Pet Health

Your Pills & Your Pets: A Deadly Mix

posted January 31st, 2011 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

The most toxic substance for a pet is the same thing that humans use every day to feel better.

For the third straight year, medications for humans have topped the list of pet toxins, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 2010, ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center received more than 167,000 phone calls about pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances. Of those calls, the ASPCA helped diagnose and treat about 25 percent of the cases where the pet accidentally ingested the human medications. Over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, along with antidepressants and medications for attention deficit disorder are the most commonly ingested medications. Pets often ingest pills that fall on the floor, as well.

Behind medications for humans, insecticides are the next most toxic substance for pets, according to the ASPCA.

“About 20 percent of the calls are about insecticides, which are commonly used on pets for flea control or around the house to control crawling and flying bugs,” the organization wrote in a press release. “The most serious poisonings occurred when products not labeled for use in cats were applied to them, so the ASPCA recommends pet owners always follow label directions.”

Rodenticides, baits used to kill mice and rats, were found to be the third most harmful substance for pets during the past year, followed by people food like grapes and raisins — which can cause kidney failure in pets — and onion and garlic — which can cause anemia — and veterinarian medications consumed in large amounts.

Rounding out the top 10 harmful toxics to pets are chocolate, household toxins like cleaning supplies, plants, herbicides and outdoors toxins such as antifreeze and fertilizer.

– Kristi Eaton

Choose the Right Foods

posted January 20th, 2011 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

Most American pet owners do not consider the age of their dog or cat when buying pet food, a new survey reveals.

The survey, released Tuesday by pet food manufacturer Iams, says only

11 percent of dog and cat owners in the U.S. say their pet’s age is the most important factor when buying food.

Oftentimes pet owners do not know what stage of life their pet is in, which means their beloved four-legged friend may not get the necessary nutrients for proper health and growth.

“When choosing a food for your cat or dog it is important to select a diet that has the right ingredients for that stage of your pet’s life,” said Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, emergency veterinarian, in Alexandria, Va., and a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council. “Diet requirements – including protein levels, calories and vitamins and minerals – vary over the life of a pet and, in turn, an animal’s needs change as he grows from a puppy or kitten, to an adult into a senior.”

The survey also showed that only one out of three respondents say the food’s ingredients is the most important criteria they look at when deciding what food to buy and feed their animal.  Instead, some pet owners buy food based on recommendations. Nearly four out of ten people who took the survey (about 36 percent) say recommendations from a trusted source like a veterinarian is the primary reason why they buy a certain food, while almost 25 percent say price is the main reason they will feed Fido or Tigger one brand of food over another.

– Kristi Eaton

Your Cat May Not Be Sick

posted January 10th, 2011 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

If your cat is exhibiting classic symptoms of an illness – vomiting and refusing food, for example – you may want to look at your home and daily routine before you take Tigger to the vet.

A new study shows that stress from disruption in their normal routine can make otherwise healthy cats experience problems normally associated with a sickness.

Researchers at Ohio State University discovered cats experiencing “unusual external events,” like a change in feeding schedule, showed symptoms of sickness, just as the chronically ill cats in the study did. The study examined healthy cats and cats with feline interstitial cystitis. Previous studies have shown that feline interstitial cystitis can cause many other health problems. The fact that healthy cats exhibited some of the same behaviors as those with feline interstitial cystitis is noteworthy, and shows that vets should consider living situations during the diagnosis, the researchers say.

“For veterinary clinicians, when you have a cat that’s not eating, is not using the litter box or has stuff coming up out of its mouth, the quality of the environment is another cause that needs to be addressed in coming up with a diagnosis,” said Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State and senior author of the study.

The researchers concluded that the best way to keep otherwise healthy cats from experiencing some of the sickness behaviors is to follow a set feeding routine every day; keep the food and litter boxes in the same place; keep cages, toys and litter boxes cleans; and allow cats time to play each day.

“I think a huge part of this is giving cats resources they can interact with and control. Litter boxes and food bowls go without saying, but I also think that equally important are predictable schedules and some semblance of control so they don’t feel trapped.

And their humans can focus on quality interaction rather than the quantity of interaction. Understanding how they live in the world can allow humans to interact with them more effectively,” said Judi Stella, a doctoral candidate in veterinary preventive medicine and a lead author of the study.

-Kristi Eaton

It’s Getting Cold Outside

posted November 18th, 2010 by
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Cute Chocolate Labrador in White Ear Muffs

Story by Kristi Eaton

After weeks of 70-plus fall temperatures, mother nature has finally decided it’s time for the colder temperatures.

For many, this means two things: layered clothing and breaking down and turning on the heater. But there’s one more thing that you should be thinking about right now: your pet.

Below are guidelines from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to keep your pet healthy and warm as we head into the cold, soon-to-be winter months.

Make your outdoor cat an indoor one for the next few months. Cold weather can be deadly for cats. Not only is freezing to death a possibility, but many outdoor cats seek warmth under the hood of a car. When the car is started, however, the cat can be seriously injured or killed from the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the hood before starting the car so any cats that might be hiding there have a chance to escape.

More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season, so it’s imperative to keep them on their leash when going for a walk, especially if it’s icing or snowing out.

If your dog has been in ice, snow or sleet, clean him off when he gets inside. Salt, antifreeze and other dangerous chemicals likely made it onto his body while playing.

Don’t shave you dog’s coat during the winter months. His coat will give him added warmth – just like our jeans, boots and hoodies keep us warm.

Don’t leave your dog or cat in the car unsupervised, as the car can act as a refrigerator, keeping in the cold air and freezing them to death.

If your dog can stand the cold weather and wants to continue to enjoy activities outdoors, increase his food supply – especially his protein intake – to keep him, as well as his fur, healthy.

– Kristi Eaton

Halloween Pet Safety

posted October 28th, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

Ahead of the spookiest day of the year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is warning pet owners about some common and not-so-common dangers for our beloved four-legged friends. 

1. No tricks or treats for those on four legs. It may seem harmless — how much could one little piece of candy harm Fido? A lot, actually. Most people know that chocolate is very dangerous to dogs and cats, but many people don’t realize that candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If for some reason your pet has ingested something toxic, immediately call you vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Pumpkins and decorative corn can cause stomach ache in pets, so make sure your pet stays clear of them. 

3. The same thing goes for any decorative lights or candles, especially those candles lighting up pumpkins. If chewed, wires from lights can burn your pet. Cats and dogs can become intrigued with a candle in a pumpkin and knock it over, causing a fire that could harm them and the house. 

4. Take careful thought when deciding whether or not to dress your pet up. For some animals, dressing up causes a lot of undue stress and it’s better to let them go costume-less, the SPCA says. And for those who are willing and able to get dressed up, make sure their costumes do not have any loose pieces or material they could choke on. 

5. Keep most animals in a separate room during trick-or-treating. Most animals do not handle the constant stream of strangers well. But if you do allow your pet to answer the door with you, make sure they do not dart outside each time the door is opened.

– Kristi Eaton

Veterinary Ophthalmology Services

posted October 15th, 2010 by
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Margi Gilmour, DVM, associate professor at Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is more than a veterinarian. A Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, Gilmour is a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Board certification requires an additional four years beyond veterinary school. Currently the only ophthalmologist at the center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, Gilmour and Carey McCully, a registered veterinary technician (RVT), provide ophthalmology services for the more than 900 patients they treat a year.

“We treat all species,” says Gilmour. “We see mostly dogs with horses being the second highest. The more uncommon animals we treat are at the zoo—penguins, sea lions, polar bears and ostriches to name a few.”

According to Gilmour, animals suffer from many similar eye problems as humans.

“We treat trauma cases, eyelid, corneal and retinal diseases, glaucoma, dry eye, and cataracts. Cataract surgery is the most common ophthalmic surgery performed. We also serve as a diagnostic tool for our veterinary internal medicine service. If they are seeing a patient that is ill, we often examine the eyes to look for a systemic disease such as high blood pressure, cancer, or a fungal disease.”

One of the most memorable cases the ophthalmology service treated during Gilmour’s nearly ten years at the veterinary hospital was a trauma case involving a dog.

“A golden retriever was running at Boomer Lake and ran into a branch. The stick had pierced the dog’s head just on the inner side of its eyeball. The owner had the calm nerve to remove the stick and bring her to the hospital’s 24/7 emergency room.”

Gilmour goes on to say that the dog was obviously in pain. They anesthetized her and began removing the splinters left behind from the stick.

“Under our microscope, each splinter looked like a tree,” recalls Gilmour. “We removed splinters from beside and behind the eye for at least 45 minutes. It was amazing to see how far behind the eye the stick traveled without penetrating the eye. It was a most rewarding case because the dog never lost its eyesight and healed well.”

While owners may not have a lot of control in protecting their animals’ eyes, there are few precautions they can take.

“If you own a horse with white around its eye, use a mask with specific ultraviolet protection,” says Gilmour. “Like in humans, ultraviolet light can lead to cancer. These horses are susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma cancer and can lose their eye. It is important to protect them from the UV rays.” “For dog owners, don’t let your dogs ride with their heads out the car window,” adds McCully.

While general practitioner veterinarians are equipped to measure tear production and stain for ulcerations, the OSU veterinary hospital has equipment and faculty/staff expertise to handle that and much more due to specialization.

“We have an electroretinogram to determine retinal function and an ocular ultrasound to examine structures in the eye not visible on the exam such as the retina behind an opaque cataract,” explains Gilmour. “We can measure eye pressure and use magnifying instruments that allow us to look both in the front of and the back of the eye in much greater detail.”

The list of services available at the veterinary hospital includes ophthalmic surgery involving the eyelids and the globe (cornea, lens, laser treatment for glaucoma), diagnostics, slit lamp biomicroscopy and indirect ophthalmoscopy.

Vision testing can be a challenge but Gilmour often uses how an animal tracks falling cotton balls or how they maneuver through an obstacle course to determine the extent of vision.

“A dog can’t hear cotton balls land and can’t smell them so they have to watch them. Using an obstacle course and varying the lighting can help determine if a dog has poor night vision or has difficulty seeing low-contrast items or low objects. Determining the level of vision loss can alter therapy. If an animal has permanently lost vision it is important for owners to know the necessary precautions for keeping their pet safe.”

Gilmour earned her DVM from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a one year Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at the University of Georgia followed by a one year Residency in Ophthalmology at Veterinary Ophthalmology of New England. She then completed a three year Residency in Ophthalmology at The Ohio State University. After working in private practices in Florida, Kentucky and Washington, she came to OSU in 2001 to teach, treat patients and do research.

“I chose ophthalmology because it emcompasses both medicine and surgery and involves treating all species,” says Gilmour.

McCully earned her veterinary technician degree from OSU-OKC/ Murray State College followed by her certification exam to become a registered veterinary technician, which is similar to a registered nurse in human medicine. She came to OSU in 2004 and began working with the Ophthalmology Department in 2006. McCully is the ophthalmology RVT whenever Gilmour is on clinics.

Gilmour and McCully offer pet owners this advice: If you have a concern about your pet’s eyes, call and make an appointment. While 75 percent of their cases come as referrals from veterinarians, a referral appointment is not always necessary since the OSU’s veterinary hospital is open to the public.

“For some diseases, early intervention is key,” adds McCully. “If the disease goes on too long, the damage can’t be reversed. However, if seen early on, vision may be preserved.”

The Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is one of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States and is fully accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. It also offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit or call (405) 744-7000.