What should you do if your pet gets lost?

One of the most traumatic events a pet owner can go through is having a pet on the run.

Lucky sign

Think it could never happen to your pet? Many smart and loving pet owners did before…

Yet many un-sterilized pets run away, (mis)guided by hormones. And as many as 20% of pets, end up MIA after being scared by loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks.

Here are 10 tips to help you find your pet ASAP:

  1. File a “lost pet” report with every rescue organization, every shelter and every animal control office within a 60-mile radius of your home. Also make a point of visiting all nearby shelters every day.
  2. Alert all veterinary clinics, both day practices and emergency clinics, in your area. Prepare a flier to be posted at the front desk. It’s not uncommon that people bring a stray dog or cat to their family vet, no matter how far from where the animal was found.
  3. Several times per day, walk around and/or drive around your neighborhood. Ask friends and family members to help out.
  4. Alert everybody you meet. Pet owners especially will be sensitive to your situation.
  5. Give anybody who is willing to help a recent picture of your pet and your contact information.
  6. Post flyers everywhere: all over the neighborhood (telephone poles etc), as well as in private and public locations (businesses, stores, post office…).
  7. Slick trick: to avoid scams, leave out one characteristic when you describe your pet. If someone calls and claims to have seen your pet, ask them to describe the missing item.
  8. Use the Internet. There are several pet recovery websites such as FidoFinder.com, TheCenterForLostPets.com and Craigslist.org.
  9. If you don’t have the time to do all of the above, or can’t take off work easily, consider using a lost pet recovery service. They will contact neighbors, vets, shelters and other organizations – for a fee.
  10. Just in case your pet comes back home when (s)he is hungry or thirsty, you could place food and water around your home. You could even place the bowls in a (humane) pet trap to catch them.
  11. Bonus tip: use social media. Facebook, Twitter and texting can be good ways to spread the word quickly.

Bottom line: The first few hours are critical. You need to put in place all of these strategies. But you just can’t do it all by yourself, so enroll help. Get the word out quickly. Never give up. It’s a cruel world out there… and your mission is to save your pet.

The information above is loosely borrowed (with permission) from our colleagues at DVM360, a professional magazine.

I would like to add a few important points: what should you do to prevent your pet from getting lost?

• Take pet identification seriously. A name tag on a collar is a minimum. It should have your pet’s info, your vet’s info, and yours. Of course this doesn’t do any good if the collar is not around your pet’s neck.

A tattoo can be done by your vet (under anesthesia). The best solution is a microchip. This is a tiny electronic device, about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted under the skin. It can be done awake – anytime.

When a lost pet is found at a shelter or a vet clinic, the first thing people do is “scan” the pet to see if there is a microchip. As long as the microchip is linked to a CURRENT address and phone number (hint, hint), you should get a call with the good news. PLEASE microchip your pets.

• If you allow your pet to be unsupervised in the yard, make sure the fence is 100% secure.

• Don’t trust electric fences 100%. An excited dog can run right through them. However, once on the other side, they may not want to be “shocked” again, so they may remain outside the perimeter. Oh, which reminds me: several of my clients dearly regretted not having the special collar around their dog’s neck the day they were hit by a car. If you go through the expense of installing an electric fence, then please always put the collar on your dog’s neck every time (s)he goes outside. One exception is all it takes…

• ALWAYS walk your dog on a leash. If you are a long-time reader, you surely have read countless stories of pets who have been hit (or worse) by a car. This is a DAILY occurrence in my practice.

• In my opinion as a surgeon who has seen countless horrifying injuries, I would never, ever let a cat outside. My cats are banned from the outside world, and they are perfectly happy indoors.

• Freedom is a wonderful concept… until somebody gets hurt, or until the teary owner realizes that they just can’t afford a 2-3-4-5 thousand dollar bill at the vet.

• Be especially careful and secure the house (doors, gates, windows) when there are fireworks (July 4th, New Year’s Eve etc), around Halloween (especially if you have a black cat) and when you hear thunder.

As in many endeavors, prevention is easier than the “treatment.” You now have a script to prevent your pet from running away. And if you are if this unfortunate situation, or know somebody who is, you have some tips to get your pet back home.

Good luck.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Halloween special: 10 grossest things at the vet’s

This is a Halloween special, so this is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned…

E collar
Some people think that vets and techs are so lucky because they get to cuddle with cute puppies and kittens all day. While this is sometimes true, there is also the less glamorous part of our job: dealing with smells and sights that can make the toughest of the toughest sick to their stomach…

Is your stomach ready to take a tour of the 10 grossest things we see or smell at vet hospitals?  Then read on…

1. Maggots

Maggots are certainly one thing that can make my very toughest nurses physically sick. Some of them can’t even look at them.

The little squirmy, flesh-eating fly babies hatch out of eggs laid by flies in open wounds or near body orifices. They show up quickly and can smell terrible because the flesh they live off is usually dead or dying…

2. Proptosed eye

A proptosed eye is when an eye literally pops out of its socket. It is usually still connected by the strong optic nerve, but it is quite a horrifying scene. The most commonly affected breeds are those with bulgy eyes.

3. Cuterebra

Cuterebra is a type of bot fly which can travel through an animal’s body, then burrow just under the skin until it  is ready to turn into its adult form. It then comes out of the skin and flies away. And the wonderful circle of life continues… Cuterebra requires a quick surgery to be removed.

4. Open wounds

Open wounds and broken legs can be really nasty after a pet gets hit by a car. One of the worst wounds is called a “degloving injury,” because the skin is literally peeled back or off of the underlying muscle.

Broken legs are very common in our surgery world, however the really disturbing ones are ones that are literally twisted or rotated completely or that is hanging and flopping around.

5. Dehiscence

You know how most vets recommend confinement and a plastic cone (aka E collar – see picture above) after surgery? Well it’s not to torture your pet! It is to prevent them from licking and chewing at the incision and to prevent failure of the surgery. One of the grossest complications after belly surgery is called dehiscence, which at worst could cause the intestines to end up on your favorite carpet…

6. Anal glands

Anal gland fluid is an incredibly foul smelling liquid which vets and technicians empty multiple times a day. We are probably all familiar with the smell, but it never fails to shock you with it’s intensity and foulness when you walk into a room after a dog had their anal glands expressed, and even worse, some patients will release them on their own when they are excited or worked up and it shoots, sometimes onto someone’s skin or clothes!

7. Parasites

Pets can have multiple “external” parasites on their skin and in their ears. Ear mites, fleas and ticks sound gross enough as it is… but it’s even worse when you look at them under the microscope!

When blown up by the magnification of the microscope, these nasty multi-legged parasites look like mini-monsters!

8. HGE

HE or Hemorrhagic Gastro-Enteritis causes an impressive amount of stinky, bloody, jelly-like diarrhea. And it’s even nastier to clean! We’re not quite sure what causes it, and with proper care, it is typically self-limiting. This means that we typically achieve a happy outcome in the end.

9. Coprophagia

Yes… some of our beloved dogs have this nasty habit of eating poop. Dog poop, deer poop, rabbit poop, horse poop, cat poop, some are not even very discriminating…

And then some insist on giving us doggy kisses!  Let’s be serious!

10. Rotten mouth

Some pets have a mouth that is so rotten that you can smell them from the next room. Under a large build-up of tarter, bacteria, pus, infected bone and gingivitis are teeth that are sometimes so loose that we can pull them with our bare hands! Please believe your vets when they recommend a dental cleaning. Some dogs need one every few years, but some need a cleaning once a year, or sometimes even every 6 months.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it gives you a brief overview of what sometimes happens behind the scene at your favorite veterinary clinic…

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Lyme disease is just the beginning…

Greetings from China, where I was invited to lecture!

If you own a dog, you surely have heard about Lyme disease. But are you aware that there are other diseases transmitted by ticks? Let’s review the 5 most common “tick-borne diseases” in dogs.

Engorged tick

1. “Lyme” (and not Lyme’s) is a disease transmitted by ticks. It can cause limping and fever. A minority of dogs can get severe kidney disease, which can be life-threatening. Fortunately, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with the proper antibiotics. But Lyme is just one disease transmitted by ticks. Here are 4 other, lesser known diseases that are also transmitted by ticks.

2. Hemoplasma (Hemoplasmosis) Previously called Hemobartonellosis, this disease exists in cats and dogs. It it transmitted by ticks and occasionally by fleas. It cases anemia (low red blood cell count), especially in pets who have a weak immune system.

3. Bartonella (Bartonellosis) This disease can occur in cats and dogs after being bitten by fleas and occasionally by ticks. It can cause lameness, a stiff gait or heart disease in dogs.

4. Babesia (Babesiosis) This disease can occur in cats and dogs after being bitten by a tick… or a dog. It can cause anemia (low red blood cell count), a low platelet count and increased protein levels in the blood. It can rarely cause kidney disease.

5. Rickettsia (Rickettsiosis) Rickettsia is a type of bacteria, which can in fact include several types: Ehrlichia (Ehrlichiosis) or Anaplasms (Anaplasmosis). They can cause limping, fever, bleeding (because of a low platelet count), anemia (low red blood cell count).

What is frustrating with these diseases is that it can be difficult to diagnose them by testing the blood. In addition, it’s tough for the vet to decide if it should be treated with antibiotics or not. The reason is that many pets are “carriers” which have no symptoms at all. As always, the best way to avoid any of these diseases is prevention, which include serious tick (and flea) protection.

Please talk to your family vet about the best way to do that in YOUR area.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Are you prepared to save your pets if disaster strikes?

Greetings from China, where I was invited to give some conferences about surgery.
Cat carriers

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of planning for your safety BEFORE disaster strikes.

The purpose of this blog is not to discuss what people are supposed to do with themselves.
Since my focus is your pets, let’s go over some information (which is COPYRIGHTED by the way) on how to be prepared for the worst, even though we always hope for the best.

Are you prepared if disaster strikes?

From Katrina-style hurricanes to wild fires, from floods to tornadoes, from blizzards to extreme heat, from earthquakes to mud slides, from tsunamis to active volcanoes, virtually any area of the country can be affected by some kind of natural disaster.

Think that disasters, man-made or natural, only happen to others? It truly can happen to anyone.

  • In 1998, a tornado hit peaceful Lyons, PA, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Lyons is a whole 22 miles from Allentown, PA!
  • Some years ago, when I lived in beautiful Cincinnati, OH, my whole neighborhood was evacuated within a few hours because of a toxic leak (styrene) from a train. Obviously, a toxic leak from a train or a truck could happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
  • Flooding can affect anyone who lives near a body of water (or not, as California readers know).

You could be told to leave your home “for a short time”, only to find the situation keeps you away from your home for days to weeks.

Would you know exactly what to do with your pet(s)? Do you have a plan you can implement within minutes? Do you have a checklist so you don’t forget anything, even when we are stressed out of your mind? After all, you’ll be running for your life – and your pets’ lives. Being prepared is the first step to ensure that your pet survives.

Familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that could likely affect your area. Then develop an evacuation plan for your animals. Also, know the exact location of several emergency veterinary clinics, and have their phone numbers on speed dial.

In case you are not at home at the time of a disaster, you could place stickers on windows to notify neighbors or emergency personnel that animals are on your property and where they can find your evacuation supplies. Include a list with the number, type and location of all your animals. Have leashes and carriers nearby and easy to find. Also, having carrier-trained pets is a good idea. You don’t want to have a huge argument with a stubborn not-declawed kitty or a cranky Rottie in the middle of an evacuation!

If you have a friend or neighbor that you trust and is willing to help, let them know where they can find a key to your property and pre-arrange with them to take care of your animals in case you cannot get back home for some time. This is another reason to have supplies ready and easy to find.

Keep in mind that your pets may smell danger well before you, and may hide in usual or completely new spots.

Make sure that all your animals have proper identification. In addition to rabies and ID tags, microchipping is becoming a popular form of animal identification. After hurricane Rita, there were reports of 3,000 stranded pets DAILY. Many of these pets were never matched with their owner. By the way, a microchip is just half the story: please make sure your pet is registered through an identification program. If you have moved, make sure you notify the organization in charge of your particular chip.

An animal carrier and an evacuation kit are the two most important things to have ready in advance. Place your evacuation kit near the carrier or cage and keep the items in it fresh. This allows for fast action. In case of an evacuation, all you would need to do is put your pet(s) in the carrier(s) and grab the kit. A back pack is ideal to free up your hands.

When an evacuation order is issued, what steps should you take?

  • Bring all pets inside
  • Make absolutely sure they all have their ID tags on
  • Get all pets into their carriers
  • Grab your evacuation kit
  • Get everyone into the car
  • Leave as soon as possible with your pets in the car
  • Along the way, call your pre-arranged evacuation site
  • Let family, friends and neighbors know where you are going

When you return home, what should you do?

  • Look around both inside and out for dangerous objects, animals, or chemicals
  • Let your pets have access to the indoor areas only until you can evaluate the outside areas for safety.
  • Don’t let animals gorge themselves with food or water
  • Return to a normal routine slowly
  • Let your pets rest and sleep
  • If your pets are lost, call shelters and vet clinics daily and visit lost pet web sites often
  • If there has been any injury or exposure to questionable substances, call your vet for a health exam

As we have seen in several recent disasters, some people refuse to evacuate without their pets. Leaving your home with your family and pets in an emergency is the right thing to do, but it takes pre-planning. You could save your pet’s life.

Plan now so that you can act fast when minutes count.

Remember, it is very easy to procrastinate with all these things. This is just like fire insurance: You really need it, and at the same you sure hope you never have to use it. The same can be said about disaster preparedness. You owe it to your pet(s).

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

10 tips for a safe Labor Day barbecue with your pets

While fun for people, barbecues can causes many problems in pets. Here is a quick list to keep your pets safe today.

10 tips for a safe Labor Day barbecue with your pets

10 tips for a safe Labor Day barbecue with your pets

1. Lighter fluid is toxic to pets.

2. Trimmings and fatty food can cause pancreatitis (inflammation or irritation of the pancreas). Pancreatitis causes vomiting and severe belly pain.

3. Bones can be dangerous! Despite what many people think, bones are potential foreign bodies. I’ve removed many bones stuck in the stomach, the intestine or worse, in the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach, usually in the part inside the chest…)

4. A corn cob fed to a dog, while it seems to amuse some humans, can get stuck in the small intestine. This is a classic and serious (and potentially deadly) condition. It has a specific pattern on X-rays, but it may be barely visible and therefore very difficult to diagnose.
In addition, it usually stays in the GI for days before a diagnosis is made, which may mean that part of the intestine will need to be removed during surgery.

5. Fruit salads. Although healthy and refreshing for humans, fruit salads can contain hidden dangers for pets. Grapes (and raisins BTW) are toxic to pets’ kidneys.

6. Secure all trash cans. Even the best-behaved pet may have a hard time resisting the sweet smell of leftovers in a trash bag or a trash can.

7. Guacamole. Many of us love a good guacamole dip. Unfortunately, it contains 3 toxic ingredients for dogs: garlic, onion and avocado!

8. Hot barbecues, oil and food can cause serious burns to curious pets.

9. Sugar-free food. You or your guests may have used a preparation with an artificial sweetener called xylitol. This is extremely toxic to pets, who can have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or even liver failure because of it.

10. Chocolate. This is another classic: chocolate is toxic to pets. The darker the chocolate, the worse it is for pets.

Bonus 11. Having guests over means that somebody at some point may forget to shut the door or the gate, which may be an opportunity for your pet to run away, get lost, and possibly get hit by a car. It may be safer to lock your pets away to avoid a disaster that may spoil the day – at best.

Keep in mind that the advice above also applies to kids and guests. They may have good intentions, but that can lead to serious trouble!

Follow this simple advice, don’t end up at the veterinary emergency room and enjoy your barbecue!

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ