Dear Christopher Cat We would like to add a kitten to our family, and we are thinking about taking one of the many free farm kittens advertised locally. Do you see any problem with this plan? Christopher Responds For starters, the “free” farm kitten will cost you more than a kitten from a shelter or rescue organization, after you pay for vaccinations, deworming medicine and spay/neuter surgery. In addition, you may inadvertently perpetuate the cat overpopulation problem by taking a kitten off the farmer’s hands. As long as farmers and others can avoid having their adult cats surgically sterilized by giving away the unwanted kittens, the cat overpopulation problem will continue. On the other hand, humane societies and cat rescue organizations encourage spay/neuter surgery, and they educate the public about reducing pet overpopulation through sterilization. August 19 is National Homeless Animals’ Day. Celebrate by adopting a cat – or two – from your local shelter or rescue organization. That’s where our last three cats – Dougie, Cali and Carlie – came from, and they are my best friends. Ask the Vet’s Pets is written by our own: Dr. Lee Pickett
Dear Daisy Dog Sarah, our 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog, hikes with us. This year, we’d like to fit her with a backpack. How much weight can she safely carry? Daisy Responds Sarah is a lucky girl to spend time hiking with you, and backpacking sounds like fun. Start her with an empty pack. It should fit well and have enough padding that it doesn’t chafe. It’s important that you buy her a top-quality doggy backpack. After a couple of weeks with an empty pack, add a load that weighs up to 10 percent of her body weight. That’s about 10 pounds total, including the pack, if she weighs 100 pounds. Make sure to balance the load, and watch her closely throughout your hikes. Remove the pack whenever you stop to rest or view the scenery. Very gradually, if she seems comfortable, increase the weight. Adult dogs like Sarah can eventually carry up to 25 percent of their lean body weight. If she shows any sign of distress, though, remove the added weight. Just a reminder that we dogs aren’t weekend warriors. To prevent injury to the musculoskeletal system, we need to walk almost every day, gradually increasing the distance we walk and the weight we carry. Remember her heavy coat, and lighten the load -– and shorten the hike -– on hot or humid days. Ask The Pet’s Vet is writtern by our own Dr. Lee Pickett!
Dear Daisy Dog: My small mixed-breed dog, Eddie, had a close call with heatstroke – inside my apartment on a day that was warm but not hot. I partially opened the windows when I left for work, and when I got home, I was shocked to find Eddie lying on his side panting, his eyes glazed over. I rushed him to the veterinarian who gave him emergency treatment for heatstroke. Please warn your readers about this danger. Daisy Responds: Thank you for sharing your harrowing experience. Even when it’s only moderately warm outdoors, the interior of a home or car can quickly become an oven. Heatstroke, an excessively high body temperature, can cause brain damage, kidney failure and, in half its canine victims, death. We dogs are particularly susceptible because we can’t regulate our body temperatures very well, especially if we’re young, old, overweight, have breathing difficulties, or have heart disease or other medical problems. Signs of heatstroke include rapid breathing and heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea – and then collapse. Treatment is aimed at lowering body temperature and preventing damage to the brain and other organs through intravenous fluids and medications. If Eddie ever has a repeat episode, spray him with a garden hose or immerse him in cool water – but not ice water – before you transport him to the animal hospital. Once he’s in the car, position him by the air conditioner vents.
Ask the Vet’s Pets is an entertaining, educational veterinary advice column written by Dr. Lee Pickett and her pets. If you have a dog, cat or other pet and would like to learn more about veterinary care, please click here. You’ll find 800 pages of answers to questions asked by other pet lovers. One of Dr Pickett’s columnists is Daisy Dog. Daisy Dog is the pen name of Annie, an English setter rescued in 2005 at the age of five. She is bright, affectionate and eager to please.
Dear Daisy Dog
Now that the weather has turned warm, our Bernese mountain dog, Jack, digs through the mulch so he can lie in the cool soil. He’s tracking dirt and mulch into the house, and I’m the cleaning lady. Help!
I do the same thing, because the soil is so deliciously cool. Mom reacts as you do -– then immediately gets out the doggie pool (called a kiddie pool in the stores), sets it in the shade and fills it with cool water. The pool is even more fun than the dirt, because I can lie down in it, dunk my toys and splash my wolfhound brother. You won’t mind Jack’s dripping coat if you give him a summer “teddy bear” haircut. Get rid of the long, thick hair, but leave a few inches to protect his skin from the summer sun. If Jack doesn’t like water, you can cool a shaded area of the patio by hosing it off occasionally. Or entice him with a wood pallet covered by tile or a sheet of vinyl. If his Swiss mountain heritage is particularly strong, you may need to position an electric fan at a shaded outdoor area. Or just explain to him the virtues of air-conditioned indoor living during the warm summer months.
Dear Daisy Dog: We are planning to buy a pure-bred golden retriever puppy. One breeder I called didn’t want to spend much time talking with me. How many questions may I ask without becoming a nuisance? Daisy Responds: Good breeders will answer all your questions – and then pose a bunch of their own. You should ask to see the puppies’ mother and as many relatives as possible so you can judge how well their temperaments match your family’s personality and lifestyle. Question the breeder about health problems in the line. How many have common golden problems, such as allergic skin disease, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism or cancer? How long do most of the breeder’s dogs live? Request copies of each parent’s certificates attesting that they have no inherited diseases. For example, the Canine Eye Registration Foundation certifies dogs that are free of inherited eye diseases. The pups’ parents also should have certificates from PennHip or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, indicating the quality of their hips. OFA also maintains a registry for hypothyroidism. Ask how many of the breeder’s puppies have earned obedience, agility or working titles, so you’ll know how trainable your pup is likely to be. Also, ask to speak with others who have bought puppies from the breeder. Remember, you are adding a family member, so don’t hesitate to ask all the questions you need to make such an important decision
Dear Christopher Cat: We live in the country, and our cats enjoy venturing outdoors on nice days. As I plan my garden, how can I avoid plants that are toxic to cats? Christopher Responds: Many plants are toxic to pets, including chrysanthemums, clematis, coleus, daffodils, geranium, hibiscus, hosta, hyacinths, most ivies and lilies, peony, sweet William, tulips and vinca. You ask about pet-safe plants, but you also should ensure the safety of other elements of your garden. For example, cocoa mulch is toxic if ingested, because it contains theobromine and caffeine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate and seizures. Use a mulch of hardwood or pine instead. Insecticides and herbicides can pose problems too. Research on phenoxy-type herbicides shows they increase the incidence of cancer. Non-phenoxy herbicides, such as Roundup, do not increase cancer risk. Don’t use slug bait that contains metaldehyde, which can be fatal to pets and wildlife. Check the Internet or your cooperative extension service for safe alternatives. For a comprehensive list and photos of pet-safe garden plants, visit the Animal Poison Control Center. Finally, don’t forget to plant catnip, cat thyme and cat grass for your kitties.
Dear Daisy Dog: When I chop vegetables for soups, stews and other dishes, I invariably drop some pieces onto the floor, where my dogs immediately devour them. I worry that some of the veggies may be toxic. Which should I be especially careful about? Daisy Responds: Most vegetables are safe for us dogs – except onions, garlic and chives. They can damage red blood cells and cause anemia, so make sure they don’t fall from your cutting board. If one of your dogs has a history of calcium oxalate bladder stones, it’s best to avoid oxalate-containing vegetables, such as leafy greens (including rhubarb), beets and potatoes. The root of the jicama is safe for dogs, but the seeds and other above-ground parts of the plant are toxic. Because the root is usually sold by itself, you shouldn’t have a problem unless you grow jicama in your garden. Some vegetables, such as cauliflower, produce gas, so you should be careful not to let large quantities drop to the floor. Otherwise, most vegetables are tasty, low-calorie, nutrient-rich, high-fiber treats your dogs can enjoy.
Dear Christopher Cat: What is the difference between a tabby and a tiger cat? Is a tabby a purebred? Christopher Responds: I am a long-haired tabby, born to a female barn cat and a tomcat that visited one spring. In other words, while I am outstanding in many ways, I am not purebred or even what one might call well-bred. Tabby is actually not a breed, but a coat pattern common among purebreds and mixed-breed cats, referred to as domestic short- or long-haired cats. The classic tabby has a blotched or swirled pattern of dark markings over a lighter coat color. A classic tabby often has a bull’s eye on each side or a butterfly shape on top. A marbled tabby is a classic tabby whose coat has a cloudy appearance. The mackerel tabby, often called a striped tabby or a tiger cat, has narrow stripes of dark fur instead of the blotches or swirls of the classic tabby. In the “broken mackerel,” the stripes appear as dashes or broken lines. Other tabby variations include the spotted tabby, which has dark spots instead of stripes or swirls, and the ticked or Agouti tabby, which is flecked. Tabbies have thin, dark stripes on the face, expressive markings around the eyes, and an “M” on the forehead. Some tabbies have white bellies and feet. We tabbies come in a variety of colors, including brown, orange, gray and my own black and silver. Female tabbies can even be calico (a combination of orange, black and white) or tortoiseshell (orange and black.)
Dear Daisy Dog: You recommend brushing a dog’s teeth, but to be honest, it’s all I can do to make sure my kids brush their teeth. Isn’t there an easier way to care for my dog’s teeth and gums? What do you think of water additives? Daisy Responds: By three years of age, 80 percent of us dogs have dental disease. Unfortunately, disease in the mouth can spread elsewhere, compromising kidney, liver and heart function. So it’s important to minimize the plaque and tartar that give rise to dental disease. The “Essential healthymouth” anti-plaque water additives are effective at decreasing plaque in dogs and cats. The Veterinary Oral Health Council evaluated multiple research studies and granted these products the VOHC Seal of Acceptance in recognition of their efficacy. Since other water additives have not been approved by the VOHC, consumers have no way of knowing whether they really work. Your dog undoubtedly would prefer a product shown to be effective. You also can reduce your dog’s plaque and tartar if you feed a dental diet, offer dental treats and use a mouth spray or oral gel. For a list of effective products, visit www.vohc.org. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so this is a good time to have the veterinarians at Bernville Veterinary Clinic evaluate your dog’s mouth and recommend ways to help enhance his oral health care.
Dear Daisy Dog: I have Labrador retrievers, and I want a straight answer about canine vaccinations. Do our dogs need so many yearly vaccinations? What’s actually required? Which can be given every three years instead of annually? Daisy Responds: I wish I could give you a blanket answer, but the truth is that each dog’s risk of developing a given disease differs. Factors include how likely he is to be exposed to a sick dog, the strength of his immune system and chronic diseases that may suppress it, and even his breed and age. Because the veterinarians at Bernville Veterinary Clinic can assess your dog’s risk and know the prevalence of the diseases in our community, you should ask these important questions during the next wellness exam. That said, I can tell you that rabies vaccination is necessary because the disease is deadly to dogs and humans, vaccination is required by Pennsylvania law, and the disease is all too common here. Antibodies from the initial vaccination last one year; thereafter, duration of immunity is determined by the vaccine given. Most veterinarians recommend a distemper combo vaccination that also includes adenovirus, parvovirus and often parainfluenza. These viruses cause respiratory infection, neurologic disease, liver disease, vomiting, diarrhea and death. Both 1-year and 3-year vaccines are available. Our veterinarians may recommend annual vaccination to protect your dogs from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that damages the kidneys and liver. “Lepto” can be transmitted to humans. Lyme disease, caused by bacteria that damage the joints and kidneys, is transmitted by ticks. The disease is often life-threatening in Labradors and other retrievers. The vaccine is boosted annually. Finally, you should consider having your dogs vaccinated for kennel cough if they are exposed to other dogs, particularly in close quarters or when under stress. The vaccine is given every six to 12 months.