Ten Confusing Medical Terms Your Veterinarian Might Use

Confusing Medical TermsFor the past several months, I’ve been collating a list of complex words I’ve used when talking to pet families. These are words that provoke a quizzical look or a clarifying question from a family member during a conversation about pet health care. In this blog post, I do my best to define this confounding terms and hopefully help you demystify some common “vet-speak”!

  1. Anorexia has a bad connotation from its association with the human disorder, anorexia nervosa. When your veterinarian makes a note in a medical record that says “anorexia for 4 days,” the notation simply indicates that the pet is not eating. It does not mean that your pet has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
  2. Dehiscence is the term used to describe a surgical incision that has fallen apart. While this sounds serious, most incisions are multi-layered, and it’s often only the outer layer of skin that comes undone. The most common cause of dehiscence is the pet owner’s reluctance to use an Elizabethan collar, or cone, to protect the incision.
  3. Fasting is common enough that most pet families will understand it in principle, but it’s important to know the specifics. Does fasting mean no food AND no water, or just no food? Be sure to ask this question if your veterinarian is not clear.
  4. General anesthesia indicates that the entire patient is anesthetized. If anesthesia is not general it’s local, meaning just one specific site. Veterinarians don’t use local anesthesia as much as physicians do. A common example of local anesthesia is the lidocaine injection you get at the dentist.
  5. Incontinence describes one of two conditions: inability to control urination or inability to control defecation. Veterinarians diagnose urinary incontinence more often than fecal incontinence. The most common cases of urinary incontinence involve older female dogs who leak urine when they sleep.
  6. Inflammation describes the body’s response to disease or injury. The cardinal signs of inflammation were defined by the 1st-century Roman encyclopaedist, Celsus, as calor, dolor, rubor and tumor (heat, pain, redness and swelling). This four-word summary is applicable to all inflammatory processes: a healing surgical incision, the area around an infected tooth or the intestine of a patient with inflammatory bowel disease.
  7. Lethargy, as defined by Dictionary.com, is: an abnormal lack of energy, especially as the result of a disease. This fits the veterinarian’s use of the word to a T. When your veterinarian asks questions about ball playing or Frisbee chasing, she is trying to determine if your dog is lethargic as part of the disease process being evaluated.
  8. Prophylaxis is an action taken to prevent a disease. For example, heartworm medication is a form of prophylaxis given to prevent heartworms and other parasites from infecting your pet. At AMC, a “prophy” is doctor speak for a dental cleaning to prevent tooth and gum disease.
  9. Responsive describes a pet’s level of consciousness and reaction to their environment. The acronym BAR is short for Bright, Alert, Responsive. A waggy, friendly dog is BAR. The lowest level of consciousness is comatose.
  10. Undetectable, one would assume, may indicate good news. If something is undetectable, it’s not there, right? Not necessarily. Your veterinarian might use this word to indicate something they’re worried about, but just can’t find yet. In incurable diseases like hemangiosarcoma, a veterinarian might say metastasis, or tumor spread, is undetectable when they can’t find any tumor using x-rays or ultrasounds. Because all dogs with hemangiosarcoma succumb to this dreadful disease, the metastases may simply be undetectable at the time of the test.

Of course, this is an incomplete list – your veterinarian may use many words you don’t understand during your visit. If this happens, remember there’s nothing wrong with asking your veterinarian for clarification, to explain something again or to provide an example.

How to Collect a Urine Sample from Your Dog or Cat

Collecting a urine sample from your pet is not easyThis week has been all about pee. AMC’s front desk has been busy receiving tubes, Tupperware and tinfoil full of it. It seems like all of my patients are having urinary tract issues at the same time and their owners are struggling to collect and deliver it all to AMC.

Urine collection from your pet is certainly a tricky process, and some of the pet owners were very creative in their solution to the challenge. In this blog post, I’ll share their solutions with you, since someday you might find yourself in their shoes – trying to keep your pet’s pee off of your shoes. Plus, your pet’s veterinarian will love you if you bring a urine sample to your pet’s annual visit, and don’t forget that fecal sample either!

Smokey

The owner of Smokey, a Persian, used plastic wrap. He placed the plastic wrap over the clean litter in the litter box. Smokey didn’t seem to notice, and the plastic caught the urine in its folds. Smokey’s owner then used syringes to collect the urine off the plastic and delivered the urine to me.

Nathan

Nathan is a Maltese who’s had his share of bladder problems – stones and a small tumor successfully removed by AMC surgeons. Like many small, city dogs, Nathan uses wee-wee pads for urinations. By flipping the pad upside down (blue plastic side up), so the urine would not be absorbed by the pad, the owner waited for Nathan to do his business, then folded the pad to create a spout and poured the urine into a clean container for transport.

Amelia

Amelia, the Labrador, presented a different challenge in collecting urine. Many owners of female dogs slip one of those tinfoil pie pans under their dog when they urinate. For Amelia, the noise of the pan sliding under her was startling and the pan tended to fold as it was pushed. The shape was right, but the material was not. So Amelia’s owner switched to one of those environmentally unsound, but very sturdy, plastic disposable plates with an elevated rim. Once she caught the urine, she poured it off the plate into a clean container with a screw on lid.

One final thought

Collecting urine from your pet is not just busy work for the pet owner. It provides critical medical information. The results from the urine test helped me confirm Smokey did not have kidney disease, showed Nathan’s tumor had not recurred and proved that Amelia was not drinking too much water. And that is why this week was all about pee!

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Click image to download

Veterinarian’s offices are humming with energy this time of year. Kitten season is starting up and many dogs will have their annual physical examination and blood tests. One test that is an annual essential is a heartworm test.

Heartworm basics

If left untreated, heartworms can be a serious and potentially fatal condition in dogs. However, the name heartworm is a misnomer. Adult heartworms live in the blood vessels of the lungs. Only in severe cases do the adult worms spill over into the heart and its associated blood vessels.

Dogs contract heartworms when they’re bitten by a mosquito carrying juvenile heartworms. As the worms mature in the dog, they migrate to the blood vessels of the lungs. As mature heartworms reproduce, their offspring, known as microfilaria, circulate throughout the body via the circulatory system. If a dog with microfilaria is bitten by a mosquito, the life cycle starts again.

Heartworm testing

The most common heartworm test uses a small blood sample from your dog. The test identifies a substance produced by the adult female heartworm. Since the test identifies only adult heartworms, there’s a lag time between the bite of the infected mosquito and when your dog will test positive for heartworm disease, approximately 5-6 months. So here in the Northeastern United States, we commonly test dogs for heartworms in the spring to identify any infections acquired during the prior summer. Heartworms have been diagnosed in all 50 states and the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends annual testing for all dogs.

 Heartworm prevention

If your dog’s annual heartworm test is negative, your veterinarian will prescribe a monthly heartworm preventative. This class of medication kills the maturing heartworms before they reach the lungs. These drugs are effective at killing heartworms, but only if you give them on schedule. Check the website of your dog’s heartworm medication because many of these products have an app or an online reminder system to encourage compliance.

Heartworm infection

The veterinarians at the Animal Medical Center diagnosed two cases of heartworms last week. On the surface this seems odd, but both dogs were rescues transported to New York City from southern states. When you move animals, you move their infectious disease as well. Treatment of canine heartworm disease is tricky because the dying heartworms set off serious inflammation in the lungs and predispose dogs to blood clots. Dogs infected with many heartworms experience difficulty breathing, heart failure and obstruction of blood flow when blood vessels become clogged with 6-12 inch long worms. That’s why heartworm preventatives are so important: it helps everyone—dogs, owners, and veterinarians—avoid this complicated medical scenario.

Heartworm tips

If you travel with your dog to areas of the country where heartworms commonly occur, make sure your dog is taking monthly medications on schedule.  Many northern dog owners become lax about preventatives in the winter.

Cats and ferrets can get heartworm disease too, but it’s much less common than dogs. Check with your veterinarian about heartworm preventative in these species.

Is a clinical trial right for my pet?

Clinical trial assessmentWhile the title of this blog post suggests I will answer this question for you, I can’t answer for your pet. That task belongs to your family. I can outline some questions and their rationale to assist you in decision making.

Many veterinary specialty hospitals like the Animal Medical Center conduct clinical trials. Clinical trials help the veterinary community discover new knowledge about naturally occurring illnesses and, without them, the quality of medical care would stagnate. Clinical trials start with a research protocol. The protocol tests drugs, devices, procedures or other interventions such as a diet change. At AMC, the protocol is approved by a research board called an IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) who ensure the protocol has scientific merit and safeguards for patients. The clinical investigator collects information (blood samples, biopsies, examination information, x-ray images) from the study participants and analyzes the data to determine if the intervention under study is better, the same or not as good than the current standard of care.

Do the goals of the clinical trial meet your goals for treating your pet?

It’s important to keep your pet’s treatment goals in mind when considering a clinical trial for your pet. For example, one of my clients, whose dog has been diagnosed with a slowly growing malignant tumor, sent me a link to a clinical trial for a new drug to treat cancer. The clinical trial she found is a 28-day study evaluating how a new cancer drug is absorbed, metabolized and excreted from the body. While this trial will discover critical information about the new drug, a 28-day chemotherapy treatment is probably not enough to treat this dog’s cancer successfully. She decided against this trial for her dog. Her goal is long term control of her dog’s tumor and this clinical trial is not likely to achieve her goal.

Is a clinical trial free?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Clinical trials may be supported by a drug company, a research grant or the institution sponsoring the study. No matter who funds a clinical trial, there will be a budget and, as part of the informed consent process, you will receive information on the financial incentives included in the study. Be sure to ask what the investigator anticipates your out-of-pocket costs will be. Check with your pet insurance company to see if they will cover out-of-pocket costs of a clinical trial.

What if my pet has side effects during a clinical trial?

The clinical trial protocol will be designed to track and monitor any anticipated side effects. If side effects occur, the protocol will dictate the course of action. Your pet may be able to continue the trial if the side effects are minor or they could be removed from the trial if the effects are serious.

These days, most clinical trials feature a Quality of Life diary completed by the pet’s primary caretaker. This helps you to focus on how your pet is doing and provides the clinical investigator with a valuable resource in recognizing any negative side effects early in the trial.

Before you enter your pet into a clinical trial, ask what the expected side effects are, their frequency and how the study protocol manages side effects. Don’t forget to ask what your financial responsibility is if side effects occur.

How many visits will my pet need to complete the clinical trial protocol?

The answer to this question could be any number. Every study is different. When I’m involved in a clinical trial, I make a handout for the prospective participants outlining the study schedule. Ask if one is available for the trial you are considering.

Does the whole family have to agree to the pet participating in the clinical trial?

Fair question, tough answer. If all family members are going to be involved in taking the pet to clinical trial hospital visits, I say yes. If one family member is the “owner” and expects to give all medications, fill out all the forms and take the pet to all the hospital visits, then it might be their decision alone. If your family is having a difficult time deciding about a clinical trial for your pet, ask the clinical investigator if they collaborate with a social worker who might help in the decision-making process. Another professional to consult is your regular veterinarian. That veterinarian has probably known you and your pet for a long time, understands clinical trials and will be an excellent resource in the decision making process.

Why did the clinical investigator reject my pet from their trial?

All clinical trials have entry criteria. The criteria exist to ensure the data is collected from a group of patients who have a similar disease and with the safety of the participants in mind. Clinical investigators don’t want to make your sick pet sicker and neither do you, so they may feel the study is too risky for your pet.

Clinical trial resources for pet families

AMC clinical trials
American Veterinary Medical Association clinical trials database
Veterinary Cancer Society clinical trials database

Everyday Medicine: Hospital Wards

AMC hospital ward

“Everyday Medicine” is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments, and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include physical examination and vomiting or regurgitation. Today’s post focuses on the types of hospital wards your pet would stay in at AMC.

If you have been unlucky enough to be hospitalized, you know a human hospital is divided into a variety of different wards,usually by types of diseases: maternity ward, surgery ward, cardiac care, pediatric, and so on. AMC is also divided into wards, but a little bit differently since dogs and cats don’t have heart attacks and puppies and kittens are usually born at home. Even with the different types of hospital wards, AMC still has veterinarians and nurses on duty 24/7. Overnight there are always at least two veterinarians in the hospital.

ICU-Intensive Care Unit  

In the ICU, you will find no more than the 21 sickest patients in the hospital, because that is the number of cages available in our ICU.  These are patients that need constant monitoring because they have unstable vital signs.

The types of patients hospitalized in ICU include those requiring oxygen therapy for pneumonia or heart failure, glucose monitoring for diabetes, seizure watches, and any patient who is so sick they are recumbent and require intensive nursing care. Each patient in ICU has a service directing their care and also a nurse assigned for treatments and monitoring.

SCU-Special Care Unit

In a human hospital AMC’s SCU might be called a step-down ward. When patients recover enough to leave ICU, but are not quite ready to go home, they transfer to SCU. SCU is also home to patients admitted for the day for a procedure or following surgery when ICU-level care is not indicated.

ER-Emergency Room Ward

AMC’s ER is only a short-term stay ward. Pets evaluated by AMC’s Emergency and Critical Care staff are typically treated and discharged or hospitalized in ICU or SCU. A few may stay in the ER for several hours. Those pets landing a spot in ER might be a dog with a difficult birth, a pet with a laceration that requires anesthesia for repair, or an acutely ill animal waiting for blood tests or diagnostic imaging results to direct the treatment plan.

Avian and Exotic Pet Ward

In some ways, the avian and exotic pet ward is our most specialized ward.  This ward has “hospital beds” to accommodate birds, bunnies, reptiles, and other small mammals.  The ward has auxiliary heating since some exotic pets need a warmer environment than dogs and cats, and the cabinets and shelved are stocked with medications and equipment not found elsewhere in the hospital.

Isolation Ward

Like any isolation ward, AMC hosts pet with contagious diseases.  The most common diseases requiring isolation procedures include parvovirus and both canine and feline upper respiratory infections.

Designed to protect other pets from contracting an infectious disease, the isolation ward has restricted entry, a requirement for staff to wear protective gear, and a ventilation system that prevents contaminated air from circulating in the hospital. Cameras connect the patients to their nursing staff.

I hope your pet never needs our ICU, SCU, ER, avian and exotic pet or isolation wards, but if they do, you now know how carefully they will be cared for while they are with us.

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!

Everyday Medicine: Packed Cell Volume

packed cell volume

“Everyday Medicine” is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments, and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include “Cytology” and “Blood Pressure.” Today’s post focuses on packed cell volume.

What is Packed Cell Volume?
Despite the fact that a packed cell volume is measured dozens of times a day at the Animal Medical Center, most pet owners have never heard of packed cell volume, sometimes referred to as a hematocrit. If one of your pets has experienced a serious issue with anemia, then you might have heard your veterinarian talk about this test. Also known as PCV, packed cell volume is one measure of the number of red blood cells in the blood. There are other methods to assess the number of red blood cells, but these take more time and much more sophisticated laboratory equipment. The laboratory can count the number of red blood cells; there are millions in a drop of blood. The oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin contained inside of red blood cells can also be measured; like red blood cells, hemoglobin decreases when a patient is anemic.

How is PCV Measured?
First, a blood sample is collected from the patient, typically about ½ teaspoon. Some of the sample is sent to the lab, but a drop or two is placed into a very thin glass tube called a capillary tube. One end of the tube is filled with a soft clay which acts as a stopper to keep the blood in the tube. The tube is placed in the centrifuge and in just a couple of minutes, the centrifugal force “packs” the red blood cells in the bottom of the tube and leaves the clear plasma above. The PCV is the volume percentage composed of red blood cells in the tube. In a normal dog or cat, the PCV is 35-50%.

But Wait, There’s More to a PCV Than Red Blood Cells
The remainder of the volume in the capillary tube is a few percentages of white blood cells and platelets in a section called the buffy coat. A bit more than half of the tube is plasma, or the liquid component of blood. The PCV not only gives a clue to anemia but if the percentage of plasma decreases, dehydration may be part of the diagnosis. In a normal patient, plasma is clear. If plasma is bright yellow, that signifies jaundice and testing of the liver will be necessary. The capillary tube can be snapped open and the plasma put on a handheld device that will measure the protein level of the blood. High protein indicates dehydration; low protein suggests there is protein loss or severe malnutrition. If the percentage of white blood cells increases, then veterinarians worry about infection or leukemia.

When Do Veterinarians Use a PCV?
Because a PCV gives information about anemia, blood protein and hydration status, nearly every patient coming to an animal ER has a PCV obtained. A PCV is a common preoperative test because a PCV is quick and easy. The small volume of blood required for a PCV means the test can be repeated in the operating room without taking excessive amounts of blood from the patient. Any veterinarian monitoring a patient with anemia may rely on a PCV for quick assessment of the patient’s status.

Given its simplicity, speed with which the results are available and the helpful information obtained, the packed cell volume is clearly an everyday test.

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

Purging Your Pet’s Closet

pet closet

A common recurrent theme in magazines like Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, and Glamour is closet organization. These publications recommend purging closets seasonally to prevent accumulation of unwanted clothing and accessories. Many of us with pets have a small cabinet or closet devoted to our pet’s belongings. Taking a cue from these glossies, I am going to give some tips for cleaning out your pet’s closet.

If He Won’t Wear it, Recycle it
When you get to the back of your pet’s closet and find that really ugly sweater from Aunt Sally your dog has never worn or his favorite raincoat from when he was a puppy, but it no longer fits, cut the cord and send these unused items to a textile recycling center. Ditto for worn leashes and collars which present a safety hazard for your pet. In New York City, greenmarkets collect unwanted clothing, shoes and other fabric items for recycling.

Rid the Closet of Expired Medications
I am quite confident that when you clear out the closet you will find expired pet medications. Why? Because many of my clients call asking if they can use a medication for their pet found in the back of the closet. First thing I ask them is to tell me the expiration date on the box and usually that medication expired many months prior. The expiration date of medications is printed on the pharmacy label or the box. If you have outdated medication, use the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines to dispose of the drugs properly.

Toss the Expired Food
Before you replace any dog or cat food in the closet, check the expiration date on the bag or can and if outdated, dispose of it. Opened bags of dry food that have not been sealed tightly are likely to be stale or even rancid. Dispose of them as well.

No Need to Store Bones
Board certified veterinary dentists at the Animal Medical Center caution all dog owners against using natural bones or synthetic bones made of nylon as dog chew toys. Both types of bone are the cause of tooth fractures. When a tooth fractures and exposes the pulp cavity, either extraction or a costly restoration is needed. Avoid an emergency trip to the veterinary dentist by choosing tooth-friendly toys such as those made of hard rubber or fabric.

What? You Still Have Jerky Treats?
Between 2007 and December 31, 2015, the FDA has received approximately 5,200 complaints of illnesses associated with consumption of chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats from pet owners. The cause of these illnesses is unknown. Since jerky treats are not a required part of your pet’s diet, veterinarians recommend selecting other types of treats for your pet. If you are feeding jerky treats and your pet becomes ill, tell your veterinarian about the jerky treat ingestion. If you believe your pet has become ill from consuming a jerky treat, please provide the FDA with valuable information by reporting it electronically through their Safety Reporting Portal or your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.

Once you have that closet cleaned, spend some quality time with your pet and play with all the fun toys you re-discovered while cleaning out your pet’s closet.