Tags Posts tagged with "Dr. Matthew Kearns"

Dr. Matthew Kearns

Common foreign body risks in barbecues include corn cobs, peach pits, aluminum foil and skewers.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Aaaah, summer’s here and we know it by the smells in the air. Tantalizing aromas of steak, sausage, chicken, burgers and dogs. After dinner it’s marshmallows (sometimes with graham crackers and chocolate). I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love it (including our pets). As gratifying as it is to have friends and family over, we have to be careful of our “unofficial tasters” hanging around the barbecue.


Be very careful of grease both dripping from the barbecue and on the ground. Hot grease from drippings can cause burns to the skin and mouth, and old grease can grow mold and bacteria on it. Lastly, large amounts of grease can lead to severe vomiting and diarrhea and, potentially, a life-threatening condition called pancreatitis.

Raw meat

Dogs and cats don’t always wait for the food to be cooked before they decide to jump up on the counter and take some. Although many pet owners feel that the raw diet is the way to go, for pets raw chicken and beef can have some serious bacteria like various Salmonella species and E. coli, which will proliferate in the hot summer sun.

Foreign bodies

A foreign body in this context refers to anything a pet would be silly enough to swallow that will get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract. Common foreign body risks at barbecues are corn cobs (my favorite because you can see them on X-rays and know what they are), peach pits, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, string to bind roasts, bones (chicken, pork, beef) and skewers (wood or bamboo for shish kebab or teriyaki). Bones and skewers are the most dangerous because they not only have the potential to form an obstruction but can also penetrate the esophagus, stomach or intestines and lead to a life-threatening peritonitis.


Things like onions and garlic can cause significant gastrointestinal upset and, in larger amounts, GI bleeding. Fruit salads that contain grapes and snack mixes that contain raisins and toxic nuts like macadamias should be kept out of reach of our pets. Any fruits with pits should be either avoided (see “Foreign bodies” above) or carefully picked up. Things like ice cream and chocolate should also be kept away from pets. Large amounts of chocolate could lead to serious issues besides just an upset tummy (things like irregular heart rhythms, seizures, difficulty breathing) and, although most dogs tolerate dairy products, some are lactose intolerant (almost all cats are lactose intolerant as adults).

Heatstroke and burns

Pets (dogs particularly) may stay close to the barbecue even if it is out in the sun to be close to potential scraps. These guys don’t have the option to take off their coats, so make sure that plenty of water (with a few ice cubes is nice) is available and also make sure your pets have access to inside or the shade. Also remember that those grills can remain quite hot (especially charcoal grills) long after the barbecue is over, so make sure your pets do not have access to that area when no one is actually either grilling or monitoring that area. So, have fun in the sun and LIGHT THOSE GRILLS!!!! Just make sure our pets are not too close when you do.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and their dog Jasmine.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

The weather is warming up and the days are getting longer. This can only mean one thing: kittens, kittens, kittens and more kittens! All these kittens need homes, but care should be taken in introducing them to your home if you have other cats. The two most common diseases that we worry about before introducing cats to our households are the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Just to be clear: These viruses are no risk to humans — these viruses are species specific, cat to cat only (even dogs are safe). However, healthy looking kittens could be carrying (and potentially infecting other cats) with these viruses. Also, the prevalence of these viruses is low (both less than 10 percent in multiple studies) in kittens adopted from shelters and rescues.

FeLV and FIV are in a family of viruses called Retroviridae, or retroviruses. All retroviruses have the unique ability to incorporate themselves into the DNA of normal cells. This means once infected, always infected, and the diseases these viruses cause in cats are always fatal. FeLV causes leukemia and other forms of cancer (e.g., lymphoma) as well as suppresses the immune system.

FIV is similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in that the virus over time destroys the immune system and the most benign infections eventually become lethal. To compound the problem a kitten or cat may be positive for infection and negative for any symptoms for months or even years.

The nice thing about the tests that are available are that they are point of care tests, or tests that can be run at the shelter/rescue/animal hospital and have results within less than 15 minutes, as well as these tests also rely on antibodies against these viruses.

Kittens that are infected with FeLV or FIV will produce antibodies and test positive long before they start showing signs of disease. The flip side of this equation is there is a lag time between when the kitten was infected and when they produce enough antibodies to produce a positive on the test.

It takes about four weeks after infection to test positive on the test for FeLV and could take three to four months to test positive after infection for FIV. Most kittens are adopted between eight to 10 weeks of age so there is a window where a healthy-looking kitten could be carrying the virus.

Someday we will have effective medications to cure these diseases but, for now, we don’t. The best thing we have is testing and, if positive, isolating the kittens that are positive to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Make sure that before introducing a new kitten to your household, there is proof that he has been tested. If testing was not done (even if the mother or littermates tested negative), I recommend testing each individual kitten through your own veterinarian before introducing the kitten to your other cats.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

“My dog ate three grapes (or raisins). Should I be worried?” We get a phone call like this at least once every week to every other week. That’s a good question because we, as a veterinary community, are still looking for the exact answer. Let’s take a closer look at grape and raisin toxicity to see if we can shed some light on what we do know about this nebulous topic.

What portion of the grape or raisin is toxic? Unfortunately, the exact toxic substance to dogs in grapes and raisins is still unknown. Neither the color of the grape, nor seeded versus seedless makes a difference. As a matter of fact, the one portion of the grape that has been ruled out as a cause of kidney damage is the seed or grape seed extract.

Theories arise as to which component of the grape is toxic. Some experts feel that high concentration of a type of sugar component called monosaccharides, whereas others blame a compound called tannins.

Additional theories do not implicate anything in the grape itself, but rather the growth of certain fungi on the grape and toxins produced called aflatoxins, or pesticides sprayed on grapes. More recent evidence points toward something in the meaty portion of the grape or raisin because veterinary toxicologists found that raisins that have been cooked (in cookies, breads, cakes, etc.) are less toxic than grapes or uncooked raisins.

How much is too much? This answer is also unclear. There does seem to be a genetic component associated with which individual dogs are more sensitive to grapes or raisins.

An article published in 2009 reviewed the charts of almost 200 dogs over a 13-year period. The study found some dogs ate over two pounds of raisins without developing any signs of poisoning, whereas others developed irreversible kidney failure with as little as 3 grams of grapes or raisins.

Just to give you some perspective as to how much 3 grams is: Your average grape weighs 5 grams, and a raisin weighs about 0.5 gram. As little as one grape or six raisins could be toxic to your dog. However, some dogs will not get sick or require large amounts of grapes/raisins before any damage is done.

Is there an antidote to this type of poisoning? The short answer is no. This is truly an example of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The patients that did better in the same 2009 study were those in which the owners witnessed the ingestion and brought them to a veterinary clinic immediately. The veterinarians were able to induce emesis (force vomiting) and give activated charcoal ASAP. Patients that were already showing symptoms of toxicity such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and increase in thirst/urination were less likely to make a full recovery.

In conclusion, veterinarians are still not sure as to what portion of the grape/raisin is poisonous, nor which dogs are more sensitive to grapes/raisins. Therefore, keep grapes and raisins away from your dog when possible and, if you witness your dog eating grapes or raisins, bring him or her immediately to your veterinarian’s office or an emergency clinic for treatment.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Spring has sprung and as I look at my waistline it is obvious I put on a few extra pounds during the winter months. Fighting obesity is a year-round battle in both people and pets. The questions arise however: Are there factors predisposing pets to obesity? If so, what are they?


Studies have shown that certain canine breeds such as cairn terriers, West Highland terriers, Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, basset hounds, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, dachshunds, beagles, cocker spaniels and Labrador retrievers all are predisposed to obesity. Conversely, site hounds (greyhounds, Italian greyhounds, whippets, Afghan hounds, etc.) seem to be more resistant to obesity.

Feline breeds including the domestic short hair, domestic medium hair, domestic long hair and Manx breeds are predisposed to obesity. Unfortunately, it is estimated that regardless of breed, approximately 25 percent of all cats owned in the U.S. are obese.


This one is kind of self-explanatory. Dogs and cats that are more active or are encouraged to exercise have less problems with obesity. It is important to differentiate between consistent, low-impact exercise versus trying to lose all the weight in one day. We don’t want to predispose our pets to heat stroke or orthopedic injuries.


In both cats and dogs the loss of certain hormones associated with the reproductive system will affect metabolism. Through studies it is estimated that the calorie requirements drop by about 25 percent after a spay or neuter.

Ironically, all of the feeding recommendations on the cans and bags of dog/cat food are by an association called AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). The AAFCO recommendations are based on studies on intact dogs and cats (dogs and cats that were never spayed or neutered).

I could see that if one follows those recommendations one would be going to the store more often to buy more food. Unfortunately, that also means that we are overfeeding our pets. Therefore, the recommendation at our clinic is to decrease the amount of food by approximately 25 percent (from what is recommended on the packaging) after your dog or cat is spayed or neutered.


As dogs and cats age their calorie requirements drop. In your average sized dog it is estimated that its overall calorie requirements drop by approximately 20 percent past age 7. Although I could not find similar data in cats, I would say from experience the same is true for them. There are some dogs and cats that are more active and may need more calories, but this is something to be taken on a case-by-case basis.


This topic is easy. Cheaper brands tend to use lower quality proteins and carbohydrates that predispose to obesity. If possible, spend a little more now on a higher quality diet and it will pay off in the long run. I hope this information helps us to win the battle on obesity and improve the quality of life for our pets.

Thanks for reading, Dr. Matt.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

Mice are very efficient transmitters of Lyme disease, infecting about 95 percent of ticks that feed on them.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I was listening to the radio and a segment was introduced as “How a Mouse Plague Is a Forbidding Forecast for Lyme Disease in the Northeast,” predicting 2017 as a particularly risky year for Lyme disease. I had always focused on how close deer came to a dog owner’s property when discussing the risk of Lyme disease. I realize now that I must also ask about mice.

I decided I need to do some more investigating myself. I started with a little coffee, a doughnut, and started pounding the streets (I pictured myself as a regular “Magnum PI”). OK, back to reality. Coffee yes. Anyone whose seen my waistline would say, “doughnut NO!” Lastly, I only pounded the streets of Bing, Google and the Veterinary Information Network.

The first stage of my investigation was to refamiliarize myself with the life cycle of the deer tick. I learned that there are four stages: egg, larvae, nymph (young adult) and adult. The larval stage is the first stage to feed, so they do not have Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) but can acquire it during their first feeding. The adult stage of the tick prefers deer; however, the larval and nymph stages prefer smaller mammals such as dogs, cats, possums and, most importantly, mice.

Another fun fact I learned is that although other mammals, such as possums, will regularly groom off or kill the ticks on them, mice tolerate these ticks on their bodies. It is estimated that a white-footed mouse can have anywhere from 10 to 50 ticks on its face and ears at a time, and mice are very efficient transmitters of Lyme disease (they infect about 95 percent of ticks that feed on them).

Once the larval and nymph stages have fed (and possibly ingested Lyme disease at the same time), it is off to another host. The next stage of my investigation was to find out why there is an upsurge in the mouse population. Was it weather related? Other environmental factors? Actually it had most to do with a downtick in the population of the natural predators of mice. Many call it “Suburban Sprawl.”

Hawks, foxes and owls are the natural predators of the white-footed mouse and these predators need large forests to survive. Today we have more of a fragmented landscape — plenty of smaller forests that are broken up by small farms, housing developments and roads. Mice are prolific at making babies and actually thrive in these environments. Unlike deer, mice will come right up to (and sometimes into) our homes with all these ticks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about 30,000 cases of human Lyme disease annually, but many experts feel that number is not accurate and that there could be as many as 10 times that amount. I would say it is safe to assume that the risk is just as high, if not higher, for dogs. There is no Lyme vaccine currently available for humans, but there has been a safe and effective vaccine for dogs on the market for decades. Please be aware that the canine Lyme vaccine has to be a series of two vaccines three weeks apart, and then once annually to be effective.

So, if you didn’t finish the initial series, or there has been more than a year gap since your dog received the vaccine, please make an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP. I would recommend a discussion about flea and tick preventatives at that same visit.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I can’t even recall how many times a feline with a runny nose enters my clinic. A kitten is a little more straightforward as an infection is most likely the cause.But what happens when an adult cat presents? What if this cat is the only cat in the household? What if the cat never goes outside? This is when it gets interesting (and sometimes a touch frustrating).

The most common infection associated with a chronic upper respiratory infection is a combination of a herpes and calicivirus. Feline herpesvirus is similar to the human herpesvirus in that it never leaves the host and becomes active during times of stress and illness. The stress of pregnancy, labor and delivery causes the mother cat to start shedding virus.

The kittens are exposed to the virus either when passing through the birth canal or shortly after birth during grooming by the mother. If infected as a kitten, the cat can be predisposed to infections throughout its lifetime. Not only does the herpesvirus make the cat feel ill, but it also allows opportunistic bacterial infections to set in and then you have a real mess.

In addition, these cats shed the virus, increasing the risk of infecting other cats. Luckily, two of the components of the feline distemper vaccine (FVRCP vaccine) are a feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. The vaccine contains killed or weakened virus and is designed to stimulate the immune system without causing disease or illness. If your cat goes outside or is in contact with a cat that goes outside, make sure to see your veterinarian every year to update this vaccine.

If infected by the virus as a kitten, a cat can be predisposed to infections throughout its lifetime.

Other causes of the feline upper respiratory syndrome include nasal foreign bodies (grass blades or other plant material), fungal infections (more common in cats adopted from the South or Southwest), tumors (benign polyps or cancer of the nasal passages), allergies or tooth root abscesses.

When a feline patient presents with symptoms of an upper respiratory problem the big question is, “how do we veterinarians determine what is causing the symptoms?” The character of the discharge (if there is one) holds significant clues. If the discharge is serous (clear and watery), it is more likely an allergy or early viral. If it is purulent (thick and green), it is more likely some sort of bacterial infection.

As briefly discussed earlier, a bacterial infection is usually secondary to some other primary disease process, which means that we need to keep searching for the primary cause. Sometimes we veterinarians can look in the mouth and actually see a rotten tooth or a mass/tumor, but many times it’s just not that easy. Blood work and X-rays help but are rarely diagnostic. X-rays are usually of other body cavities initially (such as the chest or abdominal cavities) because the skull and sinuses require anesthesia.

If the patient is anesthetized, we will usually look behind the soft palate with special instruments and mirrors and flush the sinuses with saline. This is also helpful but not always diagnostic.

A study at the University of Missouri Veterinary School reviewed the charts of cats with chronic nasal discharge. Results from this study revealed a diagnosis was only achieved 36 percent of the time. The University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center has not only the very best veterinarians available to them but also advanced diagnostics such as CT, MRI, rhinoscopy (a camera you can stick up the sinuses), biopsies etc. Ughhhh!!!

In conclusion, if your cat does develop signs of an upper respiratory infection, hopefully it resolves quickly with medication. If not, don’t get too frustrated with your veterinarian if an exact diagnosis is difficult to come by.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

February is National Pet Dental Health Month; so I wanted to write an article on swellings of the oral cavity in dogs and cats. Swellings of the oral cavity are relatively common in dogs and cats. Some are tumors, some are not. Some are malignant, some are not. A fair number of cases of oral swellings are actually related to inflammation and not a tumor at all. Unfortunately, if these swellings are tumors, the majority of these tumors are malignant. This is why early diagnosis and treatment is so important.

How do we keep an eye on these things? Most veterinary oral surgeons recommend brushing your pet’s teeth daily, but I have not always found this approach feasible, even with my own pets. I think checking our pet’s mouths once weekly or as often as one can remember is more reasonable. Please bring any new swellings or masses in your pet’s mouth to your veterinarian’s attention right away. The “wait and see” approach is not recommended.

If I or any of my colleagues suspect a tumor, surgical excision and biopsy are recommended; however, certain pre-surgical testing is very important. Chest X-rays are recommended in all cases even though the rate of metastasis, or spread to other organ systems, in oral tumors is low. Chest X-rays can usually be performed without any sedation or anesthesia and, if evidence of metastasis is present, I recommend a discussion with the pet owner before proceeding with surgery/biopsy.

Wouldn’t it be great if our pets brushed their own teeth?

Also, if lymph nodes are enlarged, they should either be tested before surgery or removed and biopsied at the time of surgery to differentiate between secondary inflammation or metastasis. Preoperative blood work rules out other concurrent disease such as organ dysfunction to determine a patient’s risk of anesthesia more than it evaluates the tumor.

Oral swellings of the maxilla (upper portion of the jaw connected to the sinuses) suspected to be tumors should have either a CT (CAT-SCAN) or skull X-rays to see if there is invasion of the tumor into the bone of the skull. CT and skull X-rays require anesthesia so these are scheduled the same day as surgery.

Depending on the location of the tumor, surgical excision can be curative. The down side is that a “wide excision” is necessary. This means a large amount of tissue (both the tumor itself and a fair amount of healthy tissue around it) is necessary to ensure complete removal.

If a wide resection is not possible due to location, follow-up radiation therapy can be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation alone is only potentially curative in benign, or noncancerous, oral tumors. Chemotherapy is also sometimes used after surgery for cancerous oral tumors with either confirmed metastasis before surgery or a high metastatic potential based on biopsy.

Much of what we veterinarians recommend is not only based on location and suspicion of metastasis but also age and pre-existing disease. Whether or not to pursue testing and treatment is always up to you (as the owner) but diligent monitoring and prompt intervention should be discussed earlier rather than later.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

It’s 2017 and time to start our New Year’s Resolutions!! We all know the struggle with the battle of the bulge. We all want to look and feel good. We all know that regular exercise and diet is the key to a long, healthy life. Well, our thinking in that regard should extend to our four-legged friends. Obesity in this country is as big a problem in dogs and cats as it is in ourselves.

Obesity in our pets is more a concern of long-term health rather than self-esteem. Although we do not worry about coronary artery disease in pets, there are plenty of diseases that are directly linked to obesity as well as certain diseases that obesity will exacerbate.

There has been a proven link between overfeeding young dogs and growth abnormalities. In one study scientists were able to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia by 25 percent just by feeding one group of dogs less calories than another. We are not talking about starving dogs, just not overfeeding. All growth abnormalities will lead to an early onset of arthritis. Additionally, the added weight is a burden on already arthritic bones and joints in older pets.

Dog breeds such as pugs, Boston terriers, shih tzus, Lhasa apso, English bulldogs and Pekingese and cat breeds such as Persians, etc. (brachycephalic breeds or breeds with flat faces) are predisposed to breathing problems because of their anatomy, but obesity will exacerbate the respiratory problem. Severe obesity in any breed will lead to respiratory problems in any pedigree or mixed breed.

Certain conditions have been directly related to obesity. Hepatic lipidosis or “fatty liver disease” is a pathologic condition that can lead to severe liver problems and in some cases liver failure and death in cats, but severe obesity can lead to liver disease in both dogs and cats.

Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is a serious (sometimes life-threatening disease in dogs and cats) that is a risk with obesity. There is also a higher incidence of diabetes in obese dogs and cats. Thus is believed to be related not only to damage to the pancreas but also insulin resistance (as in humans). Although obesity does not directly effect the heart, obesity in a pet that has a pre-existing heart condition will hasten the progression to heart failure.

How do we prevent obesity in our pets? Same as ourselves: Eat less, exercise more. Before radically reducing your pet’s food intake, it would be better to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog or cat examined. This way both you and your veterinarian can identify obesity and make sure there is no underlying disease.

Some older pets will suffer from obesity from arthritis. It is not that they eat more but rather they exercise less because they are unable to move like they used to. Also an underactive thyroid and some other health disorders can lead to obesity.

There are medications available for many of the disorders that cause obesity, but they have to be diagnosed first. Also realize that spayed or neutered pets will gain weight if you do not monitor their food intake. Just because your pet was spayed or neutered does not mean that they will automatically become obese but they may be more at risk.

If your veterinarian feels that your pet is healthy then you can identify obesity and set realistic goals. Eliminating all the extras (table scraps, extra cookies, treats, rawhides, pig’s ears, etc) are a good start. These are all empty calories. If that is not working then you may need to cut back on the amount of calories from dog or cat food your pet receives. Either feed your pet less or consider one of the special weight reducing diet. These diets are available both commercially and through your veterinarian.

Exercise is both physically and mentally healthy for our pets as well as ourselves. Controlled exercise (short walks at first) not only burns calories but enhances the bond between our pets and ourselves. I know I could use the walks more than my dog.

For cats (especially indoor only cats) there are toys that you can play with them. Make sure these toys are not made of material that could be chewed off and potentially form an obstruction or if they do fray throw them away before they do become a problem. I used to tie a piece of string to my belt loop just to get my fat cat to chase me while I cleaned my apartment.

So, remember to have your pets eat right and exercise. That is the best way to keep them happy and healthy in the New Year.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I recently saw an article in Forbes Magazine entitled, “Be Cautious Buying Drugs for Your Pet Online.” While many internet pharmacies are legitimate, there are also many that are not.

Illegal internet pharmacies have become such a problem that there is an annual international operation called Operation Pangea to try to tackle the sale of illegal and illicit medications. Pangea refers to a hypothetical land mass that included all continents before they separated. Operation Pangea includes help from over 100 countries, over 200 agencies, and targeted over 4,000 internet pharmacies worldwide.

dr-kearns-1The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) estimates that a large percentage of internet pharmacies are not in compliance with federal and state laws, or NABP safety and pharmacy practice standards. Some carry outdated, counterfeit, mislabeled or incorrect drug dosages. Others buy in such bulk (in order to offer discounted prices) that they are not able to store medications in appropriate environments. Rather, they are stored in conditions that are too hot, cold or humid. Many illegal online pharmacies can also put us at risk for credit card fraud or identity theft.

So how does one find safe medications for our pets? The FDA has come up with the acronym AWARE to protect us and our pets in the world of online pharmacies.

A — Ask your veterinarian.

W — Watch for red flags such as the medication does not require a veterinarian’s prescription, the pharmacy does not list its physical address, phone number or contact information, the pharmacy is not based in the U.S., the pharmacy is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy in the state in which it does business, the pharmacy does not protect your personal information, and the pharmacy has medications at significantly lower prices than your veterinarian. These are all red flags that should make one very wary.

A — Always check accreditation. The NABP has created a voluntary accreditation program called Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, or Vet-VIPPS for short.

R — Report problems and suspicious online pet pharmacies to the FDA.

E — Educate yourself about online pharmacies. The best defense against an illegal pet online pharmacy is education.

I know it sounds self-serving but most veterinary hospitals will make every attempt to match reputable internet pharmacy prices and, in some cases, beat those prices. There are also rebates only available to veterinary practices that we can pass along to you. More importantly, veterinarians can ensure that medications we dispense are inspected and approved by the FDA and packaged and manufactured according to U.S. government regulations. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will only honor products that are prescribed by and purchased from the pet’s veterinarian.

Everyone remembers the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I think it is a better idea to purchase medications directly from your veterinarian. However, if you do not, be AWARE.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Halloween is a fun time of dressing up in costumes and getting a whole bunch of free candy. I’ve even taken to dressing up Jasmine, our Labrador retriever, in new costumes every year. Here are a few tips to make sure this and every Halloween is a safe and happy one for your pets.

Candy and chocolate poisoning

Chocolate is more poisonous to pets than any other candy.
Chocolate is more poisonous to pets than any other candy.

Chocolate is dangerous for two reasons. First, it contains the chemicals caffeine and theobromine. Both of these are stimulants in the methylxanthine class. Halloween is one of the few times a large bowl of candies, many containing chocolate, would be left out. Signs usually begin within 6 to 12 hours after ingestion and include panting, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination. Severe cases lead to irregular heart rhythms, seizures, coma and death. Second, chocolate is very high in sugar and fat. Most cases will only give your pet a tummy ache. However, I have personally seen a few cases of serious gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea), pancreatitis and liver disease from ingestion of large amounts of chocolate and other candy.

Stomach and intestinal obstructions

Dogs and cats (especially young ones) are more likely to eat a costume than wear it. I have both seen and heard from colleagues pulling out portions of a witch’s nose, small scarecrow teddy bears, etc. Anything with stringy attachments or tinsel are potential obstructions for cats. Candy wrappers and packaging can become wadded up in the stomach or small intestines. Any of these items will cause intense pain and vomiting or avoidable (and expensive) surgery. As much as we want to make ourselves or the house look scary, please make sure to keep all things out of reach of curious pets.

Fears and phobias

Consult with your veterinarian if your pet is afraid of loud noises or many people coming to the door. There are a few cases where we have instituted anti-anxiety medications weeks before Halloween. However, many times a mild tranquilizer is all that is needed for the single holiday. Always have your pet examined by the veterinarian (especially older pets) before administering these medications.

Malicious injuries

Make sure your pets (especially with cats that go outside) are in for the night early. Unfortunately, we do see malicious acts toward animals increase on this particular holiday. I hope this information is helpful in providing a safe Halloween environment for our pets.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office.