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.
Your cat’s claws are her favorite tools, useful in climbing, grooming, hunting, self-defense and playing. Your job is to help keep her claws in good shape, by trimming them periodically and providing opportunities for your cat to sharpen them on sturdy, immovable scratching posts.
Let’s start with trimming your cat’s claws, using a human toenail trimmer or a cat claw trimmer. Choose a time when you and your cat are relaxed. Wrap your left arm around your cat and hold her front paw in your left hand, so you can clip with your right hand.* Place your left thumb on top of your cat’s toe and your forefinger beneath it. Gently squeeze to expose the claw.
When you look at the claw from the side, you’ll see the pink “quick” inside – and the curved hook that forms the end of the claw. With the trimmer in your right hand, cut off the claw’s hook. Avoid the quick to prevent discomfort. Pet and praise your cat as you trim each claw.
If you prefer to trim claws only occasionally, fit your cat with plastic claw caps like Soft Paws. To use them, trim your cat’s claws, apply a bit of the supplied glue to the inside of each cap and slide the cap onto the claw. Cuddle your cat for several minutes while the glue dries. As the claws grow over the next four to six weeks, the nail caps will drop off and you’ll need to repeat the process.
It’s also important to offer your cat scratching posts, because scratching is a normal cat behavior. The posts should be at least three feet high, so your cat can stretch while she scratches. It’s best to situate some posts vertically and others horizontally. The
scratching posts must be stable, because cats don’t like posts that totter. Entice your cat to use each post by rubbing catnip on the surface and flicking a feather toy against it.
*If you are left-handed, reverse these directions: Hold your cat with your right arm and clip with your left hand.
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.
Dear Christopher Cat: Amanda, my arthritic cat, enjoys napping in the sun’s warmth by the window. I just read that sunshine can give her cancer. Would a sheer curtain block enough sun to protect her?
Christopher Responds: You are correct that ultraviolet light, particularly the UVA rays that pass through windows and penetrate deeply into the skin, can cause skin cancer, usually squamous cell carcinoma.
The regions of the body most often affected are the nose, ears and other areas where hair is sparse or pink skin lies beneath white hair.
A sheer curtain would cut down on some of the light, but the UVA rays that reach Amanda’s skin would still pose a risk.
A better solution is to apply ultraviolet-blocking film to the window. It will stop the harmful UVA rays from reaching Amanda but still let the heat through to warm her.
Welcome to the inagural post of a new blog feature on our Web site. Ask the Vet’s Pets
is your chance to ask tough questions and get answers straight from the ones who know: Dr. Lee Pickett’s
pets. Dr. Pickett, our hospital medical director, writes the entries in the voice of Christopher Cat, Daisy Dog and several guest pets:
Christopher Cat is the pen name of Oliver, a silver and black long-haired tabby of uncertain ancestry. Oliver is known for his common-sense intelligence, humor and unlimited self-confidence. He frequently receives assistance with the column from feline family members Carlie and Claire.
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. In answering questions, she sometimes consults her Irish wolfhound brother, Ollie. The original Daisy Dog, an olde English sheepdog, lived with Dr. Pickett from 1974 through 1988.
Cathy Cockatiel, Frank B. Ferret, Gina Guinea Pig, Reba Rabbit and Reggie Rat contribute their expertise when Christopher Cat and Daisy Dog take occasional vacations.
Pennsylvania’s rabies statistics are now available. During 2011, 450 animals tested positive for rabies in the Commonwealth. Berks County reported four cats, three raccoons, three skunks and one fox with rabies.
National rabies statistics for 2010 were reported this fall. Once again, Pennsylvania led the country in the number of rabid cats (56). We came in fifth in the overall number of rabid animals with 394, after Texas (774), Virginia (591), New York (496) and North Carolina (411).
We worry about rabies not just because the disease is deadly to our pets, but because it can kill humans. In 2010, two men died of bat rabies in the United States. Since 2001, 29 human cases have been reported in this country.
What’s the take-home message? Be sure rabies vaccinations are current for all your pets, including cats that live strictly indoors, and that you have their rabies certificates. If you have any questions about whether your pet is overdue, give us a call at 610-488-0166.
– Dr. Lee
Poinsettias are generally quite safe, despite rumors to the contrary. The rumors are traced to the 1918 report of a child’s death involving a plant erroneously identified as a poinsettia. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, vomiting with loss of appetite and energy can occur after a pet ingests poinsettia, but these effects are mild and resolve on their own.
The same signs, along with diarrhea, have been reported after ingestion of Christmas cactus and holly. Again, signs are generally mild and resolve without specific treatment.
The toxicity of mistletoe, a parasitic vine, is influenced by the plant on which it is growing. Serious poisonings, which are infrequent, are characterized by vomiting and decreased energy.
If your pet eats any of these plants and then vomits, restrict access to food and water for a couple of hours to quiet the stomach. If signs persist, call us at 610-488-0166
– Dr. Pickett
Inquisitive cats that like to explore have a favorite season, and it’s upon us now. To protect your cats from themselves over the holidays, keep these pointers in mind as you decorate.
Secure the Christmas tree to the wall with heavy cord to thwart cats who like to climb. If your cats bat at ornaments along the bottom of the tree, hang glass and other breakables high, and secure low-hanging ornaments with green pipe cleaners instead of hooks.
Cover the Christmas tree stand so your cats can’t drink the water, which sometimes upsets feline stomachs.
Don’t bring tinsel into the house, and don’t leave ribbon lying around, even if it’s attached to a package. Cats are attracted to tinsel, ribbon and yarn, which can cause life-threatening intestinal damage if it’s eaten.
Candle flames, hot wax and potpourri liquid pose additional risks, so light candles and use potpourri warmers only when you’re there to supervise your cats.
Keep your kittens away from mistletoe, poinsettias, holly and Christmas cactus, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, diminished appetite and lethargy if ingested.
Use common sense with light cords and other potential holiday hazards. If it’s not safe for a child, it’s not safe for inquisitive cats.
– Dr. Pickett
Our very own Dr. Pickett landed in the Reading Eagle this week explaining the best ways to give your dog or cat medicine. Check out the story