Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Top 10 Pet Toxins of 2011

A friend of mine posted this article from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and I felt it was worth posting on this blog. Thank you, Dr. John.

Top 10 Pet Toxins of 2011

Prescription Human Medications
Both known and unknown toxins can be found hiding in our houses and yards. In 2011, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL, fielded more than 165,900 phone calls about pets exposed to poisonous substances. Visit our poison app on Facebook.


1. Prescription Human Medications

Almost 25,000 calls last year were about human prescription medications. Pets, especially dogs, are notorious for ingesting any dropped pill. Cardiac and ADHD medications make up a large percentage of these calls. Always make sure to take these medications in a safe place away from your pets.


2. Insecticides

Insecticides were the subject of 11% of calls to the ASPCA in 2011. These include products used on the lawn, in the house and on the pet. The most important thing to do is read the label before you use any insecticide, and never use a product labeled for dogs on cats.


3. Over-the-Counter Human Medications

Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can kill your pet. Never give any medication to your pet without consulting with your veterinarian first.


4. People Food

Chocolate is still the number one people food that pets ingest (we received over 7,600 calls last year). Too much chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate and seizures. The second most common food is xylitol (the sugar substitute). Xylitol can cause seizures and liver failure in dogs. 


5. Household Products

It is amazing what animals can find to chew up around the house from fire logs to paint. Some household items may just cause stomach upset, while others can be deadly.


6. Veterinary Medications

Chewable medications make it easy to give your dog or cat a pill. However, this tasty pill can also mean that the pet, if given access, will ingest all the pills in the bottle. Always make sure to keep pet medications out of reach. Contact your veterinarian if your pet ingests more than its proper dose of medication or ingests another pet’s medication.


7. Rodenticides

When putting out baits to kill mice and rats, never underestimate the resourcefulness of your pet. Most bait is grain based and is attractive to dogs. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestion can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure or seizures.


8. Plants

About 4% of our phone calls are pet parents calling about their animals eating plants. This is one category that cats lead dogs in the number of exposures. Lilies can cause kidney failure and death in cats. Please see our list of toxic/non-toxic plants for more information. 


9. Lawn and Garden Products

Fertilizers, which can be made of dried blood, poultry manure and bone meal, are very attractive to pets, so it is not surprising that we get many calls (almost 3,900 in 2011) on lawn and garden items.


10. Automotive Products

With more people keeping their animals inside (especially cats), the number of animals exposed to automotive products (antifreeze, brake fluid, etc.) has dropped. This is great news since many of these products, if ingested, can be life-threatening to pets.

If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bad to the Bone - Destructive Animals Slideshow

A slide show of destructive pets and some with attitudes...we have all had experiences with these type of animals. A fun slideshow with an appropriate soundtrack....Bad to the George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Loyalty of Dogs

One of the great quotes about dogs....."A dog is the only thing on this Earth to love you more than he loves himself." Truer words were never spoken and this slideshow I created demonstrates the veracity of that statement.

A friend had sent me a collection of photos in an email entitled "Loyalty." It was a series of various photos of dogs displaying the close bond between them and people. Some had captions as well. There were also a number of photos of servicemen with their dogs. One of the closing photos is the very famous photo of the devoted dog laying next to the coffin of a Navy Seal who was killed in action.

I chose the music for the soundtrack from the HBO series "Band of Brothers" as at the end of the slideshow there is a definite military orientation. However, this piece of music, "Requiem," sets such a poignant tone, that coupled with the photos evokes great emotion. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Food Allergies
Don Staunton DVM
Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center
7278 N. Milwaukee Ave. Niles, IL 60714
Ph 847-647-9325 FAX 847-647-8498

Allergic conditions are very commonly seen in pets. Many of the allergic conditions seen are due to seasonal allergies and a wide variety of other causes. However, 5-15% of dogs and 1-10% of cats with skin or ear disorders are likely to be food allergic. There are no recognized age, sex, or breed predilections. The age of onset is 4 months to 14 years in dogs and 3 months to 11 years in cats.

The most common sign of food allergy in both dogs and cats is itching, scratching, biting, or licking the skin. In dogs the itching is often generalized but in many cases is limited to the face, ears, legs, feet, armpit and groin area, and/or the area around the anus. In cats, the head, neck, ears, around the eyes and in front of the ears are commonly affected, but other areas may be involved. Ear infection is often present and may be the only clinical sign in dogs and cats. Skin redness, hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), infection, ulcerations, hair loss, scaling, and flaking are other clinical signs. Approximately 30-50% of animals with skin signs of food allergy also have signs of vomiting, diarrhea, increased frequency of defecation, and abdominal pain.

Other possibilities for the clinical signs described above include fleas, mites, lice, bacterial and yeast infection, contact allergy, and atopy (hypersensitivity to substances in the environment including house dust mites). Many animals have combined allergies (both atopy and food allergy). Non-seasonal allergies (late fall and winter months) can be highly indicative of food allergy.

Foods reported to cause allergies in dogs include beef, chicken, corn, dairy, egg, soy, and wheat. Uncommon food include fish, lamb, pork, rabbit, duck, and venison. In cats, common foods include beef, fish, and dairy. Uncommon foods include wheat, barley, egg, lamb, pork, poultry, rabbit, and duck.

The main challenge of performing a food trial is compliance. A food trial will fail if you feed treats, snacks, rawhides, pig ears, human foods, scraps, garbage, outdoor feeding, and any other items not specifically ordered in the food trial. There are three food trial options available: 1) veterinary therapeutic/prescription food, 2) over the counter (OTC) food, or 3) formulated home-prepared recipe. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

Veterinary diets include novel protein and hydrolyzed therapeutic diets. Novel protein diets include ingredients such as rabbit, venison, fish, duck, or kangaroo, on the theory that other commercial pet foods rarely use these ingredients, so previous exposure is not likely. More and more OTC retail products are becoming available with these ingredients but some are contaminated with possible food allergy offending ingredients. Also, most novel protein veterinary diets are formulated for adult maintenance, not growth or reproduction. Hydrolyzed diets are not designed to be novel. They are formulated to provide small peptides, that are not recognized by the immune system, instead of larger intact proteins. These diets may be chosen if an animal has been exposed to several different diets in the past. Over the counter foods may be offered but limited data suggests that cross-contamination of retail foods can lead to traces of other ingredients. Lastly, home-prepared diets may be offered but they can be expensive, inconvenient, time-consuming to prepare, and difficult to formulate as complete and balanced (vitamins, minerals, etc.).

Animals with immunologic food allergies and food responsive gastrointestinal symptoms usually respond positively to food trials within 4 to 12 weeks. Clinical signs, such as itching, ear infections, and gastrointestinal upset will start to improve in the first month, but up to three months may be necessary to see significant improvement. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections will need to be treated during the early stages of a food trial. Be sure to use a topical flea and tick preventative during the appropriate months, as ectoparasites can cause many of the same skin and ear symptoms seen with food and environmental allergies.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hazards and Dangers for Pet Birds

Be Afraid……Be Very Afraid
Peter S. Sakas DVM
Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center
7278 N. Milwaukee Ave. Niles, IL 60714
847-647-9325 FAX 847-647-8498
Pet birds are totally reliant upon our level of care for their very existence. The fate of these companion animals are in our hands. Poor husbandry techniques, poor diet, inadequate care are all factors that can lead to sickness, poor quality of life and even untimely death.

When you make the commitment to keep birds as companion animals you must dedicate yourself to maintain them in a proper fashion. Too often, due to negligence or ignorance birds are subjected to injury, illness or death due to poor husbandry techniques.

Malnutrition due to improper diet is probably the number one “disease” condition that we see in avian practice. Poor diet can lead to metabolic conditions and lowered resistance to disease. Nutritional conditions we see include obesity, fatty liver disease, vitamin A deficiency, atherosclerosis, and poor feather quality.

Our responsibility is to provide a complete and balanced diet. Pellets are an ideal diet and should make up 80 to 50% of the diet. People food, including some seed, can make up to 20 to 50% of the diet as well. The conversion process to a pelleted diet must be done carefully as some birds do not willingly change over. They must be monitored carefully during the change to pellets.

If the bird refuses to convert and remains on a seed diet it must be supplemented as a seed diet is inadequate. Supplements should include a quality daily vitamin, mineral sources, and vitamin A rich foods (red and orange vegetables / dark green leafy vegetables).

Birds kept in filthy conditions are prone to picking up disease. Cage papers should be checked and changed daily. If wood chips, shavings, corn cob or similar substrates are used they should be changed regularly. Regular cage cleanings should be performed.

Dirty food and water cups are a prime source of infection for pet birds. Cups should be thoroughly cleaned daily. Cups should be covered or placed strategically to avoid fecal contamination.

The surrounding environment should be thoroughly cleaned regularly as well. Feathers, powder, feces, food all will be potential sources of irritation or infection.

Aspergillus is a ubiquitous soil fungus that can lead to serious disease in pet birds. It can be found in a dusty, musty environment or improperly stored food materials. It can lead to respiratory disease or manifest itself as a skin irritation leading to feather picking.

Bird keeper’s lung (Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis) is human health hazard (zoonosis) caused by hypersensitivity of certain individuals to aerosolized fecal proteins. It can lead to irreversible fibrosis of the lungs. It is important to clean the cage regularly to prevent the drying of the feces and potential aerosolization. Having an air cleaner near the birds is a good idea to keep feather dust, debris, and the fecal material to a minimum. If you do have sensitivity to birds have someone else in the family clean the cages or if you must clean wear a mask.

Cage/Cage Environment
The cage should be proper for the type of bird housed there and made of non-toxic components. Be cautious with objects that may contain lead or zinc (common toxicoses seen with pet birds). Watch for wear and tear of the cage as parts may become damaged and pose a hazard. The cage should be placed in an area free from cold steady “drafts” and sites with potential for exposure to fumes or gases.

The kitchen is one of the worst places to place a bird cage. Dangers include natural gas (stove or water heater), carbon monoxide, overheated or burning food, overheated PTFE, cleaning agents, and aerosols.

Birds that fly free are at great risk to be severely injured. Mirrors, windows, ceiling fans, and other objects can be dangerous to free-flying birds.

Closely monitor birds in households with other pets. Cats, ferrets, dogs, and other birds have caused severe and sometimes fatal injuries to birds that are not properly monitored.

Disease Conditions
Birds can suffer from all kinds of disease conditions including bacterial, fungal, viral, chlamydial infections, metabolic disease, reproductive/endocrine disorders, cancer, and psychological conditions. Early detection is the key. Be alert so the signs of disease can be recognized before they lead to a severe condition. Develop a feel for what is normal for your bird and watch for changes from the norm may serve as an indication of disease. Check the droppings daily as droppings are an excellent indicator of potential disease conditions

Feather Picking
Feather picking/self mutilation is one of the most frustrating conditions faced by avian veterinarians as there are a multitude of possible causes. Infection, hormonal conditions, psychological issues, allergies, metabolic disease, are potential causes to name a few. As there are so many causes there is no one good, all encompassing solution.

Purchasing a Bird
When purchasing a bird, deal with quality sources. If it is too good to be true it probably is! Always obtain a written guarantee and honor the requirements. Have the bird checked by an avian veterinarian within the guarantee period. Always pay attention to what the breeder/pet store tells you about the bird and follow the instructions carefully.

Lack of an isolation period after the purchase of a new bird is one of the worst sins I see committed by people who have other birds in their home/aviary….EVEN BY PEOPLE WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!!!!!!!

The isolation period should be a minimum of 30 days, some sources advocate 90 days. New birds can be carrying a variety of disease conditions that can cause severe disease in your other birds. Not only large birds should be isolated as serious disease has been detected in small birds as well. For example, there have been recent cases of psittacosis in cockatiels, as well as psittacine beak and feather disease in budgies and lovebirds.

With no isolation precautions you are exposing your birds to all the diseases that exist in the pet store or breeding facility.

There are many disease conditions and hazards lurking out there to put your bird at risk. Your responsibility is to protect your bird from such hazards by proper husbandry techniques and recognition of disease conditions. We want our avian companions to live the long quality life they deserve.