Linda Ryder, D.V.M.

Helpful Tips

image 014 200 300Here you will find helpful tips from Dr. Ryder for your dog or cat.

It’s the time of year that folks are using fertilizers to enhance their gardens. Many of them contain fillers such as corn cobs, and bone and fish meal. Dogs and other pets may be tempted to tear open these bags and then eat the contents. This can be quite dangerous. GI upset is the most common symptom, but others can occur as well such as muscle stiffness or soreness.

If the quantity is too large, food boat or GDV are both concerns. Also, if the product is moldy and tremorgenic mycotoxins exist, your pet may experience tremors and seizures.

As you can see, it’s important that you keep fertilizers in sealed containers away from access to your four-legged family members. In addition, make sure preparations in flower beds and landscaping are dry before you let them out to play. Two hours is the general recommendation to allow complete drying and thus greater safety for your pets.


As the Summer temperatures are starting to rise, it’s important to be sure your pets have unlimited access to water, and shade. Since parasites, such as ticks, fleas, and heartworms are more prevalent in this season, be sure to consult your veterinarian to obtain proper preventative products.

NEVER leave your pet in the car! Cars can overheat very, very quickly--even when parked in the shade, or with the windows down or sunroof cracked. In hot weather, putting your pet in this environment can be deadly.

Avoid walking pets on hot surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. Paws can be easily burned.

Place gardening insecticides and fertilizers out of your pets’ reach. Their curiosity may tempt them to consume these potentially poisonous mixtures.

Don’t use cocoa bean mulch. It has the same toxin found in chocolate which is a big no-no for your pets.

Take your pets out for walks during the coolest hours of the day. Give them ample time to rest before and after outdoor excursions.

Keep your vet’s phone number (804-360-3795) handy. Also keep the Poison Control number (888-426-4435) posted in a convenient location.

Enjoy the sunshine with your animals, but remain conscientious about decisions you make that affect your four-legged family members in hot weather.


“Whisker fatigue” is a relatively new theory which states that cats can become stressed from eating and drinking out of deep food bowls because their whiskers are sensitive and are in constant contact with the sides of the bowl. This is according to Lisa Polazzi, an ER vet. This scenario may cause the cat to avoid the food bowl, and the owner might be tempted to assume the cat is just being a finicky eater.

Of course other problems may exist that cause your cat not to eat or drink from his food bowl such as having dental disease or some other health issues. In such cases, your vet should be consulted immediately.

What are some common signs of whisker fatigue? You cat may paw or pull food out of the bowl to eat it on the floor. Or, she may make a mess around the bowl while eating. In addition, she may leave food in her bowl, but still seem to be hungry. Or, she may approach the food bowl with unreasonable caution. Finally, she may act as though she wants to eat, but just paces around nervously. All of these can be signs of whisker fatigue.

A cat’s whickers not only help with eating, but they also help them navigate in the dark. Whiskers have a special sensory organ on them which sends messages to the brain and nervous system. They are so very sensitive that they can even detect differences in the wind which can help them chase prey.

A special organ on each whisker is a proprioceptor which is a tactile sensor. Because these whiskers have a special sensor on them, they should never be trimmed.

Should you be concerned about your cat having whisker fatigue, it is best to contact your vet for an analysis.

Source: Dr. Norman Booker at Hobart Animal Clinic

Our canine family members are predisposed to licking because it is one of their natural instincts. Licking is typically first experienced when pups are groomed by their mothers in their earliest days. It can therefore be associated with comfort and feeling soothed.

There are several other legitimate reasons for licking as well including: as a sensory tool (licking and tasting to dogs is like reaching out and touching to humans); to get attention; as a form of greeting; due to a behavioral disorder such as O-CD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder); or as a sign of affection.

If licking becomes too much of a preoccupation with your dog, you may need the assistance of a certified trained or a veterinary behaviorist.

If you have concerns, consult your dog’s vet first. Your vet may be able to help you get your pet to abandon this activity--especially during early stages of life as a puppy.


Chocolate and flowers are considered lovely Valentine’s Day traditions for us humans, but they can be toxic to our pets.

The following list was compiled by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center of common poisonous products often shared on this special day:

  1. Chocolate – often contains additional fillings which may increase the risk of pancreatitis; also some chocolates contain raisins and xylitol which is toxic to dogs.
  2. Flowers – although roses are traditionally given for Valentine’s Day, mixed bouquets are also common and may contain lilies which can cause acute kidney injury in cats if ingested. The safest thing to do is get a list of the flowers in the bouquet so you can protect your pet.
  3. Marijuana – with the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, exposure to our pets is on the rise. This drug may also be found in chocolates, baked goods, or even lotions-- so be wary.
  4. Onions and Garlic – diced onions may be on the menu for us on this fun day, but they should not be on the menu for your pets. In cats, 5 grams per kilogram of body weight and in dogs 15 grams per kilogram or more of onions may cause a drop in red blood cell counts.
  5. Wine – while grapes in wine have not proven to be an issue for dogs, the alcohol content may cause problems.
  6. Gum – often contains xylitol which is toxic to dogs.
  7. Perfume – a dog who licks the owner’s skin after a recent application can become ill. These products are composed of essential oils and alcohols which in small amounts may cause the pet to wonder what he or she has just tasted, but it is not likely to make them sick.
  8. Personal lubricants – most of these products cause gastrointestinal distress – typically diarrhea. Some contain xylitol, so read all ingredients carefully and stop your pet from licking you.

Carbon monoxide poisoning causes 15,000 emergency department visits for people every year in the US. We don’t know the number of pets who are exposed to and affected by this toxin, but more than a third of the country’s households have either a dog or cat. So, it’s best to be aware of this toxin’s risks of exposure.

Pets that are low to the ground have the greatest risk of exposure as the toxin is about the same density as room air. Taller pets are therefore safer--but they are hardly safe. Birds are at an even higher risk of exposure and harm due to their unique respiratory system.

Carbon monoxide bonds to the oxygen-carrying part of a red blood cell so that it no longer can carry the oxygen. Organs such as the heart and brain are most affected since they use the most oxygen to function properly.

Common sources of carbon monoxide include vehicle exhaust, household fires, home furnaces, stoves, and water heaters.

Symptoms of poisoning may include depression, vomiting, weakness, coma, seizures, difficulty breathing, heart irregularities, and acute death. Permanent deafness and blindness are possible.

Any pet who is recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning should be closely monitored for three to six days. Watch out for a return or sudden worsening of neurologic symptoms.

Treatment typically involves delivering oxygen to the pet via intubation or in an oxygen chamber. Seizures should be treated with the appropriate medication. Blood work may be indicated to effectively monitor electrolytes and blood pH.

Carbon monoxide monitors can be purchased at places such as Amazon for approximately thirty-five dollars each. They are a worthwhile consideration in addition to always paying close attention to your pet’s daily routines and behaviors.

Animal Poison Control Hotline 888-426-4435

  1. Chocolate is great for us and unfortunately lots of our dogs love it too! However, the higher cocoa content in recent years in chocolate makes this dessert even more toxic than in previous years.  If your dog ingests chocolate, be sure to consult your vet or the Poison Control Hotline immediately. Always have the package information to give the vet.
  2. Pine sap may upset your dog’s gastrointestinal tract if he/she drinks from the reservoir of a live tree especially because there may be bacterial contamination in the water. The delicate ornaments may also easily break and be ingested by your four- legged friend.  It is best to deter your animal from being near the tree.
  3. All batteries, if ingested, may be toxic to your dog and even deadly. Store them completely out of reach of your pet.
  4. Poinsettias plants mostly irritate the mouth and gums if ingested. But it is still a good idea to deter your pet from chewing on these seasonal plants.
  5. Be very cautious if you enhance your eggnog with alcohol as it may cause vomiting. But, it is absorbed quickly. 
  6. Cats may love the warmth from real candles so keep them safely out of reach of your cat and dog to protect them and your home.
  7. Holly, mistletoe, and lilies tempt our pets but may be toxic--specially to cats; keep them out of the home. It is wise to use artificial holiday plants, or cat grass, or catnip!
  8. Medications belonging to you and your house guests-- in addition to winter flu/cold medication may be very dangerous, even fatal, to your pets.   Ask guests to keep a list of their medications including the dosage strength, as well as the number of tablets/capsules. Provide a safe, remote place to store them while in your home.

Sources: ASPCA and Petco tips

Pets left in laundry rooms (most often puppies) who are exposed to laundry detergent packs are at risk of ingestion. The greatest concern is aspiration pneumonia-- which can be fatal. The pet may develop gastrointestinal issues. They should be monitored closely for the onset of signs of respiratory distress in such conditions. This is critical for the first twelve to fourteen hours, and if pneumonia is suspected, the pet should be seen promptly at a veterinary clinic. Signs of concern include vomiting, wheezing, or bubbles coming out of the nose.

The treatment to stop vomiting may involve an antiemetic. Some pets require a gastrointestinal tract protectant since detergent is very irritating to the GI tract.

When there is wheezing, radiographs are advised to check for aspiration pneumonia. Bronchodilators may also be used, and some pets benefit from the use of oxygen and antibiotics as well.


Just as flowers and people are coming out and about, enjoying the nice weather, so are more and more dogs. People are taking their K9 companions for frequent walks, and out to public events like the farmer’s markets. It seems like a good time to offer a few reminders about dog bites, and more importantly, how to avoid them.

According to the AVMA, over 4.5 million people a year are bitten by dogs in the U.S. and more than 800,000 of them require medical attention. Children are the most common victims with more severe injuries. Dogs will bite if provoked, scared, or feel a need to be defensive (to protect their territory or their human family). So what should we do?

One resource available to us all is simply watching the dogs’ body language. Often dogs will bark or put their ears back to show they are concerned or worried. They might tuck their tails if they are frightened. By the time they growl or snarl, they are fervently expressing their desire to be avoided and therefore left alone--immediately.

To help children avoid dog bites, it’s wise to remind them: to leave dogs alone when they are sleeping or eating; never pull a dog’s tail or take their toys or treats; and to avoid agitating a pup by yelling, running, or hitting.

This advice truly applies to people of all ages.

Some breeds are generally more “friendly” than others, but the dog’s upbringing is the most essential factor. Like us all, they are creatures of their environments.

If you decide to approach a pup, first ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Once given permission to introduce yourself, slowly offer the back of your hand to the pup as a form of handshake. If the dog sniffs, the pup may very well be your new friend. If the dog doesn’t seem interested, it might be best to smile and give the dog his or her own space or “safety zone.”

What’s the latest hot topic with pets?  I am afraid it’s the same issue with humans: obesity.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity, an estimated 59% of cats and 54% of dogs are overweight or obese.  Obesity is defined as weighing more than 20% above one’s ideal weight.  The good news is that this issue can typically be resolved with relative ease.  How?  I recommend a reduction in caloric intake as the first step in correction.  It’s easier to do for our pets than ourselves, of course, as they must accept the portions we deliver to them.  On the other hand, we can easily reach and repeatedly open the refrigerator door! (Smile) As a general rule, dry pet foods are higher in calories than wet foods.

We must take responsibility to avoid overfeeding our furry friends.  Consider the following chart derived from


WEIGHT/PET:                                     CALORIE RANGE:

10 lbs. of cat weight                          180-200 calories

10 lbs. of dog weight                         200-275 calories

In comparison, humans should consume an average of 2250 calories a day.

Your pet should have ribs that are easily felt and no sagging tummy!  Sometimes we get so accustomed to seeing our pets that we fail to notice weight gain in a timely manner.  It’s best to check your pet’s weight regularly and keep an eye on their physique.  Contact your vet if you need assistance. 

I was recently reading an article in the New York Times titled “Pets on Pot: The Newest Customer Base for Marijuana.” I always try to keep abreast of current trends in veterinary medicine, so I read further. I was skeptical, but want to always stay on top of treatment options.

The article revealed that while most states have NOT legalized marijuana for medical use, many states that have legalized its use (such as California) are applying the drug via edible oils to treat various medical symptoms in their pets. For example, the author discussed a 12 year- old cat that was treated with marijuana for arthritis. A medical card was used to obtain the pot oil.

Cannabis oil has also been used to treat seizures, swelling, pain, and anxiety. It is important to note, however, that the FDA has NOT yet approved the use of cannabis for pets. Limitations in research indicate that further study is needed.

I will comment further as research is presented. In the meanwhile, I will opt to use traditional treatments that I know are successful.


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