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 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!

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.

Easter Pet Poisons


The veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline receive hundreds of calls this time of year from pet owners and veterinarians concerning cats that have ingested Easter lilies.

“Unbeknownst to many pet owners, Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.”

In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.

“There is no effective antidote to counteract lily poisoning, so the sooner you can get your cat to the veterinarian, the better his chances of survival will be,” said Brutlag. “If you see your cat licking or eating any part of an Easter lily, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. If left untreated, his chances of survival are low.”

Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering drugs like activated charcoal (to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines), intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring of kidney function through blood testing. The prognosis and the cost – both financially and physically – to the pet owner and cat, are best when treated immediately.

There are several other types of lilies that are toxic to cats as well. They are of the Lilium and Hemerocallis species and commonly referred to as Tiger lilies, Day lilies and Asiatic lilies. Popular in many gardens and yards, they can also result in severe acute kidney failure. These lilies are commonly found in florist bouquets, so it is imperative to check for poisonous flowers before bringing bouquets into the household. Other types of lilies – such as the Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies – are usually not a problem for cats and may cause only minor drooling.

Thankfully, lily poisoning does not occur in dogs or people. However, if a large amount is ingested, it can result in mild gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Other Dangers to Pets at Easter Time

Pet Poison Helpline also receives calls concerning pets that have ingested Easter grass and chocolate.

Usually green or yellow in color, Easter grass is the fake grass that often accompanies Easter baskets. When your cat or dog ingests something “stringy” like Easter grass, it can become anchored around the base of the tongue or stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. It can result in a linear foreign body and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract, often requiring expensive abdominal surgery.

Lastly, during the week of Easter, calls to Pet Poison Helpline concerning dogs that have been poisoned by chocolate increase by nearly 200 percent. While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie may not be an issue, certain types of chocolate are very toxic to dogs. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem. The chemical toxicity is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine) and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possibly death. Other sources include chewable chocolate flavored multi-vitamins, baked goods, or chocolate-covered espresso beans. If you suspect that your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

Spring is in the air and Easter is a wonderful holiday. Remember that your pets will be curious about new items you bring into your household like Easter lilies, Easter grass and chocolate. Keep them a safe distance away from your pets’ reach and enjoy the holiday and the season.



5 Pet Safety Tips for Valentine’s Day


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As you’re busy showering your loved ones with chocolates, roses, and otherValentine’s Day goodies, why not get your pet a nice gift, too? Just make sure it’s safe! Consider these five Valentine’s Day tips from St. Marks Veterinary Hospital to keep your four-legged friend safe and happy this weekend.

Chocolate and Xylitol Toxicity

Who can resist the sweet, decadent taste of chocolate? It can be just as tempting to your pet as it is to you, but no matter how much your pet begs, don’t give in! Chocolate is actually toxic to pets, potentially resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, a fast heart rate and even seizures, depending on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate. Another toxic sweet treat is any food that contains the sugar substitute xylitol. This is commonly found in sugarless gum. If consumed by your pet, xylitol can cause hypoglycemia and/or liver failure. As a rule of thumb, keep all the sweets out of your pet’s reach, and give your pet some dog or cat treats instead.

Lily Toxicity for Cats

Lilies are known to be highly toxic and even potentially fatal to cats. If a cat eats a lily plant, is exposed to the pollen, or drinks the water from the vase, the ingestion can result in kidney failure. To ensure your cat is safe, make sure there aren’t any lilies in the Valentine’s Day flower bouquets that you bring home.

A cat nibbling on lilies and daisies in a vase

A cat nibbling on lilies and daisies in a vase

Dangers of Ribbons and Bows

These stringy, shimmery decorations can easily draw the eye of a curious pet—especially cats—but ingesting these items can be very dangerous, resulting in intestinal blockage. Keep an eye on your pet while you’re wrapping and bagging your Valentine’s Day gifts and while you’re opening your own.

Safe Valentine’s Day Gifts for Pets

 Luckily, not EVERYTHING about Valentine’s Day is dangerous for pets. You can certainly show your four-legged friend that you love him or with a new collar, toy, treat, or maybe even a nice new sweater. You may also want to try making a new toy or treat with a Valentine’s Day theme.

Spend Quality Time with Your Pet

Is your pet more of the outdoor type? If so, why not take him or her for a nice Valentine’s Day walk and tack on a few extra minutes to the fun to show your love? You can also play catch or some other game that you and your pet can participate in together. Your pet will love the extra attention!

Winter Pet Safety



Now that the cold weather is finally here, there are a few tips we want to share with you to make sure your pets stay safe and healthy during the winter months.

Make sure you remember to have extra water and food available for your pets in case the inclement weather prevents you from leaving the apartment (or more likely, prevents delivery of supplies from various sources we Manhattanites are so dependent upon). If your pet is on medication, do not wait until you are down to the last pill to call for a refill.

For those with old, arthritic pets, make sure they have a nice, soft, warm bed. Their arthritis may be worse with the cold weather. Please consult your vet to discuss various ways to manage pain. Heating pads can be dangerous and cause electric shock or thermal burn, especially if your pet likes to chew on cords or even the pad itself, or if they are debilitated and cannot move away from pad.

Small dogs, dogs with less fur or body fat, young puppies, old dogs, especially those with chronic diseases (such as kidney disease, Cushing’s, etc.) are more susceptible to the cold. To prevent hypothermia, have them wear a warm coat when out and keep the walks short.

If possible, put booties on your dogs to protect their paws from ice and salt. If you cannot get booties on your dog, use a small amount of petroleum jelly, or get a commercially available product called “Musher’s Secret Paw Protector” and apply on the paws before heading out. Remember to clean the paws thoroughly when you get home and inspect closely for any cuts or irritation, particularly in the areas between the pads.

Beware of icy patches and wet areas on metal grates/covers and certain stone surfaces as these can be very slippery. Slipping and falling can cause sprains, ligament tears, fractures, etc. As the ice and snow melt, don’t let your dog drink the melted water as it is often contaminated with the deicing salt, which can cause diarrhea and even toxicity if they use deicers that are not pet safe. Also, beware of antifreeze. It is sweet tasting and dogs like licking it. Antifreeze damages the kidneys and is deadly without immediate medical treatment.

Finally, watch out for things that can cause shock or electrocution. Don’t let your dog sniff
around open light post covers as there are often exposed wires and can electrocute your dog. Also, avoid stepping on any ConEd junction box covers, manhole covers, metal grates, etc. These metal covers on the ground may have stray voltage that can cause anything from a nasty shock to electrocution. It is especially worse in the winter when the salt mixed with melting slush seeps under these covers and corrodes the wires and conduct the electricity from the faulty wiring to the metal covers.

–Dr Corinna Lai

How to Introduce Your Cat to a New Friend

How to Introduce Your Cat to a New Friend

Are you the owner of a single cat? You may worry about your friend being lonely while you’re working or spending time away from the home. It’s a natural concern as you and your pet are close and enjoy each other’s company when you can make time for each other. Many single pet owners ask us the question, “Should I get another pet?” This isn’t always a simple question to answer, but we can shed some light on the situation for you.

If you’re adding a new friend to your family, it’s important that your old friend is comfortable with the new addition.

Bringing Your New Cat Home

When you choose to bring a new pet into your home, St. Mark’s Veterinary Hospital recommends ushering them in in a crate or box provided by the shelter. Take time introducing the new pet into the home by initially setting up a quarantine room where the new cat can become accustomed to their new home. In this space, we recommend setting up everything the new kitty will enjoy, including a litter box, dishes, toys, a bed, and scratching post. The new cat and your existing pet will be able to hear and smell each other, growing accustomed to each other, but will not be in a confrontational situation face-to-face.

Cats Meeting Face-to-Face

When your existing cat begins to appear more comfortable, it’s important to let them get a visual of each other before actually meeting face-to-face. A gate or see-through barrier is often the best way to achieve this. After that meeting goes without too much trouble, it may be time to let the two interact in the main area.

If the new cat is a kitten, the initial interaction may be more pleasant than if the new cat is an adult. You should be armed with a sprayer bottle and some toys or treats in case a fight breaks out. Depending on how well the first meeting goes, it may be necessary to separate the cats again and try later for a more pleasant meeting.

If you’re having trouble introducing a new friend to the family or are looking for tips, please contact our team for assistance. We are here to help you make your best friend’s life a good one!

Missing dog found 4 years later in Iowa, nearly 1,000 miles from home

United Airlines flew a lost dog home Wednesday in first class for free — four years after he went missing. The Lambert family didn’t think they would ever see Sam, a Yorkshire Terrier, after he disappeared from their yard in Louisiana. But he was found by an animal control officer in in Cedar Rapids, Iowa earlier this month. He was straggly and weighed less than 6 pounds. Luckily, staff at the shelter were able to use the microchip he had to identify the Lambert family as the owners. Danielle Lambert said she was “shocked” when she got the call. “I first thought that there was no way it could be Sam. He’d been missing for four years,” she told CNNMoney. Sam was a birthday gift for her daughter Karisa when she turned 10 years old. Now she’s 15. The Yorkie was nursed back to health at the shelter until he was fit to fly home. He landed in New Orleans on a United flight at 11:16 a.m. “This just makes all of us feel really, really happy that we can make this miracle come true for this family and their little dog,” said Diane Webber, a manager at the Cedar Rapids shelter. No one knows how Sam got to Iowa, which is nearly 1,000 miles away. “We have no clue,” said Lambert. “I guess that’s the piece we’ll never know.”