No Bones About It: Keep Your Pet Safe This Thanksgiving

The holiday season is upon us! Which means lots of yummy food for the family, but potential hazards for our pets. The biggest concerns for our pets on Thanksgiving are pancreatitis and ingestion of bones.

Hungry beagle looks on dinner table with served meal

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas -an organ essential for digestion – that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, and can be fatal if left untreated. Pancreatitis is most common in smaller breeds – i.e. Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, and can occur when your pet is given a new food that is rich or high in fat, i.e. turkey!

Yorkie puppy sitting in a fall bucket with Autumn leaves and pumpkins around him, on a white background.

Bone ingestion can occur from eating the garbage or getting table scraps. Bone isn’t easily digested through the gastrointestinal tract and can sometimes cause an obstruction and require surgical removal.

A black cat sits on top of a holiday dinner table.

We do not recommend feeding table scraps to your furry family members and to prevent these diseases, we advise taking your trash out as soon as it’s full or keep out of reach of the animals.

Winter Pet Safety Tips

As we prepare for snow and cooler weather, we need to be sure our pets are prepared, too! Here are some useful tips to make sure you pet stays safe during the winter months.

You wouldn’t leave your child outside in the cold, so remember not to leave your pet outside, either! Your pet can get frostbite if they spend too much time outside on a harsh winter’s day, and their fur coat affords little protection when the snow is falling and the wind is blowing. Investing in a jacket and boots for your pet may seem a bit ridiculous, but these items will go a long way towards keeping your pet warm and protected from the chill, and from toxic sidewalk salt that can burn the pads of their feet. We promise they’ll appreciate it!

Sidewalk salt can also be dangerous if it seeps into cracks around junction boxes in the street. Junction boxes contain wires that can conduct electricity if they become exposed and come into contact with the metal around them. If slush mixed with salt gets into these boxes, the salt can corrode the protective coating around the wires, resulting in “stray” voltage. Pets and people that walk across these boxes can be electrocuted. Make sure to watch where you’re walking, as there are thousands of these junction boxes around the city, and, for added safety, have rubber boots for yourself and your pet to wear on winter walks.

If the weather is particularly frigid, limit your pet’s time outdoors to going to the bathroom, and keep them indoors for the remainder of the day. Let them snuggle up next to you, or nestle into a pile of blankets in front of the fireplace.

Antifreeze is a common concern for pet owners due to its high level of toxicity. Antifreeze not only smells sweet; it tastes sweet, too, and attracts all kinds of animals. If you or a neighbor uses antifreeze, check for spills and puddles near and around your home. Keep containers sealed and shut away where your pet can’t reach them. Ingesting antifreeze can prove fatal for your pet, so take every precaution to make their environment as safe as possible.

Overall, you should care for your pet the way you would yourself or a child—don’t leave them out in the cold, make sure they’re bundled up and warm if they go outside, and keep harmful substances at bay. A warm, cozy pet is a happy pet!

Mosquitoes, Ticks & Intestinal Parasites – They Live in the City, Too!

All the pets of NYC are out and about enjoying the spring weather, but so are all the bad bugs that can cause disease in our furry friends. People think that just because we live in a concrete jungle as opposed to a green one, the threats of the great outdoors aren’t there. They are mistaken. The risk of diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and intestinal parasites are prevalent in the East Village and you need to be informed so that your pets are protected!


Heartworm Disease: Heartworms are parasites that are carried by mosquitoes and can infect our dogs and cats. The larvae are transmitted to the animal when the mosquito bites. As they mature they go to the heart and can grow to up to a foot in length! These worms can cause fatigue or cough. Believe it or not, mosquitoes love the city because they breed in stagnant water. Thankfully, heartworm disease is completely preventable by giving your dog heartworm preventative in the form of a tablet once a month. If an animal becomes infected, the treatment is very expensive and painful (deep muscle injections). Even dogs that never leave their Lower East Side apartment are susceptible because mosquitoes can come through unscreened windows (I have been bitten and my apartment is on the fourth floor!). Therefore, it is recommended to keep your dogs on heartworm preventative year round and perform a blood test annually to make sure they do not have this horrible disease.

Lyme Disease: Dogs can get Lyme disease if they are bitten by a tick carrying the disease. Lyme disease can cause arthritis and swelling of the joints, fever, lameness, and kidney failure. While it is true that apartment dogs that never go to the park have a decreased risk of infection, any dog that frequents wooded areas or is lucky enough to go out to Long Island or upstate NY, NJ, PA or CT is at risk of being infected. Ticks can be prevented by topical or oral monthly medication. It’s recommended to test our dogs for Lyme disease (and other tick-borne diseases) with an annual blood test. Also, it’s not uncommon for ticks to be prevalent before the warm weather (we’ve seen ticks attached to dogs in January!), so a year round preventative is important!

Intestinal ParasitesProbably the most prevalent creepy crawlies that our furry friends can get are the parasites they pick up from the dog park and the streets.  Giardia, roundworms, whipworms and hookworms are commonly acquired in our city pets and can sometimes even be transferred to us!  These bugs can cause diarrhea and weight loss or no symptoms at all.  Checking a fecal at least once a year is recommended (even when there are no signs).  Thankfully monthly heartworm preventative can also prevent against most of these parasites.

Here at St. Marks Veterinary Hospital we are happy to see the beginning of warm weather but we hope that you keep your family and pets protected against the diseases that come along with it! Hope to see you and your pets soon!

What to Do When a Baby Bird Flies the Coop or Falls from the Nest


During the Spring and Summer months, it’s not uncommon to come across what looks like an orphaned baby bird on the ground, exposed and vulnerable. Even in a metropolitan area like New York City, baby birds can fall from their nests. What should you do when you see a baby bird in need of assistance? It’s important to first determine:

  • Is the bird a hatchling or a fledgling?
  • Has the bird actually been abandoned?

st marks baby bird

What’s a Hatchling?

A hatchling is small and may be bald or only have tufts of feathers. They are very young and fragile and may accidentally fall from their nests. If the nest from which the hatchling fell can be identified, the baby bird should be placed back in the nest, if possible. It is a myth that handling by humans will cause the parents to abandon their young, partly because of birds’ poorly developed senses of smell. They may not even notice a human has touched their young! In the event that the nest is out of reach, the young may be placed in a small box lined with tissue or shredded paper and placed as close to the nest as possible. Cover the box with loose paper for protection while still allowing the parents easy access for retrieval. Do not offer food. The diets of birds are very specific and it’s best to just allow the parents to take over.

What’s a Fledgling?

Fledglings are more mature than hatchlings and may have full feathering, with shorter wings and tails. Fledglings may leave the nest several days before being able to fly, and so may be found on the ground, apparently helpless. The parents will still be caring for these babies though they may not be immediately visible or identifiable. When a fledgling is found, it is important to just stop and observe whether the parents are nearby. If may take half an hour or longer for the parents to return. Again, if the fledgling seems to be in an unsafe spot, it is okay to put the bird in a box and move it to a more sheltered area, as close to where it was found as possible. The parents, who will be listening for their young, should be able to take over from there.

Handling Baby Birds

Ideally, you should always wear gloves when handling birds and wash your hands thoroughly after. Even baby birds can carry parasites. Remember, in New York City, it is illegal to keep wild birds in captivity even if you plan to release them. If you have found a bird that is in need of medical care, or that the parents have not identified, please reach out to your East Village veterinarians, or contact a wildlife rehabilitator such as Wild Bird Fund.

Cats & Lilies Don’t Mix

Cute brown striped cat with holiday gifts and flowerson wooden background

With spring finally here and Easter right around the corner, we are starting to reap the benefits of warmer and longer days. One of the highlights of the season is bringing fresh flowers indoors to spruce up our homes with some natural beauty. Cat owners should always be aware that certain blooms should never cross the threshold of their door. Lilies can cause severe or even fatal kidney failure in cats, and it doesn’t take much. All parts of the plant are toxic- petals, leaves, stems, even the pollen. Even drinking water from the vase that the lilies are in is toxic to cats. The exact compound and mechanism for toxicity are actually not known, but all species in genera Lilium spp and Hemerocallis spp. (Daylilies) are toxic. Cats are the only species known to fall victim to this particular toxicity.

Signs of lily ingestion will most likely include vomiting within 5-10 minutes, followed by lethargy and lack of appetite (2-6 hours later). Later, the cat may develop excessive thirst (12-30 hours later), further weakness, lethargy or even death.

If ingestion is promptly noted (within hours), our East Village veterinarians can administer an injection to induce vomiting, which will help to remove any additional plant remnants from the cat’s stomach. Activated charcoal is then administered to neutralize any particles left in the intestinal tract. The vet will then advise baseline blood work and urinalysis to determine your cat’s current kidney function. Aggressive intravenous fluid therapy for 48-72 hours can prevent significant kidney damage by getting extra blood flow to the kidneys. There is no specific antidote for lily toxicity, but supportive care can save these cats. Cats presenting for medical care much later after ingestion of lilies may require dialysis to recover kidney function.

Protect your cat by carefully choosing floral arrangements, and never send any kind of lily to a household with cats. Early recognition of any contact between your cat and the flower will go a long way to successful treatment, but knowing and avoiding the risk altogether is best. Spread the word and keep cats out of the ER this Easter season!

Below are photos of toxic lilies to cats, which include: Easter lily, Tiger lily, Stargazer lily, Wood lily, Rubrum lily, Daylily, Red lily, Western lily, Asiatic show lilies, Japanese show lilies.


Vibrant yellow and red Asiatic lily in a flower garden.IMG_4014Lily 2 (1)

Red dayliliesLily 3Lily 6

plant of flowering white liliesplant of flowering white liliesLily 1

Lily in a flower garden.Lily 4Lil 22

Oriental liliesLily 5

Tiger Lily

Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum) - Pinery Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Know The Facts About Leptospirosis



Living in New York City, we must consider our dogs’ environment and how it can affect their well being. There is a potential for infectious disease transmission of Leptospirosis in densely populated areas such as East Village among people, dogs, and wildlife. You may have heard recently about the disease called Leptospirosis on the news. It is a bacterial disease carried by rodents and other small mammals, and it can be passed it along to other species, such as people or dogs. Dogs sniff and scavenge in some of the same corners, crevices, puddles, sewers, grassy parks, and trash bags that rats do. If you are a hiker, you may recall hearing about contracting Leptospirosis if you drink or accidentally swallow untreated stream water. However, Leptospirosis which is spread by the ubiquitous Norway Rat, is also prevalent in urban areas such as New York City. And dogs, being as nosy as they are, (and lower to the ground) are more likely to pick it up.

So, you wonder how a dog may become infected? When walking through a puddle contaminated with rat urine, the bacteria may enter through a cut in the dog’s skin or foot pad allowing easy access for invasion. Also dogs could ingest water from puddles or lick a surface or soil contaminated with rat urine. After exposure it takes about one week for dogs to present with clinical signs such as lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, fever, muscle soreness and jaundice (yellowing of the mucous membranes). Other symptoms are increased thirst or more frequent urination. If blood tests show a pattern of liver and kidney damage, more specific blood and urine testing can be performed to confirm a diagnosis of leptospirosis. Generally, affected dogs need to be hospitalized for aggressive supportive care and antibiotic therapy. The prognosis is guarded, as death can occur quickly if there is already severe damage to the liver and kidneys. There are 10-20 cases of dogs with leptospirosis treated annually in New York City.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine to protect your dog from getting this serious disease. We strongly recommend that all dogs in the city be vaccinated because dogs in urban areas are at constant risk for contracting Leptospirosis. Not only are dogs at risk, but so are their humans —Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease. Humans can contract the disease from exposure to rodent and/or infected dog urine. Affected persons may exhibit a rash, contract a high fever, have muscle pains, suffer from liver and/or kidney failure, meningitis, and/or respiratory distress. Leptospirosis is a worldwide disease affecting 1/2 million people annually with 100,000 fatalities.

Quick identification of this disease is imperative as prompt treatment may save the canine patient, and may also lessen exposure to any human caretakers or owners. Canine leptospirosis vaccines usually protect against 4 strains of the bacteria, and provide protection for 1 year. We give puppies their first leptospirosis vaccine between 12-20 weeks of age, booster it again 3-4 weeks later, and follow with annual boosters.

Important prevention tips:
-Lessen the risk of your dog getting this serious disease by keeping their Leptospirosis vaccines up to date
– Avoid known areas of rodent activity
– Don’t allow your dog to drink from or walk through puddles.

This will be one more step to keeping you and your pets safe and healthy! Please stop by and let our East Village veterinarians make sure your pet is protected today!

Winter Storm Pet Safety

Labrador retriever with cap on his head in winter

Winter storms and cold weather can be dangerous for your pets.  Please keep them safe by keeping them indoors during blizzards.

– Did you know that dogs can get burns on their pads from the rock salt that is being placed on the sidewalks, driveways and streets? Commonly you may see pets lift their feet when outside on the snow/icy ground. This can be due to pain from the salt burning the pads.  Please be sure to wipe your pets’ paws when they come inside.  Licking the salt from their paws can also cause gastrointestinal distress. Booties for your dogs’ paws when walking in the snow and ice may help to prevent this.

– Did you know that dogs can get frostbite?  Frostbite may appear as different colors of skin depending on the stage…it can be white, red, or gray. Limiting the time your pet spends outdoors can prevent this ailment.

– Pets left outside for extended periods of time can also become hypothermic (very low body temperature) which can be life-threatening. Short-haired breeds are more sensitive to the cold.  Consider using doggie outerwear to keep your pet warm. Also pets who are very young, very old or have a weakened immune system may be more susceptible to hypothermia.

Inappropriate Urination in Cats

I frequently hear owners calling their cats “spiteful” when they urinate outside their designated area: the litter box. While it makes sense to us to anthropomorphize our pets, this is not an accurate representation of their behavior. Cats may urinate outside of their litter box (we call it “inappropriate urination”) for various behavioral and medical reasons. They have strong preferences for their toileting area. If you notice your cat urinating somewhere he or she shouldn’t, first, ask yourself a few questions about your cat’s environment.

-How many litter boxes do you have? Current guidelines recommend one for each cat in the household, plus one extra.  (This is no easy task in New York City apartments!)

-Is the litter box clean? Cats prefer a clean litter box. Scooping 1-2 times per day and emptying all of the litter once a week should be adequate in most cases.

-Have you changed the litter brand or formula recently? Some cats have a strong preference for one texture or smell over another.

-Have you rearranged the furniture surrounding the litter box? You may have suddenly made a private area public.

-Has anything happened recently in this area that may have scared your cat? Cats will avoid areas in the house where something may have fallen or made a loud noise, as well as places where there is too much foot traffic.

-Does your cat have a history of painful urination or defecation? They may avoid their litter box due to past negative association, even if their signs have resolved.

-Has your cat’s mobility decreased? Older cats may not physically be able to get into the litter box, so they may urinate very close by. These cats would benefit from a shorter box or low-sided pan.

If all of the above issues have been evaluated and corrected, there may be an underlying medical problem. Urinary tract infections, (typically bladder infections, or “bacterial cystitis”) are very rare in cats under the age of 8 years. UTIs are more common in older animals with less effective immune systems, or with comorbidities that cause immunosuppression (diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cancer, chronic steroid therapy). UTIs can also occur if there is an abnormal environment within the bladder that fosters bacterial growth, such as urinary stones or a cancerous growth.

In general, UTIs cause increased frequency of urination, so you may see your cat running back and forth to the box, but only voiding small amounts at at time. The urine may be blood-tinged. Some cats will vocalize or seem agitated. A UTI is diagnosed with a urinalysis (where we might find blood cells, inflammatory cells and bacteria in the urine), and a urine culture (where we actually identify what bacteria are in the urine, and what antibiotics will be effective).

The MOST common condition associated with abnormal urinations in young or middle aged cats is something called feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). Idiopathic, meaning there is no known medical cause (at least at this time); and cystitis meaning bladder inflammation. These cats have the same clinical signs as cats with a UTI, but there is no bacteria involved, and thus, no need for antibiotics. This condition is not fully understood and the cause(s) are still somewhat debated. Environmental changes or stress (the cause of which may not be immediately apparent to owners) is often implicated in FIC. Affected cats show the same signs as cats with a UTI (increased urgency, passing small amounts of urine, pain while urinating, blood in the urine).

FIC can be treated with environmental enrichment (we like the following online resource: and increasing water intake either by switching to canned food or making water more available (more water bowls) or appealing (drinking fountains). In male cats who are showing any of the urinary signs mentioned, careful monitoring is advised; if a male cat is straining and not producing urine, it is an emergency and he should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. Male cats have narrow urethras and are much more likely to develop a urinary obstruction, which can be life threatening; it generally requires anesthesia and hospitalization to successfully treat.

Inappropriate urination can be a frustrating problem for cat owners, but with a little troubleshooting and trial and error, many cases can be resolved.

If you have questions about inappropriate urination in cats, please ask your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

What Is Canine Influenza Virus?


There are many causes of kennel cough, both bacterial and viral. Canine influenza virus (CIV) is one of the viral causes of kennel cough. This highly contagious respiratory disease has affected thousands of dogs in the United States. Because CIV is a relatively new virus, most dogs have not been exposed to it before. Dogs of any age, breed, and vaccine status are susceptible to this infection.

How Could My Dog Catch Canine Influenza Virus?
CIV is easily transmitted between dogs through a combination of aerosols, droplets, and direct contact with respiratory secretions. The virus does not survive for a long time in the environment, so dogs usually get CIV when they are in close proximity to other infectious dogs.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Canine Influenza Virus? 
Any dog who interacts with large numbers of dogs is at increased risk for exposure. Pet owners should consult their veterinarian for information about the canine influenza vaccine.

What Are the General Signs of Canine Influenza Virus? 
While most dogs will show typical signs of kennel cough, but a small percentage of dogs will develop a more severe illness. Signs of canine influenza virus include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Variable fever
  • Clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus
  • Rapid/difficult breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Can Dogs Die From Canine Influenza Virus?
If CIV is quickly diagnosed and treated, the fatality rate is quite low. Deaths are usually caused by secondary complications, such as pneumonia. It is important that dogs with CIV receive proper veterinary care.

How Is Canine Influenza Virus Diagnosed?
Veterinarians will typically conduct a thorough physical examination and run a series of tests to diagnose the illness.

How Is Canine Influenza Treated?
Because CIV is a virus similar to the flu in humans, there is no specific antiviral medication available. However, supportive care and appropriate treatment of secondary infections are important. Your veterinarian may advise the following to soothe your dog while the condition runs its course:

  • Good nutrition and supplements to raise immunity
  • A warm, quiet, and comfortable spot to rest
  • Medications to treat secondary bacterial infections
  • Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration
  • Workup and treatment for pneumonia

Be advised, while most dogs will fight the infection within 10 to 30 days, secondary infections require antibiotics and, in the case of pneumonia, sometimes even hospitalization.

What Should I Do if I Think My Dog Has Canine Influenza Virus? 
If you think your dog has canine influenza virus, immediately isolate him or her from all other dogs and call your veterinarian.

Can I Catch Canine Influenza From My Dog?
So far there has been no evidence to indicate that dogs can transmit CIV to humans.

How Can I Help Prevent My Dog From Spreading the Disease? 
Any dog infected with CIV should be kept isolated from other dogs for 10 to 14 days from the onset of signs. Dogs are most infectious before signs are apparent, and can continue shedding the virus for approximately 10 days. This means that by the time signs of the illness are seen, other dogs may have already been exposed.


Can Parrots Eat Avocados?

The answer is absolutely no! Avocados are especially dangerous for our feathered friends as they contain a toxin called “persin” which can be deadly to birds. The pit and the skin of the fruit are the most toxic portions, but the flesh is also highly dangerous, acting as poison in the bird’s digestive system.

What Are the Symptoms of Avocado Toxicity in Parrots?

If you suspect that your parrot has consumed avocado, we recommend not waiting for signs and symptoms, but rather contact us immediately for assistance. If symptoms have begun to manifest themselves, they may not be readily visible without a professional veterinary examination. Symptoms of avocado toxicity include:

  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Respiratory distress
  • Congestion
  • Fluid accumulation around the heart

As a pet owner, it is very important to realize that avocado toxicity can result in death by rapid cardiac arrest. Consumption of avocado should always be treated as a medical emergency.


Jojo survived avocado ingestion!

Is Avocado Ever Safe for Parrots to Eat?

As veterinarians, we say no, avocado is never safe for parrots to eat. However, there have been cases where parrots have consumed avocado and shown no ill effects. While this is not a reason to ever feed your pet this deadly fruit, it does indicate that accidental consumption of avocado may not always lead to death.

There are many variables in the cases where avocado has not been fatal and at this time veterinarians are unable to determine why some cases may not lead to fatalities. We recommend that no matter what, if your parrot consumes any part of the avocado, please contact us so that we can examine them and determine what treatment may be necessary for their care. Because birds are such unique exotics, their prompt treatment is essential to their well-being.

In all cases of pet emergency, we should be contacted promptly to ensure optimum safety for your friend.