You Make The Diagnosis: Cats And Flowers

Pictured below is a magnificent arrangement of flowers.  Although the flowers are beautiful, one type is highly toxic to cats.  Which flower is poisonous?  What are the symptoms of toxicity?

Diagnosis:  Lily  (Lilium and Hemerocallis species)

Lilies from the Lilium and Hemerocallis species contain a toxin that causes renal diease in cats.  (The two orange flowers with brown spots on their long, broad petals.)  Initially, affected individuals are anorexic and listless.  As their condition worsens, vomiting and diarrhea often develop.  Without treatment, most will develop renal failure in one to three days.  If you think your pet got into a lily, even the pollen, get veterinary help immediately.  With early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, most cats will recover from lily toxicity.    

Brutlag, Ahna.  From the Planter to the Carpet:  Toxic Plants and the Small Animal Patient. Western Veterinary Conference 2010. 

Be Careful Wearing Nail Polish Around Tortoises

Tortoises have excellent color vision.  In addition to the colors that humans observe, they also see into the ultraviolet spectrum according to Ronald Orenstein, author of Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins: Survivors in Armour.  Because of this wonderful gift, people need to be careful when interacting with tortoises.  I have heard of tortoises mistaking painted toenails for a piece of fruit.  My friend told me how the tortoise she grew up with, Tommy, used to chase her when she wore flip flops.  As a veterinarian, I always wear clear nail polish for this very reason.  I don’t want a reptile to confuse my finger with a berry. 

Desert Dog Police Canine Trials

Last spring, I attended the Desert Dog Police Canine Trials in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The highlight of the event was watching Kaos and Athos, two dogs who came to visit me in the hospital.  Pictured below is Kaos performing protection work.  Once he bit the agitator’s knee through the hole in the door, he never let go until called.  Kaos almost pulled the door open as he tried to pull the agitator right through that small hole! 

Below is a video clip of Ozzie.  Note how this well-trained police dog responds when his handler calls him off.  At a dead run, he suddenly veers and does not bit the agitator standing in the field.  Especially for hospital security dogs, it is vitally important that they be trained well enough to be called off.  What a great example of teamwork.  Enjoy!

Dr. Nelson’s 2011 Animal Charity Grant

In honor of World Veterinary Year, I am offering to speak for free on behalf of an animal charity in any of the 50 United States.  The deadline for applying is August 31st, 2011.  Since it’s coming fast, I wanted to offer a reminder of this grant.  I hope to make it a wonderful gift for a great charity.  Please let your favorite animal non-profit know about the grant and the deadline.  The details are all contained on the Animal Charity Grant tab at

You Make The Diagnosis: Ring-tailed Lemur Unusual Behavior

Pictured below is a Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) from the Honolulu Zoo.  Native to Madagascar, these primates live in troops lead by a core group of females.  Name a unique behavior observed in Ring-tailed lemurs.

Diagnosis:  Air Scent Fights

Ring-tailed lemurs engage in stink fights.  According to the Cougar Mountain and National Zoos, lemurs possess scent glands on their wrists.  They rub their tails over these glands and then flick them at opponents, letting their scent permeate the air. 

Color Vision In Dogs

Last weekend, I watched the Western Regional Championships for the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge on TV.  I love watching healthy dogs perform and their unabashed joy at flying through the air.  During the “Big Air” segment of Dock Diving, the handler tosses a toy into a pool for their dog to retrieve.  The dog that goes the farthest is the winner.  While it was great to watch the interaction between the handlers and dogs, what really fascinated me was the toys.  Handlers used all different colors of floatable toys including a pink one.

According to veterinary ophthalmologist, Noelle La Croix of the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, dogs do not possess the correct receptors in their retinas to see orange/red colors.  They see hues of blue/violet and green/yellow. So using a red or orange colored toy is probably not the best choice.  

Before buying a new toy for your pet, check out a unique app by Unwired Innovations called Pet Vision.  Take a picture with your smart phone and then apply the app to see what your dog sees.  The results are surprising. There is also a setting for cats. 

You Make The Diagnosis: What Is Wrong With This Cat’s Mouth

The image below is a closeup of a cat’s mouth.  Study the image carefully, then make your diagnosis.  Is this condition painful for the cat? 

Diagnosis:  Fractured Lower Left Canine Tooth

Look at the right side of the picture, next to the large upper canine tooth and you will see the remnant of the lower left canine tooth.  The discolored area in the center of the tooth with the black dot is the pulp cavity.  This condition is very painful.  Dental x-rays of the tooth revealed infection from the gum line to the tip of the root.  It was removed and the cat made a complete recovery. 

Let me emphasize one important point.  I have immense compassion for animals in pain.  So, I expend considerable effort on pain management.  Make sure if your animal is suffering you ask your veterinarian about the steps they are taking to resolve pain in the hours after a procedure and for an appropriate length of time thereafter.