Protect Your Pet During Winter and Cold Weather

Follow our tips to keep pets safe and comfortable

From The Humane Society Website

In many areas, winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness. Extra precautions during winter months will make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm.
Help your pets remain happy and healthy during the colder months by following these simple guidelines:

Keep pets indoors and warm

Don’t leave dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. Regardless of the season, shorthaired, very young, or old dogs and all cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
The best way to keep your pets safe (and happy) is to keep them with you

Take precautions if your dog spends a lot of time outside

A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, he or she must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Help neighborhood outdoor cats

If there are outdoor cats, either owned pets or community cats (ferals, who are scared of people, and strays, who are lost or abandoned pets) in your area, remember that they need protection from the elements as well as food and water. It’s easy to give them a hand.

Give your pets plenty of water

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Be careful with cats, wildlife, and cars

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.

Protect paws from salt

The 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 his/her mouth.

Avoid antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, wildlife, and family. Read more about pets and antifreeze »

The best tip of all: keep your pets with you

Probably the best prescription for winter’s woes is to keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time.
Dogs and cats are social animals who crave human companionship. Your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family.

Pet Safety Tips for the Holidays

Keeping your furry family members safe during the holidays can be a difficult task. There are the ornaments, plants, presents, lights — oh, and who could forget the Christmas tree (if do you decide to put one up this year)? Let’s take a look at some simple steps that will allow your pets to join in the holiday fun this year, while avoiding any trips to the animal emergency room.
Christmas Tree Tips:
1. Place your Christmas tree in a corner, blocked off from your pet’s wanting eyes. If this doesn’t keep your dog or cat from attempting to jump onto the tree, you can place aluminum foil, a plastic drink bottle filled with knick knacks, or anything else that creates noise on the tree’s bottom limbs to warn you of an impending tree disaster.
2. Tinsel can add a nice sparkling touch to the tree, but make sure you hang it up out of your pet’s reach. Ingesting the tinsel can potentially block their intestines, which is generally only remedied through surgical means.
3. Do not put lights on the tree’s lower branches. Not only can your pet get tangled up in the lights, they are a burning hazard. Additionally, your dog or cat may inadvertently get shocked by biting through the wire.
4. Ornaments need to be kept out of reach, too. In addition to being a choking andintestinal blockage hazard, shards from broken ornaments may injure paws, mouths, or other parts of your pet’s body.
5. For those buying a live Christmas trees this year, keep the area free and clear of pine needles. While they may not seem dangerous, the needles can puncture your pet’s intestines if ingested.
Other Great Holiday Item Tips:
1. Did you know holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia plants are poisonous to dogs or cats? If you normally use these plants to decorate your home, they should be kept in an area your pet cannot reach.
2. Edible tree decorations — whether they be ornaments, or cranberry or popcorn strings — are like time bombs waiting to happen. These goodies are just too enticing and your pet will surely tug at them, knocking down your wonderfully decorated spruce.
3. Burning candles should be placed on high shelves or mantels, out of your pet’s way — there’s no telling where a wagging tail may end up. Homes with fireplaces should use screens to avoid accidental burns.
4. To prevent any accidental electrocutions, any exposed indoor or outdoor wires should be taped to the wall or the sides of the house.
5. When gift wrapping, be sure to keep your pet away. Wrapping paper, string, plastic, or cloth could cause intestinal blockages. Scissors are another hazard, and they should be kept off floors or low tables.
Article found on PetMD website.


  • Endoscopy is a procedure that allows your veterinarian to look inside your pet’s body without surgery.
  • A flexible or rigid scope with a camera attached is inserted into a body cavity to view internal organs and the interior of joints.
  • Endoscopy can be used to diagnose and treat problems.
  • General anesthesia is required.
  • Endoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure.

What Is It?

Endoscopy is a procedure for looking inside your pet’s body using a flexible or rigid scope with camera and magnification capabilities. Endoscopy allows your veterinarian to see within a body cavity and examine the surface of organs, such as the liver or kidneys, or to see the structure of various joints, such as the knee.

How It Works

The endoscope is inserted through a body orifice (mouth, nose, anus) or a small incision in the abdomen, chest wall, or joint surface. The incision generally requires only a suture or two to close. The procedure is performed while your pet is under general anesthesia.

What Is It Used For?

Endoscopy provides your veterinarian with a full-color, magnified view of the area of interest. Direct visualization and biopsy can be useful in determining the cause of a problem and establishing a diagnosis. Endoscopy is also used for the following:

  • Identifying and sometimes removing foreign bodies (objects)
  • Performing minimally invasive biopsies and surgeries
  • Visualizing strictures (abnormal narrowing of a passage), lesions (tissue damage), or masses
  • Examining the interior of joints
  • Helping  to place a feeding tube

Types of Endoscopic Procedures

Endoscopy procedures are named after the organ or area they are intended to explore:

  • Gastroscopy—Evaluation of organs that make up the gastrointestinal system
  • Laparoscopy—Evaluation of organs of the abdominal cavity, including the kidneys, liver, and pancreas
  • Thoracoscopy—Evaluation of the chest, or thoracic, cavity, which includes areas around the heart and lungs
  • Rhinoscopy—Evaluation of the nasal passages and the back of the throat
  • Cytoscopy—Evaluation of the urethra, bladder, and related structures; cytoscopy is useful for diagnosing many urinary tract disorders, such as bladder stones, cancer, infection, and congenital (existing since birth) abnormalities
  • Arthroscopy—Evaluation of joints
  • Bronchoscopy—Evaluation of the windpipe and large airways inside the lungs

Benefits of Endoscopy

Endoscopy allows minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment of many problems. It can help avoid more complicated surgery and reduce the amount of pain and recovery time. Patients are often discharged from the hospital within hours of undergoing the procedure. Endoscopic images can be captured and replayed on video, allowing veterinarians to not only review evaluations but also share images with owners to explain diagnostic or therapeutic options. Certain results, such as the presence of a foreign body (due to eating a non-food item such as plastic, rocks, or clothing), are available immediately.
Foreign body (object) ingestion is a common problem in pets, particularly among puppies and kittens. The ability to identify and potentially remove foreign bodies without major surgery is a key benefit of endoscopy.
Information found on the Vetlearn Reference desk website at

A practical guide to antiproteinuric drugs in dogs

Appropriately treating a dog with glomerular disease prolongs the dog’s survival; however, knowing what drug at what dosage is appropriate isn’t as clear. Fortunately, this internist lays out the case for administering ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II-receptor blockers—and offers a suggested treatment protocol.

Aug 1, 2013
By: Barrak Pressler, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
Original Article:

Increases in intraglomerular hydrostatic pressure and up-regulation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (Figure 1) are beneficial short-term adaptive mechanisms that promote flow across the glomerular filtration barrier and slow the accumulation of uremic toxins in people and animals with kidney disease.1-3 However, persistently increased plasma angiotensin II and aldosterone concentrations and intraglomerular hypertension contribute to the long-term progression of kidney disease by worsening proteinuria and promoting the interstitial fibrosis and mesangial cell proliferation typical of “end-stage kidneys.”3-5

1. The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and sites of action of antiproteinuric drugs administered to dogs with glomerular disease.

Increased urine protein excretion is the hallmark clinicopathologic abnormality in dogs with protein-losing nephropathies. After the exclusion of preglomerular and postglomerular causes of increased urine protein excretion, such as immunoglobulin-producing neoplasms, hemoglobinuria, renal tubular disease, and any cause of lower urinary tract inflammation (e.g. bacterial infections or urolithiasis), glomerular disease can be presumptively diagnosed if the urine protein:creatinine ratio (UPC) is persistently > 0.5.
Pharmacologic inhibition of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system delays the development of azotemia and prolongs the survival of both people and dogs with glomerulopathies.6-9 Treatment with antiproteinuric drugs is recommended when the UPC ratio is > 2.010; however, the preferred drug class, dosage, and monitoring scheme remain unclear. In this article, I summarize the published support for administering angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II-receptor blockers (ARBs) and suggest an evidence-based treatment protocol.
Click here to download an algorithm on administering ACE inhibitors and ARBs to treat proteinuria in dogs with glomerular disease.
Inhibition of ACE activity decreases serum concentrations of angiotensin II and aldosterone, thereby reducing both intraglomerular hydrostatic pressure and systemic blood pressure.11,12 ACE inhibition in people with chronic proteinuric nephropathies slows the decline in glomerular filtration rate, delays progression to end-stage renal disease, and prolongs overall survival time, independent of the severity of initial proteinuria.6-8 Administering enalapril or benazepril to dogs with naturally occurring idiopathic glomerular disease9 or azotemic chronic kidney disease of undetermined etiology13 reduces the UPC ratio and stabilizes or improves renal disease, respectively, as compared with dogs receiving placebos.
Enalapril is the ACE inhibitor most commonly prescribed to dogs in the United States. Maximal reduction in proteinuria is desirable, so I recommend initial administration of the maximum recommended dosage (0.5 mg/kg orally b.i.d.) in nonazotemic dogs with serum creatinine concentrations < 3 or 4 mg/dl. However, because ACE inhibitors reduce the glomerular filtration rate, when treating dogs with serum creatinine concentrations between 3 and 5 mg/dl, it is prudent to initiate therapy at a lower dosage (0.25 mg/kg orally b.i.d.) and recheck serum creatinine concentrations within four to seven days. If the azotemia has not worsened, increase the enalapril dosage to the maximum recommended dose (0.5 mg/kg orally b.i.d.) and recheck serum creatinine concentrations again in four to seven days.
Adverse effects of enalapril—and ACE inhibitors, in general—in people include hyperkalemia and gastrointestinal disturbances.14,15 Although these have not been reported in published studies in dogs, I have occasionally noted both of these adverse events in dogs with glomerular disease that have been administered standard dosages of enalapril. Temporarily discontinuing drug administration in dogs with enalapril-associated anorexia and then administering a lower dosage after the appetite returns is usually successful. The dosage can be increased back to the desired total daily dose after two to four weeks.
Alternative ACE inhibitors
Alternative ACE inhibitors that can be considered include benazepril, lisinopril, captopril, ramipril, and quinapril, although there are no studies directly comparing the efficacy of these drugs with enalapril in dogs with naturally occurring disease. All ACE inhibitors except captopril reach therapeutic serum concentrations with half-lives that permit once- or twice-a-day dosing in healthy dogs.16-19 In people, however, tissue-specific differences in lipophilicity and variable-binding affinity to the various ACE inhibitor pro-forms suggests that substituting one ACE inhibitor for another may require validation of each drug.20
Variable effectiveness and recommendation
Indirect evidence as to the variability of the effectiveness of the various ACE inhibitors includes greater reduction in the severity of echocardiographic variables in Cavalier King Charles spaniels with asymptomatic mitral regurgitation treated with quinapril vs. enalapril,21 renal excretion of serum enalaprilat (the active metabolite of enalapril) and possible accumulation in dogs with subnormal glomerular filtration rate vs. hepatic metabolism of benazeprilat,18 and failure of captopril to reduce serum ACE activity in healthy dogs as well as other ACE inhibitors.16 The significance of these differences in dogs with naturally occurring kidney diseases and renal impairment is unknown; however, they imply that substitution of one ACE inhibitor for another may not be without consequences.
Thus, I recommend enalapril as my ACE inhibitor of choice in dogs with glomerulopathies, as it was the drug evaluated in the previously mentioned study reporting effects in animals with naturally occurring glomerular disease.9 Anecdotal reports suggest that alternative ACE inhibitors are also effective, but I reserve them for administration to dogs that develop refractory enalapril-associated side effects.
Published dosages of ACE inhibitors are based on the pharmacodynamic endpoint of plasma ACE activity reduction in healthy dogs to 25% of baseline.16 Although this dosage is appropriate for initial dosage establishment, prospective clinical trials in people now suggest that higher ACE inhibitor dosages that aim to maximally reduce the UPC ratio or plasma angiotensin II concentration may further improve patient survival times.
In people with diabetic nephropathy, doubling their lisinopril dosage further decreases the UPC ratio from 66% to 72% below baseline values. Likewise, patients with nondiabetic glomerular disease receiving standard vs. up-titrated dosage of benazepril to minimize proteinuria had a 37.5% vs. 52.5% decrease in UPC ratio below baseline22,23; blood pressure and rate of glomerular filtration rate decline were both reduced with higher drug dosages.
Dogs administered > 0.5 mg/kg twice a day enalapril or > 0.5 mg/kg daily benazepril anecdotally may have reductions in UPC ratio beyond that achieved with standard dosages; however, no controlled studies have evaluated whether this decrease in UPC ratio is associated with delay in onset of azotemia or increased survival. Additionally, ACE inhibitors may induce or exacerbate azotemia in both people and dogs24-27; whether higher drug dosages increase the risk of this uncommon adverse effect is unknown.
Nonresponders and aldosterone escape
Up to 50% of people with proteinuric nephropathies fail to respond appropriately to initial ACE inhibitor therapy, defined as a reduction in the UPC ratio of ≥ 50%.28-30 Additionally, proteinuria will increase to pretreatment concentrations within 1.5 to three years in 50% of the one-half of all patients initially classified as ACE inhibitor responders.28-30 These nonresponders have increases in serum angiotensin II and aldosterone concentrations that parallel their increase in UPC ratio and, thus, are assumed to have lost most renoprotective benefits of ACE inhibitor therapy. This phenomenon of aldosterone escape presumptively occurs secondary to up-regulated ACE or other kinase cleavage of angiotensin I to angiotensin II or increased metabolism of excretion of ACE inhibitor.

ARBs are competitive antagonists of angiotensin II. However, unlike ACE inhibitors, aldosterone escape does not blunt ARB-induced renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockade and reduction of the UPC ratio.
This class of drugs is commonly prescribed as first-line therapy in people with glomerular disease and appears to be equally effective as ACE inhibitors at reducing the severity of proteinuria, mean arterial blood pressure, and glomerular filtration rate decline.31,32 Available ARBs include losartan, irbesartan, olmesartan, candesartan, valsartan, azilsartan, and telmisartan. In people, these drugs vary in maximum achievable decreases in mean arterial pressure or reduction of the UPC ratio, with telmisartan in particular having more potent antiproteinuric effects than losartan has.33
Animal studies
Published information on ARB administration in dogs is limited to pharmacokinetic studies in healthy animals and effects on renal and systemic hemodynamics in animals with experimentally induced renal disease. Losartan has low oral bioavailability, and after gastrointestinal absorption, it undergoes enterohepatic recirculation and eventual biliary excretion.34 Intraglomerular hydrostatic pressure, systemic blood pressure, and end-organ damage are reduced in dogs with experimentally induced renal disease administered ARBs.35,36
Adjunctive administration
Based on the recognized benefits of ARB therapy in people with proteinuric nephropathies, many veterinary nephrologists consider adjunctive administration of these drugs to dogs with persistent proteinuria despite treatment with ACE inhibitors. First-line therapy with ARBs is not recommended as of yet, as it is still unknown whether long-term prognosis worsens, improves, or does not change in affected animals.
The generic formulation of losartan is affordable by most owners and has been used by many veterinary nephrologists as an adjunctive treatment in dogs with refractory proteinuria. An initial losartan dosage (0.125 to 0.25 mg/kg b.i.d.) can be administered as an adjunct to an ACE inhibitor (continued at the standard dosage discussed above) for four to seven days, followed by measurement of the serum creatinine concentration to confirm that azotemia has not markedly worsened. The losartan dosage can then be titrated up in a step-wise fashion, based on continued reduction of the UPC ratio, to a maximum of 0.5 to 2 mg/kg b.i.d., rechecking the serum creatinine concentration and UPC ratio after each dosage adjustment.
Reversible gastrointestinal side effects have anecdotally occurred in some dogs, although it is unclear whether this is due to concurrent use of losartan with an ACE inhibitor or due to the ARB alone. In people, concurrent use of ACE inhibitors and ARBs increases the risk of severe hyperkalemia.
Because of the limited literature regarding ARB therapy in dogs, I encourage you to discuss with a specialist whether administering an ARB in a particular patient may be indicated.
Click here to view the references for this article.

Cat Wound Treatment

Original Article:

Steps for Treating a Wound

Cats are just as susceptible to everyday minor injuries as any other animal. Many cuts (lacerations), bruises (contusions), and scrapes (abrasions) are not life threatening and will heal with little treatment. Other wounds can be severe enough to require sutures and moreintense emergency care.

What to Watch For

Fresh wounds will usually show some or all of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Missing hair
  • Cut, scraped or torn skin
  • Limping
  • Tenderness or pain

If a wound is not seen when it is fresh, it can become infected. In addition to swelling and tenderness, you may observe the following:

  • Discharge (pus) from the wound
  • Abscesses (i.e., an accumulation of pus under the skin) and the resulting hole in the skin when the abscess break open and drain
  • Signs of a fever (e.g., lethargy and ears that feel hot to the touch)

Primary Cause

Wounds can come from bumping or hitting hard or sharp objects, avoiding cars, attacks from animals, and other dangers.

Immediate Care

What you can do at home is ultimately up to your cat. Sometimes the only thing you can do is wrap your cat in a towel or put him in a carrier and take him straight to your veterinarian. There are, however, a few things you can do if your cat will let you, especially if it may be a while before you can get to your veterinarian.

  1. If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound. The wound should be covered with sterile gauze or a clean cloth, and then pressure applied. It may take 5 to 10 minutes for bleeding to stop. Once it does, tape the gauze in place; removing it may remove the clot and bleeding will restart.
  2. Check for other wounds.
  3. If there is no bleeding and the cut (laceration) or scrape (abrasion) appears minor, try cleaning the wound. Use an antiseptic solution or plain water and gauze or a cloth (not cotton) to gently clean around the wound, and a syringe or similar device to flush the solution over the surface of the wound. Antiseptic solutions are made by diluting concentrated solutions bought at the store that contain either povidone iodine or chlorhexidine diacetate as the active ingredient. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the wounds, as these will actually damage the tissue. Povidone should be diluted to the color of weak tea; chlorhexidine should be diluted to pale blue.
  4. If the laceration is long or deep, or if it is a puncture wound, you can clean around the edges as already described, but do not flush the wound itself. Let the veterinarian do that.
  5. Once you have done all that you can, take your cat to your veterinarian.

Veterinary Care

Your veterinarian will carefully examine your cat and evaluate all wounds that are found. Your cat will also be evaluated for indications of other problems. The cat’s hair will need to be shaved off for proper evaluation. Some wounds may require X-rays. Sedation may also be necessary to accomplish the examination.
The basic goals of treatment are to prevent infection and speed healing. Different types of wounds require different methods of accomplishing these goals. Most of the time your cat will require sedation or anesthesia to treat the wounds safely and without causing more pain.

  • Small scrapes and cuts often require nothing more than a thorough cleaning and maybe a little skin glue to hold the edges of the cut together.
  • Long and/or deep cuts require careful cleaning to be sure there is no debris in the wound and careful examination to determine the extent of the damage. If the wound is less than 12 hours old and not heavily contaminated, it will probably be sutured closed.
  • Puncture wounds, especially from animal bites, often have extensive damage under the skin that is not visible on initial exam. After removing any possible foreign materials, these wounds have to be thoroughly probed and then carefully cleaned with large volumes of antiseptic solution. Sometimes these wounds must be opened surgically to treat damage deep in the tissues.
  • Meanwhile, puncture wounds and/or wounds that are over 12 hours old, contaminated or showing signs infection, abscessed, or missing large amounts of skin are usually not sutured. Instead they are covered with bandages until such time as the wound is healed or the wound is healthy enough that sutures will actually help the wound rather than trap infection inside.
  • Large or deep wounds, contaminated wounds, or multiple puncture wounds often require the placement of a Penrose drain, which is soft rubber tubing that allows excess, contaminated tissue fluid to drain out, and keeps a small opening available for flushing antiseptic solution through the wound.
  • Your veterinarian will give your cat medication for infection and possibly for pain, which you will need to continue giving at home.
  • Most cats are released within 24 hours of being admitted.

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Living and Management

The most important thing you can do once your cat is home is to provide good nursing care. Fortunately this is usually for only 1 to 2 weeks. Good nursing care includes:

  • Keeping your cat from licking, chewing or scratching at the wounds, sutures, bandages, or drains. This may require the use of an Elizabethan collar.
  • Keeping bandages clean and dry and changing the the bandages as directed by your veterinarian. This may be as often as 2 or 3 times a day initially. You may need to take your cat back to the vet for the changes, especially if he is not cooperative. If the bandages get wet, or you notice an odor, chafing, or an increase in drainage (or the drainage doesn’t subside), take your cat to the vet for evaluation.
  • Placing a thin film of an antibiotic ointment around the edges of the wound once or twice a day, but only if the cat can’t lick it off.
  • Making sure your cat gets all the medication that has been prescribed. If you are having trouble administering it, contact your veterinarian.

Unless the wounds are severe or complications develop, here is a typical schedule of events after the veterinary visit:

  • Penrose drains are removed 3 to 5 days after being placed.
  • Sutures are removed 10 to 14 days after being placed.
  • Antibiotics are generally given for 7 to 10 days.
  • Pain medication, if used, is usually given for 5 to 7 days.
  • Bandages may be left on for as little as 24 hours or up to several weeks, depending on the nature of the wound. Bandage changes are at least once a day to start; longer intervals between changes may be possible later in the healing process.

If a wound, especially a puncture wound, was not seen, and if your cat did not take antibiotics, an abscess can form, resulting in symptoms described at the beginning of this article. Abscesses take about 10 to 14 days to develop, and often are not noticed until they rupture. An abscess will require another trip to your veterinarian.


Since cats are most likely to be injured when roaming outside unattended, the best way to prevent injury is to either keep the cat inside or only let him out in a protected, confined area.

Winter Hazards and your Cat

  • Cats are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, but if eaten, this toxin can quickly cause kidney failure.
  • Outdoor cats depend on people for their warmth and survival during the winter months; special steps need to be taken to keep these cats safe.
  • Holidays are a time for celebration but can pose multiple risks to cats. Lilies, chocolate, alcohol, ribbons, tinsel, and other common holiday items can all be dangerous to our feline companions.

What You Need to Know

Cats that spend time outdoors are exposed to various environmental and physical dangers. In the winter, cats are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia (low body temperature), just like humans. Cats should not be left outside for long periods of time in the winter and should always have the option of coming inside. It’s important to be aware of these risks, so you can keep your cat safe and healthy.

Colder Temperatures

Once temperatures start to dip below the freezing point, remember that any outdoor water will freeze. Cats need a constant supply of fresh, unfrozen water. For outdoor cats that only have access to outdoor water, heated water bowls can be used to keep water from freezing. If an electrical source is not available, water should be kept in a covered, enclosed space to prevent it from freezing quickly. Dog igloos filled with straw work well for outdoor cats, giving them a warm place to eat, drink, and keep dry from the winter elements. Heated pet mats are also helpful and will help a cat retain its body temperature, which is especially important for old or sick cats. It is important to only use heated products that are approved for pets.
Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter months use more calories in order to stay warm. Giving your cat a higher-quality, protein-rich food will help him or her stay warm and healthy. If your cat has any medical problems, consult your veterinarian before making any diet changes.
Outdoor cats may seek warmth under car hoods and can be injured or killed by the car’s fan belt. Before getting into your car, knock loudly on the hood to ensure that a cat is not hiding beneath.
Even cats that are used to being outside can suffer hypothermia and frostbite. If severe winter storm warnings or extreme cold weather alerts recommending that humans stay indoors are issued in your area, it is a good idea to bring your cat indoors, too. If your cat cannot be brought indoors, a garage or mud room can provide enough shelter in some cases.


Also known as ethylene glycol, antifreeze is probably one of the most common and dangerous winter toxins. Antifreeze is highly toxic, and cats are sometimes attracted to its sweet smell and taste. Once a cat drinks antifreeze, the toxin is rapidly absorbed, and signs such as vomiting, loss of coordination, and depression can appear within 1 hour. The kidneys are most severely affected by antifreeze, and even if signs start to improve with treatment, they may have already started to shut down. Acute kidney failure can occur within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion of antifreeze, so it is important to take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect he or she has drunk even a small amount of antifreeze.

Salt and Chemical Ice Melts

Cats that walk on sidewalks or pathways that have been de-iced can have chapped, dry, painful paws. Also, because cats tend to lick their paws, they can be exposed to toxic chemicals found in some ice melts. Pet-safe ice melt products can be purchased at most home improvement and pet stores. However, not everyone in the neighborhood may use these products, so it is important to wash your cat’s feet with a warm cloth after he or she comes in from being outside.

Holiday Hazards

The holidays pose many risks to cats. Chocolate, alcohol, onions, and coffee are some of the popular party supplies that can cause health problems in your cat. A common holiday plant is the lily, found in many holiday arrangements. Lilies are poisonous to cats. If a cat eats any part of a lily, initial signs of poisoning could include lethargy (tiredness) and a lack of appetite, but kidney failure can occur within 36 to 72 hours. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten any part of a lily plant.
Most cats love tinsel and ribbon, which, if eaten, can damage the intestines, requiring surgery. Keep these items out of reach of your cat.
Cover up electrical cords to prevent them from dangling and being mistaken for cat toys. If chewed, these cords could electrocute your cat.
Original article

Winter Hazards and Your Dog

What you Need to Know

As the temperatures outside start to get lower and you prepare for colder weather, it is important to also prepare your dog for the winter. Whether your dog lives indoors or outdoors, there are dangers in colder conditions. Your dog’s health, food, and environment all need to be taken into consideration when “Old Man Winter” approaches.

Indoor Winter Hazards

During the winter, people and their pets tend to spend more time indoors, so it is important to keep the home environment safe for your dog. The following are some common issues to be aware of:

  • Many types of houseplants can be poisonous to dogs. If eaten, these plants can cause problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as other reactions that can be severe or even fatal. It is important to keep all dangerous plants out of your dog’s reach.
  • Burning candles, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and space heaters create the potential for burns and smoke inhalation. The flickers and warmth of a fire can be an attraction for dogs; therefore, dogs should not be left alone in a room with open flames or hot electric elements. When these items are in use, monitor your dog at all times to keep him or her from getting burned or possibly starting a house fire.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a threat to dogs as well as people. Furnaces, gas water heaters, and gas/kerosene space heatersshould always be evaluated for any leakage. Because dogs tend to be in the house for longer periods of time during the winter, they can be exposed to carbon monoxide leaks for longer, which may cause serious health issues or death. Checking smoke detectors (and purchasing smoke detectors that also detect increases in carbon monoxide) are good ways to help protect your pets and family.

Outdoor Winter Hazards

Being outdoors in the winter can be a lot of fun, but it is important to keep in mind that dogs are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia (low body temperature), and other cold-weather hazards. Dogs that live outdoors in the winter need special attention to protect them from the wind, rain, and cold. Hypothermia can affect normal body functioning and produce injury or, eventually, death. Fresh, unfrozen water must be available at all times. If your dog has a dog house or igloo, make sure the interior is insulated. Safe heated mats, along with a good layer of straw, are an option that can help keep your dog warm and comfortable.
Dogs that live outside should be able to come inside when they want to. Old or sick dogs should be kept indoors when possible and monitored closely for signs of illness. Even a dog that is used to being outside can suffer hypothermia and frostbite. If severe winter storm warnings or extreme cold weather alerts recommending that humans stay indoors are issued in your area, it is a good idea to bring your dog indoors, too. If your dog cannot be brought indoors, a garage or mud room can provide enough shelter in some cases.
Chemicals like ice melts and salts, antifreeze, and windshield wiper fluids can all be toxic and cause serious complications if dogs eat or drink them. Ice melts and salts can stick to the bottom of dogs’ paws, so it is best to wash your dog’s feet after he or she has been outdoors. Methanol and ethylene glycol, the toxic ingredients in windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze, can cause permanent kidney damage and even death. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if dogs are left in cars with the motor running or in a garage with a running car.
Going for walks in the winter can be invigorating, but it is best to keep dogs away from frozen water. Dogs can fall through thin ice into freezing water and may suffer hypothermia or drown.

Holiday Season Hazards

We all look forward to the winter holiday season each year, so it is particularly tragic when a family pet is harmed during this time. Paying special attention to safety as you celebrate is very important.

  • Christmas trees can be very attractive to dogs. Dogs may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink the water at the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if preservatives are in it).
  • Electrical wires can be a serious hazard. Dogs that chew on these wires can sustain severe burns to the mouth, injury to the brain and lungs, and death from electrocution. It is best to keep wires out of reach or taped down securely. Also, lights may become hot and are best used only on upper branches of trees.
  • Ornaments are beautiful for people to look at, but dogs may think they’re toys. Fragile, breakable or edible ornaments may be knocked over, and wire hooks can get caught in your dog’s hair, skin, or—if eaten—stomach and intestines. An alternative to wire hooks is to use loops of yarn, ribbon, or lightweight twine. Hang the ornaments out of reach of your dog.
  • Tinsel can block the intestines if swallowed, requiring emergency surgery. Tinsel also has sharp edges that can cause cuts in the mouth. Angel hair, which is made of spun glass, is also irritating if touched.
  • Gifts should be checked for small, breakable parts that can be easily swallowed. As with tinsel, string and ribbon can cause intestinal injury or blockage. Monitoring your dog around these items is highly recommended.
  • Human holiday foods, like chocolate, coffee, macadamia nuts, yeast dough, and alcohol, can all be hazardous to dogs. For example, theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate, can cause seizures and death if eaten by dogs. Caffeine (in coffee and chocolate) also causes seizures, along with diarrhea, abnormal heart rate/rhythm and death.

We all want our pets to enjoy the winter and holidays with us. By taking a few precautions and preventive measures, dogs can be protected from many common winter hazards.
More Cold-Weather Tips
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has more cold-weather tips at its website: Additional information about toxic houseplants, antifreeze, and other winter toxins is available at the Animal Poison Control Center:
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Seizures and Convulsions in Dogs

Status Epilepticus in Dogs

Status epilepticus, or epilepsy, is a neurological condition that results in recurrent seizures in dogs.

Symptoms and Types

There are several different types of seizures or epilepsy that can affect dogs.

  • Epilepsy is used to describe recurrent or reoccurring seizures that originate from the brain

  • Idiopathic epilepsy describes a form of epilepsy that does not result in brain lesions or damage to the brain
  • Symptomatic epilepsy is used to describe primary epilepsy resulting in structural lesions or damage to the brain’s structure
  • Probably symptomatic epilepsy is used to describe suspected symptomatic epilepsy, where a patient has reoccurring seizures, but where no lesions or brain damage is apparent
  • Cluster seizure describes any situation where an animal has more than one seizure in consecutive 24-hour periods
  • Status epilepticus involves constant seizures, or activity involving brief periods where there is inactivity, but not complete relief from seizure activity.

The more seizures a dog has, the more likely there is to be damage among the neurons in the brain, and the more likely the animal is to seize again. Researchers generally classify all seizures as focal seizures, generalized seizures, and focal seizures with secondary generalization.
A focal seizure will affect only a small part of the brain. Generalized seizures tend to affect both sides of the brain.
Signs of an impending seizure may include a period of warning, where a patient will experience what is called an aura. During this time a dog may appear worried, stressed, or frightened. It may experience visual disturbances or seek help from its owner. The dog may experience contractions in its limbs or in its muscles, and may have difficulty controlling urination and bowel movements.
The dog may also experience an altered mental status before progressing to a seizure, as well as develop other neurological symptoms.


Many different factors, including the pattern of seizures, can influence the development of future seizures. For example, how old a dog is when it first develops a seizure may determine the likelihood that it will develop future seizures, reoccurring seizures, and the frequency and outcome of those seizures.


Physical symptoms may include tachycardia, muscle contractions, difficulty with breathing, low blood pressure, weak pulse, fainting, swelling in the brain, and obvious seizures. Some dogs will exhibit mental behaviors that are out of the ordinary, including symptoms of obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Some will demonstrate shaking and twitching. Others may tremble. Still others may die.
Laboratory and biochemical tests may reveal the following:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • A fatty liver
  • An infectious disease in the blood
  • Viral or fungal diseases
  • Systemic diseases


In some cases certain medical procedures, including surgery to remove tumors that may contribute to seizures, may be needed. Drugs may help reduce the frequency of seizures for some animals. Some corticosteroid medications, anti-epileptic, and anti-convulsant medications may also help to reduce the frequency of seizures. The type of medications given will depend on the type of epilepsy the animal has, as well as other underlying health conditions the animal has.
For example, steroids are not recommended for animals with infectious diseases, as they can have an adverse effect.

Living and Management

Early treatment and proper care are vital to a dog’s general health and wellness. Younger dogs are more at risk for severe forms of certain types of epilepsy, including primary and idiopathic epilepsy. Make sure you take your dog to the veterinarian early if you suspect it may be at risk for this, or any other type of disease. Together, you and your veterinarian can determine the best possible course of action for your dog.
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Ruptured Discs in Dogs

Graphic of vertebraeA disc is a cushion of cartilage that sits between the vertebrae and acts as a shock absorber. It is composed of a rim of tough, fibrous connective tissue that surrounds a gel-like center called the nucleus. When a disc ruptures, one of two things may happen. The first is that the fibrous capsule breaks, allowing the inner nucleus to push out through the opening and impinge on the spinal cord or a nerve root. This type of rupture is called a Hansen Type 1. The second is that the entire disc, surrounded by an unbroken capsule, can bulge outward. This is called a Hansen Type 2.
The diagnosis of ruptured disc is made by neurological examination and imaging studies including spine X-rays, a myelogram, and possibly a CT scan or MRI.
Ruptured discs in the back of the Hansen Type 1 occur in small breeds such as the Dachshund, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Pekingese, and small mixed breeds. In fact, ruptured discs are more frequent in Dachshunds than in all other breeds combined.
The capsule begins to degenerate at about 2 to 9 months of age, and signs of impingement on the spinal cord appear at 3 to 6 years of age. About 80 percent of Type 1 ruptured discs occur in the lower back between the last thoracic and the first two lumbar vertebrae. Most of the remainder occur in the neck. There is often a history of mild trauma, such as jumping off a sofa, but normal movements are sufficient to cause a Type 1 rupture. Occasionally, more than one disc becomes ruptured.
The symptoms of a Type 1 rupture usually come on gradually but can appear with sudden explosiveness. The main sign is pain. The dog holds her back stiffly and may cry or whine when patted or handled in the injured area. She usually refuses to walk up stairs or jump into a car. Neurological signs include weakness, lameness, and a wobbly gait. A dog experiencing the severe back pain of an acute rupture will have a hunched-up position and a tight abdomen. The dog may pant and tremble. Sudden disc ruptures can produce complete hindquarter paralysis.
Hansen Type 2 discs ruptures occur in the larger breeds, including German Shepherd Dogs and Labrador Retrievers. The entire disc, surrounded by its capsule, gradually impinges on the spinal canal. Symptoms appear in dogs 5 to 12 years of age. Because the process is gradual, symptoms progress slowly.
Ruptured discs in the neck of the Hansen Type 1 cause a dog to carry her head low and rigidly, making the neck look shorter. This type of injury is extremely painful. A dog will often cry out when patted on the head and refuse to lower her head to eat and drink. Weakness and lameness involve the front legs. Complete paralysis of all four legs does occur but is rare.
Hansen Type 2 neck discs occur with the wobbler syndrome discussed on page 379.
Treatment: A dog with a sudden onset of symptoms of paralysis requires immediate veterinary evaluation. If surgery is indicated, the best outcome is when it is performed within 24 hours.
Most disc problems involving pain or mild paresis improve with rest and medication. The dog should be closely confined for two to four weeks to allow the disc to return to its former position. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and inflammation. Analgesics relieve pain.
Dogs with neck disc problems should be walked with a chest harness rather than a collar.
Disc injuries that cause paralysis require special handling and transporting, as described for Spinal Cord Injuries, page 375. The most common surgery is called a laminectomy. It involves opening the spinal column and removing the extruded disc material. Dogs undergoing surgery will still need a period of careful rehabilitation afterward.
A newer method is to use of proteolytic enzymes to dissolve the disc material. This is called chemonucleolysis. This may only be appropriate for dogs who are in pain without neurologic deficits. If there are neuological signs, surgery is often the better option because it relieves pressure on the spinal cord more quickly.
Acupuncture and physical therapy may be incorporated into treatment protocols.

Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney failure is defined as the inability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the blood. The buildup of toxins produces the signs and symptoms of uremic poisoning. Kidney failure can appear suddenly (acute kidney failure) or come on gradually over months. Most cases are of the gradual onset type and are caused by nephritis and nephrosis.
Causes of acute kidney failure include:

  • Complete urinary tract obstruction caused by a stone
  • Rupture of the bladder or urethra
  • Shock, with inadequate blood flow to the kidneys
  • Congestive heart failure with low blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the kidneys
  • Poisoning, especially from antifreeze
  • Lyme disease
  • Leptospirosis

Dogs with kidney failure do not show signs of uremia until 75 percent of functioning kidney tissue is destroyed. Thus, a considerable amount of damage occurs before the signs are noticed.

Signs of Kidney Failure

One of the first things you may notice is that your dog drinks and urinates more than usual and indicates her need to go outside to eliminate several times a day. If not allowed to do so, the dog may begin to have house training accidents in the house. These signs are due to the failure of the kidneys to concentrate the urine. This results in a large urine output over which the dog has no control, with subsequent dehydration and thirst.
As kidney function declines, the dog retains ammonia, nitrogen, acids, and other chemical wastes in her blood and tissues. This is called uremia. The degree of uremia is determined by measuring serum blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and electrolytes.
Signs of uremia are apathy and depression, loss of appetite and weight, a dry haircoat, a brownish discoloration to the surface of the tongue, and an ammonialike odor to the breath. Dogs at this stage may urinate less than normal. Ulcers may arise in the mouth. With the nephrotic syndrome the dog develops ascites and edema. Vomitingdiarrhea, and gastrointestinal bleeding may occur. At the end stages of kidney failure, the dog falls into a coma.

Treating Kidney Failure

Dogs with kidney failure require periodic monitoring of blood chemistries to detect changes in kidney function that may require medical intervention. A most important step is to restrict salt intake. This helps prevent edema, ascites, and hypertension.
Protein is poorly metabolized by dogs with kidney failure, but what to do about protein levels in the diet is currently an area of controversy. Some veterinarians believe a diet rich in meat, or one that contains poor-quality protein, creates an increased nitrogen load that must be handled by the liver and kidneys. Dogs with weak kidneys can be thrown into uremia by feeding them more protein than they can handle. Other veterinarians believe that as long as the protein is of high biological value, it will help the kidneys retain their function. Diet may need to be customized to the individual dog.
Restricting phosphorus intake is agreed upon by all. Medications to lower phosphorus levels may be required along with dietary adjustments.
It is extremely important to provide fresh water at all times. The dog must be able to take in enough water to compensate for her large urine output. Some dogs will need occasional boosts to their fluid intake. This can be done by giving subcutaneous (known as sub-Q or SQ) fluids. With most dogs, their owners can learn how to do this at home. In the later stages of kidney failure, dogs may need sub-Q fluids daily.
Some types of kidney failure are acute, and are mild enough that if the dog is well supported medically, there will be a complete recovery. More commonly, dogs will have at least some renal function deficit and need a change in care for the rest of their lives. With chronic renal failure, there is no cure; the disease must be controlled as well as possible for the rest of the dog’s life.


Dialysis describes two therapies that try to duplicate the filtering tasks of the kidneys. In peritoneal dialysis, special fluid is put into the abdomen using a catheter. The fluid then washes tissues and absorbs toxins from the body across tissue barriers. After a set period of time, the fluid is removed through the same catheter, taking the toxins out with it. This technique has been used in veterinary referral centers for short-term kidney problems such as antifreeze poisonings.
Hemodialysis is the second technique. This therapy is only available at a few referral centers across the country, because the equipment is expensive and must be specially designed to work with dogs. The dog’s blood is circulated through a machine with filters that tries to duplicate the filtering tasks of a healthy kidney.

Kidney Transplant

Another option for dogs with terminal kidney failure is to consider a kidney transplant. Kidney transplants are only done a few veterinary referral centers, but are becoming more common. As with human transplant patients, drugs must be given post-transplant to prevent organ rejection. These drugs are quite expensive and must be carefully calibrated to minimize side effects.
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