Monday, January 25, 2010


If you're reading this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, it means that Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have lost our power and are not able to put together a normal blog issue at this time. Flagstaff is in the midst of a huge winter storm...I've already shoveled 31" of snow since Tuesday morning and we are expecting 8-12" today (Thursday)...another 10-15" tonight, and 8-12" tomorrow. To complicate things, the wind is supposed to be at 40-60 MPH tonight and that might present a problem of power outages...consequently, Helpful Buckeye will offer this shorter version for publication Sunday evening.

More than a year ago, Helpful Buckeye wrote about some suggestions for how a pet owner can go about choosing a veterinarian for their pets. In that discussion, we followed some guidelines that were presented by the American Veterinary Medical Association, which you can read at:
The Humane Society of the United States has just recently published their recommendations for choosing the right veterinarian for your pets. By comparing these ideas with the previous listing, any pet owner should be able to make an informed choice that will help pick the right veterinarian.

Choosing A Veterinarian

A veterinarian is your pet's second-best friend. When selecting a veterinarian, you're doing more than searching for a medical expert. You're looking for someone to meet your needs and those of your pet, a doctor who has people as well as animal skills. The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one, so plan ahead and choose wisely. Veterinarians often work with a team of professionals, including technicians and qualified support staff, so you'll likely want to evaluate the entire vet team's competence and caring (Helpful Buckeye has more information on this aspect further down the page). You should also consider the hospital's location and fees when making a decision. Driving a few extra miles or paying a bit more may be worth it to get the care you want for your cat.

How to find the right veterinarian
The best way to find a good veterinarian is to ask people who have the same approach to pet care as you. Start with a recommendation from a friend, neighbor, animal shelter worker, dog trainer, groomer, boarding kennel employee or pet sitter. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Veterinarians" and "Animal Hospitals," where you can likely find important information about hours, services and staff. You can also search for veterinarians in your area online. If you're looking for a specialist, ask about board certification. This means the vet has studied an additional two to four years in the specialty area and passed a rigorous exam. Once you've narrowed your search, schedule a visit to meet the staff, tour the facility and learn about the hospital's philosophy and policies. This is a reasonable request that any veterinarian should be glad to oblige. Write down your questions ahead of time.

What to look for:

  • Is the facility clean, comfortable and well-organized?

  • Are appointments required?

  • How many veterinarians are in the practice?

  • Are there technicians or other professional staff members?

  • Are dog and cat cages in separate areas?

  • Is the staff caring, calm, competent and courteous, and do they communicate effectively?

  • Do the veterinarians have special interests such as geriatrics or behavior?

  • Are X-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, EKG, endoscopy and other diagnostics done in-house or referred to a specialist?

  • Which emergency services are available?

  • Is location and parking convenient?

  • Do fees fit your budget, and are discounts for senior citizens or multi-pet households available?

Be a good client
Having good client manners encourages a happy relationship with your vet.

  • See your vet regularly for preventive visits, not just when your pet becomes ill.

  • Learn what's normal for your pet, so you recognize the first signs of illness.

  • If a pet's not well, don't wait until she's really sick before you call your vet. It's frustrating for a vet, and heartbreaking to owners, to see an animal die of an illness that could have been treated successfully if professional care had begun sooner.

  • Schedule appointments and be on time. Lateness is rude and wreaks havoc with the office's timing.

  • For your pet's safety as well as that of other clients and pets, bring your cat to the veterinary office in a carrier.

  • Don’t disturb your veterinarian during non-working hours for matters that can wait, and don't expect your veterinarian to diagnose a pet's problem over the telephone.

  • Even if you have an emergency, call ahead to ensure that the veterinarian’s available.

Breaking up is hard to do

If you feel that your veterinarian isn't meeting your needs as a client or the needs of your pet as a patient, it may be time to find a new one. But sometimes simple misunderstandings cause conflicts, which you and your vet can resolve by talking things out and looking for solutions. If you've been happy with a certain veterinarian, make the effort to reach a mutually satisfying resolution.

When you visit your veterinarian's office/hospital/clinic, you most likely will encounter several different staff members, in addition to the veterinarian. Each member of the staff is an important part of the daily functioning of the hospital. The AVMA has put together a good overview of the staff members and what they do to contribute to the overall operation.

The Veterinary Health Care Team

Every veterinary hospital staff consists of a team of caring individuals, each contributing his or her unique abilities to ensure high quality veterinary care for animals and compassionate interactions with animal owners. Depending upon the size of the hospital, the team may employ from three to more than 30 people but, regardless of size, dedication to service remains a top priority.

The Veterinarian – Leading the Team

Veterinarians are doctors trained to protect the health of both animals and people. In a clinical hospital environment, veterinarians work with large and small animals to evaluate animals' health, diagnose and treat illnesses, provide routine preventive care (such as vaccines), prescribe medication, and perform surgery. Like physicians, some veterinarians specialize in areas such as surgery, internal medicine, ophthalmology or dentistry. In addition to opportunities in clinical practice, veterinarians may choose to work in zoos, wildlife parks, or aquariums; or focus on public health, regulatory medicine, or research. Personal attributes that contribute to a successful career as a veterinarian in clinical practice include a strong science and math education, the ability to work well with animals and their owners, basic business and management training, and leadership and organizational skills.

The Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians perform valuable medical and non-medical services in clinical practice. They are graduates of an AVMA-accredited program in veterinary technology usually leading to an Associate or Bachelor degree. The veterinary technician is educated and trained to support the veterinarian in surgical assisting, laboratory procedures, radiography, anesthesiology, prescribed treatment and nursing, and client education. Almost every state requires a veterinary technician to pass a credentialing exam to ensure a high level of competency.
Some veterinary technicians pursue specialties in emergency and critical care, anesthesiology, internal medicine, animal behavior or dentistry. Personal attributes that contribute to a successful career as a veterinary technician in clinical practice include a strong science background, ability to work well with people and animals, and good communication and decision-making skills.

The Veterinary Hospital Manager

Most large veterinary hospitals find that having a hospital (or practice) manager greatly improves the team's efficiency. This person is responsible for managing the business functions of the practice. Depending upon the size and type of hospital, the manager's duties could include personnel hiring and supervision, budget and inventory management, accounting, marketing, and designing service protocols. A strong business background, computer knowledge, and desire to work with people are key attributes for success as a hospital manager.

The Veterinary Assistant

In some hospitals, a veterinary assistant supports the veterinarian and/or the veterinary technician in their daily tasks. The assistant may be asked to perform kennel work, assist in the restraint and handling of animals, feed and exercise the animals, and spend time on clerical duties. There is no credentialing exam for the veterinary assistant; however, training programs are available (see The ability to listen, communicate efficiently, and handle multiple assignments are skills that make a veterinary assistant an important member of the hospital team.

The Receptionist

The receptionist or client service representative is usually the first person to welcome a client into the hospital and the last person the client sees when they leave. The interactions he or she has with a client can determine how the client perceives the quality of medical services being offered. A good receptionist must have excellent communication skills and be able to handle a variety of questions and requests from clients and the public. In addition to setting appointments, responding to inquiries about hospital services, greeting clients, and managing callbacks, a receptionist may also perform accounting, marketing, or client counseling duties. A customer service attitude, the ability to manage multiple tasks, and professionalism under stress are important attributes for a hospital receptionist.

Other Team Members

The hospital team may also include an adoption counselor, a grief counselor, administrative assistant, kennel worker, and part-time volunteers. Everyone has an important role to play in assuring the health and well-being of the hospital's patients and the owners who care for them.

In some hospitals, especially smaller ones, health care team members may accomplish the tasks of more than one of these headings. Don't be timid...get to know the staff members at your veterinary hospital. You'll feel better getting to know the people who are taking care of your pets.

Along with choosing a veterinarian and learning more about the veterinary hospital staffers, most pet owners are also concerned about the costs of maintaining good health for their pets. The ASPCA offers a very comprehensive list of ideas for keeping health care costs for your pets a comfortable level.

Cutting Pet Care Costs

Designer collars, faux-mink coats, doggie donuts―you may love the novelties, but do your pets really need ‘em? The bucks we spend on those little extras for our animal companions add up—and in fact, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, U.S. consumers spent over $36 billion on their animals in 2005. “A tremendous amount of the growth in pet industry sales have probably been due to things people don’t really need for their pets,” says Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, Ph. D., Executive Vice President, ASPCA National Program Office. While it’s great to pamper Fifi and Fido, it’s also important to budget for the essentials. Otherwise, that couture pet carrier could leave you with empty pockets when the emergency veterinary bills come. We checked in with Dr. Z. for his take on easy ways to cut pet care costs. “The basics are still the same,” he says. “Quality food, litter for cats and good medical care.” Bottom line? Stick with the basics, and remember—preventative measures are excellent money savers!

  • Go to the Vet! “A number-one money-saver is preventative veterinary care,” says Dr. Z. Annual veterinary exams can catch health crises early on and can save you a lot of time and money. This includes heartworm preventative treatment, flea and tick control, and a thorough check-up of your pet’s gums, teeth, heart, lungs and internal organs. If it’s been a year or more since your pet has seen a vet, make that appointment today!

  • Give Your Pet Regular Check-Ups Weekly home checkups are a great way to nip potential health problems in the bud. - Check under your pet’s fur for lumps, bumps, flakes or scabs. Check your pet’s ears and eyes for signs of redness or discharge. Make note of any changes in her eating or drinking habits. If something seems off, call your vet right away. - Learn how to clean your pet’s ears, especially if your dog is prone to ear infections. - Brush your pet’s teeth regularly with a toothpaste formulated for pets, and check his gums. In some cases, this can help prevent the need for dental cleanings, which can run up to $200 per visit. - Check your pet’s breath. Bad breath can indicate a digestive problem that’s better dealt with sooner rather than later.

  • Vaccinate Wisely “Although certain vaccines are required by law, there is no longer automatically one policy for all animals,” says Dr. Lila Miller, Vice President, ASPCA Veterinary Outreach. “Veterinarians are now advised to assess each individual animal's risk of exposure when designing a vaccination program.” So before subjecting your pet―and your wallet—to general vaccinations, ask your pet’s vet which vaccines he or she recommends.

  • Spay/Neuter Your Pets “Spaying and neutering your pet will have a dramatic impact on their health,” says Dr. Z. “For females, it dramatically reduces the potentiality for breast cancer, and ovarian and uterine cancer disappears.” Neutering also reduces chances of testicular cancer in males. Not only will spaying or neutering save you on future health care, but it will significantly diminish your pet’s desire to wander―and will save you the surprise of an unplanned litter.

  • Invest in Training “A lot of people don’t think about dog and cat training as a way to save money,” observes Dr. Z, “but a well-trained dog will be easier to walk, will be calmer in most situations and will be less likely to get into things he shouldn’t.” Teaching your dog to stay by your side and to come when he is called proves far cheaper than paying for expensive emergency care caused by his running off―possibly into the street―and eating items that he shouldn’t.

  • Consider Pet Insurance “One of the reasons why medical care has become so expensive,” explains Dr. Z, “is the recent growth spurt of procedures your pet can undergo―MRIs, cat scans, cancer treatments. Kidney transplants, though life-saving, are a $15,000 surgery that also typically requires the pet owner to adopt the donor animal.” Accidents, too, can be costly. Pet insurance is one way to take some sting out of the bill. The cost of a policy typically runs about $300-$400 per year and many cover both regular and emergency visits.

  • Save Up for the Future & Pet Emergencies Invest the money you spend on toys and extra snacks into a fund for possible emergencies, and deposit a fixed amount into it every two weeks. If no emergencies arise, you’ll be all the richer, but if something does come up, money will not stand in the way of getting your pet the care she needs.

  • Elderly Pet Care The great news is that pets are living longer, thanks to better nutrition and veterinary care. But this often entails more frequent trips to the vet, blood screenings tests, special food and medication. “Very often you see people bringing older pets into shelters because they are confronted with bills they can’t manage,” says Dr. Z. You can avoid an ambush of sudden bills by saving up while your pet is young.

  • End-of-life care Caring for your pet at death could cost between $300 to $1,000, depending upon the services you choose. Some insurance policies cover the cost of euthanasia and cremation, but it is a smart idea to put aside a savings account that will cover those bills. This way you won’t have to haggle when the time comes.

  • Serve Healthy Food in Moderate Portions “Buy a good, premium-quality dog or cat food,” advises Dr. Z. “Don’t go crazy,” he says, but remember that cheaper foods will set you back in the end. They are full of less digestible filler material and artificial colors that offer no nutrients and can contribute to allergies and digestive problems. A high-quality, age-appropriate food results in a healthy coat, more energy and fewer costly trips to the vet.

  • Don’t overfeed This includes resisting the urge to spoil your pets with too many treats! “You don’t need to feed your pets as much as people do,” Dr. Z. reminds us. “One of the things we’re confronting is a huge obesity problem. Serving moderate portions not only saves you money on food ―it also reduces the likelihood of obesity.”

  • Veterinarians and Hospitals When looking for a reliable, cost-effective veterinarian’s office, check out a few before you settle on one. Ask for recommendations from pet owners you know. Most vets’ offices also offer multi-pet or senior pet discounts. Compare fees and be sure to find out what is covered during a routine visit in each office.

  • Pet Supplies Buy supplies online or in bulk. Just keep in mind that it’s wise to get product recommendations from your vet first. Online or store-bought products that you know nothing about could prove to be harmful or of poor quality. And if you rotate your pet’s toys, they’ll stay interested without you having to buy new ones every few months.

  • Groom Your Pets at Home Save the price of a visit to your groomer with regular brushings. While you’re at it, you’ll reduce the hair around your home and your cats will have fewer hairballs. Trim your pet’s nails on a regular basis. It’s not hard to do, and you’ll likely save yourself the cost of new furniture and curtains.

Still got visions of your dog gliding down the cat walk in a couture collar? Face it, your pet could probably care less whether she’s wearing Gucci. “A good quality leash and collar with a nylon braid should run you no more than $10 and should last for years,” advises Dr. Z. “You don’t need to buy all the fancy stuff.” Yes, your pets love toys and an occasional treat, but the best gift you can give to your furry loved one is your attention!

P.S. Well, we didn't lose our power after all...although, the lights did flicker a few times. Considering that I spent a fair amount of time shoveling what ended up being 76 inches of snow from our driveway between Tuesday morning and Saturday morning, I made an executive decision and decided to publish this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats as is. Hope you enjoyed it...we'll get back to our regular format next week.

~~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.~~

Monday, January 18, 2010



The Food & Drug Administration has announced a recall on certain lots of Merrick Beef Filet Squares due to Salmonella bacteria being found in them. For the rest of this story and a description of which lots might be involved, go to:


1) In last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye discussed some of the problems that can happen when a dog chews on and swallows an object that wasn't intended to be swallowed. In addition to the physical blockage that can occur in the digestive tract from some of these objects, there can also be severe inflammatory and traumatic changes that must be dealt with.

The final concern about these foreign objects would be if the object contains a toxic substance that might cause damage to the digestive system or an illness to your pet. The most common toxic substance to be encountered by your pets when they swallow certain inedible objects is lead. Lead poisoning is mainly seen in dogs since cats are much more discriminating in their eating habits and rarely chew on non-food objects. As you learned from last week's column, dogs will chew on and frequently swallow just about anything they can fit into their mouths. The main sources of lead are lead-based paints that were so commonly used in houses built before 1950 as well as the lead water pipes also used in those homes. The federal government has since restricted the use of lead in most paints, but even the painted walls and outside wooden siding left over from those days becomes a problem especially in urban areas where renovations are taking place. It's easy for a dog to chew on old wooden siding and lead pipes, in addition to drinking water that is flowing through those lead pipes. Other sources of lead are batteries (including those from vehicles), fishing sinkers, drapery weights, linoleum, certain greases, lead shot (for a shot gun), the inside of golf balls, and certain types of roofing shingles.

Lead is absorbed into the blood from the digestive system and from there makes its way to the soft tissues and eventually the bones. The first signs of illness from lead poisoning usually are related to the gastrointestinal system: vomiting, abdominal pain, tense abdomen, diarrhea or constipation, and loss of appetite. Anemia can also be present at this time, along with other blood abnormalities. After a few days, if the source of lead is still present, the dog can begin to show some neurological signs, such as: barking at the air or inanimate objects, crying, roaming aimlessly, anxiety, jaw champing, excess salivation, blindness, muscle spasms, and convulsions. In dogs, rabies, distemper, and certain forms of hepatitis may appear similar to lead poisoning.This X-Ray of a bald eagle shows a lead pellet and some of the resulting lead deposits in the bones.

Obviously, the initial digestive signs are very generalized and could be mistaken for many other causes. That's a good reason for making a very thorough diagnostic evaluation if a dog continues to show those signs for longer than 24 hours. Various blood tests, including blood lead levels, would help in making an early diagnosis. Also, X-Rays would be extremely helpful in determining if there is any lead visible in the digestive tract. The main reason an early diagnosis of lead poisoning is advantageous is that once the neurological signs show up, the prognosis, or outlook, is decidedly less optimistic.

The main goal of therapy for lead poisoning is to remove the lead from the digestive system and the rest of the body as soon as possible. Sometimes, induced vomiting will work if the object is still in the stomach. In addition, the administration of cathartics that move material quickly through the bowel may be beneficial. At times, surgery might even be necessary in order to remove the offending lead object from the stomach or intestine. A secondary role of therapy is to aid in the removal of lead from the tissues by way of certain chemicals, called chelating agents. These medicines actually chemically bind the lead and help it to be excreted in the urine of the dog. The one problem with these chelating agents is that they also have some side effects of their own, namely vomiting and loss of appetite. Obviously, the sooner the lead poisoning is diagnosed, the sooner the dog can be treated, which then would lead to a more likely recovery. Dogs will often show a dramatic recovery upon removal of the offending lead object and administration of one of the chelating agents.

2) This is the perfect spot to introduce the ASPCA's list of the most common pet poisons for 2009.

Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2009

With various dangers lurking in corners and cabinets, the home can be a minefield of poisons for our pets. In 2009, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances, many of which included everyday household products. Don’t leave it up to Fido or Fluffy to keep themselves safe. Below is a list of the top 10 pet poisons that affected our furry friends in 2009.

Human Medications
For several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards, and 2009 was no exception. Last year, the ASPCA managed 45,816 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.

In our effort to battle home invasions by unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our furry friends at risk. In 2009, our toxicologists fielded 29,020 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. Thus, it’s always important to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.

People Food
People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends, and accounted for more than 17,453 cases in 2009. One of the worst offenders—chocolate—contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.

Common houseplants were the subject of 7,858 calls to APCC in 2009. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts.

Veterinary Medications
Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. In 2009, the ASPCA managed 7,680 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.

Last year, the ASPCA received 6,639 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets including bleeding, seizures or kidney damage.

Household Cleaners
Everybody knows that household cleaning supplies can be toxic to adults and children, but few take precautions to protect their pets from common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. Last year, the ASPCA received 4,143 calls related to household cleaners. These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.

Heavy Metals
It’s not too much loud music that constitutes our next pet poison offender. Instead, it’s heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury, which accounted for 3,304 cases of pet poisonings in 2009. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded.

Garden Products
It may keep your grass green, but certain types of fertilizer and garden products can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs. Last year, the ASPCA fielded 2,329 calls related to fertilizer exposure, which can cause severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction.

Chemical Hazards
In 2009, the ASPCA handled approximately 2,175 cases of pet exposure to chemical hazards. A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns.


Perhaps on those long walks or jogs with your dog, you would feel more comfortable with a tote bag designed especially for your favorite canine friend. Introducing the Bow Wow Bag: read about this product at: and then move on over to the Bow Wow Bag's web site:


1) As Helpful Buckeye suggested in a column before the holidays, puppies and kittens should not be given as gifts for 2 reasons: There is simply too much going on around the holidays for any kind of decent adjustment being made by the new pet to the surroundings and you just never are quite sure if the recipient of the gift is as eager for the pet as you were to give it. Now, in the New York City area, the dogs and cats that were given as gifts are starting to show up at pet shelters: and...there is every reason to suspect it is this way across the country. Think twice before doing this next holiday season!

2) Helpful Buckeye came across this web site while searching for information on another topic. For any of our readers with pets with disabilities or if you have friends with such a pet, this is a very interesting and informative source of information:
3) Concerning the age old distinction between "dog people" and "cat people," a psychologist from the University of Texas has come up with some interesting conclusions:

Read this report to see if you agree with its findings. Are you extroverted, quirky, or creative?

4) A woman in Florida lost her cat 2 years ago. Just recently, a psychic provided some clues and moral support...and, lo, and behold: The woman and her cat have been reunited. Are you a believer?

5) A cat in Boston had a date to be on jury duty in March due to what his owners are now describing as an error on their census report form. No word yet as to how many of his 9 lives he'll give up to get out of this mess:

6) According to a recent poll taken by, you might be surprised by how many pet owners will call home to let their pets hear their voice.

When you are away, do you ever call your answering machine so your dog can hear your voice?

  • Yes, all the time 34%

  • Yes, occasionally 42%

  • No, never 24%

So...76% of you dog lovers call your dogs! That is very cool! (BTW - 65% of cat owners called their cats).


The Ohio State Buckeye men's basketball team has beaten 3 consecutive Top 25 teams in the past 8 days. We should be moving back into the Top 25 this week.


Benjamin Disraeli, (1804-1881) British statesman and author, said, "As a general rule, the most successful person in life is the one who has the best information." Hopefully, Helpful Buckeye has provided you with the best information in order to be successful with your pets!

~~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.~~

Monday, January 11, 2010


Some of our dog-owning readers may have heard that question being asked by their veterinarian and/or their friends following an episode of unusual and unacceptable behavior by their family dog. That behavior is referred to as "pica," which really means that the dog is eating and swallowing substances that are not considered food. Pica frequently leads to big problems with the digestive system. Helpful Buckeye has some stories to tell you about various unusual items dogs have swallowed, some of the treatments that were necessary, and whether the dogs survived those episodes. Here's a sneak peak at one of the items:

Be sure to answer this week's poll question in the column to the left. Also, here's a reminder of Helpful Buckeye's e-mail address, for sending your questions, ideas, and pet-related stories:

Additionally, remember that you can submit a comment directly to Questions On Dogs and Cats by clicking on "Comments" at the very end of each issue and filling out the required information.


1) Upper respiratory tract infection is a leading cause of illness and euthanasia for cats in animal shelters. Therefore, the Morris Animal Foundation is funding research on modifications in shelter conditions to reduce the spread of upper respiratory tract infection and other diseases in cats. That news item was reported this week by the American Veterinary Medical Association:

The Morris Animal Foundation has been involved in pet health research for a lot of years and you can follow the accounts of their efforts at:

2) Dog gene for OCD could aid humans

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (UPI) -- Discovery of a gene linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs could lead to better understanding of the disorder in humans, scientists in Massachusetts said.

Scientists at the Broad Institute in Cambridge studied the DNA of 92 Doberman pinschers that displayed compulsive behavior and found a common link in a gene called Cadherin 2, The Boston Globe reported Monday, noting Cadherin 2 recently was linked to autism in humans.

The dog findings will be used to study the Cadherin 2 gene in more than 300 people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD, and about 400 of their relatives, said Dr. Dennis Murphy, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Identifying a specific gene that could be a candidate gene for a complex disorder like OCD is a gift to have,'' Murphy said. "This might be a quick route in to a meaningful gene that just could be involved in the human disorder, as well.''

Dogs with OCD obsessively chase their tails, lick their legs and pace and circle in behavior similar to that of people with OCD, who obsessively wash their hands, count numbers or repeatedly check objects. Murphy said.


OK, Helpful Buckeye knows you've been eagerly awaiting our discussion of the strange items that dogs will swallow. Suffice it to say, a lot of dogs will eat just about anything they can get into their mouths, either whole or in pieces. Some cats will also inevitably swallow things they shouldn't, but not nearly with the frequency seen in dogs. This is at least partly related to a cat's more discriminating taste and eating habits. So, for this week's discussion, Helpful Buckeye will only address the problem in dogs.

Rather than simply listing all the unusual items that have been swallowed by dogs, Helpful Buckeye has decided to present some actual accounts of these episodes with dogs.

Rottweiler Puppy Eats 8 Golf Balls

That's the headline for a news item about Wally, a young Rottweiler in Boston that found something appealing about golf balls. Read the story here, along with a nice abdominal X-Ray that shows 5 of the golf balls still in the pup's stomach:

Not to be outdone by Wally, Bertie, a Pointer living in England, somehow swallowed 9 golf balls. While being examined by his veterinarian, an X-Ray also showed a bullet lodged in his abdomen near the stomach. Read the very interesting news account of Bertie's experience and be sure to watch the short video at the end of the story:

On September 29, when Keiver Guacane of Manhattan brought his five-month-old Cockapoo, Gordo, to ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, his beloved pup was in dire straits. The fuzzy, light-brown pooch was in critical condition, suffering from severe anemia and dangerously low blood pressure. ASPCA veterinarian Dr. Geruza Paiva examined Gordo, and immediately suspected the cause of the pup’s distress. “She was worried he may have eaten coins because he had hemolytic anemia—anemia due to red blood cell rupture—which can be caused by zinc toxicity from eating pennies,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA. “Dr. Paiva took an x-ray and saw the coins in his stomach.” The rest of this story is at: Gordo was much more fortunate than the dogs that swallowed the golf balls. Even though he had developed an anemia, he at least didn't have to undergo abdominal surgery...and his owner was able to apply the recovered pennies to his veterinary bill!

Roxy, a Basset Hound, in Florida, apparently missed her owner while being left at home for the weekend. She got into a box of 1-inch nails and ended up at the veterinary hospital with vomiting spells. The veterinarians recovered 130 nails from Roxy's stomach! Read the short article about Roxy's experience and watch the imteresting video:

Here's another general news story with accounts from various veterinary hospitals with even more bizarre items recovered from dog's stomachs: You'll really enjoy the owner's reaction upon seeing a recovered pair of racy panties from her dog!

Then, there is this report from a veterinarian in Houston that talks about even more unusual items that were swallowed by dogs:

HOUSTON -- Pet owners may be surprised, or even disgusted, at what their dogs will eat when no one is looking. Some even require a veterinarian to get the items out, KPRC Local 2 reported Thursday. Vets say dogs will eat just about anything.

Read the rest of that report and check out the X-ray of the electric knife blade in the esophagus of a dog:

Finally, this web site presents several interesting episodes, accompanied by X-Rays, that have been handled at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Take a few minutes to read this and look at the'll find it amazing, I promise:

The various treatments for a swallowed foreign object will depend on what type of object it was, how long ago it happened, and, to some extent, the general health of the dog. Some items can be regurgitated if the dog can be induced to vomit. Other objects can actually be passed completely through the digestive system, sometimes with the aid of a lubricant such as mineral oil. Some dogs might be fortunate enough to have the foreign objects removed by an endoscopic instrument, while the more unfortunates might require exploratory surgery. Some of these dogs will die, either from the blockages created by the objects, toxins contained in the objects, or from the trauma of the surgery itself.

Are you beginning to get the idea now? Your dog is simply not a very discriminating creature about what he/she will swallow. As long as something is small enough to get into their mouth, most dogs are likely to chew on it and possibly swallow it. Dogs will swallow rocks, gravel, marbles, laundry (socks, underwear), corn cobs, fish hooks, toys (and the squeaker mechanism), jewelry, cell phones, coins, and magnets...just to name a few items.

Dog behavioral specialists have several ideas for why dogs will chew on and try to swallow items that are not food. Some have suggested the idea of being left alone for long periods of time, while other have suggested that these dogs are lacking in a particular nutrient. There is not a lot of agreement on the causes and for that reason, it is not very easy to correct this behavior. The only fairly reliable solution is to work at minimizing your dog's exposure to anything it might swallow. The only problem with that approach is that some dogs will still manage to find something and get themselves in trouble.

Next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats will deal with a toxin that affects dogs which ingest certain objects. Stay tuned....


For any of you who would be interested in a designer collar for your pet, here are two web sites that should be able to satisfy your every whim. The dog site, at: features collars designed for holidays, colors, sports teams, western decor, abstracts, and plaids.

The cat site, at: features designer collars and fancy ID tags and charms for those collars. GENERAL INTEREST

1) Many trends have started on the West Coast and migrated eastward across the United States. Add to that list this latest entry: Chihuahuas.

California's latest export: Unwanted Chihuahuas

2) Here's a great story about a young boy in British Columbia who was saved from a cougar attack by his Golden Retriever. Go to: and be sure to watch the short video at the end.

3) Getting a note of condolence from a friend when your pet has died can mean a lot to you. Consider how you would feel if that note came from....Read the touching story of Queen Elizabeth II reaching out to a 95-year old man who has just lost his dog, Teddy:

4) Firemen across America will shake their heads when hearing this story and be thankful they didn't have to make this climb: Do you think this cat was glad to be back on solid ground?

5) Cosmetic surgery does have a place in veterinary medicine, as evidenced by this story from Australia about a Shar Pei. Some may ethically question the decision to go ahead with these procedures; however, the surgeries did give Roland a chance at being adopted and living a good life. Read the report, look closely at the before and after pictures, and realize that Shar Peis, in general, have terrible problems with the skin folds all over their head and face:

6) This is a really freaky story about an 18-year old dog in Scotland, which went from being very unlucky to being very lucky. Check out the episode of the "pig's heart":

7) Yesterday, 9 January, was the anniversary of the founding of The Seeing Eye, in Nashville, TN, in 1929, the first guide/service dogs in the USA.

8) Friday, 8 January, was the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birthday back in 1935. Enjoy this video of one of the USA's greatest entertainers:


Since the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing exactly what Helpful Buckeye is doing right now...namely, watching the NFL playoffs at home, there won't be any further coverage of my NFL team at this time.

The Ohio State Buckeyes ended the season as the #5 ranked team in the country. That ranking, along with the coming-out performance of our quarterback in the Rose Bowl, should give our fans big hopes for next season.


Several of our readers have asked if there is a video of the New Year's Eve Pine Cone Drop in Flagstaff. All you have to do is ask...yes, there is a video: Desperado and Helpful Buckeye were there and it gave us a great start for the New Year! Enjoy!

Carl Sandburg, American poet and biographer, said, "I am an idealist. I don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way." Spoken like someone who feels that the glass is more than half full, huh? This is the approach that Helpful Buckeye plans to take this year! What about you?

Wow, a "Wedgie With Croutons"...not only does that sound provocative, but also a mite uncomfortable, as Sammy, from Lexington, commented!

~~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.~~

Monday, January 4, 2010


Hello...and welcome to the 2010 edition of Questions On Dogs and Cats, your free subscription to learning about taking better care of your pets and understanding their needs. Helpful Buckeye would like to thank all of you who took the time to join us in 2009 as the blog was getting through its second year of publication. As you can see, our dog and cat are staring into the future, wondering what 2010 will have to offer. The folks at The New Yorker have decided that the best way to approach the "New Year" is:
Since this is the first weekend of the New Year and most of our readers are gradually getting back into the reality of everyday life after the holidays, Helpful Buckeye has decided to offer a light-hearted potpourri of topics for your reading pleasure. Let's all work our way through this miscellaneous grouping of ideas before getting back into the more involved areas of dog and cat health concerns next week.

The beginning of any "New Year" can't be complete without a mention of resolutions, right?

1) The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers this list of 10 resolutions that would be smart for all pet owners to adopt:

Your pet gives you a lifetime of unconditional love, loyalty, and friendship. In return, it counts on you to provide it with food, water, safe shelter, regular veterinary care, exercise, companionship, and more. Take care of these 10 essentials, and you'll be assured to develop a rewarding relationship with your canine and feline companion.

  • External Identification--Outfit your pet with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there's a chance your companion may become lost—an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your pet will be returned home safely. The collar should not be too tight; it should fit so two fingers can slip easily under his collar. Have your pet microchipped by your veterinarian. Microchip ID will ensure that your pet will be returned to you if lost, even if its collar came off. When scanned by a veterinarian or animal shelter, your phone number, address and other vital information will show and you can be contacted.

  • Follow local laws for licensing your dog and/or cat and vaccinating them for rabies. Check with your local animal shelter or humane society for information regarding legal requirements, where to obtain tags, and where to have your pet vaccinated.

  • Follow this simple rule—off property, on leash--Even a dog or cat with a valid license, rabies tag, and ID tag should not be allowed to roam outside of your home or fenced yard. It is best for you, your community, and your pet to keep your pet under control at all times.

  • Give your dog proper protection--A fenced yard with a doghouse is a bonus, especially for large and active dogs; however, dogs should never be left outside alone or for extended periods of time. Dogs need and crave companionship and should spend most of their time with their family, not alone outside.

  • Take your pet to the veterinarian for regular check-ups--If you do not have a veterinarian, ask your local animal shelter or a pet-owning friend for a referral in choosing a veterinarian.

  • Spay or neuter your dog and cat--Pets who have this routine surgery tend to live longer, be healthier, and have fewer behavior problems (e.g., biting, running away). By spaying or neutering your pet, you are also doing your part to reduce the problem of pet overpopulation.

  • Give your pet a nutritionally balanced diet, including constant access to fresh water--Ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet. Dietary requirements change as pets get older, and their teeth need to be cleaned and monitored regularly to ensure they can eat properly.

  • Enroll your dog in a training class.--Positive training will allow you to control your companion's behavior safely and humanely, and the experience offers a terrific opportunity to enhance the bond you share with your dog.

  • Give your dog enough exercise to keep him physically fit (but not exhausted)-- Most dog owners find that playing with their canine companion, along with walking him twice a day, provides sufficient exercise. Walking benefits people as much as it benefits dogs, and the time spent together will improve your dog’s sense of well-being. If you have questions about the level of exercise appropriate for your dog, consult your veterinarian.

  • Be loyal to and patient with your faithful companion--Make sure the expectations you have of your pet are reasonable and remember that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. Remember, not all "behavior" problems are just that; many can be indicators of health problems. For example, a dog who is suddenly growling or snapping when you touch his ears may have an ear infection. If you are struggling with your pet's behavior, contact your veterinarian.

2) The American Kennel Club has also contributed their list of suggestions for New Year's resolutions:

As the end of the year approaches, the American Kennel Club (AKC) urges pet owners to remember the family pet while pondering potential New Year’s resolutions. "Eighty-one percent of dog owners buy gifts for their dogs," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "But what you should really be giving them is consistent exercise, training and stimulation. Try to start the year off right by resolving to do more with your dog in 2010." So if your Beagle isn’t being walked briskly, your Terrier getting trained, your Rottweiler racking up ribbons in the ring and your Great Dane’s not a canine good citizen, consider these suggestions from the dog experts at the AKC:

  • Young and old dogs can learn new tricks. Start your puppy off on the right foot with an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy training class. Adult dogs (over 1 year old) can take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Both programs teach basic manners and socialization needed to help both dog and owner to be a responsible member of society. All dogs are eligible and they earn a special certification upon completion.

  • Train your dog for competitive events. Every weekend all over the country there are dog events where you can earn ribbons, titles and trophies. Plus there’s the reward of meeting new people with a similar love for dogs and ensuring that your dog is well-behaved, even tempered, physically fit and a joy to live with.

  • Get Fit with Fido. The National Academy of Sciences reports that one out of every four dogs and cats in the western world is now overweight. Daily walks are a great way for both dogs and owners to avoid gaining extra holiday pounds. According to a recent study, dog owners get more exercise walking their pet than someone with a gym membership.

  • Dogs love helping others. Dogs are invaluable in providing service to humans – visiting the sick, helping the disabled, locating missing persons, and much more. If a dog has the correct temperament, there are many ways dog owners can put their special skills to use in service to their community. Contact the volunteer director at your local hospital to find out how you and your dog can qualify to volunteer or visit a home-bound neighbor.

  • Help kids learn to read. There is no better listener than a dog. Many libraries have programs for children to practice their reading skills and gain confidence by reading with dogs. Contact your local library to learn about available reading programs or volunteer to start one with your dog.

  • Travel with your dog. Planning vacations and getaways that include your dog will save you boarding fees and will keep Fido from getting lonely while you are having fun in the sun. More hotels are becoming dog friendly.

3) In addition to your own New Year's resolutions for your pets, your dog might have a few of his own. The AKC reflects on some resolutions your dog might be thinking about for 2010.

If Dogs Could Talk: A Dog's Top Ten New Year's Resolution List

  • 10--Owner on floor, dog in bed.

  • 9--Stop begging and actually get a seat at the dinner table.

  • 8--Give up the dream of ever catching my tail.

  • 7--Bark like a big dog but still get cuddled on lap like a little dog.

  • 6--Get back at cat for litter box incident.

  • 5--Find every bone I ever buried.

  • 4--No more haircuts! (come fall, I can go as a Komondor for Halloween).

  • 3--Become alpha dog in my house. Well, at least stop letting the cat push me around.

  • 2--Invent goggles that allow me to see the electric fence.

  • 1--Finally pass that darn AKC Canine Good Citizen test.

4) For those of you who might have received a gift certificate for a new puppy or kitten or are simply contemplating getting a new pet, the HSUS provides this description of your choices:

Which is Right For You: Pure or Mixed Breed?

Dogs and cats fall into one of two categories: purebreds or mixed breeds. The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds, because their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, generally conform to a specific "breed standard." This means that you have a good chance of knowing what general physical and behavioral characteristics a puppy or kitten of that breed is likely to have.

The size, appearance, and temperament of most mixed breed dogs can be predicted as well. After all, mixed breeds are simply combinations of different breeds. So if you can recognize the ancestry of a particular mixed breed dog or cat, you can see how a puppy or kitten is likely to look as an adult.

Some people think that when they purchase a purebred, they're purchasing a guarantee of health and temperament, too. This is simply not true. In fact, the only thing the "papers" from purebred dog and cat registry organizations certify is that the recording registry maintains information regarding the reported lineage and identity of the animal. Mixed breeds, on the other hand, offer several advantages that prospective pet owners may fail to consider. For example, when you adopt a mixed breed, you get the benefit of two or more different breeds in one animal. You also get a pet who is less prone to genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs and cats.

Whether you're thinking about adopting a dog or cat, purebred or mixed breed, it's important to make sure your favorite type of animal fits with your lifestyle. You may love border collies, for example, but these active dogs likely aren't a good match for busy apartment dwellers living in a city. So first become knowledgeable about what kind of animal you want and about what it takes to be a responsible pet caregiver.

There are several types of organizations from which you can adopt a companion animal, whether purebred or mixed breed. Not all sources are the same, however, so it's important to learn as much as you can, and then choose carefully. Your veterinarian will be glad to discuss your options with you.

5) If your choice of new pet is a kitten, the SPCA International has this advice for you:

10 Tips for a Happy "Mew" Kitten

When a new kitten has joined your family, it's good to get things started off on the right paw, and the food and care you choose can make all the difference in the health and happiness of your growing kitten. Here are 10 starter tips for you and your "mew" companion:

  • Continue feeding your kitten its "normal" diet, but slowly introduce high quality kitten food (i.e., high in protein and taurine, and low in fillers and carbs) into the mix; consult your veterinarian as to what best serves your cat. After it has adjusted, feed it the high quality food exclusively.

  • Feed your kitten at least three times a day from a shallow plate. Remember, they’re tiny things and so they need easy access to their food. Snacks, especially during the growing stage, should also be included. Small amounts of high-protein foods like cooked egg yolk, boneless fish, and cooked or raw liver will be a great treat, and will help build strong bones.

  • That said, it's alright to feed your kitten frequently while it is growing (under six months old), even several times a day. If your kitten prefers grazing or eats modestly, keep a small amount of dry kibble available in a dish for it throughout the day.

  • Dry or wet? Many owners find a happy balance between the two. Perhaps wet food in the evening and dry in the day.

  • Always have fresh water available and check it throughout the day for cleanliness. Keep in mind that water is enough, no other liquid needs to be given. In fact, cow milk can cause quite a tummy ache and should be avoided. Yes, cats like the taste of milk and will drink it if you give it to them in a bowl. But that's not saying much, seeing as they also like the taste of antifreeze. Leave cow milk to small calves -- and people.

  • When you first bring your kitten home, it’s a good idea to keep your kitten in the same room with the litter box for a few days so that it may get used to it. Kittens don’t need much in the way of training. Often, just knowing where the box is is enough of an incentive to use it; cats naturally prefer to bury their waste.

  • Keep a close eye on your kitten. They’re small, curious, and can get into trouble. It is all too easy for a small animal to get caught between furniture and appliances, fall into a toilet, or be stepped on. Until it learns self safety, you will be your kitten's best line of defense.

  • Take your kitten for a checkup and all appropriate immunizations.

  • Getting your kitten spayed or neutered makes for a healthier and happier cat, and thus a happier you. Fixed cats don’t go into heat or get pregnant and are less likely to get into fights or spray urine. Neutering is usually done around six months, but most younger kittens handle this small surgery very well, and can have it done anytime after two months, but your vet will be the best judge of this. Make the appointment in advance, based on your vet's advice.

  • Play with your kitten. A piece of string, crumpled paper, or a toy from pet store -- almost anything can be a toy. Kittens (and cats) love to play. The bond you begin now, through play and unconditional love, will be unshakable for many years to come. Love your kitten and treat it well. Soon, your kitten will grow into a beautiful, faithful, and loving cat.


Helpful Buckeye has received many e-mails asking about the easiest way to give medicines to your dogs and cats. As with many other things in life, there really isn't an "easiest" way to do this, but rather, it would be whatever technique works best for you. Your veterinarian would be the best person to talk to about giving medicines to your pets. They can show you how to work around your pet's mouth without being too afraid. If that doesn't work for you, then you should consider Greenies Pill Pockets, for dogs: and for cats:


1) On a list of the strangest pet stories of 2009, Helpful Buckeye found this account of a chihuahua in Michigan that got literally blown a mile away from its owners during a storm:

2) Not to be outdone (at least, on the flying angle), a 5-lb. Pomeranian in Iowa was recently picked up by a Great Horned Owl and miraculously survived a 3-mile flight, only to be dropped to the ground. The Pomeranian survived with only a broken tail and some scrapes: Check out these talons of a Great Horned Owl (these would explain the scrapes, huh?): 3) Perhaps if the Pomeranian in the story just mentioned had learned to jump rope like these dogs, it wouldn't have been carried away by the owl. Enjoy 5 videos of different dogs jumping rope:

4) Another nice example of agility in the canine world is this dog that started out being trained as a service dog, but then switched to riding a surf board...go to this site and click on the video: 5) The lists for most popular pet names in 2009 have just been released. It seems a little strange that Lucy, Daisy, Charlie, Bella, and Molly make the Top 10 for both dogs and cats. To read the whole lists, plus the Top 10 Most Unusual Names, go to:

6) The state of Arizona has set a record for the most animals found rabid during the 2009 year. We surpassed our previous record of 176 set in 2008 by 85. Not all of these, of course, are dogs and cats. For the rest of the story from the Arizona Republic, go to:

The Ohio State Buckeyes delivered a resounding defeat of Oregon in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. The coaching staff finally decided to let the guys play a more wide-open game and the results were very gratifying. Enjoy a few rousing rounds of "Across The Field" by the OSU band:


Helpful Buckeye was able to add a few more miles to his biking record for the year. The final total for 2009 was 5025 miles....

Among the nice diversity of gifts Helpful Buckeye received over the holidays were a very tasty assortment of coconut treats, a beautiful hand-made pen (incorporating desert ironwood), and an interesting book, Gentlemen, Start Your Ovens (Killer Recipes For Guys) which I found a recipe for...Wedgie With Croutons! That one sounds provocative....

From one of my favorite singers, song-writers and book-writers, Jimmy Buffett, comes this quote that should help us all as we make our way into the New Year: “The best navigators are not always certain where they are, but they are always aware of their uncertainty.” Billy Cruiser, in Where Is Joe Merchant?, by Jimmy Buffett

For all of our pet-owning readers, this quote by "Anonymous" should give us all a good start for 2010: "Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened."

~~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.~~