Pet Sounds (9)
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about keeping your pet happy - and also tips on dealing with the death of a pet
February is Valentine's Day - when people decorate with hearts - so Dr. Mindy Cohan joined us to talk about both Happy Hearts and Broken Hearts: things you can do to pamper your pet ... and ways to process the sadness when dealing with the death of a pet.
Showing that doggie love:
* Make homemade treats
* Visit a dog bakery
* Take a walk, run or hike (great exercise and mental stimulation)
* Go to a pet store and let your dog choose a new toy
* Buy a treat/food dispensing ball
* Take your dog on a trip to a pet friendly bed and breakfast or hotel (www.bringfido.com and www.petfriendlytravel.com)
* Buy a safety harness for car travel
* Purchase a new leash and matching collar
* Snuggle on a sofa while reading or watching television
* Enroll your dog in doggie day care or arrange for a dog walker if you will be away from home during daytime hours
* Go for a ride in the car (assuming your pup does not get car sick)
* Spend one on one time teaching a new trick or attend agility class together
* Play time (toss a ball or toy)
* Take your dog for a swim (Labs, Golden Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Standard Poodles)
* Give belly rubs, back scratches
* Talk to your dog
* Morning cuddles in bed
* Special treats (Frosty Paws)
* Bathe and brush your dog
* Buy a new plush bed
Tips for coddling your cat:
* Buy new toys (laser pointer, feather wand, motorized mouse)
* Combing helps to prevent mats and hairballs and many cats enjoy being brushed
* Buy a cat tree or climbing furniture which provide a great look out spot, sense of security from house guests or other resident pets
* Place a soft bed in the sunshine or by a window
* Set up a window sill perch which allows for all day entertainment of watching birds, squirrels
* Provide multiple scratching posts with various textures
* Purchase a harness for walks outside
* Set aside time to snuggle on a sofa
* Leave a video on while out of the house featuring birds or fish
* Growth fresh catnip
* Provide plenty of litter boxes, cleaning them multiple times daily
* Give a gentle massage
Dealing With Broken Hearts
As a veterinarian and pet parent, I understand the devastation that follows the loss of a pet. For many children, the loss of a pet is their first experience with death. Children mourn differently than adults and expressions of grief can vary depending on the child’s age. It is very important for parents to allow children to grieve in their own personal fashion.
The bond between children and their pets is extremely strong. A recent study found that children can prefer their pets to siblings. Pets provide unconditional love, they serve as loyal confidants, pets are always available as playmates and they provide children with a sense of security during scary or sad situations. The loss of a companion which served so many important roles in a child’s life can result in tremendous grief.
Grief is a perfectly natural reaction to the death of a loved one. Grieving for a pet is a tribute to the special relationship that was shared. Shock and disbelief are very common initial reactions to the loss of a beloved pet. Shock is particularly common when the death occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. Guilt is another common emotion, especially if the pet died as a result of an accident. Sadness is a normal emotion following a death, yet many people who are not animal lovers may say insensitive things such as, “It was only a pet” or “You should be over it by now.”
Symptoms of grief are shared by adults, children and even the surviving pet family members. Common physical and emotional manifestations of grief include:
Sleeping more or less
Lack of concentration
Lack of energy/motivation
Suggestions for helping children before or after the loss of a pet include:
Allow the child to see you cry and be sad.
Always be straightforward and honest when answering a child’s questions.
Do not force a child to discuss his/her feelings, give them time and space.
Offer to help a child memorialize a pet. Set up a tribute table to include photos, a collar or leash, toys, bowls, a lock of fur. Help a child to write a poem or letter to the deceased pet. Plant a flower or tree in the pet’s memory. Allow the child to participate in a memorial service.
Avoid using terms such as “put to sleep” or inaccurate stories such as “Fluffy went to a farm.”
Reassure a child that they were not at fault for the pet’s death.
Do not replace the pet before the child has a chance to mourn.
· Resources for grieving pet families
Books for children
Dog Heaven – Cynthia Rylant
Cat Heaven – Cynthia Rylant
The 10th Best Thing about Barney – Judith Viorst
Books for Adults
When a Pet Dies – Fred Rogers
Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping – Marty Tousley
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing – Alan Wolfelt
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about adopting a pet and holiday safety tips!
People and pets have a lot in common. Unfortunately, both are suffering from an obesity epidemic. In recent years, obesity has been recognized as a human disease. Now, there is discussion in the veterinary community as to whether to classify pet obesity as a disease. If the obesity problem in pets is recognized as a disease, it will help to bring greater awareness to this common problem that affects over 50% of dogs and cats in the U.S.
Many people set new year’s resolutions to make healthier food choices and to exercise more. In order to get the new year off to a good start for your pet, consult your pet’s veterinarian to see if a weight loss plan is needed. Our pet’s need our help in order to succeed in reaching a healthy weight. A veterinarian can make recommendations to help you know what type of food and what amount is best for your pet. Your veterinarian will also decide how much exercise is safe for your pet. Remember, you would not start off running 10 miles daily. Pets that have not had regular exercise need to be slowly introduced to becoming more active.
Taking simple steps such as regular walks and playtime with your dog can make a big difference. Since most cats can’t rely on walks outside to burn more calories, pet parents must think of creative ways to get their feline friends moving. Laser pointers and feather wands are very appealing to cats and a great way to encourage indoor activity. A food dispensing ball is a great way to make your cat’s food last longer while also providing exercise as your cat chases it around the house. The new NoBowl feeding system for cats was designed by a veterinarian and offers many benefits such as weight management, preventing rapid eating followed by vomiting, exercise, and positive mental stimulation for the cat’s overall well being.
Harnesses and Walking Cats
Some cats enjoy being walked on a harness outside. This is a safe way for them to explore the outdoors and get exercise. Make sure your cat tolerates the harness, put it on at home before feeding. This will help the cat to have a positive association with the harness.
- lay harness on floor near food dish
- lay harness over cat without buckling it and feed treats
- attach leash to harness and let the cat roam in the house with leash attached, give treats
- lead the cat around the house with leash attached to harness. Once the cat is used to the harness, venture outside.
Benefits of a Harness
- Mental stimulation, less behavioral problems
- Better sleep at night for cat and owner
- Bonding time
Excessive treats and table food are often the biggest culprits of weight gain in pets. Decreasing the frequency of treats as well as the quantity is critical for a successful weight loss program. Instead of feeding your dog an entire biscuit, feed just a small piece. Cat treats are fine as a reward, but do not feed them indiscriminately. Avoid feeding your dog from the table. Human table food adds many unaccounted calories to a dog’s daily intake.
Studies have shown that an overweight pet has a significantly shorter life span than a pet at a healthy weight. In addition to not being able to enjoy as many years with your pet, overfeeding is putting your pet at risk for many medical problems such as:
- Heart and respiratory issues
- Injury to ligaments
- Intervertebral disc disease (especially breeds including the Beagle, Dachshund, Corgi)
- High blood pressure
February is National Pet Dental Health Month
Many dog and cat owners wait until their pet’s breath is offensive before seeking dental care. Veterinary exams on a biannual or at least yearly basis are very important and should include a thorough oral evaluation. Pet owners should not be surprised or alarmed if their veterinarian recommends a professional teeth cleaning. A teeth cleaning by a veterinarian will be performed under general anesthesia since we cannot rely on dogs and cats to remain still for the procedure.
Studies show that at least 85% of pets have periodontal disease by three years of age. The progression of dental disease begins with plaque formation. Plaque is comprised of saliva and bacteria. Plaque hardens and becomes tartar, a mineralized, dense material that is beige and visible on the tooth surface. The bacteria within tartar are harmful and cause damage to the tooth ligament and surrounding bone. Eventually the tooth will become loose and the bacteria can enter the blood stream, affecting the heart, liver, kidneys and brain.
Signs of dental disease include:
- bad breath
- red or swollen gums
- pain or bleeding when the pet eats or when the mouth is touched
- decreased appetite or difficulty chewing
- loose or missing teeth
- swelling underneath an eye (can indicate a tooth abscess)
While gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums is reversible, periodontal disease is not. To prevent the progression of dental disease, regular home care and periodic professional cleanings are recommended. Brushing a pet’s teeth on a daily basis is the most effective means of preventing dental disease. Veterinary brushes and finger brushes are available. It is very important to use only veterinary toothpaste. Human toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed and can be harmful to dogs and cats.
For a video demonstration on brushing your pet’s teeth, please visit
To see which dental products the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approves, please visit
If your pet shows signs of a dental problem, or you have questions regarding your dog or cat’s oral hygiene, please consult your veterinarian.
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about adopting a pet and holiday safety tips!
Watching television commercials featuring dogs, cats and guinea pigs, I am reminded that the holidays have become a popular time to acquire new pets. As a veterinarian and pet parent, I must emphasize the importance of not making a hasty decision when deciding to bring a new pet into your home.
Pets require a large time and financial commitment and all family members should be involved in the decision making process. Basic pet care can be expensive and families must plan to keep funds aside in case of pet emergencies. Pet insurance should be considered so that finances do not dictate a pet’s medical care.
While surprising someone with a pet can feel exciting, it is not recommended. When recalling their first encounter with a pet, people often say, “the pet picked me” or “we were drawn to each other.” Selecting a pet is a very personal decision and the element of surprise denies that special bonding moment.
As the mom of only rescue pets, I must advocate for acquiring a pet from a shelter or rescue group. If a certain breed is a must for your family, search for pets through a rescue organization that specializes in your breed of choice. Otherwise, research reputable breeders.
Always schedule a veterinary check up with your new pet soon after it joins your family. A veterinarian can examine your pet for any health issues and is vital for providing sound medical and training advice. Even if your family has trained pets previously, dog classes are a great idea for ensuring both a well behaved and well socialized dog. Your pet’s veterinarian or friends are a good resource for training class recommendations.
Precautions for a happy and safe holiday
Christmas Tree Safety
• NO TINSEL! If swallowed by dog or cat, tinsel and ribbons can cause severe intestinal damage and possible death.
• Keep the tree well watered so needles do not dry and become a fire hazard.
• Always turn off lights when leaving home.
• Tree fertilizer can be toxic if ingested by pets.
• Make sure that tree ornaments are well secured so they do not fall and become consumed. Some dogs will even eat glass ornaments!
• Do not leave wrapped food items under the tree. Pets can smell goodies with their keen noses and will ravage the package.
• Exposed electrical cords, if chewed, are very dangerous to puppies, kittens, and rabbits
KEEP CHOCOLATE AWAY FROM DOGS!
• Theobromine is the toxic agent found in chocolate.
• Baker’s chocolate (bittersweet) is the most dangerous. White chocolate does not contain cocoa powder and is therefore less dangerous, but can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
• The onset of chocolate effects can be seen within 4-24 hours after ingestion
• Signs of chocolate toxicity include: vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures and death are possible
• If your dog consumes chocolate, call your veterinarian or poison control immediately
• Other food items that are unsafe for dogs and cats include raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugarless gum and baked goods can be fatal if ingested by dogs.
• Avoid feeding table food to pets. Some pets have very sensitive stomachs and just a small amount of table food can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Some fatty foods can cause a very serious condition called pancreatitis. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU FEED A BONE TO YOUR DOG.
• Poinsettias and holly berries can cause mouth irritation (drooling) and upset pets’ stomachs (vomiting), but they are not highly toxic
• Mistletoe can cause more serious illness and may be fatal if ingested. Hanging mistletoe in your home is not worth the risk to pets.
• Lilies do not pose a threat to dogs, but they can cause kidney failure and are often deadly for cats.
ANIMAL POISON HOTLINE (ASPCA) 1-888-426-4435, there is a $65 charge for each call.
• Always supervise Hanukkah and any other holiday candles. Be sure to keep open flames out of cats’ reach.
Who can’t resist buying your furry friend a new toy for the holidays? Choose toys wisely! Avoid gifts that can be destroyed or ingested if your dog is prone to “destuffing” plush toys. Stuffing, squeakers and other toy components can lead to obstructions if ingested. Although cats love to chase ribbon and string, if ingested, these materials can be very dangerous. Be particularly careful to put away ribbon used for wrapping gifts.
• Avoid “indestructible” toys as they can cause severe irritation to dogs’ gums.
• Items such as real bones, Nylon bones, antlers, ice cubes and hooves can cause tooth fractures and should be avoided.
Holiday themed collars
Coats and sweaters for dogs
Holiday themed toys
Beds and fleece blankets
Paw wax to protect dogs’ paws from snow and salt or ice melt
Treat/food dispensing puzzles
Climbing posts for cats
Bake homemade treats
On the go water bottles for dogs
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about things to keep out of your pet's reach!
Hazardous Substances for Pets
While people may try to resist the temptation of chocolate, dogs never have the willpower to say, “No.” This accounts for the reason animal poison control hotlines receive more calls about chocolate than any other ingested substance. Although cats can also be affected by chocolate, they rarely give in to their sweet tooth like dogs. Chocolate and coffee contain xanthine alkaloids, the substance which is responsible for the side effects animals experience if they ingest either product. The xanthine alkaloid in coffee is caffeine and chocolate contains theobromine. Dogs can ingest many types of chocolate including candy bars, cookies, brownies, cocoa mulch and holiday treats such as chocolate hearts and bunnies. The amount of theobromine ingested is dependent upon the type of chocolate and the amount consumed. Baking chocolate poses the greatest risk, while white chocolate is the most benign type of chocolate in terms of theobromine content. Symptoms of chocolate or coffee ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and death. If your dog consumes either chocolate or coffee, it is critical to call your veterinarian or poison control immediately. You will need to report the size of your dog, the suspected quantity consumed, and most importantly, the type of chocolate the dog devoured. Fortunately, if you witness your dog’s consumption of chocolate or coffee, or discover the ingestion soon afterwards, vomiting can be induced to help prevent further absorption and toxicity.
While xanthine alkaloids have been identified as the problematic substance in chocolate and coffee, the toxic substance in grapes, raisins and currants is unknown. The danger of kidney failure posed by these foods has only come to light in recent years. Not every dog will experience kidney failure after ingesting these foods. Cats and ferrets can also be affected, but the likelihood of these pets consuming grapes and raisins is far less than it is for dogs. Since we don’t know how to identify which dogs will be affected, it is necessary to treat all dogs as if their life is at risk. The quantity that must be consumed in order to cause a problem is also unknown. Therefore, precautions should be taken even if a small amount is consumed. Raisins are found in many common household food products such as cookies, bagels, trail mix and granola bars. The symptoms related to kidney failure secondary to ingestion of grapes, raisins and currants include vomiting, increased thirst and urination, poor appetite, and lethargy. If you witness or discover that your dog has consumed any of these foods, call your veterinarian or poison control immediately.
Nuts pose a serious threat to people with severe allergies. For dogs, macadamia nuts do not cause an allergic reaction, but result in alarming symptoms including vomiting, elevated body temperature, tremors and weakness in the hindquarters. A small amount of nuts can cause these problems. Fortunately, dogs will usually recover from macadamia nut ingestion within 24-48 hours. If you discover that your dog has consumed macadamia nuts, contact your veterinarian immediately.
While raw garlic, onions, chives and leeks may not be as tempting as chocolate, these ingredients found in pizza, onion rings, meat based recipes, and onion dip become a tasty treat for dogs and cats. Onions and garlic contain thiosulfate which creates two types of problems for dogs and cats. Consumption leads to stomach and intestinal upset manifesting in vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and decreased appetite. The other issue is the rupture and loss of red blood cells which results in anemia. Signs of anemia include pale gums, lethargy, increased heart and respiratory rates, weakness, and collapse. Pet owners should avoid sharing any foods containing onions, garlic, chives and leeks with their dogs and cats. If your pet accidentally ingests these foods, contact your veterinarian or poison control immediately.
Another item that is safe for people, but toxic to dogs is xylitol. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, is an artificial sweetener that is commonly used in many food and non-food products. It can be found in sugar-free chewing gums, breath mints, baked goods, toothpaste, cough syrup, and vitamins. The most dangerous product containing xylitol is peanut butter as this is a food often deliberately given to dogs as a treat. There are two main problems that dogs develop after ingesting xylitol. First, xylitol causes a significant release of insulin from the pancreas. This leads to a dramatic decrease in the dog’s blood sugar level which poses a threat of seizures and coma. Secondly, xylitol causes liver failure. Check all peanut butter labels before giving it to a dog and be sure to keep chewing gum and any baked goods containing xylitol away from dogs. Call your veterinarian or poison control if you discover your dog has ingested anything containing xylitol.
In addition to various foods, there are many medications, plants and household items which pose a threat to pets. It is important to avoid pet exposure to the following:
· Pain relievers such as aspirin, Advil, Tylenol – very toxic to cats
Stimulants used for the treatment of ADHD
Pain patches (Fentynyl, Lidocaine)
· Laundry pods
Toilet bowl cleaner
Any product containing bleach
Pennies minted after 1983 (zinc toxicity)
· Sago palm – liver failure, severe GI problems
Lilies (Easter, tiger, Japanese, day lilies) – highly dangerous for causing kidney failure in cats, even a nibble of leaf, pollen can be deadly
Bulb plants (tulip, daffodils, narcissus, amaryllis, hyacinth) – all parts are toxic, but bulb can cause severe gastrointestinal and neurologic signs
Yew – all parts except fleshy berry around seed are toxic, cause fatal cardiac arrhythmia
Lilly of the valley
If your pet has ingested something you believe to be harmful, contact a veterinarian or one of the following organizations for medical advice:
ASPCA poison control hotline: (888) 426-4435, $65 consultation fee
Pet Poison Hotline 855-764-7661, $49 consultation fee
The Pet Poison Hotline app is great for researching the toxicity of foods, plants and medications.
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about traveling with your dog or cat.
Traveling with Dogs and Cats
Some of my best vacations included traveling with my dog. Having my dog with me alleviated the typical worries of leaving them with a sitter and I didn’t have to suffer from my own form of separation anxiety. While taking your dog on vacation can be a wonderful experience, there are many problems that can arise if you do not plan ahead.
The first consideration is whether your dog will enjoy the travel experience. If you dog is anxious or prone to car sickness, it is best to leave your dog at home. If you are traveling to a destination where other dogs will be present, be sure your dog gets along well with others.
Dogs prone to motion sickness will not enjoy a family road trip. Signs of motion sickness include drooling, vomiting, lip licking, panting, pacing, restlessness, trembling, and yawning. Fortunately, many young dogs often outgrow motion sickness. The symptoms of motion sickness can be worsened by underlying anxiety. To help minimize a dog’s stress levels, make the car an enjoyable place by providing a favorite blanket or toy. Allow your dog to acclimate by allowing it to spend time in a parked car while eating treats. As your dog develops positive associations with the car, begin to take very short drives, gradually increasing the duration. Consult your dog’s veterinarian regarding medications that can help prevent motion sickness and minimize stress and anxiety.
While most cats are not travel enthusiasts, some cats don’t mind car rides and others may need to travel out of necessity (i.e. owner moving to new home). If you are planning a trip with your feline friend, buy a comfortable and safe pet carrier. A carrier is required for airline travel and it will keep your pet safe in an automobile in case of an accident. Cats that are not accustomed to carriers can become very fearful when confined. Leaving a carrier on the floor with the door open and treats inside can help a cat acclimate before it is needed for travel. Place a comfortable pad or bed inside the carrier and spray it with Feliway, a synthetic pheromone which helps to minimize stress levels in cats.
If you are planning to fly, rather than drive to your destination, arrangements must be made through the airline. Most airlines require a health certificate from a veterinarian within 10 days of a flight. Flying can be stressful for pets that are new to the experience. If you can avoid a flight, driving will probably be more comfortable. Pet owners must thoroughly research the airline rules and regulations well in advance of flying.
If you are not traveling to visit and stay with a family member or friend, choose a pet friendly accommodation and become familiar with the pet policies. Some hotels have weight limitations for visiting dogs. If you plan to travel with your large breed dog, call ahead to make sure it will be welcome. When calling to book your reservation, inquire about added pet fees. Some hotels require that you take your dog with you if venturing out for the day. If you are planning excursions that do not include or allow your dog, be sure it is okay to leave him/her in the hotel room. Hotels which permit your dog to stay unattended sometimes offer dog walking services.
Some preparations for traveling with your pets include:
· copy of vaccine records
· ID tags including cell phone and resort numbers
· adequate supply of regular food, treats, chews, toys
· food and water bowls
· cleaning products in case of accidents
· regular medications
· flea, tick and heartworm preventatives
· first aid kit
· blankets, towels, potty bags, extra leash (dogs)
· harness, leash (cats)
· list of veterinary hospitals en route to and near vacation site
Additional recommendations include a safety harness for the car (http://sleepypod.com/clickit), and a bowl and water for rest stop refreshment. Always be careful when leaving pets in the car at rest stops. Do not leave them if the car is at risk for becoming hot. Since rest stops are highly trafficked, always keep dogs on leash and be cautious when walking near roads.
Although taking a pet on vacation requires moderate preparation, it is well worth the time and effort to have your pet’s company and to enjoy adventures together. Planning carefully will ensure safe and enjoyable travels for all. Happy trails!
For more information, visit:
Dog friendly cities and lodging
Hiking trails open to dogs
Pet friendly travel and lodging
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about cats who don't use their litterbox - also diabetes in dogs and cats.
Feline House Soiling
Elimination outside of the litter box is one of the most frustrating problems faced by cat owners. It is also unfortunately a major reason for cats being relinquished to a shelter, abandoned, and euthanized. When choosing bathroom facilities for cats, many factors should be considered.
There are many options when it comes to the litter box itself. Choosing a box that is at least 1½ times the length of the cat is recommended. Although a lid is preferable for some owners to avoid litter scatter, most cats prefer open boxes. For cats that eliminate standing, deep boxes can help prevent urine and feces from landing on the floor. Larger boxes also allow an adequate depth of litter in order for cats to be able to dig and bury their waste products. When it comes to litter boxes, bigger is in fact better! Unscented scoopable litter is typically preferred to scented, non-scoopable varieties.
The location of the litter box is also crucial for kitty satisfaction. Avoid placing boxes in noisy or highly trafficked areas of the house. The box should be easily accessible to the feline residents. For those who must place a box in the basement, it is advised to provide boxes in the other levels of the home. Avoid placing the box near appliances that can make unexpected startling noises (washing machine) and keep boxes far away from food and water bowls. The magic number of litter boxes equals the number of cats plus one. If you have 3 cats, your home should have at least 4 litter boxes.
For homes with geriatric cats, be sure to place the boxes in a convenient and easily accessible location. Older cats might have trouble jumping into a high edged box. Some boxes have one shorter side to allow for easy access. Cat owners can create ramps if needed for arthritic pets.
If your cat is not using the litter box, seek veterinary attention immediately. Failure to use a litter box can have a medical or behavioral basis. A veterinarian can help determine whether a medical problem exists. Symptoms of a medical issue include:
- · Frequent trips to the litter box
- · Straining to urinate
- · Smaller amounts of urine than usual seen in box
- · Blood in urine
- · Excessive licking of hindquarters
- · Decreased appetite/vomiting/vocalizing
If it is a behavioral issue, your veterinarian can make suggestions to resolve the problem. The sooner inappropriate elimination problems are addressed, the greater the chances for a timely resolution. Some important tips for encouraging proper litter box usage include:
· KEEP THE BOX CLEAN!
- · Use scoopable, unscented litter
- · Have one box per cat plus one extra
- · Avoid covered boxes (traps odor)
- · The bigger the better
- · Place boxes in quiet areas of the home
- · Keep box away from food and water bowls
Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs and Cats
Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common endocrine (hormonal) problems seen in dogs and cats. It is estimated that one in 230 cats and one in 300 dogs is affected by diabetes. Because diabetic dogs and cats require insulin injections, pet owners are often scared when they learn their pet has diabetes. While giving an injection for the first time can be intimidating, it is important for pet owners to know it is easier than expected and there are a lot of helpful resources available to build your confidence.
Diabetes mellitus occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. The pancreas is an important organ that is located near the stomach and small intestine. Insulin is made by the pancreas and it serves to move glucose (sugar) into the cells of the body. There can be plenty of glucose in the bloodstream, but the cells of the body are starving, because they cannot utilize the available glucose without insulin. The body will begin to break down other sources of energy such as protein and fat. As protein is broken down, a pet can lose muscle mass and weight.
The typical symptoms of diabetes include:
- · Increased thirst and urination
- · Urinary accidents in the house
- · Increased or decreased appetite (early and late in the disease progress respectively)
- · Weight loss
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog or cat, schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. Early detection and treatment of diabetes is important. If the disease progresses without treatment, pets can become very ill. Diabetes is diagnosed with blood and urine tests. Because diabetic pets are at greater risk for urinary tract infections, a urinalysis and culture are recommended.
Once a diagnosis of diabetes is established, the veterinary team will talk to you about diet, feeding, insulin administration and monitoring. Most pets will need to receive insulin injections twice daily. Some cats may go into remission after a diet change and insulin treatment. Monitoring a pet’s blood sugar levels is extremely important to determine if an adjustment is needed in the insulin dose and whether a cat needs to continue with insulin injections. Your veterinary team will discuss signs of a low blood sugar level which can occur when too much insulin is given. If your pet is weak, unsteady on its feet, or collapses, treat the low blood sugar by rubbing Caro syrup or pancake syrup on your pet’s gums. The sugar will be absorbed quickly and help to prevent a life threatening seizure.
Diabetes is a chronic disease which is manageable, but cannot be cured with the exception of some cats that go into remission. Learning how to care for your pet and administering insulin injections can feel overwhelming. Be sure that your pet’s veterinary team provides you with adequate instructions and information.
For more help regarding diabetic dogs and cats, visit:
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about the keeping your pets hydrated, especially when it's hot out - and also how to care for a pet rattled by loud noises, like thunder.
Heat Related Illness
The Philadelphia area has already experienced several heat waves this summer. Heat and high humidity pose dangerous risks to both people and pets. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke when allowed to exercise on hot and humid days or when accidentally placed in a confined space such as an automobile. A study found that the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour, even on a relatively cool (70 degree) day.
While all dogs can develop heat related problems when exposed to adverse conditions, some dogs are particularly susceptible. Unlike people, dogs do not sweat to cool their bodies. Dogs rely on evaporative cooling from the tongue, by means of panting. Dogs with flat faces such as Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, Boxers and Boston Terriers are at a disadvantage when it comes to regulating normal heat balance. Dogs that are elderly, overweight, have heart disease, or have laryngeal paralysis are also more prone to becoming overheated.
Animals with heat-induced illness can develop the following signs:
• excessive panting and drooling
• red or pale gums
• weakness and collapse
More severe signs include vomiting blood and difficulty breathing. All body systems (kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, coagulation factors) can be affected by heat-induced illness. If not caught and treated immediately, the patient can develop life threatening multisystem failure, sepsis, and deregulation of the blood clotting system. Seizures and coma may develop if heatstroke progresses resulting in cardiac arrest and death.
If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, spray the pet with cool water or immerse in a cool water bath. Do not immerse pet in ice bath! Direct fans towards dog to further help with body cooling. Transport your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital.
To prevent heatstroke:
• Never leave pets in a hot parked car.
• Provide access to water and shade on warm days.
• Do not allow dogs to heavily exercise on hot and humid days.
• Walk pets early in the morning of after sunset during the summer.
• Never muzzle dogs in hot environments, take caution with dryers used at grooming facilities
It is much better to prevent heatstroke than to treat it!
Although July 4th has passed, fireworks can still be randomly heard throughout the summer months and they are guaranteed New Year’s Eve. In addition to fireworks, pets with noise phobias can also be scared by thunderstorms, gun shots, backfires, construction, and motorcycles. While cats can be fearful of loud noises, dogs are more commonly affected.
A phobia is “an extremely strong dislike or fear of something.” Examples of common phobias that affect people include heights, snakes, rollercoasters. Once fearful of an experience, it is difficult to overcome that fear in the future.
Thunderstorms are different than other events merely associated with noise. Dogs often become fearful before the storm arrives. Dogs begin to react when they sense a change in the barometric pressure or when they hear and see rain and wind. Both thunder and lightening associated with storms can dramatically affect dogs. Surprisingly, not all dogs with storm phobias are affected by loud noises and not all dogs afraid of loud noises are sensitive to storms.
Noise phobias are not only stressful for the afflicted dog or cat, they can be very unsettling for the pet parent. Watching your pet in emotional distress is heart breaking. Pet owners often feel helpless when it comes to comforting an upset dog or cat. Common symptoms of noise phobia include:
• Destructive behavior
If your dog or cat is very fearful of loud noises or storms, consult your pet’s veterinarian. Suggestions can be offered to help minimize your pet’s anxiety. One strategy is avoidance. By avoiding the offensive stimulus, your pet will have nothing to fear. However, since we cannot control the weather, avoid neighbors who light fireworks, or prevent local construction, this is easier said than done.
As pet owners, we can take measures to minimize our pet’s fear. For example, when fireworks or storms are expected, keep your pets inside and play the television or radio at a loud volume to drown out the offending noise. Allow your pet to hide wherever it feels comfortable. Never scold a pet or try to make it leave a secure hiding location!
During storms or fireworks, try to engage your dog in a playful game or obedience skill to redirect its focus. Nonprescription medications can be tried. There are pheromone products such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats that can be helpful. These products mimic the natural chemicals released by a nursing mother dog or cat and provide a sense of calm for pets. “Rescue Remedy” is a natural product that can also create a calming effect for stressed pets. A “Thunder Shirt” is a snuggly fitting coat that “hugs” the pet and gives a sense of security.
If non-medication products do not provide enough stress relief, a veterinarian should be consulted to discuss medications for your anxious pet. There are many different medications that can be tried, but not all can resolve noise phobias. Some pets benefit from a multimodal approach. Finding the solution to a pet’s anxiety requires time and patience and often the best plan is discovered by trial and error.
Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about the preventing dog bites and more - plus how to have a safe Fourth of July with your dog!
Dog Bite Prevention
Every year more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. and at least 800,000 people receive medical attention. Most of the victims are children who will sustain both long term physical and psychological effects. Because of the prevalence and grave consequences of dog bites, “National Dog Bite Prevention Week” was established and takes place the third full week of May each year.
While the majority of dog bites occur to a person’s face, most cat bites are localized to a person’s hands. Because there are so many joints within the hands, this location is not only extremely sensitive to pain, but also at high risk for infection. Cats have particularly sharp teeth and their mouths harbor many serious bacteria. Approximately one third of people bitten by a cat on the hand will require hospitalization and many need surgeries to address the wound and infection. Any person who is bitten by a cat or dog should seek medical attention immediately.
Studies have shown that the behaviors most commonly preceding a bite include bending over a dog and a person putting their face close to a dog’s face. Surprisingly, the study did not find actions typically thought to provoke a dog bite such as stepping on a tail/paw, pulling fur, scolding, or trimming nails to be high risk behaviors.
The majority of dogs cited for bite incidents include primarily unneutered adult males and dogs of a moderate to large size. Most bite episodes take place in the dog’s home or yard while the dog is off-leash. It is important to note that parents and dog owners are usually present when a child is bit. It is also important to be aware that small dogs can inflict serious wounds and that any dog, no matter how loving, sweet, or tolerant can bite. Any breed is capable of biting, and children are primarily bitten by dogs that they know.
While some dogs can bite due to underlying aggressive tendencies, most dogs bite because they are scared and feel insecure. This is not the dog’s fault, but often due to improper socialization. Between the ages of 3-14 weeks, the majority of a puppy’s personality is established. This is considered the prime socialization age and it is critical that a puppy be exposed to other animals, people of different genders, ethnicities, ages, and sizes and be introduced to objects such as umbrellas, bags, and canes. Puppy classes are a great way to optimize socialization and minimize future fears. It is detrimental for an owner to scold or hit a dog that exhibits fear aggression as this will only make the dog more scared.
Other factors that can provoke a dog to bite are resource guarding, pain, or other underlying medical problems. For example, dogs can feel threatened and defensive if they are approached while eating a meal, chewing on a favorite toy or bone, or resting comfortably in their bed or on furniture. Some dogs will not tolerate being pushed or moved off a sofa or bed. Dogs that are blind or deaf are more easily startled and can bite when caught off guard. Older dogs with arthritis may snap when a sore area is touched. Ear infections or other painful skin conditions can make dogs more irritable and likely to bite. If your dog has never snapped and has a personality change, take it to a veterinarian to be evaluated.
Since dogs cannot speak, it is important to be familiar with the many body language signals they can exhibit to indicate fear or stress. Signs that a dog is nervous and needs to be approached with caution include:
- Lip licking
- Tucked tail
- Ears pinned back
- Showing the whites of the eyes
- Intensely staring or avoiding eye contact
- Lips pulled back
- Lifting a paw/shifting weight away
For families that have a furry child that precedes a human child, steps can be taken to reduce the dog’s anxiety when a new baby comes home and to ensure a safe environment for the newborn infant. First, the dog should master basic obedience skills such as “sit,” “down,” “stay,” and “come.” The commands of “leave it” and “drop it” will be important to prevent the dog from picking up baby toys, pacifiers, etc. The dog should be trained to feel calm and comfortable in a crate. The command “go away” is important as many dogs being approached by a crawling infant or walking toddler do not instinctively move away on their own. Commanding the dog to “go away” helps to keep both dog and child out of harm’s way. Families should set boundaries with furniture or the baby’s room well ahead of the baby’s arrival.
Many baby related items and sounds can be scary and stressful to dogs. It is important to desensitize the family pet by leaving items such as strollers, car seats, swings, and toys out for the dog to smell and explore. When the dog approaches and investigates these things, praise it and give the dog a treat. The sound of a baby crying or baby toys can be distressing to a dog not familiar with these new noises. Playing a recording of a baby crying while feeding treats or engaging you dog in a game of fetch can help ease the fear associated with novel sounds.
For households with children that plan to add a new dog, parents must take measures to teach the kids to be kind and respectful of dogs. The videos from Jimmy’s Dog House provide great lessons for kids to watch with parents. Go to www.avma.org/dogbite under the heading “May Brings National Dog Bite Prevention Week!” click on “watch the videos.” I suggest watching all of the video clips which will take less than ten minutes.
Parents must remain vigilant in supervising infants, toddlers and young children with dogs at all times. Educating children is also critical and lessons must be taught starting at a young age so good habits are established early.
Tips for parents can be found at https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Teaching-children-about-dog-bite-prevention.aspx
From personal experience, there is nothing more wonderful or special than the love and companionship of a dog. As a veterinarian, I have encountered many dogs that are not aggressive, but become terrified upon entering a veterinary office. The veterinary team has to be extra careful handling these patients that are prone to biting out of fear. Understanding and respecting a fearful animal is critical for ensuring the safety of people and pets. Adequate training and socialization of dogs, vigilance of parents and dog owners, and well educated children will help to reduce the number of dog bite incidents and minimize the devastating repercussions for both humans and canines.
Click Below to Read & Listen to Dr. Mindy's Monthly Visits
- Happy Hearts / Broken Hearts
- Pet Obesity / Dental Care Tips
- Pet Adoption / Holiday Safety Tips
- Hazardous Substances / Halloween Safety
- Traveling With Pets
- Feline Soiling / Diabetes in Dogs & Cats
- Pet Dehydration / Noise Phobias
- Preventing Dog Bites / Fireworks & Pets
- Fleas, Ticks & Heartworm
Mindy Cohan, VMD received her B.A. from Penn State and her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Upon her veterinary school graduation, Mindy completed a one year internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. Mindy was a proud member of the Kids Corner team from 1995 – 2006 and is thrilled to return. Always passionate to share pet health information, Mindy has also been a guest veterinarian on WHYY radio and on the local NBC television show, “10!” She has been a contributing author for Veterinary Technician magazine.
Recognizing the importance of the human-animal bond and the depth of attachment she and her clients felt towards pets, Mindy developed a strong interest in bereavement counseling. Mindy lives with her wife, Lauren and Jem, a dog they rescued in 2009. Mindy enjoys volunteering at Valley Forge National Historic Park, hiking with Jem, attending the theatre, and is passionate about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.
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