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Pittsburgh Post GazetteYou're clipping the toenails of your dog or cat and blood starts to spurt. Why did this happen and what should you do?
Canine and feline toenails should be clipped just to the endpoint of the blood supply, known as the "quick." It is clearly visible in clear nails, but there's some guesswork involved when trimming black nails.
"Bleeding from a toenail can be easily controlled and is no cause for alarm," according to a very handy book sent to my office as a review copy. "Apply direct pressure to the nail for 5 to 10 minutes. Then apply commercially available clotting powder, flour or toothpaste to the exposed end of the nail."
This advice comes from Chris C. Pinney, a veterinarian with a practice in Houston, Texas. He's the author of eight books, including this one: "The Complete Home Veterinary Guide." McGraw-Hill published the third edition of the Guide in August.
The 819-page book has a wealth of information, especially for the first-time pet owner.
My favorite parts are tips for handling nonlife-threatening problems, like bleeding toenails and cat hairballs.
To get rid of hairballs, mix vegetable oil with your cat's food: one teaspoon for every 5 pounds of your cat's weight. Or put petroleum jelly into the cat food, — 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of cat. The same ratio of vegetable oil or petroleum jelly can be used to combat constipation in cats or dogs. Of course, Pinney notes throughout the book, consult your own veterinarian before administering any of these "over-the-counter" medications.
The first-aid chapter has life-saving tips. I'd recommend reading these before an emergency emerges in your household.
The Home Veterinary Guide explains how to induce vomiting by giving hydrogen peroxide or syrup of ipecac to a dog who ingests poisons. Ipecac should never be given to cats, though hydrogen peroxide can be given. But inducing vomiting is not always the right thing to do.
A chart notes that vomiting should not be induced if the pet has swallowed bathroom cleaners, drain cleaners, dry-cleaning fluids, fire extinguisher fluids, gas, oil, kerosene, furniture polish, glues, laundry bleach, metal cleaners, oven cleaners, paint removers, varnish removers or rust removers.
There's a highly helpful 16-page appendix of "clinical signs and complaints in dogs and cats."
Coughing, vomiting and diarrhea should always be monitored, for those symptoms could signal ailments ranging from simple to life-threatening.
The appendix also lists symptoms and signs, such as an arched back, that many people would not recognize.
Many dogs are very stoic and don't cry or whine when in pain. An arched or humped back can indicate pain in the back or abdomen. The problem could be pancreatitis, a foreign object in the intestine or a kidney disorder. I don't think Pinney is talking about that arched-back thing cats do when they're angry or frightened.
If I have one criticism about this book, it's the fact that it tries to cover too many areas and too many animals. There are 25 pages on "choosing the right pet for you" and 29 pages on "training essentials."
While cats and dogs make up more than half of the book, there are also chapters on birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils, mice and rats, chinchillas, prairie dogs, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, ferrets, miniature pot-bellied pigs, reptiles, amphibians, tropical fish and invertebrates, including hermit crabs.
Those chapters are probably a good starting point for a beginner, and may be especially helpful in choosing a pet for the family. For instance, did you know that the average hamster lives two years, while the average gerbil lives four years and guinea pigs eight years?
And here are some more useful facts from Pinney: "Gerbils tend to be friendlier than hamsters, rarely biting the hand that feeds them."
Hamsters can be nippy, especially during the day, because they are most active at night. They may get cranky and nippy during the day when you want to play and they want to sleep. Gerbils, on the other hand, "enjoy daytime as well as nighttime activity."
How can you tell if a hamster is sick? Diarrhea and "ruffled fur" can be a sign of "wet tail," which Dr. Pinney says can be "rapidly fatal." The hamster needs to get to a vet to be treated with antibiotics and fluids.
A vet's office visit fee will generally be more than what you paid for a hamster. Please resist the cost-effective temptation to let the little animal die and replace it with a new one. I'm not making that up. People do that.
Many diseases and disorders can be prevented with good nutrition and, in the case of hamsters and gerbils, good sanitation. This book is full of preventative health care tips.