Laser Tag For Cats And Dogs

WIth more and more pets struggling with obesity, toys that stimulate our dogs and cats to exercise are gaining in popularity.  I like toys that encourage interaction between people and their pets because it builds their relationship while providing exercise.  The exception to this rule is pen lasers.  Although many dogs and cats love to chase the red dot as it scampers across the floor, I worry about using lasers for two reasons.  First, looking directly into a laser might cause permanent vision problems.  Great care must be taken to keep the laser pointed at the floor, away from your pet’s eyes.  Second, laser chase may lead to obsessive/compulsive behavior problems in some dogs and cats.  The pet chases the dot but cannot physically catch it.  Without the ultimate reinforcement of “catching” the dot, animals become frustrated and chase it with more gusto.  Eventually, these animals develop a repetitive disorder characterized by overresponsiveness that requires medical intervention to control.  Therefore, I’m afraid I can not recommend laser tag for pets.      

Pet Allergies – Golf Course Overseed

It’s overseed time again in the Valley of the Sun.  Last weekend, the grounds crew at Troon North mowed down the dried bermuda,  scraped up the remnants and then reseeded the courses with rye grass.  Bits of grass and dust hung heavy in the air.  Thank goodness, the men wore respiratory protection as clouds of dust swirled around their tractors.  The neighborhood swimming pools sported a layer of dust floating gently on the surface of the water. 

Overseed is my least favorite time of the year in Phoenix because it is hard on my patients who suffer with allergies, asthma and atopy.  The dogs often suffer from fits of reverse sneezing, they itch and break with hotspots (localized moist dermatitis caused by staph).  The cats start to wheeze and hide.  To protect your pets, I recommend purchasing an air purifier for the room where they spend the most time.  Mine is set-up in the master bedroom.  Use your air conditioner and keep the windows in your home tightly closed.  Wait until the dust has cleared before opening windows to enjoy the cool night air.  You may need to avoid outdoor activities including walks for at least a week if your dog is highly susceptible to dust or grass.   

For many animals those steps alone will keep them comfortable.  If not, please contact your veterinarian to obtain the appropriate dose of an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine.  Patients with more advanced asthma, atopy or allergies might require stronger medications or require a larger quantity of their maintenance drugs to stay comfortable during the overseed.  If you notice any change in your pet, please call your veterinarian for advice.  I hate to see pets suffer needlessly during this time of year.  

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Burkitt’s

My husband has long accused me of being an overachiever.  Hence, instead of getting just one cancer, I have been diagnosed with “double hit cancer”.  It saddens me greatly to let you know I have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Burkitt’s.  They say that attitude matters greatly with cancer and I do expect a cure.  My version is labeled aggressive to highly aggressive which actually offers a better chance for cure.  I spent one week at Scottsdale Healthcare – Shea.  My physician’s are terrific as are the nurses and staff (including a very sweet maid) at the hospital.  They instill confidence and have excellent bedside manner to those of us on the “onc ward”.  So I now embark on a four month process of chemotherapy and ask for your prayerful support for me and all cancer patients (including the animals battling cancer!).  During this time I will likely blog somewhat less and be a little slower to respond to questions.  But, I will do my best to keep blogging.

For all of its challenges, life does present us with wonderful gifts along the trail.  One of those gifts appeared in my hospital room in the form of Kaos and his handler Lance Henderson.  It was arranged by a wonderful nurse named Alissa.  She saw them downstairs in the hospital and asked if they would come upstairs to surprise a veterinarian.  The initial chemotherapy had been quite rough and it brightened my spirit greatly to see this beautiful dog and visit with his handler.  It turns out that Scottsdale Healthcare has a terrific security force which includes many dogs.  Lance arranged for Athos and his handler Gabe Mejia to visit me when the shift changed.  I hope in the ensuing months, they will continue to visit and I will get to meet more of these beautiful canines and their devoted handlers.  As is often the custom for working dogs, they have cards providing some background.  Here are the cards for these teams.  Kaos is a Malinois/Shepherd mix and Athos is a German shepherd.

Here’s to a cure! 

Name This Ground Bird Found In The Desert Southwest

Living in the desert has introduced me to a whole new ecosystem, full of wonderful plants and animals.  Recently, the bird pictured below ventured into our backyard.  It even posed for a picture before jumping off the wall in pursuit of a lizard.  Name this ground bird found in the desert southwest.  (Hint:  This species owes its popularity to a cartoon character.)

Diagnosis:  Greater Roadrunner

If you got the answer right, congratulations.  Since this bird is crouching, it is difficult to appreciate its long legs and tail.  Adult roadrunners often reach 20 to 24 inches from beak to tail.  They are carnivorous birds, preying upon rodents, reptiles, insects and other birds.  Here in Arizona, my neighbors love these birds because they eat rattlesnakes.  Roadrunners are so fast that they can actually catch a rattlesnake without being bitten.  The bird grabs the snake by the tail and then beats it to death on the ground.  Truth be told, I feel sorry for the snake.  It must be an awful way to go.  After the snake is dead, they swallow it or as least as much of it as they can.  I have seen roadrunners walking around with a few inches of snake hanging out of their mouths. 

Devon Rex Cats – Name An Inherited Disease That Affects Swallowing

The Devon Rex breed is know to carry an autosomal recessive gene that causes severe disease.  Breeders look for it in young kittens by watching them in the litter box.  Healthy kittens will assume a standard squatting posture and hold it while they empty their bladders.  In affected kittens, their heads will drop while voiding until they contact the side of the litter box.  What is the name of this disease?  


Diagnosis:  Inherited Myopathy (Spasticity) of Devon Rex Cats

Cats affected with inherited myopathy suffer from generalized weakness that worsens with exercise.  They often hold their heads low and walk with an abnormal gait almost like they are drunk.  The smooth muscle of the esophagus is affected as is the skeletal muscle.  Many of these cats will die of laryngeal spasms after a piece of food becomes lodged in their windpipe or esophagus.  To prevent aspiration, feed cats in a vertical position to let  gravity help move the food down into the stomach.  As you can imagine, kittens with this condition have a poor prognosis.   

Plastic Bags Are Dangerous To Pets And Children

Many plastic bags come with a printed warning “May cause suffocation in children.”  I wish this warning also included animals.  If you use plastic bags, please store and dispose of them properly and promptly.  Each year animals, pets and wildlife die after encountering these bags.  Some die of suffocation if they crawl inside while others die of gastrointestinal obstructions after eating them.  Either way, it is a horrible death.  The picture below shows what we as pet owners must never let happen.  

Also just as a reminder, please wash cloth bags between grocery store runs.  The bags may become contaminated with bacteria from raw foods and cause illness. You may also wish to separate meat and poultry items into a separate bag from perishables.