Secondhand smoke: Dangerous for pets, too

Owners who smoke put their pets at risk for serious, life-threatening illnesses such as asthma and cancer, and one US group's new ad exposes that truth. Feline and canine lungs are similar to those of humans, so it's not surprising that companion animals are at risk of health consequences when their humans smoke, says veterinarian Elisabeth Snead. But she said people who may not be motivated to quit for their own health could find inspiration in their pets. A new US ad campaign is capitalizing on that idea, warning of "CATmageddon."

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Popular plants that are poisonous to pets and other yard hazards

In some ways, having pets in your yard is like having young children in your home. You need to take precautions.

So how do you keep your landscape from harming your pet and your pet from harming your landscape? Let's explore the options.


All of us likely grow plants that could be toxic to dogs or cats. The good news is, incidents of poisoning from plants are not common.

Human medications (prescription, over the counter and herbal) were the most common cause of pet poisoning calls to the ASPCA in 2014, followed by insecticides (particularly those applied to dogs and cats for flea control), household items (such as paints and cleaning products) and human food (onions, garlic, grapes and raisins for dogs, and xylitol, an artificial sweetener, which is toxic to animals.) Veterinarian medication overdoses and chocolate also were cause for concern.

Poisonous plants made up about five percent of the calls, followed by mouse and rat poison and lawn and garden products.  The plant calls involved mostly cats and house plants.

The ASPCA's website has an excellent list of plants poisonous to cats and dogs. The association also offers a free Animal Poison Control Center mobile app for download.

Azaleas, for instance, can be fatally toxic to dogs (and people, too). Obviously, dogs don't typically eat azaleas, although I was made aware of an incident involving a puppy left alone inside a house all day with a potted azalea. Unfortunately, that did result in death.

Dog owners should be on high alert for one plant: sago palm (Cycas revoluta). There are male sagos and female sagos, and it's the females that present the most dangerous situation. Although all parts of the plant are toxic, the seeds are highly poisonous to dogs, and there have been numerous fatalities over the years in Louisiana. Seeds from female sagos should be gathered and disposed of in spring.
Lilies also are highly toxic to cats.

While it's important to find out what plants are toxic, I'm not sure how far I would go to radically change an existing outdoor planting — such as rip out all of the azaleas — to eliminate all potentially toxic plants. But it's good to be aware of the dangers.

There are dozens and dozens of plants listed as toxic to dogs on The list includes many plants that are common in South Louisiana gardens, including the following:

  • American Holly
  • American Mandrake
  • American Yew
  • Andromeda Japonica
  • Asparagus Fern
  • Azalea
  • Bay Laurel
  • Begonia
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Caladium
  • Calla Lily
  • Chinaberry Tree
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Clematis
  • Cutleaf Philodendron
  • DahliaDaisy
  • Elephant Ears
  • EnglishIvy
  • Fig
  • Gardenia
  • Geranium
  • Hibiscus
  • Hosta
  • Hydrangea
  • Lantana
  • Nandina
  • Oleander
  • Poinsettia
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Sago Palm
  • Sweet Potato Vine
  • Trumpet Lily
  • Vinca



Study links secondhand smoke to pet heath risks

Pets exposed to secondhand smoke in the home are more likely to gain weight and develop cancer than animals in smoke-free homes, according to research by veterinarian Clare Knottenbelt of the University of Glasgow in the UK. Pets, especially cats, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because they spend so much time inside, grooming and in close contact with the carpet, where toxins accumulate.

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Tracheal collapse: What owners need to know

Tracheal collapse is a condition in which the windpipe becomes weak enough that the membrane running along the top of the trachea caves in, obstructing air flow, writes veterinarian Matt Grootenboer. Small and toy breeds are more prone to the disorder, Dr. Grootenboer writes, but it can occur in any breed. The condition may be precipitated by exposure to environmental irritants or allergens, obesity and existing medical problems. Medical treatment is successful in most cases, according to Dr. Grootenboer, but some dogs may require surgical placement of a tracheal stent.


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Microchipping of Animals FAQ

Q:  What is a microchip?
A:  A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a grain of rice. The microchip itself does not have a battery—it is activated by a scanner that is passed over the area, and the radiowaves put out by the scanner activate the chip. The chip transmits the identification number to the scanner, which displays the number on the screen. The microchip itself is also called a transponder.

Q:  How is a microchip implanted into an animal? Is it painful? Does it require surgery or anesthesia?
A:  It is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. It is no more painful than a typical injection, although the needle is slightly larger than those used for injection. No surgery or anesthesia is required—a microchip can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. If your pet is already under anesthesia for a procedure, such as neutering or spaying, the microchip can often be implanted while they're still under anesthesia.

Q:  What kind of information is contained in the microchip? Is there a trking device in it? Will it store my pet's medical information?
A:  The microchips presently used in pets only contain identification numbers. No, the microchip is not a GPS device and cannot track your animal if it gets lost. Although the present technology microchip itself does not contain your pet's medical information, some microchip registration databases will allow you to store that information in the database for quick reference.

Some microchips used in research laboratories and for microchipping some livestock and horses also transmit information about the animal's body temperature.

Q: Should I be concerned about my privacy if my pet is microchipped? Will someone be able to track me down?

A: You don't need to be concerned about your privacy. The information you provide to the manufacturer's microchip registry will be used to contact you in the event your pet is found and their microchip is scanned. In most cases, you can choose to opt in or opt out of other communications (such as newsletters or advertisements) from the manufacturer. The only information about you contained in the database is the information that you choose to provide when you register the chip or update your information. There are protections in place so that a random person can't just look up an owner's identification. 

Remember that having the microchip placed is only the first step, and the microchip must be registered in order to give you the best chances of getting your pet back. If that information is missing or incorrect, your chances of getting your pet back are dramatically reduced. 

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Jeff Kahler: What could blood in cat’s stool mean?

Angela shares an apartment with her 6-year-old cat Andy. Andy has spent all his life indoors. Recently, Angela has noticed small amounts of blood in his stool. The stool is otherwise normal. It does not seem to show blood on every bowel movement but it has become increasingly prevalent. His diet consists of Science Diet Feline Maintenance in a dry form with occasional wet food of the same brand.

Visible blood in feces is usually the result of irritation to the colon. The colon is the large intestine at the end of the digestive tract and when it becomes irritated, it can bleed. There is a possibility that the stool can become bloody if there is a wound around the rectal area or a problem with one of the anal glands causing some bleeding. I am betting on the colon as the source.

The colon has the primary job of resorbing water from the stool. This is one of many mechanisms in a cat’s body to keep from wasting water. There is really no digestion of food done in the colon. Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients occurs primarily in the small intestine. After the small intestine does its job, the leftover material is passed into the colon where water is resorbed and, finally, the stool is excreted.

When the colon becomes irritated, we term this condition colitis – inflammation of the colon. Colitis can be either primary, due to a problem with the colon itself or, secondary, due to a problem somewhere else in the body causing the colon to become irritated.

Secondary colitis can be a common finding when there is a digestive problem in the small intestine. If the small intestine for any number of reasons is not completely digesting food, it can send inadequately digested product into the colon. The colon is not equipped to handle this stuff and the normal bacteria within the colon will begin to ferment this partially undigested material. The fermentation process can be very irritating to the colon to the point of causing the colon wall to bleed. If the irritation is severe enough, the colon can be impaired from its normal duty of resorbing water causing a change in the stool consistency. This can show up as loose stool or stool with a gelatinous mucous material surrounding it.

Diet change, although not apparently relevant in this case, can cause colitis. If a companion is suddenly fed a new diet without a weaning process, their digestive tract, specifically the small intestine, may not handle the new product well, leading to secondary colitis manifesting as blood in the stool and often diarrhea.

Primary colitis can be caused by any primary insult to the colon. A mass or multiple masses within the colon can cause colitis. So too can some types of intestinal parasites.

A visit to Andy’s veterinarian should provide an avenue to a diagnosis as to the cause for the intermittent blood his stool. Radiographs can be a very helpful tool in trying to distinguish between primary colitis and secondary colitis due to small intestinal inflammation. If the colitis is being caused by small intestinal disease, a biopsy of the small intestine may be necessary to determine the underlying cause and armed with a definitive diagnosis, appropriate treatment can be initiated to hopefully eliminate his problem.

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