Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The small but dangerous Foxtail (Grass Awn)

At first look you think, what’s the big deal with this little piece of a plant? (Foxtail picture: Well, if your pet has had an encounter with a foxtail you definitely know how much trouble they can cause!

Most of the time they get into your pet’s ears, nose or eyes and with a little sedation your veterinarian can usually remove them easily. Sometimes they can bury into the skin and end up embedded (usually within a paw) causing inflammation, infection and PAIN! (*Viewer discretion* Picture from a few days ago of foxtail being removed from a paw:

Last week I saw a little dog that was squinting and kept pawing at his eye. It was very inflamed and watery. I put some local anesthesia in his eye, probed around and noticed a thin tan colored object poking under the eyelid. I began to remove it and it kept going and going and going …It was the longest foxtail I have removed! Although it was the longest foxtail I have removed I almost missed it and was amazed as to how it made its way under the eyelid!

Unfortunately for pets, the little barbs on foxtails were designed to help them bury themselves and travel one-way deep into tissues, sometimes traveling internally to a body cavity and setting up an infection. In one unfortunate cat, the foxtail managed to burrow through the skin and travel to its heart causing a deadly infection! (*Viewer discretion* Picture of heart with a foxtail within it: and

Signs that a foxtail may be causing trouble include sudden onset of squinting and/or discharge from an eye, pawing at the face, shaking of the head, pawing at an ear, constant sneezing, nasal discharge, limping or constant licking of a paw. If you notice these signs it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian, especially if you find yourself removing foxtails from your pet’s coat.

If your cats or dogs go outdoors, especially during the summer and fall seasons when grasses begin to dry, be sure to brush them daily and remove all foxtails that you find. Always inspect their ears and paws as they can hide between the toes!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pet Pool Dangers

I'm sure there are many dog owners out there with pools or those that take their dogs to their friends house who own a pool. Well, just as you have to be careful with kids and pools, you MUST keep a close eye on your dogs as well.

But all dogs know how to swim right? Why would they have trouble if they fell in a swimming pool? Well, for the most part they all know how to swim. The danger actually comes when the pool has steep sides and does not have a shallow area or easy access to get out. This is of most concern in small breed dogs and puppies, they get tired, cant get out and drown.

For those that must know, when water is inhaled the natural coating of the lung surface (surfactant) is compromised and it allows for the air sacs within the lungs (alveoli) to collapse. Collpased lung tissue can't replenish oxygen in your blood or get rid of carbon dioxide that has built up. Many severe metabolic changes occur in the body. Inflammation of the lungs can also occur and the tissue becomes leaky resulting in more fluid building in the lung (edema) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Most pool accidents are witnessed but some are not although it is easy to suspect when you find your dog soaking wet and having trouble breathing. Sometimes coughing is noted, they can be in shock, have changes to their behavior and they can even be in a coma. A recent study of fresh water drowning revealed that level of consciousness at admission was not associated with outcome and showed full recovery even of animals presenting in a coma. So call your veterinarian immediately and take your pet in!

Depending on your dogs condition they may be too unstable to do further tests and must be placed in oxygen immediately, sometimes a ventilator is needed if they are not breathing on their own. If stable enough blood samples to check metabolic status and chest radiographs will be obtained. If your pet seems ok, it is recommended to keep your pet hospitalized for at least 24 hours of monitoring as things may worsen and the initial tests may not show the real extent of the damage.

Not too long ago I had the first pool incident of the year. Although the owner did not observe the incident, she found her new puppy wet and having difficulty breathing. Chest radiographs were consistent with what is expected in a near-drowning. He was placed in an oxygen cage as part of his treatment and luckily survived. I saw him just last week to finish his vaccine series and he was doing great!

I had one client bring her puppy in for vaccines and told me that her puppy was playing and fell in the pool. She was swimming around but the tiny little thing couldn't get out. Luckily the owner was there and took her out of the pool. To avoid this, I recommend that my clients who own pools purchase a floating ramp that they can connect at one end of the pool and teach their dog what it is and how to use it. It can save their life, especially for the little ones!

What about just keeping the backyard door closed? Well some have doggie doors for obvious reasons, sometimes the phone rings and we stop watching our pets (and kids), the pool party conversation becomes very interesting or sometimes we don't even realize someone followed us out and we close the door on the way in. I have left my poor dog out only to wonder why the house was so quiet and who was barking outside!

So when it comes to pools be very careful with your dogs access to it when unsupervised and I recommend you make sure they can get out or make adjustments so that they can! Nothing is more sad than an accident that could have been prevented!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Heatstroke causes a severe rise in your pet’s body temperature and occurs due to elevated temperatures in the environment or from performance of strenuous activity. Unfortunately the summer time allows for a combination of the two and an increase in the cases of heatstroke. It can happen as quickly as 30 minutes and is worse in places with increases in humidity, especially if there is no access to shade or breaks to rest and cool down.

Dogs cool off mostly by panting as air contacts the mucous membranes of the upper airways and allow evaporative cooling to occur. With high humidity, the evaporative cooling mechanism is not as effective. Short nosed breeds such as Bull Dogs that suffer from brachiocephalic syndrome (partially opened nares or long soft palates among other things) or dogs suffering from other upper airway problems (such as collapsing tracheas or laryngeal paralysis) are at greater risk for developing heat stroke as their main cooling mechanism is not in top shape.

Signs of heat stroke can include excessive panting, collapse, seizures, excessive salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea and occur after exercising on a hot day or being left in a car even if the windows are cracked.

Permanent and life-threatening damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver, intestines and brain can occur if not treated immediately.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke move them into a shaded area, wet them down with COOL water and call your veterinarian immediately to let them know you are on your way. Using COLD water will only make things worse as the outer blood vessels which are helping to cool your pet down will close off. Fans or air conditioning will also help with cooling.

Your veterinarian may need to obtain baseline blood work to evaluate for organ damage, place an IV catheter and administer fluids and other medications as well as hospitalize and monitor your pet. OVERCOOLING can be more harmful than helpful and this is why it is recommended to start the cooling process and go to your veterinarian immediately for careful monitoring and adjustment to treatments as necessary.

Studies reveal that pets that present to their veterinarian soon after are more likely to survive than animals seen later. Pets that survive the first 24-48 hours of hospitalization generally do well.

I have seen cases of heatstroke in dogs left in a car WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN for only a couple of minutes, dogs going about their usual outside play on a hotter than normal day and dogs taken on long runs and hikes.

Be safe this summer and remember that if you are enjoying a nice day out with your pets to allow rest breaks, access to shaded areas, plenty of water and know when to stop! If you have any concerns at all see your veterinarian, it’s always better (and cheaper) to be on the safe side!

For more summer dangers follow my tweets @expertvet and check back for updates to the blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Welcome to my blog! I will be posting further information here as a follow-up to my tweets from @expertvet. I am horrified of the things my clients tell me they read online. There is A LOT of misleading information out there for pet owners and have made this blog to provide information you can trust! Follow me on twitter @expertvet