sick kitty
Today we are joined live by veterinarian doctor Zoya Klebanova, host of the Health and Wellness Show's Pet Health Segment. We'll be discussing the important topic of the health of our furry family companions! How do you know when you should take your pet to the vet? What should you know before bringing a new pet home? What sorts of things around the house are actually dangerous for our fuzzy little friends, that we may not know about? If you have a specific breed of dog or cat, are there any conditions they're predisposed to and what can you do about it?

We'll talk about these topics and many more fun facts about our cuddly little creatures. Join us for a great discussion! And remember, if you have any questions for Zoya you can call in or type them in the chat!

Running Time: 01:32:14

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Doug: Hello and welcome to the Health and Wellness Show. I am your host Doug and with me today is Tiffany.

Tiffany: Hi.

Doug: And we're not at our full staff today. We're missing Elliot, Gaby, Jonathan and Erica. Wow! Down to a skeleton crew. But fortunately we are joined today by Zoya Klebanova. Zoya is a veterinary doctor living in Russia in the capital of Siberia. She practices at one of the premier veterinary clinics in Novosibirsk and she treats cats and dogs and many other furry creatures. You all know Zoya from the pet health segment that we air weekly on this show and today we are overjoyed to have Zoya join us live!

Tiffany: Yay.

Zoya: Hello everyone.

Tiffany: Jazz hands! Jazz hands!

Zoya: Very glad to be here.

Doug: Yes, welcome Zoya. Just so you know, we are taking calls as usual so if anybody has any pet health questions, animal questions, feel free to click the call-in button.

Tiffany: Yeah. How often do you get free advice from a real live veterinarian? So take advantage.

Doug: Indeed. So why don't we just start off by asking a general question Zoya? What do you recommend to people when they first are thinking about getting a pet?

Zoya: Well there are several important things to consider. You need to keep in mind your environment, if you have a family, if you have small children. It's kind of different for cats and dogs. First of all if you're a cat lover or a dog lover, if you had a pet before or if it's your first experience. If it's a dog you need to consider a specific breed of dog, consider their character, characteristics, breed. They will be specific for your personal needs. If you have for example, a small house, you don't have a yard, then you shouldn't get a big dog or a dog like a husky that requires a lot of running, a lot of energy and a bigger space.

If you have a cat you should also realize that bringing a cat home, it may scratch, so if you have super-expensive furniture and you don't want to sacrifice it or take a chance or stuff like this. So all of those things should be considered. You need to realize that when you bring an animal into your life you are going to rearrange your schedule around this animal. Or if you travel a lot then you should make sure to make arrangements. While cats can be left at home for certain periods of time by themselves because they are more independent, dogs do require treatment and taking them for a walk twice a day.

Are you willing to wake up early in the morning even on Sunday and walk with them and pay attention to them? All dogs require attention and playing with them but certain breeds basically misbehave or become hysterical and not stable really without the proper training. So you also should remember that you should take your dog for training. It's a big responsibility.

Doug: Yeah.

Tiffany: How early should you start to train your puppy? What age?

Zoya: Well actually it depends on what you want to do with the puppy. Obviously if it's a hunting dog or it's going to be a pet therapy dog or a simple dog, it varies. They even say that starting from four months with puppies you can really start training them. Puppies love discipline. They do require this kind of attention and direction because they are like small children. They always test boundaries. If you don't give any boundaries to them they don't know how to behave and they grow up directionless.

Doug: Just like people.

Zoya: Yeah, like people. So like with kids, you do need to give them love and attention but you also need to provide them with a firmer hand and discipline and to show them the boundaries. That's something that they really do need. They need a job. Certain breeds like German shepherds definitely, even Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers, dogs especially with high energy, should have an outlet for this kind of energy, either to play with them a lot or to provide them with some kind of job. That's why golden retrievers and Labradors are used in service jobs because this is what they are good for.

Doug: That's interesting. I do see quite a few people, not the majority, but it seems like there are a number of people who don't really understand the responsibility involved in having a pet. They like the idea and they pick out a dog that they think looks nice but don't necessarily look into what it's like and whether its temperament is appropriate and stuff. I'm thinking of one friend in particular who got a Dalmatian when it was really popular. I think it was when the Disney movies were re-released or remade and he just really liked the idea of this Dalmatian because he really liked the look of it. I don't know if it's characteristic of the breed or not but it was so hyper and was so resistant to being disciplined. I don't think he was very good at it anyway but he was just completely unprepared for it and it ended up destroying his house all the time and pooping all over the place.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Doug: It just seems like something you really need to be prepared for.

Zoya: Yeah, definitely.

Tiffany: Yeah, I had a neighbour that had a Dalmatian and they kept her in the back yard all the time by herself. Her name was Trixie. It was so sad because all she would do was come up to the fence and just want to play and she was out there by herself all the time.

Zoya: Sometimes people get a breed like a Yorkshire terrier, Yorkies and they forget that they are terriers. They can hunt mice and rats and they are very trainable. They can do tricks if they teach them but people use them as toys and that's why sometimes they're hyper or they're very nervous. But basically they are hunting dogs even if they are really small and funny looking.

Doug: No kidding! I had a West Highland white terrier when I was growing up and his name was Dillon and he was a good dog, for sure. He was a little bit cranky. My mom got it when I was a kid and I don't know that she really did that much research or anything, she just liked the look of him. But I think that we were lucky because he turned out to be a pretty good dog and had a pretty good temperament. We were living in a suburban house. It was enough space for him because one thing I find is that you see sometimes that people live in these tiny apartments and they get these really big dogs and it just seems mean. They don't have enough space.

Zoya: Yeah. So you definitely need to consider those things before you take a dog because a dog appears to be a greater responsibility. Cats can fend for themselves but you also should consider the specific breed because there are all kinds of predispositions and characters. Maine coon cats are more social. They like to be around humans. Siamese cats are also very loyal and British shorthair cats are more what I could call independent but some of them don't like to interact with humans as well. They actually have a more selfish nature sometimes. So it depends on the breed as well. Or if it's a mixed breed it's also good.

Some say that mixed breeds are better when it comes to health issues but when you get a mixed bred you also need to remember that you have no idea what's mixed in there, so you get some sort of dog in a bag and you have no idea what kind is there. {laughter}

Doug: It's a mystery bag.

Zoya: Yes.

Tiffany: We have a question in the chat. Bryan asks what your thoughts are on getting a rescue puppy versus I assume...

Zoya: A regular puppy.

Tiffany: Yeah. Like a dog from a breeder or something.

Zoya: First of all it's a good thing. It's a good choice. Taking in rescued animals is always better because you're helping out. But you also need to consider that in this case sometimes you don't know what kind of life this puppy had. If it's a puppy it's easier than with an adult dog but with puppies you can also have issues; for example if this puppy was mistreated before or if this puppy was taken too early from his or her mother and they weren't primed properly during the crucial period which is usually between 8 week and 16 weeks, if they haven't been socialized properly because this is the period when they're being socialized and primed properly.

So if you take a puppy before 8 weeks or if you take a really scary puppy you'll have to go through a period of adapting your puppy to surroundings. If you have small children it should also be considered, to regularly and slowly doing it. Perhaps this puppy wasn't socialized with other dogs so you should be careful about taking this puppy to meet other dogs in the park for example. If it's a more adult dog it's more tricky. You should be more careful especially around children. It can have it's issues. In most of the cases volunteers and shelter people do know if there's some sort of history of an animal so they can tell you what happened to it, if they picked it up from the street or an elderly person who died. Usually there is some sort of story. So you shouldn't be worried.

Actually in many cases even if you take a puppy from a breeder it doesn't mean that they weren't abused because they could grow up in a puppy mill and puppy mills are in many cases more abusive than a dog that was just thrown away on the street by some family. If you want to avoid it you should meet the breeder to see how they keep their other dogs and to be aware and do your research. Make sure that you are making the right decision and that you are ready for this responsibility. It doesn't matter. You can give the same amount of love both to the shelter animal and the one you get from breeders.

From breeders it's just better to make this decision because you know what kind of breed you get so you can read about the characteristics and know exactly what you're getting breed-wise.

Doug: If people don't know, what is a puppy mill?

Zoya: It's breeders that are not really conscientious. They're in the business only for the money and they take a female animal and they use her as a sort of incubator. They're kept in really inhumane conditions and small cages and they just breed puppies or kittens and that's it. And then they get pregnant again. If they're sick or not able to get pregnant again they are gotten rid of. They're being kept in a large room with many, many, many cages. It's really horrible. Usually they're sold in zoo shops so there is a tendency now to ask that you don't buy from those shops because you just contribute to the existence of those puppy mills.

Doug: Yeah. And they have the same thing for cats too?

Zoya: Less for cats because cats are more sensitive. But there are people who do keep cats only for the money to breed them. Some breeds really cost a lot, like Maine coons for example.

Doug: Yeah.

Zoya: Usually before buying something, especially if it's expensive, you should check the conditions where the mother is being kept and where other animals are being kept. Do your research. Don't fall for the cheap price. Usually they're cheaper than those you can buy at a private house.

Doug: I think the pet stores that you see in the mall are really targeting impulse buyers. They see the puppy and it's super cute and they're like "Oh yeah, let's get a puppy!" And they're not doing any research at all. I think it's good advice to just do your research and look into things before.

Zoya: Many Dalmatians actually find themselves on the street after they made this Disney movie. They are hard to handle. They are a very unstable breed and they do require a lot of discipline and many couldn't handle them so they found themselves on the street.

Doug: That's terrible. I've heard different stories about how to pick out a dog. Are there any tips on that?

Zoya: Usually you should take a puppy that's not too small, no earlier than two months or even three months is better. The longer they stay with the mother, the better. Maybe not older than four months. You can take a puppy at four, five or even six months. Usually the breeder takes care of the first initial puppy vaccinations and deworming and you should get the veterinary passport with all the vaccinations in it. They should have received their first check-up. So basically they should be in good health. Nutrition-wise they should receive good nutrition for puppies. It's very important.

Doug: Now you brought up vaccinations there. How do you feel about it? It's a contentious issue in the human world. I know that there are a lot of people who are against the idea of vaccinations for humans and might carry that over to pets. How do you feel about that?

Zoya: Well first of all, the interesting thing and unfortunate thing for humans is that veterinary vaccines are better in the sense that they don't have stuff like formaldehyde or mercury in them. They're cleaner in this sense.

Doug: Cleaner.

Zoya: Safer.

Tiffany: Why is that? Why do they formulate them differently? I'm just asking out loud. I don't know.

Zoya: I don't know but that's what the head of the veterinary immune and some sort of association was telling Dr. Becker, that animal grade vaccines are more distilled and better than human ones.

Doug: That's unbelievable.

Zoya: Yeah. Considering their lifestyle and considering the nature of the viruses that can affect both dogs and cats that are really lethal, usually it is advised also by natural veterinarians to do the vaccinations when they are small and also rabies if your cat or dog goes outside. But essentially if they were immunized properly with those two vaccinations, it is usually enough for life to be immunized. If you're not sure and if your veterinarian is bugging you then you can ask for a titer that checks the level of antibodies in the blood. If there is a high enough level of antibodies then you definitely don't need annual vaccinations.

For example, even the manufacture of the rabies vaccine says that you can do it only once in three years. Many veterinary clinics still do it annually. It's a very serious vaccine with very serious adverse reactions and even if your puppy is completely healthy and maybe won't have an immediate reaction after the vaccine, it can activate or induce a cascade of autoimmune reactions later on. It should be really considered. So it's better if you do have to immunize your kitten or puppy twice, do an interval of 21 days.

And then when it's done you can then do a titer but no annual vaccinations.

Tiffany: I know in the US in some states it's illegal to not have your pet vaccinated with rabies vaccine. I know it is in North Carolina.

Zoya: Well if you are traveling abroad or between states, for example in Russia it is as well. If you want to travel with your pet to another city by airplane or train you do have to vaccinate them before and you have to update the documentation for it. So if you are traveling with your pet you do have to vaccinate them again.

Doug: So when should you go to the vet? Dogs and cats get sick and sometimes it's not really a big deal and they get over it. Are there any signs of when you should actually say to yourself it's time to go to the vet?

Zoya: First of all there is a general recommendation that at least once a year you do need to do a check-up even if your pet feels fine. The older they become it's better to do a check-up, especially if they're a specific breed where there are all kinds of predispositions or perhaps if they have small signs. For example there is a common myth that it's fine if a cat throws up every day. Well it's not fine. It's okay if you throw up once in a while. Sometimes they overate or they ate something they may throw up if or there are hairballs. If they have longer hair and they throw up hairballs then you can see if it's a hairball, then yeah it's fine.

But if they vomit on a daily basis and especially if they drink a lot or they pee a lot or stuff like this - it's cats I'm talking about - and if they are older cats then definitely you should pay attention to it and not just say "Well it's normal for them to puke every day". In dogs as well. For example if you have an intact female, not sterilized, especially if it's a Labrador or golden retriever, German shepherd and many other breeds, even mixed breeds, if you see them suddenly drinking a lot, peeing a lot and being a bit fatigued and they are about five years old then you should suspect that they have an inflamed uterus. These things can creep up on you and you may not notice it, stuff like this. Also balding, all kinds of spots, red eyes, itching.

The rule of thumb is usually every year do a check-up. Try to ignore your veterinarian's urges to re-vaccinate. {laughter} The older the cat or dog becomes you should consider that they may have issues. I'm also not talking about all kinds of emergency situations and also don't wait too long. For example we do have a lot of cases where a cat or dog someone didn't take in for four or five days and the owner thinks "Maybe I should check and see if something is wrong". It's true that carnivores, especially cats in nature may go without food for several days but in our current conditions usually if cats don't eat for more than three days - they have a very acidic stomach and so if they haven't eaten for three days they may have an ulcer developing, the lining of the stomach may be ulcerating because they don't get any food. So you may have an additional problem.

For example, some smaller dog breeds, especially if they're used to eating specialized veterinary food and you have guests and they say "Oh, such a cute puppy" and they give them something from the table, a sausage or something. One sausage can be your key to get a problem like pancreatitis. It's extremely painful. So those things should be considered. And you definitely need to remember when taking a pet that some of them do have inborn genetic predispositions. Maine coons do have cardiac problems.

Tiffany: What?!

Zoya: Hypotrophic - oh you don't know? You have a Maine coon?

Tiffany: Yes.

Zoya: So you see it develops with time. I don't know how old they are now but if they have reached an age of one year, just in case I would advise doing a check-up. Do a heart ultrasound to check if it's not genetic, that they weren't born with it. But if everything's fine now they have a predisposition for developing it later in life.

So just to explain how symptoms may express themselves in cats, if they have a pulmonary oedema developing as a result of the heart problem, they may be tired more and pant with an open mouth like a dog, with the tongue out. Usually cats don't do that at all. If they do it, it means they're in distress, either very great stress or they do have trouble breathing. So in situations like this, if they hyper-salivate or are panting more than usual with an open mouth or they have bluish mucosa in their mouth or blue tongue, then it's an emergency situation and you definitely need to take the cat to the doctor.

Tiffany: So that would be a sign of lack of circulation because they're heart is not pumping as well as it should be? And that can cause fluid build-up in the lungs too?

Zoya: Yes. And just like in humans, when your heart doesn't work properly, if the circulation doesn't work properly it can cause all kinds of problems. It usually happens more to Persian breeds or breeds like British shorthair a lot when they get stressed and if they have additional heart problems, but not specifically. Due to stress they can get pulmonary oedema. So when you do see signs like this you definitely need to take your cat to the vet really quickly.

Another thing that can happen is bloating. It usually happens in larger breeds like Great Danes but also German shepherds can get it. Asian shepherds can get it. The bigger the breed the bigger the problem, so to say. So they can have sudden bloating, torsion of the stomach and it's extremely life-threatening. Unfortunately 95 percent don't survive.

Doug: Oh my god!

Zoya: Some survive. Sometimes you need to remove the spleen because of the torsion. The circulation was cut to the spleen and the quicker you act the higher the chances for survival. Another very important topic that you really need to pay attention to, especially with breeds like Labradors and golden retrievers or any other breed is that they just eats everything around you, including rocks, is especially valid regarding puppies because they are still undisciplined but with larger dogs as well. The latest generation of rodentacides, the rat poison...

Doug: Oh, like Warafin?

Zoya: Yeah. They have a specific colour. They have this toxic green or toxic red colouring but they do look like kibble and when dogs see something like kibble they don't mind the colour even if they're not exactly colour-blind, but they don't care about the colour. They see something that looks like something they can eat. So we have a lot of cases of dogs finding and ingesting rat poison and the most insidious part about this poison is that it has an anti-coagulant effect. So it takes time until it affects the internal organs. It takes about three days before it really starts to take affect. In the worst case scenario your dog may go three days without any symptoms and then suddenly he starts to bleed and then it's very hard to control it. It's still possible and you wish that not much damages was done but the best case scenario is that you saw that your dog ingested this rat poison and you immediately take your dog to the vet. If half an hour or 40 minutes has passed then you can induce vomiting but if it's more than this then you can get vitamin K-1 injections and other symptomatic treatment and then it has a better chance.

Tiffany: How do you induce a dog or a cat to vomit?

Zoya: Vets can inject specific drugs to induce vomiting.

Tiffany: Okay. So it's not typically something you can do at home, like stick you finger...

Zoya: In home conditions you can do two things. First of all, if you just give them a lot of salt they can vomit but there is also an ideal which is peroxide.

Doug: Peroxide, like hydrogen peroxide?

Zoya: Yeah, hydrogen peroxide. The 3%. And you just give it on the tip of the tongue and it's supposed to be several drops if it's a big dog. It depends on the size. Then it should induce vomiting. But if you do have the ability to bring your dog quickly to the vet it's way better than just doing it at home.

Doug: So if you did have a dog or a cat that wasn't eating, how long would you wait before going to the vet? I have a cat that loves to eat and one time he didn't eat for an entire day and we thought "Okay, we'd better take him to the vet" because it was just so unusual for him. But I don't know if that's over-reacting and if you should give it another day to see.

Zoya: It depends on your pet's behaviour. Basically anything abnormal you should pay attention to. Some pets do have a kind of intermittent fasting periods where they don't eat and it's fine for them and that's how they behave and it's normal. But if you know that your cat loves food and when you prepare food and your cat meows and comes and runs and everything, if they don't do it then you know it's a problem. Then you need to pay attention.

One thing that you need to remember is not to feed your dog cooked chicken bones. It happens a lot and people think they can just give it and it's yummy and all this, bone marrow is very healthy. But it can be very dangerous. You can give a dog bones and then they just sit in the stomach, they can puncture the walls or something like this and sometimes you won't have any symptoms at the beginning. But if there is some sort of obstruction in the intestines or the stomach you may start having problems like vomiting. It can happen.

Doug: Are raw bones okay?

Zoya: Yeah. Raw bones are fine.

Tiffany: I was just thinking about the congenital heart defects that some cats and dogs might have. I wonder if there's ever been any studies. With humans, genetics isn't necessarily destiny if you have the right environment and eat the right foods. So I wonder if any tests have ever been done comparing cats and dogs that have this genetic predisposition for certain health problems and they tested them against conventionally fed pets versus raw fed pets.

Zoya: I haven't read any studies about it but I do think that it's definitely logical that the diet that you feed your cat or dog definitely affects them because as I said, from the diet you may have an autoimmune reaction and if there is a cascade of reactions or allergic reactions in the body, it can trigger all kinds of processes that were dormant before that. If for example a cat was perfect and it has a predisposition, for example Shelties have a predisposition for epilepsy but not every Sheltie has it. For example, now it is well accepted by mainstream veterinary medicine that a cure for epilepsy in dogs is the ketogenic diet.

Doug: Oh, really!

Zoya: So if you suspect that if it's the cure, the wrong diet could also be the trigger. So I'm guessing that if you feed your cat with kibble, first of all it's a well-known fact that cats that are being fed with kibble have a much higher chance of getting a kidney disease because cats don't drink a lot of water in nature. They get all their moisture from prey they catch like mice, birds. So they eat them whole, including internal organs and blood and they may get some moisture from nature. But when they are being fed only with kibble and they still have this instinct for not drinking as much then they have a problem of slowly developing kidney disease. So definitely. We usually advise adding more moisture to pet food but if it can be avoided at all, for example as I said, with the British shorthair and Persians, we do see a lot of those cats coming after eight, nine years old, even seven years old, with chronic kidney disease. It's most probably because of their diet.

Doug: Well since we're talking about diet, maybe you could talk a little bit about the unfortunately named BARF diet, {laughter} or species-appropriate diet. I think BARF stands for biologically appropriate raw food. Is that it?

Zoya: Mm-hm.

Doug: I think that's it. So the whole raw versus kibble thing because I know there are a lot of vets out there who say pets need kibble, you have to give them kibble and to me that just seems insane because obviously these animals haven't been eating kibble up until the last 50 years or so. So why would they need it? Maybe you can talk about that.

Zoya: The main issue is that now there is a very serious campaign trying to discredit the raw food diet because they say it contains salmonella and stuff like this and all kinds of parasites you may find in raw food, even human-grade food and you shouldn't feed your cat or dog with raw food. But actually the other day I read some really recent research of the comparison between the benefits of kibble and raw food or slightly cooked food for animals and despite all those reservations, definitely - it's not surprising - but definitely fresher food that retains all the nutrients is far better for animals than kibble. It's obviously a logical thing.

One serious issue that I do encounter a lot, especially with kittens and puppies regarding feeding them raw, it's important to feed kittens and puppies when they're still small. If you're going to feed them raw you should feed them properly with a balanced diet. You should do your research. For example, people feed them only the ground beef. Cats, especially kittens, when they have a growing skeleton, they should have additional things, especially the amino acid taurine that they lack naturally in their bodies. So if you are going to feed the raw you need to read up. There are all kinds of recipes online both for kittens and cats and cats with problems with diabetes or kidney problems. You definitely need to do your research and prepare proper food.

Sometimes unfortunately I also have to say to an owner when they come in with a kitten, "Oh well, it's too much work" so I tell them, if you can, really supply your kitten with a proper balanced raw diet. If you just feed them from the table, whatever you eat, then in this case feed them canned food." It's better to feed them canned food than giving them your food because we do have a lot of cases of kittens coming in with very thin bones. They may jump from a couch and they get a fracture and they really have very weak bones. And puppies too.

So it's like having a child. You need to supply them with proper nutrients, but definitely raw food is better than kibble. And if you're afraid of all kinds of parasites or something that may cause infection, first of all we also eat a lot of fresh foods and we somehow handle it. Cats and dogs have very acidic stomachs so they can handle it as well and if you make sure to de-worm them periodically and if their health in general and their immune system is strong then you shouldn't worry about it. As I said, you have a greater chance to get pancreatitis from the sausage that you give to a dog once in a while than from this.

Some dogs or cats may not tolerate raw food. Sometimes actually it's better to cook the meat a little bit but if you have a problem with the raw food diet you can also give digestive enzymes and probiotics with the food. For example I know one dog, a collie that is being fed a really good raw food diet and she gets everything that she needs but she does have loose stools from time-to-time. What solved it was adding digestive enzymes and probiotics and she's fine.

Doug: No kidding.

Zoya: Just like with humans, if you've tried the ketogenic diet before there is a transition period because the microbiota is changing so there is a period where your stools may become loose or on the contrary you may have constipation. So you do need digestive enzymes to help a bit. It's similar in this case as well.

Tiffany: Another good thing about feeding your pets meat is it makes their poo much more pleasant, especially when you have to clean it up.

Doug: It's true. And it seems to break down and disappear faster. I had a friend who had two great big dogs, Rottweilers I think they were. One of them was having hip issues to the point where it couldn't jump in the car anymore. She had to lift it up and it was a huge dog so she had trouble with that. Then she started reading about the raw food diet for the dogs and started doing something where she was juicing every morning. She would take all the pulp from the juice and mix in eggs and chicken backs, the cartilage bits, she would chop that up and put that in and some meat and stuff and fed that to them and she said within two weeks this dog was jumping into the car, no problem.

I started telling that story because she had a place where she would take them to do their business and she said that after she started feeding them raw she would go and clean up this place once a week and she said that the stuff just started disintegrating and disappearing. It broke down so much faster and it didn't stink or anything like that. Pretty amazing.

You mentioned the sausage with the Yorkies that can actually give them pancreatitis. There are a lot of cases where people are feeding their pets human food. I know there are some things around the house that are actually quite dangerous for pets. Can you maybe tell us about some of those?

Zoya: Well yeah. It can actually be very relevant now because we have Hallowe'en coming up so this is something to keep in mind. Dogs shouldn't eat chocolate. It's very toxic for them. In English it's called theobromide.

Doug: Theobromide, yeah.

Zoya: It depends how much a dog ingests but we do have a lot of cases when they ate one pack of chocolates and it's really intoxicating. So basically the darker chocolate, the more problematic it is because it has a higher percentage of theobromide. Don't test it. You should really avoid it because it is very toxic for dogs. Something else that is very toxic for them and can even lead to death is xylitol. So if you're making cookies or cake with xylitol in them you should also pay attention, especially if you have a Labrador around that can eat everything. You should be really careful. Some other things include macadamia nuts.

Doug: Really?

Tiffany: What?!

Zoya: It's also very toxic.

Doug: That's for dogs specifically?

Zoya: Yeah. There is less research about cats but for example recently I had a patient, a cat. I don't know what happened to this cat but he just had munchies or something. {laughter}

Tiffany: Catnip.

Zoya: Well the owners left peanuts on the table and this cat ate peanuts and in the end figs as well. We had a really serious poisoning problem and had to do surgery because there was an obstruction. A peanut got stuck in the intestines.

Doug: Oh no.

Zoya: This is something else about responsibility. You should be aware just like when you have small children. You child-proof your house. It should also be pet-proof. Other things are grapes and raisins. I heard an interview about this issue. They say that there is a prevalent understanding that grapes and raisins cause kidney failure in dogs. But there is also an issue that's especially prevalent in the US because they are being sprayed with glyphosate. In other countries it's less problematic but especially in the US because they're spraying them with glyphosate.

Doug: Grapes they're spraying with glyphosate.

Zoya: Well yes. They are being sprayed.

Doug: No kidding. I didn't know that.

Zoya: And there is a serious issues especially with raisins and grapes in the US. They are more lethal for dogs than in other countries. Another issue is onions, leeks and chives. Another thing that you need to remember is that although garlic can be beneficial as a deworming agent, if for example your dog ate an entire head of garlic then you may have a problem. So this is something you have to remember; the amount that they ate is also very important. So just don't leave things around. Ethanol as well. When you're baking, uncooked, raw dough has alcohol in it and it's also really bad. So pay attention to it.

Doug: Is any alcohol really bad for them? What if they got into a bottle of wine or something like that? {laughter}

Zoya: Well you see the interesting thing about it is that, for example in the case of anti-freeze poisoning, it tastes sweet. That's why some dogs and cats may lick it but the antidote for it is actually ethanol. It's alcohol. But this is when your cat or dog is actually extremely sick and it's life-threatening. Then as an antidote it can help them. But you shouldn't give them alcohol.

Tiffany: Beer! {laughter} Like guys who try to be funny and give their dogs beer.

Zoya: As I said, it depends on the amount and it depends on their condition because just like humans if you have a problematic liver it may have a greater effect. In cats for example, they lack specific enzymes to extract certain toxins from the liver and so it can have a greater effect on them. So all of this should be kept in mind. Try to feed your cat and dog with the appropriate diet and don't give them food that's from the table.

Doug: Any food at all. Because I sometimes give my cat little nibbles of bacon.

Tiffany: Me too.

Zoya: I know. {laughter}

Tiffany: They're so cute!

Doug: They love it.

Zoya: But you see, cats are obligate carnivores. While dogs also are carnivores they can tolerate food with a higher fat content, but with cats they may get fatty liver. That's why for example, when you feed them you should give them chicken or turkey or some lean beef as well. You shouldn't give them pork or lamb because of the higher fat content. They're very resilient creatures. They may go a while before you notice any symptoms. Because they're carnivores and predators cats are really tricky to see if something is wrong with them because they hide it. When you see it is when they no longer able to hide it. Once in a while it's okay but just don't overdo it.

Tiffany: Like the meatier part of the bacon, not the fatty bit of the bacon?

Zoya: With bacon it's also problematic that it's smoked and it has more salt in it. So you should be careful about it. If your cat can tolerate it, just do it once in a while. But if you know that your cat has some sort of digestion problem or liver or kidney problem, then you should be really strict with the diet. One other issue with cats is that they are not very resilient to stress. In many cases when the seasons are changing in spring or autumn, we have a lot of cats coming in with inflammation of the bladder. They can get inflammation of the bladder from anything. For example, if a grandmother has a cat and she has grandchildren coming in and they play with the cat, especially if it's a British shorthair breed, they get stressed and that's it - inflamed bladder. They pee blood and stuff like this. So if you introduce a new cat or dog and they get stressed it's something else to consider.

If you have a cat after they were castrated, you really need to start feeding them an appropriate diet for castrated animals because naturally they're urethra is shrinking. It's getting atrophied after castration so they may get obstruction of the urethra because of it. If you continue feeding them with a high protein diet. So it should be considered as well.

Doug: I wanted to ask you about two things you mentioned a couple of minutes ago. You said onions are not good for dogs. I had a dog who actually got into my mother's vegetable garden and we knew he had been eating onions because it was on his breath {laughter} but he didn't seem to get sick from it. So what is it about onions that are bad for dogs?

Zoya: Sulphate because initially when they eat it it's fine but then there is some sort of chemical reaction and it may have an adverse reaction. It's not as lethal as with xylitol for example or it's not as urgent as with chocolate which can have a really serious reaction. But with stuff like onions, garlic and raisins, it depends on the amount and the previous health condition your dog is in.

Doug: Right.

Zoya: If everything is fine they may have some problems with the stomach and they may eat grass to try to vomit and deal with it. Actually the other thing is about toxic plants because there are some toxic plants that you shouldn't keep in your house because it's especially relevant for cats like lilies of all kinds. We do have cases where you get lilies for your birthday and cats ingest it and they can have acute kidney failure. This is really serious. You shouldn't keep lilies at home at all including tulips and all kinds of other varieties. This is extremely dangerous for pets.

Other toxic plants are sago palm, oleander, devil's ivy. Another thing is that, especially considering the legalization in Canada of marijuana, keep it far away from your pet because we also have cases of a cat or dog coming to us under the influence, having seizures and when you ask people what exactly did they give to the dog or cat they just avert their eyes and they say "Maybe we had something lying around". I don't know if it's lethal for them but it can definitely lead to all kinds of weird symptoms.

Tiffany: One of our chatters asks is bacon okay for dogs.

Zoya: It's fine occasionally. It's better for dogs. It's less problematic for dogs than for cats. But you can also give a dog the fatty parts of meat, for example you can give them chicken wings, though they have a higher fat content. So you can give them bacon from time-to-time but give it as a treat. Don't overdo it. They should have more leaner muscle content, like the heart muscle.

Doug: Do you know why cats get crazy on catnip?

Zoya: Well I guess it is intoxicating for them but some cats don't get intoxicated.

Doug: Yeah, I've noticed some cats couldn't care less about it and other cats just go crazy.

Zoya: But it's just like with humans. It's like alcohol for them. They have certain receptors for this kind of stuff. There is a theory that it resembles cats' pheromones and it activates this centre in them. But I don't know.

Doug: One other question I wanted to ask you was about xylitol because I've read mixed things about it in terms of cats. Some people say that it's only dogs that are affected by xylitol but that just got transferred over to cats and people said it was bad for cats too when really it's not.

Zoya: Well the only research I read and I know about is dogs.

Doug: Okay.

Zoya: I don't know. Cats in general are really weird. Among veterinarians they call them aliens because a lot of research and a lot of things we know that are supposed to work on cats, sometimes just don't work. You do have this evidence-based science in veterinary research being done properly and you use this medicine on a cat and it's supposed to work and it doesn't and you don't know why. So it's like they're aliens. We don't know. {laughter} Dogs are easy in this respect because they do usually respond according to how we expect them to respond. But cats sometimes don't and we don't know why.

Doug: That seems typical of cats actually. They decide what they're going to react to and what they won't on their own terms.

Zoya: Yeah.

Doug: So speaking of cats, and outdoor versus indoor? Is it better to keep a cat as an indoor cat or is it better to keep it as an outdoor cat? Or does it matter?

Zoya: Well it depends on the cat's personality. If you do have a yard and your cat is already socialized and they know their way home and you make sure just to keep them vaccinated so that they have good immunity at the beginning and you put a collar on the cat, a good thing would be to sterilize and castrate them because there are a lot of stories. In Russia many people have summer houses and so they may take their cat to their summer house to feel some nature. You do have a lot of cases where cats hang around, meet other cats and get into fights and they return pregnant. {laughter} And they can have parasites. So the consideration is this-you do have a high chance of getting all kinds of parasite and other problems when a cat goes outside. There is no good reason to prevent them from doing it but you also need to immunize them properly, to deworm them periodically and make sure that they are healthy. Just make sure that your cat won't get into any trouble.

Another thing is that if you live in a building and live on the 5th or 6th floor makes sure you close your windows because cats have this instinct and they can just jump after a bird, forgetting that they're actually on the 6th floor. We call it flying cat season because in spring, the moment the weather becomes a little bit warmer for opening windows, this is how they start to come in. It's basically raining cats. Without dogs. Raining cats. {laughter} It's really heart-breaking because the owner might not notice that they left the window open or they didn't think about it and then cats are brought in and they have fractures.

Fractures actually is the least of the problems. Because of the fall they may get pulmonary oedema or pneumothorax, meaning air in the chest area and it's very life-threatening. They have to be stabilized. Fractures are the least of the problems when this happens because it isn't really life-threatening. You can do surgery obviously to fix the fracture but they often die from pneumothorax or pulmonary oedema as a result of this fall in the chest area. So just make sure to close the windows or that there is a secure opening so they won't get out.

Doug: Right.

Zoya: Essentially you can let them out. It's not a problem. Another thing to remember, even if your cat stays indoors, sometimes I'm asked why should I vaccinate my kitten anyway if the kitten is not going outside at all and the answer I give is that we bring on the soles of our shoes everything. So the kitten may get infections just as easily.

Doug: Right. Are there any animal myths that tend to go around that just aren't true?

Zoya: Oh yeah. {laughter}

Tiffany: Lots?

Doug: That cats have nine lives.

Zoya: Oh well, no.

Doug: Maybe more realistic ones.

Zoya: I would just advise not to test it. {laughter} There are some myths. For example a common one that I get is when the owner comes in and he says "Well my dog's nose is warm or dry and I suspect they may have a fever." So I have to explain to them that although it may present itself, this symptoms of a warm dry nose, sometimes they get it and they don't have a fever and sometimes they may have a perfectly moist and cold nose and they still may have a fever.

Doug: Right.

Zoya: So it's not a good symptom and you shouldn't rely on it. You should maybe just have a thermometer at home so that you can check yourself and bring your dog to the clinic and have them check it out just in case. Another myth is that people often think that cats purr only when they're happy; if you see a cat sitting and they're purring that they seem good. The thing is that actually it's not necessarily true because they have their vagus nerve activated. This is the theory, that the purring sound you hear is how they activate their vagus nerve and they try to relax themselves. It's like Éiriú Eolas breathing basically.

So they can do it in various conditions; when they're stressed, when they're in pain. Actually it's like some sort of self-medicating analgesic. We often see cats with fractures or in great pain and they just sit and purr. So this is something also. If you know that your cat is stressed and you hear them purr it doesn't mean that they're really happy. They're just trying to really help themselves.

Really recently I heard that "Well my pet is stiff in the morning but then they're fine. But I guess it's fine because they're getting older." Like a dog. For example when a dog is 9 or 10 years old and they say "Well but it's normal. It's like humans. They get stiffer and they have a hard time to rise and go up the stairs" and stuff like this. The thing is that it's quite the opposite. It's that they get old when they get stiff, that the joints are not working properly and this is when they become really slow and they don't run around so much and they try to be careful about going up the stairs. So when you see something like that that you need to take them for a check-up and maybe give them some supplements for the joints. If it's a serious problem then anti-inflammatories, not necessarily steroid ones to see how they respond. If they feel better then it means they do have a problem with their joints.

Or you can have a check-up.

Doug: Diet might help with that too I guess.

Zoya: Yes definitely! If your dog is on a sorry - crappy diet, then to improve their life you definitely should change the diet.

Doug: You've already talked about this a little bit but I know that there's specific breeds of cats and dogs that are predisposed to certain conditions. You talked about the Maine coons and collies?

Zoya: Shelties.

Doug: Shelties. Are there any other ones that people should know about?

Zoya: Yes. In dogs for example, German shepherds are predisposed to getting the bloat, predisposed for hip dysplasia. Actually there is a test that they do. For example if you buy a German shepherd puppy from a breeder - I know they do it in Europe - before you give a puppy to the owner you have to have an x-ray done to see if there is some sort of congenital hip problem. German shepherds are predisposed to developing hip dysplasia later in life.

If it's congenital you won't see at six months of age but then later in life they may have a joint problem or hip dysplasia problem and stuff like this. So if you have an older German shepherd you do need to have them checked for the joints just in case, every year. With bulldogs or other Boston terriers or pugs, every brachycephalic breed, for example the English bulldog has been banned for breeding in the UK. Veterinarians called for banning this breed because this is a walking problem. They have respiratory problems. They have all kinds of skin problems.

When people already have a dog it's not like I want to say to them "You bought a bad dog" or something like this. I can't say this to them but sometimes I do tell them when they say "But they snore so funny and they make those funny noises" and I explain to them that they actually have a seriously deformed skull. Imagine your dog breathing all their life as if they're wearing a gas mask. It's that laboured breathing. You have many YouTube videos where they show those funny noises that those dogs make but it's really not funny at all. Veterinarians have some sort of internal joke that they are our bread and butter, those breeds.

Doug: Ah! Because they're in the vet office so often.

Zoya: Yes, they are. Another breed that has a lot of problems and I actually have trouble pronouncing it's name in English is the Dachshund.

Doug: Dachshund.

Tiffany: Dachshund.

Zoya: Yeah, the sausage dog.{laughter}

Tiffany: The little wiener dog.

Zoya: Wiener dog, yes. Because of their shorter legs and longer spine a large percentage of them have serious back problems.

Doug: That's not surprising.

Zoya: Yes. They do and it requires serious surgery on the spine. They may go along fine and it will be undiagnosed and may live their life fine until one day they may become paralyzed in the hind legs, or front legs. This is really heart-breaking. We do have some cases where owners abandoned their pets because they become incontinent and they can't handle those. But some do take care of them and they make wheels for them.

Doug: Yeah, I've seen videos and stuff of these dachshund in wheelchair things.

Zoya: It's heart-breaking but it kinds of depends if the owner loves their pet and are willing to handle those wheels and everything so that they can still live happily. Another thing is that owners have been afraid if there is some serious fracture or problems with the leg and the veterinarian has to amputate the leg I often tell them "Oh don't worry. Both cats and dogs can manage great without a problem on three legs". It's not a problem at all. They don't suffer. They don't see it as we do, as a deformity or some sort of problem or disability. They manage just fine. So if you have a serious problem and you have to get your dog's leg amputated, don't worry about that. Better to do it than not.

Doug: Right. I know from having the West Highland white terrier I had that I was talking about before, they seem to be predisposed to some kind of leg injury where they'll be running along and it's almost like the ligament pops out or something.

Zoya: Yes. It's actually a very prevalent problem also in Yorkshire terriers and other small breeds like toy terriers and Chihuahuas. All of those small breeds have something that called patella or kneecap luxation where the kneecap moves and that's why they may be limping. I don't know about other breeds, but in the case of Yorkshire terriers, this is the disadvantage of the breed because they have shorter legs and a more deformed body. They have it a lot. Some of them live their entire life with this and it's not a problem because there are grades of patellar luxation. So if you have a first or second grade it's fine. But then if you have a third or fourth grade you really have to do surgery to stabilize it because otherwise your dog may be limping and it will cause greater friction and will have a greater problem later on. This is the unfortunate predisposition of this breed.

Doug: Yeah.

Zoya: Others? I mentioned Chihuahuas. They may have something called collapsing trachea.

Doug: Oh god.

Zoya: For example if they get nervous or overheated then suddenly you hear or dog breathing like this {sound of throaty constricted breathing}. They may sometimes have problems where the trachea collapses on itself and there is only a small hole left for them to breathe through. Rottweilers have joint problems. Poodles have eye problems like glaucoma. With age they can go blind. It doesn't mean that it can't be corrected. With glaucoma we can do eye surgery. But this is something that should be researched as well before you take a specific breed. It's easy in a sense where you know what to expect and if you keep them on a good diet and stuff then it can be better.

With cats, as I said, Maine coons, Persians and a breed called Ragdolls...

Doug: I don't know them.

Zoya: They may get hypertrophic cardiomyopathy so we usually with Maine coons do advise to check them just in case to see if they have something like this because if it goes undiagnosed they may actually die earlier. I already mentioned kidney in Persians. Abyssinians may get retinal atrophy as well. They may get blind with time. There is a specific thing about British shorthairs. This breed is really problematic in this sense - they may get a form of haemophilia, like a blood clotting problem. It can also go undiagnosed if your cat is fine and it doesn't get any injuries. But if they have surgery or fall from a high storey, then you may get a problem with them bleeding out.

Oh yes, the most problematic breed among cats, and it is finally, I'm so happy to hear, they are finally being banned from breeding in Scotland. I'm talking about the Scottish fold. The cats with the small folded ears. Those poor cats have some sort of arthropathy, congenital problem, like a cartilage abnormality where their extremities have overgrown cartilage and on the x-ray they look like rabbit legs. First of all they have trouble walking and it's also extremely painful and in many cases it's not possible to operate on them and so in many cases we actually have to euthanize them because it is extremely painful and sometimes it's not possible to operate or treat them. I think this breed is really problematic in many senses so it's good that they are being banned.

Doug: All these conditions that you're listing off for these different breeds is an argument for going for mixed breeds instead. It seems like we've bred some of these animals into complete dysfunction. We've bred them to the point where they're not actually functional anymore, that they have these conditions. Some of the more minor ones maybe not, but it seems like the selective breeding has bred in these dysfunctional aspects to them. I don't know if you can actually breed those things out of them by trying to mix the breed.

Zoya: Well you see, the thing is that - I don't know if you saw it but it has been circulating on social networks a lot - there is an article about what breeds looked like 100 years ago, specific breeds. And a lot of them actually looked very different. Perhaps when they were first created they were in good health and yeah, maybe there were some problems. But the thing is that there are a lot of bad breeders who actually make the problems worse. Instead of breeding healthy animals they just pick up the more beautiful ones or anything and they just continue to breed and this cross-breeding, maybe not relatives, but among breeders there are only a specific pool of breeders with medals and everything, so you basically continue to breed the same problem. You continue to create the same problem.

Doug: Right.

Zoya: But actually some breeds - as you said - why breed some problems from the beginning. But for example the sphinx cat, the hairless cat, was created because one specific cat had a mutation. It was born without any hair. So basically the person decided to experiment with it and tried to breed a hypoallergenic cat. But actually this is another myth because there are no hypoallergenic breeds. In fact, I read research not long ago where they tried to discover why some people are allergic to cats and they found out that, surprisingly or not - cats' hair follicles excrete certain oils to oil the skin - and so they found out that it's not about the hair. It's about this oil and the effect of this oil highly depends on the diet the cat has.

So they actually did experiments and apparently if, for example, you're allergic to a cat and if you change the diet of this cat to a natural, appropriate one, a person may become less allergic.

Doug: No kidding.

Zoya: Yeah. I actually have a friend who is allergic to cats but recently she visited a house where they have a cat that is eating a natural diet, actually two houses where they feed their cats with a natural diet and she didn't have any reaction at all.

Doug: No kidding!

Zoya: And those are different breeds, different cats.

Doug: That's amazing.

Zoya: So it's something worth checking. If you have an allergy to a cat then perhaps you should just change their diet and see. It may be that. Well, maybe it's not. Sometimes people are allergic to cat hair but it's worth checking instead of getting rid of the cat. If, for example a couple marries and someone is allergic to the cat and they say "Bye-bye", but maybe if they eat kibble then trying out a natural diet and see how it goes.

Doug: That's really interesting. Okay, we're coming up to the end of our time here. Tiff did you have any more questions for Zoya?

Tiffany: No, but one of our chatters does. They want to know if spaniels are prone to ear problems.

Zoya: Yes they are because they have those long, hairy ears that cover the ear canals and so especially if the weather is warm, it can become moist and inflamed so in that case you do need to periodically clean the ears. There is an ear lotion that you can buy at your veterinarian and what you do is put several drops in the ear, touch a bit, massage a bit at the base of the ear and then clean the ear, but not with Q-tips, not at all. Just take a piece of gauze or something similar, moist without alcohol.

Tiffany: Baby wipe.

Zoya: A baby wipe, yes, something like this or those cosmetic discs that you clean your face with, this as well. Just clean the ear and just make sure that it's dry and clean. But if you already have a more serious problem, if you have pus coming or if there's redness, you may need a stronger medication. And check to make sure that you don't have otitis. If your dog tilts his or her head off to the side, they may already have otitis. So that's something to check.

Doug: Okay. That is our show for this week. Thanks everybody for joining us. Thanks to our chatters. We will be back next week with another exciting topic and be sure to listen to the other two radio shows. One is tomorrow, the Truth Perspective and then on Sunday there is NewsReal and you can check for the time on those. So thanks for joining us everybody.

Tiffany: Thanks. Bye-bye.