Suffocation Risks for Pets

pet suffocation

Last week I noticed a recall on a pet water dispenser from the popular furniture and home accessories giant IKEA. Although I can’t quite wrap my head around how two pets could get their head caught in a water dispenser and die, IKEA is doing the right thing by recalling the product and refunding the cost of the water dispenser to prevent more tragic deaths.

Most pet owners would think suffocation is an uncommon cause of pet death, but Prevent Pet Suffocation and The Preventive Vet would argue otherwise.

Dangerous Bags
The bags supplied with snack food, pet food and treats, and breakfast cereal pose a serious risk to your pet. Even your average zipper bag can be lethal if your pet’s head becomes trapped in a bag which is impervious to air. As your pet tries to get the last chip crumb from the taco chip bag, every breath forms a tightening seal around your pet’s head, preventing her from getting oxygen. It takes only a few minutes for hypoxia and suffocation to occur.

Any Pet is At Risk
The IKEA recall warns about a danger to small dogs and cats, and the memorials to pets lost to bag suffocation show no boundaries. Most of the tributes are photographs of dogs, but all types and sizes: dogs with flat and pointy noses, big and little dogs. There are even a few cats who have succumbed to this preventable death.

Protecting Your Pet Against Suffocation

  • Don’t leave bagged food on the counter or anywhere your pet might get access to a bag
  • When disposing of empty chip, cereal, and zipper bags, cut off the closed end to open the bag and allow airflow if your pet finds the bag in the trash
  • Consider transferring food to plastic containers rather than storing them in bags
  • Be extra vigilant when you and your pet visit friends who might have bagged food unsafely stored
  • Use trash cans with locking lids
  • Alert your guests to the risk of bagged food or empty food bags
  • Sign up for pet product recalls and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations if you own a product that is recalled. A couple of suggestions are @AVMARecallWatch on Twitter and PetMD Recalls.

Summer Tips for You and Your Pet

Here are a few tips for keeping your pets safe and healthy this summer!

 

5 second rule
Photo: Moon Valley Canine Training

5 Second Rule
Here’s a 5 second rule you may not have heard of: if it’s a hot day, place the back of your hand on the pavement. If you can’t hold it there comfortably for 5 seconds then it’s too hot for walking your dog! The solution? Take your dog for a walk in the morning and evening when it’s cooler to avoid burnt paws and discomfort.

 

 

July 4th Fireworksfireworks and pets
Humans may love a good parade and fireworks to celebrate the summer, but our pets? Not so much. Dogs aren’t the only ones who get frightened during by fireworks, cats may also be afraid of loud noises. Get tips for keeping your pet safe and happy.

 

 

fleas & ticksFleas & Ticks
What do trips to the beach, long hikes, and backyard adventures have in common? They all put you and your pet at risk for ticks! Read an AMC blog post about ways to keep fleas and ticks away from your home.

 


Travel

pet travelTime to use up those vacation days and plan a getaway! But what about your pet? Make sure you have a reliable pet sitter who is available to watch your pet while you’re away or plan in advance for your pet to join you. Learn more about traveling with your pet and register today for our upcoming pet travel event in August!

Heatstroke

heatstroke

It’s that time of year when the Animal Medical Center’s ER prepares to see dogs and cats with heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the ambient temperature overwhelms the body’s cooling mechanisms. Both heat and humidity contribute to the development of heatstroke. When humidity is high, pets cannot cool themselves by panting, a form of evaporative cooling. When the air is full of water, evaporation from panting occurs slowly and cannot keep the body temperature in a safe range.

Too Hot
The normal body temperature of dogs and cats is 100-102°F. AMC’s ER does not become concerned when a fever is as high as 104 or 105°F. Heatstroke is a body temperature 106-108°F. When the body gets that hot, multiple organs begin to fail.

Hot Pets
While heatstroke can happen to any pet, certain dogs are at greater risk. Snub-nosed dogs are unable to use evaporative cooling via panting as well as dogs with longer noses, and thus are a greater risk of developing heatstroke. Dark-coated dogs, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, overweight dogs, and those not acclimated to the heat are also at increased risk.

Heatstroke Symptoms
Hot skin, vomiting, panting, distress collapse, incoordination, and loss of consciousness are all indicators of heatstroke. If your pet is developing heatstroke, you will notice nonstop panting, hot, red skin and weakness. This may progress to incoordination, collapse and loss of consciousness. At the first hint of heatstroke, head to your local animal ER.

Head to the Animal ER
If you suspect heatstroke, go immediately to the closest animal ER, do not delay. Experts say trying to cool your pet off on your own wastes valuable time. But, if on your way out the door you can grab ice packs or frozen food from your freezer, put the frozen food on your pet in the car on the way to the ER.

Heat Injury
The extent of illness may not be apparent upon arrival in the ER. Heatstroke is a multi-organ system disorder. Pets experience circulatory shock from fluid loss from panting. Heat damages normal tissues like the brain and other vital organs. Damaged brain neurons cannot be replaced and may result in cognitive decline following an episode of heatstroke. Abnormalities in blood clotting and kidney function may not become apparent until hours after arrival in the ER.

Tips to Prevent Heatstroke
Preventing heatstroke is critical since data indicates half of pets suffering from heatstroke don’t recover.

1. Don’t exercise in heat of the day, only early or late. Heatstroke occurs most often in the afternoon.
2. Don’t leave pet in a hot car, even with the windows cracked. In one study, a hot car was the number one cause of heatstroke.
3. Provide access to cold water. Consider choosing a water bowl designed to keep water cool or add ice cubes to the bowl.
4. Provide shade with an umbrella or a covered kennel.
5. Try out a cooling jacket or mat.

Click for more suggestions on keeping your dog cool during the hot summer months.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Summertime Travel Tips for Pets

pet travel

Pet travel has been all over the news these past months from the changes in service animal travel regulations to the errant shipping of pets to destinations other than their planned one. Seems like there has been a new pet travel crisis reported daily. Managing pet travel from the veterinary standpoint has been challenging too. Airline travel forms are being changed so quickly that if pet families print the form a few days before their trip, the forms are no longer valid when the pet gets to the airport. Here are some tips for smoothing out the bumps in pet travel.

Travel to Rabies-Free Countries
Orchestrating travel with your pet to a foreign country can be one of the most complex organizational tasks ever involving negotiating the airline’s rules and government regulations. Rabies-free countries pose the greatest challenge as many require not only proof of rabies vaccination, but laboratory documentation of protective titers based on a blood test. Most of the rabies-free countries are island nations with complex rules about pet travel.

Although Hawaii is not a foreign country, its pet travel regulations rival those of England and Australia. I started in April working on administering the proper vaccines and submitting the blood tests for a patient of mine hoping to make a trip to Hawaii in August. The take home message here is to keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up to date and start early if you plan to fly internationally with your pet. Requirements for vaccinations other than rabies vary between countries, so be sure your pet has the required vaccines administered well in advance of travel.

Automobile Safety
The classic American vacation involves piling the whole family, including the pets, into the car and driving to the beach, mountains or a National Park. Before you load up, make sure your pet is safely secured in her seat. Pet should not be allowed to roam free in the car because in a crash, your pet becomes a free flying projectile capable of injuring a person riding in the car or sustaining severe injuries themselves. Your pet should be in a crate in the back seat or cargo area and the carrier should be secured to the child restraint loops between the seat and backrest. If your pet must sit on the seat, be sure to use a harness to prevent them from becoming a distraction when you are driving.

The Center for Pet Safety certifies products based on safety testing using animal crash test dummies. They also author independent safety standards to keep your pets safe. The Center for Pet Safety website lists products meeting their standards to keep your pets safe during a road trip vacation.

Riding the Rails
Just like the airlines, Amtrak has rules about pet travel, so be sure to read the fine print on their website before riding the rails with your pet. Your pet will need a reservation and will have to pay a fee to travel on Amtrak. The California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco is out if you are traveling with Fluffy or Fido since pets can only travel on trips less than seven hours. My current foster kittens, Nathaniel and Nino, would not be welcome on Amtrak since they are only 20 days old and pets must be eight weeks of age to travel on the train. Not all trains accept pets, so be sure to plan your travel schedule around trains accepting pet passengers.

If there is one unifying theme for pet travel it is to plan ahead. Get your pet’s travel papers in order and double check exactly which forms you need, investigate pet-friendly accommodations, and make airline reservations well in advance to ensure your pet will be allowed to board.

#PreventDogBites

dog bite prevention week

April 8-14, 2018 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week® sponsored by the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition. Although any dog can bite, this post is based on recent research into the causes of dog bite injury and is devoted to helping readers recognize situations where a bite injury is imminent. If this blog prevents even one bite injury, it will have achieved its goal.

Telltale Signs
Animal behaviorists talk about a canine body language ladder of aggression. The higher the behavior on the ladder, the level of aggressive behavior increases. Low-risk behaviors include blinking and lip licking. At the top of the ladder is biting. The rungs in between include crouching, hair standing on end, ears pinned back, yawning, tucking the tail between the legs, and spinning. Recognition of canine body language cues is critical to protection against bite injuries. A recent study of an adult’s ability to recognize these canine body language cues found adults observing child-dog interactions do not always recognize anxious or fearful dogs. Important point: be sure you monitor your dog’s interactions with children and remove her if she exhibits anxious or fearful behaviors.

Snarling = Bite Danger
In the past, bite injuries have been linked to dogs tied up on the family’s property. Veterinary researchers at Ohio State University studied the bite history of dogs confined to their family’s property by fences, tethers and electronic fences. Four percent of dogs had bitten a person in the past, and twice that number had bitten another dog. The type of confinement system was not related to a past history of biting, but dogs greeting other dogs or humans by snapping, snarling or growling were more likely to bite than dogs greeting others by sniffing or licking. Important point: protect yourself by steering clear of snapping, snarling or growling dogs.

Children at Risk
The National Trauma Data Bank contains a large amount of information on traumatic injuries. In a paper published just last month, nearly 8,000 dog bite injuries in children under 17 years of age were studied over a seven year period. One-third of the injuries were to children less than two years of age and another third were girls six to twelve years of age. Eighty percent of the bites occurred at home and by a dog known to the family rather than a stray dog. Important point: always supervise dog-child interactions as children may be too young to recognize warning signs of an impending dog bite.

Friendly Dogs Can Bite
A dog that is normally very friendly may bite if put in the right situation. Resource guarding and pain are two common reasons a friendly dog may bite. A tragic story from a local television channel reported bites to the face of a toddler who tried to take a bone away from a friendly dog. Important point: never take food away from a dog. Teach your dog the “drop it” command for the times when he picks up some undesirable treat from the sidewalk. If a friendly dog is sick, injured or painful, he may bite. Important point: if you find an injured dog, alert the authorities and let professionals transport the injured dog to a veterinary hospital.

Download a cute, informative and FREE poster on dog body language.

Poison Prevention Week 2018: 31 Admissions in 62 Days

poison prevention

Every morning at about 5 am, the Animal Medical Center’s overnight admissions list is distributed via email. The list is a fascinating snapshot of our emergency room. I have written about this list in a previous post highlighting AMC’s ER.
Since March 18-24 is National Poison Prevention Week, I have used the overnight admissions list to collate all the pets hospitalized for poisoning between December 21, 2017 and February 21, 2018. In those 62 days, 31 pets were sick enough to require hospitalization following ingestion of a toxic substance. The admissions list did not capture those pets treated in the ER and immediately discharged. Even so, the numbers tell how serious an issue poisoning is in our ER.

Every Age and Type of Pet Can Be Poisoned
The majority of hospitalizations for poisoning were dogs. I would have guessed the list would be composed of lots of silly puppies with indiscriminate eating habits. Wrong. Yes, there was a 2-month-old puppy, but the list contained several 12, 13 and 14-year-old dogs who should have known better than to eat what they did. The list also included three cats and a cockatoo.

Chocolate takes gold, while medications and marijuana tied for silver
Of the 31 pets admitted for poisoning, 11 had overindulged in chocolate. Six dogs, including a cute two-month-old mixed breed puppy and an 11-month-old poodle sniffed out their family’s marijuana stash and helped themselves to earn their spot on our ER list. Six different dogs overdosed on some form of human medication; and the most surprising to me was the dog who ate a bag of cough drops while his flu-stricken family struggled to recover from their illness.

Cats and Lilies
Only three cats were hospitalized during this time period and all three cats came to the ER because they had eaten lilies. Any form of lily, including Easter lily, tiger lily or Asiatic lily, can cause kidney failure if ingested by a cat. Happily, all three of these cats recovered and were discharged from the hospital to relieved families.

AMC’s ER has a wealth of experience in managing poisoning in pets, but many of these pets would not have required medical attention if chocolate and medication were stored carefully and floral arrangements selected judiciously.

Accidents do happen and here are the contact numbers for animal poisonings:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control
888-426-4435

Pet Poison Hotline
800-213-6680

For more in-depth information common toxicities in pets, please view a lecture by Dr. Carly Fox, staff doctor in Emergency & Critical Care at AMC.

The Horrors of Halloween: The Pet Version

halloween pets

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen. The moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween. – 19th century postcard

Although black cats are one of the spooky creatures connected with Halloween, many cats and dogs may not be as excited about Halloween as their families are. Halloween has become one of America’s premier holidays, and according to the National Retail Foundation, the total spending for the holiday in 2017 is expected to reach $9.1 billion. But have pets fallen under the magical spell of Halloween like their families have? Candy, costumes, witches and wizards can make Halloween downright frightful for pets.

Tricks Not Treats
About one-third of the money spent on Halloween goes towards the purchase of candy. But the trick or treat bags should be off-limits for pets. Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine. The amount is lowest in white chocolate and highest in dark chocolate, but any chocolate consumption is risky in pets because chocolate causes vomiting, diarrhea and hyperactivity. Some health conscious spirits distribute little boxes of raisins as an alternative to candy. But when dogs consume raisins, these healthy little snacks become tricks, not treats, and can damage your dog’s kidneys. If your dog eats sugar-free Halloween treats containing xylitol, expect a hair-raising trip to the animal ER because xylitol can be lethal in dogs.

Keep the candy cauldron out of your pet’s reach to prevent grave consequences.

Creepy Costumes
Most pets rush to the door when the doorbell rings, but the appearance of ghosts, goblins and the Grim Reaper at your door screaming “Trick or Treat” may be your pet’s version of a zombie apocalypse. Keep your pet safely confined and well away from the front door to prevent an accidental escape when unexpected apparitions startle your pet.

Of the 179 million Americans celebrating Halloween, 28 million will purchase a costume for their pet. Not all pets think dressing up is bloody good fun. Hazardous hats and tight tu-tus may turn your pet’s Halloween into a nightmare. Do a costume trial run before the big night to prevent Halloween from becoming a bad dream.

Which Witch is Pet Safe?
To create a haunting aura on Halloween, half of Americans plan to decorate their homes this year, although not all decorations are pet safe. Jack-O-Lanterns add to the eerie atmosphere of Halloween night, but the candle inside can easily set a curious cat or dog’s fur on fire. Use battery operated flickering lights in place of the traditional candles in your carved pumpkin. I love to decorate with fake cobwebs and plastic spiders. If you have cats, I don’t recommend using this scary décor since cats love to eat anything that is stringy. Strings can easily lodge in your cat’s intestine causing a blockage.

All of us at the Animal Medical Center wish you and your pets a safe and fun Howl-oween.

Pet Poisoning in the News

pet poisons

March 19-25 is National Poison Prevention Week, sponsored by the Poisoning Prevention Council. The Council seeks to educate Americans about the risks of unintentional poisoning. I think this week is a good time to remind pet families of potential hazards in the home and to help pet families protect their favorite fur baby against unintentional poisoning.

Xylitol: Not So Sweet for Dogs
The first news of pet poisoning comes from our neighbors to the north, Canada. In Saskatchewan, a handsome German shorthair pointer named Ryker helped himself to 52 pieces of chewing gum. While most think this would simply be a sticky mess, the act was life-threatening. The chewing gum contained xylitol, a substance known to cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. By the time Ryker arrived at the animal ER, he was already having seizures from low blood sugar. With prompt veterinary care, Ryker recovered, but not all dogs are so lucky. Xylitol is safe for humans, but can readily be consumed by your dog since it is an ingredient in many low-calorie products like mints, candies, peanut butter and low carb baked goods.

Pot Poisoning On the Rise
This story did not surprise me one bit since marijuana intoxication is common in AMC’s ER. Ingestion of marijuana plants, compost, trash food containing marijuana, or inhalation of marijuana smoke can affect dogs; they become glassy eyed, uncoordinated, and may be very sleepy. These dogs need intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and warming blankets to maintain their body temperature. Often, dogs intoxicated by marijuana dribble urine. Some dogs become hyperactive. Severely affected dogs may suffer seizures or become comatose requiring ventilator treatment until they regain the ability to breathe. Dogs typically recover in one to three days. Deaths from marijuana intoxication have been reported in dogs consuming concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) butter.

Lamp Poisoning?
The third news story on salt poisoning in cats was news to me. First, I had never heard of a salt lamp, but checked Amazon and found I could scroll through pages of Himalayan salt lamps in various configurations. Second, turns out that cats seem to like to like salt lamps, and since those furry gymnasts can get on your highest bookcase or into your smallest corner, they have the opportunity to lick enough lamp to develop salt poisoning. Ingestion of an excessive amount of salt in both dogs and cats results in clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, lethargy, staggering, abnormal fluid accumulation within the body, excessive thirst or urination, potential injury to the kidneys, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death if salt poisoning is not treatment immediately. Other sources of excessive salt include paintballs, homemade playdough and regular old table salt.

Prevention Accidental Poisonings in Your Pet

  • Read the labels of all food and candy you purchase to protect your dog from unintentional xylitol poisoning.
  • Securely dispose of medical marijuana waste.
  • Don’t expose pets to marijuana smoke.
  • Never use table salt to induce vomiting in your pet.

Hot Tips for Keeping Your Pet Warm During Winter Storm Niko

dog in boots

Winter Storm Niko is forecast to dump up to 10 inches of snow on the Northeast tomorrow. With blowing and drifting snow and a travel advisory issued for our area, pet owners are looking for ways to keep their pets safe and warm. Here are seven hot tips for a cold winter week.

Coats or Boots?
When you go out on a cold day, you zip into a warm coat and lace up your furry boots. Does your pet need the same? Maybe, especially if Fido does not have the luxuriant coat of an Artic breed dog. I see many dogs wearing coats and sweaters designed to slip easily over their head and front legs; however, some dogs are not into wearing clothes and getting those dogs dressed to go outdoors can be a struggle. Ditto for putting boots on four paws before heading out for the morning walk. Despite the challenge of booting four paws, I actually think dogs, at least city dogs, benefit from wearing boots which protect their sensitive paw pads from the harsh chemicals used to keep the streets free of ice and snow.

Try a Self-Warming Bed
If your apartment or house is a bit nippy, consider a getting your pet a self-warming bed. These beds reflect lost body heat back onto your pet, keeping them toasty warm. Electric beds are available for pets, but I am always worried about electric cord chewing. A self-warming bed avoids this potential danger.

Bang on the Hood
When the mercury falls, outdoor cats look for a cozy place to snooze. Your car or truck engine is toasty after you drive home from work or the grocery store. Agile cats will shimmy up into the engine block for a nap, but when you turn the engine over they can easily be injured by the fan belt or other moving parts. Be sure to bang on the hood or scrape the snow off the windows before starting the engine to give a sleeping cat a wake-up call. Providing shelter for outdoor cats may lessen the risk they will use your car engine as a sleeping spot.

Don’t Forget the Backyard Cats
Not so much in Manhattan, but definitely in the other boroughs of NYC and all over the country, people host feral cats in their yards. The winter months are tough for outdoor cats due to the cold and decreased opportunities for hunting. Water becomes scarce if the temperatures are low enough to freeze the water in puddles, bowl and other reservoirs. Providing shelter and insulation for backyard cats can be as simple as creating a cozy space using bales of straw. More elaborate structures can be purchased and filled with straw. Straw is an excellent bedding choice for outdoor cats since it is both inexpensive and moisture resistant. Move the cats’ food and water bowls to a spot where the sun will prevent freezing.

Additional Tips

Can Bath Time be Dangerous for Pets?

Cat in Christmas sweaterNothing is better than a soak in the tub after a long, hard day: warm water, nice smelling soaps and shampoos and that squeaky clean feeling as you dry off. Your pet probably likes being clean and fresh too, but if you are not careful, bath time could result in an animal ER visit.

Brush Before Bathing
If your pet is matted, you might be tempted to just to pop him into the tub and hope the mats detangle when you rinse him off. Wet mats tighten as they dry and pull at the underlying skin. Really dense mats hold moisture against the skin. The combination of tension and moisture can result in nasty infections underneath the mat, so never bathe without brushing or clipping out mats. Don’t use scissors to cut out tightly adhered mats. Every veterinarian can recite a list of patients requiring suturing after a do-it-yourself mat removal.

Scrub Safely
Don’t succumb to the desire to use any shampoo or conditioner you find on your shower shelf. Human hair products are not designed for pets. Think about it. We don’t lick our hair after washing, but for sure your pet will and your shampoo is probably not formulated with ingestion in mind. Certain ingredients in human shampoos, like tea tree oil or anti-dandruff medications, may be too harsh for your pet’s skin. If you are in a jam and find yourself without pet shampoo, use only a no tears baby product to bathe your pet.

Spot Cleaning
When your pet has just one dirty spot – spilled food, a muddy paw or a messy behind, you might want to skip a full bath and use a spot cleaner. A quick Google search will reveal a number of waterless shampoos, dry shampoos, and wipes specially made for pets. Two of my current favorites in the exam room are the Quick Bath product line and the nice smelling no rinse, waterless shampoos from Wahl. More on spot cleaning Spot.

Protecting the Eyes
Bathing your cat or dog may not be a Zen experience. If they tend to flail about in the tub, shampoo can easily splash into their eyes causing irritation, or worse, a painful ulcer in the clear part of their eye, also called the cornea. If you see your pet squinting following a bath, try rinsing the eye with some saline eye wash. If the squinting persists for more than an hour, you need to make a trip to the veterinarian’s office for special testing to identify an ulcer. To help prevent a shampoo-induced ulcer, you can apply a small bit of sterile ophthalmic lubricant (petrolatum and mineral oil) before bathing to protect the delicate cornea.

Dry On Cool
In the wintertime, you may decide to shorten drying time using your own blow dryer. Some of them can get pretty hot and burn your pet’s tender skin. First, towel dry your pet and then use the blow dryer on a cool setting. You might even consider using the diffuser to decrease the tangles from blowing.

Now that you can safely bathe your pet, all you need is a cute holiday collar or bow and she is ready to be part of the annual family photo.