In recent months, the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) has seen an increase in cases of pets with matted coats—many of which have necessitated surgical procedures, and in severe cases, amputations. One such case involved Chia, a one-year-old female Shih Tzu who was surrendered to the ASPCA last November.
When ASPCA staff opened Chia’s carrier for the first time, they found that she was encased in a severely matted coat. They were unable to even locate Chia’s ears or neck in order to place a lead around her. In order to help Chia, a licensed veterinary technician at AAH began to shave off her coat. Her matting was so severe—and coated with feces, urine, and foreign debris—that the vet tech was able to remove the majority of the matting in one large, intact piece, which weighed more than one pound.
Beneath the matted coat was a gentle, loving 12-lb. dog. After receiving treatment for some skin issues and undergoing a spay procedure, Chia was adopted and is now a cherished family member.
We’re so glad we got to Chia in time to help. According to ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Julie Horton, matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets:
Even very mild hair mats can cause skin irritation and progress to infected lesions. A wound left unattended can accumulate maggots.
Fleas and ticks can live deep in the hair mat—out of the owner’s sight—and infest the animal.
Mats around the hind end can cause an accumulation of feces and in severe cases impede defecation.
More severe hair mats can cause strangulating wounds, most often seen on an animal’s limb. The mat can grow around the leg in a circumferential fashion causing blood supply to be cut off. In severe but reversible cases, the mat cuts into and sometimes through the skin which can be surgically and medically treated over a long period of time typically weeks to months. In severe but irreversible cases, the mat can cut down to the bone and /or become so tight that blood supply is cut off on that limb requiring amputation.
Dr. Horton provides the following tips for preventing your pet’s hair from matting:
In general, mats are extremely uncomfortable for your pet and should be avoided. Owners should be aware of grooming needs based on hair type and breed of the animal. Pets with medium-to-long hair require frequent brushing, some even once daily. Speak with your groomer or veterinarian regarding appropriate brush types for your pet’s hair. Early mild mats can be brushed out. Mats which have progressed require clipping the hair.
If you notice a mat which cannot be easily brushed out, your pet should visit a groomer or veterinarian. They can safely clip the mats out and provide instant relief. If a pet is severely matted he may require sedation and full body clipping.
NEVER cut mats out with scissors. Your pet can unexpectedly move or jerk resulting in a severe laceration or puncture.
While much of the country is dealing with sub-freezing temperatures and the promise of more ice and snow to come, we’ve created a handy cold weather infographic so you can keep your pets safe and warm this winter. From paw care to bathing tips, we’ve got your furry friends covered.
Check out our guide below, and be sure to share with your friends on your social networks using the hashtag #staywarm and tagging @aspca.
As winter storm “Juno” threatens to snow in a large swath of the U.S., we’re making sure we’re ready for whatever this weather brings. If you or a loved one is bracing for the storm, take heed of the following reminders for pet parents.
• Store up activities for dogs and cats to do while you're together indoors.
• Stock up ahead of time on all pet food and medicine your animals may need over the weekend—travel may be much more difficult or impossible in the event of a blizzard.
• Prepare for a power outage, especially if your family includes fish, reptiles or pocket pets.
• Have a coat and booties ready for any dog who needs them. Be ready to protect your pets from very strong wind and cold.
• Make sure your pets wear identification at all times (even better: have them microchipped as well) to dramatically increase your chances of reunification should one become lost.
• Keep your dog on a leash after heavy snowfall. Dogs are much more likely to get lost during winter, especially during and after a blizzard.
• Watch out for ice melts! Snow-melting salt can be very painful to dogs’ feet and can make pups ill if ingested, so make sure to clean off your dog’s paws with a moist washcloth after a walk.
When Richard C. noticed that his cat, Misha, was drooling and wincing when she tried to eat, he immediately knew something was wrong. He took the green-eyed, orange tabby to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), where she was diagnosed with lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis, a severe inflammation of the mouth that can also affect the gums. The chronic, rapidly-progressive condition was making it nearly impossible for Misha to eat.
During Misha’s two-hour procedure, Dr. Maren Krafchik extracted 12 teeth, including molars, incisors, baby teeth, and a fractured front canine tooth before closing the gaps in Misha’s gum tissue with dissolvable stitches. Three teeth remain.
“Cats are highly sensitive and prone to inflammatory reactions,” said Dr. Krafchik, noting that Misha’s condition was not uncommon. But she added that treatment with medications alone will not solve the problem; dental work is needed to relieve animals like Misha from inflammation and pain.
One of the most common maladies seen by AAH staff is dental disease. In 2014, our team performed nearly 850 dental procedures on dogs and cats, ranging from simple cleaning and extractions to treatment for advanced periodontal disease.
“Leaving a sick mouth untreated presents major risks,” says Dr. Janice Fenichel, one of 10 veterinarians at AAH who routinely perform dental procedures. Health risks of untreated dental issues in pets include jaw fractures due to bone destruction and damage to organs caused by chronic bacterial infection in the mouth. Kidneys in particular are often injured by untreated oral disease.
“Many pets have multiple diseased teeth,” says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of AAH. “Pets with dental disease are often in severe pain—imagine having not just one toothache, but many.”
ASPCA veterinarians frequently find inflamed gums in cats. In 75 percent of adult cats, dental problems require extractions. Fractured teeth and periodontal disease are the most common dental problems in dogs seen at AAH.
She stresses dentals “are not about cosmetics,” but rather, “keeping important teeth in your pet’s mouth and keeping your pet comfortable.”
“So often, clients express fear that if their pet loses all of his teeth, ‘How will he manage?’” she adds. “The truth is, after a much-needed dental, they’re eating a lot more comfortably than when they had a mouthful of awful teeth.”
That’s certainly true for Misha, who these days doesn’t let her almost-empty mouth stand in the way of a good meal.
For more information, check out our “Ten Steps to Dental Health” for cats and for dogs.
At the ASPCA, we encourage all pet parents to spay/neuter their pets. There are so many benefits associated with these procedures, but many pet parents may not be aware that it can be dangerous to not spay their pets until it’s almost too late.
One day last spring, Sandra R. noticed that her eight-year-old cat, Petra, wasn’t eating. Her belly distended, she vomited and was lethargic—far from her normal self. Sandra decided to bring Petra to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH).
Petra was suffering from a pyometra, an infection of the uterus that that can be fatal in cats and dogs. Pyometra usually occurs in older females, with about 25 percent of them suffering from pyometra before the age of 10. Radiographs showed Petra’s distended belly containing a greatly enlarged uterus filled with pus. Once removed by Dr. Maren Krafchik, the uterus weighed almost three lbs.—a third of Petra’s total weight. Fortunately, Petra has since made a full recovery.
Dogs are equally susceptible to pyometra infection. Gershon C., a retired sanitation worker who lives in Queens, took notice when his 10-year-old Rottweiler, Princess, had not eaten for several days and was drinking water excessively.
He brought her to the ASPCA, where veterinarian Dr. Marisa Altieri suspected a pyometra. Her diagnosis was spot on, and an ultrasound showed that Princess’s uterus had ruptured in two places. Dr. Altieri set about surgery immediately, removing the uterus, which weighed 20 lbs.
Princess underwent treatment for a pyometra infection at the ASPCA Animal Hospital.
While pyometra is preventable, it is one of the most common maladies treated at AAH. Our veterinarians performed 145 surgeries to remove pyometras in 2014 alone—nearly three per week.
It’s best to spay a pet before she goes into heat; around four months of age is ideal. If your unspayed female shows signs of lethargy, poor appetite, excessive water drinking, vaginal discharge, excessive urination, pale mucous membranes (gum color), vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, or abdominal enlargement, take her to a veterinarian immediately.