All posts by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

Redirected Aggression in Cats

Cats display a complex behavior known as redirected aggression. According to Dr. Debra Horwitz, ” Redirected aggression arises from the cat being in an aggressive or agitating circumstance, but unable to vent that aggression on the causative agent.” Here’s a common history. A cat is looking out the window and sees another cat invade their yard. The angry cat wants to attack the intruder lurking on the other side of the glass. Since they can’t, they attack whatever is close. This can be humans or other animals in their immediate vicinity who are innocent bystanders. The victim is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Redirected aggression can be caused by the sight, sound or smell of another cat or animal. Less frequently, unusual sounds, unfamiliar people or objects and even pain may trigger an episode.

Treatment is based on removing the inciting factor from the cat’s environment. This is often easier said than done. For outdoor cats or other animals, cover windows and remove perches and furniture from the area. Remove any sources of food, water and resting places from the yard that may attract other cats or animals. Discourage visiting cats with motion detector air canisters or water systems that provide a surprise shower. Shield the cat who suffers from redirected aggression from windows by blocking their access to the window. Removing furniture and/or covering the window will work for cats who are visually aroused but may not be enough if scent is the trigger.

Once a cat becomes aroused, it should be left alone to calm down. Create a safe room for the cat that contains a litter box, water, food and a Feliway diffuser. Gently herd the cat to the room with a broom or box. A cat in this state of arousal may inflict serious damage on people or other animals. Take extreme caution to avoid injury. If the cat must be picked up, use a thick quilt wrapped around their entire body including the head. Once in the room, turn the lights off and leave immediately. Give the cat plenty of time to calm down before entering. For some cats, it may be several days before they are back to normal. A video camera placed in the room is a great way to access their state of arousal from a safe distance. An aroused cat will have a bushy tail, dilated pupils, flattened ears and growl as they pace about the room.

If the inciting cause cannot be completely removed from the cat’s life, then counter-conditioning and desensitization may help control re-directed aggression. The cat is exposed to the stimulus at a low level and then rewarded for good behavior. Slowly the cat will learn to associate the stimulus with good things as the feelings of anxiety disipate.

Source:

-Horwitz, Debra. “Feline Aggression Toward People” Australian Veterinary Association Proceeding 2012, AVA2012, VIN.com.

 

Blue Buffalo and Wellness Voluntarily Recall Dog Food After Three Dogs Suffered From Thyroid Toxicity

On March 17, 2017, the FDA announced that Blue Buffalo and Wellness dog food companies were voluntarily recalling some of their products because of excessive levels of beef thyroid hormone. The food contained gullets which are the larynx from cows and steers. Unfortunately, the gullets were not properly cleaned and contained thyroid glands which was the source of the toxicity. Three dogs from different households including a Shetland sheepdog, Tibetan terrier and Labrador retriever became ill. Thankfully, all of the dogs recovered once the food was taken out of their diets.

Clinical signs of thyroid toxicity, also called hyperthyroidism, include increased appetite, thirst and urination. A common clue is that weight loss despite an increased appetite. Another common clue is restlessness or an increase in activity in a senior pet. Some people describe it as, ‘acting like a puppy again.’ If left untreated, chronically elevated thyroid levels may cause vomiting, diarrhea, heart disease and death.

Diagnosis of thyroid toxicity is based on physical examination and laboratory testing. Animals with hyperthyroidism have elevated total thyroid hormone levels in their blood. They may also have other blood and urine abnormalities due to the far reaching effect of this hormone.

If you feed BLUE WILDERNESS or WELLNESS, please check for the following products that have been voluntarily recalled, stop using them and contact the company immediately. Here’s the list:

WellPet 13.2 ounce cans of Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs, best by dates of Feb, 2, 2019, Aug 29, 2019 and Aug 30, 2019. UPC code 076344894506. More info at https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm547335.htm

Blue Buffalo 12.5 ounce cans of BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe, Red Meat Dinner Wet food for Adult Dogs, best by date of June 7, 2019, UPC code 840243101153. More info at:  https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm547335.htm

Sources:

-News Desk. “FDA alerts consumers, vets to watch dogs for hyperthyroidism: ‘Extensive testing’ shows thyroid hormone in canned food from Blue Buffalo, Co., Welllpet” Food Safety News, March 28, 2017 email alert.

Wool Sucking in Cats

Wool sucking is a compulsive behavior seen in cats, especially in Siamese and Birman breeds. Cats affected with this medical disorder suck, lick and chew on soft materials including wool and other fabrics. Over time, they often progress to other materials including rubber, nylon, cardboard, paper and plastic.  I know of one cat who got into a closet and chewed out the inseam of his owner’s favorite jeans. Another cat suffered electrocution when she went after an electric cord.  She received a nasty bruise on the roof of her mouth but survived.

The cause of wool sucking is not completely understood. Dr. Borns-Well performed a case controlled study of 204 Birman and Siamese cats and found that small litter size and early weaning was associated with an increased risk of wool sucking in the Birman breed of cat. In Siamese, the risk of developing wool sucking increased when they developed other medical conditions. Further research by Dr. Nicholas Dodman into the genetics suggests a dominant mode of inheritance for this condition. Another common finding in affected cats is an abnormally intense appetite. These cats are extremely oral, mouthing anything in reach when they are hungry.

Treatment is based on decreasing the stress that causes this compulsive behavior and providing alternative outlets when it occurs. Here’s how I tackle patients with wool sucking:

  1. Medical examination – The work-up for a cat with wool sucking always starts with a thorough veterinary examination and lab work looking for other medical problems. Cats are good at hiding their illnesses until they become severe.  Through blood work and physical examination, I find many of these patients have chronic problems when their family thought they were healthy. The behavior decreases and sometimes stops when the underlying problem is resolved.
  2. Environmental examination – The next step in the work-up for wool sucking is evaluating the cat’s environment for specific stress inducers as well as behavioral enrichment areas. Cats have a pretty simple routine – hunt, eat, urinate/defecate, groom, rest. A healthy environment will provide specific areas for all of these behaviors to occur. Stress occurs from lack of resources, other housemates that may bully the cat, outdoor cats and the lack of outlets for normal behaviors. Cats view valuable things like resting spots, food and litter boxes as valuable resources. Problems occur when there aren’t enough to go around. Ideally, there should be one litter box for each cat. Place the box in a private area with at least two escape routes to prevent another cat or dog from cornering the cat. The same rule applies for food and water bowls. Use a large dog bowl for water as cats like to drink from large flat surfaces. For resting areas, variety is the key. I like to give the cat a choice between low places (basket in a closet, blanket under a bed, cat tunnel, etc), medium places (chair when pushed under a table, sofa back covered with a blanket, inbox on a desk, etc) and high places (perch on upper window, closet shelf, cat tree, etc). If outdoor cats are a problem, keep the perches far away and cover windows with blinds.
  3. Normal behavior outlet – Entertainmental areas are important for giving the cat an outlet for their normal behaviors. In the wild, feral cats hunt, stalk and then kill their prey. Behavior enrichment for indoor cats should provide the means for expressing these behaviors. Window perches by a bird feeder, aquariums, cat trees and cat videos appeal to the hunting instincts of cats. Scratching post scattered throughout the house are fun as well. Use posts with vertical as well as horizontal surfaces for scratching. Interactive toys including feather wands, stuffed mice on a string, while balls and wads of paper are great for stalking and exercise. Remember to let the cat catch and kill the toy every few minutes to simulate normal hunting. My cats come running when they hear me get the feather wand out of the closet. I have to put it away between plays times because they will chew it up. I am not a fan of laser pointers because some cats develop frenzied play syndrome because they can never catch and kill the dot.
  4. Outlets for wool sucking behavior – Even with a good environment, some cats will still exhibit the wool sucking behavior. The key in dealing with this is to redirect the behavior away from the expensive inappropriate items to safe toys. Soft cat toys and stuffed animals work well for this. A small amount of cat nip or lanolin may be rubbed on the toy to help attract the cat. Place the toys in areas where the wool sucking behavior occurs. With time, the cat will learn to seek out their special toys when they feel the need for oral stimulation. Since many of these cats seem to have extreme hunger, break up their meals throughout the day. Put food in puzzle feeders or treat balls and then scatter them throughout the house. Make the cat work to find the food. Encourage the cat to play and then reward them with small bits of food. Because of their food motivation, many of these cats can learn to do all kinds of tricks.
  5. Severe Cases – In some cats, the compulsive behavior is ingrained and drug therapy is required. For these cats, I also recommend creating a safe room filled with soft toys for mouthing until the compulsive behavior is better controlled.

Sources:

-Borns-Well, S, et. al., A case-control study of compulsive wool-sucking in Siamese and Birman cats (n=204). J. Vet. Behav. November/December 2015:10(6):543-548.

-Dodman, Nicholas. Recognition, Management and Genetic Findings in Canine and Feline Compulsive Disorders. Tuft’s Canine and Feline Breeding Genetics Conference 2015.

Petting-Related Aggression in Cats

Most cats enjoy human interaction especially if it involves petting. As the saying goes, ‘Cats are connoisseurs of pleasure.’ Most love a good head rub, especially when the sides of the face by the whiskers are stroked. Unfortunately, petting may stimulate some cats to bite. The most common history I hear is that the cat was lying next to or on their owner. The owner was scratching their chin, face and/or back when suddenly, the cat bit the owner and ran away.  Most of the time, the cat will inhibit their bite which means only use light pressure but I have seen a few deep wounds during my career.

Petting-related aggression is a clinical syndrome in cats that is poorly understood. The cause is thought to be pain or exceeding the cat’s tolerance for attention. Cats with back pain from arthritis or disc disease will often cry and twitch when their backs are stroked. If the petting continues, they may bite to stop the pain. There is also a condition called feline hyperesthesia syndrome that causes a normally sweet cat to suddenly bite. Cats with this syndrome seem to experience episodes of extreme pain that cause some to lash out at anyone around them. Petting the lower back can cause an episode but I have also seen cats trigger without any stimulation.

Overstimulation is the other cause of petting-related aggression. Some cats seem to have a low threshold or tolerance for human interaction. Some behaviorists speculate that there is an internal conflict occurring between the adult and juvenile response to human attention because many of these cats will solicit attention. They will purr and head butt but then bite when touched.

Treatment starts with keeping the humans safe. I recommend using some sort of inanimate object to stroke the cat like a wand or towel. Watch the cat closely for signs of overstimulated. Look for dilated pupils, flicking the tail, flattened ears or raised hair along the back. If observed, stop touching the cat immediately and slowly back away. If the cat is on your lap, slowly stand up allowing the cat to jump off without injury.

Once the warning signs are known, slowly build the cat’s tolerance to human interaction by rewarding it for good behavior. When the cat is hungry, offer small bits of their favorite treat. Once the cat is comfortable taking the treats, start petting them. Pet once then give a treat. Gradually increase the cat’s tolerance to more petting between treats. Remember to stop immediately if any signs of over- stimulation occur. Hopefully, the cat will learn to control their stimulation to get more treats. Keep the sessions short and vary the food reward for maximum effectiveness.

 

Source:

-Horwitz, Debra. ‘Feline Aggression toward People’, Australian Veterinary Association Proceedings 2012, VIN.com.

Misdirected Play Aggression in Cats

Scratching and biting are common kitten behaviors. Their predatory nature motivates them to explore the world looking for prey. They stalk, pounce and bite anything that moves during play. Unfortunately, this natural behavior can become a serious problem in some cats as they grow and the strength of their bite increases. Beside the physical trauma from their large canine teeth (fangs), cats carry several bacteria in their mouths that can cause serious infections. People can also develop cat scratch fever from the bacteria Bartonella henselae that is found on some cat’s nails.

Misdirected play aggression is usually seen in cats under two years of age.  They are often the only cat in the household or live with other cats and/or dogs that do not play. The worst cases are seen with orphans who were raised alone. These little ones didn’t learn to inhibit their bites during play because their was no queen(mom) or siblings around to let them know when they bit too hard. The other common history findings are rough play with humans as young kittens and being left alone for long periods of time. One of the biggest mistakes people make in raising kittens is allowing them to bite hands and scratch during play. Rough play teaches kittens to surprise attack without the normal warning signs. What was once a cute little nip turns into a deep wound.

Diagnosis of misdirected play aggression is made by observing the cat or kitten in their environment before, during and after the bite. Most often, movement is the trigger. In my experience, feet moving under the covers, making the bed and walking down the hall are the most common triggers. It is also reported that walking up and down stairs as well as  coming out of a closet will trigger play aggression. Most kittens assume a crouched position with an intent look on their faces before striking. Usually their ears are forward in anticipation of doing something fun i.e., biting. They do not growl or vocalize during play. This is a very important point to remember to differentiate misdirected play aggression from other forms of aggression. If the kitten hisses, growls or screams, the behavior is not play related.

Treatment is based on giving the kitten or cat a different outlet for their energy. As I was taught in veterinary college, ‘A tired cat is a good cat.’ If the home can accommodate another feline, adding another slightly older kitten or cat that likes to play is a great solution. Beside giving the troublemaker an outlet for their energy, another animal will get a home which is a win for everybody. Consult with your veterinarian about the proper methods for introducing cats and go slow. Dumping a new cat into an environment and letting them ‘work it out’ is not recommended. Make sure the new addition is free of disease before the introduction. A two week quarantine is recommended just in case the kitten was exposed to a virus during the re-homing.

If a new feline roommate isn’t an option, then play is the key. A variety of toys should be placed in the environment to stimulate the kitten. Remember that cats and kittens will habituate which means become bored with toys quickly. Change the toys frequently to keep them engaged. Create several play stations in their environment to keep them moving. Here are some examples:

  1. Cat nip infused scratching post tucked in the corner of the room. Provide a horizontal as well as a vertical scratch pad. Cardboard scratch pads work well for the horizontal surface.
  2. Hang a toy from door nobs in multiple areas. Make sure the toy is secured well to prevent swallowing a string.
  3. Boxes and/or bags left out to explore. After grocery shopping, leave a few paper bags on the floor to give the kitten something new to explore. When the kitten becomes bored, put them away until the next day or place some cat nip inside.
  4. Perches placed by windows provide ‘natural T.V.’
  5. Outdoor fully enclosed ‘catio’ will keep the cat safe while allowing them to experience the great outdoors. The screened in area should have multiple perches placed at different heights to help the cat exercise. Some cats may also enjoy munching on container grass.
  6. Fabric tunnels placed along walls or behind sofas give the cat a ground level space to explore.
  7. Ping pong balls in the bath tub work well for curious cats.

Beside the play stations, cats also need interactive play. Four to six fifteen minute active play sessions per day are recommended. Cat fishing rods, wads of paper to retrieve or bat around, balls and feather dusters work well. Stimulate the actions of a mouse or bird with the toy by pulling it under and around furniture. Make the motions unpredictable, slow then fast, smooth along the ground with pops up into the air. Many cats can’t resist the whirling noise made when a feather toy is spun over head. Many people make the mistake of throwing the toys directly at the cat which frightens them. Remember, cats are used to chasing prey. The toy mouse jumping into their face is illogical to them.

Be extremely careful with laser light pens. Direct eye contact may result in blindness. Also, some cats develop ‘frenzy play syndrome’ because they can never catch, touch and kill the dot. If using a laser, stop every few minutes and give the cat an actual toy they can bite and scratch. When the cat feels the toy has been ‘killed’, go back to the laser.

Food dispensing toys or feeder toys are great for burning off energy. Instead of regular meals placed in a dish, make the kitten work for their food. Place small amounts inside and then let them roll it around until something good falls out. Treats may be hidden around the house to stimulate exploration. A few kibbles placed in a water bowl can provide entertainment as the kitten works to get the floaters. Remember to vary the flavors of food often (every 2 or 3 days) for added interest.

Battery operated toys that simulate prey can be a nice addition to a cat’s toy box especially when the humans need a break. Although some cats like the battery operated vacuum cleaners and robots, most seem frightened by these machines. Stick with ‘Panic Mouse’ and similar toys.

Now that the cat has an outlet for their play drive, it is time to teach them not to attack humans. First, evaluate the environment where the attacks occur. If possible remove furniture or other items that are the launch point. Second, obtain a noise maker to startle the cat. Compressed air or pennies in a soda can work well. When the cat shows signs of stalking behavior such as raised hair, twitching tail or slinking on the ground, startle them with the noise. Third, re-direct their attention to an appropriate toy. This is the most important step as they must have an outlet for the behavior. Negative punishment does not work because the cat associates the bad thing with the human, not their behavior of biting the human. Cats subjected to punishment often become more aggressive as they adopt a ‘I’m going to bite you before you can spank me’ approach. Some cats may become fearful and start urinating outside the litter box. As veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Debra Horwitz states, “It is important to redirect the behavior, not punish it.”

Source:

-‘Cat Scratch Fever’ www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html.

-Horwitz, Debra F. ‘Feline Aggression Toward People’ Australian Veterinary Association Proceedings 2012, VIN.com.

-Thomas, Nicole & Brook, Itzhak. ‘Animal Bite-Associated Infections’ Expert Rev Ant Infect Thor. 2011;9(2):215-226.

Update on Coated With Fur: A Veterinarian’s Heart

As many of you know, I am the author of the Coated With Fur series of books.  They recount stories from my days as a young veterinarian owning the Minnesota Veterinary Center. The first book, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life, covers the first year of the practice. Readers meet Ivan, the timid doberman,  a wonderful gerbil and a three- legged cat with attitude. The second book, Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love, continues the stories of the wonderful animals from the first book and then adds a few new ones including Radar, a kitten who was born without eyes.  This amazing cat became the Chief Comforter at the clinic. The third book in the series is called, Coated With Fur: A Veterinarian’s Heart. I started working on it 3 years ago, anticipating I would be writing the fifth book in the series by now. But, I bought Arizona Skies Animal Hospital and upgrading it required more work than I realized.  As one example, converting the handwritten medical records to a computer based system was a big job.  The animals and clients of Arizona Skies Animal Hospital are a tremendous gift in my life.  My only regret is that I am so far behind in writing book #3.

I am happy to announce that I am back to writing again. Dr. Kendra Roberts is now working Wednesdays allowing me time to write. I am currently on chapter 3 and hope to have the first draft done by late summer. So the book will be finished sometime in 2018.  For those of you who I have kept waiting to hear what happens to Butch, Ivan, Genny and the other campers, I am truly sorry. Thank you for hanging in there with me. I will try to provide updates as the writing progresses.

Aggression in Cats Toward People

Aggression in cats toward people is a serious problem. Beside the pain, a cat’s teeth and claws may harbor organisms that cause serious disease. Scratches may causes cat scratch fever, a condition caused by the organism Bartonella henselae. Cats also often have several bacteria in their mouths including Staphylococcus sp, Streptococcus sp., Moraxella and Pasturella multocida that can cause infection. The worst infections are usually caused by Pasturella multocida which means ‘many deaths’ in Latin. Immediate medical care and antibiotic therapy is recommended for all bites.

Unfortunately, the reason for feline aggression can be hard to diagnose. Cats, like humans, have complex personalities with different emotional triggers. Feline aggression is broken down into categories based upon the inciting cause. The categories are: Misdirected Play-Related Aggression, Petting-Related Aggression, Redirected Aggression and Fear-Based Aggression. In the future, another form of aggression based on frustration may be added to the list.

In young cats, most aggression is a form a misdirected-play aggression. Kittens like to attack anything that moves, especially feet under blankets. To combat this, the kitten must be given a positive outlet for their energy. Interactive toys like a feather wand allow the kitten and human to play together.

Petting-related aggression occurs when the cat becomes over stimulated from petting. To prevent this, limit petting to the face and stop when tail twitching starts. Also, the cat must be evaluated by a veterinarian for a medial condition called hyperethesia syndrome that can have similar clinical signs.

Redirected aggression occurs when something upsets a cat but circumstances prevent the cat from engaging the thing that upset it. This is common when indoor cats notice a stranger cat through a window. The indoor cat becomes aroused and then takes their aggression out on the humans or other animals inside the house. To avoid injury, never interact with an aroused cat. Gently guide it into a dark room with food, water and a litter box then leave it alone until the cat is back to normal.

The last type of aggression is based on fear. Cats with fear based aggression attack first and ask questions later. They have learned that a good offense is the best defense. Most of these cats were poorly socialized as kittens and/or suffered a traumatic experience early in life. Punishment usually makes this type of aggression worse.

Successful treatment of feline aggression requires a thorough history, physical examination and environmental evaluation. The history taking starts with obvious questions as to where and when the aggression take place. In addition, it is important to determine what occurred right before the aggression. Did strangers enter the house? Was there an unexpected noise? Was the cat trapped in a corner or did the cat seek out a specific person?  The next step in the history is to note how the cat acted before, during and after the episode paying special attention to the cat’s facial expressions and tail activity. Videos of the aggressive episodes are helpful in answering these questions. Keeping a behavior log that records the above information is a huge help in documenting patterns of behavior.

Once the history is finished, the cat needs a thorough physical examination. Many cats suffer from osteoarthritis of their backs and legs just like humans. A cat may bite because it hurts when picked up or petted. Kidney disease, pancreatitis and hyperthyroidism which are common in older cats can make them feel bad and grumpy. Since cats are good at hiding their illnesses, routine blood and urinalysis as well as X-rays are performed to rule out a medical reason for aggression. Cats are just like humans … it’s hard to be nice when feeling bad.

If the results of the physical exam and testing are within normal limits and the history is consistent with aggression, the final step in working up aggression is performing an evaluation of the cat’s environment. Does the cat live alone or have roommates? Is the cat kept strictly indoors or allowed to go outside in an enclosed space? What kind of toys are available? How much exercise does the cat get? Does the cat have high resting places as well as low? Are the food bowls and litter boxes placed in an area with escape routes? Again, video of the cat in their home is helpful in assessing the environment.

Diagnosing the cause and then implementing a treatment plan for aggression can be challenging. The upcoming blogs will go into more detail on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of each type of aggression.

Source:

-‘Cat Scratch Fever’ www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html.

-Horwitz, Debra F. ‘Feline Aggression Toward People’ Australian Veterinary Association Proceedings 2012, VIN.com.

-Thomas, Nicole & Brook, Itzhak. ‘Animal Bite-Associated Infections’ Expert Rev Ant Infect Thor. 2011;9(2):215-226.

 

China Announces Decision to End Ivory Trade

On December 30, China announced that ivory sales would be banned by the end of 2017. As the largest consumer of ivory, this news is welcomed by wildlife advocates who believe it will put poachers out of business. The ban will start with the shuttering of legal ivory processing factories by March 31st. The Chinese government will transition legal ivory to museums and help affected workers find other jobs. Collectors of legal ivory products may keep what they already have and obtain government approval for sales.

Researchers estimate that over 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last 10 years for ivory. Poachers have taken advantage of the strife and corruption in central Africa. Rebels sell the tusks to raise money to buy weapons. “Like blood diamonds in West Africa in the late 1990s, ivory has become Africa’s new conflict resource,” write Edward Wong and Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times. Ending the trade of ivory may save human lives as well as elephants.

African elephants are divided into two subspecies, savanna and forest. They live in herds led by the most dominant female called the matriarch. Babies or calves are born after a 22 month gestation and are cared for by the entire herd. Males leave the herd at 12 to 15 years of age. They may join a bachelor group or remain solitary. Elephants are vegetarians that consume grass, leaves, bark and roots. An adult eats 300 to 400 pounds a day. Elephants are extremely intelligent with good memories. The females form strong social bonds with their relatives. Scientists have documented many human emotions in these magnificent creatures including anger, grief and joy.

Thank you to Yao Ming and countless conservation groups who worked tirelessly on the behalf of elephants. Since retiring from professional basketball, Mr. Ming has advocated for sharks, rhinos and elephants by denouncing shark fin soup, rhino horn medical remedies and ivory carvings.

Source:

-‘Basic Facts About Elephants’ Defenders of Wildlife, Elephant Fact Sheet, www.defendersofwildlife.org.

-Wong, Edward and Gettleman, Jeffrey. ‘China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching.’ New York Times Asia Pacific division, Dec. 30, 2016.

 

The Effect of Smoking on Dogs and Cats

We all know that smoking tobacco products is harmful to the smoker as well as their family who are exposed through second and thirdhand smoke. But what about the pets? Unfortunately, the pets are effected as well when they breathe in the toxic fumes or ingest the residue left behind in the environment. When burned, cigarettes release an amazing 7,000 chemicals including ammonia, arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, lead, mercury, nicotine, toluene and uranium-236. Beside the smoker, other family members suffer secondhand exposure when they breathe the fumes. Eventually, the chemicals settle out of the air onto surfaces creating a residue. Thirdhand exposure occurs when chemicals are ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled through dust. Pets may also come into contact with these chemicals when they lick a smoker. These chemicals persist in the environment for months even with cleaning.

Dogs and cats who live with a smoker have an increased risk of cancer. The length of the dog’s nose will determine what kind of cancer they may develop. Dogs with long noses like Greyhounds and Dobermans have higher risks of cancer developing in their nasal passages because the cancer causing chemicals settle out there. The chemicals make it to the lungs in dogs with short and medium length noses.  This predisposes them to lung cancer. Cats have increased risk of lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth when they live with a smoker. The risk of a cat developing lymphoma increases by three times when they live with a 3 pack a day smoker. The squamous cell carcinoma occurs when cats groom the toxic chemicals from their fur. The risk for this aggressive cancer increases two to four times.

To prevent secondhand smoke, many people will smoke outside. Unfortunately, this does not prevent thirdhand exposure to pets and children because the toxic chemicals from tobacco contaminate the smoker’s hands and clothing. The chemicals are transferred to the children and pets through thirdhand contact. As mentioned above, pets are at the greatest risk if they lick the smoker.

For more information of the effect of smoking on pets, please check out the FDA website. Here’s the link: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm520415.htm

Sources:

-Bertone, E.R., et. al. ‘Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Malignant Lymphoma in Pet Cats’ J. Am. Epidemiology 2002; 156:268-273.

-Matt, G.E., et al. ‘When smokers move out and non-smokers move in: residential thirdhand smoke pollution and exposure.’ Tobacco Control 2011: 20(e1) 1-8.

-Reif, JJ. et al. ‘Cancer of the oral cavity and para-nasal sinuses and exposure to harmful tobacco smoke in pet dogs’ Am. J. Epidemiology 1988:  147(5):488-492.

-Schick, S. ‘Thirdhand smoke: here to stay’ Tobacco Control 2011:  20(1):  1-3.

-‘Be smoke-free and help you pets live longer, healthier lives.’ U.S. Food and Drug Administration Animal Health Literacy, last updated 9/22/16. www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm520415.htm

Keep Pets Out of Christmas Tree Water

Christmas decorations can cause problems for pets. While most people know about the common holiday dangers including tinsel, candles, electric cords and ornaments, few people know about a potential danger hiding at the base of the tree – Christmas tree water.

christmas-tree

The big problem from Christmas tree water is bacterial overgrowth in the stagnant water. In warm indoor temperatures, bacteria can multiply quickly. When consumed by pets, this often causes vomiting, anorexia and/or diarrhea. Most animals will recover with supportive care including fluids to correct dehydration, antibiotics to get rid of the bacterial overgrowth, probiotics to repopulate the gastro intestinal tract and a bland diet.

Tree extenders are a mix of fertilizer and sugar to keep trees fresh. If the concentration is low, pets will suffer from gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), irritation to their mouths, esophagus and stomach. If the concentration is high, cats may develop a serious condition called methemoglobinemia.

To keep your pets safe, I recommend blocking access to the tree stand. If that isn’t possible, use plain water for trees and change it frequently. Although adding bleach may decrease bacterial growth in the water, I certainly do not recommend it.  Bleach causes gastrointestinal irritation. I have seen it cause severe ulcers in cats and dogs.  Please, never use bleach in any place where animals have access.

I hope you and your pets have a wonderful and safe Christmas!