Tuesday, April 29, 2014


The majority of us cat owners are all too familiar with the unpleasant sight and sound of cat producing a hairball. Hairballs are common in cats. Although they may seem gross to us, they are usually a result of good feline hygiene.
During a cat's daily grooming regimen, they tend to swallow loose hair. Most of this hair generally passes through the digestive system and is passed along in cat's stool. Some of the hair, however,  can collect in the stomach or small intestine, causing the cat to hack, gag, or retch until they vomit. The hair that is vomited usually appears matted or tubular in shape.
If your cat continues to gag for more than a day or two, if they seem constipated, or has diarrhea, please see your veterinarian. In rare cases, hairballs can get stuck in the esophagus or cause intestinal blockages, which may require surgery to correct. These symptoms can also be signs of a more serious condition. It’s a good idea to consult with your vet if you see any of these abnormal clinical signs.
Long-haired cats, those who shed excessively and those who groom themselves compulsively are especially prone to hairballs. In some cases, frequent vomiting of hairballs may indicate an underlying gastrointestinal problem, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
If your veterinarian has determined that hairballs are causing your cat’s occasional vomiting, there are several ways to help decrease their formation:
  • Brush your cat to decrease the amount of hair that is ingested. If he has long hair, try to brush him daily. Afterwards, wipe your cat with a clean cloth to remove any loose hairs.
  • Feed your pet commercial cat food specifically formulated to reduce hairballs. By improving skin and coat health, reducing shedding and increasing the amount of fiber in your cat’s diet, certain foods can decrease the formation of hairballs.
  • Give your cat a hairball remedy or lubricant, available at most pet supply stores, to encourage the passage of hair through the intestinal tract. Such products should be used as directed.
  • If your cat grooms himself excessively, give him a new toy or engage him in play to distract him from this activity. You will not only reduce the incidence of hairballs, but also spend some quality social time with your furry friend.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Who's Ready For Yard Work?

    It's that time of year again where we are all eager to get our yards back into shape. However, there are many landscaping products on the market that could pose a threat to your pets. Below is a list, courtesy of the Pet Poison Helpline, of the more common dangers that we need to keep an eye out for.

Mulch Products

Cocoa bean mulch is made of discarded hulls or shells of the cocoa bean, which are by-products of chocolate production. The tempting “chocolate-like” smell often attracts dogs and may encourage them to eat the mulch. Processed cocoa bean hulls can contain theobromine and caffeine, the two toxins of concern in chocolate. Unfortunately, determining the amount of toxins in mulch can be difficult as it varies greatly from product to product. Many varieties contain very low amounts of the toxins and are not as dangerous as dog owners are often led to believe; however, varieties with higher toxin concentrations can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Since it is not usually apparent how much of the toxin some mulch contains, it’s best to keep dogs a safe distance away, to always supervise your pet while outside, or to not use the mulch at all.

Fertilizers, Soil Additives and Pesticides

While fertilizers are typically fairly safe for pets, those that contain blood meal, bone meal, feather meal and iron may be especially tasty – and dangerous to dogs. Large ingestions of the meal-containing products can form a concretion in the stomach, potentially obstructing the gastrointestinal tract and/or cause severe pancreatitis. Those that contain iron may result in iron poisoning. Also, ingestion of pesticides and insecticides, especially if they contain organophosphates (often found in systemic rose care products), can be life-threatening, even when ingested in small amounts.

Slug and Snail Baits

Available in a variety of forms (pellets, granular, powder and liquid), slug and snail baits contain the active ingredient metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to dogs and cats. When ingested, metaldehyde produces clinical signs of distress within one to two hours, including salivation, restlessness, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and life-threateningly high body temperature. These baits are highly toxic and without immediate veterinary attention, symptoms can last for several days and can be fatal.


Gardeners love their compost; however, it can be toxic to pets and wildlife so please keep it fenced off. As the organic matter decomposes, it is common for molds to grow, some of which produce hazardous tremorgenic mycotoxins. When consumed by an animal, moldy food or compost ingestion can result in sickness and physical distress in as little as 30 minutes. Symptoms include agitation, panting, drooling, vomiting, tremors and seizures. Prompt veterinary treatment with appropriate supportive care usually results in a good prognosis.

Flowers and Plants

Lily of the Valley: An early springtime favorite, the Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) contains cardiac glycosides, which are also used in many human heart medications. When eaten by dogs or cats, this common perennial can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures. Any pet with a known exposure should be examined and evaluated by a veterinarian and treated symptomatically.
Spring CrocusCrocuses: There are two types of crocus plants: one blooms in the spring and the other in the fall. The spring plants (Crocus spp.) are more common and cause only gastrointestinal upset accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and cats. However, the fall crocus (Meadow Saffron or Colchicum autumnale) is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, and multisystem organ failure with bone marrow suppression. Symptoms may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days. If you witness your pet eating a crocus and you are not sure what variety it is, seek veterinary care immediately.
Stargazer Lily   Lilies: Cat owners beware of lilies! While some types, such as the Peace (Spathiphyllum spp.), Peruvian (Alstroemeria spp.) and Calla (Zantedeschia spp.), cause only minor symptoms when eaten, other varieties of the true lily family (Lilium and Hemerocallis species) are deadly and highly toxic to cats, including Tiger, Asiatic, Easter, Japanese Show and Day lilies. Ingesting very small amounts – eating as little as two petals or leaves, or exposure to the pollen – can result in severe kidney failure. Even the water in a vase containing true lilies is considered highly poisonous, as the toxin in the plant is water-soluble. If a cat consumes any part of these lilies, he or she needs immediate veterinary care to prevent kidney failure.

If you are planting this year, do some research prior to your decision. Employees at your local garden nursery may also be able to help answer pet safety questions. As far as fertilizers, baits, mulches, etc., read the packaging first. Most products make a point to say whether or not they are safe for your pet. When in doubt, don't use it. Being outside should be fun for everyone, but most importantly, it needs to be safe. Happy Spring!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Condition Spotlight - What is Vestibular Disease?

     The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining normal balance.  It has central components located in the brain, and peripheral components located in the inner and middle ear.  Vestibular disease refers to a sudden, non-progressive disturbance of balance. It is more common in older dogs. It is also referred to as old dog vestibular syndrome and canine idiopathic vestibular syndrome.
     Most dogs present with the sudden onset of loss of balance, disorientation, head tilt and irregular jerking eye movements called nystagmus. Many dogs will become reluctant to stand or walk. Most dogs will lean or fall in the direction of their head tilt.
     Causes of vestibular disease include middle or inner ear infections, drugs that are toxic to the ear, trauma or injury, tumors and hypothyroidism. When no specific diagnosis is found, the condition will be called idiopathic vestibular syndrome. These cases are distinguished by the sudden onset of clinical signs and the subsequent rapid improvement with little, if any, medical intervention.
Diagnosis is based on medical history, clinical signs, and the results of blood and urine tests. In some cases, diagnostic testing will include radiographs of the head to assess the appearance of the middle and inner ears and the tympanic bullae. Occasionally, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans will be performed to look for tumors or other abnormalities. Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing may also be performed in some patients.

    Treatment is directed at the underlying cause, if one can be identified. In severe cases, supportive therapy such as intravenous fluids and hospitalization may be required until the pet can eat and walk on its own. If the pet is seriously disoriented or ataxic (stumbling, unable to stand or walk), it may be given sedatives to help it relax. Drugs that help combat nausea or motion sickness such as dimenhydrinate may be beneficial. Antibiotics may be used in cases suspected of having middle or inner ear infections. Corticosteroids are not recommended in older pets, especially in cases where fluid intake may be low.
     Many pets begin to improve within seventy-two hours. The head tilt and stumbling often improve over a seven to ten day period. Most patients are completely recovered within two to three weeks. If the patient fails to improve or worsens, then a more severe underlying disorder should be suspected and advanced diagnostic testing should be pursued. 
     With swimming and hot weather around the corner, we will be seeing increasing amounts of ear infections. If you notice your dog shaking his/her head, or notice the ear smells bad, bring them to the vet as soon as possible.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thank You Animal Control Officers!

      National Animal Control Officer Appreciation week is amongst us. This is the week to recognize the difference Animal Control Officers make in many animals lives. These dedicated professionals go above and beyond in dangerous situations day in and day out. They are faced with images that your average person could not bear. They balance animal welfare often among unreasonable people. Getting an animal out of an unfit environment can make the officer a target for some owners and sometimes even the pet. They perform heroic acts every single day. Being an Animal Control Officer is not a 9:00 to 5:00 job. Those may be the hours on their schedule, but the radio is always on. This is tough on an individuals personal life. It's worth the off schedule hours and extra long days when the outcome is good, but as we all know, that's not always the case. Imagine the frustration level when you know an animal is unsafe and nothing can be done. Talk about your sleepless nights. This is just one example of what Animal Control Officers have to deal with. We've all seen an Animal Cops show or two on Animal Planet. They deserve the recognition, and then some.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bunnies 101

   Having a pet rabbit can be just as rewarding as owning a dog or a cat. They are full of personality if you put in the time and effort that they, and any other pet deserve. They are not just a simple caged animal. Rabbits have many necessities to keep them healthy and happy. The MSPCA in Centerville will be hosting a seminar dedicated to rabbit basics on Sunday April 6th @ 1:00pm. They will be going over the following:

              -Proper diet
              -Housing and Rabbit Proofing
              -Litter Box Training
     Easter is around the corner and is popular time of year to purchase a bunny as a gift. Many times this is a last minute surprise and after the first week or so when the newness has worn off they are often practically forgotten about. If you or anyone you know is considering a rabbit as a pet, or a gift please attend this seminar. Bunnies are a long term responsibility. If you own a pet, no matter the species, you owe it to them to educate yourselves and give them the best home possible.