Friendship Hospital for Animals Blog
What is atopy?
Atopy is a medical term for a predisposition to developing allergies. There can be a genetic component, but even in humans, there are continuing studies to find other factors. Because atopy is such a broad term, for owners, we will often use the term environmental allergies to describe a more specific subcategory of disease. Environmental allergens can include things both indoors (ex. dust mites, molds, wool) and outdoors (ex. pollens – weeds, trees, grasses). Depending on what the patient is allergic to, there may or may not be seasonality to the symptoms.
What are the signs of environmental allergies?
The most common symptom of environmental allergies is itch (licking, biting, scratching, chewing, rubbing). This can sometimes be followed by or associated with a secondary infection (bacteria, yeast). The damage done to the skin surface from itching allows the normal bacteria and yeast on the surface of the skin to affect the abnormal skin barrier. Some of the typical affected locations on the body include: paws, belly, armpits, groin, around the eyes, and sometimes ears. Treating infection and itch is important, but without controlling the underlying allergy, there will be recurrence of signs.
What animals are more likely to develop environmental allergies?
Most pets begin to show signs between the ages of 1 to 3-years-old. Veterinary patients tend to have signs that get worse with each successive year/season, and they do not tend to “grow out” of their allergies like some humans do.
Although any pet can be allergic, there are some dog breeds that are more likely to develop environmental allergies: golden retrievers, bulldogs (French, English, American), terriers (pit, West Highland, soft-coated Wheaten, etc), boxers, German shepherds.
For all allergic patients, we strongly recommend early management of allergies as chronic changes to the skin and ears after years of itch and inflammation can lead to resistant infections, less effective treatments, and/or other associated diseases. Recommendations for each patient would differ, but in general our preferred way of treating allergies is with patient-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots or allergy drops). This formulation is based on allergy testing and is individually formulated for a patient.
How do we diagnose environmental allergies?
Diagnosis is purely through exclusion of other diseases. This means that all other causes of itch need to be ruled out first, including secondary infections, flea allergy, food allergy, systemic disease, and parasitic infections. There is no definitive one-time test that can be used for diagnosis. This can be frustrating but we also make sure to help individual patients with the itch and discomfort of allergies before, during, and after allergy testing. We want owners to understand the value as well as the limitations of allergy testing. If a non-allergic patient had allergy testing performed, he/she may also have positive reactions on the test since we are injecting or measuring the response to irritating substances. However, for truly allergic patients the reactions are specific and obvious, making them more significant.
What is the purpose of environmental allergy testing?
The only purpose of environmental allergy testing is to use the results to create an individualized set of immunotherapy (i.e. allergy vaccines or drops) for an individual patient. Unfortunately, allergy avoidance is very difficult so simply removing carpets, air purifiers, or frequent cleaning are rarely enough to prevent exposure to these microscopic environmental irritants.
What types of skin testing are available?
The gold standard test is skin testing, often available only through veterinary dermatologists. This procedure requires brief sedation, injection of multiple allergens, and assessment of the reactions after 15-20 minutes. This is very similar to the pinprick test that is performed on human patients.
Blood testing for environmental allergies is an alternative or additional option for some patients. If sedation is high-risk, then we may recommend only performing blood testing. In cats, we often need to rely on both skin and blood testing since reactions are less obvious with intradermal (skin) testing. We do not recommend blood testing for food allergies (see Dermatology FAQs).
What does my pet need prior to skin testing?
There are some medications (steroids, antihistamines, fish oils, vitamin E) that need to be discontinued for varying amounts of time prior to testing, under the guidance of a veterinarian. Skin infections should also be relatively well controlled, especially in the expected site of testing on the side of the body. Patients are fasted for about 12 hours prior to skin testing because of sedation. Not every patient is ready to be skin tested at the first appointment, but we will work with you and your primary care veterinarian to prepare.
What types of immunotherapy are available?
Allergy shots are the classic type of treatment given to introduce the body to small amounts of allergens over time. Immunotherapy attempts to “retrain” the immune system so that it stops having an over-reactive response. Shots are initially every-other-day during the induction period when more dilute concentrations of allergens are used. These shots can be given at home with owners instructed how to administer injections. This therapy is very safe and is usually well tolerated by most patients. Side effects are uncommon to rare, but owners are taught to monitor for an increase in itch (hives, swelling), gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea), or respiratory signs. After a few weeks, the shots are only given once weekly at the maintenance concentration, but the concentration, volume, and frequency may need to be tailored more specifically for each individual patient.
Allergy drops are a newer method of administering allergens over time. The drops are given once daily using a special pump device in the mouth. The success rate is similar to allergy shots, and we often allow owners to choose based on their preferred schedule, comfort level for administration, and patient compliance (most cats prefer weekly shots over daily drops). There are special situations in which we may recommend drops or shots for a specific patient.
What other treatments may be needed?
Immunotherapy can work in 60-70% of pets, but it can take 12-18 months to have maximal effect. During that time, some pets need additional treatments for infection and comfort. This may include antimicrobials, topicals, and/or anti-itch drugs, but hope to decrease the frequency of other therapy as the immunotherapy begins to take effect. If immunotherapy is helpful, then it is continued lifelong. Allergies are for life since there is no definitive “cure,” but the goal of veterinary dermatologists is to help patients and owners have an excellent quality-of-life with long-term management.
Join us May 7th at 1pm for a presentation on how to diagnose and manage your pet’s allergies.
Check back soon for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot. Space is limited!
Friendship Dermatology Specialists, led by Dr. Darcie Kunder and Dr. Fiona Lee, is the only board-certified veterinary dermatology group in the District. Specially trained to treat a wide variety of conditions affecting the skin, hair and nails, Friendship Dermatology Specialists see appointments Monday through Friday.
I am constantly asked how do I like our new second floor and the addition of many new specialists. Of course, the facilities are amazing and allow us to manage our patients’ medical care at the highest level. However, the best aspect is the team approach when taking care of our patients and clients.
I absolutely love being a primary care veterinarian. No offense to my specialist colleagues but the best part of veterinary medicine is getting to form a bond from puppy or kitten hood through the end of life. In addition, I love getting to know sometimes two and three generations of families and in a small way, feeling like part of the family.
In the past, when an issue came up that required specialty expertise, I would have to refer my patients to an outside facility. Although, they received wonderful care, my role would be limited to reading a referral letter and following up with my clients. I was not really part of the team. However, now I can be part of the team from the very first step. I can be a liaison for my clients and patients who I have know for many years and the specialists. It’s comforting to have a friendly and trusted face when trying to make very difficult decisions for your loved member of the family.
One of the many examples come to mind is an adorable little bischon named Princess. Her owner came to see me for a second opinion for an increase in drinking and an elevated calcium level. There are many causes of this but on physical exam, I identified the cause in Princess- an anal gland tumor. After briefly talking with our oncologist, I was able to schedule a CT scan the following day with our radiologists to look for any spread of the tumor. Luckily, the tumor had not spread. The next day, Princess was scheduled to have an oncology consult and then had surgery with our surgical specialists. During these few days, I was able to explain, comfort and help guide my client’s decision making and just to be there to hold their hand. I am happy to say that I am still seeing Princess for primary care appointments and she is doing very well. However, if anything new comes up, I can just run upstairs to talk to her other doctors.
This team approach is wonderful for me as a primary care doctor but more importantly allows for the very best care for your beloved family member.
Please make your primary care appointment today to start building this lifelong relationship! We are looking forward to meeting the family!
Dr. Bolch graduated from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and has been a primary care doctor at Friendship for more than 20 years. In addition to serving as Chief of Medicine for 5 years, Dr. Bolch’s dedication to her patients and clients has largely influenced and shaped the Primary Care department at Friendship.
Friendship Internal Medicine is happy to announce the opening of our Extracorporeal Therapies Service! Dr. JD Foster, Dr. Gideon Daniel and their team can perform hemodialysis and hemoperfusion to treat kidney disease and various toxin ingestions in our patients.
Our first patient, Bay, is a four year old lab. Bay’s owners returned home from a day out to find her unconscious, having difficulty breathing, and not responding. She had eaten half a bottle of ibuprofen sometime during the day. When Bay presented at Friendship, she had an obvious loss of alertness.
Hemodialysis and hemoperfusion allow us to remove toxins from the blood in ways that traditional therapies cannot. If treated early enough, drugs (like ibuprofen) can be removed from the blood prior to causing any permanent organ damage. Two hours into her treatment, Bay woke up and became neurologically appropriate!
After a five and a half hour treatment, Bay walked out the dialysis suite on her own accord!
We are happy to report that after two days in the hospital, Bay went home! There is no evidence of kidney damage on her blood work, and Bay has made a full recovery!
Fergus was in today to see Dr. Mallett for his final chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma. We are so happy to report that he is feeling well, and his cancer is in remission!
Headed by board-certified oncologist Dr. Courtney Mallett, Friendship Oncology Specialists offers a wide variety of treatment options for pets with cancer.
DERMASTROLOGY – reading the skin signs
Who is a veterinary dermatologist?
Many owners, even those who work in human medicine, are surprised to hear that there are veterinarians who specialize in only dermatology. Dermatology is a branch of medicine that manages diseases affecting the skin, hair, and nails. Other human specialists may manage allergies, infections, and ear disease, but these are often treated by veterinary dermatologists as well.
Veterinary dermatologists go through undergraduate studies, veterinary school (4 years), a rotating internship (1 year), sometimes a dermatology internship (1 year), and a residency (3 years). After the residency, there is a 2-day board certification exam in order to become a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology (DACVD).
What types of skin diseases are common in dogs and cats?
Many patients are itchy, but not all; some dermatology dog and cat patients can be spotted in the lobby, but not all. One of the more common problems that we deal with is a secondary bacterial or yeast skin and/or infection, due to a primary dermatologic disease. These infections can look like pimples, red bumps, and circular crusts with hair loss, dandruff, and scratch marks.
One of the frequent underlying primary diseases is allergies: flea, food, and/or environmental. Flea allergy is the most common. Food allergy will be covered in a future blog post. Environmental allergy can develop to things inside or outside the home. Some patients have a combination of these allergies.
Immune-mediated diseases are due to the body attacking its own skin. Sometimes, the trigger for this inappropriate response can be an infectious organism, drug, vaccine, or systemic disease, but often times, the initiating stimulus is unknown.
There are also some skin cancers that are either limited to skin or present with skin signs first. After diagnosis, we often collaborate with other services in the hospital, such as surgery, oncology, and/or neurology, to develop a plan for management of the disease.
What diagnostic tests does a veterinary dermatologist perform?
One of the frustrations of dermatology is that many of the skin lesions appear very similar, despite very different underlying causes. One of the most helpful, immediate, non-invasive tests is cytology; this is simply a fancy word for sampling the skin and then examining the sample under a microscope. Sampling techniques can include plucking hair, rubbing a slide against the skin, taping the skin, gently scraping the skin, and swabbing the ears.
What treatments are often prescribed by a veterinary dermatologist?
Antimicrobials (like antibiotics or antifungals) are often prescribed for infections. Topical solutions are also used very frequently and, in some situations, are preferred over oral systemic medications. There are many different types of anti-itch medications, some with more side effects, limitations, and monitoring than others. For immune-mediated diseases and cancers, other types of medications that affect the immune system are prescribed.
When should my pet see a veterinary dermatologist?
The dermatology service at Friendship Hospital for Animals is available for appointments Monday through Friday, whether for acute severe diseases that require immediate workup, for more chronic diseases that require long-term management and follow-up, or for anything in-between. Your primary veterinarian can also help identify the problem and refer you to us. We look forward to helping your pets!
KIBBLES ‘N ITCH
What is an adverse food reaction (AFR)?
An adverse food reaction is also known as food allergy, hypersensitivity, or intolerance. It is an overreaction by the body’s immune system to a certain ingredient (sometimes multiple) in a diet, typically protein. While food allergy is less common than flea allergy or environmental allergy, it is still important to rule out or diagnose because a) patients can have more than one allergy (even if food allergy is a smaller contributing factor) and b) environmental allergy can only be diagnosed by excluding other diseases (including food allergy).
Why do AFRs develop?
AFRs are thought to develop because of small food proteins leaking out of diseased intestines (ex. affected by a virus, parasites, autoimmune disease, cancer). These proteins that are outside of their normal environment are identified by the immune system as a “foreign invader,” and the body starts to react to these proteins as something negative. The gut and the skin share many of the same immune system cells which is why food allergies in pets show up as skin disease. Some of the more common allergens in dogs and cats include: beef, chicken, soy, dairy, corn, eggs, and fish.
What are the symptoms of AFR?
Animals with food allergy are classically itchy. This can be focused on the mouth, paws, ears, or “rears.” Other pets can present with secondary infections, concurrent with itch or separate. While it is important to treat the infections, it is still more important to treat the underlying allergy to limit these cycles of infection.
These symptoms differ from the classic idea of what food allergy is in humans (ex. peanuts). Anaphylactic reactions are not typical for our patients.
What types of animals develop an AFR?
Any animal could theoretically have an AFR. However, there are some breeds that are more likely to be food allergic, such as: cocker spaniels, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, boxers, Lhasa apsos. The classic age of onset for AFR is relatively young (<6-months-old) or relatively older (>6-years-old). For these patients, we are more likely to pursue an AFR workup.
How do we diagnose AFR?
The only way to diagnose an AFR is through an 8-12 week strict diet trial, followed by a 2-week challenge. While blood and skin food allergy tests do exist, they are not reliable and often result in false positives and negatives. In the future, we hope there will be faster and more convenient ways to diagnose an AFR.
Why is raw food controversial?
We do not recommend feeding raw food to pets as there is little scientific evidence to support its benefits. The major concerns include:
-Infectious disease risks to both the animal and to humans: Raw meats can contain many different types of pathogenic organisms (like E. coli or Salmonella). Indirectly interacting (being licked by the pet, cleaning up after the pet) with a pet that eats raw meats still places the human at risk.
-An unbalanced diet: A raw food diet, especially if not supplemented with other nutrients, may not fulfill all the components that a dog or cat needs.
-Foreign bodies: Some ground-up raw foods may contain some bones which can be dangerous and can block the esophagus or intestines. They may also pose a choking hazard.
For detailed information regarding raw food diets please see:
Why is grain-free food controversial?
Contrary to popular belief, grain-free diets do not offer health benefits over a diet that contains grains, and each diet should be assessed based on its overall nutrient profile rather than individual ingredients. Dogs and cats can digest and utilize grains as well as other sources of carbohydrates. In general, animal proteins are more common causes of food allergies than grains (or other carbohydrate sources) in both dogs and cats.
For detailed information regarding grain-free diets please see:
What diets do we use for the food trial?
We recommend a prescription food of either novel protein (something that your pet has not eaten previously, ex. kangaroo) or hydrolyzed protein (the protein is broken down into a smaller size, and the body should not react to it). If your pet is determined to be food allergic, then long-term options are discussed.
Board-certified dermatologists Dr. Darcie Kunder and Dr. Fiona Lee see appointments Monday through Friday.
Wellness Visits- So Much More than Vaccines!
Veterinary medicine has changed a great deal over the past 40 years. As a child in the 1970s, I remember my parents taking our dog, Missy to the vet for her “shots.” There was little focus on her overall health, and basically, she got several injections and that was it. Fortunately, we have evolved a great deal since that time. While there are certainly some vaccines that are necessary, we are at a time when the recommendations are actually tailored to the individual. The patient’s pet parent and veterinarian decide what vaccines are indicated, and the focus of the visit is less about “shots” and more about how to stay healthy and happy for as long as possible.
What to Expect During Your Pets Visit
Your pet’s health care team consists of you and your family along with your pet’s doctor and veterinary assistant. I think that it’s helpful to think of your pet’s visit in phases.
Phase 1: Taking a Good History
One of our veterinary assistants will interview you to take a thorough history. This is when we all get on the same page about what your pet is eating, what medications he or she is taking, as well as any concerns you might have. Remember, even if we have prescribed a medication, we want to be sure that it is still being given and check to see if you need refills on long term medications. You will talk about lifestyle risks, such as boarding, daycare and visits to the dog park for dogs, and whether or not your cat is allowed to venture outside. You will also touch base about what wellness tests and vaccines are due at the time of the visit. Ultimately though, you and your pet’s veterinarian will decide what is necessary and in the best interest of your pet that day.
Phase 2: The Physical Exam
Your pet’s doctor will perform a physical exam. This involves assessing each organ system, usually starting in the front and ending in the back. Very often we do this while we are chatting with you. During the exam, we are making mental notes of what we find. Are the eyes clear? Is there evidence of dental disease? Does the patient’s heart sound normal? Whatever we find, we will then summarize at the end of the exam. We love when we can say that your pet looks great! Once the exam is completed, your pet’s doctor will administer any vaccines that were deemed necessary at the beginning of the visit.
Phase 3: Diagnostic and Treatment Recommendations
Once your pet’s doctor has assessed your friend, she or he will make recommendations for any necessary diagnostic tests and treatments. For example, if a dental cleaning is recommended, we will offer to perform pre-anesthetic blood tests. If your pet is a senior patient, we will offer to perform wellness blood and urine tests (A bit more on that later!) This is also a team effort, so be sure to ask questions and take part in this process as well.
We see your pet’s annual exam not only as a means of being sure that he or she is healthy, but also as our chance to be sure that we have all the information needed in order to help you take care of your pet as best we can for the upcoming year. It is our chance to foster, nurture, and maintain a good client-patient-doctor relationship. Here are some helpful hints to get the most out of the visit:
- Dig in with one person if possible. We have a great team of primary care doctors, and it is really wonderful if we can get to know you and your pet year after year. Continuity of care leads to the best patient care. Please don’t hesitate to ask our client care team who you saw previously if you can’t remember.
- We know that coming to the doctor is very stressful for some pets. We are striving to have a fear free hospital here at Friendship, but that is easier for some pets than it is for others. We are happy to discuss and dispense anti-anxiety medication to administer prior to the visit.
- Don’t hesitate to make a list of questions or concerns prior to your pet’s appointment. We want to be sure that all of your concerns get addressed.
- Lastly, I want to mention the value of wellness blood and urine testing. I personally lost my little Yorkshire terrier, Mr. McQueen about 1 year ago due to a rare kidney problem that caused him to lose excessive amounts of protein in his urine. Looking back on everything I learned during that time, I became firmly committed to the value of checking blood and urine tests on an annual basis. The best thing we can tell you when we get the results is that everything is normal. However, in the event that something is not normal, we generally have more options for accurate diagnosis and treatment if we find things earlier on in the disease process. It is certainly not a requirement, but it is something you and your pet’s doctor can discuss at each wellness visit. I included a picture of him, since he was such a cute little guy.
Dr. Dugan attended the University of Florida for both undergraduate studies and veterinary school, graduating from the latter in 1991. After graduation, he completed his internship at Friendship and returned in 2001 as a staff doctor until relocating to New York in 2007. In 2014 he rejoined our team once again! Dr. Dugan works in our Primary Care Service.
Did you know that household cats, especially those who live exclusively indoors, have little to do and can easily become bored? This can lead to behavioral issues, excessive weight gain, and eventual health consequences. Although it may be tempting to allow your cat outdoors, there are many safety and health concerns that pose a much higher risk than keeping your cat indoors. Even if you do not think your indoor cat seems bored, the following are some of the potential consequences of boredom and important reasons to provide enrichment opportunities for your feline companion:
- Cats who lack enrichment can become aggressive in play with both humans and other animals in the house.
- Young cats without adequate development opportunities often bother their owners for play at inappropriate hours of the day and night.
- Cats may become destructive with furniture, plants, or other household objects.
- They may become reclusive and are more likely to retreat from new people or objects that enter their home.
- Cats lacking regular play may overreact to the presence of outdoor cats and become very distressed.
Luckily, there are many great ways to keep your indoor cat happy and to ensure a long, healthy life inside your home. You can quickly provide environmental boosts for your cat(s). Try these tips and ideas:
- Provide a variety of interactive toys that keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Rotate through your stock of toys every few days to provide your cat a “new toy” and prevent him or her from getting bored with a particular toy.
- Provide opportunities for your kitty to “hunt” – move toys in a way that mimics the movements of a mouse or bird, use a laser toy or kitty fishing pole. Provide several minutes of stimulation with these playthings per day to encourage exercise and an outlet for your cat’s natural prey drive.
- Provide objects for your cat to explore – cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, a dripping water tap, or an aquarium with real fish can provide great entertainment!
- Provide appropriate surfaces on which your cat can scratch. Cats have individual preferences, therefore, providing a variety of scratching posts and surfaces in several different areas of your house is best.
- Be sure there are climbing opportunities on furniture, shelves, and cabinets and access to several windows as cats love to sunbathe and watch birds, squirrels, and other small animals. Position bird feeders outside your windows where your cat can observe. You may also provide a cat tree (available at many pet stores or research how to build your own).
- Provide several small meals per day and avoid free-feeding (i.e. keeping your cat’s bowl full at all times). If your schedule is too hectic to provide scheduled feeding, try purchasing a feeder with a built-in timer. You should also consider the use of an interactive food dispenser such as the FUNKitty Egg Cersizer by PetSafe easily found on Amazon.
- Training your cat can provide great mental stimulation. Cats, just like dogs, can learn tricks and commands.
- Teaching your cat to walk on a leash and harness is a safe way to take your indoor cat on outdoor adventures. Be sure your cat always wears ID tags when walking outside and/or has a microchip implant.
- Many cats enjoy the company of other cats, and in some cases dogs. A companion can provide the opportunity for exercise, play, mutual grooming, and affection while you are away from home.
I recommend reviewing Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Initiative site for more information on how to provide the proper stimulation for your indoor kitty – https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats
Now . . . it is time to play!
Dr. Dana Carr graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006 and completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship at Friendship. She stayed on as a staff doctor from 2007 to 2012 before relocating to Pittsburgh. She has since returned to area and rejoined our team! Dr. Carr works on our Primary Care service.
Friendship Hospital for Animals is a unique veterinary hospital because our hospital provides both primary care and advanced specialty care. Another unique feature of Friendship Hospital for Animals is that we are a teaching hospital. For the past 32 years our hospital has been committed to training and mentoring new veterinary graduates through our internship program. Our first intern class started in 1984 with two doctors and has now grown to a class of twelve!
A veterinary internship is a year-long program of intense training for doctors who have recently completed veterinary school. It is designed to mentor young doctors and provide them with a strong foundation for their medical practice. In this year-long program, our doctors spend several weeks in each of our specialty areas: oncology, radiology, surgery, dentistry, primary care, emergency, internal medicine, clinical pathology, neurology and rehabilitation therapy. Our interns can then spend one elective rotation outside the hospital. This elective rotation can be tailored to personal interest and help provide exposure to another specialty not offered at Friendship Hospital for Animals. For example, interns have spent time at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, local shelters participating in spay and neuter programs, and with local veterinary dermatologists or ophthalmologists. During their year at Friendship Hospital for Animals interns are expected to participate in journal club, present clinical cases or research, and see patients as in integrated member of our hospital team.
To be selected for an internship, applicants go through a rigorous application and matching process.
Internships tend to attract veterinary graduates who are in the top of their class and highly motivated to improve and better their skills and knowledge. An internship is not mandatory to practice medicine after completing veterinary school.
Each June, we welcome a brand new class of interns. These doctors come from all across the country and sometimes abroad. This year our newest intern class welcomes graduates from California, New York, Illinois, Florida, Grenada, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Quick facts about FHA:
- 101 interns since first class of 1984-85
- 18 current Friendship staff doctors completed their internship at FHA
- All doctors at FHA have completed an internship or similar training
- 31 intern classes to date
- 70 applicants for 12 internship spots at FHA
Quick facts about veterinary internship programs in the US:
- Only 25 % of graduating veterinarians complete an internship
- 128 small animal medicine/surgery internship programs nationwide
- 99 programs are in private practice hospitals with 614 private practice positions
- 952 applicants for 794 available small animal medicine/surgery positions
- 66% of applicants to small animal medicine/surgery internship candidates match to a program
Dr. Nicole Cohen graduated from veterinary school at the University of California, Davis in 2004 and went on to complete an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Bay Area Veterinary Specialists in northern California. Dr. Cohen joined Friendship in 2006 and works on both our Emergency & Critical Care and Primary Care departments.
Below are some common summer dangers we see with pets that everyone might not know about. Heat stroke is by far the most common summertime danger for our pets but there are a few other things you should be aware of during the warm months.
Cookouts are a surprising source of pitfalls for your dog. Any respectable chowhound will spend a fair amount of time searching for a tasty morsel. Chicken and rib bones are usually digestible but often cause a nasty case of pancreatitis due to a very high fat content. The pancreas is a gland that lives near the stomach and gets very angry when exposed to a high fat diet. This results in severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea that usually require medical attention.
Another cookout troublemaker is corn on the cob as it is the perfect size to be scarfed down whole and then lodge in the small intestine. This then causes an obstruction that almost always requires surgical intervention for removal. Signs to watch for are decreased or loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain. If your dog displays any of these clinical signs please bring him to your veterinarian immediately.
Other dangerous food items are onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, chocolate and sugar-free gum. If you think your dog may have snacked on any of these items either see your veterinarian or call ASPCA’s animal poison control 24-hour hotline.
If you are going to have guests staying with you this summer and you have a nosey dog or cat be sure to tell them so they can put away any medications they may be taking. Even over the counter drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, Aleve and Sudafed can be life threatening to pets.
You may notice, most of what I have been talking about is directed towards dogs. It is not that I have been neglecting cats but as a general rule they are usually smart enough to avoid most of these issues. You rarely see a cat running around outside in 90 degree weather or jumping up on the picnic table to grab an ear of corn. The one lapse in judgment that almost all cats suffer from is their determination to eat plants and flowers.
Many indoor and outdoor plants and flowers are extremely toxic to cats and dogs causing clinical signs that range from stomach upset to death. The most infamous flower is the Lily. Kitties only need to eat a small bit of petal or leaf to cause acute kidney failure, which quickly leads to death. The ASPCA website has a comprehensive list of plants that you need to watch out for.
Finally, fireworks and thunderstorms can be a source of fear for your pets. If you notice that your dog or cat does not seem to appreciate the loud noises be sure to take precautions so they don’t run away or destroy your home. Speak with your veterinarian about prescribing an anti-anxiety medication. Pure sedatives are not ideal and can actually make things worse as your pet is still afraid but too sedate to do anything about it. This then causes a rebound effect and the next time they experience feelings of anxiety it will be much worse.
Also keep in mind during the warm weather fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are out in force. Be sure to administer your pet’s monthly heartworm, flea and tick preventatives. This goes for indoor kitties too, they are still at risk for heartworm disease.
I hope these tips help you and your pets have a happy and safe summer!
Dr. Ashley Gallagher graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and completed an internship at Friendship. She’s been on staff ever since and works on both our primary care and surgery services. Dr. Gallagher has her hands full at home with four dogs and three cats, who always keep things interesting.