Dr. Louise MurrayJune 1, 2007
Thank you for participating in our live, moderated discussion with Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. We were fortunate to have her on hand to provide you with summer solutions to hot-weather hassles. She provided excellent tips on dog walking in the heat, summer sores, bad kitty breath and more.
I'm trying to leash train my five-month-old Lab puppy. How long is too long a walk in 90 degree temp? What do you consider moderate, under a mile?
Here are some hints for safe exercise in the summer:
Always have lots of fresh water to offer your puppy periodically, such as every 10-15 minutes or so.
Try to exercise during the times of day when it is not as hot and sunny. The best times are early morning or evening. Avoid exercise between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M.
Try to keep your puppy in the shade.
When it is hot outside, exercise should be moderate. Long periods of strenuous exercise when it is hot could lead to heatstroke.
The exact length of the walk would depend on the temperature outside, the dog's condition, etc. The most important thing is to monitor your dog. Does he look tired? Is he panting fiercely? Are his gums getting red? If you see these things, it's time to stop. Certainly on really hot days, I think that a mile is a reasonable limit, but you have to compute all the factors, such as time of day, shade versus sun, etc. He will be able to do more in the early morning or at dusk than at noon, for example. Have fun with your puppy!
Our second floor gets very warm in the summerI avoid it! But two of my cats love to stay up there for hours at a time. Should I deny them access to these rooms by closing the doors, so they will come down to the cooler floor of the house, or is it okay for them to spend so much time in the heat, which they seem to love? Thanks!
It is wonderful that you are so concerned about your kitties! As long as your cats have access to the cooler rooms and to drinking water, you don't need to lock them out of the warm rooms. Cats' ancestors evolved in the desert, so they often enjoy warmer temperatures than we do!
This past week it's been in the 90s in NYC. My dog, a four-year-old shi tzu, hasn't been eliminating stools nearly as much. Do you think this is weather-related? Thanks!
It has indeed been very hot! Your dog's stool volume may be decreased because of a decreased appetite due to the hot weather (do you think his appetite is less than usual?) or could even be due to some dehydration, since less water in the stool will make the stool smaller. Be sure he is drinking plenty, and not exercising too much when it is really hot. The flat-faced dogs are at higher risk of heatstroke since they cannot pant as effectively.
When should I consider moving my outdoor dog inside?
The most important issues for animals in the hot weather are shade and water. It is crucial that animals who are outside in the heat always have cool, fresh water available, and a good source of complete shade. If possible, any time the weather is 90 degrees or higher, your dog will certainly appreciate coming into the air conditioning!
My brother rescued a very young male kitten from being thrown away (horrible, I know!!) so he the animal to me. The kitten seems younger than seven weeks old. Because I am not too familiar with kittens so young, I would like to know exactly what steps I should be taking to ensure the best care for him.
It is lovely that you are giving this kitten a home! Kittens need lots of things! At six to eight weeks of age (sounds like now for your kitten), they should start to receive their vaccines. They should receive three sets of kitten vaccines, often given when they are eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age. It is very important that they receive every booster because this is necessary for the vaccines to be effective.
When you take your kitten for vaccines, he should also be tested for two viruses: Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FeLV and FIV). These are retroviruses similar to human HIV and while a cat who is positive can have a happy life, it is important to know the kitten's status for his health care. He should also be dewormed using a veterinary prescription dewormer (often one called pyrantel), and this will need to be done at least twice, several weeks apart. At around four months of age, your kitten should be neutered. I generally recommend feeding canned or pouch food in two meals a day. Cats who are allowed to graze all day often become obese, which can lead to health issues. Good luck with your kitten!
Hello! It is impossible to give my nine-year-old silky terrier a good grooming. He's okay with a bath, but when I attempt to cut or shave his hair, he fights, growls and bites! He gets so crazy that I'm afraid he's going to have a heart attack or severely bite me or someone else. I have a good grooming table with an arm, even a little muzzle, but it does not help much. Is there anything I can give him to calm him down? Baby Benadryl maybe? Thanks.
I'm sorry you are having so much trouble grooming your terrier! I think that the first step is for you to consult a behaviorist. This type of behavior can lead to other biting issues, and you need to nip this in the bud. You can use a veterinary behaviorist (to find one, contact the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists) or a non-veterinarian, called a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. If neither is available in your area, another option would be a good dog trainer, such as one who is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
In the meantime, there is no good way for you to effectively sedate your dog at home, or to ensure your own safety when you attempt to groom him, so you may want to ask your veterinarian for help; many veterinarians offer grooming at their practices or at least can clip his coat for you. Good luck!
Every summer around this time, my three-year-old golden mix gets round, scabby sores on his tummy. They go away in the cool months. Could these maybe be hot spots or something else?
The sores on your dog's tummy could be as a result of fleas (even one flea can set off a reaction!), a skin infection called pyoderma, skin allergies or other issues. Be sure that every summer you use good flea and tick control. You can ask your vet which products she feels are most safe and effective. It is important to use these monthly since it is easier to prevent a problem than to deal with it once it occurs.
Your vet can also take a look at your dog's tummy. If the sores are infected, a course of antibiotics may be needed. Be sure to keep your dog clean and well-groomed, as a dirty, wet or matted coat can lead to skin problems, especially when it is hot and humid. I have a trip coming up and was wondering if you thought it would be safe to travel by car with my two cats to Gatlinburg. I've rented a pet-friendly cabin. I have plans with a pet sitter if it is not safe to take the cats along.
Certainly, traveling with your cats in the car is much preferable to flying with them on a plane. We get very concerned about animals flying when the weather is hot, particularly if they are going to have to go in the cargo area. They can get overheated in this area or even when they are left to wait on the tarmac.
Driving with cats is generally safe, although it can be nerve-wracking! It's important that they are safely confined, especially when you are getting in and out of the car, as cats have been known to dart out and get lost at gas stations, rest stops, etc. This also applies to your time at the cabin; you will want to be sure that they do not get outside as they can easily get lost in unfamiliar territory.
Generally, I feel that for short trips, cats are better off staying at home with a sitter since they do hate to travel. It is only worth bringing them for trips of a week or more, and if the destination is one that they would not find too stressful.
Hi. I adopted my dog, O'Malley, in March, at the SPCA in Orlando. They know nothing of his history, just that he came from a shelter in Alabama and that he's a "happy little boy." We noticed that he's very skittish around strangers, especially men, and were curious if there’s anything we could do about that. My main question is, when there are rainstorms, thunderstorms or first signs of a storm, O'Malley freaks out, runs under the bed, runs in the bathroom and hides behind the toilet. Is there anything we can do for him? Thank you for your time.
Poor O'Malley! Lots and lots of dogs are scared of storms. Behaviorists are working on figuring out why this is, and you can read about it in several books, such as one called The Dog Who Loved Too Much. Some even wonder if the dogs actually feel pain from the electricity in the air.
For the storm phobia and the skittishness around strange men, you may want to consider working with a behaviorist. There are veterinary behaviorists, certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and non-veterinary behaviorists (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists), certified by the Animal Behavior Society. You can contact these groups for a referral.You can also find lots of good books on the topic, and these groups may be able to recommend the best books for you to read.
We have two dogs (both Lab mixes, one year and three years), who enjoy using our backyard pond as a big water bowl. Our pond is chemical free, but we keep two goldfish in there as well as some plants and snails. It gets a bit green at times when the weather is very hot. The water itself isn't too green, it's more the inside walls of the pond. It has a constant water flow with a pump and filter, but it doesn't stay as clean as the tap water. I have tried to keep them out of there and have kept water bowls near the pond. They still drink from the pond. My husband insists they are safe since there are no chemicals in the water. I, on the other hand, am concerned that they may get sick. Any advice or concerns about this? Thanks.
There are several concerns about the pond water. One is an infection called Leptospirosis. This is a very dangerous infection that can cause kidney and liver failure, and dogs get it from the urine of other animals, including wild animals. Standing water such as puddles and ponds can become contaminated by such urine. Your dogs can be vaccinated against this disease; speak to your veterinarian.
Algae can actually also causes serious health issues. Standing water can contain other infectious organisms, too, such as giardia. I would try not to let the dogs drink from the pond; perhaps a little fence around it would help.
Hi. One of my two cats has bad breath problems; his breath smells like not-very-fresh fish. He is less than two years old, and before I adopted him, was already treated for gingivitis. His mom must have had a very difficult pregnancy. She lived on the streets of Manhattan, and Silly Willy is the only surviving kittyall his littermates were either stillborn or died shortly after birth. My vet took a look at Willy’s teeth and said they did not look too bad and did not require cleaning. I do not think he took a really great look, and hopefully teeth do not require immediate cleaning.
What could be causing his bad breath, and what can I do to take care of it? He eats good food (canned Wellness), I give him a special stick to chew on for teeth cleaning, which I bought at a holistic pet store. He actually likes chewing on a stick. I read that if a cat is FIV-positive, one of the first symptoms may be gingivitis, but Willy’s records from his life before I adopted him show he is negative. Also, can he pass the bacteria to my other cat? They groom each other constantly and share food. Thanks.
Bad breath in kitties can have a few causes. It can be caused by gingivitis, a condition in which the gums become red and sore. Gingivitis can be caused by dental tartar, FIV, Bartonella and some immune diseases, where the gums become inflamed due to an overactive oral immune system. Bad breath can also be caused by digestive problems.
You should have a veterinarian take a really good look at not just at Silly Willy’s teeth, but also his gums and the back of his mouth. If he has gingivitis, you may want to have him re-tested for FIV, and possibly for Bartonella. If he does have gingivitis, one option is to see a board-certified veterinary dentist for a consultation. If his mouth is healthy, make sure that he does not have signs of a digestive problem such as weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea. Most causes of bad breath are not infectious to your other cat, but FIV is, so be sure to get him re-tested.
If all this is fine, this may just be Willy's breath!
One of my dogs (a three-year-old female hound mix) has episodes (perhaps twice weekly) in which her back legs appear to lock up in an involuntary rocking motion (not to be crude, but it almost appears as if she is humping something). I say involuntary as my husband and I have both approached her and tried to get her to stop but she is unable to. The episodes only last about 30 seconds and are rather infrequent but I'd like to know if they are cause for concern. We have done some research and the general consensus seems to be that most of the time all that can be done is bloodwork and that often is inconclusive. However, this being our baby, I want to find out for sure. She's due for a check-up in a few months, but I wanted to see if I need to take her in sooner due to the nature of her episodes. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Your dog's episodes could indeed be seizures, or could be a neuromuscular or even an orthopedic issue. I do think she should have complete blood work performed, especially looking at her blood sugar, calcium level, potassium level and liver function. If this is all normal, you may want to consult with a veterinary neurologist. Either way, it may be helpful for you to make a video of the episode to show your veterinarian or veterinary neurologist. With these types of mysterious "episodes," it is great as a doctor to be able to witness exactly what is happening. I hope you get it sorted out!
My cat is totally obsessed with eating plastic. He does not just tear it into pieces, he actually swallows the pieces. I’ve always thought that he may be trying to compensate for some type of nutrient/mineral deficiency. He eats canned Wellness, which is supposed to be very decent food. I add some liquid supplement/mineral spray to it, and I just started buying wheat grass and adding it to food, since he would not eat it otherwise. What nutrients/minerals deficiency can cause this? Could there be another explanation for plastic chewing? We have to make sure there are no plastic bags left anywhere in the apartment, but sometimes he gets very creative in getting to plastic. He can smell it, I guess, and always knows where it is, and tries to get to it. Thanks.
Believe it or not, this is a common problem! We don't think it is due to any type of deficiency. Lots of cats like to chew on plastic, and you have to be very careful because they can end up with an intestinal obstruction. Nobody knows the cause; it may be a substitute for hunting behavior and prey ingestion, but that's just my thought. Wild cats have to catch and tear apart their food, so it may be a bit boring to have their food so easily obtained! Certainly boredom seems to exacerbate this issue, so be sure you are having daily play sessions with your kitty, such as with a cat dancer or other interactive toy.
Hi. I have a white boxer girl who is just two years old. Her stools are consistently loosevery runnyso much so that she can't control it and has frequent accidents in the house, especially at night. I have tried different quality foods, varying the main ingredients and now have her on a dry chicken and oatmeal food and Science Diet Light canned food.
Can you offer any suggestions other than diet that may be causing the problem so I know what course to pursue? Thanks very much in advance.
Marilynn L. (Mom to Jasmine, my problem boxer girl, Ozzy and Minnie)
Hi, Jasmine's mom. It is quite common for boxers to have intestinal problems. These can range from mild to severe. Parameters that would be cause for increased concern include weight loss, black/tarry stools, blood on the stools, or low protein levels (albumin) in the blood.
Your girl should have a complete checkup, including a fecal test for parasites including Giardia, and blood work especially to look at her albumin levels. If this is all fine and she is not losing weight, your veterinarian may want you to try a high-fiber prescription diet, or a hypoallergenic diet. Some boxers with diarrhea benefit from a course of an antibiotic called enrofloxacin, but this is something you would have to discuss with your vet.