Porcupines are the 3rd largest rodent in America, second only to the beaver. Porcupines can be active during the day or night. They can be found lumbering on the ground and perched high in trees – searching for leafy forage. They are slow moving herbivores with few natural predators. Cougars and fisher weasels are the only ones are known to regularly prey on porcupines. If a threat gets too close a porcupine may spin around and swing its tail at a predator. If this doesn’t do the trick, they may start to lunge backwards at the aggressor.
North American porcupines have three types of hair on their bodies. Underfur, which is short and soft. Guards hairs that give porcupines their cute fluffy appearance. Then, the infamous quills – which can be over 12 inches long. Painful going in, but the quills can be even more painful when coming out. This is due to the barbs on the tips of the quills. These tiny barbs help the quills stay fixed in flesh and drive them deeper with every movement. These barbs also render the quills four times harder to pull out once embedded.
Sticky situation. The tiny barbs (top) coating the tips of the quills from North American porcupines (bottom) make it more difficult to extract a quill from flesh, but they also help the quill penetrate the fleshAs the weather warms up and more of our pets are out and about, encounters with these prickly creatures tend to increase. If your dog or other pet has been a victim of a porcupine you should consider having a veterinarian remove the quills.
Only remove the quills if there are less than 10 and are not embedded in the mouth, throat or eyes. Be mindful that the quills can be brittle and break off still within the flesh. Due to the discomfort caused by the barbs during removal, even the sweetest dog can bite. Do not attempt to muzzle your dog – there may be quills within the mouth or airway. Another factor to consider is, quill removal may be traumatizing for some pets. If you attempt to remove quills on your own only to find Fido is not having any part of this- they can be more anxious when they come to the vet.
When you’ve discovered your pet has had an encounter with a porcupine bring them to the vet immediately. Frequently quills can penetrate through the eyelids and into the eye. If your pet attempted to bite the porcupine, quills can also be found in the gums, tongue and down the throat – which can obstruct breathing. The paws will likely have quills in them as your pet attempted to remove the quills in their face.
When they arrive at our hospital we will sedate or possibly anesthetize them and remove the quills. Sedation is required to make sure your pet is not experiencing pain during the procedure. This also allows us to completely check over the entire body and within the mouth. Despite all efforts, there is still a small chance a quill tip could be embedded below the surface of the skin. Over the next few weeks continue to monitor your pet far any signs of pain, areas of redness or swelling. A small portion of a quill may need to be removed and your pet possibly require antibiotics.
Do not assume that your pet has “learned their lesson” after a porcupine encounter. Many dogs will be treated for porcupine quills more than one time. Porcupines are solitary creatures that live in rocky dens or in trees. If an encounter occurred at your home – check under decks, crawl spaces or downed logs, these may be areas for a den. Keep your pet on a leash if not under voice command if you are in known porcupine territories. Minimizing encounters is the best way to protect your pet from the pain of quill removal. Porcupines are not aggressive and would much rather saunter up a tree to eat some leaves, not have a standoff with your dog.
The Easter holiday brings us Easter egg hunts, family, sunny spring days, and Easter lilies. The later of these joys can have a dark side. Potential fatal lilies are true lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species. Examples of some of these dangerous lilies include the tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Japanese Show, stargazer and Western lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats! One of the most popular of these true lilies would be the Easter lily.
Easter lilies may be beautiful to look at but they can be a serious hazard to your pet. Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure. If your cat has ingested any part of the lily and they do not receive medical attention immediately, it can become fatal in as little as three days.
What are the signs of lily toxicity?
- Vomiting (watch for pieces of plant in the vomit)
- Decreased appetite
- Increase in urination, followed by lack of urination after 1-2 days
How do I prevent my cat from becoming ill?
If possible, do not have lilies in your home, not even as cut flowers. If you do have lilies in your house – make sure your cat cannot reach them and inform everyone in your household of the dangers lilies pose to sweet little Mittens.
My cat may have eaten some lily leaves – what do I do?
- Immediately bring your cat and the lily to your veterinarian.
- There are other species of lilies, peace and calla lilies for example, that are less toxic. However, these species can still make your pet very ill. Proper identification of the lily can help your veterinarian select a treatment plan.
- If your cat has recently ingested the plant material, and has not vomited, your veterinarian will induce vomiting. Activated charcoal will be given orally to absorb any toxin that may remain in the gut.
- The key to survival is high volumes of IV fluids – usually for 24-48 hours.
- During this time monitoring of your pet’s kidney values and urine output will be monitored.
- If treatment is successful, there are no reported long-term consequences. It’s still a good idea to monitor for any changes in urination for a time after exposure.
Be especially vigilant during the Easter season. Easter lilies may smell lovely, but they can be lethal beauties.
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Brrrr! It’s cold outside! We wanted to be sure to warn of the danger warm vehicle engines can pose to cats that spend time outdoors in the winter.
As temperatures plunge this winter, cats that spend time outdoors will search for any warm place they can find. One particularly attractive site for many of these cats is the warm engine of your car. This can be a particularly dangerous place for a cat to curl up, since they can be severely injured or killed when the engine is started. Help keep your own and your neighborhood cats safe with these tips:
Keep your cat indoors
The best advice we can offer regarding your own cat is to simply to keep him indoors during the winter. This would prevent access to warm engines, with the added benefit of avoiding other dangers, including exposure, predators, moving vehicles, or injuries or disease transmission from other cats. Here are some helpful hints for keeping your cat happy indoors!
Check on your cat before taking any trips
Finding and checking on your cat before leaving is a good way to make sure they are not in your own vehicle before you leave (or anyone else’s vehicle, too!).
Give any cats that might be hiding under your car a warning
Even with your own cat safely inside, neighborhood and feral cats could still be hiding under your car. We suggest that you pound on your hood, slam the car door, or even sound your horn before you start the engine. Make sure you give them plenty of time to wiggle out of their hiding spot before you start that engine.
It’s always a great idea to take a quick look under the car to make sure no one visible under the car. You never know, you may even find a leak or notice that low tire, too!
Let’s keep everyone safe out there!