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"Of all possessions, a friend is the most precious."

- Heradotus

You’re probably already aware that some common household foods are toxic to our furry friends, but many pet parents are surprised to learn that milk can do cats more harm than good. For the vast majority of kitties, milk is difficult to digest and can lead to intestinal upset and potentially serious complications.

orange cat drinking milk from a saucerWhat is feline lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance in cats looks a lot like it does in us. Just like human babies, kittens are born relying on milk as their source of nourishment. When our fur babies are small, they naturally produce an abundance of an enzyme called lactase, which allows them to break down the sugars in their mothers’ milk. Shortly after kittens are weaned, their digestive systems begin to slow the production of lactase. For most adult cats, this enzyme disappears altogether.

When a cat (or a human for that matter) doesn’t produce sufficient lactase and snacks on dairy products, the naturally occurring milk sugars pass through their system undigested, leaching water from their intestinal tract and causing potentially painful inflammation.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance in cats?

If you are part of the 65% of the human population who is at least somewhat lactose intolerant, you’ll have no trouble imagining the discomfort that a saucer of milk can cause your furry friend. If your kitty sneaks a drink of your cereal milk, symptoms may appear over the next 8-12 hours. Keep an eye out for:

  •       Diarrhea
  •       Bloating
  •       Vomiting
  •       General discomfort
  •       Gas
  •       Dehydration

Keep in mind that cats are often guarded about showing their discomfort, so you might not be able to tell for sure if there is minor upset. For all these reasons, we find it best to avoid giving cats a saucer of milk — to stay on the safe side.

Safe treats for cats who love milk

Just like the lactose intolerant among us choose to endure bloating and discomfort to enjoy the occasional dairy product, digestive woes won’t stop your cat from craving milk. You may be tempted to skirt digestive issues by offering your cat almond or soy milk, but plant milk alternatives contain thickeners, stabilizers, and excess sugars that aren’t good for cats. Fortunately, there are some “creamy” foods and treats on the market made especially for kitties, that allow your cat to enjoy the occasional treat safely and comfortably. Stick with these.

The bottom line

For your cat, the most serious risk of unaddressed lactose intolerance is dehydration brought on by vomiting and diarrhea. Cats are notoriously poor drinkers, and conditions that cause excessive fluid loss can pose serious risks to your fur baby’s health. If you are concerned that your kitty may be experiencing GI upset or dehydration, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to answer your questions and keep your best friend in the best of health.

We’ve all seen the “funny” videos online of animals, often dogs, with their heads inside chip or snack bags. We’re expected to see these as humorous, a dog being silly or naughty, then getting caught in the act. But they aren’t funny at all. Did you know that snack and chip bags can easily suffocate pets in as little as 3-5 minutes? If the answer is “no”, you aren’t alone. You’re actually with the majority of pet owners — including responsible pet-parents who take safety precautions with their pets every day — who never imagined that something so small could turn so tragic.

Each year, thousands of pets suffocate when they pull a bag off a table or out of the trash, put their heads inside to lick up the crumbs, then can’t get their heads back out of snack or chip bags. As the pet inhales, the bag closes in tightly around their faces making it extremely difficult or impossible to breathe. It is so fast that you might even be home with your pet and just stepped out to take a phone call or chat with your neighbor when it happens.

This happened to one of our sweet patients. It is heart-breaking.

Pet Suffocation Stats

According to a survey of more than 1,300 people whose pets had either died or nearly died this way, 87% of them had never realized bags were a hazard.

Of the incidents, 25% of bags were retrieved from the garbage, 22% from coffee or side tables, and 13% from the kitchen counter.

While you might think that bigger bags (chip, popcorn, etc.) would be easier to escape, these were actually involved 69% of the time.

Suffocation Prevention Tips

Our top tip is to simply increase awareness. Educate your family, your friends, your coworkers. This will absolutely save lives and prevent gut-wrenching heartbreak. Within your household, put a plan or new routine in place.

  • Store chips, cereals, etc. in plastic containers. This removes bags from the daily rotation (and also keeps your food fresh a little longer).
  • Cut bags into smaller pieces before disposing of them. This way, if your pet gets into your garbage, the bag is no longer a suffocation hazard. This is also safer for wildlife if your bag is destined for a landfill.
  • Don’t share popcorn and similar human snacks as treats for your dog. This will increase the temptation to go for the same treats straight from the bag.
  • Talk to your vet about learning pet CPR and/or research it thoroughly, just as you would for a human emergency. Pet CPR includes chest compressions and mouth-to-nose resuscitation.

Our sincerest hope is that by educating, we can all work together to prevent suffocation emergencies. Please share this blog and infographic. And feel free to reach out to our team with any questions.

Infographic about pet suffocation statistics and prevention.

Bringing a new four-legged family member home is really exciting! There are so many great times ahead — so much bonding, snuggling, playing, and genuine affection. And if you adopted from a shelter or rescue, there’s that extra feel-good factor of knowing that you’ve helped to save a life. With all these wonderful things to look forward to, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and rush into the ideal we’re seeing in our imaginations. In reality, pets (and their new people) all feel stress and uncertainty when they are brought into a new home. This is normal. How you choose to introduce new pets into your home can help to ease transitions and start new relationships off on the right paw.

Introductions to Humans and Other Pets

People

First thing’s first. Make sure all people in your household are on the same page about how introductions should be handled. This includes children who should be taught to be kind and respectful of animals. No wrestling, tail tugging, forceful head pats, chasing, etc. Introductions to new people should be calm, one person at a time, and should go at your pet’s pace. Do not force a frightened pet, and do not crowd them. Some will be bold and accept attention quickly, but others might need some time to learn that they are safe.

Introductions with other pets in the home should be managed strategically:

Introducing new dogs while outdoors on leashes.Dogs

For dogs, it’s best to meet on neutral ground outside of your house. A walk together can be a good first activity before you even go inside. This gets the dogs working near each other but without a face-to-face dynamic that could escalate quickly. Once inside, try to maintain a calm environment and do not force interactions or allow a pushy dog to overdo it with a nervous dog. Be mindful of your own energy, too. If you are nervous or pulling on the leash, the dogs will know and will follow your lead. Stay calm. Meetings in small doses might be best for everyone. Your new dog should be provided its own safe space to decompress if needed.

Do not bring food or treats into the introduction between dogs. This can easily turn into a negative experience as one tries to claim the food or compete with the other for the treat or your attention.

Cats

For cats, never just put them in the same space together at their first meeting. No one likes to be hissed or swatted at. Plan to allow your new kitty to have it’s own quiet space in your home for a few days with a blanket or towel that already has it’s scent on it. Cats are comforted by having their own familiar scent around them. You can even swap an item with your new cat’s scent for an item with your existing cat’s scent as a way for them to get used to each other. From there, visual introductions can be made through a baby gate or screen door. First interactions should be supervised. As always with cats, you can’t rush them. Let them go at their own pace.

Be Patient & Consistent With New Pets

During this initial time, try not to introduce any more significant changes to your household. It’s probably not the best time to host your child’s baseball team for a weekend-long pool party or to do major construction on your house. Your initial focus should just be in making sure your whole family is aligned in how to be patient and consistent with your new pet. Children should be respectful of their space as trust builds, training should be using consistent positive reinforcement techniques, etc.

Watch Your Pet’s Body Language

Cats and dogs tell you a lot about what they are feeling if you watch their body language. People often misunderstand what is being said, so it’s important for any pet owner to learn what to look for. For example, a panting dog isn’t necessarily hot or happy and playful. Panting is also a common sign of stress. In cats, the same goes for purring. It’s not only something cats do when they are content. It’s also something they do to try to create contentment when they are anxious. Learn to see a relaxed body, relaxed ears, tail position, etc. as a form of communication. When you know how your pet is feeling, you can adjust your behavior to support their needs.

Plan on 2-4 Weeks to Settle In

Even if a pet seems upbeat and happy, keep in mind that stress can be underlying and cumulative. Dog, cat, horse, or bird, the experience for them is that their whole world has just changed in the course of an hour, and even if it’s a major upgrade, they will be confused and possibly upset initially. Some pets take longer than others to adjust, but it’s a good rule of thumb to expect it take a few weeks before you fully see your new pet’s relaxed personality shining. Young puppies and kittens will likely adjust more quickly, though.

As always, we’re here if you have any questions! Please check out our other helpful articles that might be helpful if you’re thinking of getting a new pet!

What Kind of Dog Should You Get?

Do You Know Raleigh, NC Dog Laws?

Yes, You Should Microchip Dogs and Cats

 

Have you ever noticed that your pet’s eyes are becoming cloudy? Is he or she seems to be bumping into things? It could be due to cataracts. Dogs and cats can develop cataracts just like people! This causes loss of vision, but there are some treatment and prevention options that can be really beneficial. Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

What Are Cataracts?

Most often found in senior pets, cataracts occur when proteins break down in the eye’s lens. The result is a cloudiness of the lens that increases over time to become completely opaque, causing blindness. They can affect just a small area, but they are often more obtrusive. They usually develop slowly, and sometimes pet owners do not notice the slight cloudiness or minimal behavior changes of their cat or dog during early stages. This is one of the reasons why veterinarians examine eyes during routine wellness exams.

Dog with cataracts on its eyes.Cataracts are frequently hereditary, and some breeds are more prone to them than others. Even so, pets without the genetic marker may still develop them. For this reason, DNA testing is advisable for breeders, but we can’t be certain if a pet will face vision loss from cataracts in its lifetime.

They can also develop very quickly as a result of certain illnesses or eye traumas. For example, dogs and cats with diabetes or hypertension are much more likely to develop cataracts, and they tend to progress faster.

Can Cataracts Be Prevented?

Hereditary cataracts cannot be prevented. Those caused by illnesses can be delayed or prevented by properly managing the illness. Pets whose illnesses or eye injuries are not well-managed have higher incidence of cataracts and vision loss.

Treatment & Management

There is no medication that can cure cataracts, but treatment and management range from anti-inflammatory eye drops that reduce the likelihood of secondary glaucoma to surgery. This surgical option is much the same as in humans with good results! If your pet might be a candidate for surgery, your veterinarian can refer you to an ophthamologist for a consultation on the procedure.

If surgery is not an option, managing the effects of cataracts also includes managing your pet’s environment. Even moderate vision loss requires that you make accommodations in your home. For example, stairs will become problematic. If a cat is used to traveling stairs to get to its litter box, then it might be best to keep the litter box, food, and water all on the same floor of your home. Additionally, moving furniture or relocating food and water bowls can be confusing, and walking into unexpected things can be painful.

If you suspect that your dog or cat might be developing cataracts, see your favorite veterinarian today. We’re here to help, to answer your questions, and to help you develop the best plan of action for your furry family member.

senior cat health, cat dental cleanings vs anesthesiaAnesthesia can be scary for people to imagine their fur kids going through at any age. A common concern, though, is whether or not a dog or cat is too old for anesthesia. While this is a bit of an oversimplification since health status can vary between senior animals, it makes sense to compare the present with possibilities in the future. It helps us to plan.

Anesthesia Safety

Generally, anesthesia is quite safe given the precautions and protocols that your veterinarian and their team are trained for—even for senior pets! Complications are exceedingly rare. Vets require a current blood panel and a physical exam ahead of time to evaluate health and possible risks and will discuss findings and their recommendations with you. During procedures and recovery pets are monitored and cared for just like humans are in hospitals. Your pet’s safety is ensured with every step.

Dental Procedures for Dogs & Cats

Despite all this, dental procedures are commonly put off by owners since they aren’t emergent—particularly when pet owners feel it’s “just a cleaning”. There is a problem with this, though. Gingivitis, tooth decay, bacterial load, and pain only get worse over time. Further, the bacteria that are thriving in a mouth full of plaque and decay are proven to contribute to heart, liver, and kidney disease.

senior dog health vs anesthesia safetySo, it’s not a stretch to suggest that neglecting a dog’s or cat’s dental hygiene can actually shorten the window of time where they are in good health. 

Dentals are also more than just cleanings. They are diagnostic in nature, with each tooth and its surrounding gum tissue being carefully charted, and damaged or decaying teeth sometimes requiring extraction. Early removal of plaque and decay prevent much more painful situations in years to come—years that could coincide with age-related illnesses that could increase risk.

Early Care for Senior Pets

As with people, when pets age, each year that passes marks more possibility for illness. For example, more than half of senior cats over 14 will develop chronic kidney disease. Senior pets experience cardiac changes very similar to those in elderly humans. Older pets are more likely to develop cancer than young ones. Any of these illnesses and many more can increase the risks associated with anesthesia or procedures.

We owe it to our furry family members to tend to their needs optimally. This means early detection and early intervention. It’s less a matter of asking if they are “too old” than whether or not they are still in good health.  Ultimately, the goal is to maintain or restore that good health and comfort for years to come.

Anesthesia itself isn’t scary. The need for it after an animal has already developed a serious illness can be. Let’s minimize risk and increase whole body health by tending to their needs early.

old dog with arthritis pain on walk in winterIf you have ever experienced arthritis pain being worse in the winter or before a cold, rainy day, then you know exactly what dogs and cats are feeling this time of year. Or maybe you are skeptical—after all, human studies on the topic are largely inconclusive. The anecdotal evidence, however, is consistent. Grandmas everywhere seem to agree that cold weather, especially damp, cold weather, increases arthritis and other musculoskeletal pain. It stands to reason that the same is also true for our pets.

Interestingly, as much as we tend to think of these types of pain as only being the problems of senior citizens, there is medical evidence that the changes associated with osteoarthritis actually begin years earlier, sometimes even during youth! (Check out this video by UC Davis veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little as he debunks the myth of arthritis being just for the old.) Similarly, injuries at any age often contribute to aches and pains at the injury site for years to come.

With this knowledge, we must consider that any dog or cat (any species, really), might be experiencing pain that is heightened by winter weather regardless of their age. It’s not just an “old dog” or “old cat” problem.

Animals are less likely than humans to show their pain, and cats show it least. This means we need to keep a close eye on any subtle signs they might give us. Look for changes in gait, stiffness or lessened range of movement, slower movement especially when getting up, or less enthusiasm about playing or walking.

How You Can Help Reduce Winter Arthritis Pain

As doctors, we want nothing more than to heal, to remove the source of pain. Unfortunately, when it comes to arthritis and some types of musculoskeletal pain, we can’t reverse the condition, but we can help you to improve and manage pain levels in your furry family member. Here are our top recommendations.

Always Bring Pets in From the Cold

Many people tend to think that dogs and cats are tougher than we are in extreme weather. That’s not really true. Some might be equipped with thick furry coats, but pets can still experience significant discomfort. Their bodies, like ours, also have to work harder in winter to keep their temperatures up. Add damp or very cold temperatures, and it can also be dangerous.

Our pets love us so much, so let’s be kind and bring them into a warm, safe space in our homes.

Cold Laser Therapy for Pain Management is Amazing

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Our sweet patient gets a laser therapy session for spinal pain.

We love cold laser therapy for improving pain levels! This kind of laser therapy creates no heat (hence, cold), is painless, has no side-effects, and works with the body to reduce pain and inflammation by stimulating natural processes in the body at the cellular level. It’s effects are cumulative, so it typically takes several treatments to begin seeing the benefits in your pet.

Pain Medications

Medications can be used either separately or in combination with laser therapy to reduce pain and improve quality of life. There are several different types of drugs that your veterinarian can choose from depending on your pet’s needs, health status, and species. Just remember that cats and dogs have very different physiologies; cats often cannot have the same medications that dogs can.

Always seek your veterinarian’s advice on what pain medications are safe for your pup or kitty.

How are you keeping your pets toasty and comfortable this winter?

It doesn’t really matter that pets don’t understand the traditions behind gift-giving. Pet lovers know that their furry kids really do enjoy getting something new. It’s a bright spot in their day—something new to explore or taste or get cozy with. Just ask your dog who loves to inspect your shopping bags or watch you open boxes. Ask your cat who’s clearly begging to play with the packaging or taste the new treats right meow. They will answer.

Gifts for dogs and cats, especially around Christmas, are common items to put on your list. We have a few ideas for what your pets might love! *Note that this list is not sponsored—just a few of our favorite things!

Heated Cat or Dog Bed

Orange cat enjoys his gift of a cat toy

Just like us, as animals get older, they are more likely to feel extra aches and pains during cold or damp weather. Gentle heat can be soothing. The important thing to keep in mind with heated beds is that too much heat can also be a problem, just like you wouldn’t use a hot heating pad on yourself for too long. Keep the temperature settings in mind for longer uses.

There are fewer options on the market for electric heated dog beds, and for good reason. Dogs are chewers. Dogs scratch at their beds. Dogs sometimes urinate on their beds. You’ll likely find many options for “self-heating” dog beds, though. These are designed to reflect heat better than many standard beds, so they might be a good option for your pup. Additionally, you can also find microwavable heat pads to put on their beds. These are designed to provide warmth for several hours.

Orthopedic Beds

Older pets, or those with any issues that cause discomfort in the back or hips can also get relief from a good quality orthopedic bed. These provide the best support.

Busy Mind Toys

Our pets need mental stimulation to prevent boredom and to help satisfy their natural intelligence and behaviors. Fortunately, there are lots of great options for both dogs and cats! These range from treat balls that require interaction to gradually release treats (dogs love these) to puzzles that engage the brain and encourage play.

Healthy, Tempting Treats

Even the pickiest of eaters has favorites when it comes to treats. Gift your pet a special snack that is a sure thing or check out one of your local pet bakeries for a special occasion! If you’re in Raleigh, check out Phydeaux or Woofgang Bakery for simple cookies or fancy pupcakes! If your pet has any food sensitivities, don’t forget to keep these in mind when exploring ingredients.

 

Sweaters and Coats  

Dog wearing a sweater coat as a Christmas gift

We’re kind of into pets wearing cozy sweaters and coats. It’s cute and can be really practical too. Dogs, in particular, can benefit from this protection from the cold on long walks. Most dogs don’t mind wearing coats, so these are great for them. Cats will probably be less inclined to appreciate the dapper duds, but some tolerate them remarkably well! Just don’t leave them on all day. Cats are natural and fastidious groomers, and a sweater prevents that.  And definitely don’t force the experience if kitty is simply not having it.

Coats are available in materials ranging from cabled wool sweaters to fleece to waxed canvas to repel rain.

GPS Trackers for Collars

Last but not least, a gift that is probably more for you than for your pet in terms of enjoyment. GPS trackers that attach to collars are a great safety measure in the event that your dog or cat escapes. These are not to be leaned on as a replacement for careful oversight, but they can be a great comfort when accidents happen.

 

 

Are you planning on gifts for dogs or cats this year? We’d love to see what they get!

 

PS. Don’t forget to save the box for your little lion or pup to play in. 🎁

Dog looking for dog gift in gift bag

Of the accidental emergencies with pets around holidays, we most often think of dogs eating chocolate or swallowing bones or of cats scaling Christmas trees and slipping out the door when guests arrive. But have you considered your holiday bouquets? Cats are notorious for munching on fresh plants in their homes, and one of the most common flowers in florist bouquets is the lily.

Lilies are poisonous to cats, yet a 2009 study found that only 29% of cat owners whose cats had eaten any variety of the plant already knew it was toxic when they brought them into their home. Any plants in the “true lily” or “daylily” families are extremely dangerous. Think stargazers, tiger lilies, calla lilies, peace lilies, etc. Whether you intend to decorate with floral arrangements this year, or you are gifted flowers by friends, it’s a matter of life and death to not keep any kind of lily in your home.

Even Very Small Amounts of Lilies Are Highly Poisonous to Cats

Munching on just a  very small part of a lily can easily result in total kidney failure. Every part of the plant is highly toxic—even the pollen which might get onto your cat’s fur as it walks by the flowers on a coffee table, then he or she grooms later, ingesting it. The water in the vase is also poisonous.

Kidney damage may be reversible up to as much as 18 hours after ingestion with emergency care, but damage begins much sooner than that. It’s critical to rush your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you discover that it has eaten any portion of a lily. This is not a “wait and see” situation.

Signs & SymptomsThis Christmas-themed floral arrangement is full of poisonous lilies that can kill cats.

We aren’t always lucky enough to see events happen, so here are signs to look for. If you know you have lilies in your home, and you identify these symptoms, see your vet immediately.

  • Sluggishness
  • Unsteady gait
  • Drooling
  • Heavy breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

What About Dogs?

Dogs also run into trouble with lilies, and you should seek veterinary guidance if they ingest any. Dogs are less likely to suffer acute kidney injury to the magnitude that cats do, but they can still become extremely ill with dangerous heart arrhythmias depending on which type of plant was eaten. Any lily can cause gastrointestinal upset and irritation to the mouth and throat.

The urgent holiday lesson? Lilies are extremely poisonous to cats, and can even be deadly to dogs in some cases. It’s safest not to bring them into your home.