Meet the Breeds: Ask a Question

During the last weekend of September, The Animal Medical Center staffed an information booth at the American Kennel Club’s annual Meet the Breeds Show at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. I spent several hours answering questions from pet owners on Sunday afternoon. The questions were important ones for all pets, so I decided to share my answers with everyone through The AMC blog.

Are caterpillars toxic?
A concerned dog owner found her dog snacking on the big, furry caterpillars that had invaded the potted plants on her terrace. Certain insects can injure pets if they are venomous, like wasps or bees. Most caterpillars are not venomous and are not listed as toxic on Animal Poison Control or Pet Poison Hotlines' websites. Although Survivorman eats caterpillars, the hairs on the skin of certain ones can be very irritating and for me, just thinking about a dog swallowing these hairy little creatures makes me gag. It is best not to let your dog (or cat) eat caterpillars, but consumption of one or two probably carries a low level of risk.

Is a one hour walk a day enough for my older dog?
Just like your doctor recommends you practice a well-rounded fitness routine, your dog needs more than a walk on a nice flat street. The Mayo Clinic recommends exercise include aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, stretching, core exercise and balance training. Challenge your dog by walking up and down hills. Be sure to include games like fetch to encourage your dog to run to increase her heart rate. Don’t forget to include stairs as part of your dog’s routine. For stretching and balance fitness, view The AMC’s exercise tips for dogs.

My 7 month old Chihuahua has a pink lump that comes and goes in the corner of his eye. Is this serious?
Without seeing this dog, I can only speculate as to what the problem is. However, I am guessing the dog has a condition veterinarians call “cherry eye.” Cherry eye is the tear gland from the third eyelid, an important source of tears to keep your dog’s eyes moist, and it occurs most commonly in Cocker Spaniels and English Bulldogs. The AMC’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Alexandra van der Woerdt recommends the gland be tacked back into place during a minor surgical procedure to preserve its function. The cause of cherry eye is suspected to be a weakness in the ligament that holds the gland in place.

My dog woke up one morning and couldn't walk, so I gave him some of my medications and now he’s better. Should I keep giving the pills?
The answer to this question is not about pills but about the need to see your veterinarian to get pet-safe prescriptions. Every year, thousands of dogs and cats are sickened from accidental ingestion or purposeful administration of human medications. Veterinarians do sometimes prescribe human medications for dogs and cats, but you should never give your pet any medications without clearing it through your veterinarian first.

Can I Have a Dog? Pony? Bunny? 10 Tips for Petless Families

Recently, the news has featured many stories about TomKat. No, not a story about a feline, but the ongoing saga of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. One story that caught my eye involved their daughter Suri having a tantrum in a pet store because her mother would not buy her a Morkie, a dog she wanted.

In every family without a pet, there is at least one child begging for one. But for health reasons, travel, or time in the daily schedule, a pet does not always fit into the family’s lifestyle. There are, however, other ways, even without owning a pet of your own, that you can bring animals into your family’s life. Here are my top ten tips to add the fun and adventure of animals to your family without actually owning a pet:

1. Attend the local animal show. The owners of dogs, cats, birds and reptiles love to show off their pets and talk to children about responsible pet ownership. In New York City we have the annual Meet the Breeds dog and cat show, but there are smaller local shows as well.

2. Volunteer to walk dogs at your local shelter or to help socialize the cats residing there.

3. Be a foster pet family. My local rescue group is always looking for host families for cats in need. I wrote about my experiences with my foster cat family last spring.

4. Head to your local library and check out some books on pet care. For the toddler set, try the series about “Sally,” a black Labrador retriever who visits the veterinarian, or for a comprehensive pet care overview, try the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health.

5. Participate in your library’s reading program featuring certified therapy dogs to promote reading skills in children. Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) has local programs nationwide. Therapy Dogs International sponsors “Tail Wagging Tutors.” What could be better than helping your dog-loving child read better?

6. Volunteer to pet sit for a neighbor while they are on vacation.

7. Become a member of your local zoo. Many zoos have an area where children can pet the animals. In the New York metropolitan area the Wildlife Conservation Society, which includes the Bronx Zoo, the Queens Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium, has hands-on programs for various age groups, as well as educational exhibits and free demonstrations daily. Some zoos even have sleepovers!

8. If your child is an electronic wizard, there are a variety of electronic games related to pet care. Games are available for multiple game platforms and on the Internet. Try Hamsterz, Dr. Daisy Pet Vet, Paws & Claws, Pet Vet, or Webkinz.

9. Research the high schools in your district to see if they have a specialized program related to animals, such as the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, or the Kansas State University co-sponsored high school program in Olathe, KS.

10. Volunteer at a pet outreach program at your local hospital, Ronald McDonald House, or senior citizens home. The program coordinator will know of a pet volunteer that you can “borrow” for the visits.

If your child is like Suri Cruise and wants an animal, but your inner Katie Holmes tells you a full-time pet is not right for your family, offer your pet-loving child one of these opportunities until the time is right for your family to love a pet of its very own.

Meeting the Breeds and Choosing a Healthy Dog for Your Family

No other animal on earth may be found in greater variety than the domestic dog. Lovers of purebred dogs are enamored of these creatures for a variety of breed-specific features. Some are partial to large dogs like the Bull Mastiff, others to small ones like the minute Xolo. Some dog lovers are drawn to long-coated dogs like the Bearded Collie; others, to dogs with an untamed haircoat like the Chinese Crested. For some people, the attraction to a particular breed of dog is not its physical characteristics, but its skills. For example, the trustworthy Labrador is a wonderful guide dog.

Whatever breed you fancy, you can find it at the 2011 “Meet the Breeds” show at New York City’s Javits Center on November 19-20, 2011. Billed as an event where families can meet 160 dog breeds and over 50 cat breeds, the event promises to have something for everyone.

Consider This
From my veterinary viewpoint, health is a critical issue when choosing a family dog. Before selecting a new puppy for your family, do your homework. Everyone in the family, a dog included, will have health issues during their lifetime. By knowing your breed’s issues up front, you will be better equipped to detect and monitor problems early. To get started, check the website of the national breed club for your breed. Most national breed clubs devote a section of their website to the health issues AND the ongoing research into those issues for their particular breed.

New Research Helps
Owners of new puppies often ask their veterinarian, “What can I do to keep my new dog healthy for a long time?” Recently published research gives dog owners some insight into this issue. Researchers reviewed the medical records of over 70,000 dogs and classified the cause of death by breed. This information helps owners of purebred dogs to monitor for disease related clinical signs and intervene before a crisis occurs. In this study, Dachshunds were most likely to die from neurological disorders. This is likely related to Dachshunds’ “bad back” and the problems associated with protruding disks common to this breed. Weight control and proper exercise can help to avoid this problem. Like humans, older dogs are more likely to die of cancer and five breeds were associated with an increased risk of cancer: Bernese Mountain Dog, Golden Retriever, Bouvier des Flanders, Scottish Terrier and Boxer. Owners of these dogs must monitor every lump and bump on their dog and have each one evaluated. Large breed dogs more commonly die of musculoskeletal diseases. Owners of large breed dogs need to keep their dogs in ideal body condition since overweight and obese dogs develop more musculoskeletal disorders.

Involve the Family
Every family member needs to be involved in monitoring and caring for the family dog. Adults are ultimately responsible for managing the canine family member’s healthcare issues, but getting buy-in from all members will simplify the process. Even the youngest child can promote a healthy lifestyle for the family dog by not feeding the pet from the table. The extra treats will result in obesity and a shorter lifespan and the behavior is just plain bad manners! Every dog needs obedience training and this is a perfect opportunity to involve older children. Obedience trained dogs are less likely to be involved in bite incidents and are also less likely to suffer from separation anxiety – a major cause of relinquishment of dogs to rescue groups and animal shelters.

See You There
Don’t miss this great opportunity to meet wonderful purebred dogs, ask questions about them and learn which one is the best one for your family. Stop by The Animal Medical Center booth to say hi! You can meet some of the staff and veterinarians who work with us and ask questions about your dog’s health.

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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.

ABC’s of Feline DNA

Nearly everything about us and our cats is determined by a molecule called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Due to the wonders of molecular genetics, DNA has been harnessed as a method of diagnosing diseases in our feline companions. Because members of a breed are closely related, genetically based diseases are often first identified in a family of purebred cats. Purebred cats, such as those you can meet at the 2011 AKC Meet the Breeds show at the Javits Center in New York City on November 19 and 20, have contributed to the advancement of DNA testing – testing benefitting all cats.

DNA and Disease
Ragdoll and Maine Coon cats may both develop cardiomyopathy, a disorder of the heart muscle causing the muscle to become very thick and resulting in heart failure. Analysis of the DNA in these two breeds has identified mutations associated with the development of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Breeders often use this test to help select the healthiest cats to parent future litters of kittens. The AMC’s Cardiology Service does not use this test to predict the development of cardiomyopathy because all cats with the mutation do not go on to develop this type of heart disease. The AMC’s staff cardiologists, Dr. Betsy Bond and Dr. Philip Fox, perform echocardiography to diagnose cardiomyopathy in cats.

The red blood cells of the Abyssinian cat and its cousin, the Somali, are affected by a genetic disease called pyruvate kinase deficiency. The enzyme pyruvate kinase can be found in the biochemical pathway responsible for providing the red blood cell with energy. Cats lacking this enzyme have weak red blood cells. The shortened survival of these weakened red blood cells renders affected cats sick and anemic. Domestic cats have also been diagnosed with this genetic disease.

Chronic upper respiratory infections and chronic diarrhea result from infection with a variety of organisms. DNA testing can be used to determine the cause. DNA testing identifies the presence of DNA belonging to a disease-causing virus, bacteria, parasite or mycoplasm, thus determining the cause of infection and directing therapy.

Conducting DNA Testing
DNA testing can be performed on a variety of samples. The sample submitted to the laboratory by your veterinarian will depend on the test being performed. If the test is looking for a mutation in your cat’s DNA as the cause of a disease, cardiomyopathy, for example, the sample must contain your cat’s DNA. Cheek swabs and blood samples are typically submitted for this type of test. If your veterinarian is looking for an infectious organism, the site of the infection might be sampled. A conjunctival swab can be used to detect feline upper respiratory viruses; feces can be used to identify the causative agent of diarrhea. Some tumors carry genetic mutations and the actual tumor sample is submitted to the laboratory to identify the mutation and the type of tumor.

Meet Purebred Cats
To meet all the purebred cats I have highlighted in the blog and more, join us at the 2011 AKC Meet the Breeds show at New York City’s Javits Center on November 19-20. Billed as an event where families can meet 160 dog breeds and over 50 cat breeds, the event promises to have something for everyone. Don’t miss this great opportunity to meet wonderful purebred cats, ask questions about them, and learn which one is the best one for your family. Stop by the Animal Medical Center booth to say hi! You can meet some of the staff and veterinarians who work with us and ask questions about your cat’s health.

Image: Elizabeth and Moby. See adorable purebred cats like these at AKC Meet the Breeds®
________________________________________________________

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.