Winter Pet Hazards

The Arctic Express is moving through New York and the rest of the country in a little pre-holiday blitz. As a result of the low temperatures and last night’s freezing rain, this morning there was salt on all the sidewalks on my route to The Animal Medical Center reminding me it is time to talk about winter hazards for pets.

Salt and Ice Melt

Real salt (NaCl), or a calcium chloride salt substitute used in some ice melts, both contain chloride which is irritating to dog paws and stomachs if they lick the salt off their feet. Calcium chloride can generate enough heat to burn the skin on delicate paws. Several companies make a pet safe (salt and chloride free) ice melt. They are typically brightly colored pellets so dog owners can easily see where the salt has been spread. Morton’s is making an eco-safe/pet safe ice melt with plant fertilizer in it. PETCO also offers a non-tracking, pet safe ice melt

If you and your dog go on long walks and might encounter a non-pet friendly ice melt, you will need to wash your pet’s feet after the walk. You might also consider musher’s wax applied to the footpad or putting boots on your pet before a walk. Sled dog owners apply musher’s wax to the pads of their dog’s feet to provide a protective coating against ice and cold. Personally, I think the boots, which are like little balloons for dog feet, are really cute and the dogs I see wearing them don’t seem to mind. Here are some fun dog boots for the fashion conscious.

Frigid Temperatures

Dogs living outdoors in their own doghouse, a kennel or barn not only need a warm, snug place to sleep with some sort of bedding to keep them up off the cold ground, they also need food and water. When cold weather hits, your outdoor dog can get very hungry and thirsty if their food is outside and frozen. Check your outdoor dog’s food and water frequently to be sure it is edible and drinkable. If the water is frozen, get a dog water bowl heater or consider bringing your dog inside until the weather tempers a bit.

Stray Voltage

Every year there are frightening stories of dogs and their owners who are “shocked” by stray voltage on wet streets. The combination of salt, water and stray voltage from poorly insulated wiring on light posts or street and sidewalk electric boxes can be dangerous. Never tie your dog to a lamppost. To be safe, walk your dog a good distance away from these potential hazards and report any possible sources of stray voltage to the police or electric company. If your dog is the unfortunate victim of stray voltage (they usually cry in pain or collapse while walking near a light post or electric box on a wet or slushy day), it is important to get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Street Zaps has other helpful information about protecting your entire family against stray voltage.

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

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

Halloween Hazards

For children, Halloween is a long anticipated holiday featuring parties, costumes and above all, candy. Adults celebrate the holiday too, by decorating their homes and yards with ghosts, goblins and jack o'lanterns. But as you can see by the photo above of my cat, Cheetah costumed as Minnie Mouse, pets don't enjoy Halloween.

Trick or treaters constantly ringing the doorbell can make an anxious pet even more so. When the treats are passed out at the front door, they may try to escape the commotion, slipping outside unnoticed. I recommend confining your cat or dog in its crate or one room of the house while you receive trick or treaters to prevent your pet from being one of the estimated 3-4 million pets entering shelters annually. Only 25% of these pets are reunited with their families. If confining your pet is not possible, double check their collar and ID tags and if they don't have a microchip get one to help your pet come home if it succeeds in escaping while you dole out the treats.

Halloween food presents another risk for your pets, particularly dogs. Dogs can have quite a sweet tooth and will devour the entire contents of a goodie bag, but cats are too finicky to be tempted by sweets. Just like with children who over indulge on Halloween, too many treats will cause an upset stomach, or worse, vomiting and diarrhea. So keep the cauldron of treats out of reach of your dog.

Feasting on two specific sweets may end in a scary visit to the veterinary emergency room – chocolate, especially dark chocolate and xylitol. Chocolate contains a substance related to caffeine and the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine like substance it contains. Small dogs that eat chocolate are especially at risk for developing vomiting, diarrhea, an elevated heart rate and hyperexcitability. Xylitol is a low calorie sweetener in some diet foods, gum and mints. It is safe for humans, but lethal for dogs who develop low blood sugar, seizures and liver problems. If your pet eats something other than their usual fare on Halloween, don't hesitate to call Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 to find out if you should head to the Animal ER. They take calls 24/7.

When pets are around, jack o'lanterns can be risky. Pumpkin is appealing to some dogs and cats, but that is not the problem. It is the candle inside. Pet hair can easily cat on fire if a nosy or hungry pet decides to investigate the jack o'lantern. Better to use a battery operated flickering light, which will be safer for everyone.

And if you want to see some really cute pets ready for trick or treating, check out WebMD or The AMC Facebook page.

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

Summer Pet Hazards

As the weather warms up, everyone, including the family pet, wants to spend more time outdoors. Fresh air, sunshine and more opportunity to exercise are just a few of the benefits of the summer season. But summer also brings with it an opportunity for injury. To keep your pet safe this summer season, here are a quintet of pet hazards that could spoil your fun in the sun.

Heatstroke
Heatstroke is a completely preventable emergency. Pets should never be left in a closed car on a hot day. At home on scorching hot days, close the blinds, provide plenty of water and a fan or air conditioner. Some dogs have a greater risk of developing heatstroke. If you have a porky pooch, a dark-coated doggy or a flat faced fur friend like this French Bulldog, exercise them outdoors in the early or later part of the day when it is coolest. An overnight change from spring to summer weather may not allow your pet to acclimatize, increasing the risk for heatstroke. If your pet becomes overheated, is panting excessively or collapses, go immediately to an animal ER.

Falls
Our mothers told us cats always land on their feet and have nine lives. Every year, New York City cats prove our mothers wrong. Whether chasing pigeons or losing their balance on a slippery fire escape, every summer cats fall out of apartment windows. They clearly don’t always land on their feet because they commonly suffer a triad of injuries: fractured roof of the mouth, fractured wrists and punctured lungs. This type of injury may use up all nine lives at once, so please keep your windows closed or use window screens to protect your cat.

Thunderstorms
Is your dog better at predicting a thunderstorm than the weatherman? Some believe dogs hear thunder as it approaches and before humans do. Others believe the static electricity from the storm accumulates in their fur, making them act crazy before a storm. Whatever the cause, a special jacket may help. The Storm Defender coat diffuses the static electricity accumulating in your dog’s fur during a thunderstorm. The Anxiety Wrap’s tight fit soothes anxious or frightened dogs. However they work, these jackets are worth a try if your dog has thunderstorm phobia. They may protect your house from destruction by your frightened dog during a thunderstorm.

Gardens
Watching your cat stalk bugs in a summer garden can provide hours of entertainment, but the garden can be a dangerous environment for pets. Azaleas, lilies, tulips, cyclamen and narcissus can cause stomach upset or even kidney failure. It is best to check the plant’s toxicity profile before adding it to your garden. Mulch holds moisture around plants and creates an attractive look in your garden. Cocoa mulch has become popular for its dark color and aroma. Some dogs will eat the cocoa mulch, resulting in chocolate toxicity. For a pet-friendly garden, skip the cocoa mulch altogether.

Beaches and Pools
The beach is a great place to make a summer getaway for swimming, boating or reading a good book. Just be sure your dog is properly outfitted. A dog life jacket will prevent a dog overboard emergency if you have a landlubber dog. Take fresh drinking water for your dog if you are spending the day at the ocean – sipping too much salt water can result in stomach upset and/or diarrhea. If you can’t make it to the beach and are poolside, keep it safe for your dog by installing floating pool stairs. Most dogs can’t negotiate a pool ladder to escape if they fall into to the pool. Before there is an emergency, practice using the pool stairs so your dog knows where they are and how to use them. Swimming rules are for dogs too – never let them swim alone!

For more summer pet safety and health information please join us at The AMC’s PAW Day 2010, a day of pet and wellness fun for families and their furry companions, on Saturday, June 5 from 9am-12pm in Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan.

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