Monday, February 14, 2011


Every once in awhile someone drops into your life unexpectedly, makes you feel really comfortable, and enriches your perspective on life.  This happened last night at a little get-together which included Desperado and Helpful Buckeye.  We met Syl, a biology professor at the local university, and really enjoyed getting to know him.  Syl, among other attributes, is somewhat of a specialist on Abert's Squirrels and has actually written a regionally-popular children's book, Rascal, The Tassel-Eared Squirrel.  Unlike a lot of other professors, Syl is not only easy to talk to, but he also can talk about things other than his specialty.  The whole evening for the 6 of us was the embodiment of these words from Rachel Carson, noted American author of the book, Silent Spring“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.” 

If you're interested in Syl's book, more information is available at:

80% of responses (16 0f 20) to the poll question about coyotes said they had seen a coyote around their location...not surprising!  Only 1 respondent knew that the Norwegian Lundehund is adapted to climb steep cliffs...they must have actually read the breed description.  Only 10% of responses said that their pet had gotten sick from involvement with any of the Top 10 pet toxins...that's pretty good...let's keep that number as low as possible.  Remember to answer this week's poll question in the column to the left.


There is still a lot of concern about problems that have occurred following a purchase of pet medications from online pharmacies.  This excerpt from a TV special report provides the gist of the problem: "We spend tens of millions of dollars on our pets every year in this country, especially on the everyday things they need to stay healthy. Items such as prescriptions, flea medicine, and heart worm pills can be so pricey at the vet's office. It's tempting to buy them online where those same drugs are so much cheaper. However, animal experts from local vets to the federal government say these medications could be putting your pet in danger.

Dr. Kim Hombs is a veterinarian in South Charlotte, NC. Many pet owners ask her about filling pet prescriptions online. "It used to be we did okay it but then there were more and more reports of issues," Hombs said. She's referring to health problems caused by medicines that just weren't effective. They were improperly labeled, contained the wrong ingredients, or weren't shipped properly so they were ineffective because they were stored in temperatures too warm or too cold. That made some animals sick, or worse, and Dr. Hombs stopped readily authorizing online pet pill shopping at her practice.

Even the FDA thinks it's issue enough to post a video warning on its website."

The rest of this informative report is available at: and the FDA's website for pet warnings is accessible by clicking on the blue FDA icon along the column to the left.


In last week's issue, Helpful Buckeye introduced the 8 common aging dog considerations that probably will be faced by dog owners who are fortunate to have their dogs live beyond the age of 7.
  1. Arthritis
  2. Cataracts
  3. Constipation
  4. Deafness
  5. Dental Issues
  6. Incontinence
  7. Obesity
  8. Senility
In previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye has discussed 5 of these considerations and those discussions can be easily found by clicking on that topic in the section under "Labels" in the column to the left.  This week, the topic for discussion will be cataracts.

Cataracts are an opacity of the lens or its capsule and should be differentiated from the minor lens imperfections in young dogs and the normal increase in nuclear density (nuclear sclerosis) that occurs in older animals.  Cataracts usually are classified by their age of onset (congenital, juvenile, senile). Cataracts are more common in dogs than in other species.

Cataracts are one of the most common problems affecting the eyes of the dog. There are many different forms and causes of cataract formation. They affect all breeds and ages of dogs, but certain types show up more commonly in certain breeds. The only current treatment option is surgery, but with correct patient selection the outcome can be very good.

What are cataracts?

A disruption in the integrity of the lens of the eye and its capsule results in the loss of transparency and the resultant reduction in vision. Cataracts often appear to have a white or crushed ice appearance and are found in the lens of the eye. A cataract is any opacity in the lens of the eye. The normal lens is translucent (clear), and it transmits and focuses light onto the retina in the back of the eye. A cataract within the lens may block the transmission of light to the retina.

What to Watch For

• Bluish, gray or white color change inside of the eye
• Tendency to bump into things
• Reluctance to use stairs or jump up onto objects
• Hesitancy in unfamiliar environments

Nuclear sclerosis

When a dog owner suspects that their older dog might have cataracts, the vast majority of the time the dog does not have cataracts, but has the much more common condition known as nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis is a normal change that occurs in the lenses of older dogs. Nuclear sclerosis appears as a slight graying of the lens. It usually occurs in both eyes at the same time and occurs in most dogs over six years of age. The loss of transparency occurs because of compression of the linear fibers in the lens. The condition does not significantly affect the vision of the dog and treatment is usually not necessary.

How do cataracts form?

When the biomechanical system that maintains the normal lens is damaged, this pump system begins to fail and extra water moves into the lens. In addition, the percentage of insoluble protein increases. These changes result in the loss of transparency and cataract formation.

Congenital Cataracts: These are cataracts that are present at birth. These cataracts usually occur in both eyes.

Developmental (Early Onset) Cataracts: Developmental cataracts are those that develop early on in life. As with congenital cataracts, they may be inherited or caused by outside sources such as trauma, diabetes mellitus, infection, or toxicity.

Senile (Late Onset) Cataracts: The cataracts that occur in dogs over six years of age are called senile cataracts. They occur much less frequently in dogs than in humans. Nuclear sclerosis, which is not considered to be a medical problem, is often confused with cataracts at this age.

Inherited cataracts: Inherited cataracts in the dog may occur independently or in association with other ocular disease. More than 40 breeds of dog can be predisposed to inherited cataracts. If a dog is diagnosed with inherited cataracts, the dog should obviously not be used for breeding because of the likelihood of perpetuating the disease in the offspring.

Metabolic-related cataracts: The most common metabolic disorder resulting in cataract formation in the dog is diabetes mellitus. In diabetic dogs, the glucose concentrations in the lens increases. In addition, the increase in water causes a breakdown of the lens fibers and a resulting cataract. Cataracts in diabetic dogs can develop extremely rapidly, if the dog is not regulated. They generally affect both eyes.

Trauma-induced cataracts: Trauma from an automobile accident, or penetration of a thorn, shotgun pellet, or other object may damage the lens and a cataract may develop. These types of cataracts usually only occur in one eye and can be treated successfully with surgical removal.

 Most veterinarians have the tools with which to confirm the presence of a cataract in the lens, but it is often necessary to visit a veterinary ophthalmologist to have a more thorough examination performed. The first thing to do is set an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet's eyes examined. Your veterinarian will know if the cataracts you see in your pet are typical of those seen in normal aging. If your veterinarian has any doubt, the vet may run some additional tests to eliminate the possibility of an underlying disease. If the data comes back suspicious, other diagnostic tests and treatment may be needed. If the tests are normal, most will give you the option of a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist.


Treatment for canine cataracts consists of surgical removal of the lens. Currently, there is not a good non-surgical treatment for this condition. Diabetic animals that are not regulated, aggressive animals that are difficult to treat daily, or animals in poor or failing health, are not good surgical candidates. If you suspect your dog is developing cataracts, then you should work closely with your veterinarian (usually along with a veterinary ophthalmologist) to take the best and most effective course of treatment for your dog.

It is possible to remove cataracts that affect your pet’s vision. Whether or not this should be done is often debatable. Dogs and cats with little or no vision appear to lead very happy lives. Both dogs and cats "see" the world through their sense of smell as much, or more so, than their sense of vision. The rich delights of tasty food, your companionship and the scents and sounds of their familiar home remain intact in these pets and they remain quite content. If your dog has inoperable cataracts, he may require help in adjusting to his blindness. Be sure to keep objects around the house in a consistent place. Confine the dog to a fenced yard or leash walking. Most blind pets function extremely well in familiar environments.

Blind Dogs and Cats

Pets that are blind may bump into objects. But many pets soon learn to use their remaining senses to get around this problem. Those pets only appear disoriented and hesitant in unfamiliar settings. This is because your pet's sense of smell is so much better than yours. It lives in a different world - one of aromas and scents. So its world does not change because it has lost its sight as our world would.

More on the rest of the 8 considerations for Senior Pets next week....


The folks at Zootoo Review have compiled a list of 5 items that should be of benefit to senior pets.  These are:
  1. Magic Coat Pet Love Glove
  2. Ultralite Pet Stairs
  3. Extra-Giant Enclosed Cat Pan
  4. Perfect Coat Studio Freshening Spray
  5. Pet-ZZZ-Pad Heating Pad
Go to: for a further description of these products as well as links to their availability.


1) A furry, four-pawed best friend could be the key to getting your kid off the couch and away from the TV screen, a new study suggests.  Teens from dog-owning families get about 15 more minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity than teens who don't have any pets, the study said.  "You can think of your dog not only as your best friend, but also a social support tool for being active," study researcher John Sirard, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said in a statement.

The rest of this study can be found at:

2) Most people may be reluctant to adopt a deaf dog, but what if they were deaf themselves?  The idea made sense to inmates at a Missouri prison who trained a deaf dachshund in sign language and then asked the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton to take him in.  Today, the dog named Sparky is right at home with the school's youngsters, who have taught him additional sign language. And a second deaf dog, a Boston Terrier named Petie, may be on his way to the school soon.

Read about how these 2 dogs may be the start of an interesting and very beneficial trend:

3) A while back, Helpful Buckeye presented a discussion on on "Catnip" under "Labels" in the column to the left.  Here is a nice review and some updates about catnip:

Everyone has a weakness. For me, it's salted caramel ice cream. For my dog, Lulu, it's expensive shoes. For most cats, it's catnip. Here are five things every cat lover should know about this mysterious product that drives cats batty.

1. Catnip is an actual plant.

A member of the mint family, Nepeta cataria  (aka catnip) grows throughout the United States. The plant features small, lavender flowers and jagged, heart-shaped leaves that smell faintly of mint.

2. It's easy to grow.

Cat lovers who possess a green thumb can grow catnip from seed after the last hard frost of the season. As a perennial, this herbaceous flowering plant will return each year with proper care. Keep in mind that catnip requires plenty of room to grow and flourish, much like most felines. Once it grows, you will have the most popular house in the neighborhood - at least among the feline population.

3. Most cats love it.

Catnip leaves and flowers can trigger chemicals in a cat's brain that lead to bouts of energetic euphoria or laid-back laziness. For that reason, dried catnip and catnip-laced toys make regular appearances on pet store shelves. Mary Ellen Burgoon of Park Pet Supply in Atlanta advises cat owners to sprinkle dried catnip leaves on scratching posts as a training tool. Pinch the leaves first to release essential oils, and a little goes a long way. You also can refresh old toys by placing them in a sealed jar along with a sachet of catnip. It's a great way to jump-start a fat cat's exercise regimen.

4. Use with care.

Once cats get a whiff of catnip, it's best to leave them alone until they've lost that loving feeling. Catnip also can cause excessive drooling, so you may want to retrieve those cat toys after use. No one wants to step on a soaking wet cat toy. Burgoon also suggests storing catnip and catnip-laced toys in an airtight container or a cat-proof area.

5. People like catnip, too.

Catnip also can be used for tea. The presence of a chemical called nepetalactone produces sedative-like affects in humans, making catnip a popular home remedy for headaches as well as insomnia. To make catnip tea, add one teaspoon of dried catnip leaves or three to four teaspoons of fresh catnip leaves to a mug of boiling water and let it steep.

The above information is referenced at:

4) Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that "every sweet has its sour." Nowhere in the world of dog medicine is this quip more apropos than with respect to xylitol, an increasingly ubiquitous sugar substitute found in everything from cupcakes to toothpaste. After all, it's currently considered the most canine-toxic "human food" on the planet.  Yet few dog owners seem to have gotten the message.  By now, everyone knows chocolate is toxic to dogs. It seems that every veterinarian's office is adorned with posters telling cautionary tales of pumped puppy stomachs, with the sad eyes and foil wrappers to prove the stories. Meanwhile, xylitol's power languishes in pet owner obscurity, even as its reach expands.

Helpful Buckeye has covered this topic in the past, but this reminder of Xylitol's expanding usage in human products warrants a review:

5) A Phoenix area man has come up with a novel idea.  Dirk Van Vorris is manufacturing digital pet identification tags that can be scanned by any smartphone. Once scanned, any information the pet’s owner put on the tag appears on the screen of the smartphone.  The tag is limited to 3,500 characters but should leave plenty of room for contact information so a good Samaritan can return the pet to its owner.

Perhaps those Smartphones can actually turn out to,-lost-pets-by-going-digital

The Ohio State men's basketball team finally lost their first game of the season yesterday at...of all places, Wisconsin!  It was also at Wisconsin that the OSU football lost their first game this past season, when undefeated and ranked #1!  Maybe there's something in the water up there in Madison, huh?  Or is it the energy obtained from all that cheese?  Anyway, the Buckeyes should use this loss as a learning tool and move on toward the NCAA tournament.

Pitt's men's basketball team went on the road to Villanova, a team that always gives Pitt fits.  We were missing our best player...and still won the game!

The San Antonio Spurs still have the best record in the NBA.

Pitchers and catchers reported today...if I need to explain that to you, you're not a baseball fan.


From Epictetus, Greek philosopher, comes this thought that, in reality, forms the basis for this blog: "It is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he thinks he knows."  Our readers are always looking for more useful knowledge about their pets, right?

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help 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.~~


  1. It is very important to contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice a change in the appearance of your cat’s eyes, or you think her vision has been impacted in any way.

    Cataract Treatment

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