2011-11-11 / Columnists

The Veterinary Corner

Preventing A Health And Safety Crisis With Your Pet
Commentary By Jay Rogoff And Allen Simon, DMV

Nutrition and Feeding: Good nutrition is essential for a healthy pet. Nutrients in pet foods should provide what is needed for metabolic body processes and should help fight off disease. Therefore, we recommend that you speak with your veterinarian when choosing the best food for your pet.

Proper feeding habits with nutritious food on a regular schedule can prevent many diseases as well as prevent nutritional deficiencies. Feeding the wrong food can lead to irritation or malfunction of the digestive system. Feeding your pet “table food” on a regular basis may make you feel like you are doing a good thing, but it does not provide the balanced diet your pet requires.

Improper feeding habits can cause or contribute to:

Obesity, dental disease, heart disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, and inflammation and/or bleeding in the intestines.

Unfortunately, many animals die each year from such diseases. To help prevent your animal from contracting any of these diseases it is advised that you avoid table scraps, high fat foods, and foods that cause choking. Your pets should be offered foods developed especially for them or recommended by a veterinarian.

Another important aspect for your pet’s good health is to provide plenty of clean water. All animals, especially the very young and the very old, are susceptible to dehydration and kidney disease if deprived of water, quickly leading to serious complications. If your animal suddenly begins to drink larger quantities or does not want to drink at all it is important that you get him or her checked out promptly as these are indicators of serious problems. Early detection and proper treatment can help your pet to a quick recovery.

Avoid Vigorous Exercise After Meals: Although it is fun to play with your pet, vigorous exercise after meals can lead to a life-threatening condition called bloat. It can also cause GDV or twisting of the stomach, which affects all breeds of dogs, but large, deepchested dogs are affected more frequently. It is better to feed large breed dogs which are prone to this condition, smaller more frequent meals. With early and aggressive medical and surgical treatment, 80 percent or more of these patients survive this horrible condition.

Safe Environment: Unsafe situations may occur in your pet’s surroundings, even with animals that are confined to the house or an outside run. A responsible pet owner should always have control of their pet and their pet’s en- vironment. Injury or death after being hit by a car or being attacked by another animal can be prevented if your pet is properly controlled. Your pet may be injured if allowed to wander unrestricted. In New York City it is required that an animal be walked on a leash. Controlling your pet and providing a safe home can eliminate several dangerous situations.

Temperature: Animals have more problems in hot environments than in cold. As we discussed in one of our previous articles, pets can suffer heat prostration and die in a short period of time, even minutes, under severe conditions. Good ventilation is vital. Animals cool themselves by panting, which becomes inefficient in extreme heat, poor ventilation, or when dehydration causes a lack of moisture on the tongue. If it is absolutely necessary to leave your pet in the car, even for a short time, keep the windows partially open. In the summer, the car’s interior can quickly rise to over 150°F, and your pet’s body temperature may rise to 110°F or more, causing irreversible brain damage and/or death within minutes.

Exercise: Your pets need room to move around safely to get exercise. You should provide an area with adequate room, shelter, and bedding that can be cleaned. Lots of space to exercise, some toys, and clean, comfortable bedding are some simple things that can add years to your pet’s life. Taking a walk with your dog can be good for both the owner and the pet.

Proper Identification: Remember to have ID on your animal at all times. We recommend that your animal have a micro-chip implanted. These are smaller than a grain of rice and can easily be read by any veterinary facility or rescue organization. We use the Home Again system at the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways and we are happy to say it has led to lost animals being returned to their owners. Most of the people in the New Orleans area after hurricane Katrina, who were able to get their animals returned, were those who had their pets micro-chipped. People will usually return your pet if given the opportunity. Also, if your animal is injured and transported to a veterinarian by someone else, the doctor can reach you for medical decisions.

Electric Cords: Electric cords should be inaccessible to pets, especially puppies and kittens, who tend to chew on anything. A bite through the insulation can result in a serious burn, fluid accumulation in the lungs, or death by electrocution. Dangling electric cords are an irresistible (but dangerous) temptation to a playful kitten or puppy. Make sure all cords are inaccessible!

Choking: Many common household items can cause your pet to choke: string, needles and thread, hosiery, garbage, balls, yarn, socks, bones, gristle, and small toys.

These items should be kept away from pets, as ingesting them may cause foreign body blockages or injuries to the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. If you suspect that your animal has eaten a foreign object it is important to take action quickly. The longer the item remains in your pet the more serious the situation becomes. Often surgery is the only way to remove the foreign body. Make sure that small household items are kept in a place that your pets can’t reach!

Poisoning: Accidental poisonings can be tragic. Guard against ingestion of garden supplies, such as insecticides, fertilizers, and snail bait. Poisonous plants: Many plants in live or dried forms are toxic. Even food items like dried onions can cause problems in pets. Discuss potential problems with your veterinarian or check with the nursery or a more complete reference before buying plants.

With the Christmas season approaching please be aware that Poinsetta plants are toxic to your pets.

Pennies can contain zinc, which can cause vomiting, anemia, and even death if ingested. Chocolate: As little as one ounce of unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate may poison a small dog. Dark chocolate is especially toxic. Antifreeze has a sweet taste to dogs and cats, and they may lick it off the ground. As little as one teaspoonful (easily available from a radiator boil over) can lead to irreversible kidney damage and death in a small dog or cat. Medications: Some medications that are safe for us are not safe for pets: Tylenol (acetaminophen) is deadly poison to cats; No-Doz may cause convulsions in both cats and dogs; Solarcaine may cause anemia in cats; Advil (ibuprofen) may cause kidney damage or gastric ulcers in dogs; aspirin can cause gastric ulcers in animals. These are but a few examples.

Ask a professional before administering drugs of any kind to your pet.

Traveling: Animals must be contained while riding in a car or truck. Cats jump out of cars quickly. Put them in a well-ventilated pet box or carrier. If you need one prior to taking a trip we have them available.

Dogs can be trained to a seat belt. We recommend that dogs not ride in the back of trucks. In fact in some states it is illegal for a dog to ride in the back of a pick-up truck without tethers. Besides the risk of injury from a fall, the dog may be killed in traffic. Even properly tethered dogs have little protection in the event of an accident.

If you have any questions about these health and safety recommendations please feel free to contact the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways at 718-474- 0500 or through our website Animal- HospitalOfTheRockaways.com.

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