PET ARTICLES (18)
Should You Leave the AC On for Your Cat or Dog?
I've been told that in the Mother Jones DC bureau last week, a debate raged over whether or not it's only crazy cat ladies who leave the air conditioner on all day for pets. I can see both sides: Sure, it's pitiful to see dogs pant and cats make themselves as flat as possible to beat the heat, especially during gnarly heat waves. And yes, it's true that pets are unable to doff their fur coats.
On the other hand, their ancestors lived outside for eons before we domesticated them, so surely they must be heartier than we give them credit for. What's more, round-the-clock AC is exorbitantly expensive and contributes significantly to climate change, as the New York Times recently reported. Because of the soaring demand for air conditioning worldwide, and because the gases emitted by modern cooling equipment are extremely potent planet warmers, scientists estimate that AC units could account for a staggering 27 percent of global warming by 2050.
So is it really necessary to chill Fido all day long? I decided to call a few veterinarians to settle the argument once and for all. Dr. Helen Myers, veterinarian at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, had this to say in an email:
When the temperature and humidity rise, it becomes crucial to keep our pets comfortable and safe. Animals cool themselves by panting, a process of exchanging warm air from their lungs for the cooler air outside. This cannot happen when it is hot and humid, which leads to increased risk for heat stress and exhaustion. Leaving the air circulating with fans or, better yet, leaving the air conditioning on will help to keep pets cool and healthy. Thermostats should ideally be set at 78-80 degrees, an appropriate comfort level for most pets. Basements are typically cooler than the rest of the house, so if your basement is a comfortable place for your pet to be, having them spend time down there during a heat wave is also an option. Pets should also always have access to fresh water, as they can get dehydrated.
Both cats and dogs are susceptible to excessive heat and humidity, but cats are more likely to control their activity so as not to add heat from muscle activity. Elderly, overweight, and pets with heart or lung diseases should be carefully watched, as they are highly susceptible to heat stroke. Pets with short muzzles like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats are at a higher risk of becoming overheated because they cannot effectively pant. These pets should be kept in rooms with air conditioning so they can stay cool.
Kimberly May, a veterinarian and spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medicine Association, added that it's important to observe your pet and adjust the indoor temperature according to its particular needs. "Keep an eye on your pet and see where your pet hangs out," says May. "If your dog is constantly by the AC vent, you probably shouldn't turn it off. But if you see the dog sitting in the sunlight, you might have a little more leeway." As a general rule of thumb, cats are often slightly more heat-tolerant than dogs, and for both species, the longer the fur, the more uncomfortable the animal will be in extreme heat.
As for the argument that animals don't need AC since their forebears dealt with heat just fine, May doesn't buy it. "We've domesticated them and ruined all that," she says. "It's not smart to make an assumption about their needs based on their ancestors. We've changed their diets; we've changed a lot of things."
A few other tips from May: You can try putting ice in your pet's water bowl, but only if your animal is comfortable with it; some cats and dogs are freaked by ice and won't drink ice water at all. Some dogs like the pricey cooling pads sold at pet stores and on the internet (this one is $79.99 on eBay) but others won't go near them. Walk dogs in the early morning or evening, and keep the walks short. Don't go running with your dog, since dogs will keep going, even if they're overheating.
An Evolution in Dog Training
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The Certified Dog Trainers and Behavioral Consultants at Darwin K9 understand the unique issues, frustrations, and complexities that each dog brings to his/her owner. The trainers also recognize that, like humans, dogs don’t all learn the same way and therefore each should have a customized training program. After all, have you ever met a dog exactly like yours? Of course not! So why train your pup in the same way every other dog is trained? Darwin K9 does not believe in the one size fits all training approach, instead the trainers take the time to figure out how your dog learns best and then uses that to motivate him or her. Basically, Darwin K9 teaches your dog obedience in the way he/she learns best.
Your dog is unique and therefore his/her training should be as well. Be a part of the dog training Evolution!
We already had an adult cat. We adopted a kitten, and now that she's half-grown, we haveissues, specifically wars over the box. What should we do to make them "share the bathroom"?
– Via email
One box is not enough. You should have one box for each cat, plus one. If you have one cat, you need two litter boxes. Two cats, three litter boxes. Put them in different locations. For instance, keep one upstairs and one downstairs. That way, one is always convenient. And with more than one cat, it prevents fights over who gets to use which box when it's needed.
Some cats like to ambush others when they use the litter box, so place litter boxes in locations with easy escape routes. Privacy is important, too. Another good reason to have multiple litter boxes: Each cat may prefer a different type of litter.
What about what goes inside the box? There are all kinds of differentand they all have pros and cons. Most cats prefer clumping litter because of its soft, sandy feel. It's easy on the paws and easy to scoop. Other cats might like a fine-grained clay litter. Look for one that comes in a dust-free formula. Some cat litter is easier on the Earth, made from recycled paper or natural substances like corncobs or wheat. But if your cat doesn't like it, you'll be throwing a lot of it out, which is not that environmentally friendly. Let the cats pick their preferences by offering a "litter box buffet."
Avoid scented litter. It might smell good to you, but that perfumed odor can be sensory overload for a cat.
– Dr. Marty Becker
You don’t need us to tell you the harm that smoking can do to your body, or the risks posed to children and others from secondhand smoke. But perhaps you’re unaware of the harm it can be doing to your pets. Because pets share our environments, they also share our environmental exposures – including tobacco smoke.1,2
Dogs living in homes with smokers have significantly higher levels of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood, indicating exposure to nicotine through secondhand smoke.3 A 1998 study found that environmental exposure to tobacco smoke resulted in an increased risk of cancer of the nasal cavity and sinuses of dogs, particularly those with longer snouts (such as collies, greyhounds and many other popular breeds); and the more packs the smoker smoked, the higher the dog’s risk of cancer.4 This is likely because their longer nasal passages accumulate the cancer-causing toxins. A 1992 study found that dogs with short- and medium-length noses were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer if a smoker lived in the home,5 most likely because shorter-length nasal passages don’t accumulate the cancer-causing toxins, allowing them to enter the dog’s lungs instead.
Pet cats living in smoking households are more than twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma (a type of cancer) compared to cats in nonsmoking households. The risk increased with the duration and amount of exposure, and cats with five or more years of exposure to secondhand smoke were more than three times as likely to develop malignant lymphoma.6
Have you ever had anyone tell you that your clothes smell like smoke? Well, it’s not the just the smell that can linger – it’s the potential toxins, too. If you smell smoke on your pet, consider the toxins that may be on your pet’s fur. Chances are, they’re ingesting them when they lick the toxins off during grooming.
Birds’ respiratory systems are particularly susceptible to airborne contaminants. Significantly higher concentrations of cotinine were found in the blood of birds living in smoking households compared to birds living in nonsmoking households.7 Birds with exposure to secondhand smoke can develop pneumonia, lung cancer, and problems with their eyes, skin, heart and fertility.
Smoking outside the home reduces the concentration of environmental tobacco smoke in the house, but doesn’t eliminate it. A 2005 study found that environmental tobacco levels in homes of smokers who smoked outdoors were still five to seven times higher than in households of nonsmokers.8
And it’s not just the secondhand smoke that poses a risk for your pets: discarded cigarette butts or other tobacco products left within reach of pets can cause gastrointestinal problems or even nicotine toxicity if your pet finds and eats them.
Cats are recommended to creative and independent people; however, they must be willing to tolerate cat's willfulness.
There's another great debate about the feline as a pet besides the declawing issue covered in another article. This great debate concerns allowing the feline to roam outdoors vs. living indoors. As usual, there are two sides to this debate. Should you allow your cat to roam outdoors? Let's find out.
The Outdoor Feline
I think I am old enough now that I can use the phrase, “You remember the good old days.” If you listen to the “older than me timers” you could feed your dog scraps, bones, pork or anything else lying around. They wouldn’t get sick and still live forever. And that’s a long time. I am not sure how true all this is, but I still hear it said by many of our charming senior clients. These days, we get several calls about vomiting or diarrhea patients every single day. Our patients compared to the past seem to have a much more “sensitive constitution,” as my grandma would have said.
There is good news and bad news with these symptoms, which often go hand in hand. Fortunately, the vast majority of our cases are nothing more than an upset stomach for some very simple reason. Unfortunately for us as veterinarians, vomiting and diarrhea are such vague signs that they can be associated with hundreds of diseases, from benign to deadly. Fortunately, we don’t have to work up every case with blood work, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, ct scan, exploratory surgery, etc. to diagnose a cause. Unfortunately, sometimes we do. Fortunately, most vomiting and diarrhea cases are really easy to treat, oftentimes with things you can do at home and with over-the-counter medications you may already have. Unfortunately it may take a few days to get things under control. Fortunately, most of these cases will be normal very quickly. Unfortunately, our patients can’t tell us where or why their belly might ache, which if they could, would be really fortunate…..for me.
The obvious causes of vomiting and/or diarrhea usually come up early in our conversation. Causes such as: “I switched dog food brands two days ago,” “my dog got into the trash yesterday,” “I fed him a plate of spare rib bones,” all are simple to diagnose and very straightforward to treat. IMPORTANT: A dog’s pancreas is set up to digest very lean meat, not fats such as pork. I have had dogs die from pancreatitis (swollen, inflamed pancreas) after getting one hot dog or a tablespoon of bacon grease to “flavor” their food.
Viral cases, which are very common, are not so easy, but may sound like: “My dog was fine yesterday, was at the kennel a week ago, now won’t eat, is quieter, vomited a few times yesterday and just doesn’t seem right.” There aren’t tests to diagnose these types of viruses, and just like people, they can just show up out of nowhere. Typically there are a few days between exposure to a virus and the onset of clinical signs which usually last only a few days. They may have a fever (above 103) for a day or two during this period. These dog gastrointestinal (GI) viruses are contagious among dogs, but don’t affect humans or vice versa. That is to say they are species specific. However, you can carry a dog virus home with you on your shoes and give it to your dog.
If all signs point to a regular GI virus, we have a very standard approach to treating these cases. We like to discontinue food for a day to let the stomach rest and settle down. We offer water but in small amounts several times a day. Ice cubes work well for this. We start them on a bland food diet for a few days. Bland foods include things like rice mixed with boiled chicken or hamburger (rinse off the grease), low fat cottage cheese, or scrambled eggs. A dollop of yogurt can help re-colonize the gut with good bacterial organisms too. Dog food is the equivalent of pizza and chili. If you have the flu and someone offers you pizza and chili, bad things are going to happen. Bland foods are like broth and crackers. Occasionally we use antispasmodic prescriptions to decrease the vomiting. If diarrhea is present (often shows up a day or so later) there are doses of Imodium that your veterinarian can suggest to help with that.
We call day three “hump day,” meaning that symptoms should be improving by then. If symptoms persist or worsen, we work the animal up completely. At least once a year, for a period of several weeks we will get a dramatic increase in the number of GI calls and we know something is “going around” (sounds like people!). If you have multiple pets, don’t be surprised if a week later it starts in someone else.
All of the above holds true unless we get a “red flag” on a case. Some of our red flags include abdominal pain, anemia, dehydration, amount of weakness, blood, and sometimes just a “gut” feeling that things aren’t right. We have to be ever diligent for that one patient that is different. These cases are much more serious and include things like pancreatitis, kidney/liver disease, diabetes, cancers, foreign body obstructions (plastic toys, socks, balls, bones, etc), or hormonal diseases. Red flag cases are worked up right away, as one day can make a difference in the outcome. (If they could only talk.)
Our classic foreign body case presents a little differently. Usually it is a young, very happy (use your own adjective here), outgoing, rambunctious, playful (often retriever), is eating very well, but the food comes back up undigested every time they eat. They usually feel pretty good even for a few days while this goes on. Then the abdominal pain sets in and they start walking hunched up. (If they could only talk.) Time for radiographs and get the surgery room ready!
If you have ever had a dog with explosive diarrhea you can appreciate the volume of liquid in the intestines. Remember, the intestine is a long tube that in a large dog could be more than 15 feet long. It’s no wonder that diarrhea can just keep coming. Also noteworthy is that a dog with an obstruction of the upper intestine, can still have normal bowel movements for a couple days. Generally speaking, if a dog is eating, keeping it down and having normal bowel movements, then the “tube is open.” In contrast, if they just emptied their entire GI tract with diarrhea, it will take a couple days for the next bowel movement to show up.
Most of these symptoms and diseases are also found in cats. However, there is one special variation on the vomiting theme in the cat world. It is mandatory in felines, that in the very wee hours of the morn that they wretch, moan, yowl and finish with a hurled up wad of hair that I guarantee no matter how hard you try to avoid it, will squish between your toes. We always say that the only good hairball is the one you find. Consider them cured.
Whenever I clean up the pile of vomit or diarrhea from one of our rug rats, it helps to remember our client in Middlebury with two Great Danes who both had explosive diarrhea for an entire night and destroyed a room because they had a “sensitive constitution.” Puts it in a little perspective I guess.
Jeffrey Vogl, DVM | Ask the Veterinarian