Q&A on SiriusXM Radio

Ann hohenhaus and carly fox

Last week was somewhat of a personal record for me. I appeared on three different radio programs on SiriusXM in a single week. On Tuesday with my good friend Dr. Frank Adams on “Doctor Radio” (channel 110) powered by NYU Langone Medical Center, on Thursday night with “Just Jenny” on SiriusXM Stars (channel 109) and then on my own show, “Ask the Vet,” which is also on SiriusXM Stars.

The callers asked very interesting and important medical questions, many of which I have written about here previously. In case you missed the radio programs, I will recap them here.

Thyroid Disease
The caller explained her dog had an overactive thyroid gland, a very uncommon occurrence. Typically, dogs have an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and cats have an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
I always grit my teeth when a caller asks about this feline disease. FIP is pretty much always fatal, and because cat lovers usually have multiple kitties, a cat with FIP poses a risk to the healthy cats in the family. Not only has the family lost a cat to FIP, but they are now distraught over the health of their other cats.

Behavior
Whenever I am interviewed on a call-in program, I can be sure to have questions on behavior primarily relating to normal, destructive, or bad behaviors in pets. Recently, Dr. Jean DeNapoli of Pieper Memorial Veterinary Center in Middletown, CT, spoke at a Usdan Institute for Animal Health Education event at AMC. Dr. DeNapoli completed a behavior residency and shared useful information about pet behavior with pet owners in attendance. View a video of her presentation.

Bladder Stones
Two callers asked about bladder stones. In both the dog and cat, calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of bladder stone, but struvite or triple phosphate is a close second. Veterinarians have a variety of methods to treat bladder stones. The type of stone often dictates the best treatment.

Feeding Cats
A cat owning caller was concerned about her cat’s passion for dry food and lack of interest in wet food. Cat’s taste preferences are set during kittenhood and some cats just want what they want and nothing else. Read more about cats and food in this post from Adopt-a-Cat Month 2011.

Have a question that was not answered here? Follow us on Twitter @amcny to learn when AMC expert veterinarians will be speaking in public or tune in to SiriusXM Stars 109 for “Ask the Vet” which airs the first Friday of every month from 1-2 pm ET and call 888-94-STARS (888-947-8277) to ask your pet health questions.

#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.

My Cat Just Ate a Mouse! Should I Be Proud or Worried?

cat and mouse

I received an email from a cat patient’s family. They have recently moved to the suburbs and with the move came a mouse! The mouse problem didn’t last too long since Tigger killed and ate the mouse right in front of the entire family. While their initial reaction was pride at Tigger’s new found prowess as a huntress, they soon realized a rodent repast might not have been a healthy meal choice on Tigger’s part.

Here are my answers to their concerns about a mouse meal for their cat.

1. If the mouse ate poison, could it be dangerous?

Since mice are small compared to your cat, veterinarians believe a cat would need to eat several poisoned mice to develop toxicity from mouse bait, but it is not impossible to do so. If you have mouse bait out in your home, place it out of range of your cat. One type of mouse bait causes internal bleeding and the other elevated blood levels of calcium. If you have mouse bait in the house and your cat is ill, be sure to tell your veterinarian since you may not know your cat has been lunching on poisoned mice. A better alternative would be to trap mice in mechanical traps rather than poison them.

2. Can I peppermint oil my entire apartment to keep mice away and will the peppermint oil be safe for Tigger?

Recently, there has been concern expressed by experts about toxic effects of essential oils in cats. Cats lack the enzymes required to process essential oils and can become ill if exposed to the oils via ingestion, contact or inhalation. In a previous blog post, I suggested using peppermint oil soaked cotton balls as a mouse deterrent, but think I should redact that statement in the light of new information.

3. They sell sonic pest repellents; would she be okay with one?

As far as cat safety, these devices seem to be okay. The jury is out on the efficacy of the devices when it comes to pest control.

4. Obviously, the mouse wasn’t cooked. Could Tigger get sick from the raw mouse?

The short answer is yes, and one of the reasons to try and keep your cat from eating mice. Mice can be infected with roundworms, which can in turn infect your cat. Mice also carry Toxoplasma gondii, the agent of Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a greater risk to human family members than to feline family members, but since the health of the entire family is important, keeping mice out of the home is also important.

If you have a serious mouse problem requiring an exterminator, mention your cat and follow their directions on post-extermination clean up to protect your cat.

What Could Be Better Than a Puppy?

puppy

The title of the blog is a direct quote from the human belonging to one of my patients. This gentleman was delirious at the prospect of the new fluff ball with puppy breath about to come into his life. The family already included a very sociable, well-mannered adult dog and they thought this dog would like a canine little brother, hence the new puppy.

Over the years, I have discovered pet owners develop a selective memory about the effort involved in raising a new puppy. Somehow, all the family can remember are the cute antics, the playful exuberance, and the fun associated with a new furry family member. The lack of sleep, the mess and damage inflicted by those razor sharp puppy teeth fades quickly from their minds once the puppy grows up and I often hear lamentations about the work of having a new puppy.

Sleep?
Jake arrived for his first examination and did not disappoint. Simply said, the puppy was darling and very peppy. His human was not so peppy. Housebreaking and training a puppy requires time and dedication 24/7 and the lack of sleep was taking its toll on the human, but it did not dampen his enthusiasm and delight with the puppy scampering around my exam room.

A clean house?
With any puppy, accidents will happen. Be prepared with an odor neutralizing cleaner, a carpet cleaner formulated for pet accidents, and an extra shipment of paper towels. Making clean up quick and easy gives you more time to throw that ball and give treats for its return.

Perfect furniture?
The family of another one of my patients swore their new puppy was not a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but a dog-beaver mix. Coco chewed her way through just about anything she could put her mouth on: the other dog’s ears, shoes and the legs of the kitchen chairs. Chewing is normal for teething puppies. Baby teeth start to fall out at about four months of age and the permanent teeth are all in by about 6 months or so. During this time, it is critical to protect important objects and divert your puppy’s chewing to appropriate toys. The Animal Medical Center’s dentists say no to furry tennis balls, nylon bones, real bones, and hooves because of their tooth-damaging properties. They recommend sturdy cloth, rope and rubber chew toys.

A crate, lots of chew toys and another dog?
In addition to the chew toys, a crate is an invaluable puppy accoutrement. The crate provides your puppy with a space to call their own and keeps them safe while you run to the store or jump in the shower. Most puppies prefer not to eliminate where they sleep, so the crate also facilitates housebreaking. Jake was a lucky puppy, with an older brother to show him the ropes. The humans in Jake’s family were grateful for the efforts of their older dog who helped to diffuse some of Jake’s boundless puppy energy allowing them to revel in the camaraderie of their furry family members.

So in the end, maybe selective memory happens because sleep, a clean house, and perfect furniture don’t really matter because NOTHING is better than a puppy!

New Travel Regulations Affect Service Animals

emotional support animal

“Can peacocks fly?”
“Pets on the fly”
“Delta tightens the leash on emotional support animals”

These are but a few of the clever headlines online and in print over the past few weeks regarding emotional support animals traveling in airplane cabins. The topic of traveling with emotional support animals came to the forefront when Delta Airlines announced that beginning March 1, 2018, it would require additional documentation for customers traveling with an emotional support animal. For travel after March 1, passengers will need to provide documentation from a certified mental health professional, a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal, as well as confirming that the animal has appropriate behavioral training. I completed the veterinary health form for a patient of mine today. Forms were readily accessible on the airline’s website.

Can Spiders, Sugar Gliders or Hedgehogs Fly?
One of the issues highlighted in the series of articles with clever titles was the story of an emotional support peacock denied the opportunity to board his flight and occupy the seat his human purchased for the trip. The peacock, named Dexter, was trying to fly on a United Airlines flight, but even if he had switched airlines, he would have also been disallowed on a Delta Airlines flight for not meeting several requirements for a flying service animal: must fit under the seat, cannot occupy a seat intended for a person, must be a household bird. In addition, the emotional support animal cannot encroach on other passengers. Whoever was booked to sit next to the support peacock probably doesn’t know it, but they really dodged a bullet on that flight. I also found a report of some support bees that were not allowed to board a Southwest Airlines flight.

Delta Airlines has a very specific list of what animals cannot be accommodated in the cabin. I could not find a similar list for United, but Southwest Airlines will not accept rodents, ferrets, insects, spiders, reptiles, hedgehogs, rabbits, or sugar gliders, a list nearly identical to Delta’s.

Before You Go
Before traveling with your emotional support animal, service dog or any animal, you have some legwork to do before you buy tickets. First, check the website of your airline for their requirements for traveling with pets or support animals. If you plan to travel outside the United States, each country sets its own rules regarding animal importation. The United States Department of Agriculture maintains a very informative website to assist pet families in navigating these rules. Start early in getting your pet’s travel papers in order as some countries require preapproval and special blood tests for entry. One, you know what tests and documentation are required, make an appointment with your veterinarian to obtain the proper travel papers.

Are Purebred Dogs Sicker than Mutts?

westminster dog show

This week was the week New York City went to the dogs; the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was in Madison Square Garden on Monday and Tuesday and there were activities all over the city related to man’s best friend. The Animal Medical Center veterinarians were at the Show triaging dogs unlucky enough to get sick during the second longest running sporting event in the United States.

I always love to visit the rows and rows of cossetted purebred dogs in the benching area of the show. But all those purebred dogs made my veterinary mind drift to lists of diseases prevalent in certain breeds: Addison’s disease in Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers, renal dysplasia in Shih Tzu dogs, or cardiomyopathy in the Doberman pinscher, to name a few. I can also assure you all three of these diseases are not exclusive to purebred dogs and can be diagnosed in any dog.

Is Hybrid Vigor a Myth or “Dog”-Ma?
The list of diseases associated with purebred dogs is long, but does that mean purebred dogs are less healthy than the basic Heinz 57 model? Probably not. One way to assess health is to look at cause of death. In a study of over 70,000 dogs from North America where the cause of death was known, the number one cause in most breeds was cancer, but the number one cause in mixed breed dogs was also cancer! The fact that cancer is so common in our canine companions reflects the high-quality medical care available to dogs in the United States and Canada. Well cared for dogs don’t die of distemper or parvovirus, they get vaccinated. Dog owners use heartworm preventative and flea/tick medications to prevent parasitic and tick-borne illnesses. Few people let their dogs off leash unattended, protecting them against trauma from automobile accidents. Good health care allows dogs to live to a ripe old age where they are at risk for developing cancer.

Common Diseases Occur Commonly
A recent study of Border Terrier health from England looked at common disorders in this healthy, hearty breed. When seen by a primary care veterinarian, dental disease, ear infections and obesity topped the list of diagnoses in this group of British Border Terriers. Compare that to a widely published list of pet insurance claims and you see the same disease in a large population of insured American dogs, where ear infections and tooth abscess are included in the top ten list. Seems that no matter where you look, dogs all seem to have similar problems.

Lifestyle and Disease
Lifestyle may play as much a role, if not more, than breed does when it comes to health. The study of 70,000 dogs reported infectious disease as the most common cause of death in Treeing Walker Coonhounds. These dogs are commonly used as hunting dogs and their outdoorsy lifestyle may predispose them to infections. The bold Jack Russell Terrier most commonly fell victim to trauma, perhaps due to daredevil personality. Age plays a role in cause of death as well. Young dogs were more likely to die from traumatic causes, but rarely cancer.

The best way to have a healthy dog, purebred or mutt, is to keep him at an ideal body weight, feed a good quality food, make sure he has plenty of exercise and at a minimum, an annual veterinary visit. Hats off to all the Westminster competitors, all of us at AMC think you are all top dogs.

Dog Etiquette in Public Places

dogs in public

I read a really instructive blog this past week, posted by a local dog training school. Since it is winter in New York City, where both the Animal Medical Center and the dog school are located, the blogger created a list of 20 places to warm up with your dog this winter. The list includes coffee shops, bars, hotel lobbies, and books stores — all places where you and your favorite pooch can spend a cold winter afternoon as an antidote to cabin fever. But before you zip up your coat and put your dog’s winter wear on him, review these guidelines on pet etiquette in public places.

Basic Manners for Both of You
As the person responsible for your dog, it is your job to see that she is under control. Keep her on a leash at all times and don’t leave her unattended for a minute. Train her not to bully other dogs and to be quiet. No one wants to listen to a barking dog every time another person or dog enters the bar.

Take Only a Healthy Dog
To protect your dog against diseases they might catch from dogs they meet, check with your veterinarian regarding vaccination recommendations. Canine influenza and kennel cough are two respiratory illnesses rapidly transmitted in places where dogs congregate. A rabies vaccine is a must since in most states it is legally required, and protects your pet if he is bitten by a strange dog. If your dog is feeling under the weather, be polite and stay home to protect other dogs.

Clean Up Your Mess
While the establishments on the list welcome dogs, they might not be prepared for any dog messes. Walk your dog before going inside and be sure your handbag contains poop bags and a few paper towels to mop up any accidents.

Bring Dog Snacks
Even though dogs are welcome, these businesses may not provide water bowls and dog treats. A collapsible water bowl that fits in your backpack would be perfect in this situation. Take some dog treats too as a reward for good behavior. To encourage your dog to be patient, consider taking their favorite chew toy or a feeding toy to occupy him while you finish your latte.

Ask Before You Pet
If you are a member of the public and see the most a-dor-able dog in your local bookstore, please ask before you pet. Adorable, does not equal friendly and if you startle a dog, the dog may snap or bite. If you are the accompanying human, be honest. If your dog is not fond of strangers, then ask members of the public not to pet your dog. My friend Susan was bitten by the dog of a less than honest person.
The remote possibility of a bite injury to a person is just another reason your dog needs to be up to date on his rabies vaccine.

Not Every Dog
Some people are gregarious and others homebodies who would never think of spending an afternoon hanging out in a hotel lobby. Dogs are no different. The homebodies will be restless, anxious and miserable in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by strangers. Let them stay home and invite their favorite dog friend over for a playdate or sleepover.

I hope everyone finds a great winter hangout and makes new friends while hanging!

Keeping Animals Healthy in the Winter

pets in winter

Winter can be a harsh time for everyone, animals included. Diseases spread more easily when everyone is cooped up inside; cold weather can be hard on pet feet and wildlife struggle to survive. Here are a few suggestions to keep the animals in your life healthy during the long winter months, which have only just begun!

Plan Ahead When Boarding Your Dog
If you are making a quick trip to somewhere sunny and need to board your dog at the kennel, make sure he is up to date on vaccinations and is well protected against infectious diseases. In any place where dogs congregate, boarding kennels, doggie daycare or dog shows, infectious diseases can spread quickly. Ask your veterinarian if she recommends one of the canine influenza vaccines. Vaccines are available for both strains of the canine influenza virus and also against Bordetella bronchiseptica, a common bacterial cause of kennel cough. You might want to check and see if the kennel serves your dog’s usual fare. If not, consider sending his food to the kennel to prevent tummy upset from an abrupt diet change.

Provide Food and Shelter for Outdoor Cats
My neighborhood in New York City does not have many outdoor cats, but outside of Manhattan, whole colonies of cats are threatened by inclement weather. Some animal shelters and rescue groups can provide shelters for these outdoor cats. If you are the caretaker of an outdoor cat, you can create a weather proof shelter from a large plastic tub. Here are directions provided by the Danbury Animal Welfare Society for a do it yourself shelter. If you live in NYC, the Mayor’s Alliance NYC Feral Cat Initiative has workshops on building cat shelters.

Also remember to feed dry food in the winter as canned food can freeze and become inedible. You may also need electric water heaters to keep fresh water available even on subzero days.

Backyard Birds
Winter time brings beautifully colored birds like blue jays and cardinals to backyard feeders. To keep your pretty winter visitors as healthy as possible, follow these suggestions from Oregon State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Colin Gillin:

  • Use feeders made from non-porous material like plastic, ceramic, and metal. These are less likely than wood to harbor bacteria and other diseases, which can kill backyard birds.
  • Clean feeders, water containers and bird baths monthly by rinsing with soapy water and then dunking the feeder in a solution of one third cup of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water.
  • Install multiple feeders to prevent all visiting birds from congregating in one place where illness can readily spread.

If you find injured wildlife, birds or mammals, don’t try to rehabilitate them yourself. To find the appropriate rescue group, check this blog post about injured pets and wildlife for resources.

Summing Up 2017: AMC’s Top Blog Posts

AMC blog

The end of the year is often a time of retrospection. So for this final blog of 2017, I asked the AMC webmaster to give me a list of 2017’s most popular blogs. Seeing what was important to AMC blog readers might give me some insights to provide more great pet health information in 2018.

Here are the top five blog posts and their links:

  1. Traction Control: Tips for Preventing Dogs from Slipping and Sliding
  2. Rat Bite Fever and Pet Rats: How Concerned Should We Be?
  3. Toe Tumors in a Dog: A Cancer Survivor’s Story
  4. Tail Amputations: Are They Really Necessary?
  5. Home Euthanasia: The Pros and Cons

Human Factor
One common focus of the popular blog posts is the human factor in our pet’s health. Take for example the blog post on tail amputation. The genesis of this post was a call I took on a radio program about pet health. A tail amputation had been recommended for the caller’s pet and she was hoping I knew of an alternative procedure because she didn’t want to amputate her pet’s tail. The tail is such an expressive piece of anatomy, that we humans cannot imagine our pet without one; however a tail amputation is much less traumatic for the pet than for the family. The tail tends to heal poorly and surgery to repair a tail is fraught with complications. Amputation avoids that issue.

Defying the Odds
Everyone loves a champion and the post about a dog surviving not one, but two different toe tumors, was a story of observant owners, a resilient dog, and great cancer care. The take home message from this post applies to both dog and cat owners: if something about your pet is not right, seek veterinary care while the problem is small and correctable.

Shared Diseases
The popularity of a blog post on rats was surprising since rats are not the most common pet. But, this post was written when rat bite fever was in the news due to the death of a child from the disease, and rat owners must have been looking for reliable information. Given that the author of this post was the head of AMC’s Avian and Exotic Pet Service, Dr. Kathy Quesenberry, the source of the information was undisputedly sound.

Common Problems
Elderly dogs who slip and slide on tile and wood floors worry their owners because of their risk for injury. Based on the popularity of this post, it is a common problem in need of a solution. I think this post was popular because it offered a variety of simple solutions to protect your senior dog from fall injuries due to slippery floors.

Making the Right Decision for your Pet
I was not surprised at the popularity of the blog post on the pros and cons of home euthanasia. That post was written straight from my heart and was based on the distress I hear in pet family voices when they are facing the euthanasia decision. My only hope is that those reading the blog found the guidance they needed to make this difficult decision.

For me, the unifying theme of the 2017 top blog posts is the caring pet families lavish on their furriest members. Their concern encompasses veterinary care, home care, end of life care, and the hope that their caring will be rewarded with a healthy pet. So, a toast to a healthy and happy New Year for you and your pets from all of us at the Animal Medical Center

Genetic Testing for Your Dog

dog DNA

Watch the news or read the paper and you are sure to come across a story where genetic testing plays a role, such as these stories:

But what about dogs? Has science advanced to the point of genetic testing for dogs?

39andMe
Several companies provide a test like “23andMe” for dogs, except dogs have 39 pairs of chromosomes – 16 more pairs than we do! These tests can tell you about the genetic background of your dog and suggest what breeds lie behind that fuzzy face or those flopped over ears. Some tests report on traits like coat color or expected adult body size. Think of this type of test as the dog version of PBS’s “Finding our Roots” minus Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.

Finding Law Breakers
Most cities have laws requiring dog owners to pick up dog waste. To enforce those rules, some neighborhoods require residents to keep a genetic “fingerprint” of their dog on file. If dog waste is not removed, the DNA contained in the feces can be analyzed and matched to the DNA of resident dogs. Owners are then fined based on the DNA analysis. Reports indicate this type of program improves neighborhood hygiene.

Determining Health
Possibly most important to dog families is the health of their furry member. Veterinarians use a variety of different genetic tests in daily practice. Australian shepherds, Collies and Border Collies (to name a few) have a genetic mutation resulting in increased sensitivity to certain drugs. These breeds can be tested for the mutation and the dangerous drugs avoided in dogs with the mutation. I use genetic testing on certain tumors where mutations in genes help identify the exact diagnosis or determine the course of treatment. Genetic testing can also be used to determine if bladder stones are due to an inherited predisposition. Other genetic tests can be performed in dogs used for breeding to decrease the transmission of inherited disorders of the eyes or hemophilia.

Genetic testing can even help you with your last-minute holiday shopping. The Wisdom Panel, Pawprint Genetics, and Embark are having holiday promotions for their canine DNA tests. Might be the perfect gift for your favorite dog.