Meet the Breeds: Ask a Question

October 9, 2013
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at the 2013 AKC Meet the Breeds Show

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at the 2013 AKC Meet the Breeds Show

During the last weekend of September, The Animal Medical Center staffed an information booth at the American Kennel Club’s annual Meet the Breeds Show at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. I spent several hours answering questions from pet owners on Sunday afternoon. The questions were important ones for all pets, so I decided to share my answers with everyone through The AMC blog.

Are caterpillars toxic?
A concerned dog owner found her dog snacking on the big, furry caterpillars that had invaded the potted plants on her terrace. Certain insects can injure pets if they are venomous, like wasps or bees. Most caterpillars are not venomous and are not listed as toxic on Animal Poison Control or Pet Poison Hotlines‘ websites. Although Survivorman eats caterpillars, the hairs on the skin of certain ones can be very irritating and for me, just thinking about a dog swallowing these hairy little creatures makes me gag. It is best not to let your dog (or cat) eat caterpillars, but consumption of one or two probably carries a low level of risk.

Is a one hour walk a day enough for my older dog?
Just like your doctor recommends you practice a well-rounded fitness routine, your dog needs more than a walk on a nice flat street. The Mayo Clinic recommends exercise include aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, stretching, core exercise and balance training. Challenge your dog by walking up and down hills. Be sure to include games like fetch to encourage your dog to run to increase her heart rate. Don’t forget to include stairs as part of your dog’s routine. For stretching and balance fitness, view The AMC’s exercise tips for dogs.

My 7 month old Chihuahua has a pink lump that comes and goes in the corner of his eye. Is this serious?
Without seeing this dog, I can only speculate as to what the problem is. However, I am guessing the dog has a condition veterinarians call “cherry eye.” Cherry eye is the tear gland from the third eyelid, an important source of tears to keep your dog’s eyes moist, and it occurs most commonly in Cocker Spaniels and English Bulldogs. The AMC’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Alexandra van der Woerdt recommends the gland be tacked back into place during a minor surgical procedure to preserve its function. The cause of cherry eye is suspected to be a weakness in the ligament that holds the gland in place.

My dog woke up one morning and couldn’t walk, so I gave him some of my medications and now he’s better. Should I keep giving the pills?
The answer to this question is not about pills but about the need to see your veterinarian to get pet-safe prescriptions. Every year, thousands of dogs and cats are sickened from accidental ingestion or purposeful administration of human medications. Veterinarians do sometimes prescribe human medications for dogs and cats, but you should never give your pet any medications without clearing it through your veterinarian first.


Kitchen Catastrophes

November 17, 2009

New pet owners often ask their veterinarian, “What is the greatest danger to my pet?  Is it the dog park, the sidewalk or being cat-napped?”  It may come as a surprise to you, but your kitchen holds some of the greatest dangers for your pet.

Xylitol, a sweetener found in low-calorie foods, induces excessive insulin release in dogs.  No one knows why insulin production ramps up in response to xylitol, but the result can be a fatal low blood sugar in your dog.  Dogs consuming xylitol may experience vomiting, lethargy, lack of coordination progressing to seizures and liver failure.  If your dog eats food containing xylitol, see a veterinarian immediately.

Dogs have a bit of a sweet tooth and often find grapes and raisins tasty.  Tasty can turn into tragedy because some dogs develop kidney failure following consumption of even a few grapes or raisins.  The toxin has not been identified, but a quick trip to the veterinarian and a short hospital stay can help prevent long-term kidney damage.

Both cats and dogs have red blood cells which can be damaged by ingestion of onions, garlic or garlic powder.  Red blood cell damage can result in the need for a blood transfusion, so avoiding these ingredients in your pet’s diet is critical.  Typically dogs get into onions by snacking from the trash can.  On the other hand, cats may have problems if they are fed human foods flavored with garlic powder. 

Birds love human foods too, but bird owners should be cautious about avocados, which can cause respiratory distress and death.  Like in dogs and cats, the caffeine-like substance in chocolate can be dangerous for birds.  Baking chocolate contains the most of the caffeine-like substance, dark chocolate somewhat less and white chocolate the least.  Ingestion of the caffeine-like substance can cause hyperactivity, heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures.  Too much salt is bad for all of us including birds, so it is best to keep the salty snacks on your plate rather than your bird’s.

The AMC recommends you check with your veterinarian before feeding your pets any human food.  Keep these foods out of your pet’s reach and ensure that your garbage is not easily accessible by them as well.  If your pet has ingested any foods that may be toxic you should contact your veterinarian immediately or call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435, 24 hours a day.
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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.


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