Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

If your cat coughs or vomits after taking a pill, there's probably a good reason. Coughing or vomiting after having swallowed pills dry could very well be a result of dry pilling (giving your cat a pill without any liquid). If you have ever tried to dry-swallow an aspirin, you'll recognize how uncomfortable the experience can be. Swallowing half a pill can even be worse, because of the sharp corners.

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Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

Dry pilling can lead to pills getting stuck in your cat's esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach). While dry pills are likely to get stuck, capsules are even more dangerous for cats. The smooth, gelatinous surface tends to cause capsules to lodge in the esophagus.


A 2001 study presented in a veterinary journal stated that "After 5 minutes, 84% of capsules and 64% of tablets are still sitting in the esophagus." The study also brought out the dangerous occurrences of esophagitis, which can be caused by the irritation of pills and capsules remaining in the esophagus for long periods of time. This can often lead to blockage, entirely.


How to Give Your Cat Liquid to Avoid Dangerous Dry Pilling

It may seem impossible to force a cat to drink. Fortunately, though, there are a number of tricks you can use to prevent problems when administering oral medications to cats:

  • Follow Pilling with Liquid
    Use a small 1cc syringe filled with either plain water or low-salt broth. Approach the cat from the back or side, rather than front-on. Keep the cat's head level rather than tipped back, to facilitate swallowing.

  • Conceal the Pill in a Pill Pocket
    Pill Pockets are cone-shaped, soft treats with a hole down the center. Just pop the pill inside and pinch the top closed, and offer it to your cat as a treat.

  • Treat After Pilling
    Offering a favorite treat will not only encourage future pilling cooperation but will help get the pill into the stomach quickly so it can go to work.

  • Canned Food After Pilling
    Try giving only a small portion of a regular meal of canned food before the pilling, and withhold the remaining portion for afterward.

  • Compounded Flavored Meds
    Some pharmacies will compound medications into flavored liquid doses, which are both easier to swallow, and a lot tastier than pills. Your veterinarian may work with a compounding pharmacy, a "regular" pharmacy may have flavors for pets (we strongly advise against shopping online for your pets meds).

  • Transdermal Meds
    Some medications can be formulated into a gel or ointment that can be rubbed into your cat's inner ear. These can also be compounded by pharmacies.

At least one of these solutions should relieve both you and your cat of the anxiety and discomfort found in dry pilling. Speak with your veterinarian specifically about the best approach for your feline friend.


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Can My Dog Have "People" Food?

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With so many “don’ts,” what human foods can we share with our dogs? Are any human foods safe for our dogs? The answer is yes! Here is a list of some human foods that are yummy and generally good for your dog:

[Important note: Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.]

Lean meat

Besides being a great source of protein, dogs love to eat meat. In order to prevent an upset stomach, or worse yet—pancreatitis—it is safer to feed dogs lean meats such as turkey, chicken, and fish. Fish is not only a good source of protein, but can also be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids—especially salmon. Omega fatty acids are purported to have anti-inflammatory properties, are a major component of the mammalian brain, and can help with skin and coat problems. When giving your pets meat, remember to remove the skin and fat; if it’s not healthy for you, it’s not healthy for your dog. Finally, be sure you also remove all bones. Beef bones can chip a tooth, poultry bones can splinter, and any bone can get stuck in your dog's throat or intestinal tract.

Veggies

Vegetables can be a healthy and delicious treat for your dog, such as carrots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene and dietary fiber. They can be served raw or cooked. Many dogs enjoy the crunchy texture of raw carrots. An additional benefit is that their hard texture can help keep teeth and gums clean. Other dogs prefer cooked carrots for the soft texture. Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and other nutrients with anti-cancer effects. Like carrots, it can be served raw or cooked. Most dogs prefer broccoli steamed and mixed in their food. Sweet potatoes are loaded with complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and beta-carotene; and are a good source of vitamin B5, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium. The great thing about vegetables is that they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Fruit

Many dogs like apples because of the crunchy texture. Apples are healthy and a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. Just make sure your dog doesn’t eat the core (a choking hazard); also avoid the seeds--they contain cyanide. Bananas are another fruit-treat you can give your dog. Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and soluble fiber and also contain moderate amounts of vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.

Grains

You can supplement your dog’s diet with rice, preferably brown rice. In fact, most veterinarians recommend a temporary diet consisting of chicken and rice for dogs with acute gastrointestinal problems (tummy aches). Brown rice is loaded with dietary fiber; minerals like manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc; and vitamins such as vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6. Flax seeds can also be given as a healthy treat. Flax seeds are a great source of omega fatty acids and dietary fiber.

If you have an overweight dog, substituting one of these healthy veggies or fruits for treats can be a great way to reduce his calories without you feeling like you are denying him. Let’s face it; we all like to give our dogs treats. Unfortunately, treats have calories that add up quickly. Fruit and veggies are a low-calorie alternative. 


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Toxic Medications & Products For Pets

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It’s natural to want to ease your pet’s pain if they are experiencing illness or discomfort. But before you act, you must be aware that common medications used for adults and even children can be toxic and even fatal to your pet.

It is always recommended that you contact your veterinarian before administering any medications to your pets. It could be the difference between life and death.

Danger Lurks in the Medicine Cabinet

Tylenol: Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in this pain reliever, is very toxic in cats. The drug interferes with oxygen uptake in the blood of cats and can result in death if not treated promptly. Acetaminophen (also used in Excedrin and other aspirin-free drugs) can be used in dogs, but there is a fine line between the effective dose and the toxic dose. Consult with your veterinarian. Acetaminophen overdose in dogs can cause severe liver damage.

Aspirin: This drug is also very toxic to cats except in a very low dose. At times, veterinarians will use aspirin as an anticoagulant for cats with heart disease. This should only be done under a veterinarian’s supervision, as aspirin can be fatal. Dogs can tolerate this drug, and veterinarians will sometimes recommend it for use as a pain reliever. Chronic use of the drug produces side effects.

Ibuprofen: This is the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Motrin, and "cold and flu" medications, and is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). This drug is never recommended for cats or dogs, as it can result in severe gastric ulcers or acute kidney failure. Accidental ingestion should be treated immediately. Ibuprofen and other human NSAIDS should never be used in pets, as there are veterinary specific NSAIDS that are less toxic. Drugs like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Meloxicam are veterinary prescribed NSAIDS, and are much safer for pets.

Naproxen: This is the active ingredient in Aleve or Anaprox, and is a very potent NSAID. Even the smallest of doses can result in severe symptoms of gastric ulcers, stomach perforations, or acute kidney failure in animals, and should never be used in animals.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of the most common pet poisons.

Over-The-Counter Products to Skip

Tear supplements with antibiotics: Dogs with chronically dry eyes (commonly a problem in short-faced dogs with protruding eyes) need tear supplements to help with lubrication and keep them comfortable. But read the label: Some of these products contain neomycin, an antibacterial that should be administered under the advice of your veterinarian only.

Alcohol-based ear treatments: Alcohol burns and inflames the sensitive tissues of the ear canal while drying them out, which actually makes problematic ears worse. And yet, a quick internet search will show you all kinds of “home remedy” sites encouraging its use. (Along with gentian violet, another Internet “cure” that’s not recommended by veterinarians.) If your pet has an ear infection, you need to take him to your veterinarian. After that is resolved, you can use a veterinary-recommended cleaner on a regular basis to help keep the ears clean and healthy.

Hydrogen peroxide: While commonly, effectively and safely used to induce vomiting in dogs, hydrogen peroxide should not be used on wounds. The fizz created when it interacts with tissue makes it seem like something good is happening, hydrogen peroxide, in fact, inflames the healthy skin around a wound, which increases healing time. However, recent studies have shown that it’s not even an effective antibacterial.

Steroid creams: We all know how miserable itching makes us, and when your dog is scratching, you’re almost as miserable as they are, just from watching and listening. But don’t just slap a steroid cream on the itchy spot; you may be making an infection worse, or you may just be wasting your money. Your veterinarian has many ways to help stop the itch, but the problem needs to be correctly diagnosed before any of them will work properly.

What to Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned by a medication, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is not available, call an animal poison control. There is often a charge with these services, but paying a minimal fee could save your pet’s life.

  • Pet Poison Helpline: 1-800-213-6680


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Brachycephalic Syndrome: The short-nosed syndrome

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What is Brachycephalic Syndrome?

Brachycephalic Syndrome is a pathological condition which affects short-nosed dogs and cats, which can lead to severe respiratory distress.

There are different anatomical abnormalities that contribute to the disease, all of which are more commonly found in brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds:

  • An elongated soft palate is a condition where the soft palate is too long so that the tip of the it protrudes into the airway and interferes with movement of air into the lungs).
  • Stenotic nares are malformed nostrils that are narrow or collapse inward during inhalation, making it difficult for the dog to breathe through its nose).
  • Everted laryngeal saccules is a condition in which the tissue within the airway, just in front of the vocal cords, is pulled into the trachea (windpipe) and partially obstructs airflow.

Breathing in situations of exercise, stress, or heat become difficult that an animal with such abnormalities may be unable to take fast or deep enough breaths to blow off carbon dioxide. This leads to distress an further increases respiratory rate and heart rate, creating a vicious cycle that can quickly become life-threatening.

 

Risks and Symptoms

Symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome vary with the severity of the abnormalities and can range anywhere from noisy breathing, snorting, snoring, and coughing to exercise intolerance and even collapsing or fainting after exertion.

Hot and humid climates or weather can cause symptoms to worsen. This is due to the anatomy of these animals, they can find it difficult to cool themselves by panting. The increased effort to move air through can cause swelling and inflammation in the airway. This will only further obstruct their breathing, cause respiratory distress, and cause even further overheating and a high risk of heat stroke.

Most brachycephalic dogs in normal conditions — not too hot or humid — breathing isn’t difficult enough to cause major problems. However, situations that cause panting, such as obesity, heat, vigorous exercise, or anxiety and excite can all trigger the vicious cycle: panting, which causes inflammation of the airway, which increases anxiety, leading to more panting, and so on.

Brachycephalic dogs are also at a higher risk of problems during sedation and anesthesia. If your dog needs surgery or any other procedure requiring sedation, your veterinarian will recommend best course of action.

 

Diagnosis

Conditions, such as stenotic nares, can be diagnosed through a simple physical exam. Others, such as the elongated soft palate, usually require general anesthesia. It’s really a matter of determining the severity and whether treatment is necessary.

Other diagnostic approaches include:

  • Chemistry test to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance.
  • A complete blood count to screen your pet for infection, inflammation, or anemia and other blood-related conditions
  • Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infection and other diseases, and to evaluate the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine.
  • Screening tests to rule out certain infectious diseases
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and neck


Treatment

Treatment for dogs with brachycephalic syndrome can range from short term therapy such as oxygen therapy and steroids to decrease inflammation to a more permanent solution such as surgery.

 

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Teamwork

Dr. Bonda (right) performed the life-saving surgery to save Dr. Fox's (left) pup, Aubie (center).

Meet Aubie

Aubie is a French Bulldog who had a severe case of brachycephalic syndrome which initially presented itself as a cough.

 

Prevention

The conditions caused by brachycephalic syndrome are in result of the natural anatomy of flat-faced breeds, so they are not preventable. One way of curbing more severe cases of the syndrome is through selective breeding. This means, dogs that need a lot of surgery to correct these problems should not be used for breeding.

To make life easier on a dog prone to brachycephalic syndrome, keep your pet at a healthy weight, avoid extremely hot weather, strenuous exercise, or stressful situations. This does not mean to do away with daily walks, as all dogs need exercise. However, try for a harness in favor of a collar to make breathing easier. Finally, have your dog examined by your veterinarian regularly to make sure abnormalities aren’t getting worse or need correction.


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Heavy Panting in Dogs: When is panting normal, and when should you be concerned?

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It’s normal for dogs to pant, especially when they’re hot, excited, or energetic. Heavy panting is different, though, and may be a sign your dog is dangerously overheated, coping with a chronic health problem, or has experienced life-threatening trauma.

Here are answers to three important questions every dog owner should know:

  • What are the common causes of heavy panting in dogs?
  • What can I do about them?
  • When is it time to see the vet?

 

Common Causes and Treatments

Panting helps dogs cool off when they’re hot or engaged in lively exercise. Dogs take between ten and thirty breaths a minute, depending on their size. Get to know what your dog’s everyday breathing and panting looks like so you’ll more quickly notice any changes.

Some common reasons dogs pant heavily include:

Heatstroke or poisoning

It’s normal for a dog to start breathing harder or panting after exertion. As for some dogs, like Boston terriers, bulldogs, and pugs, are prone to heavier breathing than other dogs because of their short snouts. However, heavy panting is also a sign a dog may be suffering from heatstroke or may have consumed a toxic substance.

If you can’t find any obvious reason for a sudden change in your dog’s breathing, take him to a veterinarian immediately. If you suspect heatstroke, first follow the steps at the end of this article to help cool your dog safely.

Chronic illness

Illnesses like heart failure, Cushing’s syndrome, or respiratory disorders can all cause heavy breathing or panting in dogs:

  • Heart failure: Like people, dogs can suffer from heart failure. And just like people, dogs may show some of the same symptoms, including breathing difficulty, reduced exercise tolerance, and coughing. How your dog’s heart failure is treated depends on the cause. But treatment may include medications such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics.
  • Cushing’s syndrome. This occurs when a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. Along with heavy panting, symptoms can include excessive hunger and thirst, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. Treatment varies but may include adrenal-suppressing drugs or surgery. For more information on Cushing's disease, read our article.
  • Respiratory disorders. Several respiratory disorders, such as laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia, and lung tumors, may all lead to heavy breathing or panting. Treatment depends on the condition and how far it’s progressed.

Injury and pain

Dogs can’t tell us with words when they’re in pain. So, it’s up to us to know what to look for. Heavy panting is one sign your dog may have suffered an injury.

Other signs of pain or trauma in pets include enlarged pupils, reduced appetite, a reluctance to lie down, restlessness, anxiety, and licking or biting at the pain site.

Dogs may mask their pain with normal behaviors, such as wagging their tail. And an injury may be internal — for example, as a result of being hit by a car. So if you suspect your pet may be in pain, don’t delay. Seek veterinary care right away.

Medication

Some medications, such as prednisone, may also lead to heavy panting in dogs. Talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog’s medication is causing heavy panting.

Other Causes of Heavy Panting in Dogs

Heavy breathing or deep, intense panting can also be a symptom of eclampsia, also called milk fever. Eclampsia is a dangerous condition that affects nursing mothers; low blood calcium levels lead to an inability to stand or walk and tremors. And allergies, infection, or irritation within the airways can cause wheezy, noisy breathing in dogs.

No matter what kind of breathing your dog usually has, any unexplained change — whether heavy panting, coughing, or wheezing — should lead with a call to your veterinarian.

 

Heatstroke and Your Dog: Emergency Response

Overheating is a medical emergency — and one of the most serious reasons for heavy panting in dogs. If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, a quick response can be lifesaving.

Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting, glassy eyes, weakness, fast heart rate, drooling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and a body temperature over 104 F. If possible, take a rectal temp. You want to stop once temp is back down to 103.

If you think your dog may have heatstroke, here’s what to do to help:

  • Move your dog inside or to a shady spot.
  • Submerge your dog in cool water (avoid cold water, which constricts blood vessels) or apply ice packs or cold towels to your dog’s chest, neck, and head. Don’t spray your dog with a yard hose -- on hot days the water inside a hose can reach near boiling temperatures. You want to cool him off gradually.
  • Give your dog cool, not cold, water. Or give him ice cubes to lick.
  • After you’ve started cooling your dog down, take your dog to the vet immediately.

The best way to manage heatstroke is to avoid it. Never leave your pet in a parked car. It’s better to leave your pet at home than to risk heatstroke. At home, be sure to provide all pets with shade and water or a way to get inside during the hottest part of the day.

 

When to See a Vet

Remember, panting is normal for a dog after exercise, excitement, or when it’s hot.

Call your vet immediately if any of the following applies:

  • Your dog’s panting starts suddenly.
  • You think your dog may be in pain.
  • The panting is constant and intense.
  • Your dog’s tongue or gums appear blue, purple, or white — a sign your pet isn’t getting enough oxygen.

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