Easter Lilies And Cats Do Not Mix

Several years ago I treated a beautiful kitten for renal disease.  The rambunctious girl jumped up on the counter to investigate the Eater Lily that adorned her home.  Some of the pollen stuck to her nose as she sniffed the flowers.  She licked it off and then left to play with more interesting toys.  Two days later, the kitten felt awful.  She refused to eat or drink.  When I examined her, I felt her kidneys bulging beneath the skin.  She screamed in pain when I touched (palpated) them.  The swollen kidneys were twice as large as normal.  Blood work confirmed what I already suspected, the kitten suffered from severe kidney disease caused by the Easter Lily. 

Easter Lilies are poisonous to cats.  Their toxic potential in other animals is not known at this time.  They cause severe kidney problems (renal tubular necrosis) within two to three days of ingestion.  Therefore, I caution all cat owners about bringing this plant into your house.  All parts of the plant are poisonous.  This includes the pollen.  If you cat is exposed, bring them in for veterinary care immediately!  This is not something you can treat at home.  If you suspect toxicity, please do not delay. 

With aggressive therapy, many of these cats do recover from the poison.  The kitten mentioned above was one of the worst cases I have ever seen.  At the beginning of therapy, her blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels were off the charts.  After five days of fluid therapy, they fell back to the normal range.  She was lucky but it is best not to take chances.  

What Is Causing My Dog’s Face To Swell?

Many different factors may cause a dog’s face to swell.  Here is a list of the most common causes I see in veterinary practice.

1)  Allergic Reactions:   Dogs react to allergens in their environment just like people do.  The swelling may develop immediately following exposure or several hours later.  Other signs of an allergic reaction include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums and labored breathing.  Insect bits, either bees or spiders, are the most common causes I see in practice.  In addition, dogs may react to vaccinations, medications, household cleaners, perfumes, hair spray, pesticides, flea collars, treats and even their food.  One of my dogs is allergic to some foods.  

Although any breed may react to vaccinations, I have found that Miniature Pinchers, Pomeranians and Miniature Dachshunds react the most.  Watch your dog for several hours after they have been vaccinated.  Call your veterinarian at the first sign of a reaction! 

In case of an allergic episode, call your veterinarian immediately!  They will likely recommend that you administer diphenhydramine (Benadryl) as long as the dog is conscious and can swallow.  During routine examination, ask your veterinarian to calculate the proper dose and keep that on hand at all times.  If your dog is reacting to a flea shampoo or other topical allergen, bathe them immediately to prevent further exposure.  (My recommended first aid kit for dogs and cats is listed at www.veterinarycreative.com.)

2)  Puppy Strangles:  Young puppies under 16 weeks of age develop a condition called Juvenile Cellulitis or puppy strangles that looks like mumps in people.  I see it most often in Golden Retrievers and Daschshunds.  The lymph glands under their cheeks swell up so much that some puppies have trouble eating and breathing.  The large glands occlude the airway hence the name ‘stangles’.  If you suspect your puppy has this condition, bring them to a veterinarian for care immediately!  They will need long-term treatment with steroids to control the excessive immune reaction and antibiotics for any secondary infection.  Puppies with severe swelling might need their glands opened and drained.

3)  Abcesses:   An abcess is defined as an accumulation of puss beneath the skin.  Abcess may form behind the eye (retrobulbar) or around a tooth root causing facial swelling. 

4)  Sialoceles or Sialoadenitis:  A sialocele is an excessive accumulation of saliva within a salivary duct due to some sort of blockage.  Sialoadenitis is inflammation of a salivary gland.  The parotid glands that are located under the ears are the glands I normally see effected with this condition.  Both cause swelling along the lower jaw, especially in the area of the temporal mandibular joint.

5)  Neoplasia:  Cancerous masses on the head may cause facial swelling.  Watch your dog closely for lumps, especially if they are over eight years of age.  Seek medical attention whenever you find one.  Just like human medicine, early detection and treatment are the keys to surviving cancer. 

Humane Treatment of Downer Cows

I would like to thank President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for closing a loophole in slaughter regulations.  Under the former system, cattle who collapsed after their veterinary examination were allowed into our food system.  Beside posing a safety risk to humans, these animals suffered as they were picked-up with forklifts or dragged behind tractors to the kill station.  Under the new system, these animals will be humanely euthanized.  

Now I hope that President Obama and Secretary Vilsack will extend the same consideration to animals used in research and housed at zoos and aquariums.  In 2005, the Office of Inspector General found that USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service were not pursing enforcement action against violators of the Animal Welfare Act.  They also discounted fines for violators so heavily (75%), that they were no longer a deterrent.  Some institutions did not comply with the Animal Welfare Act because it was cheaper to pay the fines than to properly take care of the animals.  I strongly urge our current administration to order both the Eastern and Western Regions of the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) to implement the recommendations made in the Audit Report.  The duty of this agency is to protect animals by enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, not the institutions that house them.   

Condors: Born Captive, Set Free

On March 7, 2009 four captive-bred California Condors took wing in the skies above the border between Arizona and Utah!  Their release is a symbol of hope for this endangered species.  In the wild, the birds will encounter many dangers including power lines.  But the biggest threat to their existence may arise from something they will not see coming.  

According to the Peregrine Fund, lead is the silent killer that sickens countless numbers of condors as well as Bald and Golden Eagles every year.  During the season, hunters leave behind gut piles from their kills that contain bullet fragments.  If a lead bullet is used for the kill, it leaves fragments along the wound channel as well as in the gut pile.  Condors are poisoned when they scavenge the remains.  Once inside the bird’s body, lead shuts down the bone marrow causing anemia.  The severity will depend upon the amount of lead the bird ingested.  Treatment involves removing the lead from the birds gastrointestinal system and chelating (binding) the lead that has already been absorbed. 

If you or anyone you know enjoys hunting or fishing (think lead weights), please ask them to use lead-free ammunition or pack-out  gut piles after they dress the prey.  This one small step will protect the condors, the environment and all of us who enjoy it.  Remember, the meat from animals killed with lead ammunition is harmful to humans as well.  Thanks!

Tips For Trapping A Feral Cat

Advance planning and patience are the two keys to trapping a feral cat. 

Step 1:  Set-up a plan of action for the cat before it is trapped.  If the cat is an active-response feral, will you neuter and release it back into the same area or transfer it to a colony (if the cat’s territory is unsafe)?  If the cat is a passive-response feral, who will foster it?  Do they have a safe room set-up for the cat?  What kind of additional health screens will the feral need to protect the health of other cats in the foster family?  Contact the veterinarian who will care for the feral.  Make arrangements for sterilization, health screening and vaccinations with the clinic.  I recommend a CBC and chemistries.  Also, an FELV/FIV/FIP screen and fecal analysis by centrifugation for all feral cats.  If a rescue organization is involved, make sure they have room for the additional cat before you trap it.  A good pre-trap plan is critical to the health and well-being of the feral cat.

Step 2:  Condition the feral cat to eating in a safe area.  Feed the cat two small meals twice per day instead of one large one.  This will keep the cat in the area.  Place the food and water bowls close to a building, bush or fence to provide protection for the cat.

Step 3:  Once your (future) cat knows the routine, introduce the trap.  Place it in a safe area about twenty feet from the food and water bowls.  Against the foundation of a building or fence is optimal.  Lock the trap door in the open position.  You might even wire it open to make sure it does not close prematurely.  Test it several times.  Cover the entire trap with burlap, a towel or old sheet to provide protection from the elements and make the cat feel safe inside.  Secure the edges so that the fabric does not flap in the wind. 

Step 4:  When the cat is comfortable with the cage in the area, start moving the food and water bowl towards the trap.  Move the bowls two to three feet once a day.  If the cat refuses to eat, move the bowls back to where they were and wait a few days before tying again.  When the cat is comfortable eating out of a bowl placed right in front of the entrance to the trap, it is time to move to step 5.

Step 5:  Touch base with everyone involved in the plan for this cat.  Let them know that you are getting close to trapping him or her.  Place the food bowl just inside the trap.  When the cat is comfortable eating from it, move it back into the cage.  Move it a couple inches at a time until it is in the back of the trap.  Give the cat several days (three to five) of eating with its entire body in the trap before moving on to step 6.

Step 6:  Before you set the trap, contact everyone involved again and make sure they are ready for the cat.  I recommend setting the trap Monday through Thursday when most veterinary clinics are open.  Now here is the ingenious part . . . skip the evening meal in order to motivate the cat to enter the trap quickly the next morning!  

Step 7:  Unlock the trap door and set it.  Check it a few times to make sure that it close will close at the appropriate time.  Some cats like to rub on the trap door and cage sides before entering.  My own feral cat did this.  For thirty agonizing seconds, my husband watched Kalani rub on the corners of the trap door.  He feared the cat would spring it at the wrong time and we would loose him forever.

Step 8:  Once the trap is set, check it frequently.  It is best if you have set it where you can watch through a window from inside a home or building.  The cat will not have access to food or water when caught.  Check it often.

Step 9:  After you catch the cat, keep the trap covered and your hands away from the cage to avoid injury!  This is true even if you have been able to pet the cat on prior occasions.  Active-response cats will hiss and lounge through the bars.  If you are bitten or scratched, clean the wound with soap and copious amounts of water.  See a physician immediately.  Tell the veterinarian involved about your exposure.  Unvaccinated cats must be quarantined for rabies after biting a human.  Place a garbage bag or other waterproof container under the trap in case the cat urinates or defecates.  It will make clean-up much easier.  Try to keep the environment around the cat as quiet as possible.  Do not let well-meaning people lift the cover to get a peek.  This means you too.

Remember, you only get one chance to trap a feral cat.  Proceed slowly and with great patience.  The cat will set the schedule, not you.  I have enclosed a picture of the HAVAHART brand (from Lititz, PA) humane trap that I used to secure Kalani.  He is a wonderful cat and a great addition to our family.  I wish you the same success.