions should dog owners take?

  1. Avoid doggie day care, the boarding kennel, the dog park, obedience classes and any other areas where dogs congregate. The canine flu spreads most rapidly in situations where many dogs come in contact with each other or with infected dogs’ coughs and sneezes.
  2. Wash your hands well. The canine influenza virus can live on human hands for 12 hours, unless they are washed with soap and water.
  3. Talk to your veterinarian about the canine influenza vaccine. The available vaccine is for the typical H3N8 virus. Because the virus in this outbreak is H3N2, we don’t know if the flu vaccine will protect dogs against this new virus, but it is being recommended in the Chicago area. The canine flu vaccine is like the human flu vaccine; it lessens signs of flu and shortens their duration, but does not prevent the disease.
  4. If your dog contracts the flu, wash bedding, dishes, leashes and clothing which can transmit the virus for up to 24-48 hours after coming in contact with a sick dog.
  5. Keep your cat away from your sick dog since the H3N2 strain can be transmitted to cats. The H3N8 strain is not believed to infect cats.

Flea and Tick Prevention: 2015 Update

April 8, 2015
Photo: Vetstreet.com

Photo: Vetstreet.com

When I started my career as a veterinarian, the options for flea and tick control were limited, smelly and messy. I dispensed cans of spray, bottles of dip, and cartons of powder, but hardly ever prescribed a flea collar. Back then, the collars were not that effective and some thought the only way a flea collar killed a flea was by squashing it when you put the collar on your pet. Thirty years later, the options for pet owners to prevent ectoparasite infestations are infinitely better and way more numerous.

Better flea and tick control has resulted in healthier pets. I used to routinely see dogs and cats crawling with fleas from head to toe. Many developed flea allergic dermatitis, often complicated by a superficial skin infection. While we still see allergies in pets, flea allergic dermatitis is much less common and pets are much more comfortable, thanks to these new products.

Top Spot Products
The big revolution in flea and tick prevention started when top spot products were introduced. These are the little tubes of liquid that come in multipacks for monthly application to the nape of your pet’s neck. The product then distributes throughout the haircoat and kills fleas and ticks when they come in contact with the medicine on your pet’s hair. They also come with stickers for your calendar or an app for your mobile device to remind you when to apply the medication. Many of the manufacturers of these products have videos on their website demonstrating proper application of the product.

Oral Flea and Tick Prevention
Oral products can be active against only fleas or prevent multiple species of ticks as well. Most oral products come as tasty chew treats and are administered monthly; although long lasting products are also available. Not all oral products start working instantly. If your pet has a flea infestation because you missed a dose, check with your veterinarian about a rapidly acting oral product for quick flea takedown.

Long Lasting Collars
Unlike the early flea collars, today’s models last for months at a time. Depending on which collar your veterinarian prescribes, modern flea collars may be active against a single species of tick or fleas and multiple species of ticks. If you choose a collar, check the label carefully as some collars may take a week to reach full strength on your pet.

Choosing What’s Right for Your Pet
When selecting from this array of products, consider the following criteria:

  1. Talk with your veterinarian about the types of parasites in your area. Selecting a product with a profile that fits your area’s parasite population is critical.
  2. Top spot products often repel as well as kill fleas and ticks. If you live in a geographic locale with high numbers of fleas and ticks, you might want this added protection.
  3. Certain collars and oral preventatives last for months at a time. If you are busy and forgetful, one of these products might be a good choice.
  4. Not all top spot preparations and collars are waterproof. If your dog is a swimmer, choose a waterproof product or consider an oral flea and tick preventative.
  5. If you have a puppy or kitten, make sure the product you select is safe for the newest family member. Some products are not labeled for pets < 6-12 weeks of age.
  6. Use dog products for dogs and cat products for cats. Never switch, or you may need a trip to the animal ER.

The AMC Gives Not Just at Christmas, but All Year

December 24, 2014

For over 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has held fast to the mission of community service embraced by our founder, Ellin Prince Speyer. In 1910, Mrs. Speyer and her organization, the New York Women’s League for Animals, established a dispensary and out-patient clinic for all animals whose owners could not afford to pay for medical treatment. The clinic treated 6,028 animals in the first full year. To this day, in addition to caring for New York City pets 24/7, The Animal Medical Center continues to give back to the community.

AMC TO THE RESCUEAMC TO THE RESCUE
Because The AMC’s main mission lies in promoting the health and well-being of companion animals through advanced treatment, research and education, we recently created a new Community Fund, AMC TO THE RESCUE, to provide subsidized specialty care to animals currently cared for by rescue groups. Through AMC TO THE RESCUE, we have provided a means for needy animals to receive care from one of our 30 board certified veterinary specialists. Since its inception in 2013, 20 dogs, 15 cats and one rabbit have received medical care supported by AMC TO THE RESCUE, which has led to the adoption of many of these pets into a forever home. Without the specialty care provided by The AMC’s board certified ophthalmologist, neurologist, internist, dentist, cardiologist, soft tissue and orthopedic surgeons, these pets might be spending yet another holiday as homeless and unadoptable rescue animals.

AMC at the WKC showThe Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
Veterinarians from The AMC volunteered their time to manage minor health issues and triage emergencies for the dogs competing at the 2014 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show from the start of the First Annual Masters Agility Championship until the moment GCH After All Painting the Sky captured the 138th Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show. Our doctors happily donated their time and skills to ensure the health and welfare of these beautiful animals.

Animal Medical Center Doggy Dash at the NYC Triathlon
For the past seven years The Animal Medical Center has been the title sponsor of the Animal Medical Center Doggy Dash. Doggy Dash gives a runner and their best canine friend the chance to compete in tandem over a 5 mile course through Central Park, finishing at the NYC Triathlon finish line. Twenty-nine dogs and their human runners participated in 2014. To ensure the health and safety of the canine participants, seven AMC veterinarians and four licensed veterinary technicians volunteered to perform the pre-race health certification and monitor canine participants on the hot and steamy day of the race.

AMC trains first respondersEmergency Medical Training for NYC First Responders
A new program for 2014, involving AMC veterinary volunteers, was a canine first aid and critical care workshop for first responders. AMC veterinarians and technicians provided training using canine dummies and cadavers to teach such practices as venipuncture, catheter placement, intubation, CPR, oxygen administration, and treatment of dogs in shock. Thirty-two medical operations personnel, including men and women from the FBI, undercover agents, fire department EMTs, paramedics, physicians, and even an Air Force para-rescue jumper benefited from the expertise and time of AMC volunteer instructors.

Partnering with Angel On A Leash
The AMC and Angel On A Leash are both champions of the human-animal bond and its role in enhancing human health and quality of life, believing in the positive role of therapy dogs in health care facilities, schools, rehabilitation, hospice, extended care, correctional facilities, and crisis intervention. Because of our shared missions, The AMC and Angel On A Leash again worked together this past September on the Ronald McDonald House Family Fun Walk held in Carl Schurz Park.

Giving Tuesday
On #GivingTuesday, the global day dedicated to giving back, the staff of The AMC gave not of time, but of money when they participated in a raffle. The proceeds, nearly $1,000, were donated to SAVE – Seniors’ Animal Veterinary Effort – a community fund supporting pet care for New York City seniors’ pets.

The AMC wishes you and yours the best of the holiday season and a 2015 filled with healthy and happy pets.


National Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Pet Cancer Treatment Options, Part II

November 12, 2014

dog receiving chemotherapyNovember has been designated National Pet Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness about the causes, prevention and treatment of dogs and cats with this terrible disease. To raise awareness of the possible treatments for pet cancer, this second part of my two-part blog on cancer treatments for pets discusses three additional treatment therapies: chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Part I focused on surgery and radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy
Although the use of radiation therapy in humans preceded the use of chemotherapy, chemotherapy was more widely used in pet cancers before radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is administered when a biopsy indicates a tumor has spread or might spread, such as in feline breast cancer.

Chemotherapy can also be administered when a tumor is too widespread for either surgical removal or radiation therapy. At the top of the veterinary list of pet cancers treated with chemotherapy is lymphoma.

Veterinary oncologists treat both dogs and cats for lymphoma using a variety of chemotherapy drugs. Most commonly used is the CHOP protocol. CHOP is an acronym representing the first letter of each chemotherapy drug in the protocol and is repurposed from human oncology. Despite the bad reputation chemotherapy has, both cat and dog owners report a good quality of life in their pets receiving chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy
The concept of harnessing the cancer patient’s own immune system to fight cancer is an idea that has been around a long while. The idea came to fruition when a vaccine to treat melanoma in dogs was approved in 2010.

Dogs suffering from melanoma are given four vaccinations over two months and then boostered every six months. This treatment protocol prolonged survival by 300 days or more in dogs receiving the vaccine. In people with lymphoma, treatment using monoclonal antibodies like Rituxan® has dramatically improved patients’ survival time. In a similar vein, AMC oncologists are currently studying a monoclonal antibody against T cell lymphoma and a monoclonal antibody against B cell lymphoma is also available.

On the horizon for the treatment of lymphoma is a new cancer vaccine for a particular type of lymphoma in dogs called large B cell lymphoma.

Targeted Therapy
In 2009, toceranib phosphate, known as Palladia®, became the first targeted therapy approved for use in dogs diagnosed with mast cell tumors.

A second targeted therapy, mastitinib, known as Kinavet®, has conditional approval for the treatment of the same tumor. Targeted therapies exploit a physiologic abnormality in tumor cells, not present in normal cells. Targeted therapies commonly work by turning on or off a cellular process critical to cancer growth and metastasis, halting tumor growth. In the future, expect to see more targeted drugs used in dogs and cats.

Because cancer is diagnosed in over six million pets each year, you may be faced with this diagnosis in your favorite furry friend. But treatment of cancer in pets is possible. You and your pet have more treatment options and more specially trained veterinarians than ever before to help you achieve a good outcome if your pet is diagnosed with cancer. To find a board certified veterinary cancer specialist in your area, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine website and use their search function.


What Does a Vet Tech Do?

October 8, 2014

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.


Hurricane Sandy: The Animal Medical Center Story

October 31, 2012

The view down E. 62nd Street on Monday night

By Sunday night, the Governor and Mayor had shut down all mass transit in NYC, our schools were already closed for Monday, and by Monday morning even the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for the day. New York City was silent; everyone was indoors and the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy had not yet arrived. Despite all the closures, The Animal Medical Center was open for business as usual.

As far back as anyone can remember, The AMC has never closed. We mean it when we say we are open 24/7. When a disaster is anticipated, the staff work together to determine how best to cover shifts and maintain adequate nursing and medical expertise for our patients. During blackouts, natural disasters, and human disasters, our staff comes to work prepared. Many employees came to work on Sunday with food, clothes, and bedding, planning to stay for the duration of the storm. The AMC stores inflatable beds for those employees sleeping at the hospital. The beds got blown up Monday afternoon since the electricity fluttered on and off during the day. Lucky for us, our favorite deli and neighborhood diner were still open.

It was a good thing we were open for business, as really sick animals needed care. Here is a sampling of the Sunday night admission list: a stray cat and a stray dog were brought to The AMC since the shelters were closed for the night; Harley, a cat, came in with complications of diabetes; Lexi, a bulldog, was admitted for serious vomiting; Gus the cat developed heart failure; Monkey, a Pekingese, required an emergency MRI and back surgery; a golden retriever named Aristotle became unconscious and he too required an emergency MRI ; Rysiu was admitted for feline bladder stones resulting in a urinary blockage. On Monday, he had an urgent surgery to remove the stones.

Visits to our emergency room were steady on Monday morning, but most scheduled patients cancelled their visits. The ER continued accepting patients overnight, even though there was at one point a foot of water in the first floor lobby. Our power went out from about 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., during which time our generator kicked in to run essential electrical equipment. Once the high tide began to recede, the lobby was squeegeed dry and, except for internet service that was slow to be restored, we were back to normal. The banners on the north side of the building are in tatters and our awning has a rip, but these are cosmetic only and we feel very fortunate to only be slightly damp around the edges.

New York pets were fortunate, too. For the second hurricane in a row, pets were allowed in evacuation shelters and in his Monday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg announced 73 pets had already been accepted into shelters.

Find more information about Hurricane Sandy and pets here.

For help in planning for the next disaster, click here.


What to Expect When You’re Expecting Puppies

December 6, 2011

Last week I switched hats for a few days and was more an obstetrician than an oncologist. One of my friend’s dogs, a Jack Russell Terrier named Tallulah, had puppies.

Planned Parenthood
This was a planned litter of puppies, all of which already have good homes. When Tallulah came into heat, we measured her blood levels of progesterone so she could meet the father dog at the optimal time for successful mating.

Getting the Good News
Unlike humans, there is no blood test to determine pregnancy in a dog. Ultrasound can detect a pregnancy 24 days after conception. Most dog pregnancies are diagnosed by palpation about 26-32 days after conception. The veterinarian can palpate swellings lined up like a string of pearls in the mother dog’s uterus – each swelling represents one tiny, growing puppy. Tallulah, being a willful terrier, would not let me feel her abdomen long enough to be sure, so we did an ultrasound to confirm there would be puppies coming around Thanksgiving. Here, you can see what we saw on ultrasound – puppies 3 and 4.

Just What the Doctor Ordered
Because this was a planned litter of puppies, Tallulah was vaccinated long before she was pregnant, and she was dewormed too. Because small dogs are prone to low calcium levels from pregnancy and nursing, once I was sure she was pregnant, I prescribed a puppy food high in calories and calcium and tasty vitamins as well.

Predicting the Big Day
Pregnancy lasts approximately 65 days in dogs. An x-ray is commonly used to determine the number of puppies to expect. See if you can count the five puppies on Tallulah’s x-ray.

Eight to 24 hours prior to delivering, a pregnant dog’s rectal temperature will precipitously drop. Tuesday morning, before Thanksgiving, Tallulah’s temperature dropped and she began shivering. By 4:30 am the next morning, there were five little female Jack Russell Terriers! Delivery took just under two hours. See a video of the new family below:

 

Organizing a Puppy Layette
Puppies don’t have nearly the requirements for clothes, beds, rockers and bouncy chairs as human babies. Tallulah needed a comfortable, clean and safe place to deliver her puppies. I have found a kiddie pool works well. The sides are high enough for Tallaulah to jump in and out, but keep the puppies corralled.

Pampering the New Mother
Mother dogs are totally focused on caring for and protecting their new pups. Tallulah hardly wanted to leave them long enough to go outside to urinate or defecate. Her food and water were close by the kiddie pool so she could eat and drink with the puppies nearby.

Although everyone wanted to visit the puppies, some new mothers may not feel comfortable having her family displayed and won’t want her puppies handled by strangers until they are bigger. In fact, Tallulah growled and snapped at her dog sister when she came anywhere near the puppies, but was fine for her human family to hold the puppies.

All five girls are doing well and you can see two of the fat, sleepy puppies to the left.

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

For over 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.


Occupy Wall Street: Parvovirus Strikes Demonstrating Dogs

December 1, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstration has been front and center in the news over the past six weeks. Until now, the news has been about humans, but recently the dogs of OWS have hit the newswire due to a parvovirus outbreak at the San Francisco encampment.

Parvovirus in Dogs
Parvovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal disease affecting dogs.

Infection can be fatal at worst and cause serious illness at best. Parvovirus is not a subtle disease: it is associated with the most severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting we veterinarians recognize in canine patients. Because the virus attacks rapidly growing cells, the bone marrow cells producing white blood cells are depleted, decreasing the white blood cell count and putting dogs at risk of contracting a serious infection on top of the severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Panleukopenia is the Feline Parvovirus
The dogs of OWS are not the only ones at risk for contracting parvovirus infection. Any dog coming in contact with the feces of a parvovirus infected dog is at risk, unless they are protected by vaccination. Cats have their own version of parvovirus – the panleukopenia virus. Infection by the panleukopenia virus results in similar clinical signs in infected cats as parvovirus infection causes in dogs. Fortunately, panleukopenia rarely occurs in my practice, but the few cases I have seen could not be saved. Vaccination protects against this frequently fatal feline viral infection. Veterinarians consider vaccinations against parvovirus and panleukopenia virus “core” vaccines, meaning these are vaccines nearly all pets should receive.

Close quarters with limited sanitation like OWS are the perfect place for an outbreak of a contagious disease and it would not surprise me to see an outbreak of canine influenza, kennel cough or intestinal parasites at an OWS camp.

Pet Owner Precautions
Pet owners taking their dog or cat to a location where it will come in contact with many other animals should first check with their veterinarian to confirm their pet has been adequately vaccinated. Cats boarding at a kennel for the holidays, dogs attending obedience classes or doggie day care, or any pet demonstrating as part of OWS have an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease simply due to increased exposure to other animals. Pet owners should keep their healthy pets away from other animals with signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea to help protect them against contracting a life-threatening illness.

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

For over 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.


Diabetes: A Serious Disease for You and Your Pet

November 25, 2011

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, a person is diagnosed with diabetes every 17 seconds, and annually the disease kills more Americans than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Diabetes also affects dogs and cats, but there are differences in the manifestations of the disease between the species.

My patient Charity has had diabetes since 2005. At that time, she was overweight and developed the most common form of diabetes in cats, Type II diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes). She still required insulin injections because uncontrolled high blood sugar caused a decrease in insulin levels due to the toxic effects of glucose on pancreatic insulin production. Although Charity is a female cat, neutered male cats with a sedentary lifestyle who become obese have a four times greater likelihood of developing diabetes. Genetics seem to play only a small role in the development of feline diabetes, most notably in the Burmese cats in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Type I diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) is the form most commonly found in dogs. Concurrent diseases such as obesity and hyperadenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) play a role in the development of diabetes in the dog. Since certain breeds such as Australian terriers, schnauzers and bichon frises are at greater risk of developing diabetes, genetics are believed to play a role in canine diabetes.

Treatment of diabetes in both dogs and cats almost always requires insulin injections. Insulin therapy, weight loss and a high-protein diet corrects the diabetic condition in some lucky cats. Charity lost four pounds following a diet change and insulin therapy, but her diabetes did not go into remission and still requires insulin injections six years later. For those pet owners who give insulin (or use needles at home to administer any medication), the syringes and needles must be properly disposed of to prevent injury to family members. The Food and Drug Administration has just developed a website for safe disposal of needles and sharps.

Hallmark signs of diabetes in dogs and cats include:

-Increased thirst

  • Dogs may start drinking from strange places like the toilet or puddles in the yard. Most cats drink very little water, and if your cat becomes diabetic, you may actually need to refill the water bowl.

-Increased urinations

  • For dogs this may manifest as accidents in the house. If you accidentally walk in a puddle of urine, it may seem sticky since it will be loaded with sugar. For cats, you may notice a litter box flooded with urine

-Weight loss despite a good appetite

If your pet is overweight, prevent diabetes by getting them into an ideal body condition through diet and exercise recommended by your veterinarian. If you recognize any signs of diabetes, see your veterinarian immediately.

For additional information on diabetes in pets, try the dLife video archives.

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

For over 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.


Fall Flu Season and Your Pets

November 7, 2011

Fall is here, and with fall comes the flu. Every fall our physicians urge us to be vaccinated against the flu to protect our family members and ourselves from contracting or spreading this year’s flu virus.

What about our pets? Why didn’t I start this post urging you to take your pet to the veterinarian for its annual flu shot? That is because, unlike the human influenza viruses, canine influenza’s occurrence is not seasonal. So, anytime is the right time to vaccinate your pet against this highly contagious disease. I have answered some commonly asked questions I receive during flu season.

What is Canine Influenza?
Canine influenza is a new disease which was first identified in Florida in 2003. It mutated from a horse influenza virus to an influenza virus infecting dogs. Canine influenza is now found nationwide.

Is my dog at risk for contracting Canine Flu?
Dogs at risk for canine influenza infection are social dogs, such as those that go to doggie day care, dog parks, dog shows or a boarding kennel — anytime of the year. If your dog is a social dog, a vaccine has recently been developed to protect against canine influenza, and your veterinarian will know if it is right for your dog. The protocol for vaccination is two doses of vaccine given two weeks apart, followed by annual revaccination.

What about cats? I have heard about a Feline “Flu.”
Feline flu is a misnomer. Frequently called feline flu, feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus infections are not caused by an influenza virus and are not technically “flu.” No influenza virus has been identified in cats, but the clinical signs associated with herpes virus and calicivirus infection can look very similar to flu in humans. Even though cats don’t have their own influenza virus, vaccinating them against herpes and calicivirus will help keep them healthy and limit the impact of upper respiratory viruses on their health.

Can my dog or cat catch the flu when I am under the weather?
Feeling sick? Thinking cuddling with your cat or dog will make you feel better? Wrong. Cats and dog can contract human flu. When you have the flu, quarantine yourself from all members of your family, including your pets.

If you must touch your pet while you are sick or prepare their food, be sure to wash your hands before doing so. Cover your coughs and sneezes to keep everyone else in the family healthy, including the pets.

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

For over 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.


The Danger of Xylitol to Your Dog and Ferret

September 26, 2011

My regular trip to the grocery store this week brought a health risk for dogs and ferrets to the forefront of my mind.

As I was standing in the checkout line, I noticed a number of hard candies and mints with xylitol on the label. Xylitol may help keep us slim and protect our teeth, but it is deadly for our dogs and ferrets. The Animal Medical Center’s Emergency Service has seen several dogs suffering from xylitol-induced illness. The danger is serious enough to have caused the FDA to issue a warning to pet owners because xylitol poisoning is on the rise.

Xylitol is an organic compound and a naturally occurring sugar alcohol used as a low calorie sweetener. Chewing gum and candies are commonly sweetened with xylitol. Recipes abound on the Internet for home baked treats using the sweetner as an ingredient. Medical products such as throat lozenges, cough syrup, children’s multivitamins, toothpaste and mouthwash contain xylitol because it helps prevent tooth decay.

When a dog or ferret consumes xylitol, blood sugar drops dangerously low (hypoglycemia) and can result in seizures. Even if the hypoglycemia is reversed with administration of intravenous sugar (glucose), there is still the potential for development of liver failure and death.

If your dog inadvertently ingests one of the many xylitol-containing foods, medications or any other potentially toxic substance, go to an animal emergency room immediately as the drop in blood sugar occurs very quickly. Take the package, bag or box containing the xylitol product with you. The information on the package will help when your veterinarian contacts one of the animal poison control services included in the links below. These services are open 24 hours a day to advise pet owners and veterinarians on optimal management for pet poisonings.

For more information on other foods toxic to pets, visit:

Fur the Love of Pets: Kitchen Catastrophies

ASPCA: Poison Control

MSPCA Angell Poision Control Hotline

Pet Poison Helpline

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

For over 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.


A Compounding Pet Pharmacy Can Be a Lifesaver

September 20, 2011

Tracey required eye drops in a special bottle. Sapphire refused pills she desperately needed. Bailey turned from a fluffy, gray kitty into a man-eating lion every time he needed a thyroid pill. The medication list for Rufus was so long, I was worried about a dosing mistake.

Fortunately for the veterinarians and our patients at The Animal Medical Center, there is a creative group of pharmacists just up the street from us — Best Pet Rx. This week alone, the group solved the medication problems of all four pets above and more.

Not the typical chain drug store you see on every corner or in every strip mall, a compounding pharmacy has specialized equipment to take an existing medication and formulate it into a patient-friendly “compound.”

Tracey has a water fetish, and at one time drank eight liters a day. In humans, this problem is treated with a nasal spray that comes from a special bottle. Dogs do not think nasal sprays are fun. With a water guzzler like Tracey, we take the human nasal spray and use it as an eye drop, except the bottle doesn’t drop, it sprays. The compounding pharmacy has a special sterile area where the medicine can be removed from its spray bottle and be put in an eye drop bottle to facilitate administration. Two drops a day has brought Tracey down to three liters of water a day, which is 50 percent less than she was drinking.

Sapphire is very smart, very beautiful and avoids pills like the plague. The solution to her medication problem was quite simple: Turn the pills into a beef-flavored liquid, easily squirted into the side of her mouth and readily swallowed because of the tasty beef flavor.

Bailey needed a different solution to his medication problem. Lucky for him, his prescription was for thyroid pills. These pills can be compounded into a gel and applied to the inside of the ear, transporting the medication across the skin and into the bloodstream. Not all medications can be compounded into a transdermal gel, but when they can it is a life saver.

The solution to Rufus’ multi-pill problem is my favorite. The pharmacists took his morning and evening pill allotments and placed them into a gelatin capsule. Each capsule delivered an entire morning or evening dose of all medications. Clearly this was much simpler than giving four pills at a time.

If you are having trouble medicating your pet, ask your veterinarian to work with a compounding pharmacy to develop a custom solution to your pet’s medication problem. No veterinary clinic should be without one.

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

For over 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.


Hemangiosarcoma: A Common Tumor of the Spleen

August 25, 2011

The Animal Medical Center’s ER struggled to save Walker last week. Walker was an apparently healthy, 10-year-old German shepherd. He collapsed at home and was rushed to the ER. Examination by the ER staff was quickly focused on a triad of abnormalities – anemia, abdominal distension and shock. These findings immediately suggested internal hemorrhage from a tumor of the spleen common to German shepherds called hemangiosarcoma.

Hemangiosarcoma is a tumor arising from blood vessels. Unlike lymphoma, which is common in both humans and pets, hemangiosarcoma is not a human cancer. Walker’s tumor developed in his spleen, but the right side of the heart and skin are other common locations for hemangiosarcoma in the dog. Occasionally it develops in an unusual location like the eye, prostate, bone, retroperitoneal space (an area outside the abdomen but inside the body, near the kidneys). Almost any breed of dog can develop hemangiosarcoma. Most large breed dogs are at risk for this deadly tumor, including German shepherds like Walker, Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and schnauzers. Cats are affected by hemangiosarcoma, but it typically occurs in the skin and rarely occurs in the spleen. For those with large animals in their lives, horses and sheep also develop hemangiosarcoma.

The acute collapse Walker’s owner observed is a common sign of hemangiosarcoma. The tumor bleeds easily resulting in anemia and weakness. Sometimes, if the bleeding is only slight, the signs are more subtle – weakness followed by normal energy or difficulty jumping into the car or onto the sofa. If hemangiosarcoma occurs in the heart, it may block the heart from pumping blood, causing collapse.

Veterinarians do not know what causes hemangiosarcoma. Because we don’t know what causes it, we can only treat the tumor, not prevent its occurrence. The emergency surgeon often handles the first part of treatment, splenectomy.

The spleen is removed to stop the internal hemorrhage and also test the spleen for malignancy. Similarly skin tumors can be removed with surgery, but tumors of the right side of the heart are not so easily removed. In some cases, treatment stops there, but in other cases, dog or cat owners elect follow-up chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has been shown to prolong survival compared to dogs treated with surgery alone, but virtually all dogs relapse.

Walker’s family wanted to give him every chance and he has just gotten his first treatment. I am happy to report he has had no reaction and we will keep our fingers crossed.

Some of you may be wondering what the impact of removal of the spleen will have on Walker. I’ll address your question in my next post.

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

For over 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.


Animal Hoarding: How Many Pets are Too Many?

August 2, 2011

When most people think of animal hoarding, they think of the extreme cases shown on Animal Planet’s Confessions: Animal Hoarding, or similar programs on A&E and Discovery networks. Others think of the crazy, elderly cat lady, exemplified by Arabella Figg, the Squib cat dealer who served as Harry Potter’s occasional babysitter on Wisteria Walk. Despite such stereotypical descriptions of animal hoarders, no particular group of people is at risk for the disorder. All types of people and multiple species of animals, not just dogs and cats, can be involved in hoarding.

Is the clinic client with 10 cats a hoarder?

The answer is not as simple as the question seems. If the 10 cat owner is able to provide a clean, disease-free home environment, preventive healthcare, and emergency services for the 10 cats, AND is able provide themselves with food, clothing, a clean home and pay his bills, he is probably not an animal hoarder. But, if he is behind in his rent, only brings in sick cats in poor physical condition and denies the cat has a serious medical problem, the veterinarian may be dealing with an animal hoarder.

What are some of the risks for animals, animal hoarders or for those living in a community with a hoarder?

Because animals that are hoarded do not have adequate food, medical care and hygiene, hoarding is considered to be a form of animal cruelty. In addition to neglecting their animals, hoarders often neglect themselves or other family members such as children and the elderly. The squalid conditions found in hoarding situations affect not only the animal hoarder and the animals, but may hurt the community as well. There is an increased risk of fire, poor air quality and transmission of infectious disease from sick animals to humans.

If you suspect someone is an animal hoarder, what can you do?

  • Call your local humane law enforcement organization. If you are not sure who is in your jurisdiction, ask your veterinarian.
  • Animal hoarding is not just an animal problem; it is a human one as well. Management of a hoarding situation includes contacting a social services organization to help the hoarder understand.
  • Support only legitimate animal rescue groups. Don’t confuse an animal hoarder with not–for-profit rescue groups, shelters or animal sanctuaries. Volunteer or give money to documented 501(c)(3) corporations with a reputation for providing high quality animal care.

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

For over 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.


Pet Food Pantries

July 28, 2011

Last Sunday, I was at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City attending a discussion of its Crossroads Community Services Program which supports breakfast for 150-200 New Yorkers three days a week, an overnight shelter and a food pantry. During the question and answer period, an audience member asked the program director, “Where is there a pet food pantry?” and I will admit I wasn’t sure. But given the high unemployment data out last week and the dismal job reports in the news, I knew there were still families in need. Since pets are family, I decided to investigate pet food pantries.

In New York City, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals is a coalition of non-profit shelters and rescue groups saving the lives of adoptable pets in New York City. Their website lists three groups helping to provide needy New York City pets with food and supplies: Animal Relief Fund, Prince Chunk Foundation and the Food Bank for New York City.

The Food Bank for New York City is heavily involved in providing meals for hungry pets and has presence in all five boroughs. It is just one beneficiary of the PETCO Foundation’s “We Are Family” program. PETCO collects the food and cat litter and their partners use their human food pantries as the distribution site.

This website gives a state by state list of the PETCO stores collecting food and cat litter for pets in need and their food pantry partners. In Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, We Are Family works in partnership with Long Island Cares. The Food Bank for New York City’s West Harlem location has recently received a large donation of pet food from the Iams Company and VCA Charities Pet Program. Registered food pantry members will receive free pet food and some may also receive coupons for pet care from VCA.

Another local New York City organization providing pet food is the Animal Relief Fund (ARF). They are members of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and collect pet food and distribute it through a large number of local human food pantries in the five boroughs and on Long Island via Long Island Cares.

Not exactly a food pantry, but an important provider of food to those in need is Meals On Wheels. Meals On Wheels provides not only food for the home-bound elderly, but companionship as well. Some local Meals On Wheels organizations have a pet feeding program in addition to their senior citizen feeding program. We All Love Our Pets (WALOP) delivers nutritional pet meals along with nutritious human meals. By helping an elderly person feed his/her pet, the senior citizen and their pet can maintain the human companion animal bond critical to the senior’s emotional and physical health.

So how can animal lovers help pets in need?

  1. Donate money to your local pet food pantry
  2. Donate pet food or cat litter to an organization that partners with a human food pantry for distribution.
  3. Volunteer for an organization providing meals to the whole family.
  4. Start a pet food pantry.

These are only a few ideas. I am sure you readers have many others. Tell us some ideas you may have to help the needy feed their pets.

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

For over 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.


National Pet Fire Safety Day

July 18, 2011

Last Friday, July 15, 2011, was National Pet Fire Safety Day. When we hear about pets and fires in the home, we often think of the dog who awakens his owner, saving lives with a warning bark about a fire in the house.

But pets are also the victims of fire. According to Pet Safety Alert, 40,000 pets are killed in fires annually, most of them in residential fires.

Every year, The Animal Medical Center provides care to pets who have been trapped in burning buildings and rescued by New York’s bravest, our friends at the NYC Fire Department.

As a pet lover, you can take action to prevent pet-related fires and to protect your pet if there is a fire.

To help firefighters find all of your pets, the folks at ADT Home Security Systems offer a free window cling to alert firefighters to the presence of pets in the home. You can request one through their website.

Firefighters want to help pets suffering from smoke inhalation, but the oxygen masks designed for humans are not shaped to fit a pet’s nose. If you are feeling philanthropic, donate a pet oxygen mask to your local firefighting team.

Pet proofing your home can help to prevent a catastrophic fire. Candles are a huge danger for pets. A wagging tail can knock a candle off the coffee table and into a pile of flammable papers. My own cat, who had a big puffy tail, swished it over a lit candle and nearly went up in flames! Space heaters and backyard grills present a hazard, as they can easily be knocked over by a pet and start a fire.

To protect the entire family, make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors have their batteries changed twice a year. A good time to change the batteries is when you change the clocks for daylight savings time in the spring and fall.

Like people, pets can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. If everyone in the family is ill and your pet is exhibiting the following signs, see your veterinarian and mention you are concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cough
  • Loss of exercise stamina
  • Disturbances in gait

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

For over 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.

Photo: iStockphoto


The Pen Cap May Be Mightier than the Sword…

July 15, 2011

But it can’t beat a bronchoscope!

Barcley

One thing I love about pets is their unpredictability. You just can never guess what they will do next. Here’s the story of Barcley, the French bulldog and the nearly fatal pen cap.

The beginning seemed innocent enough: a dog playing with a bright blue highlighter pen. Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe and his owners rushed him to The Animal Medical Center. Quick administration of oxygen and a sedative by the ER staff seemed to alleviate the breathing problem enough to allow a chest x-ray to be taken.

No one would have predicted the x-ray would show Barcley’s windpipe contained what looked like the cap of the bright blue highlighter!

Barcley’s chest x-ray. Arrows point to outline of pen cap in his windpipe.

The ER staff had to think quickly and cleverly. Barcley needed anesthesia and a bronchoscope to remove the highlighter pen cap, but the standard anesthetic plan of placing a breathing tube into the windpipe was out of the question; it was already full of the highlighter cap. To further complicate matters, Barcley is a brachycephalic (short nosed) dog, a type of dog known to have a greater risk of anesthetic complications.

Dr. Stacy Burdick of The AMC’s Internal Medicine Service was called in at 1:30 am to perform the procedure which took 20 minutes, but seemed like a lifetime. She placed a small rubber tube in the windpipe to deliver oxygen and administered an injectable anesthetic agent into Barcley’s vein. Dr. Burdick cautiously advanced the bronchoscope down Barcley’s windpipe. She was worried the windpipe could have been damaged as the cap went down, or worse, the windpipe could tear when she pulled it back up.

Pen cap in windpipe

On the right, you can see what Dr. Burdick saw when the cap came into view. The cap blocked the entire lumen of the windpipe. Knowing she had to work quickly to restore the delivery of oxygen to the lungs, she passed a special grabber device through the bronchoscope, grabbed the cap and gently pulled it gently out through the mouth as she pulled out the bronchoscope.

Barcley’s life was saved from the pen cap by the mighty bronchoscope and the skilled Dr. Burdick.

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

For over 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.


Dogs and Cats as Diana and Orion, the Hunters

July 13, 2011

Photo: Hemera

Pet owners believe their well-fed, or more likely overfed, dog or cat should have no reason to hunt, but lately it seems my patients are on a hunting spree.

Most cat owners who allow their cats outside, become accustomed to freshly killed gifts of mice and other small rodents carefully placed as an offering on the back stoop. But this week the take has been much more substantial.

Take Francie, for example, a special needs Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on anti-seizure medication. Twice last week she captured an unidentifiable furry creature and dragged it in through the doggie door. One unfortunate victim was hauled into Francie’s crate and the other left with pride in the middle of the kitchen floor. Franice’s family was outwardly distressed over her behavior, but the diminutive “Diana” seemed pleased with her hunting success.

Dixie and Mabel, a pair of Labradors, have not been hunting because they are, of course retrievers! To their owners’ initial horror, they were about to retrieve what appeared to be a dead possum, when the possum stopped “playing possum” and safely scampered back into the woods.

The Orion of the group is Willie, a handsome black Standard Poodle. He was out romping in his yard when a fawn strolled by. He tackled the fawn and was immediately tackled by his owners, who saved the fawn and had it safely transferred to the care of a wildlife rehabilitator.

I can share all these stories with you because the pet owners called me; not to brag, but out of concern for their pet’s health. Most were concerned about the potential for rabies transmission from wildlife. This is a real concern for pet owners and just one very good reason for having your pet vaccinated for rabies. Rabies vaccines are very effective and rabies is very uncommon in vaccinated dogs and cats.

Another concern is for parasite which can be carried by wildlife and transmitted to your dog or cat. The Dianas and Orions need annual fecal examinations and routine year round parasite prevention as recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

These pet owners also called wondering how to handle injured wildlife. First, you should not attempt to touch or move injured wildlife as you may be bitten. In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation licenses wildlife rehabilitators who can provide assistance and care for injured wildlife. There is also a FAQ page with great information about wildlife in your yard.

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

For over 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.


Everything Old is New Again: Plague and Leprosy

July 7, 2011

Nine banded armadillo, which can carry leprosy, seen in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood at modern:ANTHOLOGY.

Last week there were two very interesting stories in the news about the intersection between people and animals. Both reported on diseases we rarely hear about anymore: plague and leprosy.

Leprosy is the older disease and has been reported since Biblical times. The first reported epidemic of plague occurred somewhat later, in the 6th or 7th century. Bubonic plague, or the Black Death, was the scourge of the Middle Ages.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yesinia pestis. The usual source of Y. pestis is the rat flea, but hunting pets can contract the plague from eating infected rodents or rabbits. Even though Y. pestis is predominantly found in California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, cases can be seen throughout the country if a human or pet travels to one of these areas and contracts the disease before they return home. An infected pet can, in turn, infect humans. The possibility of plague transmission is one reason prairie dogs may not make the best pets.

The name bubonic comes from the word bubo, which is a fancy word for enlarged lymph node. Wikipedia shows an illumination from a medieval Bible of sinners afflicted with buboes.

Both humans and pets with bubonic plague have enlarged lymph nodes, which are painful. Fever, malaise and non–specific flu-like symptoms are typical for plague in both humans and pets. Although last week’s plague case occurred in a dog, in general, cats are more susceptible to plague than dogs.

Leprosy was in the news too; not because of a sick dog or cat, but because of armadillos. Those prehistoric-looking armored mammals carry the leprosy bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae. Most leprosy cases occur outside the United States, but cases occur in people who have not traveled outside the USA. This finding puzzled researchers until the DNA of the M. leprae was studied. Both armadillos and humans infected with M. leprae in the USA share the same unique strain of the bacteria. This bacterium is different from the strain of M. leprae found outside the USA. The New England Journal of Medicine article concluded humans can contract leprosy from infected armadillos.

To help protect yourself and your pet from contracting diseases of wildlife:

  • Keep your pet leashed or indoors to prevent contact with wild animals which can cause serious diseases.
  • Never approach, pet or handle wildlife even if they are acting friendly.
  • If your pet is sick, always tell your veterinarian where your pet has traveled and do the same when you visit your physician. It may be just the perfect clue to the diagnosis.

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

For over 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.


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