Resources for Summer Pet Travel

June 4, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How to Recognize a Sick Cat

October 2, 2013
Abyssinian cat

Abyssinian cat

Cats are the masters of disguise. Here we see a beautiful Abyssinian cat decoratively perched on a pedestal and disguised as a piece of sculpture- that is until she changes her mind and becomes something else!

Although cats in disguise bring enormous enjoyment to our lives, many cat owners are frustrated with their favorite fur person’s Academy Award-winning ability to masquerade as a healthy cat until hospitalization and intensive care are required. Sick cats commonly hide under the bed or in the closet; however, many cat owners mistakenly believe this behavior is simply their cat expressing its feline independence rather than a potential sign of serious illness. Another sick cat behavior frequently mistaken for bad cat behavior is a loss of litter box training.

Common illnesses, common signs
According to Best Pets Insurance, the top five medical claims for insured cats include: chronic kidney diseasehyperthyroidism, allergies, cancer and diabetesThese five diseases make up one-third of all feline claims to Best Pets Insurance. I don’t want to minimize the important impact allergies have on your cat’s quality of life but, in general, allergies are not life threatening and because they manifest on the outside of your cat, allergies are easy to detect. This blog will focus on how to recognize the big four: chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer and diabetes.

Weight loss in all
Many cat diseases look the same, which is one reason it is difficult for cat owners to identify that their cat may be ill. In fact, weight loss is a common clinical sign in cats with chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer and diabetes.

Increased water drinking in most
When I talk to cat owners at an annual physical examination, I ask about water consumption. Increased drinking can result from chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Only occasionally, does cancer cause cats to drink more water.

Hungry all the time in a few
Hyperthyroidism causes metabolic rate to soar. Hyperthyroid cats are hungry all the time to compensate for their increased metabolic rate. Diabetic cats lack insulin, which allows nutrients to enter the cells. Diabetic cats are hungry because their bodies cannot utilize the food they eat. Cats with cancer and kidney disease usually have poor appetites.

Early recognition

  • An annual physical examination by your veterinarian will go a long way to detecting weight loss, which is a common feature of the big four.
  • Collect a urine sample and take it to your cat’s annual physical exam, since abnormalities like sugar in the urine will help diagnose diabetes early.
  • If your pet is showing any of these signs, discuss blood testing with your veterinarian to help identify your cat’s medical condition.

Pet Insurance: FAQ from The AMC

August 21, 2013

Pet-Insurance2The webmaster at The Animal Medical Center fields questions related to pet health from all over the world. Many of the recurrent questions are related to pet health insurance. Here are the answers to a few of the most common pet health insurance questions.

What insurance policies does The AMC accept?
Pet insurance is different than human insurance. My doctor’s office has negotiated contracts with several insurance companies; therefore, she cares for patients who purchase policies from those companies. The contract in pet insurance is between the pet owner who purchases the policy and the pet insurance company. The AMC provides information and invoices to the pet owner, who in turn submits a claim to their pet’s insurance company and is reimbursed for their expenditures by the insurance company.

What will pet insurance cover?
Coverage depends on the company and the details of the policy. Trupanion policies focus on coverage for illness and recovery rather than preventive healthcare. The ASCPA policy, underwritten by the Hartfield Group, has several different levels of care, two of which include coverage for preventive healthcare.

How much do policies cover?
Commonly, policies state they reimburse 80-90% of customary and usual charges for covered services. Each veterinary hospital sets its fees to reflect their costs of operation. If you live in a city where the cost of living is high, ask if the insurance company has higher “customary and usual charges” for calculating your level of reimbursement. Alternatively, ask a prospective insurer what percentage of submitted claims is paid out to pet owners in your area. Healthy Paws reimburses based on the actual veterinary bill as do a couple of other companies. Some companies have annual or lifetime caps on total payments. Others cap payments for specific conditions.

Can I get pet insurance for all my pets?
All companies insure dogs and cats. Insurance for the other members of Noah’s crew, including birds, reptiles, small mammals, marsupials, amphibians, rodents and lagomorphs is available only through VPI, the oldest pet insurance company in the United States.

What about coverage for pre-existing conditions?
Again, this type of coverage varies from policy to policy. For example, some policies exclude genetic conditions, such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia, from coverage. If your dog has already had a cruciate ligament repaired on the left and the right cruciate ligament ruptures, he will not be covered by all policies as some consider cruciate disease to be a bilateral disease. Pets Best seems to be one exception to this exclusion.

Another point to keep in mind: your veterinarian may recommend therapies not covered by your policy. If she does, your claim would be denied. Before you renew your policy, ask if any illnesses reimbursed in the previous policy cycle will be excluded as pre-existing conditions once your renew.

Surprising coverage
I found several interesting features of the policies I reviewed. Pet’s Best lists coverage for some groundbreaking treatments, like stem cell therapy for feline kidney disease. I found a 13 page list of medications covered by one plan, and another with coverage for boarding if you are hospitalized and need to board your pet.

Employee Benefit?
A recent news article highlighted increasing numbers of companies offering pet insurance as an employee benefit. Check with your human resource department before you select a policy for your favorite fur person.

Final word: Read the policy carefully
I found at least one policy that does not cover two common (and costly) problems of older dogs and cats: heart disease and diabetes. Cancer is another group of diseases which are not covered by all policies; although many policies can be upgraded to cover cancer diagnosis and treatment.


Avoiding the Knife: Preventing Pet Surgeries

April 11, 2013

At The Animal Medical Center, our board certified surgeons and neurologists perform approximately 1,500 surgeries each year. A recently released pet insurance study completed in 2012 listed the top ten surgery claims for both dogs and cats:

Top-10-Canine-Conditions-large

Survey attributed to VPI Pet Insurance 2012

Since none of us want our pets to be subjected to the difficulties most surgeries pose, I will devote this blog to suggestions on how to avoid some of the most common canine and feline surgeries.

Tooth extractions

Topping the surgery list for cats and coming in at number three for dogs were tooth extractions. Keeping your pets’ teeth healthy means daily brushing and annual dental cleanings. The American Veterinary Dental College website provides good information about home dental care in dogs and cats. Remember, doggy breath often means periodontal disease, so if your pet has smelly breath, see your veterinarian for treatment before extractions become necessary.

Skin abscess, inflammation and pressure ulcers

This list of skin conditions ranks number two as a reason for surgery in both dogs and cats. Pressure ulcers generally occur in older dogs with limited mobility. Padding, padding and more padding will help prevent pressure ulcers on their elbows and thighs. Investigate orthopedic beds for your dog and try to keep him from laying on hard surfaces like the bathroom tile floor which can aggravate pressure sores. Promote mobility in your dog through regular exercise and management of arthritis with diet and medications.

Feline bite wounds

When I was a veterinarian in a more suburban area, we treated cat bite wounds on a daily basis. Preventing cat bite injuries is as simple as keeping your cat indoors. Cat bites not only cause wounds which can become abscesses, but cat bites transmit the feline immunodeficiency virus and possibly blood parasites as well. Priceless is how I define the value of keeping your cat indoors and healthy.

Aural hematoma

The tenth most common surgery in dogs was to repair an aural (ear) hematoma. Cats can develop aural hematomas too, just not as commonly as dogs. This condition is essentially a blood blister inside the ear flap. Blood accumulates in the ear flap when your dog incessantly shakes his head or scratches her ears. Usually, the shaking and scratching is in response to an allergy or an ear infection. If you see this behavior, check inside the ear for redness or discharge. See your veterinarian immediately to treat the cause of the shaking and scratching to prevent the development of an aural hematoma.

While some surgeries are unavoidable, these are prime examples of how a visit to your veterinarian for routine preventive care can help your pet avoid surgery.


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.


Recognizing Arthritis Pain in Your Cat

June 28, 2011

When working with the Animal Medical Center veterinarians participating in our post graduate training programs, I often say, “Cats are not little dogs.” What I really mean is, a particular disease in dogs does not appear the same as the disease does in cats. For example, dogs with heart disease typically have heart failure from leaky heart valves, while cats with heart disease commonly have abnormalities of their heart muscles, not their valves. When it comes to disorders of the thyroid gland, dogs suffer from an under active thyroid and cats from an over active thyroid.

Normal hips in a cat. Arrows point to nice, smooth joint surfaces.

A pet’s behavior in response to arthritis pain is also different between cats and dogs.

Arthritis is a common cause of pain in dogs and owners of arthritic dogs are quick to point out their dog is limping. Despite the fact that x-rays show evidence of arthritis in somewhere between 15-65% of cats, limping is really uncommon in feline patients. 

Cats with arthritis suffer from weight loss, anorexia, depression, urinating outside the litter box, poor grooming and, in some cases, lameness. One of my 21-year-old feline patients had to be moved onto a single floor of the house because he was too painful to use the stairs to the basement to get to his litter box. He got a new litterbox too, which had lower sides since he couldn’t step into his old one with higher sides.

Both hips in this cat are affected by arthritis. Arrows point to roughened edges of joint.

Pain in cats is difficult for both veterinarians and cat owners to assess. From my veterinarian’s viewpoint, if I put a cat on the exam room floor in an attempt to watch it walk, it will immediately run under the desk and hide. It will definitely not limp as it rockets underneath the desk.

In a recent study evaluating pain assessment in cats by veterinary researchers in North Carolina, cat owners reported they found it difficult to identify mild pain in their cats. Cat owners believed they could correctly identify changes in their cat’s function and activity. Dog owners more readily identify how pain interferes with their dog’s activities, possibly because dogs participate more fully in family activities such as ball toss, Frisbee and hiking.

If you notice your cat moving around less, not using the litter box or showing reluctance to go up and down the stairs, see your veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation.

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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.


Potty Training Your Cat: Are You Kidding?

June 16, 2011

Toilet-trained cat

A cat and dog owning client of The Animal Medical Center called about a month ago wondering if I had heard of toilet training for cats. I guess he hasn’t seen Jinxy, the potty trained cat of the “Fockers” movie series. I had also seen the CitiKitty products in November 2010, when I attended the No Place Like Home Pet Products Showcase, which had included CitiKitty in their list of exhibitors.

CitiKitty is just one of several cat toilet training kits available. The concept seems simple. The device attaches to a toilet seat and you put litter on the device at the same time you take away the litter box. Gradually you remove the rings in the device until the entire device is removed and your cat stands on the toilet seat while eliminating in the toilet. An automatic flusher is even available to facilitate cleanup!

After that initial call, I didn’t hear from the owner for a while. Then a couple of weeks ago he and I had a good laugh about what had happened next. Uli, his Chartreux cat, performed brilliantly with the CitiKitty device, successfully using it on the first try. Tonka, his dog, looked at the CitiKitty device as a buffet option and ate all the cat litter, resulting in a severe case of tummy upset and diarrhea.

Photo: Tonka and Uli, courtesy of the family

The next part of the plan included a baby gate to allow Uli in and keep Tonka out and the training started again. Because Tonka is a French bulldog, he could not jump over the gate and Uli could. Uli used the training device until too many training rings were removed. Then he rebelled by using the bathtub as a litter box.

So what went wrong? My friend called the CitiKitty helpline and after some discussion with them, thinks he possibly rushed Uli by taking the rings out too fast. He is going to try again when his travel schedule allows him to be home to monitor the situation. Perhaps Uli should have had more positive reinforcement with a special tasty treat during the training process, as CitiKitty recommends.

But why all this fuss? What’s wrong with an old-fashioned litter box? In places like New York City, space is tight and having your cat use the toilet means you don’t need a litter box taking up valuable space in your apartment. Pregnant women should not scoop cat litter and this is an easy way to eliminate that task from the to-do list. Clay litter is very dusty and may contribute to respiratory problems in some cats and definitely contributes to landfills, making a potty trained cat a green cat.

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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.


Preventing Foodborne Infections in Pets

June 13, 2011

Foodborne illness has been in the news all week. First, the massive multi-country European outbreak of E. coli has sickened over 1,000 people and killed more than 20.

Closer to home, the United States Food and Drug Administration notified consumers of multiple recalls due to possible salmonella contamination in pig ear treats and a raw diet for cats. This type of news has veterinarians, including us at The Animal Medical Center on alert for illness possibly related to food.

Food and water can become contaminated with salmonella and E. coli bacteria if they come in contact with fecal material or if the processing plant is contaminated. Cooking readily destroys both of these bacteria. Neither of the recalled pet products was cooked. One was a diet designed to be fed raw, and pig ears are frozen and dried, but not cooked.

Both salmonella and E. coli are enteric bacteria and are commonly spread when contaminated food and water are ingested. Ingestion of salmonella or E. coli contaminated food or water can result in gastroenteritis, fever and abdominal pain in both humans and pets.

How can pet owners protect their pets and themselves? The June 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association offers suggestions on safe feeding practices. I have summarized them here.

  • Avoid feeding raw food diets.
  • Avoid purchasing bulk pig ears, buy individual packets.
  • Return pet food to store if it is discolored or has a bad smell.
  • Store pet food according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Save packaging and product codes for pet food to facilitate identification of a recalled food.
  • Children, the elderly and immunosuppressed humans should not handle pet food and treats.
  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling pet food and treats.
  • Wash pet water and food bowls regularly.
  • Keep human and pet foods separate.
  • Discourage humans from eating pet foods and treats.

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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.


Keeping Your Cat Young

June 9, 2011

For those families adding a feline member during Adopt-a-Cat Month this June, keeping your cat young and in good health is a priority. Here are The Animal Medical Center’s top six tips to achieving purrfect health and maintaining a long life for your feline family member.

1. Give your cat a routine. Research has shown changes in feeding schedule or in caretaker can result in “illness behaviors” such as having a poor appetite, vomiting and not using the litter box. Basically, cats don’t like surprises.

2. Provide your cat with an interesting environment. Cats need climbing structures where they have a good view of the room and a window with an outdoor view. The perch should be comfortable for resting. Leave a radio on tuned to quiet music when you are away.

3. Encourage your cat to hunt. Not outdoors, but indoor hunting. Use food dispensing toys such as the FunKitty line. Keeping your cat’s brain active by having her “hunt” for her food will keep her engaged and active longer.

4. Cats may have a “hands off” personality, but when it comes to healthcare you need to be hands on, and the hands should be those of your cat’s veterinarian. Visit your cat’s veterinarian for routine health checks at least once a year and twice a year if your cat is 10 years of age or older.

5. Clean your cat’s teeth regularly. The American Veterinary Dental College and the AMC Dental Service recommend daily tooth brushing and annual cleanings under general anesthesia.

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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.


How Do You Know if Your Dog is in Pain?

June 6, 2011

I get asked this question daily by at least one worried dog owner. Since dogs can’t talk, how do we identify a dog in pain?

Jack's legs

Dogs and Pain
Sometimes identifying pain is easy. Dogs hit by a car or suffering from another traumatic injury are obviously painful. Here is a photograph of an Irish Setter, with two reasons to be in pain. The leg on the right side of the photo looks red, sore and swollen. This skin change is induced by radiation therapy used to treat a bone tumor and it will resolve now that radiation is completed. The swelling is caused by a bone tumor. Bone tumors are particularly painful and tend to cause limping, which is what clued the dog owner in to Jack’s problem. Treatment is already making him walk better.

Sylvie after back surgery

Back Pain in Dogs
A dog with a slipped disc in the back (intervertebral disc disease) typically cries and whines, without external signs of injury, but the dog owner can readily determine there is a pain problem. Sylvie, shown here after her back surgery, came toThe AMC because her owners noted her crying when they picked her up. Later, they noticed she was having difficulty walking. Examination at The AMC identified her back as the source of the pain and she had surgery to remove the disc and relieve the pain.

Signs of Subtle Pain
Extreme pain is reasonably easy to identify; subtle pain may not be so easy to spot. With hospitalized patients, we look for changes in the sleep-wake cycle, a decrease in appetite or poor grooming habits. We also watch how the dog sits or lays in its cage. Painful dogs may hide in the back of the cage or sit in a strange fashion to protect a painful area of their body. Licking, rubbing or scratching a particular area of the body may also indicate a painful area. Whining and crying are not reliable pain indicators, but we monitor these behaviors in our hospitalized patients in case they indicate pain in a particular individual.

If you think your animal is in pain, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. In the past few years, new drugs to treat pain have been developed for dogs. Keep in mind, painful animals are typically frightened and even the most docile pet can bite when handled if it is experiencing severe pain. If your dog is injured and needs transportation to the ER, consider using a muzzle, or if you don’t have one, a necktie to gently tie his muzzle closed while he is handled because you don’t want to have to go to the ER too.

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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.


Prescription: A Cat and a Cardboard Box

June 2, 2011

June is Adopt a Cat Month. Since I am hoping many cats will be getting new homes this month, I am going to devote my Wednesday blogs in the month of June to cat issues to help new cat owners raise healthy happy cats.

“She’s not eating,” wailed one of my cat owning clients the other day on email. This cat has a complicated set of problems, all of which could decrease her appetite. Later that morning, we examined the cat and could find no specific reason for her not to be eating. Blood tests were A-OK, but she seemed more anxious than usual.

Valium, Prozac, Xanax? No, I prescribed a cardboard box, nothing fancy, a generic Staples copy paper box. I sprayed the box with Feliway® and set my little friend up in a quiet cage with a plate of food, a water bowl and the open side of the box facing the back of the cage.

All day long she relaxed, safely hidden from prying eyes, and snacked on her plate of food until it was licked clean. At the end of the day, I sent the box home with the owner.

Why a cardboard box? Cats are mostly solitary creatures who like their privacy. When they are ill or upset, privacy is even more important to them. Providing a safe place for them to hide… and eat, is just one way we humans can improve their environment. Feliway is another.

Feliway is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring substance called a pheromone. Pheremones are produced by the cat’s body and serve as a chemical signal to other cats. The signal induced by Feliway is one of comfort and reassurance, just what my patient needed that day.

Would your cat be happier with a cardboard box and Feliway? Check with your veterinarian. For other great suggestions on improving your cat’s (and dog’s) home environment, review the great materials on the Indoor Pet Initiative website.

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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.


Spring Allergies in Dogs

May 23, 2011

Spring finally has come to New York City. I know because of the springtime changes I see. No, I don’t mean the daffodils, tulips, flowering trees or the verdant carpet of grass in Central Park , nor the return of the robins, Yankees or Mets. It is the phone calls from the owners of Willie, Coco, Willa and Roman who have noticed their dogs licking, scratching and chewing at themselves and shaking their heads due to itchy ears.

Signs of an Allergy
Dogs that are licking, scratching and chewing at themselves likely have allergies to something in the environment, a common disorder in dogs. One of the major pet insurance companies in the United States reported the top claims for 2010. The top three in dogs were all related to allergies: ear infections, skin allergies and skin infection/hotspots.

Types of Allergies
Your dog can be allergic to the same allergens you are – seasonal ones such as fleas, mold and pollen from trees, flowers and shrubs. Dogs also suffer from non-seasonal allergies to dust mites or feathers. And poor Roman has been diagnosed with being allergic to cats! This time of year we suspect seasonal allergies, but if the scratching and itching continue into the winter months, then we worry about year round allergies.

Treating Allergies
If your dog has seasonal allergies, frequent bathing with soothing shampoos and medicated rinses often help, especially after weekend romps in the park. If your dog develops a skin or ear infection as a sequel to her allergies, your veterinarian can evaluate an ear or skin swab and determine the proper medication to remedy the situation. Sometimes antihistamines or steroids are prescribed to help control the itch.

Seeking a Veterinary Dermatologist
When the allergies are present year round or are not controlled by the methods described above, a veterinary dermatologist can perform special testing to determine the allergen(s) causing the problem. Two types of allergy testing are available for dogs: a blood test and intradermal testing (the skin prick test your allergist may have used on you). The veterinary dermatologist will determine what test is best for your dog. Most dogs are allergic to more than one thing and a custom allergy vaccine can be created for them based on the test information. You give your pet small volume injections under the skin to decrease the immune system’s response to the allergen, and over time the itching, scratching and associated skin and ear infections subside.

If your dog is scratching more this spring or seems to always have an ear infection, maybe he has allergies. See your veterinarian for advice on management and follow the directions closely to avoid a serious hotspot or ear infection this spring.

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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.


The Second Annual NYC Pet Show

May 19, 2011

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus with Meteorologist Ron Trotta & Scmitty the Weather Dog

If you are in the New York metropolitan area, I have a great weekend activity tip for you: check out the NYC Pet Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, from 12 noon-5 pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

This event is fun for the whole family, including the furry members of the family. Leashed pets are welcome and will have a great time testing all the latest pet products. The humans attending will love listening to the expert speakers in addition to having a great opportunity to network with other dog and cat lovers. Schmitty, the weather dog, who was at The Animal Medical Center to broadcast with me on Monday will have her own booth.

During the course of the show there will be expert presentations throughout the course of the afternoon. On Saturday, my friend Charlotte Reed will give her view on “What You Need to Know to Have a Pet in NYC” and Bill Berloni, of Theatrical Animals, will let you in on his secrets training animals for Broadway shows.

Sunday yours truly will present “Why is the vet pushing on my pet: Demystifying the Wellness Exam” at 12:15. My presentation will be followed by members of Rescue Ink who will talk about the animals they have rescued. Rescue Ink’s members are tough talking tattooed bikers with a big soft spot for animals. While I like their mission, I am partial to the temporary tattoos offered by my friends at Angels on a Leash — a cute little purple dog with a heart of gold. One of my dog patients is a volunteer with this great organization.

In addition to seeing new products, attendees will be able to see some pet products I have highlighted in previous blogs. Both Pioneer Pet Products and GoPet will be at the NYC Pet Show. I highlighted the Feng Shui water fountain and the self powered exercise wheel in my holiday gift blog. CityKitty, who makes tasty low calorie bonito tuna flake treats will also be there for those pets watching their weight.

If I have convinced you to go attend the NYC Pet Show, “Tales from the Pet Clinic” and AMC blog readers will receive a $5 discount on their tickets by using the special promotional code AMC, when buying their tickets online. See you at the show!

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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.


10 Reasons to Go to the Pet ER Now!

May 16, 2011

Although I regularly share pet healthcare information on the AMC blog, I also like to remind readers that this information is not a substitute for a vet visit. You should always contact your veterinarian in an emergency. In case you are unsure as to what constitutes a pet emergency, here are my top ten reasons to take your pet to the ER (in no particular order):

1. Vomiting or diarrhea — not the run of the mill variety, but more than 2 or 3 times in an hour or if it is bloody. If the retching is unproductive in a dog with a distended abdomen, worry about bloat.

2. Red eye, runny eye or an eye injury. The littlest eye injury can quickly turn into a big problem.

3. Ingestion of a possible toxin, such as antifreeze (ethelene glycol), rat poison, human medications or a toxic plant.

4. Difficulty breathing or excessive coughing. Your dog might hold her head and neck extended to get more air or your cat might start breathing through his mouth.

5. Traumatic event such as being hit by a car or falling from a window. On the outside your pet might look fine, but internally may have suffered a serious injury.

6. Straining to urinate, especially if no urine is being produced.

7. Collapse, loss of consciousness or a possible seizure. Early intervention could prevent another one of these frightening episodes.

8. Bleeding from anywhere: a cut, a torn toenail or serious bruising under the skin.

9. An acute allergic reaction, especially if it involves swelling of the face and could compromise breathing.

10. Just to show the ER doctors how much better your pet is feeling and to thank them!

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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.


Summer Safety for Pets

May 13, 2011
As the weather warms up, we spend more time outdoors with our pets. Everyone is happy for the fresh air and sunshine. But are you and your pet prepared? Here are The Animal Medical Center’s suggestions for a safe summer.

All Pets Need Double ID

A loud noise, a thunderstorm or a careless barbeque guest, and your pet could escape the house or yard unnoticed. Research has shown only 20% of dogs and 2% of cats in animal shelters are reunited with their families. Make double sure your pet comes home by having your veterinarian implant a microchip and always have your pet wear a collar with an ID tag.

Open Windows Need a Screen

Every summer, the AMC’s emergency room sees cats that have fallen or jumped out of apartment windows onto the street, garden or in pursuit of a pigeon on the fire escape. So many fall, we have a name for it — high rise syndrome. Cats typically fracture their wrists, lower jaw and rupture their lungs. Most cats survive, but not all.

High rise syndrome is a completely preventable injury with a trip to your local hardware store for window screens.

Sadie and the BreezeGuard/Photo: MuttManagers LLC

Dogs are less likely to fall or jump out of an apartment building window, but will jump out of car windows. MuttManagers manufactures a customizable screen for your car’s windows. Your dog can feel the wind in his ears while you drive, but the sturdy screen keeps him safe inside. Best of all, the window still closes with the screen installed.

Don’t Let Your Pet Roam

With the pet obesity epidemic, we all want our pets to exercise more, but pets on the loose have a greater risk of automobile injuries, contracting infectious diseases, getting lost and irritating your neighbors. Tying your dog to a long lead may be disastrous, since tethered dogs left alone in a yard are more likely to bite humans. A traditional fence will confine your dog, but may not be so successful with your cat.

Harry with his Invisible Fence collar/Photo: Philip Fox, DVM

My patient, Harry, left, loved to chase squirrels, deer and the occasional skunk. So his family got him an Invisible Fence to keep him close to home. In this photo he is sitting in the garden, wearing his special collar which first emitted an audible warning sound, and if Harry went too far, the collar gave an unpleasant but safe electric shock to teach him to stay within the fence boundaries. It takes about 10-14 days training for a dog to learn his boundaries. Invisible Fence technology can also be used with cats, who I am pleased to say learn it faster than dogs do! Other safety applications of the Invisible Fence include teaching a pet to avoid potentially dangerous areas in the home or yard, such as a garden with toxic plants, the garage with antifreeze, swimming pools, and terraces which might result in high rise syndrome.

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For more great pet safety and wellness information, please join the Animal Medical Center’s Junior Committee for PAW Day 2011: Pet and Wellness Fun, a health fair for families and their pets! Sunday May 15, 2011, 9am –12 noon, featuring AMC veterinarians, information on preventative care, children’s area with Spot the dog, pet safety information, and much more! For more information or to make a contribution, please call 212.329.8660 or visit http://www.amcny.org.

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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.


Pet Oncology Primer

May 9, 2011

The other day in the oncology clinic at The Animal Medical Center, I saw a new patient and managed inadvertently to upset the owner. Her veterinarian diagnosed a “tumor” in her dog and when I asked her how long her pet had “cancer,” she burst into tears. To her, “tumor” implied a benign and curable disease, and “cancer” was a diagnosis that indicated something much worse.

I decided to look up the meanings of these words so I would not upset any new clients in the future as I discussed the conditions of their pets with them. For sources, I used the readily accessible websites, Wikipedia and Dictionary.com. I also got out my dusty copy of Dorland’s Medical Dictionary to be the ultimate source if there was question or conflict between the two websites.

Arrow points to an ulcerated mammary gland carcinoma in a cat.

A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells. The word tumor is derived from the Latin word meaning swelling. Neoplasm is another generic term which, like tumor, does not imply abnormality is benign or malignant. In essence, a lump is a tumor.

Tumors or neoplasms can be benign or malignant. Benign is typically defined by what it is not, rather than what it is. Benign tumors are not invasive and do not disseminate throughout the body (metastasize). Benign tumors typically carry a good prognosis for recovery. Adding the word malignant to the word tumor indicates a growth is invasive into the surrounding tissue or is expected to spread to various sites within the body. Common sites for metastasis are the lung and lymph nodes. Most typically think of malignant as being the modifier for tumor. Malignant may be used as a modifier for a non-cancer medical term meaning a very severe and potentially fatal form of a condition, such as malignant hyperthermia or malignant hypertension.

Arrow points to enlarged lymph nodes from lymphoma in a dog.

In all my sources, cancer was synonymous with malignant. Veterinary oncologists talk about three main types of malignancies in dogs and cats: sarcomas, carcinomas and hematopoietic tumors. The cutaneous mast cell tumor is a common canine example of a sarcoma. Like people, both cats and dogs can develop breast cancer, an example of a carcinoma. Lymphoma is the most common hematopoietic tumor in dogs and cats. In dogs, lymphoma occurs in the lymph nodes and in the cat, in the intestine.

Even though I am an oncologist by training, I never want any pet or person to have cancer. But now I will be clearer in my choice of vocabulary when discussing the nuances of tumors and cancer.

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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.


You Learn Something New Everyday…About Pet Food

May 5, 2011

Pet food is important to pet lovers since we all want to feed our pets a diet which will help to keep them healthy family members for as long as possible. Many veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center prescribe special diets as part of the treatment for medical conditions. Research into various disease states has resulted in the development of “prescription diets” to meet the nutritional needs of pets while treating a medical condition.

Heart diets have lower sodium, joint diets contain ingredients to promote healthy joints and other diets are easily digestible for pets with gastrointestinal problems. These diets are an important part of many medical interventions. In fact, kidney-friendly diets have been shown to prolong survival in pets with kidney disease.

One of my patients, a French bulldog being treated for allergies, eats a Royal Canin novel protein diet composed of duck and potatoes. He has responded well to this diet and scratches much less when than when he was eating a regular dog food. His owner called me a day or so ago because the bag design had changed. The label said the food was the same, but when the bag was opened the nuggets were a different color.

I called the veterinary hotline staffed by customer service representatives of Royal Canin to check and be sure the food was really the same inside the bag since the outside had changed. The very helpful staff confirmed the food is being made in the same plant and the only change to the recipe was an increase in some vitamins to improve coat health. They also mentioned other consumers had called because of the color change in the food. According to the representative to whom I spoke, there is seasonal variation in the color of the duck meat and potatoes used to formulate the diet. This most recent batch was lighter than usual.

If you have a question about your pet’s food, check the label on the bag. Most pet food companies have a consumer hotline and, as I found out, they can be very helpful. Or call your veterinarian. They are a wealth of information and already know your pet’s medical issues. For tough nutritional issues, your veterinarian may suggest you consult a board certified veterinary nutritionist.

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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.


Melanoma Monday: May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011

The term “Melanoma Monday” is a service mark of the American Academy of Dermatology and seeks to promote awareness about melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer in humans. Melanoma is one of the diseases humans share with animals – so I thought I would take this opportunity to alert dog owners about melanoma in dogs and point out the similarities and differences to the human disease.

Canine oral melanoma

Canine melanoma occurs in different locations than the disease does in humans. The most malignant form of the disease occurs in the mouth and toes. Unlike humans, where skin melanomas are commonly malignant, skin melanomas in the dog are often benign. The circle in the photograph on the right is a malignant melanoma of the gum just below one of the large back teeth.

Dogs with a melanoma, or any other tumor of the oral cavity, often have severe halitosis. The family might notice blood tinged saliva or a reluctance of their dog to carry toys in his mouth. Oral tumors such as melanoma can be painful and a dog with an oral tumor may suddenly refuse to eat dry dog food or dog biscuits.

X-ray of a toe melanoma. Note the swelling (white arrow) and destroyed nail (red arrow).

Melanoma of the toe typically starts at the junction of the nail and the toe. You might notice your dog licking at the toe or a swelling at the junction. A broken nail, without preceding injury, may signal the need for an evaluation by your veterinarian as tumors can weaken the nail and allow a spontaneous break.

As with humans, an early diagnosis of this disease often leads to a much better diagnosis. Teach your puppy to let you open his mouth so you can identify any oral abnormalities. Bad breath, reluctance to eat and blood tinged saliva might not necessarily indicate the presence of a tumor, but may indicate dental problems which may also need to be treated. In either case, your veterinarian should see your dog immediately. Toe swellings, pain or nail problems should also provoke a visit to the veterinarian as early diagnosis and treatment with surgery, radiation and a melanoma vaccine clinically tested by the Animal Medical Center oncology team can save your dog’s life.

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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.


Hairballs Can be Dangerous!

April 28, 2011
Friday, April 29th is National Hairball Awareness Day and I have the poster patient for this disorder. Sunshine looks just like her name, a sunburst of calico color on one very charming cat.
 

Photo: Rachel Bob

So how did she get to be the poster patient for National Hairball Awareness Day? A hairball nearly killed her.

Sunshine has been a patient of The Animal Medical Center since last summer and is under treatment for a fairly common form of intestinal cancer. One night, her owner came home and could not find Sunshine. When she did, Sunshine was hiding and refused to eat dinner. Her owner brought her straight to the AMC Emergency Room.

This is Sunshine’s abdominal x-ray; the black circle outlines a gigantic fluid-filled stomach. The black arrows point to just a few of her gas-filled intestinal loops. AMC’s radiologist, Dr. Anthony Fischetti, honed in on these abnormalities immediately and diagnosed an intestinal blockage. We were worried the blockage was due to a recurrence of the tumor, but we couldn’t be sure with the information we had.

The same night, Sunshine had an emergency exploratory surgery by Dr. Courtney Ikuta of the AMC’s Surgery Service. Boy was she surprised to find a hairball lodged in Sunshine’s intestine as the cause of the blockage!

Hairball obstruction is very uncommon, although a couple of medical issues might have contributed to this dangerous hairball. Sunshine receives chemotherapy bi-weekly. Her haircoat appears normal, but she probably has more hair loss than the average cat. Her cancer is responding well to treatment, but her intestines are not normal and may not have been able to handle the excess ingested hair. Finally, Sunshine has just been diagnosed with an even rarer condition than a hairball obstruction, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. She doesn’t make adequate digestive enzymes, contributing to a buildup of hair.

So in honor of National Hairball Awareness Day, brush your cat, use a deshedding tool and give plenty of hairball reducing treats.

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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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