Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Option for Adoption

By Beth Guerra, DVM
While browsing at a garden store the other day, I struck up a conversation with a woman who had a poodle riding in her cart. We got to talking about dogs, and I told her I had several, including a Yorkie mix. She said that she had always wanted a Yorkie, but couldn’t see spending $2500 for one. I told her all my dogs were from various shelters, and that she should look into adoption. I warned her she may not find a purebred Yorkie, but most certain could get a mix. She said she didn’t even care if the dog was purebred, she was just a fan of the breed.
This was my first encounter with someone who was not aware of pet adoption as an option instead of purchasing from a pet store or breeder. Every pet I have had throughout my childhood and adult life was adopted, either as a stray or from the local humane society. I have adopted cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds through shelters. All of them have been spayed/neutered and fully vaccinated. Plus, the adoption fee is usually less than $250!
The shelter is often thought of as a place where pets are taken when they are no longer wanted. In reality, pets end up at shelters for various reasons, but the common denominator is that they all need good homes. Due to the extensive variety of breeds, ages, and dispositions, you will rarely walk out of a shelter without finding the perfect pet for you or your family. Most shelters have a veterinarian on site, or one that works closely with the organization, to examine each pet fully and administer any medical care that may be needed. Shelter employees and volunteers often spend lots of time evaluating each pet’s personality and how it may interact with other pets and people. They work hard to ensure that each pet is adopted into the right home.
For more information on adoption, please visit,, or

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Could Pollen Kill My Cat?

By Beth Davidow, DVM DACVECC 

Last week, we received a phone call from an owner who saw her cat walking around with pollen on its face. She had just received a bouquet of lilies, had put them up high, but then saw her cat in that area. A quick internet search revealed that lilies were toxic and she wanted to know what to do.

We informed her to come in right away. Although sometimes the internet has stories that scare you unnecessarily, the danger of lilies to cats is not scary or loud enough. In a recent study of 48 households with cats exposed to lilies, only 27% of owners knew that lilies were toxic. In those cases, the owners thought the lilies were out of the way enough but the cats reached them anyway.

Asiatic lilies, the big beautiful ones that are especially common around Easter, are incredibly toxic to cats. The lilies that are toxic are from the Lilium or Hemerocallus species. Common names include Stargazer, Easter, Tiger lily, and day lilies. We don’t know what the toxic compound is but we do know that it concentrates in the pollen and that only a small amount is enough to cause acute kidney shutdown. Lily of the valley is not a true lily and therefore does not cause acute renal failure. It has cardiac glycosides (similar to digitalis) that can cause other symptoms. Peace and calla lilies contain calcium oxalate crystals and usually cause immediate oral and GI irritation and vomiting but do not cause kidney failure.

As with many toxicities, signs don’t happen instantly. With lilies, some vomiting may be seen within a few hours. Cats then often seen to be OK or a little lethargic but then become very sick again in 24-72 hours. Elevations in renal values can be detected on blood work as early as 12 hours after ingestion. If treatment is delayed for 24-48 hours, the insult to the kidneys may be irreversible.

If you suspect your cat has chewed on a lily, it is best to err on the side of caution and seek treatment. Your veterinarian may induce vomiting (if the cat has not already vomited parts of the plant) and follow up with a slurry of activated charcoal to bind up any remaining toxins in the GI tract. Intravenous fluids are recommended for at least 48 hours.  Baseline blood work is obtained and renal values are monitored every 24 hours.  If caught early and treated aggressively, the prognosis is good and no lasting damage occurs.  In the study mentioned above looking at cats exposed to lilies, 90% did well with appropriate treatment but 10% did have renal damage. 

In our recent phone call, we recommended aggressive treatment, the cat was hospitalized on IV fluids for 48 hours, and did fine with no long term problems.

So this spring, tell your friends, tell your colleagues that yes, some pollen could kill your cat.

For more information on toxic plants, see

Slater MR, Gwaltney-Brant S.  Exposure Circumstances and Outcomes of 48 Households with 57 Cats Exposed to Toxic Lily Species.  JAAHA 2011; 47: 386.