Most pet owners will admit that while their animal companions are wonderful, intelligent and talented, they can sometimes be a little confusing. And by a little, we mean a lot. Thankfully, there are experts who can help us better understand our furry and feathered friends. Celebrity veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney is here to answer all of your perplexing questions about potential spring dangers to your pet.
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A: Although our canine companions may show mouth-watering interest in your grilling endeavors, it's best to refrain from sharing barbecued ribs with your dog.
In general, ribs are high in calories and fat. According to the CalorieCount.About.com post, "Pork Side Ribs in Barbecue Sauce Fully Cooked," 1/4 rack of ribs in sauce (approximately 140 grams) contains 280 calories with 135 of them coming from fat (15 grams). That’s nearly 50 percent of calories coming from fat.
Dogs eating a diet or bingeing on festive foods rich in fats and protein are more prone to pancreatitis, which is an uncomfortable inflammation of the pancreas. Vomit, diarrhea, anorexia (decreased appetite), and other health concerns are all associated with pancreatitis.
Additionally, feeding your dog a whole rib bone creates a choking hazard. Considering pork, beef or other meat ribs are high value food items for a dog, it's likely that both meat and bone will be rapidly consumed in large chunks or whole, instead of being thoroughly chewed into more easily digestible bits.
Large pieces of ingested food, especially those that are firm like a bone, can get lodged in the esophagus (food tube). Not only is this very uncomfortable for the pet, but it creates a life-threatening medical crisis potentially causing an esophageal obstruction or tear that could otherwise be avoided if the owner refrained from giving the rib to a dog.
So, instead of sharing grilled ribs with your dog, share some healthy pieces of fruit salad (but not raisins, grapes or currents which all have toxic potential for dogs) or sliced vegetables.
A: No, spring allergies have potential to bother your cat as much as allergies bother people.
As our feline companions share the same common environment we do, they will potentially be similarly affected by seasonal and nonseasonal allergens. Additionally, cats explore our shared environment with their nose, mouth and eyes, therefore there can be irritation as a result of allergens or environmental debris coming into contact with these and other body parts.
Most cats do not take care of their own oral cavity health like humans and are more prone to various degrees of periodontal disease early in life. When gingivitis (gum inflammation) and bacterial infection are present in the mouth, the respiratory tract can be similarly affected due to the intimate connection between the oral cavity and the nose (the upper teeth roots go into the sinuses).
The presence of inflammation or infection in the mouth or nose will not permit these body parts to function normally to manage environmental allergen exposure. So, you may see your cat coughing, sneezing, having nasal or eye discharge, pawing at the eyes or face, or other clinical signs as a result of seasonal or nonseasonal allergies. The response may be worse in cats having more severe periodontal disease.
During your cat’s annual wellness examination, ask your veterinarian about strategies to manage periodontal disease and environmental allergies.
A: Yes, it is true that dogs can be allergic to bee stings. As dogs actively explore their environment with their senses, bee stingers can imbed in multiple body parts, including the face, eyelids, nose, tongue, throat, paws, legs and elsewhere.
Bee venom can cause a hypersensitivity (allergic-type) reaction, which ranges from mild to severe and causes minimal to life-threatening clinical signs. Such signs of hypersensitivity reaction are usually sudden onset and include (but are not exclusive to):
- Hives (medical term = urticaria)
- Swelling (angioedema)
- Redness (erythema)
- Pain to the touch
- Licking at or pawing the affected site
- Stumbling (ataxia)
- Vomiting (emesis)
- Pale pink or white gums
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
As an owner cannot determine the degree to which a pet will react, urgent veterinary care should be pursued with suspected or confirmed bee stings. Treatment may include removal of the stinger and provision of antihistamines, steroids, fluid therapy or other medications.
A: No, I do not recommend dog and cat owners shave their canine and feline companions for warmer weather.
Provided the coat is well cared for, pets’ hair is meant to help regulate body temperature. Air becomes trapped between the strands of hair and the skin surface, which acts as a cooling or warming system, depending on the climate and the pet’s needs.
If a pet’s hair is unkempt (matted, having a thick undercoat, etc.), then heat can be retained at the skin surface and potentially cause a pet to feel the consequences (panting, lethargy, etc.) of an increased body temperature in warmer weather or during activity.
Yet, there are some circumstances when cutting a pet’s hair shorter provides better ability to control skin inflammation, infection and other dermatologic issues. If a pet’s skin health requires frequent topical medication or shampoo/conditioner to control bacterial or yeast infection, or seasonal or nonseasonal environmental allergies, then a reduced-hair skin surface can be beneficial.
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A: No, pesticides and fertilizers can be dangerous for pets in a variety of ways besides ingestion.
Products humans use on their indoor or outdoor plants, lawns, bushes, flowerbeds, etc., are certainly well known to be toxic to dogs when consumed. Such products are commonly highly nitrogen-based or could contain caffeine-rich coffee beans, bone and blood meal, or microorganism-laden (bacteria, mold, parasites, etc.) manure. Additionally, they may also contain heavy metals (iron, copper, zinc, cobalt, boron, manganese and molybdenum), herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
If fertilizers or pesticides get into a pet’s mouth, then salivation or rubbing at the face may occur. Alternatively, if the product comes into contact with a pet’s eyes, then squinting, tearing, redness and rubbing may ensue. If the products enter your pet’s respiratory tract through the nose or mouth, then coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge or other breathing difficulty could ensue.
My top recommendation is to prevent such exposures from occurring by not letting your pet outside unobserved, creating physical barriers to prevent access to areas where fertilizer/pesticide has been placed and by using professional services that offer pet-safe products.