Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holiday Hazard #1: Potpourri

The Holidays are upon us and there are a few hazards to be mindful of during the holidays to keep your pets happy, safe and joyful.

Liquid Potpourri: While scents of simmering potpourri can be delightful, ingestion can prove deadly, especially for cats. While any pet might be burned by heated oils, cats are particularly sensitive to the components called cationic detergents that are found in such products. If eaten, severe burns to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach may occur. Liquid potpourri may also be washed with liquid hand-washing soap until all traces of the oily residue are removed.

Because it's difficult to determine exactly how much cationic detergent is in liquid potpourris it is best to avoid using them. For those who insist on scenting their homes, safer options include reed diffusers, plug-in air fresheners or scented candles.

Finally, be sure to alert bird owners to the potential dangers of any scented aerosolized products. Birds' air sacs and anatomy mean their respiratory tracts are highly sensitive, particularly to any airborne fragrance or product. Pet Poison Helpline advises bird owners to avoid using all liquid potpourris, air fresheners, and other aerosolized products.

Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners, veterinarians, and veterinary support staff the require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species. PPH's $35 per-incident fee includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. PPH is available in North America by calling 1-800-213-6680. For additional information, visit www.petpoisonhelpline.com.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Minds of 1st Graders

A couple weeks back I went to Stratton Elementry School to visit with a small group of 1st graders and speak about veterinary medicine. My wife is a middle school teacher, so I am familiar with the school system, but was amazed at how bright and interactive the kids were.

Their teacher had asked them to come up with two questions to ask me. Fortunately, the teacher had deciphered the questions before I came (the kids handwriting wasn't the greatest) and after a brief introduction we got to the questions. Many of them pertained to how you become a veterinarian, but there were a variety of other thought-provoking questions.

The best was when we opened the floor up to the kids to ask other questions that they had not written down. Of course I got many stories about the children's pets and how many of them had animals that were sick and brought to the veterinarian. Since most 1st graders don't have filters, sometimes I heard more than I probably should have, but it was an enjoyable experience.

I think the highlight of the visit for the kids was seeing the cat skeleton and listening to their hearts with the stethoscope. Overall, I think it was a success and I hope to be asked back at some point to speak again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Try, Try Again

It sometimes amazes me how adamant dogs can be about getting to things they shouldn't. As Dr. Johnson pointed out in an earlier blog, he had a dog who would pretty much eat anything in sight, including razor blades. Well, my problem these last couple of weeks has been trying to keep a dog from chewing on a part of herself.

It all started with a young puppy who had hit its tail on something and split it open. The owners tried to manage it at home, but to no avail. They brought her in and by the time I saw it, there was a small piece of bone sticking out. At this point the best possible treatment was to amputate a portion of the tail. It was a big dog and had a long tail, so we decided only about 3-4 cm had to come off. It was a quick and simple procedure and the pup went home the following day.

I saw her back around 5 days post surgery for bandage removal and everything was healing great. I sent her on her way for the weekend with instructions to have the sutures removed 1 week later. Monday morning, the phone rings and the puppy had gotten to the stitches and chewed down the tail again. I saw her later that morning and again some bone was exposed. We had a long conversation with the owners and we elected to amputate the tail higher up and then watch her very closely to prevent her from chewing at the tail. Everything was going well with this surgery later in the week, but then again on Monday morning we get the phone call, "She got at the tail again and busted the sutures."

Well, we didn't have much tail left to take at this point, but it was pretty much our only option (especially since the tail tip looked like it might be infected). We performed the surgery earlier in the week and left about 2-3 cm of tail. We saw the tail today and things are healing well. So far, so good.

You sometimes wonder what is going on in these dog's head. Does it feel better chewing at the tail? Are they just bored? I am hoping that the puppy has learned its lesson and will leave the tail alone. I am slightly dreading Monday morning...