A Day in the Life: Nikki Kline

fun ways my cat likes to wake me upDo any of you have alarm clocks that you can’t “turn off”? If you own a cat, the answer is probably yes. They also don’t believe that weekends are for sleeping in, even if you went to bed at 2am … breakfast should still be at 5:30am.

I have to give my cats credit, they have developed some unique techniques over the years. They started with the traditional jumping on the bed and meowing. When we became immune to this, they started jumping up on the headboard (that has a shelf on it) and just staring down at you. One may think this isn’t effective, but have you ever had anyone or anything stare at you intently while sleeping, eventually it wears on you!

I, at one point, decided we were locking the cats out of the bed room, and they learned how to scratch at the door (I will assume taking turns) until I finally couldn’t handle the noise anymore. They also are great at acupressure (in case the Jedi mind trick doesn’t work). The cats seem to be very aware that I usually need to pee in the morning, and stepping right on my bladder gets me out of the bed faster. They also (I’m pretty sure) check over my body for any bruises or sore spots when I’m sleeping. In case stepping on the bladder doesn’t work, they try to land on the most painful points. Norbert also has some of the most forceful head butts I’ve ever encountered, and has come close to giving a bloody nose with his good morning head butts.

As time went on, I had what I thought was the harmless habit of setting a cup of water on the shelf above the bed.  This had never been an issue, until one morning I was refusing to give into the begging. Suddenly, I was awoken by cold water being splashed all over my head!  I’m not 100% sure it was intentional, but being that it happened three times before I stopped putting water up there, I think they discovered it worked pretty well.

After I stopped making helping the cats with their “morning showers”, they had to devise other plans.  Suddenly 5:30 in the morning was the perfect time for a “rumble”, aka they pretend to fight and make noises like someone is being eaten.  This worked in multiple ways.  One, I get up to see if they were really fighting. Two, Freya, our dog, (also the cat referee) promptly started crying from her crate when she heard the cats.

As much as the cats insist that feed them breakfast at crazy early hours in the morning, the most frustrating part is that when I do feed them, they take like four bites and go lay down to take a nap.  Meanwhile, I am now wide awake!  I always hated the beeping of alarm clocks so I guess the cats have saved me the annoyance of dealing with that, and they are a lot more fun to snuggle with … if only they had a snooze button, it would  be perfect.

Nikki Kline is a veterinary technician  at French Creek Veterinary Hospital in Pottstown, PA

March 16-22 is National Poison Prevention Week

PoisonDogThink of this post as the Mr. Yuck for pets. March 16-22 is National Poison Prevention Week and the majority of resources available are aimed at protecting your children, so we at PVMA thought we’d give you a little help with protecting your pets! Take our poll at the end of this post to see which preparations you’re making.

First and foremost, be cognizant of the fact that your home is full of hazards, both inside and out. No, this doesn’t mean you’re a bad pet parent. Pets – especially dogs – are curious creatures and often investigate new things by tasting and eating them. Many plants in your yard or potted plants in the house can be poisonous, as can cut flowers like lilies. Like you would do with small kids, keep household cleaners, toiletries, and medicines out of reach. You know they aren’t food but your pet doesn’t. Also take special care in the kitchen. Everyone knows chocolate is poisonous, but so are many other foods and even chewing gum. Things like onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes and raisins, salt and yeast dough all can have bad consequences if ingested. I know if can seem like a treat to feed your pet people food, but stick to the pet food and treats that are designed for them. PVMA has a number of fact sheets which might be helpful on these topics – be sure to check them out and download for free.

Having a pet first aid kit stocked and at the ready can also be beneficial if you suspect your pet has been poisoned or is injured. Pet Poison Helpline, a fantastic web resource for pet safety, also has a number you can call -1.800.213.6680 – if you suspect that your pet has been poisoned. Keep it on your refrigerator and in any first aid kit that you create. Below is a list of items you might want to include in your first aid kit but remember, it’s very important to call Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian before giving any of these remedies yourself at home. The treatment will depend on the type of animal, the size, what was ingested, and what symptoms are being displayed.

  • Hydrogen peroxide 3 percent used to induce vomiting in dogs– make sure it’s not expired
  • Oral dosing syringe or turkey baster – for administering hydrogen peroxide
  • Teaspoon/tablespoon set – for measuring appropriate amount of hydrogen peroxide
  • Liquid hand dish washing detergent, such as Dawn or Palmolive
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Triple antibiotic ointment, like Neosporin™
  • Vitamin E (a small container of oil or several gel caps)
  • Diphenhydramine tablets 25mg – with NO other combination ingredients
  • Ophthalmic saline solution or artificial tears
  • Can of tuna packed in water or tasty canned pet food
  • Sweet electrolyte-containing beverage
  • Corn syrup (1/4 cup)
  • Vegetable oil (1/2 cup)

You can visit the Pet Poison Helpline website to learn much more about pet safety as well as facts, products, tips and recalls. They also have a mobile app for your iPhone so you can have information on the go.

Pets are part of our families and we want them to stay safe. With a few small steps to prepare, you can rest a little easier in case something happens.

War Wounds

A Day in the Life: Dr. Casey Kurtz

An incident that occurred last week caused me to start thinking about all the bruises, scratches, bumps, cuts, bites, abrasions and scars we receive on the job, and how those wounds are like a photo album of our professional lives.

I recently stabbed myself in the lip with a 1.5-inch long needle.  There was some blood as well as some bruising. (Yes, I know, I neglected to follow proper OSHA safety guidelines.  Let’s just say, I’m not OSHA’s wunderkind)  To double down on my stupidity, I then used silver nitrate sticks on my lips to stop the bleeding.  Something I didn’t know before this event … silver nitrate permanently turns your skin silver until new skin cells grow!  It seems impossible that this very simple fact eluded me for so many years, but it did.  I sadly resigned myself to having a partially discolored and bruised lip for several days, while my “supportive” colleagues laughed and mocked me mercilessly. (I can’t be too upset, we are equal opportunity mockers; no one is immune, and we do so equally, regardless of race, gender or religion … I think it says so on our job applications).

Another scar I possess is on my right forearm and I received this early in my career while I was still a technician.  I was asked to hold Whitey Kreitzhausen for a blood draw.  Whitey was a 17 year-old, somewhat senile, white (of course) cat who was unfortunately failing.  I recall being particularly careful holding him because he was so decrepit and somewhat comatose.  The blood draw went well and I stood next to Whitey on the table, now just sitting there, no one touching him when someone called my name.  As I turned my head, Whitey must have sensed his chance for his final hoorah.  He leapt up with the speed of a cheetah and attached himself to my arm and wouldn’t let go.  It took a good five seconds of me flailing for him to release his bite.  What remains remarkable to me is that he immediately returned to his partially comatose state.  To this day, I have never seen anything even close to his sudden blitz attack.  I found out later that Whitey passed one week later, and I still feel special to have been involved in his Last Stand.

A third, and perhaps, the best scar is also on my right forearm.  (Thank god I’m left-handed.)  This melee involves a certain technician’s cat named Rosco.  (The name has not been changed to protect the innocent – he’s guilty)  I was feeling for his bladder with someone holding him, when he wiggled away and latched onto my arm.  To make matters worse, an emergency rushed in at that exact moment, so I quickly wrapped and taped a paper towel around my arm so I could attend to the crashing dog that had been carried in.  The owner of the dog took one look at me, with blood starting to run down my arm, and said, “I hope you’re better with dogs than cats.”  To this day, Rosco is one of my favorite pets.  I’m not sure if it’s because he is so ornery or just because he beats to his own drummer, but I love him, even when he rolls over and meows at you, inviting you to pet him.  Don’t believe him, he’s just luring you in with a false sense of security.

I could continue the list of war wounds I have acquired, and I know everyone on our staff has at least one or two good stories to share also. All I have to say is if these are badges of honor, most of us are four-star generals.

Dr. Casey Kurtz is a staff veterinarian at French Creek Veterinary Hospital in Pottstown, PA

Enter your pet in PVF’s Smiling Pet Contest

Indica Moon

Indica Moon is happy to have entered the contest two years in a row!

In our post at the beginning of the month, we discussed the factual part of February being Pet Dental Health Month, but now, let’s get to the fun part – PVF’s Smiling Pet Contest! For the second year in a row, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation has encouraged pet owners to submit a photo of their pet or pets showing off their pearly whites. Each pet who’s entered gets added to our Smiling Pet Gallery, and for a $5 donation per vote, viewers can vote for the pet(s) they like the most! Anyone may enter their pet. Just send a photo via email to lraver@pavma.org with the pet’s name, owner’s name, and your location. (No last name’s will be displayed online).


Mufasa in his hew home.

All proceeds received during the voting process will benefit PVF’s The Last Chance Fund (TLC). The Last Chance Fund provides funds for the veterinary care of neglected or injured, unowned companion animals in Pennsylvania. Take Hefty the black cat, for example. A victim of animal abuse, he was literally put in a trashbag and thrown away for dead. Badly injured, he was discovered trying to claw his way out of the bag. Hefty was taken by a good samaritan to the Veterinary Medical Center of Lebanon for treatment. Approximately four years old, Hefty was examined and found to have a broken rib, fractured pelvis, broken teeth, lung contusions, intestinal parasites, fleas, and – understandably – shock. He was treated for his injuries and gradually recovered. After being fostered by a VMC employee, Hefty was adopted in February 2014 – and renamed Mufasa – and he is now part of a family with another black cat named Boo and a beagle named Dew.

The contest started February 1 and will continue through March 31, so enter your pets, your grandpets or a neighbor’s pet. Then let everyone know that for a minimum donation of $5, they can help animals in need as well as show everyone who has the cutest pet in town. Check out the current gallery here and please consider making a donation. Pets like Mufasa will thank you.

A Day in the Life: Dr. Casey Kurtz

What’s in a name?

milkbonesWhen you stop to think about it, the lengths dogs will go to for a Milkbone are amazing. Sit, stay, lie down, paw, speak, dance, stand, laugh at all my jokes…the list goes on.  And all for a 4.5 cm long x 1 cm deep x 2.8 cm at the widest part, hard, tan-colored, bone-shaped, card-board smelling piece of food. (I recently examined a Milkbone, and the Shroud of Turin has nothing on it after my investigation)

The package information gives no clue to the power a single biscuit holds. Sure, there are Snausages and Pupperoni, I get this, they’re fragrant and greasy, and yet, the Milkbone remains the most recognized and widely used treat. “Treat,” even that euphemism underlies the Milkbone’s role in training and reward.

If only people could be moved by so little. If only, we could be “trained” with such a small incentive. I can see it now; open the door for someone, grab a Milkbone, how about calmly waiting in line, what, another Milkbone, and sitting in rush-hour traffic, here’s a Milkbone. The possibilities loom infinite. What couldn’t be settled over a Milkbone? (Congress would definitely be able to balance a budget…)

What I love about dogs is that eventually, after all the training and Milkbones, (and blood, sweat, and tears…ours, of course) they learn! They will perform without the obligatory treat every time. Eventually, making us happy, and thus, the “good dog” is the reward. (I still recommend a Milkbone from time to time to help keep it real) Perhaps, we should take a page from our dogs. Why can’t we do things just because it makes others happy? Are we too focused on ourselves? Do all of our actions have to benefit us?

As I was thinking these grandiose thoughts of kindness and brotherhood, a car not only swerved in front of me and almost hit me, but the driver also proceeded to flash me a vulgar gesture when I honked my horn as a warning. As I clenched the steering wheel and muttered a few well-chosen phrases, I could only think … Milkbone anyone?

Dr. Casey Kurtz is a staff veterinarian at French Creek Veterinary Hospital in Pottstown, PA

iStock_000020001669MediumDog breath. We’ve all experienced it. But if your pooch’s breath is nasty enough to stop you in your tracks, maybe there’s more going on than meets the eye. Pet oral health is one of the most ignored health risk in pets and yet is the most common health problem that veterinarians see. And it’s completely preventable!

Periodontal disease – just like in humans – can result in an infection that spreads to the heart, lungs, or kidneys, and if let untreated can cause death. You can check for outward signs of trouble by examining your pet’s mouth if they will let you. (Try dipping your finger in beef broth or tuna water for a bit more cooperation.) Signs to look for include brownish teeth; swollen, red, or bleeding gums; continued bad breath; pus near the gum line; and any unusual growths. Other signs, like reluctance to chew or drink cold water, pawing at the face, and reluctance to play with chew toys, can also occur.

Part of your pet’s annual examination or wellness visit should include a dental exam. If your veterinarian recommends a tooth cleaning, you should listen. The priced of having a clean mouth is much less than treating infection or disease down the road, or even the emotional cost of losing your pet. You can also ensure a healthy mouth at home by brushing your pet’s teeth. Here’s how.

Like anything else, starting to brush your pet’s teeth will be easier the younger they are, but introducing it gradually should work for most pets. Dip your index finger into your handy beef broth or tuna water and gently rub the gum line in the mouth. Once your pet is comfortable with that, try wrapping your index finger in a piece of gauze and gently rubbing the teeth and gum line. When your pet tolerates that fairly well, you can try moving on to a toothbrush. You can use an ultrasoft human toothbrush or one specially designed for cats and dogs. Also make sure to use a toothpaste designed for pets as human toothpaste will upset their stomachs. (You can find a list of approved pet supplies here.)

If you need additional help, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a step-by-step demonstration video. Happy brushing!

It’s Halloween! Some pet-friendly tips to remember

Halloween pirate

Make sure costumes don’t restrict movement, sight, or breathing.

It’s Trick or Treat day! Candy! Costumes! Pumpkins!

And safety? How boring.

Or maybe not. Maybe taking the time with a few safety tips will make the fun more fun. Even though we wait for it all year long, Trick or Treat night can be a little stressful whether you’re at home handing out candy or out in the neighborhood with Fido. While I’m writing with dogs in mind, this could apply to any type of pet. Here are some tips to make it a successful night:

  • Keep your pooch away from the candy (and other foods you might have sitting out). Whether you’re handing it out to others at the door or your dog is trying to snack out of your child’s trick or treat bag, candy – especially chocolate – can harm your pet. Gums, mints and other candies can be just as poisonous, so keep an eye on the eats.
  • Be very careful with burning candles inside carved pumpkins, little bags, or other decorations. These can easily get knocked over or bumped by accident resulting in burns or a fire.
  • For many dogs and other animals, a continually ringing doorbell can be stressful. If they want to hide in another room, let them. On the other hand, if the doorbell has whipped them into a frenzy and you can’t get the door open without them being in the way, consider crating them or keeping them contained in another room. You don’t want your dog to run the minute you get the door open or to hurt a child on the porch.
  • Think twice before putting your dog in a Halloween costume. While costumes are cute, make sure you’re aware of how tight or restrictive it is on your pet. Make sure they can move, see,  and breathe normally and that nothing is too tight around their neck. If they weren’t stressed before, an ill-fitting costume might just do the trick.
  • If you take your dog along when taking your kids trick or treating, remember that others might be doing the same, so be sure your dog is on a leash and is kept close to you. This minimizes candy stealing, getting too close to other dogs, or being frightened by other children in the dark.

If you think your pet may have been poisoned by Halloween treats or anything else, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-213-6680. But mostly importantly, have fun! Thinking about a few details ahead of time should make for a really funny evening. Happy Trick or Treat!