Written by Provided by Kristyn Brown, DVM; Lisette Druliner, DVM; Carolyn Houser, DVM, Hollywood Hill Animal Hospital
As the weather gets colder, we seek out ways to keep ourselves warm – like wearing more clothing and turning up our heat. But what do our pets do? Dogs and cats, both indoor and outdoor, will also look for ways to stay warm and cozy. Sometimes, they will inadvertently get themselves into a dangerous situation in an attempt to warm up.
• Pets with indoor access may choose to sit on a heat vent, curl up next to a fireplace, or snuggle under the blankets. Occasionally, a cat or small dog may try another heat source – a clothes dryer. Pets are quick to pick up on the source of warm laundry and can feel the warmth radiating from the machine itself. Every year, many pets are seriously injured or even die after accidentally getting locked in a dryer that then begins to heat and spin. The heat and tumbling action of a dryer is much too strong and fast for a pet to overcome, and left inside, it will result in a fatality.
• Cats are particularly prone to dryer-related accidents because of their attraction to small spaces to hide, elevated perches and their natural curiosity. To keep your pet safe this fall and winter, we suggest the following:
1. Educate the members of your household that may use the dryer. Awareness is often enough to catch a hiding pet in a dryer before it gets started.
2. Keep access to the dryer limited to when clothes are being transferred in and out of the dryer. Otherwise, keep the door latched closed.
3. Before each cycle, feel around inside the dryer to make sure Fluffy didn’t sneak inside when you weren’t looking.
4. Provide accessible alternatives for your cat or dog to warm up, such as extra blankets.
5. Never encourage a pet to get in a dryer, even if you are supervising. Your pet will think it is a suitable place to go and may become extremely interested in exploring it during other times as well.
If your pet does accidentally spend ANY amount of time inside a dryer, call your veterinarian and take him or her to be evaluated immediately. Injuries can include head trauma/concussions, hyperthermia, organ trauma, burns, and fractures. Even if your pet seems fine, a veterinarian will be able to detect subtle signs of injury and provide the care your pet needs. As is true with most injuries and illnesses, early intervention often means cheaper and more effective treatment.
During times of celebration, friends and family often gather in our homes. At these times, it is easy to overlook potential hazards to your cat’s health and safety. In order to prevent mishaps for your cuddly companions, it is important that you recognize these hidden dangers.
My cat enjoys playing with ribbons, tinsel, and other decorations. Is this okay?
Most cats enjoy playing with ribbons, string and tinsel, especially if they are shiny or moving. Kittens and young cats tend to be more curious and playful and appear to see these items as toys that need to be chased, pounced upon, chewed or swallowed. While chasing and pouncing are healthy physical activities for cats, chewing and swallowing ribbons can be harmful.
“If you want to let your kitten play with string or ribbon, only allow it to play with the item while under your direct supervision.”
When swallowed, these “linear foreign bodies” can become entangled in the intestinal tract, leading to bunching of the intestines as the body tries unsuccessfully to pass the string or ribbon. With each intestinal contraction, the rough or abrasive material rubs against the walls of the intestines, causing inflammation. Eventually, the material can even cut through the intestinal wall. This is a life-threatening emergency requiring surgical intervention. If you want to let your kitten play with string or ribbon, only allow it to play with the item while under your direct supervision. Better yet, don’t even encourage this sort of play!
My cat likes to chew on cords. Can this be harmful?
Dangling cords of various types are tempting to cats that like to play with string, or kittens that are teething and are interested in chewing. Cats have extremely sharp teeth that can easily penetrate the insulation around electric light cords or extension cords. If this happens, it could result in a severe burn to the tongue or an electrical shock that could damage the lungs or heart. This is an emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.
I’ve heard that chocolate is poisonous to animals. Is this true?
Many people do not realize that chocolate can be a poison when eaten in large amounts, even to people! Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which has caffeine-like activities. Theobromine is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator and a smooth muscle relaxant. Unsweetened or baking chocolate contains a much higher amount of the potentially toxic theobromine than milk chocolate (approximately 10 times the amount on average). For the average cat, weighing 11 pounds or 5 kg, the toxic amount of milk chocolate is approximately 11 ounces, but 1-2 squares of baking chocolate or high quality dark chocolate has the potential to be fatal. An 8-week old kitten usually weighs 1-2 pounds (less than 1 kg), and can be poisoned by only 1 ounce of milk chocolate! Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include hyperexcitability, nervousness, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe overdoses, the only symptom may be sudden death.
What sort of festive plants are toxic to cats?
Poinsettia sap can be irritating to the mouth and stomach of the cat that chews on the leaves or stems of this festive plant. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia is not specifically toxic, but can cause intestinal upset.
Some mistletoe species are toxic, causing liver failure or seizures, while other species are only irritating to the intestinal tract if ingested. The fact that there are several types of mistletoe makes it difficult to predict the clinical signs of poisoning with this popular holiday trimming. It is wise to consider mistletoe to be a hazardous substance and keep it out of reach of pets and children.
All parts of many plants belonging to the lily family are highly toxic to cats. Because of this risk, it is best to prevent your cat or kitten from chewing on peace lilies, Christmas lilies, or other plants belonging to this family.
Other seasonal plants that are toxic to cats include daffodils, narcissi and spring bulbs that are commonly “forced” to bloom during the winter that bring a “breath of springtime” into our homes.
I like to give my cat some of our dinner as a treat on special occasions. Is there anything I should avoid?
We all like to include our pets in holiday meals along with the rest of the family, but try to keep in mind that sudden rich diet changes are likely to upset a pet’s stomach. Vomiting and diarrhea are not uncommon medical problems that veterinarians see during any holiday time, and especially between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you wish to feed your cat a special treat, give her only a small amount of lean meat. If you feed leftovers that contain a lot of fat, the pancreas may become overworked and inflamed. This serious condition is known as pancreatitis and usually requires hospitalization and intensive medical treatment. Also make sure that any string or packaging that was used during the preparation of roasts or turkeys is safely disposed of in a sealed garbage container. Most cats can’t resist digging these well-flavored items out and eating them, potentially causing an intestinal obstruction.
It’s a good idea to keep your pets out of the kitchen during the hustle and bustle of the season. The last thing you want is for them to get underfoot and get burned or otherwise injured. By observing a few commonsense guidelines, you can share a safe and healthy celebration with your cat and give thanks for the companionship you enjoy with your four-legged family members.
An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins.
“... with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body. “
The allergen protein may be of insect, plant or animal origin. Exposure to the allergen, usually on multiple occasions, sensitizes the immune system, and a subsequent exposure to the same or related allergen causes an over-reaction. Normally the immune response protects the dog against infection and disease, but with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body.
The immune reactions involved in allergies are quite complex. Most reactions involve an antibody in the blood called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). In an allergic reaction the allergen protein molecules combine with IgE antibody molecules and attach to a type of cell called a mast cell. Mast cells are found in many tissues throughout the body. When the antigen and antibody react with mast cells, the mast cells break up and release potent chemicals such as histamines that cause local inflammation (redness, swelling and itching). This inflammation causes the various signs associated with an allergic reaction.
What are the symptoms of allergies in dogs?
In the dog, the most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either localized (in one area) or generalized (all over the body). In some cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system with coughing, sneezing and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergic symptoms affect the digestive system resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
How common are allergies in dogs?
Unfortunately, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age with the majority of affected dogs over age two.
Are allergies inherited?
Some allergies are inherited. The inherited trait is known as Atopy (see What is Inhalant Allergy or Atopy below).
What are the common allergy-causing substances (allergens)?
A very large number of substances can act as allergens. Most are proteins of insect, plant or animal origin, but small chemical molecules known as haptens can also cause allergy. Examples of common allergens are pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells (similar to “pet allergies” in humans), insect proteins such as flea saliva and some medications.
What are the different types of allergy?
There are several ways of classifying allergies. Some examples of classifications include:
• Precipitating allergen - Flea Allergy
• Route the allergen takes into the body - Inhalant Allergy, Skin Contact Allergy or Food Allergy
• Time it takes for the immune reaction - Immediate-type Hypersensitivity, also called Anaphylaxis or Shock, and Delayed-type Hypersensitivity
• Type of immune reaction - Types I through IV Hypersensitivity
• Clinical Signs - Allergic Dermatitis or Allergic Bronchitis
• Inherited forms - Atopy or Seasonal Allergies
What is Contact Allergy?
Contact allergy is the least common type of allergy in dogs. It results from direct contact to allergens, such as pyrethrins found in flea collars, pesticides used on the lawn, grasses, materials such as wool or synthetics used in carpets or bedding, etc.
“...there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact...”
If the dog is allergic to these substances, there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact, usually the feet and stomach. Removal of the allergen (once it can be identified) often solves the problem.Caution:The symptoms of allergies can be confused with other disorders or occur concurrently with them. Do not attempt to diagnose your dog without veterinary professional assistance. Be prepared for your pet to receive a full diagnostic evaluation to rule out other causes. If an allergy is diagnosed, your whole family must follow your veterinarian’s advice very closely in order to successfully relieve your pet’s discomfort.
A diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) in your cat can feel devastating and even overwhelming. After all, we know that OA is a progressive, degenerative disease that will worsen over time. By most estimates, 90 percent of cats over age 10 are affected by OA, making it the most common chronic disease they face. Once a cat is diagnosed with OA, it is important to understand that our focus is management rather than cure. Success means maximizing your cat’s comfort and function while minimizing pain.
Successfully managing your cat’s OA means maximizing comfort and function while minimizing pain.
The good news is that there are many strategies, both big and small, to help cats live with their OA.
What is the first step I should take to help my cat with OA?
Create a true partnership with your veterinarian. This means scheduling regular evaluations to monitor the progression of OA and modify the treatment plan. Dedicate a journal or notebook to your cat’s ongoing health/medical issues and write down all your questions as you think of them. Take your notebook to all veterinary visits to record answers to your questions as well as to note the details of any updated veterinary recommendations. We only recall about 10 percent of what we hear, so it makes sense to write things down.
Can my cat’s weight make a difference in managing OA?
Yes, it can. If your cat is carrying extra weight, work with your veterinarian to plan a weight-loss strategy to get your cat lean and keep him or her that way. Your veterinarian will prescribe a specific diet that will provide joint support and help your cat lose weight. Ask for specific portion recommendations and schedule regular weigh-ins to monitor success. It is a myth that cats need to eat “at will.” They can easily learn to eat two measured meals a day, and this is a big step toward getting your cat back in shape.
Can exercise help?
With OA joints, we know that cats need to “use it or lose it.” Regular moderate exercise contributes to better joint health, even in the face of OA. Most cats can learn to use a harness and leash to take walks with human family members. Typically, they want to lead the way rather than “heel” like their canine counterparts. Chasing the light from a laser pointer or a feather toy on a casting rod and reel are two additional activities cats may enjoy.
Is there anything I should know about the pain medications/nutraceuticals/supplements my veterinarian has prescribed for my cat?
Use all products strictly as instructed/labeled. Do not modify delivery/dosing of prescription medications except under the direction of your veterinarian. Be sure to ask for a written summary of potential side effects and monitor your cat carefully. If you witness any adverse side effects from medications, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Are there any other veterinary management options I can look into?
You may want to explore physical medicine to complement medication, nutrition and nutraceuticals to help your cat with OA. Physical medicine options include physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, chiropractic and medical massage. You want to work with appropriately qualified and credentialed individuals, so seek your veterinarian’s guidance for a referral. Physical medicine may allow for decreased doses of medication over time by helping to restore more normal biomechanics, movement and strength in the cat’s body.
Physical medicine may help restore more normal biomechanics, movement, and strength in your cat’s body.
How can I modify my home environment to maximize my cat’s comfort and function?
There are some simple things you can do to make everyday living much more comfortable and fun for your cat with OA. Something as straightforward as providing raised food and water dishes can relieve low-back pain and make mealtimes more enjoyable. Dishes between your cat’s elbow and shoulder level are generally most convenient. Many cats like to sit in windowsills, so providing a stool or ottoman as a “step up” makes it easier for them to go vertical. Carpeted steps can also help cats climb onto beds and furniture.
In addition, keep your cat warm and dry. Outdoor living is, in general, not appropriate for these cats. Cats with OA cannot easily defend themselves from attack, nor can they evade other outdoor dangers. To make sleeping surfaces as comfortable as possible, consider providing your cat with an orthopedic or memory foam bed.
Finally, an often-overlooked yet very important environmental modification is slip-free flooring. In this age of hardwood, laminate, tile, and vinyl flooring, cats with OA lose out. We can help them by:
• Adding area rugs with non-skid backing.
• Laying down interlocking squares of lightly padded flooring (such as those used to create play surfaces for children). These squares work well for covering large floor surfaces because they can be custom-fitted to any room and easily removed for cleaning and entertaining company.
What is my takeaway message?
Work with your veterinarian to expand and fine-tune these options for your cat. With a bit of imagination and creative thought, you can help your cat with OA enjoy a long, happy, and comfortable life!
When even reactive dogs and a little corgi who walks with his back legs attached to wheels since his hind quarters are paralyzed can participate, you know this is the perfect sport for all dogs. All ages, all breeds and mixed breeds are welcome because all dogs have fabulous noses and that is the only requirement for the sport of “Nose Work.” If the dog’s owner wishes, the game can go as far as entering scenting trials. However, the greatest benefit is the bonding that occurs between the owner and the dog. All that is needed to start is a few cardboard boxes, good smelling yummy dog treats and any time of the day or night to “play” at home and to join a “nose work” class for instruction. For more information, visit the website of National Association of Canine Nose Work.com or Positive Dog Training School. com in Woodinville. .