Foxtail season is now! These dry grass seeds can cause a surprising number of issues for our little (or big) furry friends. Foxtails are a plants way to disperse seeds. A foxtail serves as the plants courier, carrying seeds far and wide for the survival of the plant species. The only problem is it can be at our pet’s expense! Shaped like an arrow, these little dry seeds are very pointy and have a knack for sticking to anything that walks by – shoes, clothing, and most of all our pets! From ears to rears, nose to toes, and armpits to just plain anywhere. Once stuck, the foxtails shape promotes penetration into the skin. They can migrate deeper and deeper, creating abscesses and causing pain. Foxtails can even push their way inside the body! After this happens, surgery is the only way to stop the damage.
How do we prevent this? The best way to keep foxtails out of you and your pet’s lives is to limit exposure. If you see foxtails, keep your pet from running, rolling, digging, and eating foxtails. If your pet is exposed, thoroughly examine every inch of him/her. Look in the ears, in between toes and pads, in armpits, and anywhere else you can think of. Remove all that you see. If you find yourself wondering if your pet is holding his/her head differently or limping a little, make an appointment right away. If there is a foxtail, the faster it’s gone the better!
- Shaking or tilting head
- Scratching ears
- Excessive sneezing, especially with bloody discharge
- Pawing at face
- Inflammation or redness of any area of the body (paws, eyes, rectum, vulva, prepuce etc.)
- Coughing – if the foxtail was ingested
- Limping – if a paw is affected
Foxtail season starts in the spring and won’t end until late summer or early fall. Keep your eyes open and check your pets regularly. We are here to help if you need us!
Many of you know of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. In addition to all the specialty services they provide, there is one that many of you may not be familiar with. They actually have a blood bank! In 2008, UC Davis started their blood bank, collecting blood from well-screened donor animals. They now carry blood products for many animal species including: dogs, cats, horses, goats, cows, sheep, pigs, llamas, and donkeys. This is an amazing service that has saved many animal lives.
One of our doctor’s dogs Griffin, as well as a few of our patients here at Sacramento Animal Hospital, are real live canine blood donors for UC Davis. There are certain requirements of course, but there are also many benefits of your pup being a blood donor.
The requirements include: must be 1-8 years old, must be at least 55 lbs., and must be in excellent health. Your pet will receive a full physical exam at your introductory visit.
The benefits include: a complimentary physical exam, yearly bloodwork including a heartworm test, and a canine goodie bag on your way out! Dogs who donate at least four times each year have access to blood products at no charge if the need arises. Of course the finest benefit is the knowledge of how many animals you and your pup are helping!
FeLV and FIV are both viruses that threaten the immune system of our feline family members. Neither of these diseases can be cured, but knowing a cat’s viral status (positive or negative), can help us determine how to treat other diseases that come along and help us give our kitty friends an appropriate lifestyle. Cats can live a happy life with proper care and knowledge of their status. Great news! There is a test for both of these viruses! Here’s the 411 on what these diseases entail and why testing is important for everyone involved.
What is it?
FeLV stands for Feline Leukemia Virus. It is a viral disease that suppresses the immune system as well as bone marrow production.
FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It is an immunodeficiency disease, meaning the virus attacks the cat’s immune system.
What are the effects?
FeLV: Makes cats more susceptible to other diseases.
FIV: Cats are more susceptible to secondary or opportunistic infections.
Long term effects of both diseases include increased susceptibility to cancers.
What if my cat is positive?
FeLV: We will be more aggressive with treatment of secondary diseases since your cat’s immune system isn’t able to properly fight infections. Your cat should also lead an indoor only lifestyle preferably in a single cat household to prevent transmission to other cats.
FIV: Same as FeLV except… Your cat CAN live an indoor only lifestyle with other cat housemates as long as they don’t fight.
How is it transmitted?
FeLV: Direct contact between cats including: grooming each other, bite wounds, sharing water/food bowls and litter boxes. Kittens can contract the disease from their mothers.
FIV: Most commonly bite wounds. There is less evidence that sharing food/water bowls and litter boxes will transmit the disease. Kittens can contract the disease from their mothers, but it is less likely to occur.
Can I get it?
No, you as a human cannot contract either virus.
Is there a vaccine?
FeLV: Vaccination is recommended for all kittens to establish initial immunity. If your kitten ends up being an indoor and outdoor cat, we continue vaccinating once yearly until 10 years of age.
FIV: No vaccination recommended as efficacy is not proven and it can interfere with the test (eg: vaccinated cats will test positive!)
FeLV and FIV: We may recommend follow up testing if: 1. A young kitten tests positive due to maternal antibodies. Once those have cleared, their retest may be negative. 2. An adult cat is bitten by another cat or has not been routinely vaccinated.
SO LET’S GET TESTIN’!
When we take our four footed friends to park or river to play, we would like to think that nothing can harm them. Unfortunately, these areas are also playgrounds for bacterial bugs that can be very dangerous to your pets if they are not properly vaccinated.
What is Leptospirosis…? Leptospirosis is a very contagious and potentially fatal bacterial disease. Many animals like livestock, wildlife (deer, raccoons, skunks, or rats) as well as infected dogs and cats can transfer this disease through their urine and contaminate water sources. Your pets can be infected with Leptospirosis by drinking, walking or swimming in contaminated water. Although cats can be at risk of contracting Leptospirosis, they appear to have a natural immune resistance, so they are not vaccinated for this disease.
What happens if my pet gets Leptospirosis…? As the bacteria enters the bloodstream it multiplies rapidly in many areas of the body tissue. Depending on the strain of Leptospirosis it can affect the kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, eyes, and genital tract. Signs can vary from a minor fever to vomiting, severe dehydration, lethargy, shivering, muscle tenderness, and jaundice. Leptospirosis is treated through fluid therapy, antibiotics, and in severe cases hemodialysis. As your pet recovers from the disease, the bacteria can persist in the kidneys and your pet now becomes a carrier of the disease for months after.
Can I get Leptospirosis…? It is possible for humans to contract this disease. The US Center for Disease Control estimates that up to 200 human cases are reported each year. Children, individuals who participate in water sports, or occupational exposure are considered to have a higher risk of exposure. Leptospirosis is rarely fatal in humans however it can still cause malaise.
What can I do to protect of four footed as well as two footed family members? Since Lepto has become more pervasive, the State Veterinarian has recommended that pets who are considered to be at risk of exposure should be vaccinated. While all canine breeds are susceptible to Leptospirosis, hunting, hiking, working, and show dogs are considered to be at a higher risk of exposure. Routine vaccinations are the best way to prevent the spread of disease.
Although we as veterinary professionals can be “sticklers” about feeding your pets human food at all, there are certain foods we should all always avoid giving to our pets. These are foods that can be harmful to our pets if ingested and should be addressed right away. I say right away because it is often easier to prevent symptoms from progressing then to treat symptoms once they have occurred. Often people wait until they see symptoms (12 to 24 hours later) and by then it may be too late!
If you realize the toxic component was ingested within one to two hours, we will often recommend that we induce vomiting to get rid of the toxic food and prevent any further absorption in the stomach. Depending on the toxic food, we may recommend follow up bloodwork to check kidney and liver function. If your furry friend ingested a larger quantity or a toxic dose of the food, we may recommend hospitalizing your pet for IV fluid therapy and other treatments. The following food items are not in any particular order, so if your pet does ingest any of these, please call us (or your veterinarian) as soon as possible.
- Chocolate, Coffee, or any type of Caffeine: These products all contain compounds called methylxanthines. They can cause many symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rates and rhythms, seizures, and even death. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be, but any amount of ingestion warrants at least a phone call to your veterinarian to see if the toxic dose was ingested.
- Raw or Undercooked Meat and Bones: Raw meats pose the same risks to our pets that they do for ourselves including transmission of E.coli and Salmonella. Bones can splinter when being chewed by our pups; they can also be a choking hazard.
- Grapes/Raisins: The actual toxic component in grapes and raisins is still unknown. Even though we know quite a bit in medicine, there are still plenty of unknowns and this is one of them! That being said, ingestion of even one grape or raisin can cause kidney failure so it is very important to get our pets taken care of right away.
- Macadamia Nuts: Although not used tremendously often in cooking or trail mixes, if ingested, these nuts have been known to cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and fever in dogs.
- Xylitol (in sugar-free gum!): Sugar free gum is the most common product in which this can be a problem for our pets, but xylitol is also used as a sweetener in some candies, other sweets, and human toothpaste. Xylitol ingestion causes the body to produce insulin which in turn lowers blood sugar. This can lead to loss of coordination, lethargy, vomiting, seizures, and liver failure.
- Onions, Garlic, and Chives: Ingestion of these foods in dogs and cats can lead to stomach upset and even red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible to these problems, dog can also be affected.
- Yeast Dough: Ingesting yeast dough can cause gas to accumulate in the stomach and intestines, causing pain and even intestinal rupture!
- Avocado: Many portions of the avocado are toxic to dogs including: the bark, leaves, fruit, and seeds. Generally avocado ingestion causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, but more severe symptoms in birds and rodents.
- Milk: Contrary to what we see in cartoons and movies, milk is not actually very good for our furry friends! Cats and dogs don’t have the lactase enzyme to properly digest milk and it can often cause blood and diarrhea.
- Salt: Salt or even very salty foods can cause excessive thirst and urination, sodium ion poisoning, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures.
The main thing to remember is that the earlier the treatment, the better the outcome! We hope article helps prevent toxic food ingestion, but we will be here for you in the case that something slips through the cracks!
Information provided by ASPCA.org
The warm weather is fast approaching and I’m sure some of you have started planning hiking, camping, or hunting trips. If your four-legged family members accompany you, consider getting him/her a rattlesnake vaccine.
There are several species of rattlesnakes found in California. Rattlesnakes generally hibernate in Northern California’s chilly winter weather, but in Southern California’s warmer winter conditions, rattlesnakes can be active year round. In this area, they tend to be active from March to September. Anytime you and your pet are in or near rattlesnake habitat, it is possible to encounter these venomous snakes. With a curious, protective, or even a fearful dog you may not be able to intercept a bite.
About the Rattlesnake Vaccine:
The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is thought to cause most of the snake venom related fatalities in Northern California. The rattlesnake vaccine was created using the venom from this species. Venom does vary between rattlesnake species and even individual snakes, depending on environment. Although the vaccine is manufactured using the Western Diamondback venom, it does provide partial immunity to bites from other commonly found venomous snake species in California including: the Sidewinder, Timber, Massasauga, Copperhead, and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. The purpose of the vaccine is to decrease the reaction severity and chance of mortality for a bitten dog. Upon vaccination, the body produces protective antibodies that will help neutralize rattlesnake venom for a bitten dog. The vaccine can decrease pain, swelling, tissue damage, and the risk of permanent injury or death. Basically, it can give you more time to get back to your car and drive to an emergency clinic and the anti-venom. Yes, going to an emergency clinic is still necessary; regardless of vaccination, a rattlesnake bite is considered a medical emergency.
When to Vaccinate:
The best time to vaccinate is in March or April of every year, right at the beginning of Rattlesnake season; it is still important to vaccinate, even after the season has started. The vaccine creates the highest levels of immunity in your dog between one and nine months after the most recent vaccination. If your dog has never had this vaccine before, a booster 4 weeks later is necessary to create those protective antibodies we discussed earlier. In areas with warmer weather conditions, where rattlesnakes are active year-round, we recommend vaccination twice yearly.
Symptoms of a Rattlesnake Bite:
- Inflammation – increasing with time, don’t wait to get in to the vet!
- Redness and bruising at the site
- Pain and sensitivity
- Sloughing of skin with time
- The gastrointestinal system can become affected, creating vomiting and diarrhea
- The nervous system can also be affected, creating possible trembling, stumbling, and excessive drooling. Don’t wait for this to happen, take your dog to a veterinary hospital right away.
Ask your veterinarian if the Rattlesnake vaccine is a good choice based on your dog’s lifestyle.
Emergency Information – Veterinary Hospital who usually carry Rattlesnake Anti-venom:
Sacramento Area Emergency Clinics:
- VCA – Sacramento Veterinary Referral Center: (916) 362-3111
o Hwy 50 and Bradshaw to 9801 Old Winery Place
- Loomis Basin: (916) 652-5816
o Hwy 80 to 3901 Sierra College Blvd.
- Vista Veterinary Specialists: (916) 231-4445
o Hwy 5 and Florin to 7425 Greenhaven Dr
Placerville and Tahoe Area Emergency Clinics:
- Placerville Veterinary Clinic : (530) 622-3943
o 6610 Mother Lode Drive, Placerville CA (M-F 8a-6p)
- Shingle Springs Veterinarian and Emergency: (530) 676-9044
o 4050 Durock Rd, Shingle Springs CA (Open nights and 24hrs on weekends)
- Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital: (775) 782-3693
o 1390 Nevada 88, Minden NV
- Animal Emergency Care: (775) 851-3600
o 6425 South Virginia St, Reno NV (Open nights and 24hrs on weekends)
Note: It is ideal to call the emergency clinic while on your way to make sure they have the anti-venom in stock, but all the above clinics do routinely carry it.
It is not uncommon for our pets to get hold of human medications whether they were accidentally dropped, given on purpose with good intentions, or our mischievous friends chewed through the containing bag or bottle. Unfortunately our pet’s bodies do not react the same way as we humans react to our human medications. Here is a list of common human medications to avoid. There are endless human drugs out there and not all of them are on this list, so always check with your veterinarian before giving your pets any medications or if an accidental ingestion occurs.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) including: Aleve-Naproxen, Motrin/Advil-Ibuprofen, and Aspirin. Even at appropriate doses, dogs develop gastro-intestinal tract ulcers and symptoms may not be present. These medications also result in kidney failure, increased bleeding, respiratory problems, and seizures.
- Acetaminophen Drugs: Tylenol, Vick’s Nyquil, Alka-seltzer Plus. This group of drugs causes liver cell death leading to liver failure in dogs and anemia in cats. Due to rapid absorption, we should ideally start treatment within an hour of ingestion.
- ADD/ADHD medications: Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall. Even small amounts of these stimulating drugs can affect our pets. They can results in tremors, seizures, and heart conditions.
- Antidepressant Medications: Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro. If our furry family members get into these medications, they can cause incoordination and seizures. Some of these drugs stimulate a pet’s body as well, resulting in a high body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Even one pill can cause negative effects and should be treated right away.
- Sleep Aids: Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta, Xanax. Much like the antidepressant medications, these drugs can either cause stimulation or sedation. Effects include: incoordination, lethargy, slowed breathing, agitation, and liver failure (cats).
- Birth Control medications: Estrogen, Estradiol, and Progesterone. Intact female pets are more susceptible to adverse effects after ingesting these drugs. With large ingestions, all pets may be affected resulting in bone marrow suppression.
- ACE Inhibitors: Zestril, Altace. Commonly used to treat high blood pressure in humans, these medications can still harm our pets. Symptoms include weakness, low blood pressure, and dizziness. If a pet has kidney failure or heart disease to begin with, they are particularly at risk.
- Beta-Blockers: Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg. These drugs, also used in humans for high blood pressure, can be even more dangerous to pets in small amounts. They cause a severe decrease in blood pressure and heart rate and should be treated immediately.
- Thyroid Medications: Synthroid, Armour desiccated thyroid. Acute or large ingestions of these medications can cause muscle tremors, aggression, panting, and increased heart rate.
- Cholesterol Lowering Medications: Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor. Used only in humans, these drugs can cause mild adverse effects including vomiting and diarrhea. More serious effects result from long term use.
Even medications not on this list can be dangerous. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before administering any medication to your pet or if your pet accidentally eats any medication you have around the house. If you do need to bring your furry family member in for treatment, please bring the medication bottle with you. Any medication given at the wrong dose (even animal medications) can severely damage internal organs including: the gastro-intestinal tract, the liver, and the kidneys. With all medications, time is of the essence. The sooner we treat the better, ideally within one hour of ingestion.
Source: “Top 10 Human Medications Poisonous to Pets”. http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-owners/basics/top-10-human-medications-poisonous-to-pets/
Pyrethrin or Pyrethroid Toxicity
Pyrethrins: natural insecticide produced by chrysanthemum flowers.
Pyrethroids: synthetic chemical derivatives.
About Pyrethroid compounds:
Pyrethroids do come from natural compounds, but even something that naturally grows can be toxic to animals (or humans!). These compounds are often present in “over the counter” flea controls not sold through a veterinarian. They generally appeal to customers because they are very cost effective. As a thrifty shopper myself, I’m always looking for a good deal!
Toxicity in Dogs and Cats:
Cats in particular do not have the ability to metabolize these compounds very well. Commonly, a dog flea and tick prevention (containing pyrethrins) will be accidentally applied to a cat, resulting in toxicity. OR, a cat lies down next to or grooms a dog that has recently had that flea or tick prevention applied; this can have the same negative result. Most “over the counter” flea and tick preventions for cats can also contain pyrethroid compounds. Even though it is a very low dose, some cats still cannot handle the exposure and will become sick. Even though dogs have the ability to better metabolize these compounds, they are still at risk for having bad reactions. Here at SAH, we recently saw a 5-month-old puppy with pyrethrin toxicity (also known as Organophosphate Poisoning). She did survive and is currently doing very well, but it was a big scare for her family!
Symptoms and Signs:
The first signs often seen with this type of poisoning include increased salivation and tear production, and frequent or uncontrolled urination and defecation. Other signs include trembling or shaking, vomiting, inability to walk or use legs, and seizures.
Can it be treated?
The first thing we do if the exposure results from a flea prevention is bathe the dog or cat with a mild dish soap. This helps remove the toxic compounds preventing any further absorption. Veterinary care is still necessary because further symptoms can still develop from the portion of the product that was already absorbed. If the toxicity is caught early, pets have a much better chance of recovery. There is not an antidote to this type of toxicity, but the symptoms can be controlled with different medications. These patients do need to be closely monitored at a veterinary hospital due to the potential risk of seizures and other neurological signs.
What we recommend:
Use only credible flea preventions from a reliable vendor. These include: Frontline, Advantage, and Revolution, and some oral prescription products. Even some topical veterinary products (usually for dogs) have pyrethroid compounds in them so be sure to ask your veterinarian if this is the case. If you have both dogs and cats, we do not recommend using a pyrethroid containing product on your dog. Some cats are so sensitive that even lying next to a dog with this type of flea control applied can be enough to give the cat a bad reaction.
Due to the recent rain, wild mushrooms are popping up left and right. I’ve seen them near my house where my dogs go out and my neighbor’s dog even ate a few! Several of our employees have seen them as well and they can be very dangerous to our furry family members. Polly, a yellow lab, recently came in to SAH vomiting wild mushrooms. She was hospitalized for two days and is currently doing very well but her family hopes to help spread the word about mushroom toxicity.
What is it?
Mushroom toxicity is a concern when a dog or cat ingests toxic mushrooms that usually grow outside in our yards, parks, or even on the side of the road.
Mushroom toxicity can be fatal. The problem is we (pet owners and professionals), usually can’t tell what type of mushrooms they are. Yes, there are mushrooms that are not toxic, but there are also mushrooms that can have a fatal affect if ingested. Because we don’t know the type of mushroom, we treat every mushroom ingestion as if they are poisonous.
What does it do, exactly?
It can cause destruction of kidney and liver cells, neurologic signs including seizures, coma, and death. Symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, excessive drooling, and seizures.
What should I do if my dog or cat eats mushrooms?
Immediately call us (or your veterinarian) and bring your dog or cat in so we can induce vomiting. To be safe, we always recommend bloodwork the next day to evaluate liver enzymes. Depending on how long the mushrooms were in our patient’s system, we may also recommend hospitalization for observation and IV fluids.
How can I prevent this from happening?
Be very observant when you are walking your dog and make sure to check your yard frequently for growing mushrooms.
With the recent chilly weather, a new winter routine can present a challenge for owners who have settled into summer and falls habits. These tips can help you design your winter routine in a safe way for you and your furry family.
- Check and Honk: During the winter, outdoor cats look for areas of shelter, specifically under a car. Before starting your car, always check under the engine or honk the horn to warn any hiding kitties.
- Sweaters : Our four-legged friends do come equipped with fur coats, but some are fairly short. Pets with low body fat, such as Greyhounds or Chihuahuas, have even less to keep them warm. They can get chilly without any added insulation. A sweater or water resistant coat can help keep our not-so-furry family members warm!
- Observe: Long term exposure to cold can lead to hypothermia and frost bite. Always be on the look-out for shivering, lethargy, and shallow breathing. Frost bite usually occurs on the ears, tail, nose, scrotum, or feet. Check your pets for redness, swelling, or blisters in those areas.
- Stay away from Antifreeze: When replenishing your car’s antifreeze, always clean up spills thoroughly and store the container out of your pet’s reach. Antifreeze is a sweet tasting liquid that attracts pets and even very small amounts can be fatal.
- Wipe away: Check your pet’s paw pads when they come in the house. Wipe them with warm water to remove any chemicals they may have picked up that they may lick off later. Bellies belonging to ‘low to the ground’ pets may also need to checked and wiped off. Additionally, feet can easily get abrasions or cuts due to iced roads and sidewalks. Booties are a great way to prevent paw pads from getting cuts or chaffing.
- Special treatment: Senior pets, puppies and kittens, and animals with certain diseases such as arthritis, thyroid, or heart and lung diseases deserve special treatment in the colder months. Long walks in colder times are not as pleasant for these groups and can even be damaging.
- Outdoor only pets: If possible, give your outdoor pets some inside access during the winter. A dog or cat door into the garage or basement will help them keep cozy. If that is not possible, definitely supply them with heated weather-proof shelter. Dry and clean bedding is necessary to keep our furry friends healthy. Water and food can freeze overnight, so make sure to check it daily so their water stays fresh and in liquid form. Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors may need an increase in their food intake. Because their bodies and working hard to keep them warm they do use more energy, and therefore require more food.
- Fireplaces and heaters: Make sure there are barriers between your furry family members and sources of heat. Pets can easily burn themselves by getting too close.
- Always always dry: After bathing or swimming, dry off your pet immediately. Even a minimally wet coat in chilly weather can contribute to hypothermia. If you normally cut your pets hair to a shorter length, keep it a little longer during the winter to facilitate insulation.
Keeping ourselves and our furry friends warm in the winter is challenging but necessary for happy and healthy pet families!