Sunday, August 29, 2010


OK, it's been more than 2 months since our last feature issue on cats and some of our cat fanciers are getting edgy waiting for their next fix on cat information.  Helpful Buckeye understands that there are now more cats as pets in the USA than owners don't need to keep reminding me of that fact!  However, just going by the amount of e-mail contacts and questions, more of our readers are interesting in dog matters.  Nonetheless, Helpful Buckeye wants to provide a forum for our cat-loving readers and, in that vein, here is this week's issue, titled The Cat's Meow....

"The Cat's Meow" is a phrase that originally meant "outstanding" and, more recently, "too cool for words."  Those of you who know someone with cats, and even those of you who have cats, will agree that "too cool for words" comes pretty close to describing the general attitude of most cats.  Cats generally do exhibit a "holier than thou" pattern of behavior and usually only interact with people when it benefits them.  This quote from Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), English mathematician and philosopher: "If a dog jumps in your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer,"  captures that sentiment very nicely.

The Humane Society of the United States has put together this comprehensive summary of how to understand cat body language, behavior, and vocalizations:

Cat Chat: Understanding Feline Language

Body language, behavior, and vocalizations are keys to understanding the feline mind. You and your cat might speak different languages, but you can still communicate with each other.  Indicators such as the look in your cat's eyes, the tone of her voice, the position of her ears, and the motion of her tail can provide important clues that reveal her feelings and intentions. You can learn to "read" these signals so you’ll get a good idea of what's on your cat's mind.

Vocalizing: Something to talk about

You'll learn a lot from your cat's wide vocabulary of chirps and meows. You'll know when it's time to get up (at least in your cat's opinion), when your cat's feeling affectionate, or when your cat's feeling threatened or is in pain.

Meow is an all-purpose word. This can be a greeting ("Hey, how ya doin'?), a command ("I want up, I want down, More food now"), an objection ("Touch me at your own risk"), an announcement ("Here's your mouse"). Some cats even walk around the house meowing to themselves.

Chirps and trills are how a mother cat tells her kittens to follow her. Kitty wants you to follow him, usually to his food bowl. If you have more than one cat, they will often converse with each other this way.

The purr is a sign of contentment. Cats purr whenever they're happy, even while they’re eating. Sometimes, however, a cat may purr when he's anxious or sick, using the purr as a way to comfort himself, like a child sucking his thumb.

Growling, hissing, and spitting indicates a cat who is annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Leave this cat alone.

The yowl or howl is a loud, drawn-out meow. Your cat is in some kind of distress—stuck in a closet, looking for you, in pain. In unneutered and unspayed cats, it's part of the mating behavior (and very annoying). Elderly cats sometimes suffer from cognitive disorder (dementia) and may howl because they're disoriented. Screaming means your cat is in terrible pain.

Chattering, chittering, twittering is the strange noise your cat makes when he's sitting in the window watching birds or squirrels. Some experts think that this is an exaggeration of the "killing bite," when a cat grabs his prey by the neck and works his teeth through the bones to snap them.

Body language

A cat gets her whole body into the act when she's communicating.  Does your cat's back arch up to meet your hand when you pet her? This means she's enjoying this contact with you. Does she shrink away under your slightest touch? Save the petting for later: she's not interested right now.  Pay attention to her eyes, ears, body and tail—they're all part of the story.


Forward: alert, interested, happy
Backward, sideways, flat ("airplane ears"): irritable, angry, frightened
Swiveling: attentive, listening to every little sound


Pupils constricted: offensively aggressive; content
Pupils dilated: nervous, submissive (somewhat dilated); defensively aggressive (fully dilated); playful


Erect, fur flat: alert, inquisitive, happy
Fur standing on end: angry, frightened
Held very low or tucked between legs: insecure, anxious
Thrashing back and forth: agitated. The faster the tail, the madder the cat
Straight up, quivering: excited, really happy. If your cat is not neutered, he or she could be getting ready to spray something!


Back arched, fur standing on end: frightened, angry
Back arched, fur flat: welcoming your touch
Lying on back, purring: very relaxed, may be asking for a tummy rub
Lying on back, growling: upset, ready to strike


When your cat rubs her chin and body against you, she's telling you she loves you, right? Well, sort of. What she's really doing is marking her territory. You'll notice that she also rubs the chair, the door, her toys, everything in sight. She's telling everyone that this is her stuff, including you. But she does love you, too.


In the cat world, this is called "making biscuits," because the cat works her paws on a soft surface as if it she's kneading bread dough. This is a holdover from kittenhood, when a nursing kitten massaged her mother's teats to make milk flow. When your cat does this, she is really happy.

The Flehman response

You've surely noticed times when your cat, while sniffing your shoe perhaps, lifts his head, opens his mouth slightly, curls back his lips, and squints his eyes. He's not making a statement about how your shoe smells, he's gathering more information.  Your cat's sense of smell is so important to him that he actually has an extra olfactory organ that very few other creatures have—the Jacobson's organ. It's located on the roof of his mouth behind his front teeth and is connected to the nasal cavity.  When your cat gets a whiff of something really fascinating, he opens his mouth and inhales so that the scent molecules flow over the Jacobson's organ. This intensifies the odor and provides more information about the object he's sniffing. What he does with that information, well, we'll never know.

In the mood

Is your cat playing, meditating, or having a bad day? Here's how you can tell:

Content: Sitting or lying down, eyes half-closed, narrow pupils, tail mostly still, ears forward, purring. A really happy cat will often knead on a soft surface.
Playful: Ears forward, tail up, whiskers forward, pupils somewhat dilated. Playing is hunting behavior; your cat may stalk his prey (a toy, a housemate, you), then crouch down with his rear end slightly raised. A little wiggle of the butt, then … pounce! Kitty grabs his prey, bites it, wrestles it the floor, and kicks it with his hind feet. His toy is now dead.
Irritated, over-stimulated: Pupils dilating, ears turning back, tail twitching or waving. The cat may growl or put her teeth on you as a warning to cease and desist. Intense play can quickly turn to overstimulation in some cats, resulting in biting and scratching.
Nervous, anxious: Ears sideways or back, pupils dilating, tail low or tucked between legs. The cat may slink through the house close to the floor, looking for somewhere to hide. He may turn his face to the wall to shut the world out.
Frightened, startled: Think Halloween cat. Ears back and flat against head, whiskers back, back arched, fur standing on end, tail erect or low. May yowl, growl, hiss, and spit.
Defensive: Crouched position, ears flattened, whiskers back, tail between legs or wrapped around body, pupils dilated. May meow loudly, growl, hiss, and spit.
Angry, aggressive: Ears back, pupils very constricted, tail up or down with fur standing on end. An aggressive cat will stare down the other cat and growl or yowl until the other cat gives way. Cats don't really want to fight; they prefer standoffs, but this can progress to fighting if one of the cats doesn't back down.

Now, don't sit there in front of your computer screen and ask Helpful Buckeye why you should be reading any further.  You don't have to be a cat owner to appreciate this information.  You might gain more insight into why your friend's cat acts the way it does or you might even change your mind and acquire a cat of your own in the future.  Then, you'll be ready.

To let you digest all this feline information and help you gain a greater appreciation for one of Mother Nature's intriguing laws, that cats have 9 lives, watch (and listen to) this short video.  See if you don't come away with a better feel that cats really are different than dogs: 

Approximately 10% of respondents had purchased pet food products that had been recalled due to Salmonella concerns and about 20% had purchased eggs.  Hopefully, that's as far as it went...and nobody or no one's pets got sick.  Only 1 person, out of 18 respondents, reported as having been diagnosed with a Salmonella intestinal infection.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


1) This will be one of the few references to dogs this, if you're still upset about all the cat info, enjoy this one.  The American Kennel Club has just this past week approved the following policy position on the debarking of dogs:  Debarking is a viable veterinary procedure that may allow a dog owner to keep a dog that barks excessively in its loving home rather than to be forced to surrender it to a shelter. Debarking should only be performed by a qualified, licensed veterinarian after other behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive barking have failed. As with other veterinary medical decisions, the decision to debark a dog is best left to individual owners and their veterinarians.

2) The HSUS is praising the state of Alabama: The Humane Society of the United States praises the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole for denying parole to Juan Daniels, who was the first person convicted of felony animal cruelty charges under the Pet Protection Act. Daniels pled guilty in 2009 to beating his mother’s dog and setting him on fire.  For the rest of the story, go to: 

3) There has been a lot of publicity of a bed bug infestation in many large cities across the USA in recent months.  Well, as it turns out, any dog or cat that stays indoors with you can also feel the "bed bug's bite."  Read the interesting report from the ASPCA: 


In honor of National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week, Christine Bellezza, a veterinarian and the co-director of the Feline Health Center at Cornell University provides the scoop on keeping cats/kitties healthy.

What are the most common cat health problems?

It depends on the age of the cat and the general status of the cat. Indoor cats versus outdoor cats, vaccinated cats versus unvaccinated cats, shelter cats versus pet cats. Each has different problems more common to them.  In general, upper respiratory diseases are some of the most common diseases you would see in cats. Other common health problems include viral disease such as panleukopenia [feline distemper] in unvaccinated cats or kittens. Internal parasites like roundworm, hookworm and tapeworms are a problem, especially for young cats. External parasites like ticks and ear mites are also very common.

In older cats, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are common, and there is a fair amount of cancer in cats as they get older. Also, obesity is a huge problem in cats. We see diabetes, arthritis, and other problems in obese cats.

What vaccines should cats have?

Pet vaccination can be a confusing subject for even the most conscientious pet owner. Should you vaccinate your cat? How can shots protect your kitty's health? To get the expert scoop on the subject, veterinarians Kristen Nelson, author of "Coated with Fur: A Vet's Life," and Christine Bellezza offer this help:
When and why should pet owners vaccinate their cats?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends that kittens start getting their shots at around 6 to 8 weeks of age, the time when the immunity they received from their mothers starts to wane. "It's important to vaccinate cats because the viruses that we're vaccinating against are very prevalent in the environment," Bellezza says. "Cats that aren't vaccinated are very much at risk."  Despite that high risk, not all cat owners follow the guidelines.  "Unfortunately, there is a lot of incorrect information on the Internet related to vaccinations," says Dr. Nelson. "As a result, I have observed an increase in the number of people who refuse vaccinations for their pets. Now I am beginning to see an increase in the number of animals who contract these diseases."

What vaccines do cats need?

Experts recommend that all cats get the important "core" vaccines. They guard against feline viral rhinotracheitis (a respiratory infection), calcivirus (another respiratory infection) and panleukopenia virus (feline distemper). According to Bellezza, one vaccine, known as FVRCP, protects against all three diseases.  The other very important core vaccine guards against rabies. Because rabies is lethal both to cats and to humans, rabies shots are required by law in most states.  Cat owners may also consider certain "non-core" vaccines depending on their circumstances. The vaccine for feline leukemia is recommended for cats that go outdoors, Bellezza says. And although a vaccine exists for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), many experts do not recommend it. The vaccine is not 100-percent effective, Bellezza explains, and any cat that receives it will test positive for the disease. That makes it impossible to know if a vaccinated cat has become sick and should be treated for the illness.  To determine which, if any, non-core vaccines your cat might need, talk to your veterinarian. "People have to talk to their vet and weigh the risks and benefits to see if it's appropriate for their situation," Bellezza says.  After their initial kitten series, cats need boosters to maintain their immunity against disease. Some vaccines prevent disease for three years, while others are licensed for yearly use. To decide how frequently your cat needs booster shots, talk to your vet about the recommended vaccine schedule for the products your cat receives.

Are there side effects I should worry about?

Most vaccine side effects are mild, such as sluggishness and lack of appetite for a day or two after vaccination. But in rare cases, serious side effects can occur. Some cats suffer from a severe allergic reaction. Usually, allergic reactions occur immediately, when you're still in the vet's office, Bellezza says. Still, it's a good idea to keep a close eye on your cat for 48 hours after it gets its shots. Watch for symptoms like vomiting, unusual behavior or labored breathing. "Seek medical help immediately if any of these signs are observed," Nelson adds.  Another possible risk of vaccines is the development of a tumor, called a fibrosarcoma, at the vaccine site. Such tumors have been linked to adjuvants, chemicals added to vaccines to boost the cat's immune response. "To address that risk, companies are now making vaccines that don't contain adjuvants," Bellezza says. If you're concerned about tumor risk, ask your vet if they use adjuvant-free formulations.  The important thing to remember is that severe side effects are rare. For unvaccinated cats, though, serious illness from these viruses are all too common.

Are there cats that shouldn't get these shots?

Pregnant cats and sick cats typically shouldn't be vaccinated. Many vets also discourage giving vaccines to cats with uncontrolled chronic illness or those who have weak immune systems. But unless your cat is ill, Bellezza says, even elderly cats should get their shots. Cats of any age are at risk of serious illness from contracting these viruses.  No cat should die from these diseases, Nelson adds. "It is heartbreaking to watch a cat or any animal die of a preventable disease," she says.

What should pet owners do to keep aging cats healthy?

Elderly cats should see a vet twice a year for a physical exam and bloodwork. Cats can hide signs of illness really well. We want to detect diseases early in cats, diseases that people may not be able to detect at home.

How can someone tell if their cat is too fat?

Healthy weight for an individual cat might be anywhere from 7 to 14 pounds, depending on the cat's build. Owners should be able to run their hands down the cat's side and feel the ribs easily without having to push through a layer of fat. When they look down at the cat, the cat should have a waist, a slight indentation. The cat shouldn't look like a basketball.

When it comes to wet food and dry food, is one better than the other?

There are certain instances where wet food is preferred, such as for cats with lower urinary tract disease or diabetes. Whether all cats do better on canned food, we're not sure. Portion control, however, is really important for all cats.


1) The HSUS has these tips for keeping your feline contented with being indoors:

Keep Your Cat Happy Indoors

Although many cats enjoy being outside where they can hunt prey and explore their surroundings, it's a myth that going outside is a requirement for feline happiness. Playing regularly with a cat easily satisfies her stalking instinct, keeps her stimulated, and provides the exercise she needs to stay healthy and happy.  Here are some tips for safely confining your cat and making the great indoors an interesting, feline-friendly environment that meets all of your cat's needs.

Start young

Kittens who are kept indoors usually show no desire to venture outside when they grow up.

Fence me in

Provide a screened porch or other safe way for your cat to experience the outdoors. Consider building or purchasing a "cat fence" or similar enclosure. Such an enclosure can allow your cat to experience all the pleasures of the great outdoors without the risks. However, a fence may not prevent animals from entering your yard, so you should always be present when you allow your cat outside. Be sure to cat-proof the yard by checking that the fence has no escape routes and by making toxic plants, garden chemicals, and other dangerous objects inaccessible.

Walk this way

If you live in a peaceful neighborhood in which you can walk without encountering loose dogs, consider buying a harness and training your cat to walk on a leash. This training takes time and patience, for both you and the cat, and it's easiest when your cat is young. Some cats can even be trained to sit on your lap while you are on the deck or patio, or harnessed and tied to a stationary object to enjoy the outdoors while you are gardening nearby (but be sure to never leave your cat alone while she is tied to a stationary object).

Hang out

Install a perch indoors near a sunny window; padded perches can be purchased at many pet supply stores, through catalog retailers, or at online stores. Another option is an enclosure that sits in a window frame (much like an air conditioning unit) and provides a secure space in which your kitty can "hang out." Larger options are available that attach to the side of a house or ground-floor apartment patio. It's best to allow your cat access to these when someone is home to supervise.

Tree's company

Buy a ready-made cat tree (often called a "kitty condo"), or make your own. A cat tree may stretch from floor-to-ceiling or be shorter. It provides great climbing opportunities and, in multi-cat households, creates more play and rest areas by taking advantage of vertical space. If you can, locate the cat tree next to a window so your cat can watch the action outdoors.

Play time

Play with your cat each day. Try different types of toys that allow your cat to stalk, chase, pounce, and kick. When you've tired out your cat, store toys that could harm him (such as toys with strings attached) out of reach. Leave "toys" such as paper bags, with the handles removed and cardboard boxes out when you cannot supervise. Be sure to switch the toys from time to time so that they seem "new" and more interesting to your cat.

Bring the outdoors in

Plant cat grass (available from pet supply stores) in indoor pots so your feline can graze.

Clean house

Clean the litter box regularly.

ID, please

Even cats who are protected from roaming free should still be outfitted with a collar and visible identification. The occasional open window (make sure your windows have secure screens) or door offers a tempting opportunity for your cat to explore the outdoors. And your cat may become frightened and make her way outside if strangers come to work on your house or if there is a fire or similar disaster. The collar and visible ID could help someone get your pet back to you.  For extra insurance, consider having your cat microchipped and keep your contact information with the registry up to date. If you do lose your cat, contact your local animal shelter immediately to file a report. Shelter workers can give you tips on getting your pet back home safely.

2) Thinking about getting a new cat? Wondering what type might be the best match? Have a look at our handy chart of popular cat breeds and then read on to learn more about your personality type and the kind of cat that will make you the happiest.

 Do you recognize yourself in any of these personality types?

We know that you are much more complicated than a single chart and a few personality styles can express. But if you find any of these traits and behaviors familiar, you may also find guidance in choosing your next pet.

High-Energy Achiever

From the moment you open your eyes in the morning, it's go, go, go. You run from the gym, to work, to dinner with friends, doing errands after that and, when you get home, you have time to do a quick spin around the house to tidy up before it's time for bed again. With your active lifestyle, your best bet for a feline friend is the independent Abyssinian. Just make sure you leave out plenty of toys, places to climb, and scratching options for this high-energy cat! The Siamese might work well for your lifestyle as well. It's affectionate and active, so although it'll stay busy while you're out and about, you're in for a good time when you get home.

Cuddly, Devoted Homebody

You spend a lot of time at home, and you want a cuddly cat to keep you company. The Birman is a great choice for you, what with its gentle, devoted personality and relatively low activity level. Plus, these cats require a large amount of grooming, giving you just the excuse you need to spend some extra time with your kitty. Take a look at the Persian as well. These sweet-tempered cats, which also need daily grooming, might make a great fit for you.

Fun-Loving Family Type

You've already got quite the brood -- children, dogs, maybe some other pets -- but you're looking for a cat to make your clan complete. The Maine Coon would make a great addition. This breed is good with kids and other animals, is very active and playful, and only needs to be groomed a couple of times a week. (And let's face it: you don't have time for much more than that!) The Exotic is another good option, especially if you're seeking a calm influence, and your kids are old enough to help with the daily grooming. The American shorthair, too, is known for its happy personality, and for being quite friendly with kids and other pets.

Cool Customer

OK, you're not snooty, but you'd call yourself aloof. You prefer a firm handshake to a warm hug from a casual acquaintance, and you'd rather appreciate your cat's beauty from afar than have it adorn your clothes with its fur. To suit your personality, you might want to bring an Oriental cat into your home. This breed is haughty, gorgeous, and playful enough to entertain you from across the room. Ragdolls are another breed to consider. They require quite a bit of grooming, but have a sweet, laid-back nature that might appeal to you.

Of course, reading this article, adapted from, is just the first step in choosing the cat that's right for you. Talk to friends, ask your vet (if you already have one), call reputable breeders, and visit local shelters.

3)  Is it possible that dark-colored cats cause more allergies than their paler counterparts, or is that just black-cat superstition talking? The New York Times recently took a hard look at this dark question.

This is what we do know. According to the Times, the proteins that cause sneezing, drippy nose and runny eyes are found in cat dander, urine and saliva. And cat allergies, they report, plague twice as many Americans as dog allergies do.  But are all cats created equal where allergies are concerned? In 2000, a small study found that cats with dark-colored fur were more likely to set off an allergic reaction. But the conclusion isn't as clear as black and white. A later study found no effect of fur color on allergies but that hasn't ended the questioning. Scientists at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York are now planning a larger study in hopes of settling the matter once and for all.

What scientists have determined is that a cat's gender does make a difference for allergy sufferers. Male cats produce more allergens than females, the Times explains.

Whether your feline friend is black, white or something beautifully calico in between, one thing is clear: Allergies are no fun.

If you're considering a hairless cat to get around the concern altogether, think again. According to the Cat Fanciers' Association, the hairless sphynx cat still causes allergies in many people. And to that, we have only one thing to say. Gesundheit!


From Moderncat come these stylish options for giving your cat a pretty place to perch in your home, and we're positive you'll find something in the gallery below that suits your fancy:  and be sure to click through the many items shown.


1) As I mentioned earlier, there aren't very many dog references this week.  Here's another, albeit a comparison to cats: 

After watching this short video, Helpful Buckeye is sure our dog lovers will not have changed their feelings!

2) Despite his fairly run-of-the-mill orange tabby appearance, Christopher the cat is no ordinary feline. Not because he has his own Facebook profile, but because some fairly credible veterinary professionals believe that he possesses an almost superhero level of feline intuition. From comforting the lame to taming the feral to even volunteering to donate blood for a emergency transfusion, workers at the Redwood City, California's Nine Lives Foundation say that Christopher has shown all the signs of being a miracle worker.  Read about Christopher's talents at:

3) For those cat owners who have not yet perfected the fine art of giving your cat medicine by mouth, here are 2 short videos that might help you get a little more proficient at the task: which uses the pilling gun technique and:  which uses the simpler finger method, from the Cornell Feline Health Center.

As a veterinarian will always say at this point...Good Luck!

Only 1 more week of meaningless pre-season games, then we can get on with the NFL season.  Are you getting ready for some football???  Also, college football season begins this Thursday with the Ohio State Buckeyes taking the field against Marshall and the Pitt Panthers visiting Utah.


Helpful Buckeye completed the 2nd leg of the Quadathlon of Northern Arizona this past week by biking to the Arizona Snowbowl, which is at 9500 ft. elevation.  This bike ride, which is 39 miles round trip, includes a 7-mile uphill climb that gives an elevation rise of 2500 ft.  The long uphill grade gave me the chance to use almost all of my 21 gears...I did save a few in reserve just so that psychologically I knew had that option available.  All in all, it was a pretty tough climb, but I was in good shape and ready for it.  Desperado, my trusty side-kick, best bud, and favorite groupie, met me at the Snowbowl for a light lunch and a little cheer-leading.  Riding back down the 7-mile hill was a surreal experience.  I did the 7 miles in 10 minutes, which is 42 MPH.  I felt like I was flying!  That evening, Desperado treated me to an appetizer at the Piano Room, dinner at Criollo Latin Kitchen, dessert at Beaver Street Brewery & Whistle Stop Cafe, and a "nightcap" back home....

A couple of quotes from Mark Twain about bicycles fit in nicely at this point: "Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live."  From- Taming the Bicycle

and: "It was on the 10th day of May--1884--that I confessed to age by mounting spectacles for the first time, and in the same hour I renewed my youth, to outward appearance, by mounting a bicycle for the first time.  The spectacles stayed on."  From- Mark Twain's Speeches

The 3rd leg of the Quadathlon will be a hike, one that I've done several times before...but it's still one of the 2 best hikes in northern Arizona.  Stay tuned....

Let's close this issue on cat lore with an old English proverb: "All cats are gray in the dark"

~~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.~~

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Considering some of the pet food product recalls due to possible Salmonella contamination in the last few weeks, Helpful Buckeye told our readers last week that there would be a detailed update on this topic very soon.  Well, soon is right now!  More on Salmonella later in this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats

Thanks again for all the e-mails and comments on the recent 2-part article on snake bites.  Who would have thought it would have prompted that much response?  It just goes to show never know!

About half of our respondents feel they are now able to handle a snake bite situation involving their pet...and that's great.  Only 10% of you work in a business that allows employees to bring their dogs to work.  Remember to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


The only item of relevant news this week is another notice of a pet food product recall due to possible Salmonella contamination.  As reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Merrick Pet Care, Inc. has even further extended it previous recall to include include "ALL LOTS of its 10-ounce bags of "Beef Filet Squares" for Dogs and "Texas Hold’em" pet treats."

Products affected:

Beef Filet Squares for Dogs, Item #60016, all lots

Texas Hold’ems pet treats, Item #60016, all lots

Merrick Pet Care, Inc. has recalled a total of 169 cases of its 10 oz. Beef Filet Squares for Dogs pet treats because of the risk that the product is contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported to date. Consumers can return the unused portions of this product for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-664-7387 M-F 8:00 - 5:00 (Central).

This is not necessarily an indictment of the folks at Merrick, but rather an informative update for pet owners of current concerns surrounding the ramifications pertaining to Salmonella contamination affecting both humans and their pets.


There's been a lot of media coverage lately on pet food recalls due to possible or confirmed Salmonella contamination. In addition, a manuscript recently published in the journal Pediatrics reported on 79 cases of human Salmonella infection from 2006-2008 associated with contaminated dry dog and cat food – this is the first report of human illnesses linked to dry pet foods.
Salmonella are bacteria. The Salmonella consist of a range of very closely related bacteria, many of which cause disease in humans and animals.   Salmonella enterica is a group of bacteria including Salmonella typhi (which is the cause of typhoid fever) and Salmonella enteriditis (this current form of intestinal infection).  In the last 20 years or so, S. Enteritidis has become the single most common cause of food poisoning in the United States. S. Enteritidis is particularly adept at infecting chicken flocks without causing visible disease, and spreading from hen to hen rapidly. Many people have blamed the recent increase in the rise of S. Enteritidis infections on the use of mass production chicken farms. When tens or hundreds of thousands of chickens live together, die together, and are processed together a Salmonella infection can rapidly spread throughout the whole food chain. A compounding factor is that chickens from a single farm may be distributed over many cities, and even states, and hence Salmonella infections can be rapidly dispersed through millions of people.

Helpful Buckeye is not trying to make bacteriologists out of all our readers but this summary gives you a little background on the causative agent behind this current new story.  Below are answers to the questions the AVMA has received about this issue.

Q:Why does it seem there are more foods being recalled recently due to Salmonella? Does this mean that pet foods aren't safe?

A:There are several potential reasons for this. One potential reason is that the large-scale, melamine-related pet food recall of 2007 increased public and media awareness of and sensitivity to pet food safety concerns. Another potential reason is the increased vigilance of the manufacturers and the federal government regarding Salmonella and other public health concerns, leading to increased surveillance and reporting. A third, and very important, potential reason is the recent launch of an early detection reporting system – the Reportable Food Registry – that requires and allows immediate reporting of safety problems with food and animal feed (including pet food), instead of relying on inspection to identify problems. According to a July 2010 FDA press release, the registry has been very successful in identifying at-risk foods.

And no, this is not an indication that pet foods are unsafe. Considering that the majority of these recalls have been precautionary and no illnesses have been reported, these recalls may indicate that they are preventing illness by catching the problems earlier.

Q:Are certain types of pet foods more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella?

A:No pet food is immune from the possibility of Salmonella contamination. There is evidence, however, that feeding raw foods, such as raw meat and eggs, increases the risk of Salmonella infection and shedding of the bacteria (leading to possible infection of other animals and of people). Regardless of the type of food you choose to feed your pet, proper precautions should be taken to protect your family's health.

Q:How can pet food become contaminated with Salmonella?

A:Because pet foods and treats contain animal-origin products, they are at risk of contamination with Salmonella, E. coli, and other organisms. In general, these products are cooked to temperatures that will kill these organisms – however, if a contaminated additive (a flavoring, for example) is added to the food after cooking or if the food comes in contact with contaminated materials, the food will be contaminated. There are many safeguards in place to minimize the risk of contamination during the manufacturing process, but using caution when handling these foods is always recommended.

Q:How can pet food infect me or my pet with Salmonella?

A:Salmonella infection, like many other food-borne infections, usually occurs after the bacteria are ingested – this can occur by eating or drinking contaminated products, or by coming into contact with contaminated products and then touching your mouth, face or food. The organism enters your gastrointestinal tract and causes disease.

Q:Are certain people at higher risk of infection with Salmonella from contaminated food?

A:Yes. People whose immune systems are compromised (by chronic disease, drug therapy, cancer, etc.) are at high risk of infection if exposed to Salmonella, as are old and very young people. In the recent study in Pediatrics, almost one-half of the infections occurred in children aged 2 years or younger.

Q:How would I know if my pet had a Salmonella infection?

A:Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have a decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. However, not all pets carrying Salmonella will appear sick. Apparently well but infected animals can be carriers and may infect other animals or humans, particularly through exposure to their feces. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these signs, please contact your veterinarian.

Q:How would I know if I had a Salmonella infection?

A:People infected with Salmonella often develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your physician.

Q:What can I do to prevent getting Salmonella from pet food products or treats?

A:Luckily, common sense measures are effective in minimizing your risk of infection. These measures are particularly important if you feed your pet raw foods of animal origin (eg, raw beef, chicken or eggs), including raw treats such as raw hides and pig ear chews.

• Safe handling of all pet foods and treats
  1. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any pet food or treats 
  2. Don't allow your children to handle the food; or, if you choose to let them handle the pet food or treats, make sure they thoroughly wash their hands (under your direct supervision) afterwards.
• Do not allow immunocompromised, very young, or elderly people to handle pet food and treats; or, if they handle the products, they should thoroughly wash their hands immediately after handling the products.

• Keep all pet foods and treats away from your family's food.

• Do not prepare pet foods in the same area or with the same equipment/utensils you use to prepare human foods.

• Do not allow pets on countertops or other areas where human food is prepared.

• In the Pediatrics manuscript, feeding pets in the kitchen was identified as an important source of infection. If it is possible for you to feed your pet in an area other than your kitchen, you may wish to consider doing so. If it is not an option, or if you choose to feed your pet in the kitchen, feed your pet as far away from human food preparation areas as possible and follow the other guidelines above.

The AVMA in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, is also releasing this instructive information for those of you who have reptiles (snakes, turtles, lizards) and/or amphibians (frogs, salamanders) as pets.  This doesn't mean amphibian and reptile owners should get rid of their pets. What it does mean is that amphibian and reptile owners should take precautions to protect themselves and their families. Simple, common sense measures can significantly reduce your risk of amphibian- or reptile-associated Salmonella infection.  If you have any contact with a reptile or amphibian, read the whole report at: 
Amidst all the news stories about the hundreds of millions of eggs being recalled due the possibility of Salmonella contamination, our readers will now have a better understanding of a Salmonella infection...for them and/or their pets.  And, now that you understand the concerns about Salmonella, your next decision may be whether or not to combine these 2 images:


Dog lovers, beware: Taking man's best friend for a ride could be risky.

Nearly 60% of dog owners have driven while distracted by their pets as passengers, according to a new survey by auto club AAA. Only 17% — about one in six — ever use animal restraints, which can prevent pets from being a distraction and protect them and other occupants in a crash, the survey finds.

In crashes, unrestrained dogs pose an unintended threat to the driver and other passengers, says Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, manager of traffic safety programs at AAA.

So says Larry Copeland, writer for USA Today, in a recent article:  

The article finishes with the question, "Where does Fido sit in your car?"  How you answer the question may determine whether or not you'll be involved in an accident due to your dog not being properly restrained.  Some pet restraint products are available at: 
Statistics about dog-related distractions aren't available, but news reports highlight the risks:
- In June 2009, two people were killed in a head-on collision when a dog jumped in his owner's lap, causing him to veer his motor home into oncoming traffic.

- In April 2010, a Minnesota man lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a utility pole when his dog started vomiting on him.

- Horror author Stephen King was badly injured in 1999 while walking along the shoulder of a road in Maine, when he was hit by a minivan whose driver was trying to control an unrestrained Rottweiler.


Sometimes Helpful Buckeye sees no new or interesting pet products on the market.  Other times, there are too many to list here.  This week is one of those "too many", here is a sampling of what's available.

1) This is actually a product for humans (kids) but you'll see the connection:  This one is the dog and there is a cat also.

2) Anything with a name like "Fun Ball" has to be worth the price of admission, right?  Check it out at: 

3) Some dogs seem to leave hair everywhere.  Take a look at Yowza, from Bissell, as demonstrated in this video: 

4) The ASPCA Store announces some good "Summer Fun!" sales on their web site: 


1) Have any of you ever wanted to offer your dog something cool and refreshing during these "dog days" of late summer?  Here's an idea that might appeal to you (and your pooch):  Click on the video....
It only requires a banana, some orange juice, and some yogurt...sounds good to me!

2) The town council of a small city in England has decided to do something "different" to make dog owners clean up after their pets.  A town employee goes around the area spray-painting a bright green color on piles of dog droppings in order to call attention to their problem. City officials seem to think it is working:

3) Maru The Cat seems to be all the rage in Japan...for his joy of jumping in and out of boxes.  Watch this video and see if you are enthralled: 

4) The ASPCA is putting together their calendar for 2011 and is offering pet lovers the chance to vote on 4 finalists to choose which will appear on the cover of the calendar.  You need to vote by September 3rd, so go to:  and cast your vote.  Helpful Buckeye is supporting Daisy....

Nothing new this week.  The Steelers won another meaningless pre-season game by beating the team with the much less obnoxious Manning.  The Cardinals play Monday night.


Helpful Buckeye has come up with the unofficial Quadathlon of northern Arizona, which includes 4 different tests of endurance that are a favorite challenge for local bicyclists and hikers...let's call them the "Crown Jewels" of workouts in the Flagstaff area.  My goal is to get all 4 of these accomplished within 2 months.  The first leg of this event was taken care of 10 days ago by the 56-mile, round trip to Mormon Lake and back.  Weather permitting, the 2nd leg will happen this week.  More on this next week....

H.L. Mencken, noted newspaper writer from Baltimore, wrote that: "A puritan is a person who is haunted by the fear that someone somewhere is having fun."  No doubt, that puritan will be haunted this week when Helpful Buckeye hits the trail....

~~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.~~

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Helpful Buckeye received more questions and comments following last week's discussion of Snake Bites than about any other subject we've dealt with here at Questions On Dogs and Cats.  Yet, many of our respondents haven't ever seen a poisonous snake themselves or had their pet ever exposed to one.  I guess the topic of snakes and their bites is something that will always draw attention...people don't ever want to experience it but they will always be interested in reading about it.  Most of our readers said they really liked this picture as a lead illustration:

Since most of you had such a good time reading last week's issue, you should really enjoy SNAKE BITES, PT. 2.

Only half of our readers report that they live in an area that has poisonous snakes.  Furthermore, only 10% of our readers have ever had a pet be bitten by a poisonous snake.  On the question of feeding your dog any of the 10 acceptable "human" foods, about 95% of respondents said "Yes," they have.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


1) It appears that many cities nationwide are becoming more interested in making their animal control laws more representative of current problems related to pets.  The latest city to begin this debate is El Paso, TX.  Read about some of their proposals at:

Since this news item reference comes from the American Kennel Club web site, you can understand why the AKC frowns on this type of legislation.  However, Helpful Buckeye encourages all of our readers to look at this problem with as much objectivity as possible before making up your minds.

2) A recent recall by Merrick Pet Care, Inc. has been extended to "also include 83 cases of 'Texas Hold'ems' (ITEM # 60016 LOT # 10127 Best by May 6, 2012) due to potential Salmonella contamination.

The latest addition to the recall are sold in 10-oz plastic bags marked with 'Lot # 10127 Best By May 6, 2012' on the top of the bag and on a sticker applied to the bottom."

This reference comes from the American Animal Hospital Association:

Helpful Buckeye will address the topic of Salmonella contamination and pet food in an upcoming issue.


Now that our readers have a better idea of how to identify poisonous snakes from their non-poisonous relatives, it's time to find out what to do about the actual snake bites.  Before getting into our discussion, take a few seconds to watch this video of a rattlesnake striking at a person's booted foot (you can even see the venom running down the boot!):

Remember that this video was in slow motion!  A snake bite is over almost before it's even begun.

Since most snake bites in the USA are from Crotalids (copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes) and relatively few come from the Elapids (coral snake), most of this information will be geared toward the bites of a Crotalid.  Important differences related to coral snakes will be mentioned at the appropriate time.

What To Watch For

A common scenario is a pet that is in the woods, near a thick grassed area or by a wood pile that suddenly cries out after which you notice a swelling on the legs or muzzle.

Other signs include:

• Rapid swelling at the site of the bite
• Intense pain
• Oozing blood
• Fang marks (can be difficult to identify in some animals, especially those with long or matted hair)
• Drooling
• Rapid breathing
• Dilated pupils
• Pale gums
• Weakness
• Collapse

Tissue swelling is often worse 24 to 48 hours after the bite. Wound may drain and bleed for several days. Most snake bites require veterinary care.

Signs from a coral snake bite:

• Drooling
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Weakness
• Disorientation
• Paralysis
• Breathing difficulty
• Vomiting

There is typically little swelling in the area of the bite.  This is partly due to the short teeth involved in the bite as well as to the nature of the venom not being so destructive around the site of the bite.


Diagnosis is based on physical exam findings supportive of a recent venomous snake bite as well as the potential exposure to venomous snakes.  Blood work may be done to evaluate coagulation times on a blood sample taken from an affected animal. Prolonged clotting times can indicate exposure to pit viper venom.  For a coral snake bite, it really helps if the bite was witnessed and the snake can be identified.  For a "suspected" (but not witnessed) coral snake bite, a diagnosis would have to be based on the findings of a physical exam and the knowledge that the pet was in a coral snake area.


With rapid treatment, most pets with Crotalidae snakebites recover. Treatment varies depending on which species of snake was responsible for the bite, the signs of toxicity displayed by the pet, and where on the pet's body the bite occurred.

• Antivenin (polyvalent Crotalidae) is available and recommended for rattlesnake bites. Antivenin is a product created from antibodies produced by an animal purposely exposed to snake venom. It helps to counteract the venom on the pet's system. It is a human product and availability may be limited in certain geographic areas. It can also be very expensive ($300 to $400 per vial with each pet needed 1 to 3 vials) and may cause allergic reactions in some pets. For this reasons, pets are hospitalized and closely monitored.
• For copperhead bites, antivenin is generally not recommended and rarely needed.
• Diphenhydramine (antihistamine) is typically given to reduce some signs of allergic reaction associated with the snakebite.
• If the bite occurs in the area of the throat, airway support may be needed, including a temporary tracheotomy or ventilator.
• Hospitalization with continuous intravenous fluids may be recommended in severe cases.
• Treatment for pain and infection is also important.

Animals bitten by a coral snake should receive intensive treatment as soon as possible because irreversible effects of venom begin immediately after envenomization. Recovery is expected if rapidly treated by a veterinarian.

• There is an antivenin available for Elapid envenomization but access may be limited in certain areas.
• Hospitalization with continuous intravenous fluids is generally recommended.
• Atropine may be used to counteract some of the effects of the venom on the nervous system.
• If the venom affects the respiratory system, respiratory support with a ventilator may be necessary.

Home Care

• After a venomous snakebite, DO NOT use a tourniquet. This will affect the circulation to the area significantly and may result in serious tissue damage.
DO NOT try to suck the venom out of the bite. Human saliva contains many bacteria and may result in severe infection.
• The most helpful and important thing to do is to limit your pet's activity severely after the snakebite. The quieter and calmer he/she is, the less effect the venom will have while you are on the way to your veterinary hospital.
• Rapid treatment by a veterinarian is also strongly recommended.
• After treatment for a Crotalid snakebite, you may notice oozing from the bite site for several days. The swelling in the area of the bite may take up to a week to subside.

Preventative Care

The best way to prevent Crotalid and Elapid snakebites is to restrict access to those infested areas. Snakes prefer to live in quiet and dark areas, and woodpiles are popular nesting sites.  If a venomous snake bites your pet, it is unlikely that the pet will learn from the experience and it probably won't voluntarily avoid snakes in the future. Future venomous snakebites may result in much more severe toxic signs and might even result in death.

If you've never seen what a snake bite can do to a dog, look at these photos, which document approximately 14-19 days after the bite:
Here's another before and after comparison of a dog that got bitten by a rattler on the face: 

A woman in the Phoenix area feels that her dog saved her from being bitten by a rattler, while the dog itself got bitten: 

As you read in the last reference, there is a rattlesnake vaccine available for dogs.  Here is a list of frequently asked questions about the vaccine provided by one of the companies that makes it: 

If you live in an area that is known to have rattlesnakes, you should discuss with your veterinarian the advisability of having your dog vaccinated.

Portions of this discussion were adapted from


After reading the above information on the treatment of snake bites, it's easy to see how that could add up to a hefty expense for any pet owner.  Situations like snake bite treatment usually bring to mind the question, "Should I consider getting pet insurance for my dog and/or cat?"

Pet insurance is gradually increasing in popularity in the USA and, for many situations, it has allowed pet owners to go ahead with a treatment plan that would have otherwise been prohibitively expensive. 

The humanization of pets and the increased costs of veterinary care have sparked a burgeoning industry: pet health care.  Typically, pet owners pay a monthly premium. As their pet needs veterinary services, they pay the bills upfront and then submit them for reimbursement. Some plans cover what in human terms are considered "well visits," including vaccinations and checkups. But many cover only costs associated with a pet's illness.

The economic downturn has resulted in cost-conscious consumers forced to tighten their money belts to make ends meet.  But while they've curbed their spending when it comes to purchases and services for themselves, pampering and caring for their beloved pets is still a top priority. Hence, the increasing popularity of pet health insurance and veterinary discount plans - proof that where consumers' pets are concerned, money is no object (most of the time).

Check out these recent articles on pet insurance:  and 

Helpful Buckeye has addressed the topic of pet health insurance in several past issues, but this reference covers the basic considerations for a prospective buyer: 


Most of the products described in this section have some practical use or benefit for a pet owner and/or their pets.  Every once in a while though, a product leaves you scratching your head and asking, "Why?"  This, perhaps, is one of those times.  Check out these $500 outfits for cats and decide for yourself:  


1) Sunset Magazine has published a list of "Dog-Friendly Trips" in the western states: 

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have been to several of these locations and they are great spots to visit whether or not you have a canine friend along with you.  We look forward to the Cannon Beach, Oregon location...probably next year!

2) Many of our readers have written about their dogs loving to roll in anything that smells terrible. provides this possible explanation for a seemingly despicable habit:

You work like a dog to get your own canine clean and smelling pretty, and how does he repay you? By running to the first pile of poop he can find and rolling in it.  Or, you're both walking along a pretty nature trail, enjoying the sweet breeze, when your dog spots a dead animal. He immediately dives his body into the unpleasant mass of decaying odors.

Why on earth do dogs enjoy this? The answer is simple: it's an instinct. If your dog could talk, he probably wouldn't be able to tell you exactly why he does it, either. No one is sure what the attraction is, but there are three working hypotheses.

One is that dogs are attempting to mask their own scent. This would be a holdover from their origins as wolves. Masking their scent may help wolves sneak up on prey without alerting them by way of smell.

A second theory is that rolling in feces or a dead animal's remains is a way for a dog to communicate that he's found something interesting.  The dog (or wolf) then transports that smell back to his family (his pack) in order to advertise his discovery.

A third theory is set forth in the book The Truth About Dogs, by Stephen Budiansky. It is possible, Budiansky writes, that we've gotten it backwards. The dog may not be trying to absorb the scent; instead he may be trying to impart his own scent onto the object of his interest, for the same reason that a dog may urinate on a tree. The purpose may be no more than to leave a calling card – to overmark a another scent.

3) Many companies in the USA are starting to allow their employees to bring their pets to work.  Find out more about this trend, by listening to this short podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association: 
4) Many of our readers live in smaller apartments or condos that just don't provide enough room for some of the larger breeds of dogs to live comfortably.  Here are some interesting suggestions for "smaller" dog options: 
Of course, not all small breeds were may have had a great experience with other small breeds.  If so, send an e-mail to Helpful Buckeye and let us know: 
Helpful Buckeye went to another AZ Cardinals' practice session this past week.  The team, in general, is looking pretty good...although, HB still feels that Matt Leinart is not going to be the QB the Cardinals thought he would be.  Both the Cardinals and Steelers won their first pre-season games, which means...absolutely nothing!

Helpful Buckeye had a really nice bike ride this past week.  I rode out to Mormon Lake and back home again...a total of 56 miles.  It was an exhilarating experience, biking through a lot of beautiful scenery.  Desperado greeted me with flourish as I rode back into our driveway...confirming what we already knew...Life is good!  Desperado took me to the Piano Room for some good music and a light dinner, followed by one of my favorite oatmeal cookie at Barnes & Noble. All I could say was, "We celebratin' or what?"

A good friend sent some interesting and thought-provoking quotes this week.  I'll share this one: "The best vitamin for making good friends..... B1."  Think about'll figure it out.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye went to a presentation Saturday evening by a local interpretive specialist for the US Forest Service and National Park Service that provided an overview of the recent devastating Schultz Fire here in Flagstaff.  Steve Hirst described the conditions that led to this "perfect storm" of a wildfire and showed a lot of new photos of the aftereffects of the fire and subsequent floods.  What a loss for our area!

Last night, we went to another concert by the mini-Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra brass quintet outdoors at Lowell Observatory (for those of you not familiar with Flagstaff, this is where the planet Pluto was discovered).  This concert was a lot of fun...we even knew most of the tunes!

~~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.~~

Sunday, August 8, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, Questions On Dogs and Cats got your attention right away with the picture of the skunk.  Helpful Buckeye knows at least one guy here in Flagstaff who probably will not even look at this week's blog issue due to the previously announced coverage of...Snake Bites!

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have returned home from our trip to Pennsylvania for our family reunion.  We had a rewarding visit with family in spite of the fact that Desperado had a "hitch in her git-along," as Dandy Don Meredith used to say.  Desperado appreciates all the care, concerns, and offers of help shown by friends as she gets over this problem.

Don't forget to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


1) The Memphis (TN) City Council Services & Neighborhood Committee will consider four ordinances amending the city’s animal control laws on Tuesday, August 10th. The proposal will require mandatory spay/neuter of all dogs over 29 pounds, define any dog that has "bitten once and been at-large twice" as a dangerous dog, increase fees for owners of intact dogs and limit tethering.

Even though these measures most likely arose from genuine concerns, Helpful Buckeye can envision a lot of discussion over whether some of them are fair to dogs and dog owners.

2) The FDA has released a warning to users of Evamist, a human medication containing a form of estrogen, that inadvertent exposure of children and pets to the product has the potential for adverse effects.  Pets exposed to Evamist may exhibit signs such as mammary gland and/or nipple enlargement and vulvar swelling. Pets should not be allowed to lick or touch the arm where Evamist is sprayed.  For the rest of the story, read: 

3) How many of our readers have ever heard of a "Canadian Dog Shoot?"  Apparently, in some very remote parts of Canada, the only way to control stray dogs is to round them and...shoot them.  A bunch (36) of these strays have been rounded up and sent to a dog shelter in suburban NYC for care and adoption.  Follow their rescue at: 


OK, now we're ready to address the long-awaited topic of...Snake Bites.  In last week's issue, Helpful Buckeye showed you a selection of photos of 9 different snakes found in the USA.  How many of them can you identify?  Which of them would you be more worried about?

First of all, it's important to remember that most of us will never be the recipient of a snake bite.  Nor will many of our pets.  However, snake bites do happen and are fairly common, certainly not rare, in many parts of the USA.  People generally know to stay away from close contact with snakes, although the common sense (or lack thereof) of some folks defies understanding.  Pets, on the other hand, do not necessarily have an inherent respect (fear) of snakes. 

Any snake can and will bite if threatened enough.  This includes poisonous and non-poisonous varieties.  Going back to the pictures in last week's issue, the first 4 photos in the left column were the 4 types of poisonous snakes in the USA...from top to bottom: Copperhead, Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth), Rattlesnake, and Coral Snake.  The photos in the right column were some of the most common non-poisonous snakes in the USA...from top to bottom: Corn Snake, Water Snake, Gopher Snake, and a King Snake (for comparison purposes, on the poster with a Coral Snake).  Lastly, the 9th photo was a Garter Snake...also non-poisonous.

All snake bites, even non-poisonous bites, can be dangerous. All bites have the risk of causing infection or allergic reactions. Any bite to a pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

When a pet is bitten by a snake, how do you know if the snake was poisonous or non-poisonous?

There are over 150,000 poisonous snake bites that occur to dogs and cats every year in North America. It is estimated that 99% of bites to pets are from a family of poisonous snakes known as pit vipers. Members of the pit viper family include rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins.

Here are some tips to help you identify a pit viper from a non-poisonous snake:

                               Poisonous                            Non-poisonous

Eyes                        Elliptical pupils                                      Round pupils

Head                       Broad triangular                                 Rounded narrow

Teeth                       Prominent fangs                                 Many small teeth

Face             Deep pit between nostril and eye                           No pit

Size                               Size of snake does not determine if it is poisonous
Length                          Size of snake does not determine if it is poisonous

Of course, as one of my herpetology professors liked to say, if you're close enough to see the shape of the snake's pupils, it's probably a little too late! 

Bites by poisonous snakes, also referred to as snake envenomization, affect over 150,000 dogs and cats per year in North America. In the United States, there are two primary families of poisonous snakes, Crotalidae and Elapidae. The southwestern and southeastern United States have a greater incidence of snakebites due to a higher population of poisonous snakes.

Crotalidae is the most prevalent family of poisonous snakes in the United States. These include rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads. These snakes have broad triangular heads with elliptical pupils, prominent curving fangs and a deep pit located between the nostril and the eye. For this reason they are commonly called "pit vipers." It is believed that pit vipers account for approximately 99% of all poisonous snake bites to pets.




Even though a poisonous snake may have bitten your pet, not all bites contain venom.  In fact, less than half of all snakebites result in signs associated with envenomization. The risk of snakebite toxicity is based on the type of snake, the size of the animal bitten and the amount of venom injected in the bite. The type, effect and amount of venom can vary with the age and type of snake and can even vary within families of snakes.

Pit viper venom is not yet fully understood and the toxicity of the venom varies from species to species. For example, copperhead venom is much less toxic than rattlesnake venom.

Most snakebites occur in large breed, primarily outdoor dogs with the majority of bites located on the legs or head, especially the muzzle. Most bites occur during the spring and summer seasons. It is estimated that 90% of bites occur between April and mid October. Bites from these snakes are generally the result of aggressive or curious actions on the part of the dog while playing in snake-infested areas.

The other type of poisonous snake present in the United States is Elapidae. This is a family of poisonous front-fanged snakes, which includes cobras, kraits, mambas, and coral snakes. Elapid snakes have short fangs and tend to hang on and "chew" venom into their victims. Their venom is largely neurotoxic and paralyzes the respiratory center. They are comparatively more toxic than bites from the Crotalid group.

Coral snakes and cobras are the primary members of this family of venomous snakes, with coral snakes being the only one normally present in the United States, primarily in the southeastern states, Texas, southern Arizona, and extreme southwestern New Mexico. They are known for their distinctive color pattern: a red band adjacent to a yellow band. It's sometimes necessary to distinguish the corals from another common non-poisonous snake that looks similar, except that the red and yellow bands are separated by a black band (King snake). Some remember the difference by the adage, "Red on yellow kill a fellow, red on black, venom lack."

Coral Snake

Fatal snakebites are more common in dogs than in any other domestic animal. Due to the relatively small size of some dogs in proportion to the amount of venom injected, the bite of even a small snake may be fatal. Fortunately, reports of Elapidae snakebites in pets are relatively rare. This is probably due to the small size of the snake's head and its difficulty in opening the mouth wide enough to bite and envenom a dog. The type, effect, and amount of venom can vary with the age and type of snake.

That's enough for this week.  Most of our readers probably have at least a moderate phobia about snakes and can only take snake information in small portions.  Next week, Helpful Buckeye will finish Snake Bites by covering the topics of what to watch for, diagnosis, treatment, home care, and preventive measures.

Portions of this discussion were adapted from


A few weeks ago, Helpful Buckeye provided a list from the ASPCA of human foods that might cause a problem for dogs or cats.  Our readers are probably wondering if there are any human foods that would be OK for our pets.  Pawnation has conducted an interview with an animal nutritionist under the title of:

10 Human Foods Dogs Can Eat

You know you're not supposed to feed your dog chocolate, onions, grapes/raisins, macadamia nuts and avocados. And you monitor for sensitivity to common food allergens such as meat, corn, wheat and soy.

But you're only human, and sometimes it's hard to resist your dog's sweet stare as he begs you with his eyes to share some of your delicious homo sapien cuisine. When you want to give him a treat from your table, do you know which "human" foods are safe to feed your pup?

To find the answer, we called upon Liz Palika, author of "The Ultimate Pet Food Guide," and animal nutritionist, Susan Lauten, PhD, of Pet Nutrition Consulting, to explain which fresh, frozen and canned foods people typically eat that are safe for dogs to consume too.

1. Melons: Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew are all healthy options for your pooch. "My dogs will take me down over cantaloupe," says Lauten. "I am required to share the whole thing with them." Consult animal poison control before feeding your dogs any of the more exotic melons.

2. Sunflower seeds (shelled): Skip the salt if possible, or serve in moderation, recommends Lauten. "Remember, treats should not comprise more than 10 percent of your dog's daily calorie intake. If your dog gets 500 calories a day, 50 calories could come from treats."

3. Peanut butter: Peanuts don't appear to cause allergies in dogs like they do in people, says Lauten. "I have some highly food-sensitive dogs for whom peanut butter is a large part of their diet."

4. Berries (fresh and frozen): Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries or raspberries -- all are good for your furry friend for the same reason they're good for humans: free-radical-fighting antioxidants. "A lot of dogs like them frozen," says Lauten.

5. Cooked chicken: Ran out of your dog's regular food? Whether boiled, baked, served rotisserie-style or grilled, this food is a healthy substitute. "Dogs will eat a freshly cooked chicken any way they can get it," says Lauten.  None of the skin, please!

Healthy dogs can handle cooking oils and seasonings. Just be sure to avoid adding onion or too much garlic. If you're concerned, non-salt seasonings can be used, but that matters more for the human eater than the dog, explains Lauten. Scrambled eggs, hamburger, rice, pasta and/or oatmeal can serve as meal replacements in a pinch, adds Lauten.

6. Cheese: This is a safe snack for dogs, but just like humans, they can experience lactose intolerance, so monitor your dog's reaction. "Many families use a dollop of cottage cheese with every meal," says Lauten. To avoid overfeeding, consider giving your dog low- or reduced-fat dairy products.

7. Bananas: "My dogs love bananas and I share mine with them regularly," says Lauten. "All fruits have phytonutrients and required nutrients. They are good for all of us. If the foods are healthy for me, they are more apt to be healthy for the dog," says Palika.

8. Apple slices: Lauten recommends serving your pup seedless, organic apple slices, because apple seeds naturally contain cyanide. Citrus fruits such as oranges are good too, but leave off the rinds; they contain many oils and could be too strong for a dog's digestive system.

9. Baby carrots: Fresh, crunchy vegetables are good for your dog's teeth, says Lauten. Plus, it's a bit easier not to overfeed with veggies. "If you're giving your dog vegetables, you can give a lot more in volume," because these are low-calorie foods.
10. Green beans: Because this veggie fills dogs up, weight-management programs often include green beans, usually canned with no salt added, says Lauten. "An entire can of green beans contains 70 calories. What a bargain, and filling too!"

Of course every dog is different and you and your vet know best if he or she has any food sensitivities, weight issues or other health concerns that should guide your dog's diet. It is always a good idea to check with your veterinarian if you are planning on changing what your dog eats. Also keep in mind that it is best to introduce new foods to your dog slowly. You don't want your pooch to get gas, bloating, soft stools or other digestive problems

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All pet owners have at one time or another tried many of the pet stain and odor removers available on the market.  Most of these fall short of their claims.  Here's a product that might be worth a few minutes of your attention:


1) Not only are we telling you that certain human foods might be OK for your dog, but also there are an increasing number of restaurants that are welcoming patrons with dogs.  As Sharon Peters, writing in the USA Today, tells it: "Alfresco dining is going to the dogs.  From coast to coast, an ever-growing number of eating establishments, many of them high-end, are opening their patios to diners who want to share their eating-out experience with their pets."

Read the rest of her story at:

2) Several months ago, Helpful Buckeye reported a story of very unusual grooming patterns for dogs.  Several of our readers responded that they were not enthralled with the results.  Now, the cycle has come around to cats.  Check out some these cats from a Creative Cat Grooming Competition:

3) Researchers at a German university have found some remains from what might be the earliest, indisputable evidence of the domestic dog.  The remains, found in a cave in Switzerland, have been dated to 14,000 years ago.  The rest of this interesting article is at: 

4) The Tennessee Department of Corrections has introduced specially-trained sniffer dogs to help locate  cell phones being smuggled into prisons.  This has apparently become a big problem for prisons.  Read about their efforts at:

5) Most of us are now very aware of the syndrome know as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  Most of the time, it is used in reference to someone returning from a stressful military situation.  Now, some veterinarians and other researchers are describing a similar disorder in military dogs returning from combat zones.  For the rest of the story, go to: 

6)  Not that this French Bulldog will make anyone think of Snoop Dogg, but....

Check out this dog's DJ routine:

Can you dig it???

Helpful Buckeye went to a couple of the AZ Cardinals' training camp sessions this past week.  The number of fans going to these practices has increased a lot due to the Cardinals' success the last few seasons.  It's a lot of fun seeing the players up close and personal.  It's been great to see Beanie Wells (former Ohio State star running back) fitting in so well to the Cardinals' offense.

The Ohio State Buckeyes football team is ranked #2 in the pre-season poll, behind Alabama.  That's OK with Helpful Buckeye since Alabama is the defending national champion.  If we take care of business, Alabama has a couple of chances to stub their collective toes and...anything can happen then.


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye took advantage this weekend of a couple of the many wonderful offerings of things to do in Flagstaff.  First, there was a very interesting presentation Saturday evening at Riordan Mansion State Park about a writer, Hayden Talbot, from New York City who came to live in Flagstaff in 1907-08.  His recollections of the early years in Flagstaff were priceless.  Secondly, we went to a free concert by part of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra in one of our town squares on Sunday afternoon.  We've enjoyed many of these concerts in the past and this one did not disappoint.

Helpful Buckeye has an interesting bike ride coming up this week, weather permitting.  More on this in next week's issue.

~~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.~~