Friday, September 28, 2007

KatDoc Goes on Hiatus

Don't tune in to this blog for a while. I'm taking some time off, visiting with my sister, seeing friends, and enjoying some of the sights on the other side of the state.

No Toxicology Tuesday this week (I know you will be disappointed) so you can rest your weary brains. After I return, we will jump back into rodenticides.

I hope to come back with lots of stories and a few decent photos to illustrate them.

Attention, stalkers and burglars: There is nothing here worth stealing, and I have a good neighborhood watch committee. Country folks look out for each other, so don't try anything stupid.

See you soon!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Parting Waves

Gentlemen readers of this blog will probably want to skip today’s post. This is about something only the ladies will understand.

OK, girls, now that we are alone – My hairdresser is moving!

[pause for exclamatory responses]

Yes, that’s right. Jenny, who has cut my hair for nearly 20 years, is moving. To Florida. Do you know how far Florida is from SW Ohio? Neither do I, but I do know it is too far for me to drive there for a hair cut every 6 weeks.

Now, let me note that I am not particularly vain about my appearance. I rarely wear make-up or jewelry, and my style in clothes is heavy on comfort, function and practicality, light on fashion. But, I have great hair. It is thick, dark, naturally curly, and takes very little maintenance, which is good, since I am pretty much a low-maintenance kind of gal. (Or am I like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” – high maintenance who THINKS she is low-maintenance?)

Those of you blessed (and cursed) with naturally curly hair will recognize the love-hate relationship my hair and I have had over the years. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, when straight-straight hair was in, my hair and I received more than our fair share of jokes, but we have gotten our revenge in later years. Now, we coexist in relative harmony, except on days when my hair feels it is necessary to remind me who is in charge of our personal style. (For the record, it is not me.)

My look is dependent to a large degree on the weather (high humidity days are hell) and the whims of my hair’s independent streak. Some days it behaves perfectly well, while other days it is fly-away, frizzy, and sticks out every-which-way. I don’t know why, it just does what it wants to do. When people say, “Your hair looks great, what did you do?” I always reply, “I wish I knew.” However, over the years, I have learned that one important part in the care and management of naturally curly hair is a good stylist. One visit to a beauty school in college and occasional trips to the $5 El Cheapo Salon convinced me that even if I don’t spend any money on the rest of my body, I HAVE to pay for a good haircut.

Time to see Jenny!

Finding the right person to cut naturally curly hair can be tough. I find it is best to rely on someone else with hair like yours, which is how I was introduced to Jenny in 1987 or ’88. And, except for the year I moved to Marietta, Jenny has been taking care of my hair ever since.

What will we do to my hair today?

You can develop a hair-style shorthand with a stylist who has known you that long. I can tell her, “I’m going camping later this month,” and get my “camping” haircut (very short, trimmed in the back, no need for hair care products or blow-dryers) or I can say, “Well, I guess it’s time to let it grow for the winter” and she knows what I need without explanation. A good stylist will be honest with you, too, like the times when I crave long luxurious locks and she tells me, “Kathi, your hair won’t do that, unless you want to spend a lot of time with the blow dryer and curling iron every morning,” something she knows I won’t do. I appreciate her honesty.

And, I trust her not to screw up my hair. Today, I said, "I'm in a rut, I'm bored, I need a change. I am going to a wedding and then on vacation, what can we do to my hair that's fun?" Jenny said, "How about highlights?" So, on went the tight cap, and she began to use what appeared to be a little crochet hook to pluck tiny strands of my hair through the holes in the cap. (This was mildly painful.)

Porcupine head!

The next step was to brush on a really smelly solution, cover my head with another plastic shower cap, and sit under a dryer, baking. What price, beauty.

My first highlights. It doesn't really show in this photo, but I see a big difference in my hair color after that process. (I have to say that, for what it cost me!)

Thanks, Jenny, for understanding me. I will miss you!

Strange Phenomenon

I spent the day today running errands and driving all over Clermont and Hamilton Counties.

Everywhere I went, I saw images like this:and this.
A strange, liquid matter emanated from the sky, sometimes in drips and drops, sometimes in sheets and waves. It became difficult to drive, because the roads were slippery, and because I couldn't see out of the windows.

I discovered a switch in my car that turned on something called "Wind-Shield Wi-Pers," which did a fine job of clearing off the front window so I could see better. Imagine - such a useful invention. Who knew my car came thus equipped?

After an extensive Web search, I think I have discovered the name of this strange and wonderous event. They call it


[Can I get an "Amen, Sistah" for the rain?]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, September 25

Last week's "essay question" style Toxicology Tuesday wasn't as popular as previous "True/False" or multiple guess quizzes, but let's give it another try. I'll even give you some hints this week.

Here is a different type of rodenticide (mouse/rat poison): cholecalciferol. We know if it poisons mice and rats it is toxic to dogs and cats, since they are mammals, too. The question is how does it affect them?

What is the toxic principal/how does it poison? (Hint: Last week, we had a toxin that
altered Vitamin K metabolism, this week is another poison that involves a vitamin.)

What signs might you see?

Is there a treatment?

How poisonous is cholecalciferol/what is the prognosis? Remember our scale of: Fair
- treatable if caught in time; Poor - might not survive even with treatment; or Grave - likely to be fatal even with treatment. (Another hint, last week's anticoagulants had a Fair prognosis, this week is different.)

Be bold, be brave - jump in with your guesses. Partial credit is awarded for any attempt to answer, and please show all your work. Neatness counts!

Cholecalciferol is Vitamin D3. Not only is it found in rodenticides like Rampage, Quintox and Rat-B-Gone, it is also found in multivitamins and some calcium supplements like Viactiv. While it is possible for a pet to be overdosed on Vitamin D3 by eating vitamin or mineral supplements, the risk is much greater from ingesting rodenticides containing cholecalciferol.

Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin. It is necessary to maintain the delicate balance of calcium and phosphorous in the body. Calcium is not only needed for strong bones, it is a major part of the electrical system of the heart muscle. Excessive intake of Vitamin D3 leads to abnormal calcium and phosphorous levels, irregular heart beats, and the mineralization of soft tissues. In other words, calcium is deposited in the soft tissues of the body, essentially “turning them into bone.” The GI tract, skeletal muscle, heart and blood vessels may be affected, but the kidneys are usually the primary problem.

signs are vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody.) The bait pellets are blue, so blue vomitus is a key finding. Other signs, including increased water intake and urination, lethargy, and muscle weakness, may be seen in the first 48 hours after poisoning. High doses results in acute renal (kidney) failure. Death can occur in severely affected animals. Those which survive may have long-term consequences, including chronic renal failure and cardiac arrhythmias.

If an animal is observed eating this type of poison, immediate attention is mandatory. It must be treated immediately after ingestion by decontamination (induce vomiting, gastric lavage, administer cathartics and activated charcoal) and must be monitored for physical symptoms and any changes in blood calcium, phosphorous, and kidney levels. If there are no physical or biochemical changes in four days, the prognosis is good for recovery.

In animals with clinical signs or elevated calcium levels, treatment consists of IV saline solution, furosemide (a diuretic) and prednisone to increase excretion of calcium in the urine. Diets low is calcium and phosphorous and oral phoshate binders are also part of the treatment process, which may last 6 weeks or longer. Prognosis in these cases is poor, due to the potential for chronic, lifetime kidney and heart damage.

The toxic dose starts at 0.5mg/kg body weight. This is the equivalent of 6 grams (about ½ tablespoon) of the typical 0.075% concentration bait in a 20 pound dog. (Another source gave a much higher level, 12-20mg/kg, as the toxic dose.) Secondary poisoning, from eating a mouse or rat which died from cholecalciferol poisoning, has not been reported.

This is not a common poison, at least in my area. I had to go to 10 different stores to find one example of a Vitamin D3-based rodenticide. I have only seen one case of cholecalciferol toxicity in 21 years of practice.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bird Feeding, part 2

Continuing my series on wild bird feeding:

One bird seed I can't live without is Nyjer, sometimes called "thistle" seed. It is worth its weight in gold(finches) and is priced accordingly, but I have to have it.

The tiny seeds are best served in a specially designed feeder, to avoid waste and to keep the bigger birds from stealing it. I have three different types of thistle feeders, though I rarely use all three at once. The tube feeder on the right is one I have had for many years. Even though the plastic is discolored and stained, the little ports still work fine to dispense the Nyjer, it keeps the seeds dry and protected, and it is easily taken apart for cleaning.

On top of that is a "thistle sock," a mesh bag style of feeder, which came free in a plastic jug of Kaytee brand seed. I don't use these often, and usually throw them away after they become soiled, since they are hard to disinfect.
I buy most of my birdseed from Peggie at Wild About Birds in Milford, who packages it in small plastic bags. If I run out, I will pick up one of these jugs, which I like for their storage potential. Because Nyjer seed will turn rancid quickly, especially in hot weather, I store my extra in the 'fridge. After accidentally puncturing a plastic bag and having to clean up spilled Nyjer seed, I saw the benefits of re-using the jugs.

Nyjer is a finch magnet, and will attract goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and the ubiquitous House Finches. Because I have a ton of House Finches, and because I serve many other seeds that they can eat, I like this upside-down feeder for keeping them out of the Nyjer.Goldfinches can hang upside-down to eat and House Finches can't, so this feeder with the holes under the perches means I can always see goldfinches in my yard.

There is no protection around these feeding ports, so if you have a squirrel problem, they will quickly chew through the plastic, and all your Nyger will spill on to the ground, so be warned.

Here's hoping for an influx of Purple Finches and Pine Siskins this winter!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bat Breath

Listening to NPR radio last night, as I drove home from Grand Valley, I heard "The Ninety Second Naturalist," a program hosted by Thayne Maynard from the Cincinnati Zoo. He was telling the most fascinating story. Farmers in Costa Rico have been complaining that their cattle are being attacked more often by vampire bats than in the past. In an attempt to determine if this was true, scientists devised this interesting experiment.

The diet of cattle differs greatly from the diets of tapir and peccaries, the native rain forest mammals that were the vampires' traditional food source. This leads to different carbon isotopes in the breath of a bat that has fed on a cow versus a bat that has fed on native wildlife. By analyzing vampire bat breath, the scientists concluded that bats are dining on cattle more often than on tapirs or peccaries. Read more here and here.

One thing I haven't found out yet: How do you get a vampire bat to take a Breathalyzer test?

Ain't Life Grand (Valley)?

Susan and I are racing to see who can get their post up first tonight! She has the advantage of a shorter drive home and a faster Internet connection, but she is working under the handicap of her back-up camera and maybe no software to upload her photos. (I will let her explain the camera crisis.) I had an hour and 15 minute trip home (had to factor in time to pick up my dogs from work) and my perpetual issues with uploading photos via dial-up, so it is even money as to who will win. (Note: Susan won. Of course, she is younger and faster.)

If you can't guess, we went to Grand Valley, aka the Camp Dennison gravel pits. Long a favorite waterfowl spot among the Cincinnati birding community, the pits have always been explored from above, using a spotting scope. Entry was forbidden, primarily as a safety precaution. These former quarries could be quite dangerous, and liability was a concern. Recently, the property was acquired by Indian Hill and the pits were renamed "Grand Valley Nature Preserve." Access was restricted to those with an upscale address, and the No Entrance signs were changed to Entry by Permit Only.

Susan has been steaming about this ever since her illegal (albeit accidental) trespassing episode last year, and my public scolding. (Bossy old me :-P) However, there is more than one way to skin a cat (or pluck a duck?) and tonight, we got into Grand Valley legally. The naturalist there is a friend of mine from Crooked Run Nature Preserve and CNC, and he graciously offered to let me come in whenever he is on duty. Thanks, Dennis, for inviting us in and making us feel welcomed, despite our low-rent ZIP Codes.

south end of the main pond at Grand Valley
See any ducks? Neither did we.

I was hoping for waterfowl, shorebirds and some good songbirds. At first, all we got were Mallards, Killdeer and Mourning Doves. But, then we added Blue-winged Teal and Wood Ducks to our waterfowl list, Least Sandpipers for shorebirds, and a sweet warbler who sat low and posed for us in excellent light. Susan cursed her point-and-shoot digital camera with its 2.8x lens, I studied it through my bins and looked it up in my Peterson's, while managing a couple of images with my only-slightly-better 4x zoom. I decided on Prairie Warbler. (Birders, chime in.)

Edit 9/22, 3:25pm: Dr. Zickefoose, Science Chimp and birder extraordinaire, has diagnosed my warbler as a male Cape May, not a Prairie. I forgot to look for the lemon-lime badonkadonk. (Actually, Cape May was my first guess, then I convinced myself I was wrong. No really, it was. I'm not making it up.)

There really is a warbler in the center of this photo.

See it now?

I didn't get any photos of the warbler with a gray head, white eyering, and clear yellow belly. Although I desperately wanted it to be a Connecticut, I am resigned to it being a Nashville Warbler, still a good bird. Other birds seen but not photographed include Pied-billed Grebes, a Turkey Vulture, Chimney Swifts, a Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, crows and coots.

We did have a good case for "Birding CSI." Any idea whose skull this is?

Does this help?

Yup, Canada Goose.
The Science Chimp would be so proud of us.

Susan spent an inordinate amount of time photographing a rock pile. Yea, that's blog worthy, Susan. And so attractive.

Reasons why we didn't see more birds:

Bad weather/too hot.
Dogs and kayakers spooked the ducks.
3) "Birding has been weird all week." (Dennis)
2) I forgot my spotting scope.

and Susan's number one reason why we didn't see more birds:

1) I am a birding jinx. (For the record, I don't think this is true.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fall Crocuses

I took a walk at the Cincinnati Nature Center at lunch one day this week, just Holly and I. We hadn't been there in a couple of months, waiting until the hot, miserable summer turned into cooler autumn, until I was revitalized and stimulated to walk the woods again.

Without binoculars, field guides, or any express purpose, we wandered the flat, upland paths. I heard more birds than I saw - White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinals, American Goldfinches, House Wren, Blue Jay, and Eastern Wood-pewee.

As I approached the Krippendorf Lodge, I came upon these little beauties, nestled at the base of a tree: Colchicum, or Fall Crocuses.

No, they're not a native wildflower. Instead, they are a legacy of the original owners of this remarkable property. Like the daffodils that bloom every spring, the fall crocuses are a gift from the past, from the days when Carl Krippendorf planted hundreds, probably thousands, of bulbs on his property.

Purists might argue that they don't belong here, in a nature preserve in Ohio, but I enjoy them. Their glowing color sparkles among the newly fallen leaves and fading vegetation. And, they are another connection with the Krippendorfs, who loved this place and left it for the generations that followed to love, too.

Bird Feeding, part 1

There has been a chill in the air the past few mornings, and the hummingbird population has dropped off dramatically in the last week. Sunday morning, I watched a goldfinch feeding on the dried seed heads of my Echinaceae (Purple Coneflower.) I can't ignore the signs any longer; it's time for fall bird feeding season again.

I usually stop feeding birds in the summer. At that time, I'm busy with bluebirds, hummingbirds and purple martins, and don't have the time or energy to manage seed feeders, too. Most birds can find plenty of food on their own, and I keep water available to draw them in close to the house for easy viewing. After feeding wild birds for 9 years here, the last two seasons I have had outbreaks of Mycoplasma conjunctivitis among my house finches and goldfinches, so now I try to encourage them to disperse during the summer, hoping to cut down on the spread of this contagious eye disease.

The first step in resuming feeding is to clean and disinfect everything I can. I prefer feeders like this tube style that I can take apart.

Every plastic and metal feeder gets scrubbed in hot water and Dawn dish detergent, soaked in a 10% bleach solution, rinsed thoroughly, and then dried in the sun. Then, I refill each feeder with a particular type of seed.
In this tube feeder, I use safflower. This is a high-oil seed, very attractive to cardinals and other desirable birds, and less likely to draw house sparrows. For those of you with squirrel problems, safflower is a good alternative to sunflower seeds, as it is said that squirrels don't like it. (Luckily, I have no squirrels here.) You could also use sunflower seeds or nuts in this style feeder.
Finches are my primary customer at this feeder, but it also attracts titmice and white-breasted nuthatches. Cardinals don't like the little perches on tube feeders, so I put their food, a mix of sunflower and safflower, on a platform feeder.

In future posts, I will show you some of the other styles of feeders and types of feed I use, and hopefully, some photos of the birds they attract. For more information on bird feeding, or to participate in a Citizen Science project, go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website and their Project Feederwatch page.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, September 18

This is Toxicology Tuesday with a Twist. I’m not going to insult you by asking you if rat and mouse poisons are toxic or not. You know they are. What I am going to do is present you with three different types of rodenticides over the next three weeks and ask you the following questions:

What is the toxic principal? (That is, how does it poison – kidney failure, liver damage, etc.)

What signs might you expect to see?

What, if any, treatment is available?

How toxic is it/what is the prognosis? (On a relative scale of Fair - treatable if caught in time, Poor - might not survive even with treatment, or Grave - likely to be fatal even with treatment)

This week, we are looking at D-Con and other brands of mouse poison that contain brodifacoum, bromadiolone and diphacinone.

Are you ready for the challenge? Try it; see how much you know, or can guess.

Answer: By far, the most commonly available rodenticides are the anticoagulants. The toxic principal of these agents is to cause depletion of the body's store of Vitamin K. Since this fat soluble vitamin is necessary for the manufacture of several clotting factors, running out of Vitamin K means losing the blood's clotting ability, and the development of bleeding problems. Warfarin was the original product, and is still available, though not common. It fell out of favor because it requires rodents to feed multiple times in order to ingest enough poison to kill them. Those early animals which didn't receive a fatal dose bred, leading to the creation of warfarin-resistant populations. The second generation products, like brodificoum, kill with one feeding, thus eliminating the resistance problem.

It typically takes 3 to 5 days for an animal to run out of Vitamin K, so the signs don't show up right away. Bleeding can be obvious - blood in the urine, stools, or vomitus, bloody nose, bleeding from the gums, excessive bleeding from a minor wound or from clipping a toenail too short - or it can be more subtle. Pinpoint spots of blood under the skin called petechiae may be seen. (Birding note: The Yellow Warbler got his Latin name, Dendroica petechia, from
the fine red streaks on his breast.) Bleeding into the joints can cause lameness, internal bleeding may cause shock with no external signs of injury.

In cases of known ingestion, treatment consists of decontamination (induce vomiting, gastric lavage, use of cathartic agents, and administration of activated charcoal) and monitoring blood clotting values. If the blood tests show toxic changes, the pet is started on Vitamin K therapy. If the pet is already symptomatic, Vitamin K treatment is initiated immediately and continues for up to 30 days, while monitoring blood values regularly. Severe cases may need blood or plasma transfusions.

On my "how bad is it" scale, the anticoagulants have a Fair prognosis. With early and aggressive treatment, most pets are likely to survive this poisoning.

Because of the wide variability in the types of anticoagulant agents and the differences in individual pets, it is impossible to give a rule of thumb for how much poison is significant. Take ALL pets who ingest any kind of mouse or rat poison to the vet immediately, and bring the package with you, even if it is shredded or damaged. Important information may still be obtained from the label.

This final question always comes up: What if a cat (or dog) eats a mouse (or rat) who has eaten poison? In the majority of cases, there is not enough of the active ingredient in the rodent to affect the pet, however, barn cats who eat a lot of poisoned mice could accumulate enough poison to develop bleeding problems.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dog Body Language

As I was flipping through photos of my visit to the dog park with Susan and her family, I noticed what a good study of dog behavior I had collected. I thought I would try to sort it out in some coherent fashion for you. If you are interested in learning to read dog body language, I suggest a visit to a dog park, with your camera and no dog of your own to distract your attention. Just watching dogs, and taking photographs for later review, is invaluable when trying to learn more about our best friends.

The first thing you notice is that dogs rarely greet each other face to face. Instead, they sidle up beside one another lengthwise, in a nonthreatening posture. Here Nellie and a German Shepherd say "hello" in typical dog fashion.

Then, they proceed to sniff each other's genital area, getting a sense of who the other dog is.
The olfactory world of dogs is one we will never be allowed to enter. Their sense of smell is so acute that a dog would be lost, worse than blind, without it.

The "T" position is another one you will see frequently. Here, the brown dog (a terrier mix, or perhaps a 'doodle) seems to be offering a ball to the black and tan dog.
Watch heads and tails for signs of relative pack position. A dog with his head and tail up, his ears forward and his weight shifted to his front legs is the more dominant animal. In the case of these two dogs, either they are of relatively equal status or perhaps they haven't decided yet. The black and tan dog's tail is at half-mast and the ears are slightly forward. We can't see the brown dog's tail, but his ears are somewhat back on his head. Both dogs have their weight evenly distributed.

Another case of equal status dogs - Holly (on the left) and her mirror image on the right are in lateral presentation (side to side), circling and sniffing each other, and with their heads, ears, and tails in almost exactly the same position.

Sometimes one dog will approach another from the rear for a sniff,
but they usually end up side to side or in the T position as shown in the photo below.
Here, Grace and the German Shepherd are nose to nose, but still at right angles to each other. At first glance, these dogs seem to be fairly equal in status, but closer inspection shifts the balance a little to the shepherd's side. Grace's ears are back, and her weight more to the rear of her body, which is curved away from the shepherd. Without the benefit of a tail, it is a little hard to say what she is thinking about this situation. The shepherd's ears are up and his tail is down, which appears to me to be a neutral stance, since his weight is centered and the position of his ears and tail are not exaggerated.

Compare the previous postures to the white pit bull and the chow in these photos. Here, the chow is clearly the dominant animal. His tail is held high and forward, and his ears are also pricked forward.

In comparison, the white dog is holding his head low, his ears are pinned back on his head, and he is soliciting attention from under the chin of the chow, as a lower ranked pack member would greet a leader dog.
Watch Hooper and the Bernese Mountain Dog in these photos. Hooper's tail is held high over his body, his ears are forward, and he is leaning towards the Bernie, who is obviously intimidated. As he moves to hide behind his mom, his head is held low and his tail is down.

Once he feels more comfortable behind her, his head and tail come up a bit, but he still doesn't want to greet Hooper. Despite his size, he shows all the signs of a submissive animal in relation to Hooper.
It's another story with a different set of dogs. No need to hide behind Mom this time, the Bernese has his tail high, his ears forward, and he is leaning into the beagle mix for a good sniff. Either he hasn't noticed the Whippet behind him, or he just doesn't care.
I don't think I ever saw the beagle-basset mix standing. He was always the lowest dog (physically) in any group of dogs, allowing other dogs to loom over him, and never taking a more dominant stance. Don't feel badly for him, though. He looks very comfortable in his role.
He didn't even stand to be petted by
Lorelei, but he is enjoying the attention, as his thumping tail indicates.
On the other hand, this Boston was a nervous wreck. His ears are pinned back, he is approaching cautiously, and he holds up a front paw when he pauses (a sign of unease in some dogs.) He appears to want attention from the girls, but is hesitant to approach them. He is ambivalent about the whole encounter.

Among a group of dogs, his anxiety is even more apparent. The whites of his eyes show, his ears are back, and he is frozen in position. He doesn't know where to look or what to do, and the other dogs are ignoring him.
This dog shouldn't have been thrown into this situation without some socialization first, starting with only a couple of small dogs or puppies, before meeting this many big dogs and strange people. The owner didn't seem to recognize her dog's distress, but I did. This is the kind of dog I would be worried about biting a child - he is stressed, off-balance, timid. Make the wrong move or trap him, and he might strike out in fear.

Another Hooper series - this guy just exudes self-confidence. Watch the crazy young male Boxer try to solicit attention from Hoop. He is down in a play bow,

then begins barking and leaping about, as you can tell by the blurry images.
Hooper looks on indulgently. "Goofy kid," he must be thinking. "What a nut!"

But, when Hooper deigns to greet him, the power is all on his side. Notice his weight is way forward on his front legs, and his tail and ears are up. Here is the T position again.

As he leans in for a better sniff, the tail comes all the way over his back, and the Boxer turns his head away slightly, avoiding any eye contact.

I hope you have enjoyed this primer of dog vocabulary. Really, we only touched the surface of how dogs communicate by the use of body language. The next time you watch dogs freely interacting with each other, try to read their postures and see if you can interpret what they are saying.