Monday, November 24, 2014

How To Have A Safe Thanksgiving With Your Pet.

OK, it’s Thanksgiving evening or the next morning. Tell me where you’d rather be –(a) hitting the after-Thanksgiving sales, or possibly lounging on the sofa and watching football or a good movie – (b) or at the vet’s office praying that your dog survives or searching the neighborhood because he has escaped? Basically, an (a) or (b) will do just fine. As for me, my answer would be (a).
There are preparations to prevent scenario (b) from ever happening. A smooth peaceful Thanksgiving is possible even with kids and family you only see once or twice a year in the house.
The purpose of this Blog is to prevent bad things from happening to your pet. I will not be giving advice about controlling kids, or keeping Uncle John from drinking too much (again), or Aunt Bertie from overeating.

Avoiding A Pet Tragedy

You can avoid a Thanksgiving tragedy by being aware of the hazards and dangers to your dog or cat and practicing a few safety tips.

Dogs and cats like predictable routines, and Thanksgiving is not predictable. There’s lots of people coming and going, meals are prepared and eaten at odd hours, there’s lots of tempting food sitting around in bowls just waiting to be eaten. Dogs or cats can get overly excited or nervous – and some pets that are on the nervous side may get aggressive because the added stress simply “puts them over the top.”

When greeting guests, your dog should not greet them with you. With everything that is going on, you may forget to watch him, someone may inadvertently forget to close the door, or he can wiggle past your visitors before you realize it. You don’t want to spend your Thanksgiving looking for an escaped dog!
Please, please, please ask your guests NOT to feed your dog except his own food or treats! In fact, the safest place for him may be in that dog safe-room away from all the commotion of cheering from football games, kids running around, lots and lots of conversations (you know which family members are louder than others!) Even though you may think your dog is a member of the family who should be included in the celebrations, your dog may become stressed because this gathering is such a departure from his routine.
If your pet shows any of the following signs, get him or her to a “safe room” immediately.
Be alert for these stress signals:
  • Acting afraid or nervous (moving away)
  • Attention seeking
  • Cowering
  • Drooling
  • Freezing or becoming very still – this is very important. Biting could be next!! Whatever he is staring at is his intended target. Interrupt him by standing between him and whatever he is staring at IMMEDIATELY. Don’t yell, but quietly distract and remove him.
  • Growling (Growling is good – your dog is telling you he is uncomfortable. Never punish a growl because you are taking away the warning! Change the situation.)
  • Hiding
  • Jumping or barking more than usual
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Raising the fur on his/her back
  • Shivering or shaking
  • Showing the white of his/her eye
  • Trying to hide under furniture or escape
  • Turning his head away
  • Whining
  • Yawning or licking his chops.

Foods To Avoid

·         Too many fatty, rich, or unfamiliar foods can give your pet pancreatitis or gastroenteritis; two medical conditions that can be very painful and even life-threatening.  

·         Certain bones can lacerate or obstruct your pets' insides. Save the bones for the broth - not your dog. 

·         Make sure to dispose of turkey bones where the pet cannot get to it. These bones will splinter when chewed. Bones can get caught in a pet’s esophagus or intestinal track. 

·         Alcohol – wine, beer, mixed drinks, eggnog 

·         Bread dough expands in your dog’s stomach and causes pain and bloat, which is 100% fatal unless treated IMMEDIATELY. 

·         Onions and onion powder, widely found in stuffing and used as a general seasoning, will destroy your dog or cat's red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. 

·         Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that can cause kidney damage to both dogs and cats.
      ·     Chocolate can actually be fatal to your dog or cat; so all those sweets must be kept   well out of reach. Please read my blog on Chocolate Toxicity (Oct, 2014)
       ·        Buttery side dishes 

      ·         Coffee or tea 

·         Aluminum foil, wax paper and other food wrappings can cause intestinal obstruction. Make sure to place these items securely in the garbage. 

·         Keep an eye on the garbage and keep it securely fastened! If your dog gets into it, he may think he's hit the jackpot, but all he'll be winning is health problems from something as simple as gastric disturbance, vomiting and diarrhea to the worst-case scenario - death.  

·         Rancid food is full of bacteria and can make a pet very sick, so make sure garbage is not accessible to the pet. 

The following items can be eaten by your pet and possibly cause obstruction:

These cooking items can be consumed by your dog and get stuck in the intestinal track causing a blockage or perforation:
  • Baking string
  • Napkins
  • Plastic bags or shrink-wrap covering
  • Plastic eating utensils
  • Plastic glasses
  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Plastic wrap
  • Pop up timers
  • Roasting bags
  • Skewers
  • Tin foil
  • Toothpicks
  • Wax paper 

One especially dangerous Thanksgiving food is turkey skin or other very fatty foods. If you think your dog has eaten any or has any of these symptoms, then he may have pancreatitis, so take him to your vet or the emergency service that is standing in for your vet.

 Symptoms of pancreatitis are:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea (which may contain blood)
  • Fever
  • Increased water consumption with or without vomiting afterwards
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting  

One More Thing

If your guests have medications in their luggage, ask them to close and lock their luggage. With purses, put them in a closet with the door closed so your dog doesn’t go exploring…..
This may seem like a lot to do, but you love your dog and want to protect him or you wouldn’t be reading this article!

Please let me know if there are other points to mention for next year. Anything you might add could save someone’s pet next year.

We at Providence Veterinary Hospital wish you and your pet(s) a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

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 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Chocolate Toxicity

Holiday Special - Chocolate
I got a call from a client that came home after being away from the house for a few hours. She found an empty 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips eaten and cocoa spilled all over the floor. She wanted to know if “Ava”, her 60 pound dog, was going to die. I asked to see her dog immediately.
Yes, chocolate is toxic to dogs. Chocolate is toxic because it contains the methylxanthine theobromine. Theobromine is similar to caffeine and is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Theobromine can be poisonous and result in severe clinical signs, especially if untreated. Yes, trick or treat is right around the corner. Be especially alert to dogs or cats getting into the kids trick or treat bags! There is lots of chocolate stuff in there.
The amount of toxic theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. The darker and the more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pets. Cooking or baking chocolate and high quality dark chocolate contains between 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce of the product, while common milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg/ounce. White chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning, with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate (that said, dogs can still get sick from all that fat and sugar, resulting in pancreatitis!). This means that for a medium size dog, weighing 50 pounds it would take only 1 ounce of baker's chocolate or 8 ounces of milk chocolate to potentially show signs of poisoning.
Yes, “Ava” ate 12 oz. of semi-sweet dark chocolate.
I saw “Ava” in about 10-15 minutes. I gave her my secret recipe to make her vomit whatever was in her stomach (hydrogen peroxide at a rate of 1 ml per pound orally.) Actually, it took 90 ml for “Ava” to begin vomiting. Lucky for "Ava", her person brought her in right away.

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning?

Clinical signs depend on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. For many dogs, the most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, a racing heart rate, muscle spasms (tremors), and occasionally seizures. In older pets that eat a large amount of high quality dark or baking chocolate, sudden death from cardiac arrest may occur, especially in dogs with preexisting heart disease. Complications (such as developing aspiration pneumonia from vomiting) can make the prognosis for chocolate poisoning worse.

Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to develop, and even longer to go away. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can last for days, due to the long half-life of theobromine.

What should I do if my dog eats chocolate?

I have put a ChocolateToxicity Meter on the Providence Veterinary Hospital website. You can find it by going to and find the Quick Links “on our home page. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline 800-213-6680 (they will charge a fee) to see if a poisonous amount of chocolate was ingested to begin with. Whatever you choose, decide quickly if help is needed. Do not try to treat this at home or just wait and see if your dog gets sick. That could be too late!

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, October 9, 2014

Flea Bite Dermatitis or Flea Bite Hypersensitivity

Flea Bite Dermatitis or Flea Bite Hypersensitivity

The most active time for fleas is the fall. The second most active time for fleas is the summer. This time of year, fleas are very abundant and are biting dogs and cats with reckless abandon.

A certain number of dogs and cats become sensitized, over time and from repeated bites, to the saliva of the flea . Therefore, when a flea bites a hypersensitive or allergic dog or cat, it's like 100 fleas biting at the same time.

Why Is My Pet So Sensitive?

Suppose you are allergic to peanuts or carrots, or gluten. It doesn't take a large quantity to set off your allergies. It's the same for flea bites.  Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or flea bite hypersensitivity is the most common dermatologic disease among domestic dogs in the USA. Cats also develop FAD, which is one of the major causes of feline miliary dermatitis. FAD is most prevalent in the summer, although in warm climates flea infestations may persist throughout the year. In north temperate regions, the close association of flea-infested pets with human dwellings creates conditions that permit a year-round problem.

In extremely hypersensitive dogs, extensive areas of hair loss, redness, and self- inflicted trauma are evident. Traumatic moist dermatitis (hot spots) can also occur. As the disease becomes chronic, the dog may develop generalized hair loss, severe smelly, scaly skin, a thickening of the skin, and/or the darkening of the skin's pigment.

In cats, clinical signs vary from minimal to severe, depending on the degree of sensitivity. The primary dermatitis is a pimple, which often becomes crusted. This miliary dermatitis is typically found on the back, neck, and face. The name miliary dermatitis simply means that the lesions resemble seeds thrown out in a pattern, dermatitis is the inflammation of the skin.  The miliary lesions are not actual flea bites but a manifestation of a systemic allergic reaction that leads to generalized itching and an eczematous rash. Redness and itching may be severe, evidenced by repeated licking, scratching, and chewing.

Treat The Problem
Flea control measures have changed dramatically in recent years. The development of insecticides and insect growth regulator (IGR) with convenient dosage formulations and prolonged residual activity has dramatically improved owner compliance and has helped eliminate recurrent infestations. The goals of flea control are elimination of fleas on pet(s), elimination of existing environmental infestation, and prevention of subsequent infestation. The first step is still the elimination of existing pet flea infestations.

This hospital recommends and uses Parastar Plus as the adult flea killer on dogs and cats  and Knockout area spray for home control. The combination does a good job on eliminating  fleas, larvae, pupae and eggs.
If your dog or cat is itching, even if you don't believe it could be fleas, bring them to a professional for a good look. One flea can cause a large amount of damage to your pet if your pet has developed an allergy to the bite.

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, August 21, 2014

Allergies in the dog and cat. What to do?

Allergies in the dog and cat. What to do?

Is your dog or cat chewing, licking, sneezing, itching, red skin, wheezing, or coughing? The possibility is present that your pet may be suffering from allergies.

Dogs and cats, just like humans, can have allergies. More than 30% of all skin irritations in these animals can be attributed to allergies.

What Are Allergies?

An allergic reaction is one in which an individual reacts to a normal substance in the environment in an abnormal way. These substances are called allergens and include pollen, molds, animal hair, house dust, fleas, foods and many other proteins. Allergen cause reactions through skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Allergic animals posses IgE antibodies to specific allergens.  These antibodies cause a specific biochemical change in the body which produce allergic symptoms.

How Does A Pet Show Signs Of Allergy?

In dogs, it is common to show signs of skin irritation with intense itching. Cats often show more signs of respiratory distress. In humans, the classic signs of allergies are nasal and respiratory. Each species react differently, but all species react in some manner.

Why Are My Pet's Allergies Worse Some Times Than others?

Allergens are cumulative in their effect on animals. It's like piling twenty bricks on top of each other. The more allergens an animal is exposed to at any one time, the more chance you will see symptoms.

The easiest way to picture this "threshold effect" is to think of drops of water filling in a bucket. Sooner or later the bucket will overflow much as the immune system "overflows" above its threshold. A pet with food and pollen allergies may only show symptoms  in the summer when the pollen count is the highest.

How Can My Pet's Allergies Be Diagnosed?

After a complete examination, your veterinarian will decide if your pet is a candidate for allergy testing. A simple blood test mailed to an allergy testing lab will give you answers about your pet's allergies that you couldn't guess about in your pet's lifetime.

What About Treatment?

The best form of treatment is avoidance. It's one thing to not feed your pet milk products, it's another to cut down all maple trees within a twenty mile area of your house.

Steroids can be used on a short term basis for relief, but allergy shots will give your pet long term treatment in most cases. This treatment is called hypo- sensitization.

In my experience, allergy shots usually take 6 to 9 months to work. Once the pet is desensitized, by maintaining the monthly shots, reaction to allergies can be reduced or eliminated. Desensitizing of course, reduces or eliminated the need for steroids, or visits to the veterinarian because your pet is itching.

What About Food Allergies?

We cannot hyposensitize dogs or cats to food, elimination is the only form of treatment. Therefore, avoidance is the only treatment. Fortunately, most labs will give you a list of "safe" foods.

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, May 10, 2014

Overweight and Obese Pets

You just made the most delicious meatballs and spaghetti. You serve it to your family for dinner. Then you leave the rest on the kitchen table for the next 24 hours. Why would I do such a silly thing; you ask.

Why would you leave a full food bowl out all the time for your pet? Leaving food out all the time is a big mistake! It makes your dog or cat FAT.

An estimated 52.6% of US dogs are overweight or obese.

An estimated 57.6% of US cats are overweight or obese.

"But he hardly eats anything, Doc." "I never see him eating." "He needs to eat." I hear this at least once every few weeks. Did you realize a 12 pound Yorkie is the same as an average female weighing 218 pounds and a 14 pound cat is equivalent to a 237 pound man?

Did you know that a 90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound, 5’ 4” female or 217 pound, 5’ 9” male? A fluffy feline that weighs 15 pounds is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male?

Dogs and cats should not be compared to human needs or calories.

Here is a calorie comparison for dogs and cats versus humans:

Daily Caloric Needs for Average Indoor Pets


10 lbs.

180 to 200 calories


10 lbs.

200 to 275 calories

20 lbs.

325 to 400 calories

50 lbs.

700 to 900 calories

Daily Caloric Needs for Active Humans


2500 Calories


2000 Calories

Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Dogs or cats that are over nourished lack the ability to exercise, or that have a tendency to retain weight are at risk for becoming obese. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects, such as reducing the lifespan of an affected dog or cat, even if the pet is only moderately obese. Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity.

There are several causes of obesity. The most common cause is an imbalance between the energy intake and its usage; that is, the cat is eating more calories than it can possibly expend. Obesity also becomes more common in old age because of the normal decreases in a pet's ability to exercise. Unhealthy eating habits, such as high-calorie foods, an alternating diet, and frequent treats can also bring on this condition. You can literally kill your dog or cat with "kindness".

Treatment for obesity is focused on weight loss and maintaining a decreased body weight for the long term. This is accomplished by reducing caloric intake and increasing your dog's time spent exercising. Your veterinarian will most likely have a prepared diet plan that you can use to calculate your pet's eating schedule, or will help you to create a long-term diet plan for your pet.

At this hospital, we have several weight reducing diets. Some are considered "deprivation" diets, while others slightly increase the metabolic rate, with healthy ingredients. Use whatever works, but under the supervision of your veterinarian. Most all prescription diets work. Many of the marketed "over-the-counter" diets do not work as well. Take responsibility for feeding your pet. I have never seen a dog or cat make him or herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, no matter what time it was. Your pet eats only what you allow him or her to eat.
The follow-up treatment for obesity includes communicating regularly with your veterinarian about the weight reduction program, monthly monitoring of your pet's weight, and establishing a life-time weight maintenance program once your pet's ideal body condition score has been achieved. With a firm commitment to your pet's health and weight, you will feel confident that your pet is eating healthy and feeling its best. 
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