Sunday, March 27, 2011


Helpful Buckeye suspects that all of us have been waiting for Spring...for one reason or another...except for those of you who love to snow ski.  Well, the first day of Spring was this past Monday and we got 6" of snow on our roof and flower pots here in Flagstaff!  Fortunately, the roads and ground had warmed enough that the accumulation didn't affect travel.  Helpful Buckeye did see some actual proof that Spring is making its move here in northern Arizona.  On Friday, I saw the first Great Blue Heron arriving and what was probably the last Bald Eagle to be leaving as the seasons change from Winter to Spring...and they were flying within about 200 ft. of each other.  Sort of like in a relay race, where they were passing the baton from the Eagle to the Heron.  I was reminded of the 1974 Roberta Flack hit song, Feel Like Makin' Love, in which she sings, "Strollin' in the park, Watching winter turn to spring...."  Take yourself back 37 years and reminisce:

There are two special days this coming week.  Opening Day for baseball, when all teams are equal in the standings, is Thursday and, of course, Friday is April Fools' Day, when jokes or tricks are traditionally played on the unsuspecting.  In this particular case, the jokes are being played on the fans of the teams that know, even on Opening Day, that they don't stand a chance of doing much this year!  More on Opening Day later....

Only 10% of our readers reported having a pet require surgery or endoscopic intervention to remove something it had swallowed.  About 25% of cat owners said they had offered human food food to their cat but nothing that was considered to cause a problem.  Lastly, many of you (75%) said that you do give your dog organized exercise but you weren't sure if it was enough.  Remember to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Each season of the year seems to present its own challenges for your pets, and Helpful Buckeye has addressed many of those in previous issues of Questions On Dogs and on "Spring," "Summer," or "Winter" under the Labels column to the left.  Since springtime is now upon us, this will be a good time to review some of the things you should be aware of in regards to your pets' health.

Springtime is just around the corner, but the gentle season could prove to be not so kind to curious pets and unknowing pet owners.  A host of risks present themselves to dogs, cats and other companion animals, and pet parents should be able to identify these potential harms in order to keep the spring days bright, sunny, and fun for all.

The list of toxic, common household items might surprise even the most veteran, conscientious owners.  Lilies, sago palm, azalea, rhododendron, tulips, daffodils and chrysanthemums are all toxic for pets. If a cat, in particular, ingests just bit of a lily, it could lead to kidney failure. Keeping indoor plants and flowers at hard-to-reach distances could be one solution, but just to be safe, owners may want to abstain from planting these and a few other flora all together.

“My family knows not to send me flowers, since I have cats that tend to be pretty inquisitive,” said Elisa Mazzaferro, a veterinarian based in Wheatridge, Colo., and associated with the American Veterinary Medical Association. “But it’s really the Lilies that are the main culprits in the springtime. Most people don’t know that.”

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) received approximately 7,858 calls in 2009 reporting ingestion of one of the aforementioned plants and flowers. That number was out of the 195,000 calls the APCC received in total that year.

This information is particularly pertinent in light of National Poison Prevention Week, which runs from March 20 to 26, 2011. Perhaps it’s not coincidental that the week coincides with the seasonal shift, as well as with the lead-up preparations for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and Easter.

“With St. Patty’s Day, we have the risk of shamrocks, which contain soluble oxalates, and those are very poisonous to animals,” explained Camille DeClementi, DVM, Senior Director of the APSCA Animal Health Services. “And with Easter, people should be wary of Easter lilies, in particular, but also things like chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, which could also put a pet into the hospital.”

Mazzaferro said she routinely treats pets that consume the fake grass people place at the bottom of Easter baskets.  “They can cause an obstruction [in their intestines],” the veterinarian explained.

As owners venture outside more to beautify their gardens and treat their hard, dried land, they should also remain aware of the harm that certain types of fertilizer and garden products can inflict on their outdoor pets. In 2009, the ASPCA responded to 2,329 calls related to fertilizer exposure, which can cause gastrointestinal obstruction and “severe gastric upset.”

Consuming flower bulbs, in particular, could result in a painful, unpleasant experience for both pets and their concerned owners, DeClementi noted.

Aside from the consumption of seemingly innocent, but truly dangerous, typical household and garden items, pets might also fall victim to one of spring’s more common, yet ultimately benign ailments: allergies.  Yes, pets can feel the effects of allergies but will exhibit symptoms slightly differently from how humans do.  “When animals inhale certain pollen they tend to get itchy skin, lick at their feet, chew at the base of their tail and get a rash,” Mazzaferro said. “We don’t know exactly what the culprit is, but we recommend certain types of testing and treatment for animals with severe allergies.”

Flea and tick treatments like Frontline and Revolution could help prevent skin discomfort, as well as protect pets from unwanted bug bites and infestations, Mazzaferro says.  Yet DeClementi cautioned that pet owners use only dog products for dogs, and cat products for cats – this tip might sound obvious, but as owners sometimes “throw the tubes into a drawer without the box, and then don’t read the instructions carefully,” she explained, it’s important to keep in mind.

This very timely advice comes from:

As pointed out above, when pets experience the discomfort of allergies, they are more likely to exhibit irritations somewhere on their skin than to show the watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing that are likely to be seen in humans.  Here is a really good overview of pet allergies from CNN and several veterinary dermatologists and immunologists:

Spring is just around the corner -- a time when many of us simply load up on Benadryl in preparation for allergy season.  It's a little harder for dogs and cats with environmental allergies to avoid the elements. Fortunately, our experts offer cool tips to help keep hot spots and other problems at bay during allergy season.

Watch for allergy symptoms

Itchy pets are hard to ignore. "We'll hear owners say 'they kept me up all night because every five minutes they were chewing, chewing, chewing,'" said Dr. Andrea Dunnings, owner of East Atlanta Animal Clinic, who notes an increase in pets with skin allergies this time of the year.

Allergy symptoms in dogs can include excessive licking, redness ("hot spots") or hair loss.

Dr. Drew Weigner, a board-certified feline veterinary specialist and owner of The Cat Doctor in Atlanta, says that few cats actually suffer from seasonal allergies; they simply sneeze more due to physical irritation from pollen.

But cats with true allergies will typically show signs of hair loss and have scabs or open sores. Discharge in a cat's ears or excessive scratching also are common symptoms.

Monitor the pollen count

Allergy season for dogs and cats can mirror that of humans, so bookmark the pollen forecast in your area and monitor your pets for symptoms.

After tiptoeing through the tulips, Dr. Robert O. Schick, a dermatologist with Georgia Veterinary Specialists, suggests wiping your dogs' paws with a cool towel to remove pollen residue or scheduling a weekly cool water bath. Also, help all the animals (and humans) in your house and avoid tracking pollen into the house by removing your shoes at the door.

Don't ignore household allergens

"The most common environmental allergen is not a pollen but house dust mites and house dust," said Schick.

Do what you can to reduce the amount of dust in your home by vacuuming carpets well. Focus on your pet's favorite spots in the house such as under beds and near windows. Don't forget to clean window treatments regularly. Dunnings also suggests removing bedding and washing it on a regular basis using a gentle detergent that is free of dyes or perfumes.

Schick offered another cool tip: When your cat isn't looking, ice the mouse every now and then. Freezing plush toys kills dust mites. Also, "Google 'mite control' and you will find several powders that you can add to the carpet to remove mites," he said.

Call the vet before raiding the medicine cabinet

"Not all over-the-counter medications are safe for use of pets," Dunnings said, noting that many dog owners use Benadryl to help relieve some of the itching and scratching. The antihistamine "typically makes the pet kind of drowsy, reducing itching because they are sleepier," she said.

But it's easy to miscalculate the appropriate dosage for Chihuahua versus a Great Dane.

"At least call the clinic prior to dispensing," Dunnings warned.

Topical solutions provide limited relief

Victoria Park, owner of Park Pet Supply, sees her share of frazzled dog owners in search of help this time of the year. She has found success with all-natural products that are free of parabens and phthalates.

Creams that contain hydrocortisone and oatmeal-based shampoos also can help relieve itching, Dunnings said.

For cat owners, it's not that simple. Dr. William Carlson of InTown Animal Hospital in Atlanta said soap-free allergy shampoo and cool water can relieve symptoms by reducing pollen and mold spore counts on the cat's skin. But that means getting a cat into a tub, which may be the hardest task of all.

There is no quick fix

Identifying and treating the source of an allergy can be tricky, said Dunnings. That's why skin allergies and infections ranked second and third, respectively, last year among dog insurance claims submitted to VPI, the largest pet insurance company in the country.

"Allergies aren't going to be cured, they will be treated long-term," she warned. "Think of friends who are always on some type of antihistamine or inhaler."

An intradermal skin test (allergy test) will help your vet determine the cause of your pet's symptoms. The test is usually conducted by a veterinary dermatologist, and involves shaving a patch on the skin and injecting various allergens such as grass, pollen or dust. Through process of elimination, the vet can isolate the allergen and plan a course of action such as allergy shots or a vaccine. Keep in mind, treatment can be costly -- the test alone may cost more than $200.

"Their immune systems can change and they can grow out of the allergy," Dunnings said. "But a lot of dogs have yearly lifetime issues."

In cats, regular steroid injections can safely and effectively relieve symptoms, said Weigner. But he noted that potentially serious side effects make this option the least desirable form of treatment. Another option is prescribing an oral medication called Atopica.

"It works by suppressing helper T-cells, thus reducing inflammation," Carlson said. "It has clinically been shown to be safe and very effective."

Maintain monthly flea and tick treatment

One flea can wreak plenty of havoc, so maintain your pet's monthly flea and tick treatment, especially if there is a chance your animal is allergic. Topical solutions such as Advantage and Frontline are popular because you simply apply a liquid solution once a month.

Reports of adverse reactions from topical flea solutions caused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pursue more stringent testing and evaluation requirements as well as stronger warning labels. If you are squeamish about topical solutions, consider greener options.

Park suggests Natural Chemistry's DeFlea products, which contain a surfactant ("detergent") that dissolve fleas' waxy protective coating. She also recommends essential oils or diatomaceous earth -- a mineral-based pesticide that comes from fossilized water plants.

Pick another protein

If your pet appears itchy long after the last flower has bloomed, it may be time to focus on the food. Pets can be allergic to grains, proteins or even preservatives, and the symptoms resemble symptoms for environmental allergies.

To address the problem in your dog, your vet may suggest a food trial, limiting the dog to a novel protein such as duck, venison or even fish, along with a vegetable. Treats and table food will be off limits until the vet can determine the allergy source. Over time, you can reintroduce your pet to other proteins, using the process of elimination to determine the source.  Take an active approach to food issues by investing in a quality dog food that lists its protein among the first few ingredients.

Cat owners have one more option: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can keep the normal immune barrier of the skin healthy and reduce secondary infections, Carlson said. Of course, cats won't mind getting their omega-3 in the form of coldwater fish such as salmon, trout and sardines either.

This review was adapted from:

Another skin problem associated with spending more time outdoors now that warm, sunny weather has returned is that of sunburn.  Yes, sunburn can happen to your pets.

Although they do not sunburn as easily as people, dogs can suffer from sunburn. Most often, dogs sustain a superficial partial thickness burn. At worst, sunburns may result in deep partial thickness burns. Full thickness burns are rare. Light-colored or hairless dogs are more at risk than other types of canines.

Types of Burns

Superficial partial thickness burns are similar to first-degree burns. Only the top layer of skin is involved. The hair (if present) may still be attached to the skin. The skin appears red and no blisters are seen.

Deep partial thickness burns are similar to second-degree burns. The surface layer and some deeper layers of skin are involved. Unlike in humans, these burns usually do not have blisters. The skin is red and some layers of the skin may be exposed.

Full thickness burns are similar to third-degree burns. The burn extends through all layers of skin and may even include tissue beneath the skin.

Immediately after the burn, the skin may look like leather or the surface of the burn may appear white.

Sunburn usually occurs in the summer months when at-risk animals (such as white dogs and hairless breeds) spend too much time in the sun.

Veterinary Care


The diagnosis of sunburn is based on the time of year and possible prolonged exposure to the sun. The skin will have characteristic signs of a thermal burn.

Blood tests are not initially necessary to make a diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the burns, blood tests may be done later to determine the overall health of the animal.


Treatment of sunburn is based on the severity of the burn.

Superficial Partial Thickness

• For these burns, the hair is carefully shaved from the burned area in order to ease treatment and better monitor healing.

• The wound is gently cleaned with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine.
• Topical creams such as silver sulfadiazine are quite effective in burns.
• Most superficial partial thickness burns can be treated on an outpatient basis with the remainder of treatment and care done by the owner.

Deep Partial Thickness

• For these burns, hospitalization is necessary.

• Intravenous fluids are necessary to provide hydration and needed electrolytes.

• Daily wound cleaning with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine.

• Daily bandage changes.

• Topical cream such as silver sulfadiazine.

• If over 15 percent of the body is burned, skin grafts may eventually be required.

Home Care

If you suspect your pet has a sunburn, veterinary care is recommended. Dogs do not burn as easily as people, so more damage has occurred to the skin than you may be able to initially see. After diagnosis and initial treatment, daily treatment with wound cleaning and topical medication may be necessary.

Preventative Care

For dogs at risk, apply sunscreen before spending time outdoors. As in humans, it is suspected that repeated sunburns may result in permanent skin damage and even possible skin cancer.

This article on sunburn is from:

Allowing your pets to get outdoors on these early spring days will give them more exposure to the skin parasites (fleas and ticks) they've been able to mostly avoid during the winter.  With some of the newer flea and tick control products currently available, your chances of keeping these parasites out of the house are much improved.

Have you heard the expression, "If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas"? It might be a useful idiom when taken as advice to be careful about who you spend time with, but given the advances in veterinary medicine, it just shouldn't be true anymore when you're talking about actual dogs.

The prescription flea-killing products that are available to pet owners today are so effective that there really is no longer a good excuse to have a pet with fleas.  If these "spot-on" compounds are used as directed on each dog and cat in your home for even just a few months, they have the ability to eliminate fleas from your home for good — as long as you practice a few other good house-keeping tasks regularly.

Pet beds should be washed frequently; the water kills flea eggs and flea larvae. Hard floors should be washed regularly for the same reason; all carpets in the house should receive frequent and thorough vacuuming.

If the house is currently infested with fleas, treat the pets, vacuum the whole house super well, and then change the vacuum bag. Seal the old one in a plastic garbage bag and throw it away, so the eggs and larvae can't hatch in your vacuum and escape back into your home.

If you have cats who come and go from your home, make sure you treat them with one of the spot-on flea treatments, too. They may be picking up fleas in their travels and bringing the bloodsucking creatures home. If the cats are dosed regularly, you'll close this revolving door of flea-induced misery.

Make sure you use only preparations intended for cats on cats; some of the treatments that are prescribed for dogs are lethal to cats. If your dog and cat sleep together or on the same bed, mention this to your veterinarian so she can prescribe a flea-treatment for your dog that won't hurt the cat.

Also, occasionally change the product that you buy to prevent fleas from biting your pets. Over a number of generations, a local flea population can grow resistant to a single chemical, so switch up what you use, at least once or twice a year.

Flea bites are the No. 1 cause of allergies in dogs and cats, and in these hypersensitive individuals, even just a few flea bites can cause intense itching and scratching, to the point that the pet develops wounds and secondary infections from the self-mutilation. Even pets who are not allergic to flea bites suffer a certain amount from the local irritation of a bite.

Fleas can also transmit other diseases and infections. Were you aware that dogs and cats can get tapeworms from ingesting a tapeworm-infested flea in the course of licking themselves? Then you'll need medications for treating tapeworms and fleas from your veterinarian!

What about flea collars, shampoos, dips, and powders? All of these products are old technology — not as effective as the modern once-a-month "spot on" products. While they may be far less expensive to purchase — not least in part because they don't require a visit to the veterinarian and a prescription — ultimately, they will cost you more, because they don't work nearly as well.

When your pet is keeping you up all night and driving you crazy with his incessant scratching and chewing due to a full-blown allergy to flea bites, you'll realize the highly effective prescription preparations are worth the price.

This information on fleas and ticks is available at:

and here is more information on specific tick-related problems:

Yesterday my youngest dog, Bibi, came in with the first sign of spring: a tick crawling across the top of her forehead. True, she noses in the absolutely worst places, but the ticks are out, the spring molt has started, and it's time to think about all the blood-borne, tick-carried diseases that dogs, cats and humans can catch.

Lyme is the big player. Borrelia burgdorferi is the causative organism; its symptoms include fever, joint pain and lameness. In years of a bumper crop of acorns, where mice and deer are well-fed, Lyme disease tends to have a heavier incidence. This spring will have an abundant 25-year acorn crop; you can imagine what this portends.

Tick prevention is key locally; Revolution, Frontline and PrevenTic collars are excellent products for this purpose. Remember, if your dog sleeps in your bed, she must be adequately protected for you to be adequately protected.

Lyme vaccines are recommended as well; ask your veterinarian about this effective immunization. But vaccines are not a substitute for preventive products.

Other diseases that we see commonly carried by ticks are ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis. The first is similar in effect to Lyme, although other signs can include clotting disorders and a tendency to bleed abnormally. This disease can have fatal consequences; see your vet if your dog comes down with lameness, fever or any signs of blood in urine or stool.

Ticks tend to be very active in late winter and early spring, with numbers decreasing as the year progresses.

Prevention is your pet's best friend, and starting today.

Taken from:

OK, all this preparation for getting your pets ready for springtime concerns has reached a saturation point for this week.  Next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats will finish the rest of this discussion on getting ready for spring.  Be there....

Well, it just wasn't meant to be for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA tournament.  The Buckeyes stayed strong all season by having an offense that kept the ball well distributed.  However, Kentucky was able to disrupt the Buckeyes' offense throughout the whole game.  Then, when it really counted, one of Kentucky's freshmen sank the 15 footer that provided the victory margin.  My compliments to Kentucky for doing what no other team was able to accomplish this year against the Buckeyes.

Even though I'll be watching the rest of the games in the tournament, it will be mostly for just seeing good college basketball rather than having a personal rooting interest in a certain team.  For that reason, it is with great pleasure to know that Opening Day is this week.  The LA Dodgers have a new manager but still pretty much the same players as last year.  All of our young stars are a year older and, hopefully, they will be playing even better this season.  Helpful Buckeye plans to see several Dodger games in Phoenix versus the AZ Diamondbacks this year as they try to get back the NL West division title from the SF Giants.


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye saw the movie, The Lincoln Lawyer, this week and really enjoyed it.  Helpful Buckeye has read all 22 of Michael Connelly's books and it's great to see one of them on the big screen.  Interesting storyline, great acting, and a cool soundtrack all made for a wonderful afternoon.

Another chapter in our "See Arizona" goal will unfold later this week....

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

1 comment:

  1. Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work.
    Importing a pet dog to Sri Lanka