Sunday, January 18, 2009


ANIMAL CRACKERS...ANIMALS GONE CRACKERS...ANIMALS GONE CRAZY...the ravings of some looney-tuned veterinarian??? No, just part of a conversation overheard this past week by Helpful Buckeye, while grocery shopping. A perplexed and slightly distraught mother was trying to explain to her young daughter that the animals captured in cracker form weren't closed up in the little box because they had gone "crackers" or "crazy." Stifling a few chuckles, Helpful Buckeye was reminded of another application of the phrase, "Animal Crackers,"...that of the 1930 movie, starring the Marx Brothers. Animal Crackers, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of a famed African explorer, was both a critical and commercial success upon initial release, and remains one of the Marx Brothers' most beloved and often-quoted movies. One of Groucho Marx's most famous quotes came from this movie: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas....How he got in my pajamas, I don't know."

Moving on, our weekly poll (in the column to your left) concerns the commercial product being sought by the above-mentioned mother and daughter. Let's see how many of you are familiar enough with this product to give the right answer!

The poll from last week, concerning whether or not you would like to have a handbag made of fur from your cat, ended up just about where Helpful Buckeye expected it would. Half of you voting said, "Of course!", while the other half said, "No way!"

The unfortunate airplane landing in the Hudson River this week supposedly happened as a result of a lot of birds flying into the plane's jet engines. The passengers and crew on this US Airways jet have to be among the luckiest people on the planet, considering what else could have happened as the plane came down. Regular readers of Questions On Dogs and Cats will remember an item from our blog issue of 11/9/2008 in which a Border Collie was being deployed at an airport for the purpose of scaring away the birds. You may want to go back in our archives, in the column to your left and further down the pages (click on 11/9/08, then cursor through the issue until you reach the General Interest section), to review what is being tried with dogs to minimize this "bird" problem.

Let's get started into this week's issue with these words from Ben Franklin: "A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." Helpful Buckeye wants our readers to pick up enough "food and fire for the mind" each week, so that you and your pets will enjoy and benefit from the acquisition!


1) Most of our readers here at Questions On Dogs and Cats are at least aware of the dangers of over-using antibiotics. Now, physicians, as well as veterinarians, are joining in the effort to educate their clients as to the reasons for being more restrictive in the use of antibiotics. This article from The USA TODAY presents the evidence quite nicely:

Doctors give side effects center stage to keep lid on antibiotics

Would you beg your doctor for drugs that:
•Have a 5% to 25% chance of causing diarrhea?
•Land at least one in every 1,000 users in the emergency room?
•Help only about one in 4,000 patients avoid a serious complication?
•Do nothing to relieve your symptoms?
If you've answered no, congratulations: You've decided to stop demanding antibiotics for colds, flu and similar illnesses. And you've demonstrated what some doctors suspect: The best way to break patients of their dangerous, expensive addiction to unneeded antibiotics is to focus on the personal risks and benefits — which are becoming clearer, thanks to recent research.
The message, in a nutshell: "There's a very small chance this antibiotic will help you, but a much bigger risk that it will hurt you," says Jeffrey Linder, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.
For the rest of this interesting report, go to:

2) In many of our recent issues, the topic of pet adoptions has been discussed. From the efforts of both public and private pet adoption associations to the currently increasing influx of pets that people can no longer afford to keep, Helpful Buckeye has kept this issue in the spotlight. This coming Saturday, 24 JAN 2009, 300 animals shelters across the USA are holding Change a Pet's Life Day, aimed at focusing attention on shelters and rescue groups and enticing potential adopters. Fees for the first 10 adoptions at each participating shelter will be paid for by Topeka-based Hill's Pet Nutrition, which organized the event. For the whole report of the event, check it out in The USA TODAY at:

To find out if any of the 300 animal shelters are located near you, check the list at:

One animal shelter that is not on the list, but has been accomplishing a lot in the areas of animal rescue and adoption is The Angels of Assisi, in Roanoke, VA. Their information is available at:

3) As a heads-up to our readers who have been asking for some information on dental care for their pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association has proclaimed February as National Pet Dental Health Month.

Pet Dental Campaign Reaches 15th Year

The "Pets Need Dental Care, Too" campaign starts its 15th year with National Pet Dental Health Month in February.
The campaign provides materials to help veterinary practices promote oral health for pets through regular, professional examinations and an in-home dental care routine.
Co-sponsoring the educational campaign are the AVMA, Hill's Pet Nutrition, American Veterinary Dental Society, Academy of Veterinary Dentistry, American Veterinary Dental College, Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians, and Veterinary Oral Health Council.

The next two issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats will cover many of the dental concerns of our dog and cat owners. Stay tuned...and, if you have any dental questions in advance, send them to:

Be sure to take a good look at your pet's teeth!!!


Helpful Buckeye received an interesting e-mail recently from Diane, in Virginia, with questions concerning her caring for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) positive cats, especially as it would relate to other uninfected cats in the same household. Well, Diane, your questions are good ones, but, unfortunately, the answers are not the cut-and-dried, black-and-white responses you might be expecting. Both FIV and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) are infectious agents which affect and damage a cat's immune system. Both viruses infect domestic cats and a few other Felids. Both viruses are found worldwide. There is more known information about FeLV than for FIV, mainly because it has been recognized for longer as a disease entity. The incidence of infection for these diseases is directly related to the population density of cats. Infection rates are going to be higher in multicat households, especially when any of the cats have access to the outdoors.

Since there is much more data available for FeLV, much of the following information will apply mainly to FeLV. For the differences related to FIV, those will be mentioned. Persistently infected, healthy cats are the major reservoir of FeLV. Carriers excrete large quantities of virus in saliva. Lesser amounts of virus are excreted in tears, urine, and feces. Oral/nasal contact with infectious saliva or urine is the most likely mode of transmission. Nose-to-nose contact, mutual grooming, and shared litter trays and food dishes facilitate transmission. Bite wounds from infected cats are an efficient mode of transmission but occur relatively infrequently in cats kept indoors 100% of the time. Bites may be a more important mode of transmission in indoor-outdoor cats. Age resistance is significant. Young kittens are much more susceptible than adults. The virus may be transmitted vertically (in utero or by milk) or horizontally (by secretions and excretions). Because FeLV is a fragile, enveloped virus and because of age resistance, horizontal transmission between adults usually requires prolonged, intimate contact. In addition, the dose required for oral/nasal transmission of the virus is relatively high. In ~70% of adult cats, viremia and virus shedding are transient, lasting only 1-16 wk. A few cats continue to shed virus in secretions for several weeks to months after they cease to be viremic. Virus may persist in bone marrow for a longer period, but even this latent, or sequestered, infection usually disappears within 6 mo. Some FeLV-exposed cats (~30%) do not mount an adequate immune response and go on to become persistently (ie, permanently) viremic. Persistently viremic cats develop fatal diseases after a variable time period. FeLV-related disorders are numerous and include immunosuppression, cancers, anemia, immune-mediated diseases, reproductive problems, and enteritis.

Two types of tests are readily available for clinical use. The immunofluorescence assay (IFA) tests for the presence of FeLV structural antigens in the cytoplasm of cells suspected to be FeLV-infected. In clinical practice, peripheral blood smears are usually used for the IFA, but cytologic preparations of bone marrow or other tissues can also be used. The IFA is considered to be the most reliable but requires submission to a commercial laboratory, so results take longer and are more expensive. IFA-positive cats are considered to be persistently viremic and have a poor long-term outlook. The more convenient ELISA test can be performed in the veterinary clinic. Several different test kits are available; most have sensitivities and specificities of 98%. Accuracy can be improved by running both the IFA and ELISA on the same cat.

Ideally, an FeLV-infected cat would be identified early and treated to eradicate the virus infection before FeLV-related diseases had time to develop. Unfortunately, eradication of FeLV infections at any stage of disease is extremely difficult. Most infected cats are persistently viremic by the time infection is diagnosed. Many treatments have been administered in an attempt to reverse viremia or decrease clinical signs associated with FeLV infection. Anecdotal (not scientifically substantiated) reports of antiviral agents and immunotherapeutic agents reversing viremia, improving clinical signs, and prolonging survival are abundant. Controlled studies using naturally infected cats have been unable to substantiate a benefit from these therapies. For this reason, cat owners with an FeLV-infected cat should be cautious of someone promising good results. FeLV-positive cats can live without major diseases for several years. Stress and sources of secondary infection should be avoided. The cat should remain indoors 100% of the time to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious agents and to prevent transmission of the virus to other cats. Routine prophylactic care for FeLV-infected cats is more important than for uninfected cats. Routine vaccinations should be administered based on the risk to the cat, with rabies vaccinations given to comply with local laws. FeLV vaccinations should not be administered, as there is no evidence to suggest a benefit. Physical examinations focusing on external parasites, skin infections, dental disease, lymph node size, and body weight should be performed every 6 months. All infected cats should be neutered. Owners should be advised to watch for signs of FeLV-related disease, particularly secondary infections. Therapy for such infections or other illnesses should be more aggressive and of longer duration, as the immunocompromised condition renders the cat less able to fight diseases naturally.

For prevention and control, testing should be mandatory in the following situations: 1) all kittens at their first veterinary visit, so the owners can be counseled regarding a cat that tests positive (as is routinely done for congenital abnormalities), 2) all cats prior to entering a household with existing uninfected cats, 3) all cats in an existing household prior to admission of a new, uninfected cat, and 4) all cats prior to their first FeLV vaccination. FeLV vaccines are intended to protect cats against FeLV infection or, at least, to prevent persistent viremia. Types of vaccines include killed whole virus, subunit, and genetically engineered. Vaccines may vary in protective effect, and manufacturers’ claims and independent comparative studies should be carefully noted. None of these vaccines are 100% protective. Vaccines are indicated only for uninfected cats; there is no benefit in vaccinating an FeLV-positive cat. The cat’s risk of exposure to FeLV-positive cats should be assessed, and vaccines used only for those cats at risk. Although the risk of tumor development is low, FeLV vaccines have been associated with the development of sarcomas at the vaccination site. Uninfected cats in a household with infected cats should be vaccinated; however, other means of protecting uninfected cats (eg, physical separation) should also be used. Constant exposure to FeLV-infected cats is likely to result in viral transmission regardless of vaccination status. Despite the widespread use of vaccines, FeLV remains one of the most important causes of morbidity and mortality in cats.

For FIV-infected cats, the percentage of infected cats that enter the terminal phase of the illness in unknown. Most of these cats might appear normal for months or years before immunodeficiency occurs. These cats do remain infected for life.

Unfortunately, giving an FIV vaccine to an FIV-negative cat renders currently available blood tests positive for at least a year following vaccination. Previous vaccination does not prevent infection, and the significance of a positive test result in a vaccinated cat cannot be assessed. Questions remain regarding the FIV vaccine's ability to protect against all of the FIV subtypes and strains to which cats might be exposed. Therefore, the decision regarding whether to use this vaccine is not straight-forward, and the risks and benefits of the use of this vaccine should be carefully discussed with your veterinarian. For most feline specialists, this vaccine is not recommended for routine use in strictly indoors cats.

The bottom line for a cat owner is to talk all of this over with your veterinarian before deciding on a game plan. That way, you can evaluate the pros and cons of vaccinating or not vaccinating your cats. There will most likely be some uncertainty either way you go, so you need to be as informed as possible.


Morbidity--noun; the relative frequency of infection in a given population.

Mortality--noun; the relative frequency of deaths in a given population.

Viremic--adjective; having a particular virus in the blood stream.

Immunosuppression--noun; the inhibition of the normal immune response, either because of disease or the administration of certain medicines.


1) OK, for those of you who walk your dogs, even though you most likely carry a plastic bag with you, you still have to bend over to pick up your dog's stools. This Super Scooper will allow you to do that with a minimum of effort: What's not to like about this big boy?

2) Another product that doesn't initially make you think of pets is the LED Torch Flashlight. This little beauty has a 120-ft. range and is great for walking the dog at night or looking for the cat in the back yard:

3) For those of you who know Helpful Buckeye to be a habitual coffee drinker, you'd better get to this website before I do! For a free sample of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, go to: Just select your favorite variety and fill out the information below that to receive a 1.1 oz. sample pouch by mail. You'll be tasting Dunkin' Donuts coffee at home in no time!


1) Since we started this issue with a statement about Animals Gone Crazy, enjoy this new video (turn on your speakers):

2) Even though some animals do some crazy things, a lot of dogs and cats are pretty smart. To find out what your dog's IQ is, go to this Parade Magazine site: and take the test by answering the questions about your dog. Then, got to this site for your cat's IQ test: If you feel like crowing about your pet's IQ score, send us an e-mail to let us know about it:

3) Those of you who know how interactive and violent Nintendo and other video games can become, will not be surprised by this story of an apparent death of a puppy:

4) From America Online (AOL) comes this list of the Top 10 searches of animal products and supplies: Top Searched Pet Supplies on AOL Search:

  1. Doggles

  2. Dog Life Jacket

  3. Happy Trails Pet Stroller

  4. Muttluks Dog Booties

  5. B-TV! Bird Videos

  6. Pet Aromatherapy

  7. Bowser Beer

  8. Cat Toilet Seat

  9. Handi Drink

  10. Dog DNA Test

If you need more information on any of these, you can "Google" them.

5) Dogs usually lead the way in videos about crazy activity, but here is one that features "cats being cats":

6) Anyone who has brought a new cat home and tried to help it adjust to the cats that already live there knows that the results aren't always predictable. For an interesting account of a scenario just like this, read this by Sharon Peters in The USA TODAY:

7) The "Dog Whisperer," Cesar Millan, turns the tables in this Parade Magazine article by telling us "What Your Pet Can Teach You": If your dog tells you that it's OK for him to jump up on the furniture, remember this quote from Fran Lebowitz: "No animal should ever jump up on the dining-room furniture unless absolutely certain that it can hold his own in the conversation."

8) This coming Friday, 23 JAN 2009, has been proclaimed as National Pie Day, much to the pleasure of Helpful Buckeye's good friend, Bill. Bill once made the statement that he only likes two kinds of pie...warm and cold!

9) Ruutu, a black Lab we have featured previously in this blog, has been having a lot of fun playing in the snow of western Pennsylvania. Doesn't this snow-circled muzzle tell you everything you need to know?

The Pittsburgh Steelers pounded the Ravens today on their way to the Super Bowl in Tampa, where they will face the AZ Cardinals. The Cardinals coaching staff is mostly made up of former Steeler coaches, so both teams will be more than a little familiar with each other. For the last several years, Helpful Buckeye has been able to watch both the Steelers and the Cardinals in their respective training camps and that will make this Super Bowl even more special!


Jack London, renowned American author, had dogs play important roles in many of his books, most notably The Call of the Wild and White Fang. His famous quote about dogs: "A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog."

President Abraham Lincoln, in addition to leading America through the Civil War, had some pretty good insight into the pet population problem as well: "No matter how much cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens."

If you have read Helpful Buckeye's profile, you saw that one of my favorite books is Centennial (if you haven't taken the time to read my profile, perhaps you should do so...there might be other things we share in common)! Well, the DVD set of Centennial, the mini-series, has finally been released and Helpful Buckeye and Desperado have really enjoyed watching the story unfold. The settling of the American West has become much more interesting after moving to Arizona! British author Robert Harris had this to say about a good book: “All good books are different but all bad books are exactly the same…And what they all have in common, these bad books, be they novels or memoirs, is this: they don’t ring true. I’m not saying that a good book is true necessarily, just that it feels true for the time you’re reading it.” Well said about the book, Centennial, and it could equally apply to the mini-series! Highly recommended!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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