Helpful Pet Tips

Removing Ticks From Your Pet  |   Just Like People, Pets Don’t Find Allergies Fun Either…Know The Basic Symptoms  |   Cataracts In Both Dogs & Cats  |   What Is Cat Scratch Fever & Can It Be A Problem?  |   Dog Days Of Summer  |   Pets In Flight  |   Behind The Eyes Of A Hoarder  |  

Removing Ticks From Your Pet

Tip for removing Ticks from your dog or cat.I have had clients tell me they’ve tried everything from burning the tick with a match to smothering it with petroleum jelly. These are not methods I’ve employed myself however.

When I remove a tick from any region of the body I simply grasp it at its base with a pair of forceps. I then try to carefully back it out, gently rocking it back and forth, hoping to work the head out, which is usually embedded just under the skin. Occasionally, the head will be left behind. It’s not ideal, but in most cases it will fester out in time. Do squeeze or twist the tick during the process as this can release infectious material. Wear gloves!

Ticks, as you are probably aware, carry diseases that can be transmitted to dogs as well as people. The best treatment is prevention and the best preventative on the market is a product called Frontline or Advantix.


Just Like People, Pets Don’t Find Allergies Fun Either…Know The Basic Symptoms

Allergies come in a variety of forms in dogs and cats ­including flea, contact, inhalant and of course food. Inhalant allergies, known as atopy, account for the majority (about 75 to 80%).

Food allergies are the next largest group, though they can be tricky to diagnose. Many allergies present themselves very similarly, making the elimination process challenging. Classic presentations consist of itching, usually of a specific region on the body, and skin lesions.

Most allergies are dermatologic in nature and not, as one might expect, upper respiratory with a runny nose, sneezing and itchy-watery eyes. I would be somewhat surprised if the change in diet was related to the recent onset of sneezing. Though having said that, I will occasionally come across unusual symptoms associated with food sensitivities.

Your first order of business is to stop any new diet you recently started and reintroduce the former. Next, I’d have the sneezing examined, to rule out an upper respiratory infection or nasal foreign body.


Cataracts In Both Dogs & Cats

Like people, cataracts are observed in both dogs and cats for a number of reasons. Anything from trauma, to diabetes, to circulating toxins, can cause cataracts in senior dogs, accounting for the largest group. Cataracts can even be observed in puppies (usually secondary to nutritional or hereditary causes) called congenital or juvenile cataracts.

Cataracts form as a result of pathologic changes to the lens. The lens is a disk that sits just behind the iris (colored part of the eye) and is the dark area, or ”black hole” inside the iris. Under normal circumstances, nothing is seen because the lens is transparent. Used for focusing light to create a sharper image, the lens, after fetal life, becomes devoid of blood vessels. This is nature’s way of creating a structure that is perfectly clear, like a window, but causes a big disadvantage in the way of healing and repair like normal vascular tissue. Any insult, therefore, can cause permanent damage with the characteristic milky-white opacity, or cataract, observed. The cataract blocks light from passing, and blindness ensues.

There is a small twist, however. Normal aging of the lens, called lenticular sclerosis, can produce a similar cataract appearance. Only able to distinguish between the two with an eye exam, lenticular sclerosis does not prevent light from passing. Sometimes sclerosis can be differentiated from cataracts by a blue-like “haze.”

If your pet is not showing any difficulty seeing, especially at night, there is a good chance he has simple sclerosis.

Expensive eye surgery by a veterinary ophthalmologist is available to remove cataracts. This is currently the only sound treatment available.


What Is Cat Scratch Fever & Can It Be A Problem?

Outside of a common staph infection (the type of infection you can get from any break in the skin), there is a much more rare infection that can be transmitted called none other than Cat Scratch Fever.

Not only a song popularized by Ted Nugent, cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection that can be contracted following a bite or scratch from a cat. The name of the bacteria, which you can quickly forget, is Bartonella. Following a three-week incubation period, an infected person will sometimes develop flu-like symptoms. It is usually a self-limiting disease, but may take a few weeks to completely rebound. You are more likely to catch it from kittens and cats infested with fleas.
Before I start receiving calls about people getting rid of their cats, remember that it’s very uncommon and usually pretty benign if caught. You may have had it yourself at some point and not even known.

It should be pointed out however, that immunodeficient persons are at higher risk for more serious problems and should consult their physician before adopting a kitten. I actually had a short bout early in my career. For two weeks, I had a slight fever and a champagne headache. It left as quickly as it came with no lasting effects.


Dog Days Of Summer

“Dog Days Of Summer” is an expression known by most describing the hottest weeks of the summer. It originated from the Romans who believed the brightest star in the sky, Sirius or “The Dog Star,” was responsible for the excessively warm days. It was customary for them to sacrifice a brown dog once a year to appease the rage of Sirius.

Rather than sacrifice a canine (the Romans were actually quite fond of their dogs), summer is a great reminder, and a time to honor our loyal companions. While we humans flock to the outdoors during these months, dogs also become more active and energized by the warm weather and longer days. Here are a few helpful dog facts and suggestions for our favorite season:

  1. Walking your dog is one of the best things in the world. I’m not just saying this as it benefits your pooch, but for YOU as well. Emotionally, psychologically and physically you (and your dog) get a dose of good stuff. I’ve had clients shed pounds when they committed to walking their dogs just three times a week for the summer. It’s amazing how a stroll on a sunset afternoon with your dog can completely reverse a bad day. If you have an aversion to walking your dog because of tugging, pulling or jumping (which is not relaxing) start easy. Walk around your block or front yard; don’t let poor behavior stop you. This website provides some great info on leash walking:
  2. Medical tips on heat: Dogs “perspire” and cool themselves by panting. The water on their tongue acts as a big evaporative cooler, just like an AC unit. Without fresh water present on hot days the “machine” can shut down. Secondly, keep in mind that leaving your dog in a car with the windows up can cause the temperature inside to skyrocket to over 180 degrees. This becomes dangerous quickly, so be sure to take steps to prevent this. Lastly, it’s best to avoid walking or running your dog during the hottest time of the day. The pavement (especially asphalt) can burn the sensitive pads on their paws. Also, breeds with “smashed” faces; known medically as brachycephalic (Bulldog, Boxer, Pug etc.), have a difficult time exercising in the heat due to a diminished ability to cool their bodies.
  3. Time for a new puppy or dog? This is the best time of the year to acquire a new family member. The nice weather makes it easy to get outside and work on training. I’m a big proponent of integrating your dog into the house, i.e. sleeping inside at night, but if it’s not possible then you won’t have to worry about cold nights while things are getting situated. If you go the puppy route you will certainly need more time. They need a watchful eye on them to deter bad habits such as barking, digging and chewing, which can easily take hold. Another summer bonus is the kids are out of school and can devote energy to the care of the little guy. Challenge them with a training task they need to complete each week or a daily To Do Checklist of walking, cleaning and feeding. Make an effort at least a couple times this summer to pack up the family and take little trips to the beach or hiking with your new pet. It will make for some of the most memorable moments you’ll ever have. Oh, and don’t forget about your local shelter when you’re ready to adopt. The most worthy are waiting!


Pets In Flight

Air travel with your pet can sometimes be like air travel with a three year old child, except your pet’s version of “are we there yet!?” manifests as barking, howling, meowing and general anxiety.

I’ve had many clients opt for a long road trip (sometimes coast to coast) with their pet because of the uncertainties of air travel. If you’re a true road warrior then pack up the car and march on, but I prefer to get it over with and fly. All things considered, air travel can go fairly smooth if you keep a few things in mind. Here are some helpful tips if you plan to fly the friendly skies with your friendly companion:

Pet Carriers
You will need to purchase an approved pet carrier for travel. These are commonly found in pet stores with a label marked “approved for air travel.” Since most airlines will allow your pet (if a small cat or dog) to travel in the cabin with you, many of these carriers are designed to fit under the seat in front of you. Carriers should always be large enough to allow your pet to stand up and turn around.  Hint: If your pet is afraid of the carrier or has never been in one, spend the week before your trip randomly placing him/her inside for short periods, preferably with a treat. This will lower the anxiety level when it’s time to travel and no longer a drill.

Most airlines require a certificate by a veterinarian stating your pet is healthy for travel. Additionally, many airlines may ask for anAcclimation Certificate which states your pet can withstand temperatures under 45 degrees. It’s basically a liability release for the airline and therefore some vets may be reluctant to sign it. If your traveling outside the country you will need a special microchip(called and isochip) and be sure to check into quarantine periods and rabies vaccine requirements, as some countries are very strict.

The question “to sedate…or not sedate” is often asked. I personally am a proponent of tranquilizers if you’re pet is the “stressed-out” type. The adverse affects of long term anxiety can certainly outweigh the risk of the medication, but there are a few things to consider: 1) Is your pet riding in the cargo area and therefore subject to temperatures less than 45 degrees? Sedatives can inhibit the ability to properly regulate body temperature. 2) Is your pet sick or geriatric? 3) Have they ever been given a sedative before and if not are you able to monitor them. Benadryl is the best and safest OTC (over the counter) sedative. It also helps with nausea-associated motion sickness. But as always, you should check with your vet before giving your pet any drugs.

I’m not going to paint a picture that air travel with pets is easy. The first time is always the most nerve-racking, but after you do a little homework and get prepared, you’ll find it’s not so bad. Before traveling you will want to contact the Air Cargo Department of your airline and have a look at, it’s a great resource. Safe Travels!


Behind The Eyes Of A Hoarder

As a child I remember my grandfather collecting items of all types that he never parted with. His backyard was a wasteland of car parts, appliances and tools. Once anything was in his possession he felt the need to retain it forever, for whatever reason. It really made no sense to me. I can recall seeing some old rusted eggbeaters in his shed? He was a classic hoarder.

Animal Hoarding
Today the topic of hoarding has recently gained much attention…but on the animal side. There’s even a popular TV show that has captured a wide audience in which individuals who have an obsession for taking in animals are followed throughout their daily routines. Surprisingly, the people who suffer the most are the family and friends of the hoarder, who must watch as their loved ones destroy their lives in what they believe is a sacrifice for these animals.

I recently crossed paths with the worst hoarding case I had ever experienced. Three weeks ago one of our shelter officers got a call that a small apartment had 17 cats trapped inside. The owner, a 78-year-old woman, had slipped in her home and had been transported to the emergency room, leaving the cats alone and without care. The officer had tried to enter the residence to ascertain the condition of the cats, but the smell of feces and urine was so strong he was unable to breathe and it burned his eyes. A biohazard team was called in. Everyone who entered wore a jumpsuit and respirator. Inside, the conditions were horrid. Two inches of feces covered every square foot of the home except for a small walking path that had been carved from one room to the next. The furniture had been soiled, not even allowing a place to sit. The home was condemned and the cats transported to me at the shelter for evaluation.

Most were sick, suffering from upper respiratory infections. Some couldn’t be handled, as they had never been socialized, out of the house or around any other people other than the owner. Others were thin and only a few were healthy and tame. My immediate reaction was anger! How could someone allow these pets to live in these conditions? How was she able to live in these conditions? I asked the officer to visit the woman in the hospital and request her to immediately relinquish the cats into my care so that I could treat or humanely euthanize if necessary. I suspected that it would be a tall order. Most people in these situations don’t cooperate. The next day he did exactly that and the story he returned with was not what I expected…

The woman was basically broke. She used her small social security check to pay rent and feed her cats. Beyond that there was money for little else—she barely ate herself and burned candles for light. She sacrificed her basic necessities to get her cats veterinary care when possible. Surprising still was the fact that she was such a pleasant person. She was sharp and funny and loved his company. Moreover, she was very apologetic and embarrassed, completely aware that her situation had spiraled out of control. She had thought about asking for assistance but feared she would be judged too harshly. She considered finding homes for her cats but worried they would be abused or treated poorly. Ultimately, she happily signed the release and asked only that they be given a humane ending. This was quite the deviation from normal hoarding cases.

I was so moved by the story I decided to visit her myself. When she heard of my arrival she sat up with anticipation and tried to make herself presentable. She was frail and weak but spoke with enthusiasm about her cats. She gave detailed character descriptions of each and humorously mimicked some of their behaviors. Throughout our 45 minute conversation there was one burning question I held onto…until the end: How? How does someone lose their way, their sense of what’s reasonable. She looked to the ceiling and her eyes slightly watered. “I’m not sure, dear,” she paused. “I suppose days turn into weeks, and weeks into months until one day you look back and wonder what happened.”

I suppose we’ve all been there before. That moment we stop walking long enough to turn around and look back at the long road traveled and wonder…Wonder how we ended up in an unhealthy relationship but didn’t have the courage to get out, or an unfulfilling job we didn’t have the sense to quit. Sometimes life happens so slowly our senses are made numb.

She really was a joy. I was saddened to learn that, outside of her cats, she had nothing in this world—no family or friends, no money, no home and now, not even her cats, or as she called them, her “children.” Lastly, I learned she was terminal. Despite this she carried herself with dignity. She had a glow about her and I felt as though it was she, not I that really had all of the answers.

Upon leaving, I offered the one thing she valued most in this life. I promised that when she was strong enough to leave the hospital I would have her favorite cat neutered, vaccinated, sparkling clean and waiting for her. I’m not sure if and when that day will ever come but I was witness to the fact that the hope those words carried was stronger than any medication on earth.

This story is somewhat of a departure from my normal articles. It doesn’t list any statistics or facts. It doesn’t arm you with any pearls of medical wisdom. But there is a valuable moral to this story. Pet ownership is a privilege and a responsibility. My mother once said that owning a pet is like having a child that grows up but never leaves the house. I wish more people would contemplate that notion before they breed, purchase, or even adopt a pet. And although the woman was somewhat misguided in her approach, I wish I could spread a small piece of the genuine compassion and love she had for her cats across the collective pet owning world. There is certainly enough to give.