A debate among lawmakers-where to obtain pet prescriptions; At a veterinary clinic or pharmacist at a drugstore?
There are bills up for consideration in Congress that would require veterinarians to give written prescriptions for pets that may be filled elsewhere, even if the clients don't ask. This is the most recent legislative attempt to pass in what is known as the Fairness to Pet Owners Act. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has opposed this bill and previous ones.
"We do not believe that this bill will improve patient care," reports Dr. Ashley Morgan, an AVMA assistant director in government relations, in an interview with Veterinary Information Network News Service. "Writing unnecessary prescriptions is a regulatory burden that wastes time and resources that veterinarians and their staff could be using to care for animal patients. If a client wants a prescription, all they have to do is ask."
However, advocates of the Fairness to Pet Owners Act maintain that many pet owners are unaware that they can shop around to fill prescriptions for their pets at places like Costco, Walmart and CVS and potentially save money than if they filled the prescriptions at the veterinary clinic. Leading this viewpoint is a group called Advocacy for Pets and Affordable Wellness, which represents a national coalition of pet owners and 45 retailers that fill pet prescriptions, including those with active lobbyists, including Walmart.
According to the American Pet Products Association, people spent more than $7.6 billion on pet medications in 2013, the most current year available for this information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) completed a 121-page report on this issue in May 2017. The FTC concluded that pet owners should have freedom in choosing where to fill their pets' prescriptions. This agency also acknowledged that the market is more competitive than in the past, but needed improvement. Specifically, the FTC was critical of a longstanding policy by many large veterinary drug manufacturers to sell medications exclusively through veterinary practices.
In the report, FTC wrote, "Many veterinarians favor a distribution model in which they are the exclusive seller for most pet medications and oppose any changes that would make pet medications more readily available through other distribution channels. Some retailers believe that they could more effectively compete with veterinarians if portable prescriptions would be more widely available to consumers and if it were easier for them to obtain pet supplies of pet medications."
The debate continues...
By Sarah Zumhofe
Dusty was a black-and-white cat who hissed, swatted and squirmed anytime a veterinarian or veterinary tech tried to restrain her to do an exam or worse, attempt to draw blood or give a necessary vaccine injection.
This same cat, however, transformed into a picture of serenity and calmness when she had tiny needles strategically inserted on her body during acupuncture treatments.
“The big surprise is just how many cats will sit still and accept acupuncture needles,” says Polly Fleckenstein, DVM, MS, a certified veterinary acupuncturist and certified veterinary spinal manipulative therapist at the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York. “Dusty was my cat. She suffered from seizures, but hated being handled. But once we added acupuncture to her care, she stopped having seizures and she never reacted negatively to the acupuncture needles.”
Nick, a 12-year-old mixed breed, is a regular canine patient at Cornell University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. Every week to two weeks, his owners bring in Nicky to receive electroacupuncture treatments to address his aches and mobility issues associated with chronic arthritis.
“He develops a spring in his step after each treatment,” notes Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., chief of the Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Service at Cornell who, with Curtis Dewey, DVM, is board-certified in acupuncture and offer this therapy at Cornell.
The field of veterinary acupuncture is drawing the interest of more conventionally-schooled veterinarians – and pet owners. The study – and interest – of acupuncture on pets is on the rise. Acupuncture training programs have steadily experienced increased enrollments since the mid-1990s, according to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture. The AAVA was admitted into the American Veterinary Medical Association’s House of Delegates in early 2014.
Dr. Fleckenstein has incorporated acupuncture in her practice for the past two decades. She believes that more pet owners see the benefits of integrative medicine and want the same type of care for their pets.
“More owners are willing to do more for their pets in terms of medicine, pain management and nutrition,” she says. “People see the benefit of acupuncture on themselves. They are looking for that extra little bit that may improve the quality of life for their pets and acupuncture is a viable option.”
Adds Dr. Wakshlag, “Acupuncture is a modality that should be actually mainstreamed. Using the word, complimentary, is now a bit of a misconception.”
Acupuncture is a 2,000-year-old Chinese healing art that is fast-becoming a popular therapy for use on 21st Century pets: dogs, cats, horses and even birds. It can boost blood circulation and spur the release of endorphins (pain-controlling hormones) and cortisol (anti-inflammatory hormones design to regulate stress within the body). The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to heal and unlike conventional medications, it lacks potential adverse side effects.
A common type of acupuncture performed on cats and dogs involves the use of tiny needles strategically placed so as not to send any pain signals to the brain. On average, 20 to 30 needles are placed, depending on the health needs of that specific pet. These needles are inserted into body tissue where blood vessels and nerve bundles merge.
In fact, many patients relax and even fall asleep during the treatment that can range from a few minutes to up to a half hour.
In her practice, Dr. Fleckenstein incorporates acupuncture in treating cats with kidney failure, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and to some extent, arthritis, stomatitis and gingivitis. Acupuncture can assist in inflammatory conditions and help support immune systems.
“I’ve had some paralyzed cats whose mobility has improved and I treated a cat who had elevated kidney levels for three to five years,” she says. “After steady acupuncture treats, his kidney levels came back to normal. We can’t prove that acupuncture was responsible for the improvement, but we did not change anything else in our treatment.”
Other types of acupuncture include:
• The use of lasers to provide needle-less treatments, an advantage for pets who don’t tolerate needles. Aqua acupuncture involves the injection of needles containing medicinal herbs or vitamins that are injected into the body. Moxabustion applies a warm Chinese herbal compound to the needles to provide added heat to treat joint stiffness and muscle soreness.
• Electroacupuncture involves electrodes hooked up to the needles to deliver a mild, steady electric current to stimulate nerves damaged by injury or trauma.
In general, acupuncture tends to be painless and safe and can be combined with medicines and other treatments with no side effects. Used to stimulate the body to heal itself, acupuncture can benefit cats and dogs facing these conditions:
• Sore muscles and joints
• Muscle spasms
• Degenerative joint disease
• Digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhea and vomiting
• Cushing’s disease (dogs)
• Hypothyroidism (dogs)
• Heart disease
• Kidney disease
• Liver disease
• Ruptured discs
• Dermatologic conditions, including allergic dermatitis and lick granulomas
• Asthma and other respiratory problems
• Epilepsy and seizures
• Weakened immune system
In addition, acupuncture is employed to maintain the health of dogs active in such sports as hunting, agility and fly ball.
“More owners are willing to do more for their pets in terms of medicine, pain management and nutrition,” says Dr. Fleckenstein, who has practiced veterinary acupuncture for two decades. “Pet owners are looking for that extra little bit that may improve the quality of life for their pets and acupuncture is a viable option.”
To maximize the benefit of the acupuncture session, the dog under Dr. Fleckenstein’s care, enters a quiet room with dimmed lighting with their owner present. Dogs relax on blankets or comfortable bedding during the treatment.
“Owners need to relax as much as possible because their dogs read their energies,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “I’ve had some owners fall asleep next to their dogs who also fall asleep.”
Acupuncture is considered quite safe with the biggest precaution in making sure a dog does not lick and swallow an acupuncture needle.
“I’ve inserted 100,000s of needles and only 1 dog has swallowed one needle,” says Dr. Fleckenstein.
The number of acupuncture treatments depends on the dog, but on average, the treatments are weekly with the goal of extending to maintenance visits every month or six weeks.
“People see that they are investing in the quality of the health of their pets with these acupuncture treatments,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “After an acupuncture treatment, we advise that the dog take it easy — no big, long walks — and make sure the dog drinks plenty of fresh water.”
Treatment sessions, on average, range in cost between $50 and $100. Acupuncture may qualify for pet insurance but coverage varies. A check of five pet insurance companies found one company that covers acupuncture if it’s performed by a licensed veterinarian for a covered accident or illness, but excludes acupuncture as preventive or routine care. Another company requires the owner to purchase an additional coverage for acupuncture reimbursement.
Many dogs display an eagerness for acupuncture treatments. Sophie, an eight-year old spayed Labrador retriever, had a lifetime history of urinary incontinence and developed an adverse reaction to medication. Three years ago, her owners took her for regular acupuncture treatments performed by Dr. Fleckenstein.
“Within two months of weekly treatments, there was a significant decrease in her leaking,” says Polly Fleckenstein. “In the past 18 months, Sophie has only leaked three times and she now only needs to come in every six weeks for acupuncture treatments.”
Is acupuncture the answer for a pet’s health?
“With acupuncture, you may not cure the problem, but you can slow it down and make the quality of life better for that pet,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “I’ve been amazed by how well cats and dogs do.”
Selecting a Veterinary Acupuncturist
If you are considering acupuncture care for your cat or dog, seek a veterinarian certified in this field from one of three associations:
• International Veterinary Acupuncture Society – www.ivas.org. This group has more than 1,800 members.
• American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture – www.aava.org. This group has more than 900 members.
• Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine – www.tcvm.com.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Giving cats pills is notoriously difficult, but often you can request another form of medicine and make administration easier on you both. A pill may be turned into a liquid, or compounded into a flavored treat. Some medicines can even be turned into a transdermal preparation that is smeared on the skin and absorbed—no pilling necessary.
Medicating your cat often becomes a quality of life issue, and may negatively impact the bond you share. If a cat hides from you out of fear of being pilled, don’t be shy with your veterinarian about asking for alternatives. After all, not only his comfort but also the cat’s life may be at stake.
Topical treatment: Topical application—that is, on-the-skin treatment—usually comes as an ointment, salve, or spray and is the easiest to administer. Pain medicine may come in the form of a patch that’s stuck onto a shaved area of the cat’s body. Tapazol, a drug used to treat hyperthyroid cats, can be compounded into an ointment that’s smeared on the inside of the cat’s ear and absorbed into the system. Take care the cat doesn’t groom away topical medicine before it has a chance to do the job.
Liquid medicine: Applicators similar to eyedroppers or needle-less syringes often come with liquids, and tend to be easier to give than pill forms. Draw up the prescribed amount and then tip the cat’s head up toward the ceiling. Insert the tip of the applicator into the corner of his mouth, and squirt the medicine into his cheek, keeping his mouth closed. You may need to stroke his throat a bit and keep his head tilted up until you see him swallow. Cats usually lick their noses after they’ve swallowed, so watch for that cue.
Pills: Cats hate pills. Although dogs readily take pills hidden in a hunk of cheese, cats usually see through the ruse. Or they may take the treat, but you’ll find the pill later in your shoe. When pills are needed, circle the top of the cat’s muzzle with one hand, pressing his lips gently against his teeth just behind the large, pointed canine teeth. That prompts him to open wide, and when he does, push the pill over the hill of his tongue with your other hand. Aim for the V at the center of the tongue.
If you fear for your fingers, use a pill syringe (pill gun or pill dispenser), a hollow plastic tube that places the pill at the back of his throat. Then close his mouth, and gently hold it closed while stroking his throat or gently blowing on his nose to induce him to swallow. It helps to put butter or margarine on the pill to help grease its trip down his throat. Watch for the nose-licking cue that tells you he’s swallowed. It works best to offer a favorite treat liquid, such as a bit of tuna juice or a syringe full of water, immediately after the pill, so the cat swallows the treat, pill and all. Otherwise, the pill may get stuck.
Eye medicine: Eye medicine usually comes as a liquid or ointment. Tip his head toward the ceiling, gently pull down the lower eyelid, and drip or squirt the recommended amount of medicine into the cupped tissue. Then release the eyelid and allow the cat to blink. That spreads the medicine evenly over the surface of the eye. It may take two pairs of hands to administer eye medication safely.
Ear medicine: The feline ear canal is shaped like an L with the eardrum right at the foot of the L. Keep the cat’s head tipped with the affected ear aimed at the ceiling so that gravity will help get the medicine where it needs to go. Liquid and ointment medicine is dripped into the canal.
Be sure to gently grasp the cat’s ear flap (pinna) to prevent him from shaking the medicine out. Use your free hand to massage the base of the ear. That spreads the medicine deeper into the canal. Cats with itchy ears tend to enjoy this, and may lean into the massage. Painful ears, though, may require a few treatments at the veterinarians to get him to the point of allowing you to medicate him at home.
Veterinarians all over North America have taught millions of people to give fluids at home, from the very young to the elderly. Fluid therapy is one of the main things you can do to make cats with kidney insufficiency comfortable, give them a continuous quality of life, and stabilize their disease. It makes a tremendous difference.
All the proper supplies are available from veterinarians: the IV kit with the plastic line and large gauge needle, and appropriate fluids such as saline for kidney disease, dextrose (sugar) solutions to feed, or a balanced electrolyte solution for other conditions. Injecting fluid into the veins requires special training, but once the veterinarian demonstrates, it’s easy to administer subcutaneous fluids—beneath the skin—to pets at home. When a cat requires fluids regularly, it’s not only less expensive to administer them at home, it is much less stressful for the cat.
• Warm the fluids to body temperature by running warm water over the bag. That makes the experience more pleasant for the cat.
• Suspend the bag higher than the cat, so that gravity helps the fluid run into the right place. You can use a coat hanger to make a holder that fits over the top of a door or cabinet.
• Spread a towel or favorite blanket, or set the cat’s bed on a tabletop, to pad the surface for your pet to lie down and get comfortable. An ironing board makes a great treatment platform. He’ll need to stay still for up to 20 minutes, so make the place as comfortable for you both as possible. A position in front of a window may help distract him. If he’s too antsy, have a second person on hand to help manage him, or you can place him in a pillowcase or “cat bag” restraint or wrap him in a towel. Ask the veterinarian if a heating pad underneath a couple of layers of blanket is a good idea.
• Pets who need fluid therapy will have lots of loose skin, and you need to insert the needle so that the fluid drains into the space right under the loose tissue. Anywhere on the body will work, but the best locations to place the needle are right between the shoulder blades or right above the ribs. Use the same technique as described to give an injection. Grasp the skin with one hand and “tent” it—draw it up off the solid muscle. Then press the sharp end of the needle firmly into the skin, between where your hand holds the flesh and the solid muscle of the pet’s body. You’ll need to push pretty hard, because the needle has to be pretty large to feed enough fluid in, and cat skin can be tough. Push it at a horizontal angle level with the body until you no longer see any of the needle, but only the plastic head that houses the plastic IV line. Don’t be surprised if the pet flinches a bit—but once the needle is in place, he should settle down and won’t be much bothered by the therapy. Hint: alternate needle sites to prevent scar tissue from forming that may make subsequent treatments more difficult.
• Once the needle is in place, let go of the tented skin and let it fall back into place. Open up the release valve on the plastic line, so that the fluid begins to drain down and into the needle. Some cats object if the liquid flows too fast, so adjust the speed to accommodate the comfort of your pet. Watch the container of fluid until the amount your veterinarian recommends has been given. A severely dehydrated pet may need 30 milliliters per pound, while for other conditions, 10 milliliters per pound once a day may be enough.
• As fluid runs into the skin, you’ll soon see the skin start to balloon with liquid. This does not hurt the pet, although it may feel a bit cool, and will tend to settle and spread out under the skin. The fluid will be gradually absorbed into the body and the balloon will deflate.
• Shut off the valve on the IV line to stop the fluid, and then gently remove the needle from your pet. It’s normal for a small amount of fluid to leak back out of the injection site—especially when given over the shoulders. Giving fluid over the ribs with the needle inserted downwards will reduce this loss. You can also help the injection site hole to close by rubbing and massaging the place. Offer your cat a scrumptious treat afterward to help associate the treatment with good things.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Ah yes, that’s the spot, a little lower. If dogs could talk, no doubt they’d be interested in a dog massage. What some may guffaw at is actually a very real, doable, and human-animal enhancing experience to bond with your dog and spot potential health problems.
“Will you be using the in-room masseuse during your stay, Mrs. Bryant?”
The concierge asks that of my dog when we visit pet-friendly Inn by the Sea in Maine. Indeed, if Fido needs a little rub down after a day at the beach, a pet masseuse is more than happy to service that need on premises.
Dogs make our lives better: They are ready at a moment’s notice to be mood enhancers, help people recover better after a heart attack, and just sitting and petting a dog can make both parties involved feel better. Touching a dog, in fact, can save a life.
When a tiny raised lump appeared on my first Cocker Spaniel’s shoulder blade about two weeks after getting her then yearly vaccinations, I felt a twinge of “something isn’t right” course through my veins. My gut instinct was right: Getting it checked right away most likely saved her life: It was cancer.
The next time you sit down to pet your dog, consider these 10 touches that just might save your dog’s life (note: If your dog is not accustomed to touching, now’s a good time to start: From veterinarians to groomers, getting a bath to getting his nails clipped, touch should be an acceptable, positive behavior throughout a dog’s life). Remember the 10-for-10 rule: 10 minutes, 10 touches. We do this at least weekly.
Touch 1 – Full body scan: Glide your fingertips across your dog’s body. Gently move fingertips across the dog’s back, stomach, head, ears, and even his face. Most dogs will tolerate this touch, especially if you do it while he is resting next to you and relaxed. Feel anything? Are there any new lumps or bumps? Take a snapshot of any growths so that you are able to show the veterinarian.
Touch 2 – Ears: Hold the ear between your fingers and caress gently, praising your dog for being such a good pooch. Ticks have a tendency to cling onto ears, the face, or head since dogs spend a lot of their time outdoors with their nose to the ground.
Touch 3 – Lymph Nodes: The lymph nodes filter foreign invaders/ particles from a dog’s blood stream. The lymphatic system includes organs like the thymus gland and spleen, so the regulation and production of cells of the immune system are involved. Touching the lymph nodes of the body and knowing where they are located is an important part of understanding your dog’s anatomy. Gently palpate the neck, legs, and groin region. Feel into your dog’s armpits.
Touch 4 – Mouth: One of the many reasons we are strong proponents and advocates of regular dog teeth brushing is to screen for lumps, bumps, growth, or sores. Dog parents who know what normal feels and looks like will be the first to know when something abnormal is touched or seen. If your dog isn’t into teeth brushing or having your finger gently probe around his gums, here are some ways to help a dog adjust to teeth brushing (and gentle probing).
Touch 5 – Tail: It wags, it alerts us, it has many positions, and we can often tell what a dog is thinking by the way of his tail. When is the last time you touched your dog’s tail and felt around for anything unusual? You can train a dog to trust touching any part of his body using positive reinforcement. Praise a dog, have a friend or family member reward with a treat in association with touch.
Touch 6 – Top of the Head: One of the first places most people touch a dog is on their head. Even the friendliest dog might not like this: Especially if an unsuspecting stranger does it. As his pet parent, gingerly massage the head and feel around for anything out of the ordinary.
Touch 7 – Paws and Pads: A broken nail can be very painful. An overgrowth of fur between the pad surfaces means dogs can slip on flooring. Any cuts or wounds on a paw pad need immediate attention. Visually inspect the paw while using touch to feel for anything unusual.
Touch 8 – Belly: Ah, the delightful belly rub: Incorporate an incognito exam into a belly rub for a win-win. Gently press fingers along the dog’s stomach to feel for any signs of swelling or abnormalities.
Touch 9 – Tush Touch: Most dogs love a good butt scratch: Gentle and massaging, across the tush and hips, feel for any bumps or lumps and take a peek, too: The sensitive anal glands are located in this area, so any unusual odors should be checked out by a veterinarian.
Touch 10 – Chest: Increased panting is a common occurrence for dogs in the winter months, particularly when the heat is on indoors and dogs are adjusting. However, if dogs are excessively panting, it’s time to get checked. Feel your dog’s chest and notice if there is any discomfort or pain while petting the chest area. Just behind the elbow on the left side of the dog’s chest is where you should be able to feel a heartbeat.
As a bonus 11th tip, check the eyes: Is there any unusual discharge or buildup in or around the eyes? Do the eyes look red or cloudy? Is there any increase or decrease in tear production? Does the dog squint or paw at the eyes?
How often are you touching your dog?
By Sarah Zumhofe
Poop happens. And, how it looks and smells can carry vital clues into the health of your dog. So, it’s time to take on the role of poop detective — or if you prefer, become a poopologist. By paying attention to your dog’s bathroom habits and eyeing each deposit, you can seek veterinary care for minor health issues before they possibly erupt into major, expensive ones.
If the poop looks odd, smells foul, occurs too often or too little, is red (possibly blood) or pale yellow (possibly issues with the pancreas or liver), pay heed. These are clues that something is wrong with your dog’s diet or there’s a medical condition brewing, such as constipation, inflammatory bowel disease or even colon cancer.
“If your dog assumes the normal posture to poop, but there is no results, he or she could be constipated, could have a foreign body obstruction somewhere in the GI tract, could have swollen anal glands or something else,” says Trisha Ballard, DVM, a holistic veterinarian who has practiced in the Dallas area for the past three decades.
The Three C’s of Poop Consistency – The deposits from the pet should be segmented, the consistency of Play-Doh and easy to pick up.
• Color – Color should be chocolate brown. Bright red may indicate bleeding in the lower GI tract. Maroon colored stools could indicate bleeding in the stomach or small intestines. Pale yellow deposits may signal something is wrong with the liver, pancreas or gallbladder.
• Contents – Hold your nose and inspect the poop. Any signs of rice-shaped flecks or wriggly strands could signal your dog has worms. Too much hair in the stool can be attributed to over grooming due to stress, allergies or a host of medical conditions.
• Coating – Gross as it sounds, when you scoop the poop off the yard or the floor, it should not leave any residue or filmy mucous.
Why the need to bring in a poop sample on your veterinary visit?
“Poop provides us veterinarians with a wealth of information,” says Dr. Ballard. “Healthy poop is chocolate brown in color, the shape of a log, passed one at a time that is easy to pick up.”
What Number Is the Pet’s Poop?
When it comes to producing healthy poop, veterinarians have been keeping a not-so-hidden secret. They actually rank the poop brought into their clinics on a scale of 1 to 7. The healthiest poop falls between a 2 and a 3.
Here is the run down on the fecal scoring system used by veterinarians to rate doggy poo:
1. Hard, small pellets resembling Milk Duds.
2. Tootsie-roll in color and texture. Segmented.
3. Ideal: Chocolate brown-colored logs easy to pick up and slightly squishable.
4. Chocolate, gray or tan colored logs with a slimy coating.
5. Moist, slimy logs that fall apart when picked up and leave a residue.
6. Shapeless plops of poop often dropped in multiple locations.
7. Watery, reddish brown or tan-colored poo puddle.
Yuck, yes. But when do these episodes require veterinary care or rank as medical emergencies? It depends on how your dog’s “deposits” look and smell as well as their amount and frequency.
GI upsets in dogs run the gamut from the occasional diarrhea/constipation to the more serious colitis, often misidentified pancreatitis, the lesser-known exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth to the downright deadly bloat.
“The gastrointestinal tract ranks as one of your dog’s most important organ systems,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, who operates Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., noted author and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “I firmly believe that a healthy gut means a healthy pet.”
Here’s a quick rundown of how to combat these headline-making GI conditions:
• Colitis: Inflammation of the largest intestine that is evident by frequent, small volumes of semi-formed to liquid feces. Chief cause: stress (being anxious about being boarded or due to parasitic infections.) Antibiotics and fiber supplements often treat this condition.
• Diarrhea/Constipation: Adding canned pumpkin to the diet can help an occasional bout, but chronic episodes can signal kidney or liver disease or parasitic infection that requires medicine and veterinary treatment.
• Not all tummy upset incidents merit pronto trips to the nearest veterinary clinic, such as the occasional diarrhea or constipation. And, it turns out that bright-red stools are not nearly as dangerous as are runny stools that pack a powerful stench and look like they contain dark coffee grounds.
“The presence of blood in stools can be confusing,” said Dr. Ward. “Bright red is not as life threatening as horribly smelling black flecks in the stools. The bright red tells me this is coming from the lower, large intestine near the anus. The dog could be straining to defecate and irritated his anus area. But if the dog’s stool smells horribly and has evidence of dark flecks, that is much more serious. It tells me that there is bleeding from the small intestine or a serious ulcer. That dog needs to see a veterinarian right away.”
You can catch a GI issue in your dog early and possibly, save on veterinary treatment bills by heeding these three tips:
1. Inspect your dog’s poop – daily. The size, texture, frequency, color and smell of your dog’s poop serve as big clues on how healthy his gastrointestinal tract is. Feces should be brown, formed easily to bag and definitely not reek.
2. Recognize emergency signals. Take your dog to the vet, pronto, if your deep-chested dog is on the ground with a swollen stomach and having dry heaves but unable to vomit. He could be having a bout with bloat.
3. Pick the right pumpkin for occasional mild digestive upset. If your dog has mild diarrhea or constipation, add pumpkin in his bowl. But use real canned pumpkin that provides dietary fiber and not the sugar-filled pumpkin pie variety.
Poop Fact or Fiction
1. Dog and cat poop is good fertilizer. Answer: False. Pet poop is toxic to lawns and can cause discoloration and burn spots on the lawn. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified pet waste as a dangerous pollutant in the same category as toxic chemicals and oil. Do not consider using dog poop in compost piles for your garden.
2. Dog poop can contain roundworm larvae that can cause blindness. Answer: Fact. If a person ingests a roundworm larva, it can migrate to the brain, lungs, kidneys, heart or eyes. That is why it is important to thoroughly clean your hands after touching soil, pet toys or anything that has come into contact with pet feces.
3. The average dog excretes nearly 1 pound a day or about 274 pounds of poop each year. Answer: Fact. And pet poop represents about 4 percent of the contents in landfills. Baby diapers, by the way, also claim 4 percent of the landfill.
4. One ounce of dog feces contains 23 million microorganisms of bacteria — nearly twice that of human waste. Answer: Fact.
5. The most ecologically friendly removal method of dog poop is to bag it and toss it in the trash. Answer: False. Actually, the EPA suggests you flush dog poop (not litter-covered cat poop) in the toilet. There are water-soluble doggy poop bags now available on the market that will enable you to easily flush the feces safely down the toilet.
By Sarah Zumhofe
A controversial subject regarding appropriate pet care is whether to keep cats indoors only or allow them access to the great outdoors.Some people think “cats should be cats” and should be allowed outside to chase field mice, lie in the grass, and have all sorts of outside cat adventures. Other people think cats should never be allowed outdoors.
Below are 10 reasons to keep cats indoors.
1. Indoor cats typically live many years longer than cats who are allowed outside. According to national research, indoor cats live an average of 16 years or more, while cats allowed outside live only about five years.
2. Cats who are allowed outside can be stolen, abused, killed, run over by cars, get lost or injured or killed by other creatures.
3. Cats who are allowed outdoors can get themselves trapped in things like other people’s garages or sheds, and if they are not found, they will slowly die of starvation.
4. Cats are very curious, hence the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” Cats can lick antifreeze, or other poisons, crawl up into warm car engines where they can become hurt or taken for a harried and unexpected journey under the hood of a moving car. They can come back home from their day out sicker than a dog (no pun intended) and you won’t know what they ingested and that will make it more difficult for your veterinarian to try and save your feline friend.
5. If a cat is let outdoors, you won’t know if his/her bowel movements are regular, if she or he has diarrhea, constipation, or even going at all. A responsible pet owner will be aware of their cat’s health by monitoring their elimination habits and that is more challenging to do with an indoor/outdoor cat. Outdoor cats can have urinary tract infections and their owners may not be aware of it until a more serious issue arises.
6. Outdoor cats can bring home all sorts of things like dead mice and birds, and harass the lovely birds in the yard and at the bird feeders.
7. Cats can bring in fleas and ticks, cuddle up on beds with the owners, and the next thing you know “oh, oh!” there is a new problem in your house!
8. If a cat comes home with injuries after fighting with who knows what type of creature, he or she will have to be rushed to the veterinary clinic, incurring medical fees and time spent nursing the cat back to health.
9. Cats who are let outdoors without identification may become lost and will not be able to be returned to the owner simply because there is no way to find them. They may be returned to a shelter and might have to stay days before they can be located, causing further stress and anxiety. The person who found the cat may also opt to keep him/her and the owner may never see their cat again.
10. Cats who are allowed outside may not come home at night and leave an owner worried. This will impact the owner’s life the next day because they’ve been up most of the night worrying if their cat is okay.
Some people have the misconception that cats cannot be happy indoors because it is not their “true nature” to be inside all the time. If owners train their cat to be an indoor cat and provide him/her with lots of attention, love, great nutrition, an assortment of toys, scratching posts, a tower or two, a clean litter box, and some sunny spots, he or she will thrive and probably live to a ripe old age. Owners will also know where their cat is at all times, will not be wary of cuddling their cat for fear of fleas or ticks or by aggravating your allergies with the pollen the outdoor cat brought home, and they will be more able to monitor the cat’s health.
More Insights into Cats
To help you understand indoor cats better, here are some surprising feline truths from, Fit Cat: Tips & Tricks to Give Your Pet a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Arden Moore:
Cats are furry Rip Van Winkles. Indoor cats sleep nearly two-thirds of every day — up to about 18 hours a day. Only opossums and bats snooze more — about 20 hours a day.
Cats are speedy and springy. A house cat can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour and jump up to seven times his height from a sitting position. The fastest domesticated cat breed on record is the Egyptian Mau, clocked at 36 mph.
Cats outtalk dogs 10 to 1. Cats can make more than 100 distinctive vocalizations as compared to about 20 sounds for dogs. But these feline sounds are mostly directed at people because they rarely meow at other cats.
Cats can give off a ghoulish glow in dim light. Causing this glow is a group of light-sensitive cells located behind the retinas known as the tapetum lucidum. This is a Latin term meaning bright carpet. These cells allow cats to take in extra light in dimly lit situations. These special cells enable cats to quickly adapt to low-light conditions in the house.
Cats put the C in color. Cats come in more than 75 different colors and patterns beyond white, black and brown. Some sport shades of red, orange, silver, lilac and other hues.
A cat’s tongue contains rows of barbs called filiform papillae. Barbs are the reason behind the sandpaper-like texture of your cat’s tongue. These barbs are positioned toward the throat and are designed to help a cat hold his prey, such as a mouse — or a paper wad — in her mouth.
Some cats actually like to get wet. Turkish Vans hail from Lake Van and earned the nickname, “swimming cats.” Bengals also are drawn to water and have surprised some of their owners by joining them in the shower.
By Sarah Zumhofe
DOG FACTS: The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia is Amy Shojai’s culmination of more than 25 years writing about dogs. DOG FACTS is organized in an easy to use A-to-Z format, with quick tips boxes throughout, and a handy symptoms-conditions chart. It’s published as an exclusive E-book on Kindle with a detailed click-able index, while the widely available print book includes an expanded index to easily accesses life-saving and edu-taining information.
I’m delighted to share these sample excerpts from the more than 200 entries in this 638-page book. I hope these quick tips will intrigue, and help keep your dog happy and safe. Let’s begin!
Acne: Canine acne is common in adolescent dogs, particularly short-coated breeds like Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes and Boxers. Most dogs outgrow the condition. Holistic veterinarians recommend applying a tincture (or tea) of the herb calendula on a cotton ball, used as a compress for five minutes each day to help speed healing.
Bloat: This syndrome affects up to 60,000 dogs each year. All dogs can be affected, but breeds that have a narrow but deep chest have the greatest incidence of the condition. Typically, dogs whine and pace in an effort to get comfortable. The dog may try to vomit or defecate without success. The stomach becomes swollen and painful. Bloat is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate veterinary intervention if your dog is to survive.
Car Sickness: Ginger is a natural remedy that can relieve car sickness. Sprinkle the contents of a capsule n a tablespoon of baby food, and give your dog about 20 minutes before the car ride. Dogs weighing more than 15 pounds can take 500 milligrams of ginger (for smaller dogs, half that amount). Some dog show professionals offer their dogs ginger snap cookies, which may also work, but do tend to stain white fur if the dog slobbers.
Diarrhea: Acute diarrhea is treated by withholding food for at least 24 hours to rest the gastrointestinal tract. As long as there is no vomiting along with the diarrhea, offer small amounts of water or ice cubes during this time. You also can use Kaopectate at a dosage of ½ to 1 teaspoon per five pounds of pet, up to a maximum of 2 tablespoons every eight hours. If diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, see your veterinarian.
Electrical Shock: Most accidents result from the puppy or dog chewing through an electric cord. Electrical current may cause muscle contractions that make your dog bite down even harder, and prevent her from releasing the cord. If you find your dog in such a situation, shut off the current and disconnect the plug before attempting to touch her or you risk being shocked, too.
Flatulence: Gas is produced naturally in the intestines during digestion. Flatulence can be the sign of a health problem. Gorging allows food to stay in the stomach for extended periods, and tends to make dogs more prone to gas. Feed your dogs separately to cut down on competition. Slow the gulper by placing a large non-swallowable bowl in the bowl so she must eat around it. Invest in a foraging feeder, bowls designed to make dogs work to reach the food.
Grass Eating: Most dogs occasionally eat grass, which may be used as a natural emetic to stimulate vomiting when the dog feels unwell. Some dogs may simply relish the flavor or texture. Some speculation exists that grass grazing may provide trace elements or vitamins.
Hot Spots: A hot spot is a localized area of self-induced trauma that becomes infected. Dogs with heavy double coats like Chow Chows and German Shepherd Dogs seem most prone to developing hot spots immediately prior to shedding. A natural remedy for hot spots is the tannic acid found in black tea. This astringent helps dry out the sores so they heal more quickly. Soak a tea bag in hot water, let it cool, and apply the bag directly to the sore for five minutes. You can do this three or four times a day.
Ibuprofen poisoning: The drug prevents oxygen from being absorbed into the blood, which may result in your dog’s gums turning blue from lack of oxygen, and the dog having difficulty breathing. Induce vomiting using three percent hydrogen peroxide, one tablespoon per 10 pounds of pet, and immediately contact your veterinarian.
Jumping Up: This is a normal greeting behavior for dogs who wish to nuzzle and lick each other’s faces. A submissive dog aims attention at a dominant individual’s eyes and mouth. Therefore, licking the owner’s face is a canine “howdy!” — a way to solicit attention. Teach your dog a conflicting behavior such as “fetch your ball.” She can’t jump up if she’s running to bring you her ball or other favorite toy.
Kneecap Slipping: The condition is considered common in toy breed dogs, but can affect any size or breed of dog. Dogs may show no signs at all, or may suffer intermittent lameness and limping as the kneecap slips in and out of place. Keeping your dog slim and preventing excessive jumping can reduce the risk of repeat injury.
Licking Sores: Acral lick granuloma is a common condition thought to be associated with canine boredom. The affected dog incessantly licks a selected area, usually on a lower leg, which creates a raised, hairless ulcerative plaque. An owner’s interaction — spending more one-on-one time with the dog playing games, walking, or training — is beneficial.
Music Therapy: Music therapy not only blocks out scary sounds, but actually changes the way the brain processes emotion. Soft music with a slow, steady rhythm helps calm agitated dogs and rambunctious puppies. Music with a pulse of about 60 beats per minute slows the brain waves so the listener feels more relaxed and peaceful and shifts the consciousness into a more alert state. This rhythm also slows breathing, which calms the mind and improves the metabolism
Nose: Humans have between five to 20 million scent-analyzing cells, but canine scent sense varies between breeds. For instance, the Dachshund has about 125 million such cells, compared to the German Shepherd Dog’s 200 million. The best sniffer of them all, the Bloodhound, is said to have 300 million olfactory cells.
Obesity: Defined as body fat that exceeds 30 percent beyond the ideal, obesity most often affects middle-aged and older dogs and is the most common nutritional disorder of dogs. According to the 2014 statistics published by Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 52.7 percent of dogs are overweight or obese.
Proptosis of Eyeball: A sharp blow to the head or bite wounds may cause the eyeball to prolapse, or “pop” from the socket. To prevent the surface from drying, place a wet gauze sponge or wet cloth over the eye until you reach veterinary help. Don’t try to manipulate the eyeball back into place yourself; you could cause even more damage. The eyeball will need to be surgically replaced.
Quarantine: A dog incubating a highly contagious disease becomes sick within two to three weeks of exposure. Quarantine the new dog for a minimum of two weeks (a month is better) to reduce risk of exposure for your other pets.
Rolling: Certain pungent scents prompt rolling behavior in dogs. This scent ecstasy is similar to what cats experience when exposed to catnip, however, the canine indulgence is a good bit more noxious, and tends toward offal. Experts theorize that perfuming themselves with such scents may allow the dog to carry the smelly message home, so other dogs can “read” all about it.
Shedding: Light exposure, either to sun or artificial light, determines the amount and timetable of canine shedding. Environmental temperature has a lesser influence. More hair is shed during the greatest exposure to light, which typically coincides with the summer months. In fact, house dogs under constant exposure to artificial light may shed all year long.
Temperature: The adult dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees, while a newborn puppy’s temperature is considerably lower at 92 to 97 degrees. A body temperature outside the normal range is an indication of illness. Temperatures higher than normal are referred to as a fever, and can be a sign of infection, or of heat stroke. A drop in body temperature may indicate shock as a result of trauma, or loss of body heat from extreme cold.
Uveitis: Uveitis refers to an inflammation of the iris, the colored portion of the eye, and the ciliary body that supports the lens and produces fluid of the front portion of the eye. The condition is common in dogs, and may affect only one eye or both. Unless diagnosed and treated, the dog may lose her sight in that eye. Dogs may squint, suffer watery eyes, clouding of the cornea or even a change in eye color.
Vestibular Syndrome: Middle-aged and senior dogs sometimes suffer from sudden, unexplained balance problems referred to as vestibular syndrome. The pet commonly begins to suffer from dizzy behavior, head tilt, circling, and falling with difficulty getting up. Often the pet’s eyes will jerk back and forth from side to side. Most cases gradually get better on their own over a period of a week to a month.
Wart: Young dogs may develop a condition called papillomatosis in which warts develop in their mouths, or sometimes on the eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, or skin in other locations. The condition may be spread to another dog by close contact with an infected dog. Papillomatosis is almost always a transient condition, which cures by itself with a few months.
Xylitol poisoning: The ingested substance may cause vomiting, lack of coordination, seizures and even liver failure. Bleeding may develop in the dog’s gastrointestinal track or abdomen, as well as dark red specks or splotches on his gums. Usually the symptoms happen quickly, within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion, but some types of sugar-free gum may not cause symptoms for up to 12 hours. If you see your dog eat something containing xylitol, induce vomiting immediately and then get to the veterinarian.
Yellow Skin (Jaundice): Jaundice refers to the abnormal yellow discoloration of bodily tissues and fluids. In dogs, jaundice is most easily seen in thinly furred or light-colored areas of the body, such as the insides of the ears or whites of the eyes. It is a sign of abnormal liver function, and results from the abnormal deposition of bile pigments throughout the body.
Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis: This is a skin disorder caused by a deficiency of zinc in the diet. Alaskan Malamutes, Bull Terriers, Samoyeds and Siberian Huskies may inherit a genetic defect that interferes with the proper absorption of zinc. Signs include thinning of the fur, and a scaly dermatitis especially on the face. The dog’s feet also typically develop thick calluses, and crack and bleed. Correcting the diet, along with short-term zinc supplementation, may reverse the signs of disease.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Here are some ways to keep your cat well hydrated and healthy.
Unlike dogs, most cats are not big gulpers or slurpers at the water bowl. And I’ve yet to see any feline expert able to consistently train a cat to drink water on cue. But like dogs, cats need ample daily supplies of water to keep their coats shiny as well as their skin and organs well hydrated. In fact, a cat’s body is made up of about 70 percent water.
For insights into H20 for cats, we turned to a champion of all cats: Ernie Ward, DVM, America’s Pet Advocate and a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ cat friendly practice advisory council.
How much water should an adult cat drink each day to stay hydrated?
Dr. Ward: Because cats evolved in the desert plains of Mesopotamia, they require a little less than an ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. An average 10-pound domestic short hair indoor cat will typically need to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water per day.
Why should we care if our cats don’t always drink this recommended daily amount of water? Of if they seem to be drinking excessively?
Dr. Ward: The biggest problem of water consumption in pets involves excessive drinking. If your cat is suddenly lapping at the water dish frequently, drinking from unusual sources (like the toilet bowl) or is urinating more than normal, have him examined by your veterinarian immediately. Diseases that cause increased thirst include kidney and liver disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances and cancer. One in three cats will experience kidney disease.
If a cat isn’t a big water drinker, is there a Plan B to ensure he stays hydrated?
Dr. Ward: Feeding a canned diet is an excellent way to provide water for your cat. Canned food is between 70 to 80 percent water.
Any ideas to jazz up water sources for our cats, especially if their primary food source is kibble and not canned food?
Dr. Ward: Many cats seem to prefer fresh, running water from a pet drinking fountain or circulating water bowl. While it’s unclear why many felines prefer bubbly water, one theory is that running water signals safety. Cats may have evolved with a preference for running water because still, stagnant water can harbor infectious parasites, fungi and bacteria.
Drink up these tips:
• Serve water in wide, stainless steel bowls as most cats do not like to have their whiskers scrunched inside narrow food or water bowls.
• Locate a few water bowls throughout your house, strategically placed near areas your cat spends most of his time. And park the water bowl far enough away from the food bowl so that food pieces don’t end up as floaties in the water bowl—a big ‘yuck’ for most dignified cats.
• Provide your cat with bottled water when traveling to minimize his chance of gastrointestinal upset from drinking less-than-pure water from a hotel faucet.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Pet house-soiling accidents and spills happen and they have to be cleaned up — it’s just part of caring for our furry babies. Exposing yourself to fumes and chemicals that have proven to be harmful to both humans and pets, however does not have to be a part of it. There are safer alternatives to these poisons that work just as well and cost a lot less.
Just in case you’re not a real believer in the toxicity of all those spray bottles on your grocery store’s cleaning aisle, here’s a breakdown of the top four ingredients you’ll find in your standard name-brand all-purpose cleaner:
• Alkyl C12-16 dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride
You can’t even pronounce that! Well, it’s what provides the anti-bacterial aspect of most household cleaners. Aside from killing bacteria, it also offers moderate acute oral toxicity, low acute dermal toxicity, high acute inhalation toxicity and increased liver weights.
• Dimethicone/silica/PEG Distearate Antifoam
An additive to prevent the spray from foaming, it causes eye irritation and if ingested, will result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
This is used for removing soils that are fatty, oily or acidic. It can be absorbed into the body via skin, inhalation or ingestion and is toxic to the eyes, skin, lungs and central nervous system.
• Ethylenediaminetetra acetic acid
This chemical is added so you don’t have to rinse any residue away. It causes eye irritation on contact, coughing if inhaled, and abdominal pain as well as diarrhea if ingested.
Try These Natural Alternatives
In other words, your basic all-purpose cleaner is poisonous to drink, causes minor skin burns, burns lung tissue and damages the liver and central nervous system. Most pets are usually closer to the floor and closer to the toxins so their reaction may be worse. It’s actually easy to avoid. Just don’t drink it, get it on your skin or inhale it! Better yet, don’t use it!
Among the many natural cleaning options are vinegar, peroxide, lemon, baking soda and essential oils. These ingredients can be combined in most cases to increase their cleaning power or to create a specialized cleaner, like adding lemon oil to a weak vinegar solution to create a wood furniture cleaner.
If you purchase only one natural alternative, make sure it’s vinegar. Vinegar is a natural and safe alternative to bleach, anti-bacterial cleaners, fabric softener and more.
To clean spots on carpets fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water then spray on the spot and blot, repeating until the stain is gone. If it’s a really big, nasty stain, add a teaspoon of dish soap to a cup of the vinegar/water mixture, rub it into the stain then rub it out using a clean, wet sponge, rinsing each time. Not only will the stain be gone, the smell will disappear and the area will be disinfected.
When you need to wipe kitty paw prints off the glass top table or doggy nose prints off the front window, use the 50/50 spray, wiping it off with newspaper or paper towels. That same spray is perfect for cleaning and disinfecting counter tops and is safe for use on hardwood floors.
After using the dog towels to clean up Spot’s little accident, toss them into the washer with a cup of vinegar in the bleach dispenser and a half cup in the fabric softener dispenser. The towels will come out clean, soft and deodorized.
When it’s time to disinfect the litter box, make the last step a complete spraying with full strength white vinegar. Drain off the excess then leave to air dry before filling with litter again.
Vinegar isn’t just for cleaning the house. It is a strong deodorizer and will remove skunk smell from pets much better than the tomato juice method. Wash then rinse several times with vinegar, allowing to air dry between each rinse. Skunk smell is gone! If there’s a funky smell in a room just fold a hand towel, place it in a bowl or plastic container and pour vinegar over it to cover. The vinegar will actually cause the odors to be absorbed into the towel which can then be put in the washer and washed away. This method works great in a car as well.
Pros and Cons of Using Peroxide
Another great natural cleaning ingredient is peroxide. It has the same disinfecting properties as vinegar, but care must always be taken when using on any type of textile, as it will remove color just like bleach. Peroxide, however, does not provide the deodorizing power of vinegar. For cleaning hard surfaces, a 50/50 mix with water will do the job. Peroxide is not recommended for use on hardwood floors, but is an excellent cleaner and sanitizer for other hard surfaces.
When you need some abrasive power, your go-to is baking soda. A simple paste of three parts baking soda and one-part water will give you great scrubbing power and will remove stains on counter tops as well as that spot in the bathtub that the cat created (but follow that up with vinegar to sanitize the tub!).
Essential oils are great for cleaning, providing anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and deodorizing all in a few little drops. They also have the added benefit of aromatherapy so your house is clean, smells great, and you feel great! The best part, though, is the fact that oils, used in the right amounts are safe for pets, even down on the ground where they spend most of their time.
Lavender is definitely the first oil natural cleaning experts grab. Its antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties make it particularly good for cleaning. Its calming effects are perfect for cleaning up after a stressful day. Clean up and you’re ready for a relaxing night’s sleep!
Need a powerful cleaner? Then tea tree oil is what you want. It is filled with antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antibacterial and insecticidal properties, so it’s a must on the list for cleaning the bathroom or kitchen. Some people find the tea tree aroma a bit strong, so it is often mixed with other oils to create a more relaxing scent.
Rosemary is both antibacterial and antiseptic, making it a perfect additive to an all-purpose cleaner for the whole house. Especially all those things that get touched a lot by multiple people who have touched multiple things outside the house, like the door knobs, cabinet pulls, light switches and remotes.
Orange oil will cut straight through greasy cleanups and is antiviral, having shown to inhibit E. coli and salmonella. It is perfect for cleaning wood cutting boards where meats are prepared, as well as pet dishes. Orange oil has an aroma that is uplifting and anti-depressive. This makes orange oil the perfect oil to clean with in the morning to get your day started on a high note.
So now you have this big list of natural cleaning ingredients, but what do you do with it? Well, fear not! Below is one of the best ever recipes for natural all-purpose cleaner:
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
1 ½ cup hot water
1 tablespoon natural castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
10 drops lavender oil
10 drops rosemary oil
10 drops orange oil
20 drops tea tree oil
1 ½ cup vinegar
Mix the hot water, soap and oils in a glass container then pour into a quart-sized spray bottle. Add the vinegar, and then top off with more water. Shake well before each use to make sure oils are fully distributed. This cleanser can be used on everything but glass. It is safe for wood floors and furniture. The aroma is clean and relaxing and lasts.
This is just one of thousands of safe, natural cleaning recipes lurking about the Internet. Pinterest is full of them. So go spend a few dollars on some basic supplies, add a good spray bottle, and you’re ready to tackle all those pet messes without poisoning yourself or your pet.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Sarah Zum Hofe was born in 1987 in St. Louis, MO- and has since then had a love affair with animals!