Beach Safety Tips for Dogs

During the summer, many people take their dogs to the beach. Swimming provides a wonderful low impact form of exercise that is also a great cardiovascular workout. The cool water even provides relief for dogs with osteoarthritis.


Here are my tips for keeping your dog safe at the beach:

1) Check the water – Unfortunately, there can be dangers hiding in the water. Strong currents, alligators and sharks kill dogs and humans each year. My friend was at a beach in Alabama when she spotted a miniature poodle swimming in an area known for gators. She told the owner about the danger before continuing her walk. When she returned, the owner was sitting on the beach alone. Her dog had vanished below the water!

2) Bring fresh water for your pet to drink – If dogs drink a lot of salt water, they can develop salt toxicity. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. If not treated immediately, the condition can progress to ataxia (looks like the dog is drunk), depression, seizures and death. I recommend offering fresh water every 30 minutes to prevent this.

3) Watch for signs of heat exhaustion – What feels great for us in a bathing suite may be too warm for a dog with a fur coat. Go to the beach at sunrise or sunset for cooler temperatures. For trips during the heat of the day, bring a shade umbrella. Watch dogs closely for the early signs of heat exhaustion which include excessive panting, salivating,  and/or a slight lavender color to the tongue. At the first sign of trouble, spray them down with cool (not cold) water and place in air conditioning. Be especially careful with brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs, boxers, Shih Tzus and pugs who are prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke because of their unique airway structure.

4) Apply sunscreen to pink colored skin – Dogs suffer from sunburn and skin cancer just like people. The pink skin under white fur is especially sensitive to burns. Use a sunscreen that is safe for pets like Epi-pet which is FDA approved for dogs.

5) Check out the sand before letting your dog off lead – Over the years, I have treated dogs for pad lacerations from broken glass. I have also removed fish hooks and shell fragments from wounds.

6) Sand fleas – In the U.S., the term ‘sand fleas’ is often used to describe the bite of a small crustacean, Orchestia agilis, that eats the skin of animals. It is not an insect, so the common flea preventatives to do not work. There is a true sand flea, Tunga spp, found in tropical and subtropical areas that will bite humans and animals.

7) Avoid stagnant water – Blue- green algae (cyanobacteria) is very toxic to dogs. It can affect their skin, gastrointestinal system, liver and central nervous system causing death in a little as 15 minutes. Rinse exposed animals in fresh water and seek veterinary help immediately.

Lab at beach

Remember to respect the wild animals that live on the beach. Watch dogs closely to make sure they don’t harass nesting birds or beach seals.


-Mayo, I et al, ‘Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke, Heat Prostration), Client Education: First Aid, VIN, Pub Dec. 31, 1994, revised June 2, 2015     -Pampiglione, S et al. ‘Sand flea (Tunga spp) infections in humans and domestic animals: state of art.’ MEDICAL & VETERINARY ENTOMOLOGY, Sept. 2009 Vol, 23, issue 3:172-186. -

You Make The Diagnosis: Owner Thinks This Cat Is In Pain

A client brought their 8 month old female kitten in for an examination because they thought she hurt her back. Two days ago, Blackie (not her real name) started arching her back and meowing loudly. Sometimes, she rolled around on the floor as if she couldn’t get comfortable. The behavior continued all day and all night keeping everyone in the family awake. The family fears she may have fallen out of her cat tree while playing with their other cat.

Prior to this, the kitten was a healthy happy girl. She was adopted at 8 weeks of age from a neighbor whose cat had kittens. She is FELV/FIV negative, fully vaccinated (rabies, FVRCP and FELV) and no ova or parasites were observed on the last fecal check.

Click here to watch the video of the kitten


Diagnosis: Heat (Estrus)

Female cats are called queens.  They typically go into heat around 10 months of age. Short-haired cats tend to start at younger ages than long-haired cats. Vocalizing, arching the back (lordosis), rubbing on objects and restlessness are all signs of heat. I recommended an emergency spay to stop the behavior and prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Cats have a different reproductive sequence then dogs. Cats are called “Induced Ovulators” which means eggs are released from the ovaries in response to breeding. This is different from dogs who are “spontaneous ovulators”. They release the eggs without vaginal stimulation. Because of this difference, queens will breed many times with several tomcats when in heat.  This results in littermates that look nothing like each other.


Eosinophilia in cats

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell produced in the bone marrow. They are easy to identify on a blood smear because the granules inside the cell are a beautiful red color when stained with eosin dye. Other types of white blood cells include monocytes, basophils, lymphocytes and neutrophils. Each white blood cell has a specific job to perform. Eosinophils are responsible for fighting parasites and other infections in cats as well as working with mast cells in allergic reactions.  Think asthma and allergies.

Eosinophilia is a term used to describe too many eosinophils. Most cats will have less than 1000/microliter of these cells circulating in their blood at any given time. Here is a list of common causes of eosinophila in cats. I have ranked them from what is most common in my practice to least common:

1) Parasites – Internal and external parasites will often cause a mild to moderate eosinophila in cats. Fleas are usually the culprit in most of the U.S. although I don’t see a lot of fleas in Phoenix, Arizona. The lack of humidity in the desert dries out the eggs making it tough to reproduce. Other external parasites include ticks, lice and mange. There are many types of internal parasites which can cause an increase in eosinophils including tapeworms that are transmitted by the fleas.  In addition, round worms, whip worms and hook worms can also be causative. If the cat has basophila in addition to  eosinophila, I also look for heartworms.

2) Allergies/Asthma – food or environmental. Cats can have allergic reactions just like humans. Some cats are allergic to their food while others are allergic to something in the environment. Cats with food allergies often have diarrhea, vomiting and gas. Sometimes, they even chew or pull out fur on their abdomens, probably from the pain. Environmental allergins can also trigger allergic reactions in cats. Feline asthma is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. I had one patient who suffered an asthma attack every Saturday night because he sat on the bathroom counter when his owner got ready to go out.

3) Eosinophilic granuloma complex – Eosinophilic granuloma complex is a painful disease that affects the lips, ears and face. For more information  and a picture of a cat with this disease go to

4) Inflammatory bowel syndrome – Inflammatory bowel syndrome is a complex disease to diagnose and treat. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. Cats with IBD usually require a limited antigen diet combined with medications that decrease inflammation in the intestines. Here is a link to my post on feeding cats with inflammatory bowel syndrome:

5) Systemic mycoses – When fungal organisms infect, the disease is referred to in general terms as a “systemic mycoses”. There are several different types of mycotic disease that are found in specific environments.  The Midwestern United States has blastomycosis, the humid areas of the south have histoplasmosis and Arizona has a fungal organism called Coccidioides immitis  which causes “Valley Fever”. Although I diagnosis a lot of valley fever in dogs, it is rare for cats to get this.

6) Paraneoplastic syndrome – Eosinophilia may be secondary to cancer. Tumors sometimes secrete hormones or hormone-like products that cause abnormal reactions. In cats, transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder, mast cell tumor and lymphosarcoma may cause eosinophilia.

7) Hyereosinophilic syndrome – HES is a rare condition in cats characterized by high numbers of circulating eosinophils. The cause is not known. The eosinophils infiltrate other organs including the spleen, liver and lungs causing damage. Even with aggressive immune-suppressive therapy, the prognosis is guarded.

8) Chronic Eosinophilic Leukemia – CEL is rare form of cancer that may be related to HES. Besides having high numbers of eosinophils in their blood, these cats have many ‘blast’ or immature cells in their bone marrow causing eosinophil counts of >50,000. In contrast, cats with HES usually have <50,000. Unfortunately, survival time is short with some cats within days of their diagnosis.


Rothrock, Kari. “Chronic Eosinophilic Leukemia” Associate Database, VIN updated 5/30/14.

Rothrock, Kari. “Hypereosinophilic Syndrome”, Associate Database, VIN Updated 5/30/14.

Tilley, L.P. and Smith, F.W.K., Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline, WILEY-BLACKWELL 2011.



Pet Safety Tips for the Fourth of July

With the Fourth of July almost here, I thought it would be a good idea to remind people about pet safety. During holiday celebrations, many pets escape through doors and windows that were accidentally left open. In my experience, the Fourth of July is the worst time for pet escapes because of fireworks. The loud noises scare pets including scaring them from returning home. Here are my tips for promoting pet safety during the Fourth of July as well as other holidays:

1) Make sure your pet’s identification is current. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a pet, calling the number on the tag and learning it is ‘no longer in service’. If your pet has a microchip, contact the company to update your contact information and verify your pet’s registration. I also recommend having your veterinarian scan the chip during annual examinations to make sure it is working.

2) Keep a current picture of your pet in a convenient place. Besides their face, take pictures of unique identifiers such as scars, or unusual marks. Look closely to see the kitty pictured below is missing her right rear leg at the hock.


3) Check fences, runs and cat enclosures for holes. Fix holes that a frightened pet may enlarge to escape. Also, check the integrity of the screens and walls including the area underneath the structure. I have had several patients dig their way out of enclosures.

4) Lock gates with secure locks that require a key or code to open. This will prevent guests from accidentally releasing a pet.

5) Exercise your pet heavily on the Fourth. By the time the fireworks are going off, they might be asleep.

6) Keep your pet inside with the doors and windows closed. Leave the T.V. or music on to muffle outdoor noise.

7) Double leash (one being a slip lead) your pets when going outdoors to prevent the pet from backing out of their collars.

8) Secure your pet in a crate or small room during parties.

9) If your pet will tolerate it, place cotton balls inside their ears and then remove after the fireworks are over.

Mason with cotton in ears

10) Contact your veterinarian for additional help with pets who suffer from anxiety. Sometimes, they may need a mild tranquilizer to get them through the night.