Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winterizing Your Pet and Holiday Safety Ideas

I started out writing about the Holidays and pet safety. I decided to include cold weather, winter and general safety ideas for the holiday seasons coming up: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and any other holiday season that occurs in the cold Northeast region of the USA during this time of year.
Before you do anything to protect your pet, take your pet for a winter check-up before winter kicks in. Your veterinarian can check to make sure they don’t have any medical problems that will make them more vulnerable to the cold.
Cold weather can be hard on pets, just like it can be hard on people. Sometimes owners forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Some owners will leave their animals outside for extended periods of time, thinking that all animals are adapted to live outdoors. This can put their pets in danger of serious illness.
Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. When you’re cold enough to go inside, they probably are too. If you absolutely must leave them outside for a significant length of time, make sure they have a warm, solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding (hay is a great insulator that they can snuggle down in), and plenty of non-frozen water.

Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm--including car engines. Cats caught in moving engine parts can be seriously hurt or killed. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make a lot of noise by honking the horn or rapping on the hood.
If you light a fire or plug in a space heater to keep your home toasty warm, remember that the heat will be as attractive to your pets as to you. As your dog or cat snuggles up to the warmth, keep an eye out to make sure that no tails or paws come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. Pets can either burn themselves or knock a heat source over and put the entire household in danger.
Pets that go outside can pick up rock salt, ice, and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To keep your pet’s pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe the feet with a washcloth when your pet comes inside.
Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.   
Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Hanukkah and Christmas can be happy events but the holidays can be disastrous and even downright deadly for pets. Seasonal decorations, ornamental lighting, ingestion of inappropriate or toxic items, excessive consumption of rich foods or harmful food, candle flames, candles and many other hazards can happen at this time of year.  
Remember that plants (holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, lilies, Christmas rose, etc,) are poisonous to pets.   
 Unsecured Christmas trees pose hazards to climbing critters as they can topple or be knocked over.
Don't forget to prevent the ingestion of Christmas tree water since stagnant water or preservatives can be toxic.
Mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettia plants can be poisonous to pets, causing severe upset stomachs. Pine needles can irritate a pet's intestine and cause an emergency visit to the vet. Consider using repellent sprays or a doggie gate to help keep pets away from areas and objects that may be harmful.
Other holiday hazards include menorahs, candles and liquid potpourri pots.
Electrical cords, heated decorative bulbs, hooks, and a wide variety of other adornment items create temptations.  
Keep trash lids on tight. Chewed aluminum foil and e-coili are risks to pets.
Store food in secure containers out of reach to prevent ingestion or poisoning.
Rich foods and inappropriate feeding can create health complications for household critters. Dangerous food items include holiday favorites such as chocolate, coffee, onions, fatty foods, alcoholic beverages, and cooked or raw bones.
During holiday parties, pets may not understand why their usually quiet home is filled with people and noise. Provide pets with a quiet place to retreat. This way, they can choose whether to come out and visit or keep to themselves.
With a little forward thinking, before the excitement of holiday times begin, think your way through the types of hazards your pet might decide to get involved with. This is not a complete list of do's and don't, but hopefully it will stimulate your thinking enough and possibly prevent a catastrophic event during the holidays.

Seasons Greetings!

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dogs and Cats that Eat Things They Should Not

Dog ate my homework and other things
Dogs and cats, like children, are curious animals and love to play. However, they also like to chew on their toys and stuff and, as a result, sometimes swallow harmful objects that can affect their digestion and life. It is important that you protect your dog or cat from ingesting dangerous foreign bodies.

A gastrointestinal foreign body refers to any material other than food that is eaten and that results in serious digestive problems. Foreign bodies can become lodged in the stomach and intestines creating an obstruction. Commonly ingested non-food items include toys, string, clothing, and plastic. In fact, any household object your dog or cat chews on can become a foreign body problem.

Dogs of any age are susceptible to developing foreign body problems but this is most commonly seen in young dogs or cats less than 2 years of age. These youngsters are naturally curious and enjoy playing. Popular chew toys for dogs are socks, shoes, pantyhose and underwear. Cats prefer shoelaces, strings, yarn and needles. Frequently, while playing and chewing on these items, the dog or cat may unintentionally ingest some or all of the material. Although some smaller foreign bodies can pass through the gut without getting stuck and causing a problem, the larger pieces can result in serious gastrointestinal complications.

My pediatrician used to say that nickles and dimes are not worth calling about. But call him if my child swallows a quarter or half dollar.

What to Watch For

Dogs that have ingested a foreign object usually show signs of gastrointestinal upset. If your dog refuses to eat, begins vomiting, drooling or has abnormal bowel movements, contact your veterinarian. In some instances, you may notice a foreign object, such as a string, protruding from the rectum of your dog or cat. Do not try to pull the object out - consult your vet.


Your veterinarian will begin by obtaining a complete and thorough medical history, including recent chewing on foreign material. A physical examination will follow. If a foreign body is suspected, abdominal radiographs (x-rays) will be recommended. Most foreign objects can be confirmed on plain x-rays but a few elusive ones may require a dye material like barium in order for diagnosis.
Since removal of most foreign bodies requires surgery, once a gastrointestinal foreign body is diagnosed, your veterinarian may order blood tests to assess the general health of your dog.

Actual Case at Providence Veterinary Hospital 

Scampy, a 23 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, stopped eating and was swallowing with effort as if he had heartburn. Radiographs were taken and the stomach appeared to be full. Scampy hadn’t eaten much so what was in the stomach?

After a barium series, it was determined that something indeed was in the stomach and probable not going anywhere. We monitored Scampi for a few days to see if whatever was there would pass. It did not.

It was decided that surgery should be done to remove whatever we saw on radiographs.
Sock taken out of Scampy's stomach
After an incision in the abdomen and then one in the stomach, a sock was removed from Scampy’s stomach. Here is the picture of the sock with a quarter next to it to see the relative size of the sock ingested.
Once Scampy was able to eat and drink without vomiting, he was sent home.
Preventative Care
The best way to prevent your dog from ingesting foreign bodies is to prevent access to objects that could be swallowed. Keep dangerous objects away from your dog and allow him to chew only on toys that cannot be swallowed. Never let him play with string or clothing.

If you suspect that your dog may have ingested something that may not pass through his intestinal tract, contact your veterinarian. Waiting until your pet starts to vomit will make removal of the foreign material more difficult, dangerous and costly.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What You Need To Know About Canine Arthritis

Canine arthritis involves the inflammation in a joint or joints. This can result in changes to the joint cartilage, the joint fluid, the bones involved in the joint and the actual capsule of the joint depending on the cause of the inflammation.

There are many causes that create arthritis. Listed below are the main types:

Osteoarthritis - trauma, wear and tear

Immune-mediated - Rheumatiod

Genetic - malformed hips, elbows or knees

Infective - Lyme or Anaplasma

Idiopathic (where the cause is unknown)

Arthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis or degenrative joint disease is a painful condition and can make your dog's life miserable, therefore the sooner you detect the signs of dog arthritis, the faster you can adopt measures to slow its progression and help save your dog from further pain. Here is a rundown on some of the symptoms that your dog may have athritis:

  • Stiffness, lameness, or limping after rest
  • Loss of appetite or unusual weight gain
  • Inactivity and sleeping a lot more
  • Relutance to walk, run or climb stairs
  • Unusual urinating in the house
  • Irritability and behavioural changes
  • Depressed or withdrawn
If your dog has any of these symptoms, take it to a veterinarian for a full diagnosis. Typical dog arthritis evaluation will involve some physical examinations, blood tests and X-rays. In some cases, a synovial (joint) fluid analysis may be performed if joint swelling is noticed.

Treatment of Canine Arthritis

Once you confirm that your dog has joint pain due to arthritis, you will need to know what you can do to help relieve the pain and minimize your pet's arthritic discomfort.

There are many ways to keep your dog's arthritis condition under control and to substantially improve the quality of your dog's life. Some treatment options available for canine arthritis include:

Physical Therapy

Light to moderate exercise is encouraged because it helps maintain your dog's muscle mass and perserves joint flexibilty. Swimming is an exccellent exercise that improves muscle mass without overstressing the joints. Overweight dogs should be encouraged to lose weight to delay the onset degenerative arthritis.


There are always conventional medications to treat arthritis and help relieve dog joint pain. The use of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and their anti-inflammatory properties can help provide rapid relief for your dog's arthritis pain, but they do not repair or heal cartilage.

Caution: Never give your dog any human form of medication such as common household aspirin. If you are going to give your dog aspirin or steriods for arthritis pain, make sure you understand the possible side effects that may affect your dog.


Surgery is usually recommended as a last resort treatment for dogs with canine arthritis because the treatment is expensive and it may also cause even further pro-longed pain for your dog. Your veterinarian will only suggest surgery when all other possible non-surgical treatments are exhausted to relieve your dog’s pain. The types of surgery available include joint repair, fusion, hip replacement and arthroscopic surgery.

Alternative Supplements for Arthritis Pain Relief and Joint Health

Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin can be very helpful for dogs primarily where the joints are involved. Glucosamine is naturally present in animal bones and as a dietary supplement, it can help to promote new cartilage growth, relieve joints and muscle pain and improve joint mobility.

Acupuncture can give excellent results in pain management and may eliminate the requirement for medications.

Herbal medicine can give great benefits also as they are designed to treat the animal in a holistic manner. Be confident in your choice of herbal practitioner and ask your veterinarian for guidance if unsure.

Future Prevention

If your dog is diagnosed with canine arthritis, work with your vet to establish a holistic treatment plan to help your dog live each day as pain free as possible.

Good healthy diets and proper exercise help your dog either avoid canine arthritis or reduce its affects.

A good healthy diet that prevents your dog from gaining too much weight is ideal. Diet is even more important when your dog is a puppy. Puppies need well-balanced, wholesome diets, with added calcium, to help minimize the likelihood of joint displacement. Adding omega 3 oil to the diet will also help to balance out its diet and add valuable vitamins and minerals it needs every day.

Contrary to what many people think, exercise is vital for dogs with arthritis. It should start out as gentle exercise to get your dog’s joints moving and progressively increase it as your dog’s fitness levels rise. Try gently massaging your dog’s painful joints to help restore the blood flow.
A dog with arthritic conditions can live normal, healthy lives and are better off out playing with a ball to keep their joints and muscles moving. A dog that gets little exercise puts on weight, and its joints and muscles seize up.

Buy a good orthopedic bed made for dogs with arthritis. Just like us, a dog’s painful joints may become inflame in cold weather so a good bed will keep your dog warm, support its weary bones and help your furry friend get a good night’s sleep.

Remember as a dog owner, there is much you can do to make a huge difference in the quality of your dog’s life to help your dog lead a pain free life especially if he/or she is suffering from joint problems like dog arthritis.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Tips for Your Pet

Summertime is a special time of year. The living is slower and the heat makes us all slow down a bit. Here are some safety and comfort tips for your pet, be them a dog or a cat. Most of these tips have been heard before and all of us know them because we all have common sense. Never the less, it pays to remind ourselves of the things we already know. It may save the life of your pet this summer.

The headings are grouped by subject interest. You can skip subjects that do not apply to you or pay attention to them if the subject describes what you do in the summer months. For example, if you don’t go to the beach or jog with your pet, then skip the advice.
General Heat Hazards
If your dog is outside on a hot day, make sure he has a shady spot to rest in. Doghouses are not good shelter during the summer as they can trap heat. You may want to fill a child's wading pool with fresh water for your dog to cool off in.
Never leave your dog in a closed vehicle on a hot day. The temperature inside a car can rise to over 125 degrees in a matter of minutes.
Always provide plenty of cool, fresh water.
Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Take walks in the early mornings or evenings, when the sun's heat is less intense.
Try to avoid prolonged exposure to hot asphalt or sand, which can burn your dog's paws.
Dogs that are brachycephalic (short-faced), such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Japanese Chins, and Pekingese, have an especially hard time in the heat because they do not pant as efficiently as longer-faced dogs. Keep your brachycephalic dog inside with air-conditioning. Yes, they are special.
Heatstroke can be the serious and often fatal result of a dog's prolonged exposure to excessive heat. Below are the signs of heatstroke and the actions you should take if your dog is overcome.
Early Stages:
  • Heavy panting.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Bright red gums and tongue.
  • Standing 4-square, posting or spreading out in an attempt to maintain balance.
Advanced Stages:
  • White or blue gums.
  • Lethargy, unwillingness to move.
  • Uncontrollable urination or defecation.
  • Labored, noisy breathing.
  • Shock.
If your dog begins to exhibit signs of heatstroke, you should immediately try to cool the dog down:
  • Apply rubbing alcohol to the dog's paw pads.
  • Apply ice packs to the groin area.
  • Hose down with water.
  • Allow the dog to lick ice chips or drink a small amount of water.
  • Offer Pedialyte to restore electrolytes.
Check your dog's temperature regularly during this process. Once the dog's temperature has stabilized at between 100 to 102 degrees, you can stop the cool-down process.
If you cannot get the dog cooled down and you begin to see signs of advanced heatstroke, take the dog to the veterinarian immediately.
Even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. The best cure is prevention, and Fido and Fluffy are relying on you to keep them out of harm’s way. Summer does not have to be fraught with peril--with ample precaution, both you and your furry friends can enjoy those long, hot dog-days of summer.
General Health
Make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date, especially since dogs tend to stay outdoors longer and come into contact with other animals more during the summer months.
Keep dogs off of lawns that have been chemically treated or fertilized for 24 hours (or according to package instructions), and away from potentially toxic plants and flowers.
Keep your dog well-brushed and clean.
Fleas and ticks, and the mosquitoes which carry heartworm disease, are more prevalent in warmer months.
Beach Tips
Make sure your dog has a shady spot to rest in and plenty of fresh water.
Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can sunburn. Limit your dog's exposure during the day and apply sunblock to his ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.
Check with a lifeguard for daily water conditions. Dogs are easy targets for sea lice and jellyfish.
Running on the sand is strenuous exercise. A dog that is out of shape can easily pull a tendon or ligament, so keep a check on your dog's activity.
Do not let your dog drink seawater; the salt will make him sick.
Salt and other minerals in ocean water can damage your dog's coat, so rinse him off at the end of the day.
Not all beaches permit dogs; check local ordinances before heading out.
Jogging is also dangerous this time of year. So your dog jogs everyday with you and is in excellent shape - why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Not enough! Many dogs, especially the 'athletes' will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heat stroke.
Water Safety
Most dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Be conscious of your dog's preferences and skills before trying to make him swim.
If you're swimming for the first time with your dog, start in shallow water and coax him in by calling his name. Encourage him with toys or treats. Or, let him follow another experienced dog he is friendly with.
Never throw your dog into the water.
If your dog begins to paddle with his front legs, lift his hind legs and help him float. He should quickly catch on and keep his back end up.
Don't let your dog overdo it; swimming is very hard work and he may tire quickly.
If swimming at the ocean, be careful of strong tides.
If you have your own pool, make sure your dog knows where the stairs or ladder are located. Be sure that pool covers are firmly in place; dogs have been known to slip in under openings in the covers and drown.
Never leave your dog unattended in water.
By Air – Many airlines will not ship animals during summer months due to dangers caused by hot weather. Some will only allow dogs to fly in the early morning or in the evening. Check with your airlines for specific rules.
If you do ship a dog, put icepacks or an ice blanket in the dog's crate. (Two-liter soft drink bottles filled with water and frozen work well.) Provide a container of fresh water, as well as a container of frozen water that will thaw over the course of the trip.
By Car – Keep your dog cool in the car by putting icepacks in his crate. Make sure the crate is well ventilated.
Put a sunshade on your car windows.
Bring along fresh water and a bowl, and a tarp or tent so you can set up a shady spot when you stop. Keep a spray bottle filled with water to spay on your dog to cool him down.
By RV – A dog's safety should not depend on the air conditioning and generator systems in an RV or motor home. These devices can malfunction, with tragic results.
If you leave your dog in an RV with the generator running, check it often or have a neighbor monitor it. Some manufacturers have devices that will notify you if the generator should malfunction.
Never leave an RV or motor home completely shut up, even if the generator and AC are running. Crack a window or door or run the exhaust fan.
Never, ever leave a dog unattended in a vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures.
Patio Summer Safety
Charcoal briquettes, which dogs seem to love to lap up or steal from the grill, can easily get stuck in the stomach, causing vomiting and requiring surgery.
Barbecue scraps and fatty leftovers can give your pup pancreatitis, causing severe abdominal pain or death.
Corn on the cob and peach pits are also a huge no-no because they can lodge in a dog's intestines.

Garden Summer Safety
Backyard lilies (like a daylily or Asiatic, Easter, or Stargazer lily) and their pollen can cause acute kidney failure in cats. Ingestion of as little as two to three leaves can be fatal, so remove these plants from your yard if you let your cat out.

Rose and garden plant food containing insecticides can contain potentially fatal compounds. If your dog tries to eat a bag of it (or soil that's been treated with it), he could suffer diarrhea, profuse vomiting, shock, seizures, and even death.

Azaleas are common backyard shrubs that can be toxic for dogs and cats if ingested, resulting in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, or an abnormal heart rate.
Garage Summer Safety
Fireworks are a threat to curious dogs that might try to eat them. Made with chemicals like potassium nitrate, and parts (like a fuse) that could get stuck in the stomach, they can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures, and shallow breathing. Keep yours out of reach, and clear your yard of debris after you set off your display.
Veterinary Concerns During Summer (See my other blogs)
Heartworm disease:
Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are parasites transmitted by mosquitoes that can potentially be fatal to your dog or cat. Many people are familiar with heartworm disease in dogs, but are unaware that cats may also contract the parasite (heartworm disease was reported in cats in 38 states by the American Heartworm Society); in fact, cats infested with heartworms often have more severe clinical signs than dogs and a poorer prognosis. Have your dog or cat tested for the presence of heartworms by your veterinarian, and ask about heartworm preventatives. Treatment for this disease can be expensive and risky for your pet prevention is easy and inexpensive. Because your dog only goes outside to urinate and defecate, and because your cat does not go outside at all, this does not eliminate the risk of disease. Mosquitoes are everywhere! Please use prevention medication!
Normally only adult fleas live on pets, and often they remain there only long enough to feed. Eggs may be laid on the pet, but usually fall off the pet into the environment where conditions are right for them to develop (through a multistage life cycle) into adult fleas. As a result, it is possible to have a substantial flea problem although you have only identified a few or no fleas on your pet. Egg and larval stages can survive in your home all year and in your yard from spring through late fall (all year in warmer climates). Biting and scratching on the lower back, tail, and abdomen are the most common signs of flea infestation and dermatitis will often flare up in these areas. Flea control involves treatment of the pet and the environment by means of shampoos, sprays, dips, "spot-ons," powders, oral medications, and collars. Your veterinarian can recommend the most appropriate flea prevention/treatment program for your pet. Fleas carry tapeworms, so be sure to have your veterinarian check your pet for these intestinal parasites as well.
Yet another parasite that is a common problem during the warmer months. Ticks are not only an irritant and nuisance to your pet, but may transmit several debilitating diseases, such as Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis. Many flea prevention/treatment products will also help with control of ticks. Your veterinarian can help you recognize ticks and show you the proper way to remove them from your pet (if you simply try to remove the tick by pulling, you may leave its mouthparts embedded within your pet's skin). Owners whose dogs have substantial exposure to ticks (eg, sporting dogs, dogs that go camping, and those spending time in forest preserves or woods) should also ask their veterinarian's advice about the appropriateness of a vaccination for Lyme disease.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at