Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cats chat with us through meows, blinks and roving whiskers

(from AOL)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - When it comes to cats, those meows mean ... well, a lot of things.

With each purr, yowl or even blink, felines are saying, "Hello," ''Let's snuggle" or "Beat it, Mom." For the increasing number of pet owners who want to connect with their often-aloof fur babies, experts say there's something to gain from those attempts at communication.

Cats are very independent, and so they are easily misunderstood, says Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and author of the new National Geographic book "How to Speak Cat." He aims to unravel the mystery by helping people discern what cats are trying to convey.
Crafty kitties can make 16 different meow sounds and usually only unleash them when people are around, he said. Meows can be their way of saying feed me, pet me or let me out, and hardly ever get exchanged between cats.

That's because cats learn they can get something desirable from people if they meow, said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine. She also wrote the 2003 textbook "Feline Behavior."
The meaning of a scratch or a hiss is pretty clear, but cats can talk in more subtle ways - with their eyes and tails. A slow blink from a feline, for example, is like a wink between friends, Weitzman said.
"Blinking is like a kitty kiss," he said.

And extending their tails straight up equates to a human handshake, he said. A cat perks up that appendage as it approaches to show it's happy to see you.

Susan McMinn, 55, of Tryon, North Carolina, was eager to try the slow-blinking exercise with her Siamese cat, Jade, after reading the book.

"I sat and blinked slowly at my cat, and she blinked right back. I know she loves me, of course, but now I feel I understand her communication even more," McMinn said.

McMinn has owned Jade for 10 years and has had six cats over her lifetime, but she says it's clear she still has a lot to learn. "And I thought I was an expert!" she said.

Even ear and whisker movements signify something worth listening to. If a cat's ears are flat, don't get close because it's scared or facing a fight, Weitzman said.

A kitty is happy, calm or friendly when its whiskers are naturally out to the side. Twice as thick as a human hair and rooted three times as deep, the whiskers guide them, help them with prey and show how they are feeling.
Learning to communicate with cats becomes even important for those who adopt a pet based only on the color or breed they want versus a connection with the animal.

At Happy Cats Sanctuary in Medford, New York, a potential owner might ask for a "white cat with fluffy fur," said Melissa Cox, director of communications and development.

She tells them not to go by looks alone because the true indicator of compatibility is spending time with a cat and getting to know it.

For McMinn, she says she isn't done with the book and plans to use some of its training tips. But now she knows "what to look for in her (cat's) tail and ear movement, whisker positions and in her eyes."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Latest Information About Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza Update (from the AVMA)
(Edited by Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center)

Q: What is canine influenza? A: Canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that is caused by an influenza A virus. The canine influenza virus (CIV) is closely related to the virus that causes equine influenza and it is thought that the equine influenza virus mutated to produce the canine influenza virus. In the U.S., canine influenza has been caused by the H3N8 influenza A virus. A separate canine influenza virus, H3N2, had been reported in Korea, China and Thailand, but not in the U.S. until 2015, when an outbreak in Chicago, IL was determined to be caused by the H3N2 strain.

Two clinical syndromes have been seen in dogs infected with the canine influenza virus—a mild form of the disease and a more severe form that is accompanied by pneumonia.
mild form — Dogs suffering with the mild form of canine influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic and have a reduced appetite and fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose may also be observed. Some dogs have a dry cough similar to the traditional "kennel cough" caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. Dogs with the mild form of influenza may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection.
severe form — Dogs with the severe form of canine influenza develop high fevers (104ºF to 106ºF) and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.

Because this is still an emerging disease, almost all dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to infection and have no immunity. Virtually all dogs that are exposed to the virus become infected and nearly 80% show clinical signs of disease. Fortunately, most affected dogs have the mild form.

Q: Do dogs die from canine influenza? A: Fatal cases of pneumonia resulting from infection with canine influenza virus have been reported in dogs, but the fatality rate is low (less than 10%). Most dogs with CI recover in 2-3 weeks.

Q: How widespread is the disease? A: The first recognized outbreak of canine influenza in the world is believed to have occurred in racing greyhounds in January 2004 at a track in Florida. From June to August of 2004, outbreaks of respiratory disease were reported at 14 tracks in 6 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Texas, and West Virginia). Between January and May of 2005, outbreaks occurred at 20 tracks in 11 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). The canine influenza virus has been reported in 30 states and Washington, DC.
The H3N2 strain of CIV had been reported in Korea, China and Thailand, but had not been detected outside of those countries until 2015. In April of 2015, an outbreak in Chicago, IL was determined to be caused by the H3N2 strain.

Q: Is there a vaccine? A: The first vaccine for H3N8 canine influenza was approved in 2009, and there are several H3N8 canine Influenza vaccines available. At this time, there is not an H3N2 vaccine available in the U.S.
HOWEVER, as there is no specific vaccination available the best way to protect the at risk pet population is to use the currently available vaccine. There may be some cross reactivity between the viruses so that the vaccine may be able to afford some protection. It must be determined if your pet is at risk for contracting the disease. If you pet does go to areas where there are high concentration of potentially infected dogs, boarding facilities, groomers, dog parks, doggy day care facilities, and such, then the vaccine may be warranted. Discuss the risk with your veterinarian. Following the first vaccination a booster vaccination is given 2-3 weeks later, a high level of protection will then be achieved in three weeks.

Q: How is a dog with canine influenza treated? A: As with any disease caused by a virus, treatment is largely supportive. Good animal care practices and nutrition assist dogs in mounting an effective immune response.

The course of treatment depends on your pet's condition, including the presence or absence of a secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia, dehydration, or other medical issues (e.g., pregnancy, pre-existing respiratory disease, compromised immune system, etc.). Your veterinarian might prescribe medications, such as an antibiotic (to fight secondary infections) and/or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (to reduce fever, swelling and pain). Dehydrated pets may need fluid therapy to restore and maintain hydration.  Other medications, or even hospitalization, may also be necessary for more severe cases.

Q: Is canine influenza virus transmissible from dogs to humans? A: To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to people.

Q: Do I need to be concerned about putting my dog in day care or boarding it at a kennel? A: Dog owners should be aware that any situation that brings dogs together increases the risk of spread of communicable illnesses. Good infection control practices can reduce that risk, so dog owners involved in shows, sports, or other activities with their dogs or who board their dogs at kennels should ask whether respiratory disease has been a problem there, and whether the facility has a plan for isolating dogs that develop respiratory disease and for notifying owners if their dogs have been exposed to dogs with respiratory disease.
As long as good infection control practices are in place, pet owners should not be overly concerned about putting dogs in training facilities, dog parks, kennels, or other areas frequented by dogs.

Q: My dog has a cough...what should I do? A: Consult your veterinarian. Coughing can be caused by many different medical problems, and your veterinarian can examine and evaluate your dog and recommend an appropriate course of treatment. If canine influenza is suspected, treatment will usually focus on maximizing the ability of your dog's immune system to combat the virus. A typical approach might include administration of fluids if your dog is becoming dehydrated and prescribing an antimicrobial if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.

Canine influenza virus can be spread via direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs, and by contact with contaminated inanimate objects. Therefore, dog owners whose dogs are coughing or exhibiting other signs of respiratory disease should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to them. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease to prevent transmission of infection to susceptible dogs. Clothing can be adequately cleaned by using a detergent at normal laundry temperatures.

Q: I manage a kennel/veterinary clinic/animal shelter/dog day care center. How do I keep canine influenza out of my facility, and if it does enter my facility, what should I do? A: Viral disease is usually best prevented through vaccination. A vaccine against canine influenza (H3N8) has been available since 2009. It is considered a "lifestyle" vaccine, which means that the decision to vaccinate a dog against CIV is based on the risk of exposure. A veterinarian should determine which vaccinations are needed based on related risks and benefits and should administer these at least 2 weeks prior to planned visits to dog activity and care facilities (e.g., kennels, veterinary clinics, dog day care centers, training facilities, dog parks). This differs from "core" vaccines - such as distemper, parvo and rabies - that are required for all dogs, regardless of lifestyle.

Vaccination against other pathogens causing respiratory disease may help prevent more common respiratory pathogens from becoming secondary infections in a respiratory tract already compromised by influenza infection.
Routine infection control precautions are key to preventing spread of viral disease within facilities. The canine influenza virus appears to be easily killed by disinfectants (e.g., quaternary ammonium compounds and bleach solutions at a 1 to 30 dilution) in common use in veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, and animal shelters. Protocols should be established for thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting cages, bowls, and other surfaces between uses. Employees should wash their hands with soap and water (or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are unavailable) before and after handling each dog; after coming into contact with a dog's saliva, urine, feces, or blood; after cleaning cages; and upon arriving at and before leaving the facility.

Animal care facility staff should be alerted to the possibility that a dog with a respiratory infection could be presented for care or boarding. If a dog with respiratory signs is presented, staff members should inquire whether the dog has recently been boarded or adopted from a shelter, has recently participated in dog-related group activities, or whether it has been exposed to other dogs known to have canine influenza or kennel cough. The dog should be brought directly into a separate examination/triage area that is reserved for dogs with respiratory signs and should not be allowed to enter the waiting room or other areas where susceptible dogs may be present.

Dogs with suspected canine influenza virus infection discovered after entry into the facility should be evaluated and treated by a veterinarian. Isolation protocols should be rigorously applied for dogs showing signs of respiratory disease, including the wearing of disposable gloves by persons handling infected dogs or cleaning contaminated cages. Respiratory disease beyond what is considered typical for a particular facility should be investigated, and the investigation should include submission of appropriate diagnostic samples.

Q: What diagnostic tests will tell me whether a dog has canine influenza? What samples do I send? Where do I send the samples? How do I distinguish between canine influenza and kennel cough? A: There is no rapid test for the specific diagnosis of acute canine influenza virus infection. Nasal or throat swabs from dogs that have been ill for less than 4 days may be sent to a diagnostic laboratory for testing. Your veterinarian may also offer other testing, such as an in-house test to detect influenza types A and B.

Antibodies to canine influenza virus may be detected as early as seven days after onset of clinical signs. Convalescent-phase samples should be collected at least two weeks after collection of the acute-phase sample. If an acute-phase sample is not available, testing a convalescent-phase sample can reveal whether a dog has been infected with or exposed to CIV at some point in the past.

For dogs that have died from pneumonia or other conditions in which CIV is suspected, additional diagnostic tests are available to your veterinarian through reference laboratories.

Q: I work in a kennel/animal care facility. What should I do to prevent transmission of influenza virus from infected dogs to susceptible dogs? A: Canine influenza is not known to be transmissible from dogs to people. However, caretakers can inadvertently transmit canine influenza virus from infected dogs to susceptible dogs by not following good hygiene and infection control practices. To prevent spread of canine influenza virus, caretakers should take the following precautions:
Wash hands with soap and water (if soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner)
Before and after handling each animal
After coming into contact with animal saliva, urine, feces or blood
After cleaning cages
Before eating meals, taking breaks, smoking or leaving the facility
Before and after using the restroom
Wear a barrier gown over your clothes and wear gloves when handling sick animals or cleaning cages. Discard gown and gloves before working with other animals
Consider use of goggles or face protection if splashes from contaminated surfaces may occur
Bring a change of clothes to wear home at the end of the day
Thoroughly clean clothes worn at the animal facility
Do not allow animals to "kiss" you or lick your face
Do not eat in the animal care area
Separate newly arriving animals from animals that have been housed one week or longer.
Routinely monitor animals for signs of illness. Separate sick animals from healthy animals, especially animals with signs of respiratory disease.

There is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to people. However, because of concerns about diseases that are transmissible from dogs to people, in general, it may be prudent for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons to limit or avoid contact with animals that are ill.

Q: Is canine influenza transmissible to from dogs to horses or other animal species? A: At this time, there is no evidence of transmission of H3N8 canine influenza from dogs to horses, cats, ferrets, or other animal species; the H3N2 strain has been reported to infect cats. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Facts About MRSA and Pets

Pet Talk: The facts about MRSA

By Melissa Giese/University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA is one of the most common causes of human skin and soft tissue infections, and it is the 10th-leading cause of death in humans in the United States.
MRSA stands for "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus." Staphylococcus bacteria are found on the skin of healthy individuals and, under normal conditions, do not cause a problem. However, when introduced via a break in the skin, these bacteria can become dangerous to people and pets.
"MRSA bacteria have an enzyme called penicillin binding protein II that interferes with many drugs used to treat bacterial infections, including penicillins, methicillin, oxacillin and cephalosporins," said Dr. Carol Maddox, a professor at the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Urbana.
People often wonder if their pets may be susceptible to or a source of this drug-resistant bacteria.
"There is a low incidence of MRSA in pets compared with humans," Maddox said. "Cats and dogs are more often carriers or infected with a different staphylococcus, Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which is very seldom infectious to humans."
MRSA can be found in many unexpected places. It is spread by direct physical contact with a colonized or infected person or contaminated object. Hospitals provide an environment conducive to the transmission of these bacteria between patients. "The first MRSA outbreak occurred in the late 1960s, and MRSA had spread worldwide by the early 1980s," Maddox explained. "Since the 1990s we have been seeing more community-acquired, rather than hospital-acquired, MRSA, and the infection is increasingly found in companion animals."
The resistant bacteria arise when something threatens their survival, such as an antibiotic or some disinfectants, which results in selection of bacteria with traits enabling them to survive. If the antibiotic does not kill all the bacteria present, the surviving bacteria will carry the resistant trait and may pass the trait on in the form of plasmid DNA, enabling a new strain of resistant bacteria to emerge.
"This newly emerged resistance can also be transferred by bacteriophages, viruses that can infect bacteria," Maddox said. A bacteriophage has a chance of picking up the resistance genes and transferring them to another bacteria. This process may lead to super bacteria that are much tougher to kill.
Skin problems are the most common manifestation of a MRSA infection. In dogs superficial pyoderma is a very common skin infection, while humans get a condition called exfoliative dermatitis in which the skin blisters.
"Staphylococci in general produce abscesses that can be found almost anywhere on the body. They cause tissue death and pus production at the infection site," Maddox said. "In severe cases, toxic shock syndrome can occur due to the toxins created by the bacteria. The body's inflammatory response overwhelms the patient and can lead to death."
Although there is a possibility of transmission of MRSA between animals and humans, recent studies have shown that transmission is uncommon.
"Certain staphylococci and their toxins are host specific. This means that a toxin produced by one type of staphylococcus may cause a lot of problems for pets but little problems for humans or vice versa," Maddox said.
Although unlikely, it is possible for MRSA to pass between people and pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that persons who have MRSA should get their pets tested, and owners of pets that have MRSA should get tested as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends preventing MRSA by maintaining good hygiene and keeping any wound clean and covered until healed. Wearing gloves and washing hands after treating infection sites are very important practices to prevent spread of these bacteria.

Elderly Pets and Your Veterinarian

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dog Flu Linked to Five Pet Deaths in Cook County, Illinois

By Diane Pathieu
Monday, April 06, 2015 10:31PM
CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are over 1,000 cases of canine influenza in Cook County and the virus is spreading fast. Dog flu has already been linked to at least five pet deaths in Cook County.

Experts say, now more than ever, vaccinations are a matter of life and death for your dog.

Dog flu has spread to Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, and three Chicago area PetSmart stores have closed their pet hotels to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. Donna Alexander with Cook County Animal Control says, just like humans, the key to not spreading the virus is washing your hands and keeping areas clean. She said it is a misconception that humans can transmit the flu to dogs or vice versa, but that does not mean that humans cannot spread germs.

"The way humans act as a vector is if we get any of the dog's sputum, the nasal discharge, the cough, the aerosolized types of particles on our hands when we're touching them - from their leash, their clothing, from their bedding - and then we go to another dog and pet that dog without washing our hands," Dr. Alexander said.

Alexander says the best advice for dog owners is to get that vaccine. However, it can take 28 to 32 days for that vaccine to take effect, so Dr. Alexander says to keep your dog away from social settings during that period.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dr. Sakas is Back on National Catholic Radio Monday April 13th

Dr. Sakas will be back on the radio again next Monday.

Dr. Sakas will be on the nationally broadcast radio show, "On Call" hosted by Wendy Wiese, on Relevant Radio, Monday, April 13th from 1-2 PM CST. It can be heard on 950 AM, 930 AM, 1270 AM or accessed through your computer at and listened to online. It is a call in show and Dr. Sakas had been a regular guest on the show in the past. Their phone number for call ins is 1-877-766-3777.

Future dates are being set up....all between 1-2 CST. We will keep providing updates.

If you cannot listen to it live, go to the "On Call" portion of the Relevant Radio website at, where you can hear an archived version of this show. (Typically it is posted a day or two after the broadcast and then kept up for a few months).

Chicago Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) Outbreak

Notice from the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) about the Canine Influenza Virus outbreak. What precautions to take...................

Chicago Canine Influenza Virus Outbreak-Caution When Traveling with Dogs
Over roughly a two week period, March 16-26, almost 80% of the samples tested for Canine Influenza in the Chicago and Chicago suburbs area were positive. This resulted in 34 positive cases, according to a recent Merck press release to the veterinary community. This a highly contagious virus, with symptoms which can mimic other, more benign respiratory infections.
With families traveling for the weekend, there is a concern the CIV will spread. Please advise dog owners who are traveling to keep their dogs separated from all dogs. Dog owners visiting Chicago should not take their dogs with them.
Also, please notify dog owners who are traveling from Chicago to keep their dogs separate from all other dogs, including those of other family members. If exposure occurs, the current recommendation is for a 3 week home quarantine period. Dog owners from other regions are encouraged not to bring their dog with them if they are traveling to Chicago. If they must, they should avoid all areas where dogs may gather such as dog parks, dog beaches, groomers, dog daycare and kennels.
If any dogs become ill with signs of Canine Influenza, dog owners are strongly encouraged to advise the local veterinarians that their dog may have been exposed to the virus.
Veterinarians are encouraged to be cautious over the next several weeks when dogs are presenting with "kennel cough" symptoms. They are encouraged to inquire about pet travel as well. A non-core vaccine is also available for this disease.
As a refresher, signs of CIV include:
A dry hacking cough
Coughing up a white, foamy phlegm
Lack of appetite
Runny nose
Rapid breathing
Veterinary clinics are encouraged to share information with their clients who maybe traveling with their dog on precautions and symptoms of CIV.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Human Gets Staph Infection from Dog Saliva

Dr. Stephen Page, regular supplier of good material, sent me a couple papers from the Quarterly Journal of Medicinethe other day. One’s an interesting report of ‘Staphylococcus intermedius’ infection in a person, in a case report entitled'A canine bug in a human heart' (Koci et al, Q J Med 2015;108:337-338).
It’s almost guaranteed that this wasn’t S. intermedius but rather S. pseudintermedius (some medical microbiology labs are apparently still a couple decades behind in identifying this bug). Regardless, it’s an interesting case of a 58-yr-old man with a pacemaker that developed fever, chills and a headache. He reported that a neighbour’s dog had licked his hand a few weeks earlier. The pacemaker incision site was unremarkable but ‘Staphylococcus intermedius’ was isolated from two different blood samples. That's a concern because of the potential for infection of the heart valves and/or the pacemaker leads. Infections like that can be serious and hard to eliminate (especially since we know that S. pseudintermedius tends to produce biofilm, which helps it hang around sites like pacemaker leads and avoid antibiotics. Fortunately, after a couple rounds of antibiotics and removal of the pacemaker system, he recovered uneventfully
It’s interesting (and encouraging) that the dog exposure was reported. Whether he offered the info or they asked isn’t clear, but this is the type of information that’s often missed.
Putting this report into perspective is important. This, and various other reports of S. pseudintermedius infections, show that this dog-associated bacterium can cause disease in people.
  •  Single cases continue to appear in the medical literature. That means it’s really rare (since a single occurrence is enough to prompt a publication).
  • The relative risk from exposure is limited. Most dogs carry this bacterium and huge numbers of people are exposed every day. So, the incidence of disease with respect to exposure is incredibly low
While ‘low’ is good, it’s not much consolation if you’re the one with the rare but life-threatening infection. So, some basic (common sense) practices are indicated. Avoiding contact of dog saliva with open wounds would be one. Good general hygiene practices (especially handwashing), avoiding contact with feces and similar basic measures are probably the key….along with making sure physicians know about animal contact and think about potential zoonotic infections. That’s particularly true for people that are at increased risk of disease.