Summer Noise Phobias

July 5, 2011

Lovely weather, summer holidays and a relaxed atmosphere make summer everyone’s favorite season – everyone except for dogs with noise phobias. Fireworks and thunderstorms create unexpected loud noises, frightening to many dogs and cats as well. The veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center see dogs and cats injured and lost over the Fourth of July weekend as a result of their noise phobias.

Signs of noise phobia:

Destructive behavior

  • Scratching/digging at door or wall
  • Chewing
  • Loss of housebreaking

Anxious behavior

  • Clinging to owner
  • Drooling
  • Hiding, especially cats
  • Panting
  • Expressing anal glands
  • Dilated pupils

Abnormal behavior

  • Skipping meals
  • Jumping out of windows/running out of doors
  • Shaking
  • Loss of training, i.e., not responding to commands

Home Remedies
Consider trying home remedies for noise phobia. One of my patients with thunderstorm phobia calms down if her owner wipes her fur down with a dryer sheet. Dryer sheets may decrease the buildup of static electricity caused by the impending thunderstorm. I suggest the unscented ones, since dogs don’t like smelling like an ocean breeze. Anxious dogs may feel calmer during storms or fireworks if you apply a dab of lavender oil to their ear tips. The lavender oil fragrance has calming properties and is available at health food stores and on the internet.

Noise Phobia Products

  • Along the lines of the antistatic dryer sheet is the Storm Defender Cape which has a special lining to diffuse static electricity.
  • The Thundershirt is a snug fitting dog T-shirt which some of my dog owners have used for anxiety related to car rides, veterinarian visits, as well as thunderstorms.
  • An interesting product I found is dog ear muffs, but I don’t have personal experience with them.

For additional tips on managing fireworks phobia in dogs read a previous blog, “Fireworks and Your Dog.”

If you need professional help managing noise phobias in your pet, a behavioral consult with a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists can help set your dog or cat on the road to recovery.

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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.


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.


Holiday Gifts for Your Pets

December 6, 2010

When shopping for the holidays, don’t forget a gift for the cat or dog in the family. To help the harried shopper, the specialist veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center have teamed up to create a holiday gift list for pets using ideas from the Pet Socialite’s “No Place Like Home” Pet Expo on November 9 in New York City. A member of the AMC staff has carefully selected each gift with a different health issue in mind. Everyone at The AMC hopes you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season. Be sure to review our holiday safety tips for pets.

From the Neurology Service and the Rehabilitation & Fitness Service: Surprise your dog with a bad back and a weak hind end by ordering a large roll of yoga mat. Trim the yoga mat to fit your slippery hallway and turn it into a non-skid walkway for your dog with bad back legs. As an added bonus, the mats come in many colors to match your décor or mood.

Photo: Pioneer Pet Products, LLC

AMC’s Renal Medicine Service is always prescribing more water for their feline patients with bladder problems. If the prescription for your cat is to drink more water, try a water fountain. Many cats find the bubbling water more attractive than still water in a bowl and will increase their water consumption with the fountain. Shown here is a Feng shui fountain. Even if your cat won’t drink from it, maybe his litter box use will improve just with a better flow of qi.

Photo: Jax and Bones

Selecting the correct chew toy for your dog is critical. AMC’s Dentistry Service recommends avoiding hard nylon toys and the Gastroenterology Service recommends avoiding real bones since they often lodge in the intestinal tract and cause serious problems. For a safe chew, consider these holiday themed toys from Jax and Bones. Colored with vegetable dyes and graded according to the “Chomp Chart,” these delightful toys can be wet and frozen to entertain chewers for hours.

Photo: Go Pet LLC

Is your pooch a weekend warrior who doesn’t exercise Monday-Friday? Weekday couch potatoes are prone to sports injuries. Keep your dog in tip top shape all week and avoid the need to see one of AMC’s orthopedic surgeons for a knee repair by exercising your dog everyday. The self-powered exercise wheel shown below is an in-home method of exercising your dog and a great addition to the family’s home gym.

AMC’s Dermatology Service frequently prescribes a t-shirt for their itchy patients. The t-shirt prevents excessive licking and scratching while your pet’s skin heals. How about having your pet recover in style with this cute t-shirt from Sexy Beast: Canine Style Unleashed.

Photo: Sexy Beast

Pills, pills and more pills — AMC’s Internal Medicine Service is a big prescriber. Diligent pet owners make charts, calendars and post it reminders and still have a hard time remembering to give medication. How about simplifying the system with a glow cap reminder system by Vitality GlowCap? The special lid has connection to a wireless network and fits on a regular pill bottle. A missed dose sends a text message or phone call as a reminder. You can even send a reminder to another family member who can give the missed medication.

Photo: Doggles

Your dog only has one set of eyes and AMC’s Ophthalmology Service wants to protect them. These sport glasses designed with dogs in mind, keep out sun, are shatterproof and protect eyes from flying debris if your dog rides in a open car, a pickup bed or the sidecar of a motorcycle.

The entire AMC staff hopes for a safe new year for all pets. To be prepared in case your cat or dog gets lost, be sure they have both a microchip and a collar with ID tags. Neither is a foolproof method of identification, so use both to make sure your pet is home for the holidays.

And the entire AMC staff hopes for a healthy new year for all pets. To be prepared in case your new year comes with an illness or injury, consider purchasing an insurance policy for your favorite dog or cat. Having a pet insurance policy will help to ease the financial burden and let you make decisions based on good medicine and not on finances. Many different companies underwrite policies for pets, so investigate carefully to pick the best one for your family.

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

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


Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Prevention

October 4, 2010

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

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

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

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


Fireworks and Your Dog

June 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Making Difficult Decisions for Your Pet

June 7, 2010

Making certain decisions for your pet can be pretty simple. Yes, I give heartworm medication every month, because the drug is effective and much safer than treating my dog for heartworms. Yes, I know spaying my dog prevents mammary gland cancer and unwanted puppies. Yes, I keep my cat indoors to protect against cat fights, automobiles and feline leukemia virus infection. There are some decisions, however, that do not come so easily.

Recently, I spent time with a dog-owning family facing one of these tough decisions. The dog was older, but age should never be the sole criteria used to guide decision-making. The dog was in reasonably good shape until he collapsed earlier that day. Emergency evaluation discovered a life-threatening problem requiring an emergency surgery. It doesn’t get tougher than that — you’ve got your back against the wall and the clock is already ticking. Luckily for these owners and their dog, there was a surgical procedure to correct the problem, but (and there is always a “but” in these situations) the procedure was not without risks and no veterinarian could guarantee a positive outcome for the dog. Scientific research into this disease had identified four factors which decrease a dog’s chance of surviving the procedure. Unfortunately, this dog had three of the four factors. Does this information mean the dog should not be taken to the operating room? Not necessarily.

Just to illustrate the point, let me tell you about a cat and its owner I saw this week. Four years ago this cat experienced congestive heart failure, meaning his heart muscle was too weak to pump blood and fluid built up in his lungs. Sounds bad, and usually it is. Once a cat experiences congestive heart failure, the typical survival time is about one year. So why is this cat still alive four years later? Is the scientifically collected data wrong? Data gives probabilities about an outcome in a population of patients with a particular condition but cannot predict how a condition will affect an individual patient. Statistics will never tell the whole story since each pet is an individual and may respond better (or worse) than the typical pet with this condition. This lucky cat defied the odds and lived to tell about it.

So what is a pet owner to do in situations like this? First, listen to your veterinarian. Ask questions about the quality of life after the procedure, the length of hospitalization and the follow up care required. Some pets have the personality to cope with many trips to the hospital for follow up care, others do not. Some families have the time and energy to nurse a pet back to health; others do not. Only your family can determine what is right for you and your pet. Sometimes your veterinarian will give you grim statistics, but if your heart tells you not to quit or if you know your pet is not a quitter, then go forward with an informed and realistic expectation of the outcome of the procedure.

By the way, the dog with the three or four bad factors was discharged from the hospital three days after surgery. Go figure.

Sometimes, even after you speak with your veterinarian, you are still confused about what to do. Maybe your friends and family are giving you conflicting advice. Perhaps you have concerns you feel are too private to share with most people. You may need more time to talk things through than your veterinarian can give you. The Animal Medical Center is the only hospital in the tri-state area with a full-time counseling department. Trained social workers can speak with you by appointment, on the phone or during your pet’s visit to help you sort through your options, figure out what questions to ask, and help you decide what is right for you and your family.

If after careful consideration you decide not to pursue treatment and have chosen to let your loved one go, the Counseling staff will be with you through our pet loss services, including The AMC’s Pet Loss Support Group. To reach a counselor, call 212.329.8680. There is no charge for counseling services.

For more information about our counseling services, visit www.amcny.org/counseling. To contribute to the Counseling/Human-Animal Bond Program, visit www.amcny.org/contribute and ask that your donation go to support those services or consider joining our partnership with Margo Feiden Galleries.

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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.


Treating Pets with Acupuncture

May 24, 2010

What is acupuncture?
Developed in China over 3,000 years ago, acupuncture uses small needles inserted into specific points on the body to achieve a desired healing effect. This technique has been used in both human and veterinary patients to treat existing conditions and also to prevent new problems from arising. According to Chinese medical philosophy, disease is a result of imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and assist the body in the healing process. In Western terms, acupuncture stimulates nerves, increases blood circulation, relieves muscle spasm and releases hormones such as endorphins that aid in pain control. Further research is needed to uncover all of acupuncture’s effects and for science to fully understand how this ancient art of healing truly works.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?
In veterinary medicine, acupuncture has been most successful in treating musculoskeletal disorders, such as:
• Arthritis
• Intervertebral disc disease
• Hip dysplasia

Acupuncture may be a successful therapy for other diseases in conjunction with traditional Western medicine to treat:

• Skin problems such as allergies and lick granulomas
• Gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea and constipation
• Genitourinary problems such as chronic renal failure and urinary incontinence
• Respiratory problems such as feline asthma
• Endocrine problems such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism
• Neurological problems such as seizures
• Neoplasia such as lymphoma, mammary cancer and mast cell tumors

Is acupuncture painful?
During acupuncture treatments, your pet lies comfortably on a padded mat. The insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless, and once the needles are in place there should be no discomfort to your pet. Most animals will become relaxed or even sleepy during their treatment. Sensation varies from animal to animal and some points on the body may be more sensitive than others. Human patients describe feelings similar to tingles, cramps or numbness, which may translate to mild discomfort in some pets.

Is acupuncture safe for my pet?
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment when performed by a trained veterinarian. Side effects are rare but do exist. In the first 24-48 hours following a treatment, some animals may appear sleepy or lethargic and the condition may appear to be worse. These symptoms reflect a physiologic change brought about by the treatment and are most often followed by an improvement in your pet’s condition.

How long do treatments last and how often must they be given?
The length and frequency of treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the technique used by the veterinary acupuncturist. Stimulation of a single point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple, acute injury such as a sprain may take one treatment, while a more severe or chronic disease can take multiple treatments.

When multiple visits are necessary, they usually begin intensely and are tapered to maximum efficiency. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved (usually after 4-8 treatments), sessions are tapered off so the greatest amount of symptom-free time elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.

To learn more about acupuncture treatments and The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service, join us at AMC’s PAW Day 2010, a day of pet and wellness fun for families and their furry companions, on Saturday, June 5 from 9am-12pm in Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan.

Acupuncture at The AMC
Dr. Steven Chiros graduated from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1998 and completed an internship in 1999 at The Animal Medical Center. He is a certified veterinary acupuncturist through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and has received extensive instruction in Chinese herbal medicine. To schedule an acupuncture consultation or to make an appointment with Dr. Chiros, please call 212.329.8610.
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The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation and Fitness Service at The AMC
The only facility of its kind in New York City, The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service provides innovative and state-of-the-art therapies for cats, dogs, birds and exotic animals. The Service specializes in non-invasive therapies to prevent the need for surgery, and in cases where surgery has been performed, it helps to accelerate and achieve a more complete recovery. Therapies offered include hydrotherapy, treadmills and deep-tissue ultrasound, as well as holistic therapies such as Reiki, Acupuncture and Acupressure.

The Service is directed by a team of professionals who are experts in the rehabilitative care of companion animals, including New York City’s only Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners and Therapists.

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


Broken Teeth

February 8, 2010

Like people, our pets are prone to dental disease. Pet Dental Month, in February, focuses on the importance of controlling and preventing dental disease in our cats and dogs. Untreated dental disease is associated with both infection and pain. Recent studies in people and dogs show that untreated infection in the mouth has also been linked to infections in other parts of their bodies.

Many pets present to the veterinarian with broken teeth. Traditionally, a veterinarian might say, “it’s not bothering the dog or cat so we’ll leave it alone.” If my own dentist told me that regarding one of my own teeth, I’d be looking for a new dentist.

Identifying the Issue
How do we know if a broken tooth is painful? Dogs and cats don’t have the ability to communicate that, but often their teeth hurt in the same way that our teeth can. There are several things we can do to access the viability of a tooth that has been broken. First, if there is obvious pulp exposure, then we know that tooth is dead or is dying, depending upon how long it’s been broken. Pulp is a combination of nerves and blood vessels that live within the center of a tooth. Once the pulp is exposed to the outside world, it rapidly becomes infected and that tooth will die over several weeks to months.

When an animal is under anesthesia, there are radiographic changes that may be seen in a non-vital (dead) tooth. As we age and our teeth mature, the body constantly produces new layers of dentin along the outer walls of the “pulp chamber.” As an animal ages, the pulp chamber diameter becomes smaller and smaller. A tooth with a dilated pulp chamber as seen on x-rays indicates that that particular tooth is non-vital. Also, over time, a dead tooth may develop changes around the root of the tooth seen on x-rays called a periapical lucency (see image on left). This is an area seen around the root tip that usually represents and infection from bacteria that has invaded into the pulp chamber of the tooth, or a cyst developing from inflammation associated with the dead pulp leaking into the bone around the root of the tooth.

Any teeth with pulp exposure, dilated pulp chambers or a periapical lucency should be treated and there is a likelihood that this tooth may be painful to a pet. There are multiple treatment options, although “leaving it alone,” is not in the pet’s best interest.

Saving the Tooth
The option to save the tooth involves endodontic or root canal therapy. First the tooth is evaluated to make sure there is no concurrent disease of the tooth. This includes periodontal disease, fractures below the gum line or advanced destruction of the tooth root. The tooth root must also be mature enough to be treated with endodontic therapy. Endodontic therapy involves cleaning out the pulp chamber of the tooth with a combination of filing and flushing with a disinfectant. Next the tooth is filled with a sealant to prevent the leakage of bacteria through the canal of the tooth. Finally, a filling, or “restoration,” is placed on the opening of the tooth to also prevent bacterial leakage into the pulp chamber. If performed correctly, endodontic therapy is highly effective at salvaging broken teeth with pulp exposure. Endodontic therapy does require follow up care with dental x-rays to make sure the therapy is successful and that the restorations remain intact.

If a fractured tooth is immature, the root is not fully developed, and the fracture is very recent, then a broken tooth may be treated with a procedure called a vital pulpotomy and direct pulp capping. The goal of this procedure is to keep the tooth alive long enough to allow the tooth to mature to a point where endodontic therapy can be performed. If the fracture is not very recent, then a procedure called apexogenesis may be performed to encourage enough maturation of the tooth root to perform endodontic therapy.

Extracting the Tooth
The other treatment option is extraction therapy. This involves removal of the affected tooth. This may be relatively simple or may involve surgery, depending upon which tooth is involved. After the extraction of broken or non-vital teeth, pets are often much happier than those with these teeth left in their mouths. Extraction therapy means the function of that tooth will be lost, but once the extraction site is healed, there should be no residual pain.

Making the Right Decision
The most important issue is that our pets do not need to live with painful teeth and/or broken teeth, and therefore these decisions should not be neglected. The decision whether to perform endodontic therapy or extraction therapy should be made in consultation with a veterinarian and is often based upon several factors including the overall health and age of the patient, the ability of the patient to safely undergo anesthesia, the extent of damage to the tooth, which tooth is involved and the cost of the procedures. Leaving a fractured tooth with pulp exposure in a pet’s mouth is not considered a humane option, however.

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About Stephen Riback, DVM
Dr. Riback received his veterinary degree from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell in 1985. He was a general practitioner from 1985 until 1999 and owned the Oakdale Veterinary Hospital from 1989 until 1999. Dr. Riback has worked at the AMC since 1999, first in the Community Medicine dept. and then from 2003 in the Dentistry dept. where he studied dentistry under the mentorship of Dr. Dan Carmichael, who is the only board certified veterinary dentist in New York City.

The department of dentistry is the only full service veterinary dental practice in New York City and operates Monday through Friday at the AMC. Dr. Carmichael works on Mondays and Dr. Riback is in Tuesday through Friday. Dental procedures and oral surgeries are performed Monday through Friday.


Taking Better Care of Our Cats

January 20, 2010

It seems that cats are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to veterinary care. Research has shown that cat owners are taking their cats to the vet less often. Research sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association determined 83% of dogs see a veterinarian annually while only 64% of cats see a veterinarian annually.

Cats are medically underserved, in part because owners are unaware how sick their cat is. Cats, being the clever creatures that they are, can hide illness until it has reached catastrophic proportions.

cat-vaccineThe veterinarians at The AMC recommend annual examinations for all healthy younger cats and for senior cats (>7 years of age) twice annual examination. During the examination, your cat’s veterinarian will monitor your cat’s weight and body condition score as a measure of his/her overall health. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends the minimum database in senior cats include a complete blood count, chemistry screen, and urinalysis.  Once cats pass their 10th birthday, testing thyroid function and blood pressure are recommended. Together, you and the veterinarians will discuss your cat’s lifestyle and decide on what preventive healthcare measures are required to keep you cat in tip top condition. The preventive measures include: vaccinations, parasite prevention, behavioral interventions and nutritional recommendations. Your cat’s veterinarian may suggest testing for occult infections such as feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus and feline heartworms.

People other than just those of us at The AMC are thinking about cats and cat health too. There is an interesting new cat website (www.kittytest.com).  This website displays the frequency of important cat diseases by geographic location. The information contained in kittensthis website will help the cat owner determine how often a disease is diagnosed in their county and open the door for a risk analysis for their cat with the family veterinarian. This website is similar to, but not the same as, a registry of disease for people like the governmental vital statistics bureau. The data shown on the website is compiled from the tests performed since 2000 by only one laboratory, but it will help cat owners to know how common these diseases are in their neighborhoods and give them some information with which to open a discussion with their veterinarian. Ultimately, any medical tests and treatments should be customized to the lifestyle issues of your cat.

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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.


Does Getting Older Mean Getting Slower?

August 24, 2009

Oftentimes the owners of my older patients dismiss changes in their pet’s behavior by saying, “Well, you know he is 13.” I would like to caution all of us to think critically about the changes we are seeing in our older pets and examine the potential causes of these changes.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners classifies a senior cat as one that is older than 11 years of age and the American Animal Hospital Association defines a senior dog as one older than 6 or 7 years of age. There is great variability in the expected lifespan of dogs compared to cats and your veterinarian may not consider your dog to be senior until 9 or 10 years of age, depending on the breed. Panels of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association recommend the senior pet be seen biannually.

Weight Gain
fat-dogOlder pets tend to pack on the pounds as they age. Your Dalmatian may be sluggish because she is carrying around too much weight for her slender frame.  Pet owners who are successful with a weight loss plan often comment on how much more active their pets are after they reach an ideal body weight. Veterinarians can help you to design a safe weight loss program which includes both diet and exercise for your pet. Obesity not only slows your pet down, but is a risk factor for diabetes, arthritis, respiratory disease, urinary tract disease and, worst of all, a shortened lifespan.

Arthritis
Slowing down may be a clinical sign of arthritis. Arthritis brings to mind the limping Lhasa or the achy Afghan, but did you know arthritis is commonly under-diagnosed in cats? Diet change, weight loss and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, specifically developed and tested in pets, can completely revert your arthritic pet’s personality back to normal.

Dental Problems
persian-catTooth problems can also slow your pet down too. When a pet experiences pain, it often causes a pet to be quieter than usual and dental pain is no different. An oral examination should be part of a complete physical examination. Removal of plaque build up, extraction of diseased teeth and treatment with antibiotics may be necessary to bring your Persian with a pout back to its usual vigorous self.

Cancer
When some types of cancer occur in a senior pet, the only clinical sign seen by the pet owner is a general decrease in activity. The decrease in activity may be due to pain or may be due to the growth of the cancer. Internal cancers, such as those of abdominal organs, lungs or nasal passages are types that can progress undetected, with the only sign being general malaise in your pet. Your veterinarian my recommend diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays, an ultrasound or CT scan to detect a possible cancer.

So remember, age is not a disease. Be sure to have your senior pet checked on a regular schedule and whenever your Abyssinian is apathetic.

To make an appointment for your pet, please call The Animal Medical Center’s appointment desk at 212.838.7053.
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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.


Traveling Internationally with Your Pet

August 17, 2009

By Deirdre Chiaramonte, DVM, DACVIM, The Animal Medical Center

intl-travel2The key to successful international travel is to start planning early. First, review the pet policies of your foreign destination and call the consulate at least a year in advance to determine what vaccinations, blood tests and paperwork are required for your pet to successfully enter a foreign country. Regulations change unexpectedly and you should check with the consulate frequently to prevent a last minute rule change from thwarting your carefully planned trip.

For example, prior to 2002, travel to the United Kingdom was prohibited unless your dog was quarantined for 6 months! Quarantine is no longer required, but travelers should anticipate an involved process requiring multiple trips to the vet for vaccinations, blood tests, microchips and deworming. A useful website for UK travel information is http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine/index.htm. There is also a helpful brochure to download called “Protecting the welfare of pet dogs and cats during journeys.” 

If you are thinking of traveling to a different hemisphere, there may be other requirements. For example, if you are traveling to Australia you need to apply for an AQIS import permit. Additionally, many countries use a ‘Pet Passport’ to facilitate pet travel. For more information, visit http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/qanda_en.htm.

Which pets should travel?
Not all pets should travel internationally. It is much safer if your dog or cat can travel under seat with you than in cargo for those long transoceanic flights. Besides geriatric dogs and dogs with chronic diseases – brachycephalic dogs, dogs with behavior issues (separation anxiety) and dogs with arthritis (staying in same position for long hours is hard on joints), also epileptic dogs should not travel  in cargo.

How to get there?
If traveling by sea, some ships have kennels, but most do not permit pets in the staterooms. Airline websites usually have their own section on pet travel rules and regulations and these sites will detail what crates they will approve for travel. Choose direct flights if possible and try to avoid the hottest or coldest part of the day to travel.

intl-travel1Label the crate (in English and the native language of the country to which you are traveling) with all identification and medical information in case you are separated from your pet due to unforeseen circumstances. Secure a photo of the pet to the crate, a copy of the medical record and some of the pet’s food so airline personnel can feed your pet in the event of an emergency. A large sticker saying LIVE ANIMALS should be placed on the crate as well. Animals should be familiar, comfortable and acclimated in their crates long before embarking on a trip. Supply your pet with a non-spill bowl for water inside the crate and line the bottom of the crate with absorbent paper.

On the day of travel, feed only a light meal a few hours before departing. Water can be frozen so it will thaw slowly and spill less or you can teach your pet to drink from a special water dispensing bottle attached to the inside of the crate. Veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center do not recommend sedatives due to possible adverse reactions and inability to react to certain situations such as take-off and landing.

Research Required
Once you have determined the travel regulations for your pet, the real research begins. You need to find pet-friendly hotels and a veterinarian who can handle emergencies at your destination. You will also need to plan for any changes in weather might affect your pet as well as determine the pooper-scooper laws at your destination.

Carry health and vaccine records, extra food, medication refills and extra copies of paper prescriptions, microchip information, extra leashes and collars and photos of the pet. You may elect to purchase a personal microchip reader to facilitate entry through customs.

Helpful websites:
www.pettravel.com
www.pettravelcenter.com
www.aphis.usda.gov

You may want to seek additional advice about international travel from a USDA accredited veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian if they hold this certification. If not, you may contact The Animal Medical Center for assistance. To make an appointment at The AMC, please call 212 838-7053.
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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.


Dog Bone Safety

June 25, 2009

During these tough economic times, we all want to give to those less fortunate. These days the gifts may not be dollars, they may be gently used items or something we can’t use ourselves. The folks at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City are doing just that, they are donating the pork bones used to make noodle broth to dogs in local shelters.

roastporkboneWhile the spirit of the gift is admirable, the gift may not be exactly right. From a veterinarian’s perspective, cooked or raw, these bones are dangerous, and potentially deadly. The veterinarians at AMC are frequently called on to remove bones stuck in the esophagus of dogs.

In 2007, the veterinarians at at The AMC published a review of 60 dogs with foreign objects lodged in the esophagus in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. All 60 dogs were seen at AMC and 46 of them had bones lodged in their esophagus. The other 14 had various toys, food objects and plastic lodged in their esophagus. Six of the dogs studied suffered from permanent esophageal damage and 3 additional dogs died from complications attributed to the esophageal obstruction.

dog-pork-boneRaw bones carry the additional animal and public health concerns. Any raw meat diet contains some risk of bacterial contamination with dangerous organisms. Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and E. coli found in raw meat may make the dog eating the food sick or may contaminate the kitchen of those preparing the raw bones for dogs and result in human illness. Dogs eating raw food diets are more likely to shed E. coli and Salmonella in their feces and contaminate the environment.

dog-chew-toyThe AMC dentistry service recommends dog chew toys with tooth safety in mind. On the no-no list are hard nylon chew toys, furry tennis balls (the fur is very abrasive to the teeth), hoof chews and compressed rawhide. They say yes to hard rubber chew toys and non-furry balls like handballs.

So hats off to everyone stepping up to help shelter animals; just be sure your gift is a safe one.
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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.


Flea & Tick Treatments: Are They Safe or Not?

June 15, 2009

You may have heard or read recent media reports about pet owners who believe their animals have experienced harmful side effects from the use of “spot on” or “top spot” flea and tick preventatives. In fact, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal states that “the number of incidents reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency which regulates these pet treatments has increased 53% over the past year.”

frontline-applicationThis statistic came from a statement issued on April 16, 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency announcing an increase in adverse event reports associated with application of EPA approved spot on flea and tick preventatives. The statement suggests that  The EPA will be intensifying its evaluation of all approved spot on products and issued an consumer advisory.

Does this mean you should stop administering the preventative to your dog or cat? Not at all, but it does mean you need to do some legwork to be your pet’s best healthcare advocate.

First, scrutinize the data. If product A has 100 adverse events reported and product B has ten adverse events reported, does that mean product A is ten times more likely to cause an adverse event than product B? Not necessarily.  The answer depends on how many doses of both products have been administered. If 100,000 doses of product A have been administered, it has an adverse reaction rate of 0.1%. If 10,000 doses of product B have been administered, it has an equal adverse reaction rate of 0.1%. 

cat-scratchingSecond, talk to your veterinarian. Have a conversation about the risks in your community of fleas and ticks carrying an infection. An urban, apartment-dwelling pet is not very likely to get ticks, but fleas can easily be transmitted in a carpeted apartment building hallway.  During this discussion, you and your veterinarian can choose the preventative for the pests most likely to affect your pet.  Your veterinarian will also know which flea and tick preventatives work best in your neighborhood. 

Finally, successful use of any medication requires you to follow the manufacturers guidelines and flea and tick preventatives are no different. In fact, the EPA reports the majority of adverse event occur because the pet owner does not follow the manufacturer’s guideline for use of the products. These guidelines are developed with your pet’s health and safety in mind.

This announcement involves only the spot on flea and tick preventatives under the jurisdiction of the EPA. Some flea and tick products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. For additional information and a list of EPA regulated products, visit these sites:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/prodname-reg.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html

The EPA suggests the following resources:
• The National Pesticide Information Center has collated information for consumers in the Least Toxic Pest Control Guide
• Less-Toxic Product List, a resource guide by Our Water, Our World

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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.


Holistic Rehabilitation Therapies for Pets

April 14, 2009

As the acceptance and demand for holistic therapies in humans increases, many pet owners are seeking similar therapies for their pets as well. As a result of this increased demand, the American Veterinary Medical Association has established guidelines for veterinary acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathic and holistic treatment.

The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation and Fitness Service at The Animal Medical Center (AMC) offers a wide array of therapies for pets, including holistic approaches such as acupressure, acupuncture and Reiki.

Acupressure
acupressure-chartAcupressure is an ancient healing art using the fingers and other parts of the body to skillfully press key points (see image, right), which stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities. Acupressure uses gentle to firm pressure and integrates body work therapies, therapeutic touch, somatic work, healing imagery, energy psychology and massage therapy techniques. The goal of practicing acupressure is to restore and maintain the natural balance needed in the body to create optimal health and well-being. Some benefits of acupressure include strengthening muscles, joints and bones, increasing blood flow and reducing swelling and inflammation.

Acupuncture
The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus (needle) and pungere (to prick). Traditional Chinese acupuncture points are situated on meridians along which qi, the vital energy, flows. When these trigger points are stimulated, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of acupuncture-catblood and the body’s life force energy to aid healing. Acupuncture involves inserting fine, sterile, disposable needles into specific body parts. When these trigger points are stimulated, they release muscular tension and promote circulation of blood and the body’s life force energy to aid healing.

Acupuncture and acupressure use the same pressure points and meridians, but acupuncture employs the use of needles. Many conditions may benefit from acupuncture treatments, including orthopedic and neurological conditions. Acupuncture also stimulates the release of certain neurotransmitters like endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killers, and smaller amounts of cortisal, an anti-inflammatory steroid.

Reiki
reiki-dogReiki is a gentle, noninvasive, holistic energy healing system that yields powerful results for body, mind and spirit. Reiki is a wonderful healing tool for pain relief following surgery, easing symptoms of chronic conditions and calming an animal’s anxiety and fear.

The Rehabilitation and Fitness service offers Reiki sessions to both inpatients and outpatients. Reiki can be offered in conjunction with rehabilitation or as individual Reiki sessions.

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The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation and Fitness Service at
The Animal Medical Center
The only facility of its kind in New York City, The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service provides innovative and state-of-the-art therapies for cats, dogs, birds and exotic animals. The Service specializes in non-invasive therapies to prevent the need for surgery, and in cases where surgery has been performed, it helps to accelerate and achieve a more complete recovery. Therapies offered include hydrotherapy, treadmills and deep-tissue ultrasound, as well as holistic therapies such as Reiki, Acupuncture and Acupressure.

The Service is directed by a team of professionals who are experts in the rehabilitative care of companion animals, including New York City’s only Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners and Therapists.

The Rehabilitation and Fitness Service Staff
Deirdre Chiaramonte, DVM, DACVIM
Renee Shumway, LVT, CCRP
Taisha Gonzalez, LMT, LVT, CCRP
Shawna Sheridan, LVT

To reach the Rehabilitation and Fitness Service, call 212.329.8610 or email rehab.fitness@amcny.org.

For more information about The Animal Medical Center or to make a donation, visit www.amcny.org.


Keeping Rabbits as Pets

April 7, 2009

Rabbits have become one of the more common pets in the U.S. today. As recently as 25 years ago, rabbits were most popular around Easter (see www.MakeMineChocolate.org) and then relegated to the hutch in the backyard. No longer. Rabbits are now moving into the niche once occupied solely by cats – pets that are self-sufficient, can be litter trained, are relatively small and have a distinct personality. Of course, unlike cats, rabbits are not animals that are naturally aggressive and they rarely bite; their natural instinct is for flight when faced with potential danger.

Where Did Rabbits Originate?
jackrabbit200Rabbits that we keep as pets are descended from the European wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculi. Wild rabbits native to the U.S. are in a totally different genus, Sylvilagus, whereas the wild jackrabbit (see picture, right) is in the hare genus, Lepus. Because pet rabbits in the U.S. are never in contact with their wild counterparts of the same species, they are not exposed to many of the diseases endemic to rabbits in Europe, such as myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease.

How Many Breeds of Rabbits are There?
There are over 44 distinct rabbit breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, and other breeds are common in Europe. Rabbit lionhead-rabbitbreeds can be divided into 3 categories: small, medium and large. Small breeds include the Netherland Dwarf, Polish, Dutch, Mini Lop, Mini Rex and a newer breed, the Lion Head (see picture, left). In general, rabbits of these breeds weigh less than 5.5 lbs and tend to be quicker and sometimes a little more skittish than larger breeds. Medium breeds are the Dwarf Lop, Angora, Rex, Californian, Cinnamon, and New Zealand. These breeds generally weigh between 5.5 to 9 lbs. The very large breeds, such as the Flemish Giant and the British Giant, weigh over 9 lbs and are not as common in the U.S. as they are in Europe. Many of these breeds come in a variety of colors. In general, the lifespan of most pet rabbits ranges from 6-12 years, with the smaller breeds tending to live longer.

What Should I Feed My Rabbit?
Rabbits are easy to keep, but it is critical that they are fed a proper diet. There are 3 components to a healthy diet in pet rabbits: hay, vegetables and pellets. Hay is a necessary source of fiber, which is essential to normal rabbit rabbit-haydigestion and gastrointestinal health. The grass hays, such as timothy, brome and orchard grass, are now widely available for pet rabbits and are preferred to legume hays such as alfalfa because of the lower calcium content in the grass hays. Leafy greens and other vegetables provide fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Pellets should be fed as a balanced source of protein, fat and fiber and to provide essential minerals and vitamins that may be lacking in hay and vegetables. Timothy-based, high fiber pellets are now readily available in pet stores and online and are much healthier for adult pet rabbits than the alfalfa-based pellets formulated for commercial and laboratory rabbits. Avoid sugary treats such as yogurt drops; simple sugars are not good for rabbits and will upset the normal intestinal bacteria.

Do Rabbits Need  Checkups?
rabbit-vetAll rabbits should have a routine annual health examination in which their teeth, ears, heart, lungs and abdomen are checked. Spaying female rabbits will prevent the development of uterine cancer, which is common in intact females older than 3 years of age. Similar to cats, male rabbits are often neutered for behavioral reasons to prevent marking and aggressive or sexual behavior. As rabbits age, many tend to develop problems with overgrown cheek teeth, and twice yearly examinations may be recommended.

Signs of illness in pet rabbits are a decreased appetite, loose stool, discharge from the eyes or nose, flaky skin, constant shaking of the ears, labored breathing, reluctance to move, weight loss and blood in the urine. If any of these signs are present, you should call your veterinarian. If your rabbit has not produced stool for 24 hours or more, this could be a true emergency and a veterinarian should see your rabbit as soon as possible.

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About Katherine Quesenberry, DVM, MPH, ABVP

dr-q2Since 1984, Dr. Quesenberry has been the Service Head of the Avian and Exotic Pet Service at the The Animal Medical Center. Dr. Quesenberry has co-edited several books, including Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery, which is a best selling veterinary textbook, Avian Medicine and Surgery, and Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Pet Medicine I and II.

Dr. Quesenberry is the Scientific Editor for the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, an international journal published by the Association of Avian Veterinarians. She has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe about the medicine of birds and exotic pets.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Quesenberry, please call 212.838.7053.


Calorie Counting for Pets

March 31, 2009

fat-cat-and-dog1Now that spring is here, the dieting we promised ourselves at the start of the new year begins in earnest. We also know that to lose 1 pound per week, we need to decrease our caloric intake by 500 calories per day to equal 3,500 calories per week, the equivalent of 1 pound.

What does this mean to our furry family members? Obesity is the major nutritional disorder of both dogs and cats and we need to be concerned about the impact of excess weight on their health. Overweight pets are prone to lung problems, arthritis, bladder problems and even some types of cancer.

How does our behavior affect the weight of the family pet?
beagle-ice-cream1A golf ball sized serving of ice cream contains 73 calories. If you give your 20 pound beagle a ¼ cup serving as a treat once a week, that translates to a 1 pound increase in body weight per year. That would equal 9 pounds for an average adult man.

A ¼ cup serving of whole milk contains 38 calories. If you give your 10 pound cat a ¼ cup of whole milk once a week for a year, that translates to just over an additional ½ pound per year to its body weight. That would be 7 pounds for an average adult woman.

So, how can you avoid packing the pounds on Fluffy or Fido?  First, only 10% of your pet’s daily caloric requirement should come from treats and second, the rest of Fluffy or Fido’s daily nutrients should consist of complete and balanced pet food to ensure your pet has adequate nutrition. You might also try substituting healthy snacks in limited quantities.

Calories in 1 small Milk Bone dog biscuit = 20
Calories in 4 baby carrots = 20
Calories in level cup of air popped popcorn = 31

A 40 pound Wheaton Terrier needs about 670 calories per day.  Therefore it should have no more than 67 calories of snack per day. Sixty-seven calories is equivalent to 2.5 small Milk Bones or 12 baby carrots or 2 cups of air popped popcorn.

cat-eating1Snacks for cats are more difficult due to their finicky nature. Your 10 pound cat needs about 205 calories per day. Therefore it should have no more than 20 calories of snack per day. This is ¾ cup of air popped popcorn. For example, the label on Pounce Treats indicates 18-24 treat pieces is 10% of this cat’s daily nutritional requirement. I suggest you count out the pieces at the beginning of the day and place them in a small bowl.  Then when they are gone, you know you have used up the treat allowance for the day.

What to Do if You Think Your Pet is Overweight
If you think your pet is overweight, talk with your veterinarian who can give you advice on a proper diet and exercise program. Your veterinarian will determine if there are any other medical problems contributing to your pet’s obesity and give you advice on how fast your pet should lose weight.

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The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service at The Animal Medical Center
The only facility of its kind in New York City, The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service provides innovative and state-of-the-art therapies for cats, dogs, birds and exotic animals. The Service specializes in non-invasive therapies to prevent the need for surgery, and in cases where surgery has been performed, it helps to accelerate and achieve a more complete recovery. Therapies offered include hydrotherapy, treadmills and deep-tissue ultrasound, as well as holistic therapies such as Reiki and Acupressure.

The Service is directed by a team of professionals who are experts in the rehabilitative care of companion animals, including New York City’s only Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners and Therapists.

The Rehabilitation and Fitness Service Staff
Deirdre Chiaramonte, DVM, DACVIM
Renee Shumway, LVT, CCRP
Taisha Gonzalez, LMT, LVT, CCRP
Shawna Sheridan, LVT

To reach the Rehabilitation and Fitness Service, call 212.329.8610 or email rehab.fitness@amcny.org.

For more information about The Animal Medical Center or to make a donation, visit www.amcny.org.


How to Make Your Cat “Green”

March 10, 2009

green-catWhen Cat Fancy magazine asked me about making a cat “green,” my first thought was, “How can these fluffy balls of fun contribute to our carbon footprint?”  Cats don’t operate motor vehicles and they don’t contribute to landfill much, except for the occasional sofa shredded beyond recognition.  And, those disgusting hairballs we end up stepping on in the middle of the night are totally organic and biodegradable.

What I didn’t know was that traditional clay cat litter is not biodegradable.  It is made from clay which is strip mined making it tough on the ecosystem both coming and going.  The dust from clay litter contains substances which contribute to the development of feline lung diseases.  Furthermore, cat feces, which end up in our costal waterways, may be harming wildlife such as sea otters (delightful creatures almost as cute as cats).  It seems that there is an epidemic of Toxoplasmosis in sea otters traced back to cat feces flushed down human toilets.

Below are some suggestions to make your cat “green.”   They range from simple to creative and I think there is something for everyone. They are divided into 4 major areas: 

Food and Treats
catnip200Purchase cat food in recyclable containers – bags or cans are most commonly recyclable.  Then recycle the containers.

Grow your own cat grass and cat nip – your cat will love you and you can erase a little of your carbon footprint.

Cat Litter and Litter Boxes
Litter box issues are tough and nothing causes more friction between a cat and its owner, so if you plan a switch do it slowly and be prepared to revert to your previous litter and litter box on a moment’s notice.

Toilet train your cat.  This is a no-no if you live in a coastal region.
http://www.mingusmingusmingus.com/Mingus/cat_training.html

cat-on-toilet200Use litter from recycled materials, such as recycled newspaper
http://www.yesterdaysnews.com/?D=1102642&T=4768447

Use a biodegradable litter:
• Pine based flushable litter – This litter is specially processed to make it safe for cats. Do not use pine chips for your garden as they may not be safe. http://www.naturesearth.com/

• Corn based flushable litter
http://www.worldsbestcatlitter.com/Products/WBCL/default.aspx

• Wheat based flushable cat litter http://www.swheatscoop.com/

Make your own litter from old newspapers
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/08/diy-newspaper-cat-litter.php

Disposable litterbox – Great for travel, but may not be great for the environment so be sure it is biodegradable; no plastics

This self washing litter box has reusable pellets instead of litter.  It looks like a very cool device, but it really needs a carbon audit
http://www.catgenie.com/

bamboo-scrathing-postProtect the delicate natural environment
Keep cats inside to protect native wild birds

Put cat feces in the garbage or compost it if you live in coastal areas to protect native water species. In Australia, keep cats inside to protect native small marsupials.

Environmentally friendly products
Environmentally friendly toys

Environmentally friendly grooming products

Book on making cat toys
http://www.makeyourowncattoys.com/PeekGreenventory.html
http://www.makeyourowncattoys.com/PeekGreenventory.html

Sustainable bamboo scratching posts/cat trees
http://www.trendycat.com/?Click=42


February is Pet Dental Month: Part 3

February 26, 2009

The importance of dental care for dogs and cats.
Part 3 of a 3 part series by Stephen Riback, DVM 
Like people, our pets are prone to dental disease.  This month focuses on the importance of controlling and preventing dental disease in our cats and dogs.  Untreated dental disease is associated with both infection and pain.  Recent studies in people and dogs show that untreated infection in the mouth has also been linked to infections in other parts of their bodies.

An Explanation of Dental Costs and
Preventative Care Tips for the Pet Owner  

I am asked why the cost of veterinary dentistry is expensive.  It is true that over the past several years there has been a change in veterinary dental fees.  This is a direct result of the increase in technology that is available for the safe anesthesia and treatment necessary to practice the highest quality veterinary dentistry.  The good news is with this new technology, we can provide much better quality oral care for our pets and have them live healthier, happier lives.

intubatedcatAll dental procedures should be performed under general anesthesia.  Safe anesthesia starts with prescreening to determine the overall health of a patient.  This includes a comprehensive physical examination, blood tests and sometimes other tests such as chest x-rays, echocardiograms or electrocardiograms.  Anesthesia drugs, administration and monitoring pets undergoing dental procedures have become very sophisticated so that we can now anesthetize higher risk and older patients with a higher degree of safety.  While a patient is under general anesthesia, several vital signs are monitored to ensure the patient is tolerating the anesthesia well. Monitoring often includes an electrocardiogram, blood oxygen, expired carbon dioxide and blood pressure.  The prescreening process and administration of anesthesia is quite similar to the process used in human medicine.

dental-xrayThrough the use of intra oral x-rays, technology has also advanced to allow us to diagnose dental disease that was previously undetectable.  Many practices now use digital radiography or a computerized x-ray image.  This eliminates the need for dental films and the slow process of developing x-rays by hand.  Now, a digital sensor is placed in the patient’s mouth and the image shows up on a computer screen seconds later.  The amount of radiation necessary for digital images is only a fraction of what was used for film x-rays.  Intra oral radiography is the single most important tool for the diagnosis of dental disease. 

Many veterinary dental practices are now using “high speed” drills for use in oral surgery.  This allows us to more easily treat teeth, extract teeth and perform many oral surgeries.  As a result of all the advances in veterinary dentistry, we have an increased ability to treat the dental disease that is present with higher degrees of sophistication.  All of this adds to an increased cost of care, but the best news is that we now have pets that seem to feel much younger, happier and more energetic after being treated for dental disease.

With increased knowledge of dentistry, we are now capable if diagnosing and treating a much wider variety of dental disease.  These new therapies allow us to save teeth in many instances and help to maintain mouths with a lesser degree of oral pain.  Some of the procedures that are commonly performed include endodontic therapy (root canal therapy) for broken or dead teeth, advanced medical and surgical techniques for treating periodontal disease, orthodonture for animals whose natural bite might be causing oral pain, newer techniques for the treatment of jaw fractures and the placement of crowns on working dogs with fractured teeth.

carmichael180Part of every pet’s examination should include an oral evaluation. In the awake patient, only a limited view of the mouth is obtained, but often good enough to determine if an anesthetic exam and dental cleaning should be performed.  The veterinarian is often looking for evidence of halitosis (bad breath), calculus or tartar on the teeth, gingivitis, periodontitis, broken teeth, loose teeth, decay of the teeth, etc.  Any of these changes warrants an anesthetic evaluation and treatment.

cat-teeth_brushing2Preventive dental care at home should include daily brushing of the teeth.  Brushing less than once a day has been shown to have little positive benefits on the prevention of dental disease.  There are now diets and chews approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).  The VOHC seal of approval certifies that a dental diet or product will decrease plaque and tartar accumulation on teeth.  Annual oral exams performed by your veterinarian can help screen for dental disease and annual prophies are recommended to minimize plaque and tartar build up.  Keeping the teeth clean is the best way to prevent periodontal disease and keep our pets healthier and happier.

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About Stephen Riback, DVM
dr-riback125Dr. Riback received his veterinary degree from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell in 1985.  He was a general practitioner from 1985 until 1999 and owned the Oakdale Veterinary Hospital from 1989 until 1999. Dr. Riback has worked at the AMC since 1999, first in the Community Medicine dept. and then from 2003 in the Dentistry dept. where he studied dentistry under the mentorship of Dr. Dan Carmichael, who is the only board certified veterinary dentist in New York City. 

The department of dentistry is the only full service veterinary dental practice in New York City and operates Monday through Friday at the AMC.  Dr. Carmichael works on Mondays and Dr. Riback is in Tuesday through Friday.  Dental procedures and oral surgeries are performed Monday through Friday.  To make an appointment, cal  212.838.7053.


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