Mendocino Animal HOspital
By Dr. Tara Venezio
It’s holiday time again! Time for good comfort food and decorating the house and the yard! And if you’re like me, time to scroll through Amazon and Chewy for special gifts and snacks for the furry kids!
We love the holiday times, but working in the veterinary hospital also brings pets in who get themselves into trouble with the novel items in and around the house to explore. We wanted to get some information out to you so you can watch out for some of the common problems that can occur in dogs and cats through the November and December holidays, so that they can remain safe and feeling good. I know they would rather be home on the couch instead of here in the clinic!
1. Holiday Decorations
Both dogs and cats are susceptible to the lure of shiny twinkly good smelling ornaments and decorations. A common presentation of pets around this time are involving bad run-ins with decorations.
In the case of dogs, chewing on ornaments can be problematic. We have seen pets coming in with metal ornament hangers stuck in the teeth or mouth. This can sometimes necessitate sedation to remove these sharp objects lodged in the gums and between the teeth. Dogs can also swallow both the metal pieces or swallow ornaments whole – especially those that are scented (they can’t always tell the difference between a real cookie and a ‘cookie scented’ ornament). These ornaments can cause gastric upset, broken pieces or glass can traumatize the stomach and intestines, and larger ornaments can even get stuck, causing an obstruction that could need surgery.
Cats, due to their natural prey and play instincts, are often seen in the vet hospital during holiday time. Cats love to climb, and the stories of cats climbing up into Christmas trees are numerous. One big problem many people don’t think about is how much cats like to play with strings. To a cat, tinsel hanging from a tree limb is just about the best thing they can imagine. Unfortunately, many cats will play with the tinsel and swallow long strings of it. Once ingested, the tinsel segment (linear foreign body) gets stretched along in the small intestine, and as the intestines try to work it through the gastrointestinal tract, it will cause the intestines to bunch and crimp up along the length of the tinsel. This and the pressure of peristalsis (the smooth muscle contractions in the intestines that makes the food move through) causes the tinsel to ‘saw’ through the delicate intestinal tissue and cause severe damage and ulceration, often times causing leakage of intestinal material into the abdomen. When this occurs, a severe infection, or a ‘septic abdomen’ occurs – which is a life-threatening situation requiring immediate emergency surgery. So if you have kitties in the house, don’t use tinsel at all! It is too much of a temptation to the cats with possible serious consequences.
These common household plants should be avoided when you have pets in the home, especially pets that have a habit of eating plants. Poinsettia, when ingested, can cause nausea/vomiting or diarrhea. They can also act as an irritant to the mouth and gums, causing excessive salivation. They are not likely to be life-threatening, and the signs are self-limiting, but it is better to avoid the discomfort for your pets.
3. New Treats and Table Scraps
A common reason for a post-holiday veterinary visit is an upset stomach following eating strange/new foods, like a new marrow bone or getting fatty table scraps. Vomiting and diarrhea are common responses to dogs and cats getting into foods that their body isn’t used to. Sometimes these upset stomach problems are mild and easily cured with some bland foods and medications, but some pets have a larger issue that requires days of hospitalization with IV fluids and medications. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is a common disease process following dietary indiscretion sometimes requiring intensive care in the hospital. Best to avoid feeding human food, especially those high in fats, as well as avoiding fatty dog treats like marrow bones.
4. Holiday Lights
Something often overlooked are holiday lights, both indoor and outdoor. Many pets are curious about the strings of lights and many pets assuage their curiosity using their mouths. Pets chewing at electric cords are a common cause of electric shock. Electric shock consequences in pets can vary – some pets will suffer oral burns and ulceration with pain. A severe electric shock can be life threatening. Watching pets when appliances and lights are plugged in is important, especially if you have young animals in the house who may be more apt to chew on them. If you are not supervising your pets, the lights should be unplugged to avoid problems.
By Kyree Klimist
We all want happy, enjoyable and relaxed dogs. The number one and most important thing you can do to prevent your dog from becoming aggressive or anxious is to properly socialize your puppy when they are young.
What does it mean to properly socialize your puppy? This means that you help your puppy learn that the world is a safe place through careful exposure to all kinds of different places and things. And it means that your puppy has to have a good time while they are learning about the world.
Canine behavior scientists have now determined that the “socialization window” is even smaller than previously thought - it is between 3 to 14 weeks instead of the previously thought 3-20 weeks. If you don’t get your puppy until they are 8 weeks old, this socialization window is half over.
I teach a Puppy Socialization Class at Mendocino Animal Hospital. The goal is to allow young puppies to interact and socialize in a safe environment while getting to ask questions about chewing, jumping, and house training. We talk about what you are seeing in their behavior in class as well and we discuss how to socialize them in the world at large in a safe way.
Classes are $20 each and are offered on Thursday’s at 6:30 p.m. for puppies between 8 to 16 weeks old at Mendocino Animal Hospital.
Contact me, Kyree, at 510-282-2701 for class size availability.
By Dr. Katy Sommers
Unless you are new to California, you’ve probably already had some personal experience with the dreaded “foxtails”. As humans, we may experience the annoyance of having to painstakingly pluck these nasty plant awns from our socks. For our pets, the consequences of foxtail encounters can be painful, cause serious infections, and can definitely rack up some costly vet bills.
Foxtails have a knack for lodging in almost any orifice (think nose, mouth, ears, vagina) as well as being able to work their way into hidden places, such as behind the third eyelid of a cat or dog. They can push through the sensitive skin between the toes or cling to the undercoat until they pierce the skin and travel to parts unknown in your pet’s body. Sometimes a CT scan is needed to locate deep foxtails that have travelled extensively and must be surgically removed.
This month we may see 5-10 patients in a day with a foxtail issue! A weepy, squinty eye this time of the year is a potential foxtail until proven otherwise, and should be considered an emergency due to the severe pain involved and the potential for doing permanent damage to the cornea. If it’s the end of the day, and your dog begins shaking his head and you suspect a foxtail in an ear, try applying 5-10 drops of mineral or olive oil into the ear until it can be removed. This oil dampens the prickly sharp points of the foxtail and will ease your pet’s pain.
Of course, prevention is the best policy. Mowing, weed whacking, and keeping your critter on groomed trails can help. If you can’t keep your pet out of the foxtails, at least once daily carefully inspect the body, around the ears and especially between the toes. For added prevention, you can also check out the foxtail “hoods” available online (try Outfoxfordogs.com). They look a little goofy but are well tolerated, can be custom fitted, and get great reviews from customers.
If your dog is coming to the clinic for a foxtail removal, or even for a dental cleaning, spay, or other surgery, it’s a smart move to request a “foxtail clip” (an ultra-short hair shave on the feet and a clip of the hairs around the ear canal) which can be done while your dog is sedated.
So don’t underestimate the dangers of the dreaded foxtail. Our abundance of rain this spring has created a healthy crop out there!
By Dr. Katy Sommers
If you read my last blog about Lyme disease in animals, you already know it makes sense to keep your dog free of ticks to prevent Lyme disease. In our area, this might sound easier said than done, as we have a high prevalence for ticks and the Lyme bacteria that ticks transmit. This discussion will cover tips on environmental control, natural tick control measures, topical and oral flea and tick preventatives and the Lyme vaccine.
If you live in the country or have a backyard where wildlife frequent, I recommend reading the tips for habitat control on the Center For Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev.) If you’re walking in the woods, keep your dog on wide paths or roads. Some ticks have been known to wait up to 2 years in a “suspended animation state” on a bush or low limb, just to leap on the next passing mammal.
Natural flea control measures have no side effects and work well for some people. A daily tick check can be a free, natural and effective way to fight Lyme disease. Finding and removing a tick within 24-48 hours is believed to eliminate disease risk. My dogs, Bunny and Chica, have light colored, short hair, making it easy for me to remove crawling or recently attached ticks. They love the attention, and I follow it with a short massage. I use a tissue wipe by VetriScience to help repel ticks before going on a walk, and the inexpensive “Tick Twister” for attached ticks. Both products are available in our lobby.
Many clients find the ease of monthly topical or oral tick control products work best for them. There’s a confusing amount of these products on the market. We change products periodically as we strive to carry the best available in terms of safety, effectiveness, ease of use, and affordability for our clients. We look carefully at published safety data and track records. You will find our doctors recommend specific options based on your dog’s health status and their risk for serious tick borne infections.
If your tick control is ineffective, discuss the Lyme vaccine with our vets. It works by killing the organism inside the attached tick before it can enter your dog’s system. Also consider the blood test offered at yearly health exams, which tells us if your dog has been infected with the Lyme organism.
A quick word about cats: They don’t get Lyme disease. Their excellent grooming skills usually keeps them relatively free of ticks, but you may need to help them with the Tick Twister on the areas they can’t reach, usually the head and neck.
So the ticks are still out there now in a number of areas! Our team is trained and eager to help you with questions about Lyme, so please don’t hesitate to ask.
By Dr. Katy Sommers
The answer is simply, “most likely, yes!” We live in a rural area where wildlife is abundant and ticks are common. A single bite from a tick infected with the nasty little spirochete which causes Lyme disease is all it takes.
But let’s clarify an important fact: Being infected with the Borrelia bacteria from the tick bite isn’t the same as having the disease itself. This is tricky to grasp sometimes, but experts tell us that, unlike in human cases, up to 90% of our dogs that are infected with the Lyme organism show no symptoms at all. In fact, 1 in 16 dogs in our area will have a positive test for Lyme infection, which is often quite a surprise to family members.
Thankfully, the majority of these dogs that test positive will get a “subclinical infection” which never leads to medical issues. However, other dogs may take months to develop symptoms, and sometimes this form of Lyme disease can be deadly. The trouble is, we can’t determine which infected dogs are going to get the actual Lyme disease.
Symptoms can be dramatic, with fever, swollen painful joints and reluctance to move. These are easy to diagnose and we have effective antibiotic treatments, yet some of these dogs may suffer from debilitating and relapsing symptoms. In other dogs, symptoms are vague or resemble symptoms of other diseases, requiring further testing. In these cases, we can see progressive, untreatable kidney or neurologic issues that can be fatal.
Because our dogs reside in a high-risk area, Lyme disease prevention is paramount. Prevention has many aspects and includes avoidance of tick areas, natural tick repellants, timely tick removal, the use of oral or topical tick control medications, and in some cases, Lyme vaccination.
In our next blog, I will explain how you can prevent this disease, and how to choose what combination of options will work best for your situation.
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