Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, October 30

Once again this week, I took a wrong turn in the grocery store and got lost in the produce section. While I tried to find my way out, I wondered whether these avocados* were

Toxic or Not?

*(Here, we are talking about the flesh of the fruit only, not the bark, leaves, rind, or pit.)


Toxic, to birds, particularly psittacines (parrots)

OK, I’ll confess. This post was a bit sneaky. First of all, everybody should know by now that KatDoc doesn’t do bird medicine, so you are forgiven if you didn’t think “avian” when you read this one. Secondly, the people who noted that I specified only the fruit recognized there was some trick to this question.

The point I wanted to make with this week’s quiz is to help you become discriminating researchers when you look up toxic plants on the Internet or in various pet publications. Most of these sources just run a list of plant names, without specifying what part or parts are toxic, what species may be affected, and whether the toxicity is limited to mild GI distress or is more severe.

In this week’s case, avocado bark, leaves, rind, and pits have all been implicated in various toxicities in a number of different species. Dogs may experience vomiting and diarrhea. Horses, physically unable to vomit, develop colic, which can be fatal. Goats have been reported to develop mastitis (inflammation of the udder) from eating avocado leaves. Cattle, rabbits, rodents, cats and fish are also among the listed species affected by the plant parts, but only birds seem to be severely affected by eating the fruit.

Respiratory distress, congestion and fluid accumulation in the tissues around the heart can lead to death in several avian species. My various sources listed parrots, budgies, cockatiels, canaries, and ostriches specifically. The toxic agent is a fatty compound called persin. No treatment was mentioned, nor could I find a toxic dose.

Here’s an interesting fact: The Guatemalan type of avocado (Persea americana) is toxic, but the Mexican variety (P. dryminfolia) apparently is not. According to my reading, the most commonly available avocados in the US are of the Guatemalan variety.

Finally, critically evaluate your source before freaking out when Fido steals the guacamole. All the legitimate references I checked (ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, U of Penn, Wikipedia) reported nothing more than GI signs in dogs, but one unnamed site called avocados “highly toxic” and “deadly” for dogs, without citing their source or giving any data. Question everything you read (including this blog!) before jumping to conclusions on the safety of anything your pet eats.

Charlie, aka "Chuckles,"
a 21 year old Chestnut-fronted Macaw,
says, "Don't eat avocados!"

photo by Charlie's human mate, Julie Zickefoose
[Thanks, Zick!]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bird Feeding, part 3

Peanut feeders are an important part of my winter bird feeding protocol. There are two basic types, one with larger holes for dispensing peanuts in the shell, and one with smaller mesh for unshelled peanuts.
The center feeder is for peanuts in the shell,
the two on either end for unshelled nuts.

Blue Jays love to take the whole (shelled) peanuts away to cache for later, so I always like having some available. Before I started offering peanuts in the shell, I saw maybe one or two Blue Jays a day, sometimes none at all. Let me hang this feeder, though, and within minutes, I will have 5, 6, or even more jays all at once. They fly in and out so quickly that I have yet to get a decent picture of them, but I'm trying. The ones who are too impatient to wait their turn at this feeder will come to a platform feeder to gobble up a crop full of black oil and safflower seeds, but even they don't stay still for long. For a big bird, jays are damned hard to photograph.

The jays aren't as interested in the unshelled peanuts, which leaves them for the less aggressive birds. Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers love this feeder, as do White-breasted Nuthatches and especially Tufted Titmice. Occasionally, I will see a chickadee here, too.

This is a better picture in person. When I took it, I still had my old, Stone-Age computer, and couldn't upload or store photos on it, so I was getting my pictures on a CD. Now, I can't find the disc that has all my bird photos stored on it, so I had to take a picture of the picture.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What IS a "Nittany" lion, anyway?

Is it the mascot of Penn State University?

Is it, as Wikipedia says, a reference to the mountain lions that once roamed Mount Nittany, a local landmark near the school?

I looked for photos of a Nittany Lion to illustrate this question, but all I could find was the image below:

Think this lion is crying over the 37-17 THRASHING they received from The Ohio State University Buckeyes last night?

9-0, goin' ALL the way!

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Favorite Grooming Tool

It's called the FURminator, and it's no $1.98 dog brush. It is a professional grooming tool, and pricey, but it is hands-down the BEST thing I have ever used for brushing out all that fluffy undercoat from my dogs and cats. The medium size shown here retails for 'round about $50, but it is SO worth that.

I have used any number of other grooming tools - shedding blades, slicker brushes, combs - and nothing de-sheds like this device.

The replaceable blades don't cut hair, they grab and remove the loose, dead shedding hair which accumulates on Labradors, Rottweilers and both long and short haired cats. It's not for Poodles, Bichons, or the harsh, wirey hair of terriers, and you wouldn't want it for a thin skinned, single coated dog like a Boston, a dachshund or a chihuahua, but for shepherds, Akitas, huskies, malamutes, collies - any of the double-coated breeds with a heavier undercoat - it can't be beat.

The web site says that you can use this on rabbits and horses, too. For horses, I think you would want the largest size. The smallest size is blue instead of yellow, and the blades on it are not replaceable, as they are on the medium and large.

Using short strokes, all that shedding undercoat, which otherwise would end up on the floor, in my bed and mixed into my food ends up instead in a big pile in the yard. This is not a chore I choose to do inside, at least not with the dogs.

Don't use this tool on the lower parts of the legs
or belly where the hair is thin, as you can easily scratch or even cut your pet. It is not a mat-remover, and you must be careful to check for any skin bumps or sores before you start.

After FURminating my dogs the first time, I was so amazed by how bright their coats were, even without a bath. All that dead hair makes them look so dull. Just removing it puts the shine back in their hair.

This is not all of the hair I needed to remove, just what I got off in a 5 minute session of FURminating Holly.

The only way they could make this tool any better is if it jumped up and groomed the dog for you!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dixie & Manny

I'm working without a camera this week, so I'm looking through my albums for photos to use. It's been a while since I profiled one of my pets, so I thought you might like to meet one today.

Dixie is my only female cat.
(I tend to prefer female dogs and male cats for some reason.) It is hard to find anything special to say about her, as she isn't funny and bad like Joey nor does she have an outgoing personality like Louie. She is just always there, quiet and shy, undemanding, a background hum in the music of my household.

Dixie's favorite spot, the back of the couch

Like most of my cats, Dixie came to me from a veterinary hospital. I was working as a relief veterinarian, subbing for a two woman practice where both vets were on maternity leave at the same time. The staff had a litter of three orphaned kittens they were hand-raising. Usually, I am a sucker for baby kittens. However, the week I was there, they were in their "ugly" phase. Now, you might think that baby kittens can't possibly be ugly, but let me tell you, there is a point with hand-raised kittens when they are being weaned where they
are a little skinny, their ears are too big for their bodies, they perpetually have food in their hair, and they look like little ghouls. I left that week sans kitten.

But, two weeks later, I was back. And, those little monsters are turned into the sleekest, cutest, most adorable babies you ever would want to see. I picked out a female tortie-tabby (tortiseshell coloring, tabby pattern) and waited to see if anyone else would adopt her. By the end of the week, "Dixie," named for the practice where I found her, had joined my family.

Because she is the smallest and least food aggressive, the boys tend to shove her out of the way at meal times. But, since she would rather stay in, when the boys go outside, I spoil her with extra treats.

One day, I offered her a sip of milk, which I do regularly for Lou, who enjoys it. Little did I know Dixie was lactose intolerant! Gag, gag, puke, puke, retch, retch - the show went on forEVER! Oh, yes - I seem to remember some veterinarian saying not to give milk to cats. And that was - ME! Needless to say, no more milk for Dixie, even though she seems to have forgotten all about it and still asks for a sip, in her quiet and polite way.

Oh, there is one special thing about her. I can always count on Dixie to sleep in my bed with me every night. True to her nature, she doesn't demand a lot of space, like the dogs do, nor does she try to smother me in my sleep, like so many other cats have done in the past. Without being intrusive, she is always there for me.

Manny, short for "Katmandu," was a very special cat who was also there for me when I needed him. He is no longer with me, but recent events have made me think about him again.

Katmandu, April 2000-July 2005
"Sleep well, my little man"

In the spring of 2000, I was feeling pretty blue. A special relationship that I thought was going somewhere ended abruptly, and I was in the dumps. I needed something to cheer me up, something to lavish my attention on, something to distract me. I needed a kitten.

I went to one of my best friends, a veterinarian who always seemed to have kittens to adopt. Sure enough, she had several for me to choose from. I asked her oldest son Ben, who was about 9 at the time, to help me pick from among the black ones. (I have a special spot in my heart for black cats.)

Ben picked each kitten up and held it to his ear. I was about to ask what he was doing when he handed me his selection, saying "This one has good heart-warmth." I wasn't about to question what he meant, but accepted Ben's choice. I named the kitten Katmandu, for the Bob Seeger song, and shortened it to Manny for every day use.

Manny was still small, only 5 weeks old and really too young to be be away from his mother when I adopted him, so I carried my "little man" around inside my T-shirt whenever I was home, keeping him close to my heart. I have raised other young kittens this way (including Joey) and I believe it helps with the bonding process. It certainly helped me.

Although Louie was a good role model and surrogate "uncle," Manny
decided he was more dog than cat. He "nursed" on Grace till he was 8 months old, closing his eyes in rapture and sucking the hair on her belly while kneading with his paws. After her first shocked expression, she decided to stand in as his adoptive "mom," giving him tongue baths and keeping a watchful eye on him. If he wandered too far away, Grace would bring him right back.

Grace caring for her temporary baby

Later, Manny could usually be found hanging with the dogs. Sometimes all three of them, a Rott, a Lab mix and a black cat would be piled up in one dog crate. It was hard to see where one animal stopped and the next one started.

Holly and Manny at rest

Whatever "heart-warmth" means, Manny had it in spades. He was one of the most loving cats I ever had, great for cuddling with and hugging, and always ready to absorb my tears. He continued being a good buddy until the summer of 2005, when he suddenly and inexplicably developed severe grand mal seizures.

I worked him up, I consulted with an internist friend of mine, but all the standard tests were negative. He didn't respond to basic treatments, and I was carrying him around everywhere with an IV catheter in place, ready to administer Valium at the next seizure. It was no life for either of us. My options were to submit him to a battery of intensive (and expensive) tests, or to let him go. So, I took him into the office on a Sunday afternoon, when we could be alone together, and administered one final injection in his IV catheter. I gave him the only thing I had left to give. I gave him peace. He gave me so much more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pottery: Art from Nature

I love pottery. There is something about the feel, as well as the look, of it that appeals to me. I also love the fact that pottery is the result of the four elements of nature: earth, water, fire, and, for air, the breath of inspiration of the creator.

I collect pottery from various places I have visited, and thought I would share some of my things with you.

I like to handle pottery, and so most of the pieces in my collection are ones that I can use regularly, like this mug, from Rowe Pottery in Wisconsin.

The salt glazing is a hallmark feature of Rowe's Classic style. I also have one of their small lamps.

Blue and white pottery is my favorite.

This bowl, from Amana, Iowa, is great for soup, chili, or a mini-casserole. It was a gift from my mother, and used to be one of a pair, until I broke the other one.

These two pieces are from Anta Pottery, in Tain, Scotland.

The mug is their Skye Thistle pattern, and I love drinking cocoa from it. I think the pattern on bowl is called Sandeman. I like to use it for Scottish porridge.

This trivet is also Scottish, from Highland Pottery, in Lochinver, on the northwest coast. The iris pattern spoke to me.

I found a really wonderful pottery on my trip to the New River Gorge Birding Festival last May. Gauley River Pottery is truly a "mom and pop" shop. The wife, Mary, is the potter, and her husband, John, does the glazing and firing. The day I visited, their youngest boy was serving as chief entertainment and customer relations specialist.

This pattern is called "Cranberry Mountain Sunset." I found the rich colors appealing. I use the mixing bowl often, and the small, handled bowl is good for soup.

Using the same glazes with slightly different techniques produces "New River Nights" a darker version of the above.

This particular vase is porcelain. Mary told me she didn't work with it much, because she found it too stiff and dry. One day she was experimenting and decided to use some porcelain clay that had been frozen by accident. Something about the freezing and thawing changed the clay and made it easier to work. Serendipity!

This blue and white vase is also from the New River area of West Virginia. I found it in a consignment shop in Fayetteville, but it doesn't bear any potter's mark. The shopowner said this particular potter has a habit of not signing her work, unfortunately.

I don't know what it is about the quality of this particular piece, but it feels wonderful in my hand.

More decorative pieces from Scotland:

The hand-painted vase is from Highland Pottery,

as is this little whatchamacallit,
a bowl with a lid.

This is from Uig Pottery, on the northern tip of the Isle of Skye. It is a small quaich (pronounced "quake") a shallow, two-handled drinking vessel.

A quaich may be used to welcome a guest or bid him farewell, with a wee dram of whisky, of course. It might be given as a prize or as a traditional baptism gift, since a quaich is commonly used to toast a christening. When King James VI of Scotland gave one to Anne of Norway as a wedding gift in 1589, the quaich also became known as a "loving cup."

I bought this pottery bird bath in
'96 or '97 at an arts and crafts festival in the Marietta, OH/Parkersburg, WVa. area.

The little bird on the rim occasionally fools me when I take a quick glance out the window.

I have several other pieces that I didn't get photos of, such as a blue and brown mug from "little" Nashville in Brown County, Indiana, a potpourri burner from Vermont, and several little vases from the Williamsburg Pottery that I have picked up in antique and junk shops.

Starting in November, I hope to be taking pottery classes myself. The instructor promises that for the last class, a juke box will play "Unchained Melody," and Patrick Swayze will get all hot and dirty with me. Yum, yum!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, October 23

I broke open my piggy bank for this week's post. But, if I leave them on the floor where the dogs can swallow them, are these pennies


Answer: Toxic

Pennies minted after 1982 are made of 99.2% zinc with only a thin copper coating. Once in the stomach, the stomach acids begin to dissolve the zinc, and it is absorbed and transported to various organs.

Initial signs are associated with the local irritant effect of zinc oxide on the stomach lining. Anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea and a general depression are seen consistently even with short-term exposure or low levels of ingestion. Long-term exposure or higher levels lead to systemic signs. Kidney failure has been reported, but the most common syndrome is Acute Hemolytic Anemia.

Zinc causes damage to the cell membrane of the red blood cells, and the immune system begins to remove these damaged cells. Hemolysis, the break-down of red blood cells, leads to icterus (jaundice, a yellow coloration of the skin and eyes) and anemia, a decrease in the number of red blood cells in the bloodstream.

Treatment involves removal of the penny (pennies), either through surgery or the use of an endoscope, IV fluids and other supportive therapy, blood transfusions in cases of severe anemia, and sometimes chelation therapy, using calcium EDTA to speed removal of the zinc from the system.

Other sources of zinc are the locking nuts on older pet carriers (newer ones are plastic) and other types of zinc-coated hardware, zinc pieces from board games, ointments like Desitin and zinc oxide sun blocks, batteries, some paints and medicated shampoos.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More of the New Albany Classic

I'm without my camera this week. Mom has borrowed it for a trip of her own. [eyes closed, fingers crossed, trying not to worry] So, this week's posts will have to consist of stockpiled photos. I know - let's start with more horse jumping! (Because I couldn't get enough of them the last time.)

This series of three photos is of the same horse. I want to frame them as a set. (Thank you to Katie, for showing me how to use the automatic drive mode of my camera, without which I wouldn't have able to catch the whole sequence.)

We had a large field of 24 horses in this year's competition, and of these, 9 horses made it to the jump-off with a clear round. In horse jumping, you are scored a series of "faults." Four faults are assigned each time a horse knocks a rail down, and one fault is given for every second (or partial second) a horse goes over the allotted time for the course, in this case, 94 seconds. Like golf, the lowest score wins, and the ultimate goal is a "clear round." (No jumping or time faults.)

In the jump off, the course is shortened, and there is no maximum time. Riders cut every corner possible and go as fast as they dare in their attempt at a clear round in the shortest amount of time. Can you see the speed here as Laura Chapot and "Little Big Man" try to set the pace as the first team in the jump-off?

I don't know if you can see the skid marks in the ground in these two photos or not. The horse had just refused this jump, and Laura was taking him around for a second attempt. (A refusal is when a horse runs out or stops suddenly, refusing to take the jump.) I missed the shot of them skidding to a halt, throwing large divots into the air.

After taking this jump successfully, the horse refused the following jump. "Thank you very much. You are excused." She was taking it too fast and the horse's timing was off. Laura Chapot won the Classic with "Little Big Man" last year, but this wasn't their day.

I was fast enough to catch this spectacular image of a horse crashing through the jump right in front of me. This was also during the jump off and probably a result of speed and timing conflicts as well.

Don't worry, horse and rider were just fine, and went on to complete the round. Of all the years we have attended the Classic, this is the first time we have seen this happen. (I think this was Margie Engle,
another New Albany veteran, on "Hidden Creek's Wapino.")

The winner this year, with two clear rounds and completing the jump-off course in 41.58 seconds was Darragh Kerins and "Night Train," from Ireland. (My sister Lisa's pick.) In second place was Kent Farrington on "Up Chiqui," also with a clear round and only 0.08 seconds slower at 41.66 seconds. (My horse.)

We each pick two horses at the start of the event. All four of our picks had clear first rounds and made it into the jump-off this year. We are getting better at our guesses. My second choice was Beezie Madden and "Judgement," who came in sixth. (I almost picked Margie Engle, whose horse went through the jump instead of over.) Lisa's other horse was the ill-fated "Little Big Man." So, maybe we aren't that good yet. We'll have to try again next year!