Story Corner: The Little Orange Cat

Ms Danvers was not accustomed to surprises. Even when it rained after the weatherman specifically announced that it was not likely to rain that day, she would be completely caught off guard and would be blaming the weatherman for why she couldn’t go outside and plant her Begonias. So imagine her surprise when one morning, as she went down her front steps to collect the mail, she heard a distinct, soft trill. She stopped half-way to the mailbox and listened again, more carefully this time. When after a few moments she did not hear this little noise save for the rustle of some leaves, she surveyed her street. A few houses down lived Mrs. Winters, she had two very pretty if not extremely ornery Persian cats whom she let outside on the rare occasion the weather was perfectly agreeable. But she was visiting her sister in Oklahoma and always took those two fluff balls with claws with her. So it couldn’t be her. Across the street, where the train tracks passed behind the houses, lived the young eccentric who absolutely wilted inwardly at the sight of a bug. Ms Danvers couldn’t see her owning anything that could dash underfoot or blink back at her much less a cat. But she did not hear the soft trill again and decided to collect her mail, go inside, and think no more about the matter.

By the next afternoon, the minor disturbance now forgotten, Ms Danvers stepped down her walkway to her car. She needed to go to the super market for cereal, potatoes, and coffee (mustn’t forget the coffee!). As she placed her hand on the car door, again came that soft little trill, it sounded so much closer this time, as if it were just underfoot. The thoroughly confused lady looked down at her feet and, as if on cue, a tiny pink nose followed by whiskers and two fuzzy orange ears peeked out from underneath the car. Ms Danvers gasped in mild alarm as more of the tiny orange creature appeared. Two large amber eyes stared up at Ms Danvers. Again came that distinct trill. He was mewling at her. She never thought a stray cat would approach her. She had always been slightly anxious around cats, especially after the unfortunate run-in with Mrs. Winters’ Persians – they nearly tore up her hand when she tried to pet them.

“Shoo!” said Ms Danvers, waving her hands in an obviously shooing motion. The cat responded by rubbing against her shoe.

“You should know, I don’t particularly like cats” she said, trying a different tactic. But the little orange cat only stared up at her with those big amber eyes as if he only understood that she was talking to him, nothing more.

She side-stepped him, careful not to let her feet touch a hair on him and hurriedly got into her car. When she started the engine, the cat only curled up on the bottom step of her walkway and settled in for a nap.

Reluctant to leave this new visitor the run of her whole front yard, she drove off to the local super market. An hour later when she returned, the cat was gone.

A few days passed with no sign of the cat. Ms Danvers had started to think he had finally gone home to his owner when one Sunday afternoon she heard that familiar trill. This time it was right outside her door.

She opened the door to find the little orange cat sitting on her front porch step, swishing his tail, amber eyes lazily following the jaunty movement of a fly.

“What are you doing here?” Ms Danvers scoffed. But then she noticed the cat’s fur. It wasn’t as shiny as before, as if he had been sleeping in the dirt, his stomach appeared slightly sunken in – probably from lack of a decent meal – and there was now an ugly notch in his left ear, as if another animal had beat him up. The little orange cat looked up at Ms Danvers again and gave a muffled, sad cry. The sort of noise that implores more than it greets. And something inside Ms Danvers crumbled, just ever so slightly.

“Fine,” she said aloud, annoyed at herself, “wait right there.” The cat seemed to swish his tail in response.

Moments later, Ms Danvers came back outside with a paper plate. She didn’t have cat food, so she had put a heaping amount of canned tuna onto the plate. The cat’s whiskers twitched and he stood erect at the sight of the plate. As soon as she set the plate of tuna in front of him, he immediately started eating his meal. Ms Danvers went back inside the house and thought about the cat.

The weather began to change, summer slid gradually into fall. It was starting to get that chill in the air. The cat had returned to Ms Danvers’ front step for weeks now. Now he knew the lay of the land as far as Ms Danvers’ front yard and backyard were concerned. His favorite spot to sleep was right underneath the Hydrangea bush outside the bedroom window. His favorite spot to sun himself was right on top of Ms Danvers’ car, somewhat to Ms Danvers’ annoyance though she allowed him that liberty regardless. And though she had started buying actual cat food to put outside for him, his favorite meal was still tuna from a can. Before she realized what had happened, Ms Danvers found herself becoming quite fond of the little orange cat.

One evening, the rain had come, just as the weatherman promised. It poured down in sheets with the force of some unruly winds. It had become decidedly colder, the last traces of summer warmth dissipating and washing away with the rains. It dissolved Ms Danvers’ beautiful kempt backyard into a soaked mud puddle. Water from the eaves rushed down heavily and noisily.

Ms Danvers was making herself a cup of tea. Maybe she’d start that new mystery novel she’d been meaning to pick up. Maybe, if the electricity held up, she’d go online and order a nice fluffy cat bed to put outside for the little orange cat. At the thought of the cat, she went over to open her front door. But the front porch was empty save for some potted plants she took care to shelter closer to the house.

Back in the kitchen, she poured the water fresh from the kettle; the steam rose and curled pleasantly in the air. She slowly moved the spoon around in the cup, enjoying the clink of the metal against the ceramic rim. Ms Danvers’ ears pricked. It wasn’t the little clink, but something else. It was that familiar, and now most welcome, trill. The now not-so-easily-surprised lady turned to observe her kitchen door. The door had a set of windows on each side that revealed a view of her backyard. The rain was pouring down in streaks across the windowpanes, turning the distant neighborhood into a watercolor. She kept a trash can directly outside one of these windows, it was normally used to collect rain water on torrential days like this, only this time she had completely forgotten to open it. Instead, perched atop the trash can was the little orange cat, head cocked to the side and looking in. His poor whiskers were weighed down with rain drops and his fur was completely soaked. He shivered as he meowed. It was the most pitiful sight Ms Danvers had ever seen.

Forgetting all about her tea and her mystery novel, and her total aversion to getting wet, Ms Danvers rushed around grabbing towels and dashed outside. The little orange cat did not make a move toward her when she came outside, but huddled more into himself. Ms Danvers bravely stepped into the mud and mush and wrapped the little shivering creature in a heap of towels. She carefully carried him inside and did her best to dry his fur. After awhile the little cat stopped his shivering and began to purr. He looked up appreciatively at Ms Danvers and Ms Danvers looked thoughtfully down at him.

“Well Oscar,” (she had then and there decided on the name Oscar, since he ended up on top of a trash can after all) “I can’t continue to leave you outside if you’re going to go get yourself soaking wet, all chilled to the bone.”

He continued to purr in her arms. He knew he was now safe, he had found his forever home, he was happy, and above all, Oscar the little orange cat knew he was loved.

The Value of the Annual Exam

If asked if you would like to make an appointment to see the vet for what you’re calling about, or, if you’re in the middle of the exam and the vet asks if you’d like to do labwork today because it hasn’t been done in a couple years, many times, we’ll hear the resounding phrase “My pet seems fine at home.” Okay, that’s fair. You know your furry friend better than anyone, there’s no denying that. But what about the things you can’t see? Things like an underlying illness that’s slowly brewing, or an irregular heart rate, or something that your cat is hiding (felines are experts at hiding sickness by the way), or something else that may be much more than an “age-related” condition. This is where your vet comes in, to help catch these quietly brewing maladies before it becomes too late, or before you get to a point where it’s more expensive to treat because you waited. We’ve all been there. I myself have waited to bring a fur baby in, not realizing her retinas detached, and it was too late to do anything about re-attaching them. On the opposite spectrum, there is the “mommy feeling” or the “mommy senses going off”. This is sort of like Spider-Man’s “spidey senses”! It’s just an unshakable sense that something is wrong even though you can’t pin point what it is. It’s worth your peace of mind and your pet’s well-being to get your pet checked out. Don’t ignore the mommy feeling. And don’t underestimate the value of bringing your furry friend in at least once a year to be professionally evaluated by your local veterinarian.

So why is an annual exam important? Your vet is trained to recognize the subtle signs of a health problem. They have years of combined schooling and experience. A typical physical well exam will evaluate your pet’s body condition, muscle condition, heart rate, respiration/lung fields, ears, eyes, dental cavity, joints, abdomen, internal organs that can be palpated from the abdomen, skin, etc, as well as any concerns you are having at home and from there they can make a recommendation. I don’t have the knowledge or know-how that my vets do, and I certainly could not tell you about the aforementioned physical traits. And checking these physical traits annually helps create a baseline for overall health condition. As each year passes, your vet collects a pattern of your pet’s physical state. They may be able to see which joints are painful when you notice your dog’s mobility is declining, or when they yelp when you pick them up. If your dog is itchy, maybe it’s not just allergies, maybe it’s a skin infection. And there are so many different types of skin conditions that appear similar. I’m not trained to discern the differences. If your cat is hiding and everything else is normal, their kidneys may be starting to decline, and you won’t see obvious signs until your kitty’s creatinine level is too high beyond the help of fluids and medication. And bloodwork is a diagnostic that helps the vet see increases in values like creatinine.

It’s always good to create a baseline. If your pet is young, it may be okay to update bloodwork every other year. But it’s important to get that baseline. With a healthy young pet, you get all sorts of information about values in their blood while those values are still relatively normal. And as you pet ages, updating bloodwork every year or every 6 months is highly recommended. Let’s say you have a cat who is predisposed to Chronic Kidney Disease (a very common condition for cats). That cat’s kidney values can drastically change within a span of 6 months. So if you defer bloodwork, or even an annual physical exam, because your cat “is perfectly normal at home”, you could be missing these subtle changes. And this is just one example.

Your pet’s health changes once they reach a certain age, changes to important body functions that we can mistake as a normal “age-related” condition, overlooking the subtle signs of something more sinister, and thus missing a chance to further your pet’s well-being. Senior pets hold a special place in our hearts, they’ve earned it. They’ve been with us a long time, or they are a senior cat or dog that we recently adopted but have been through so much and need tender loving care.

Another key point about the physical exam is the fact that it’s physical. You cannot obtain the information afforded from sight, sound, and touch via a phone call. Many of us defer a doctor exam due to the cost. But it’s not about the money. Veterinarians do what they do because they care about your furry friend as much as you do! They love animals and it’s their calling to help them. But they need to see them on a regular annual basis.

Canned Food vs Dry Food

Welcome to the first of my “Food Series” posts. As we all know, nutrition is a key component of keeping your pet healthy. We want them to live long and happily and therefore we need to provide the right fuel to keep that going. I wanted to begin with a post about cat food. Pets can be a bit picky in regards to what they eat, and cats are certainly no exception. Some of us are well aware of a contrary kitty in our home that will want tuna one day, and then chicken the next, and then it seems no flavor will tempt them to eat. In a way they are like little kids – very particular about their meals or they will refuse to eat (excluding the cases where a cat will not eat due to a medical problem). There are many facets to pet food. Today I want to talk about the debate between canned food vs dry food for cats.

Domesticated cats share similar traits with their much larger, wilder ancestors. One of those traits is their need for meat. Your pet cat is an obligate carnivore; they require animal protein and animal fat as part of their balanced diet. Now this is not a post advocating for raw food – that is another topic entirely and for now, let’s just say raw food does not come highly recommended due to the risk of food-borne illnesses. Protein is the key word here. Cats need protein-based calories vs carbohydrate-based calories, and cats need moisture in their food. Thus, canned food is preferred over dry food. Canned food is predominantly protein and water, whereas dry food typically has no amount of moisture of dietary benefit but it contains a great deal of carbohydrates. Those carbs lead to large build up of unnecessary calories which can lead to weight gain, diabetes, or poor kidney function later on.

Not all calories are the same! The calories a cat gains from the meat/protein in its canned food help fuel its energy and body function. Their bodies are made for this. But calories from carbohydrates are something to be wary of. Dry food may seem preferable because it’s low-maintenance (you can just leave it out rather than continuing to wash and refill the food bowl at several intervals during the day), it may be less expensive depending on what and where you buy, and let’s face it, it tends to smell a lot better than its stinky canned food opposite. And of course, many cats, after eating that first meal of dry kibble, will keep coming back for more. Like with humans and fast food, it creates a craving that needs to be satisfied even though the craving is for a less-than-healthy option. As advocates for our cat’s health and well-being, we need to be the one to push for the healthier option.

For some, I understand it may not be enough for me to just tell you carbs are not the best thing. But perhaps an explanation steeped in a little science will help. Dry kibble contains many carbohydrates due to its production process. It is typically made with ingredients like rice and cornmeal, ingredients that add a lot of carbs to the recipe. Cats lack glucokinase which is a liver enzyme that aids in converting glucose (and carbohydrates are composed of sugars like glucose) into a form that cells in the body can use for energy. Cats also do not have amylase in their saliva. Amylase is an enzyme that kick starts the process of carb digestion. So they have all this glucose in their system that they cannot use, so it just builds up into very high blood glucose levels. Thus, a high carbohydrate diet is one of the main causes of obesity and/or diabetes in cats.

A note on moisture:

Cats may not feel thirsty despite being dehydrated. You may not see your kitty going over to their water bowl often to drink. And you may have heard that cats have a significantly reduced “thirst drive” when compared to dogs. The next option they have to get their daily water intake is through their food. As stated earlier, canned food is predominantly protein and water. Dry kibble does not offer any kind of beneficial moisture content. So canned food is important to keep organ functions normal which rely heavily on water intake, like the kidneys. As cats get older, one of the common diseases I see coming through the clinic is kidney failure. If we want to keep kidney issues at bay, let’s start with the most basic component of wellbeing – their food. Canned food is key.

A note on meals vs free feeding:

In the wild, cats are used to eating up to 5 to 7 meals a day. Following the wet food recommendation, this would mean opening a can or reheating refrigerated wet food leftovers multiple times a day. But this is usually not a viable option for us humans – the cat’s caretaker. Instead, to make it easier, you can try to feed 2 to 3 canned food meals a day.

And if at the end of the day you are still on team dry food (or your cat refuses to go to team wet food, which is the case for some), you can try the following brands of dry food to reduce as many unwanted carbohydrates as possible:
“Zero” cat food by the brand Young Again pet food, or “Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein”

Scruffing

The way mother cats carry their kittens:

In order to safely carry their babies, mother cats will carry a kitten by the skin on the back of its neck with her mouth, or, scruffing. Due to a special “flexor reflex” the mother cat’s hold on the back of the kitten’s neck causes the kitten’s body to go limp. But this reflex is only present in the very early stages of a kitten’s life. Which means, if you try to do this to a cat, you are doing something quite different and quite painful. When you scruff, you are pulling the cat’s skin (imagine someone yanking on your hair) and taking away the cat’s option to retreat which only increases fear, stress, mistrust, and your likelihood of never being able to handle the cat again. And when you scruff a cat to pick it up, you are basically letting all of the cat’s weight hang by the tissue, nerves, and hair of that small piece of the cat’s neck you are clutching in your tight grasp. So why do people still do this?

Why people still scruff:

Cats are very unpredictable – especially in a new or scary environment such as a vet’s office. And anything new is usually scary to them. They are very much “fight or flight” creatures when faced with a stressor. So in order to restrain a cat who is exhibiting signs of “fight or flight” (or even before they give the cat a chance) people will scruff them, and this even happens in some vet offices today. This often stems from fear of what a cat may do to them, or else, a big misunderstanding about cats. We should of course take safety into consideration and not force ourselves to do something we’re uncomfortable with, but there are safe ways to approach handling a cat that do not involve scruffing! And we should try our best to better understand our furry feline friends because above all, we just want them to be happy and healthy and show them we have enough respect for them not to do something to them which would escalate their fears and mistrust – like scruffing. When we yank them or hold them by the skin on the back of the neck to remove them from their carriers, from their hiding places, to hold them down, to examine them, to give them vaccines or draw blood, this is cruel. And for an AAHA accredited hospital, this is neither fear-free nor appropriate handling.

Better alternatives:

So what should we do instead? In order to gain access to the cat if they will not come out of their carrier on their own, please do not dump them or pull them out by their scruff. Would you want someone to dump you off the couch onto the floor or reach for you out of nowhere and yank the skin on the back of the neck to pull you in another room? No, of course not! Instead, try taking the top off the carrier (if your carrier has that capability) then put a blanket over them to provide them a hiding place and pick them up by their abdomen and bottom. Or if your carrier cannot be disassembled, use a towel anyway to wrap over them and pick them up. When holding them for an exam, to trim their nails, to give meds, etc, try the burrito method. For this method, wrap the cat tightly and snuggly in a blanket in a way that keeps their limbs from slipping out of the blanket or kicking or moving, but their head is still out, which makes the cat-blanket combo look like a burrito, or purrito.

If you want the cat to come out to where you want them – say, an exam room at a vet’s office – make that environment somewhere they want to be. Make the room calm and comfortable. Try dim lighting, soft music, soft blankets, and feline pheromones. Feliway makes synthetic feline pheromones in the form of sprays, collars, and plug-in diffusers. The idea is to create layers of calm. And if all of those fail, the next thing to try is sedation restraint. But unless the cat is giving off obvious signs that it will bite or attack you, it is usually recommended that sedation should NOT be the first thing you try, especially for older kitties whose heart, liver, kidneys and other organs may not be able to handle the sedation. And if this be the case, one just has to take their cat home and try again a different day.

Risk of injection site sarcoma:

One last note on using the scruff. There are still some clinics that administer feline vaccinations via the scruff. The adjuvanted rabies vaccine (or “killed” rabies) is particularly risky. This is because adjuvants are linked to an adverse reaction known as an injection-site sarcoma In some cats, their bodies cannot control the swelling, so the tumor keeps growing larger until it starts to affect the cat’s quality of life. Due to its rapid growth, the tumor can grow into other areas of the body and spread. But vaccines – in most patients – are still recommended as a protection from diseases. So for those clinics who still administer vaccines via the scruff, that would mean risking an injection-site sarcoma in the scruff, a hard swelling directly over the neck and the only way to remove it would be euthanasia. This is why at our clinic – though we use the safer non-adjuvented vaccine – we administer vaccines to kitties in an area as far down the leg as possible. For if it would become necessary to remove a tumor caused by an injection site, if such a rare event were to occur, amputation would be a possibility which would mean a much better outcome for your kitty vs the alternative.

Spooky Animals of Myth & Legend

As Halloween is just upon us, what better way to prepare than sharing tidbits about the spooky dogs and cats of myth?

Nekomata – In Japanese folklore, a domesticated cat contains a monster spirit that comes about once the cat reaches old age. The Nekomata are one of the more sinister feline yōkai. Origins of this myth date back to 1185. Accounts of this creature incited fear and, unfortunately, affected the way cats were treated during this era. During the Edo period, the Nekomata was described as a rather large cat with powers, and later, between the 17th and 18th centuries, more details emerged about this cat and how it was transformed from a domesticated cat if it had been kept in the home for a certain length of time. The tail of this cat would split in two before it transformed. It is indeed a hostile creature, inclined to eat other, rather large, animals, setting buildings ablaze by creating balls of fire, and given to necromancy or shape-shifting into lions or leopards.

Bakeneko – The slightly less hostile monster cat of the yōkai form, the Bakeneko would also transform once they reach an age over 13 years. They maintain their appearance as an ordinary house cat for a time, then their supernatural powers increase as they grow even older and will eventually be given to stand upright and walk around on their hind legs. They will grow larger, sometimes even to the size of their human caretaker. Their  powers include shape-shifting (becoming smaller, regular sized cats or taking on the form of other people, even their owners), and if they are disguising themselves as humans, you can tell it is a Bakeneko if they are wearing a towel wrapped around their head. According to folklore, signs that a house cat was going to transform into one of these Bakeneko was their age (over 13 years old), their weight (if they grew to be over 8 lbs), if they have a very long tail, or if they had been spotted licking up lamp oil. The Bakeneko will not necessarily eat other large creatures like their supernatural cousin, the Nekomata, but they are said to bring with them curses and misfortune.

Maneki neko – This yōkai is actually a popular symbol for good luck and fortune. If you’ve ever passed by a storefront or a counter at a restaurant, you may have seen a little statue of a calico sitting, smiling, and holding up its paw. In opposition to the Nekomata and the Bakeneko, the Maneki neko are benign cats who are good luck charms for agriculture – they eat the mice and other pests that would otherwise attack a farmer’s crops – and the folklore says they protect their owners from danger and bring them riches.

Black Shuck – Near England, there was a creature that haunted the folktales of people who lived along the coastlines and countryside. The Black Shuck is a large spectral black dog with glowing red eyes and a howl like a savage wind, it hunts in wild lands.

The Wampus Cat – One of the stories surrounding this creature depicts it as a supernatural feline spirit from Cherokee folklore which originated in a part of North Carolina. A woman was turned into a half-woman/half-cougar monster called Ewah (or, the Wampus Cat) as punishment for sneaking into a secret meeting of the Cherokee men who were telling sacred stories that women were forbidden to hear. She was cursed to wander the forests, howling for and lamenting her true human form, terrorizing anyone who became lost in her forest after dark. In opposition to this, another tale relates that the Ew’ah was an evil demon which plagued the lives of the Cherokee tribes until one day they sent their bravest to fight the Ew’ah. This warrior was named Standing Bear. He did not return from his mission until weeks later but he was never the same, deranged and no longer any use as a warrior. He came home crazed and screaming. In revenge, Standing Bear’s wife, Running Deer, went after the Ew’ah. Garbed in a mask depicting a bobcat and covered in special black paste to hide herself from the demon’s notice, she snuck up on the creature, sprang forth and vanquished it. It is said that Running Deer’s spirit resides in the Wampus Cat to watch over her tribe’s lands.

Werewolves – What short collection of legends regarding the canine and feline creatures of lore would be complete without the mention of the infamous werewolf? Most of us are aware of this particular character – most commonly a man that transforms into a wolf or wolf man sometimes by the influence of a full moon – because of literature and film. Werewolves have historically been a part of the world’s folktales since about 1200 B.C. where the first known reference of this creature was made in the Mesopotamian odyssey The Epic of Gilgamesh. The god Zeus cursed Lycaon by turning him into a werewolf. According to many stories, one can become one of these terrifying monster dogs by being bitten by it, and cursed to transform under each full moon, given to madness and mayhem. Or, as some myths proclaim, lycanthropy was a punishment from the gods. In Northern European legends, the werewolf was likely to have emerged from the stories of men dressing in the pelt of wolves in order to battle like wolves. The Norse berserk warriors share a similar trait in that they don the pelt of a bear in battle.

Thank you for reading and remember, black cats are NOT bad luck, make sure your pet does not get into the trick-or-treat bucket, and have a safe and happy Halloween!

Halloween Candy

We all know one of the great treats of Halloween is, well, the treats! But just like their human companions, cats and dogs like goodies too. I’m sure many pet parents have had to fend off a determined dog or cat when they were eating dinner or have had to quickly rush and clean up a spill if they dropped BBQ sauce on the floor – or else Fido was going to clean it up for them. Let’s begin by going through a list of the basic human foods/items in the kitchen toxic and/or unhealthy to animals.

Beware of these items around your furry friend:

Chocolate

Coffee/caffeine

Alcohol

Avocado (toxic to birds, rabbits, horses, sheep, donkeys, goats)

Citrus

Coconut water/coconut oils

Grapes

Raisins

Macadamia nuts

Milk/dairy

Onions (and onion powder used in Goldfish)

Garlic

Chives

Raw or undercooked meat

Eggs

Bones

Cinnamon (particularly in cats)

Salt/salty foods

Xylitol (artificial sweeteners)

Yeast dough

Hops

While it’s never okay to let your pet eat candy, there are food products on this list that are particularly deadly, and often found in your child’s Halloween treat bucket.

Chocolate – the theobromine and caffeine in chocolate is metabolized at a slower rate in pets than in humans. The composites of theobromine and caffeine are thus allowed to build up in their system. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in more serious cases, tremors, seizures, heart arrhythmia, irregular heart rate, and internal bleeding.

Xylitol – sometimes disguised as words like wood sugar, birch sugar, or birch bark extract, when ingested, this substance is rapidly absorbed in your pet’s bloodstream and activates the release of insulin in the pancreas. This leads to hypoglycemia which can result in liver failure, seizures, or death. Xylitol toxicity can present as vomiting, lethargy/weakness, trouble with balance/coordination, tremors, depression, yellowing of the skin or mucus membranes. You have to beware of this substance because it may be used in sugar-free candies or certain peanut butter products.

Grapes/raisins – the tartaric acid in this fruit causes excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney damage, or acute kidney failure. Vomiting is the most common early sign of tartaric acid toxicity and usually occurs within 24 hours of ingestion. Even one little grape or raisin can be fatal depending on the size of the pet. So on Halloween, kids may not like those little raisin boxes, but if they’re discarded, make sure they don’t end up on the ground or in a place your pet or another animal can get to them (and chocolate-covered raisins is just a horrible combination of products to wind up in your pet’s stomach).

Macadamia nuts – their high fat content over-stimulates the pancreas. Pancreatitis presents as abdominal pain, depression, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or weakness in the back legs. Beware of macadamia nut cookies!

Salt – consumption of salt can cause high blood sodium concentration, or, hypernatremia. Signs of salt toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, coma, seizures, lack of coordination, lethargy, tremors, and excessive thirst or urination.

Other items in your child’s Halloween treat bucket to beware of:

Lollipops – your pet can choke on the sticks.

Wrappers – your Halloween candy is often dressed up in colorful foil or cellophane wrappers, but if ingested, this can cause a serious obstruction that may require expensive radiographs to diagnose and even more costly, a surgery to remove. Signs of possible foreign body obstruction include vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, straining to defecate or not defecating at all.

If you know or even suspect your pet ingested something potentially hazardous, please call the ASPCA Poison Control at 888-426-4435!

Halloween Pet Costumes

Halloween costumes for our pets can be cute, but they can also pose a few hazards.

Allergies/irritants: You have to be careful of the types of material used in the pet costume, or what the costume was possibly washed in. Certain fabrics and laundry detergents can cause irritation to your pet’s sensitive skin. They could be abrasive against their bellies, cause a rash, or cause itching of the abdomen, face, legs, or paws.

Loose or dangling pieces: With detailed costumes, there may be dangling parts like eight bouncing legs if you put a spider costume on your Shih Tzu, bells only held by a flimsy piece of string, bows, fake tails, feathers, etc. But these items could potentially be things your pet trips over, or tries to chew off and swallow. This would cause risk of choking. Or, if your pet does ingest a piece of its costume, could lead to a costly visit to the vet for x-rays and possible surgery for an obstruction. You also don’t want anything on your pet that they could strangle themselves on – this is why emergency break-away collars are good for cats because they can squish themselves into small spaces and why harnesses are a safer idea than collars for dog breeds like English Bulldogs or Dachshunds.

Restrictive costumes (or, It’s Too Tight!): This goes along with potential strangulation. You don’t want a costume that is too tight around your pet’s body. Watch out for pesky elastics or adhesives that are holding a costume together. These items can also pinch and pull out fur – ouch!

You also do not want to obstruct your pet’s vision (like with masks or head pieces) or potentially restrict breathing (you should probably not put anything that covers your Bulldog’s face).

Not to mention, if a costume is too restrictive or limits a pet’s mobility, this is very uncomfortable to an animal and can cause anxiety.

It’s important to recognize your pet’s anxiety cues, and not just for Halloween: panting, ears back, yawning, aggression, tail tucked, urination or defecation in the house, vocalization (like excessive meowing or barking), pacing, drooling, destructive behavior, decreased appetite, trembling, excessive grooming, hiding. Stress can then trigger health issues for your furry friend like diarrhea, immune suppressant response, and idiopathic cystitis among other problems.

A warning about taking your pet in his or her costume outdoors among the trick-or-treaters: Halloween night entails loud excited children, possible traffic sounds, other unusual and/or loud noises, and potentially hazardous Halloween decorations. And if your pet gets spooked, they may run away. It is probably a good idea to make sure your pet is microchipped, has visible contact information on their collar, or even invest in a tracking device that you can attach to their collar or harness. Or better yet, if you know your pet doesn’t have the temperament for a loud, chaotic environment, leave them home in a comfortable calming room.

Do not ever leave an animal by itself while in a costume (and it’s probably not a good idea to leave your pet alone outside during Halloween anyway). There is the potential for an increase in pet abductions on Halloween. And let’s not forget those of us who are pet parents to black cats. Halloween brings out spooky tales of folk lore and superstitions, and there will always be cruel people. This is why some animal shelters do not adopt out their black cats on or around Halloween, for the cats’ safety.

This should be an enjoyable time for both of you, not scary or stressful. So before you pull out the sewing kit or go to Petsmart to pick out a cute pet costume, remember to keep in mind what is safe and comfortable for your furry friend.

Welcome post

Good afternoon friends of AHR, I take up the pen and keyboard to write this post as a dedication to Bob, the clinic cat. Our sweet Bobby has since passed away, but he will never be forgotten, nor will any of the furry friends who we have loved and have passed on. But this is not goodbye, only a pause until we meet again. So during this time, we will keep up the blog, for Bob.

September has passed, and October is now upon us – the pumpkin spice season, and yes, apparently there is such a thing as pumpkin spice treats for dogs! During this time, remember to keep your furry loved ones close, keep them comfortable, and keep them healthy.

I look forward to delving into October with Halloween-themed posts, interesting thoughts, and helpful tips for our pets. I now close this brief post with a poem, in memoriam to our beloved clinic cat, Bob.

Waiting at the Door

I was just a kitten when we first met,

I loved you from the start.

You picked me up and took me home,

And placed me in your heart.

Good times we had together,

We shared all life could throw.

But years passed all too quickly,

My time has come to go.

I know how much you miss me,

I know your heart is sore

I see the tears that fall

When I’m not waiting at the door.

You always did your best for me,

Your love was plain to see.

For even though it broke your heart,

You set my spirit free.

So please be brave without me,

One day we’ll meet once more.

For when you’re called to heaven,

I’ll be waiting at the door.

-Author unknown

Keeping your pets warm

One of the most common things we have been asked over the last few days is to board family pets because people have no heat.

We wanted to provide you a simple list of some things that you can do from home for your animals to try to keep everyone else safe and warm as possible.

We hate to state the obvious, but we will…Keep your pets inside with you and your family. Under no circumstances should pet cats be left outdoors, even if they roam outside during other seasons. 

One of the best ways to provide warmth is body heat. Snuggling together in bed or on the couch or holding your pet close. there are other therapeutic reasons to snuggle your pet, but keeping you both warm tops the list! Go into a center room of the home away from windows.

You can put small baby socks on your pets feet to try to prevent them from losing heat through their extremities. Watch your pet closely to be sure they do not eat the socks. You do not want an obstruction in the midst of a snow storm.

If you have access to warm water, you can heat water bottles and wrap them in towels and put them near your pet. Extra blankets can be used on their bedding.

Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps. For this reason, short-haired dogs often feel more comfortable wearing a sweater—even during short walks.

Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth.

Keep in mind that cars are one of the many hazards to small animals—warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine. Antifreeze is also a serious risk during cold weather. It’s sweet tasting and attracts animals.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about your pets!



Weathering the storms

We were happy to be open today were very happy to have power. We were one of the only clinics in the area who was open which meant for a busy day.

When the doctor at her nurse arrived to the clinic, there was an emergency bit by a dog waiting to be seen. Amidst getting this patient sutured up and stable, We had our regularly scheduled appointments begin to arrive. Seizing dogs, vomiting patients, a pet who ate some thing they shouldn’t, another bit by dog, a feeding tube placement on a critically ill kitty…

Dr. Hurley an Dr. Clary came to the rescue along with Catie and Taylor and got right to work saving lives. We love what we do and our fantastic clients.

Please say a little prayer for the emergency vet clinics in the area. They are overwhelmed and understaffed and trying their best to take care of all of the patients who need help.

We will be back at 9 AM tomorrow to do it all over again! The area is overwhelmed with urgent care so please consider rescheduling wellness and vaccine appointments until a later date if possible. If your pet is ill but not critical, please text us to see if you need to come in to be seen 972-805-1491. Please remember that we can also do some telemedicine appointments depending on the case.have power.

Here are some cute boarder pictures from today 💜

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