Vet Confidential


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3 posts from June 2008


Choosing a veterinary practice...

I had a really fun day Sunday at NBC’s Today Show with pet lover, Lester Holt. We talked about my new book, Vet Confidential and introduced two adorable pets from the ASPCA in NYC who are looking for a home, Tommy the beagle and Tanner the cat.  If you missed the segment, check it out at .  

 And if you know anyone looking for the sweetest beagle or the friendliest tabby cat, please have them check out Tommy and Tanner at the ASPCA shelter on 92nd Street in Manhattan.


It's summertime...

I am so glad that summer is finally here—it’s such a pleasure to enjoy being outdoors again, and to step outside without getting all bundled up and bracing for that cold air. 

As a vet, though, there are lots of things to worry about in the summer. Seems like pets get into all sorts of warm-weather trouble, and so I do want to talk about a few things we can all watch out for to keep our furry kids safe.

It might sound obvious, but one crucial factor for pet safety these days, when we are all keeping the windows open, is having screens in all those windows. This is especially true for those of us who live in the city in multi-story apartment buildings. Cats just don’t have the survival instincts it’s sometimes assumed they do (in fact, “curiosity killed the cat” is a lot more like the truth), and it is very common when it gets warm outside for veterinary hospitals to see lots of cats who have been terribly injured by falling (or jumping) out of open windows. Of course that doesn’t include the poor cats who don’t survive and thus never make it to the vet’s office. Dogs have also been known to fall out of windows—so please everybody be sure to put nice solid screens in all your windows. If you are a renter, you can buy the “accordion”-type screens that can expand to fit most window sizes, and are easy to use without complicated installation. 

Of course window screens also keep out those pesky mosquitoes, who can infect both dogs and cats (yes, cats!) with heartworms. That’s another warm-weather worry: heartworm disease, although these days, with the wacky weather we’ve been having, most dogs and cats should be on a heartworm preventive year round, since we can have days that are over 50 degrees almost any time of year in a lot of areas. So please make sure that your pets are on a heartworm preventive, and if you haven’t been religious about giving a preventive recently, ask your vet whether your pet should be tested—the earlier heartworm disease is discovered the better. 

Other nasty summer insects include our friends the ticks and fleas. Ticks transmit all sorts of scary diseases—Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, hepatozoonosis—the list goes on and on. Fleas, of course, make pets miserable, can cause hot spots and allergic breakouts and all sorts of uncomfortable skin conditions, and can even cause fatal anemia from all the blood they steal from the poor pet. So if you haven’t already done it, it’s time to talk to your vet about which flea and tick preventives work best in your situation and geographic location. 

Another summer hazard that really frightens me is radiator coolant used in automobiles, i.e., antifreeze. This can be spilled when cars overheat, leak, or when people change their coolant. This is a great reason to have a professional change your antifreeze—you don’t want this stuff anywhere near your home. It’s fatally toxic to both humans and pets—so watch out for antifreeze on the sidewalk, road, or driveway, or lingering in puddles of water. It’s usually green and sometimes red, but never let your pet drink from any puddle because any of them could be contaminated. 

All pet parents should be cautious when exercising pets on warm days, but especially those who have flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston terriers, etc. These guys cannot pant effectively (which is how dogs cool off since they don’t sweat) because of their squashed noses, so if you’ve got a brachycephalic buddy or an older or overweight canine friend, it’s best to avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day, and to avoid vigorous activity when it’s very warm out. Heatstroke is a real danger, and if you suspect it, get your pet to an emergency facility immediately, cooling the animal down on the way. 

Of course we all know to NEVER leave any animal in a parked car but I will say it anyway: NEVER LEAVE A PET IN A PARKED CAR! Cracking the window doesn’t really help, and you cannot believe how quickly a car’s interior can heat up—this has been shown in several dramatic studies—so don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s okay to just run into the bank for a few minutes. The best plan when it’s warm out, honestly, is probably just to leave your pet home safe. 

I could go on and on: I still haven’t talked about sunburn, and skin cancer (yes, pets can get skin cancer from the sun too), and the danger of drinking salt water at the beach (dogs can be really silly sometimes)…but I am starting to sound like the proverbial wet blanket! So please, enjoy the weather, enjoy the summer, enjoy your pets—just be careful out there!


Coughing Cats and the Invisible Hairball

Did you know that asthma is a common problem in cats? We don’t know what causes it in every cat, but we do know that secondhand cigarette smoke can set it off or make it worse, just like in kids.

Sometimes cat owners don’t realize their cat is coughing because it looks so different from a person coughing. The best way to describe it is “a hairball without the hairball”. The cat crouches down, sticks out his neck, and makes a noise like he’s gagging or trying to bring up a hairball…but nothing comes up. If your cat does this, he may have asthma.

You can read about feline asthma at, a useful website with lots of good information. One great new development for cats with asthma is an inhaler for medication. Yup, an inhaler for cats (don’t worry, they don’t have to purposely inhale, the medicine is puffed into a little mask that is placed briefly over their face). This is a wonderful invention because the steroid medicines that lots of cats with asthma are given as pills or shots can cause diabetes and other problems. Putting medicine straight into the lungs by inhaling it means the whole body isn’t getting medicine it doesn’t need. You can take a look at the inhaler by going to, and clicking on animal health. You can read about how the medicine is used by going to and clicking on Dr. Phillip Padrid’s protocol.

And please don’t smoke around your pets! This can cause not only asthma but also cancer and other problems.

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