Creature comforts

The treadmill originally was developed as a form of corporal punishment used to keep prisoners in-line, exhausted and, as an added bonus, to actually mill grain – I am not making this up.

I was the excited recipient of my parents’ used treadmill last winter. Being an avid bicyclist and dog walker, and having been known to don some ridiculous outfits to protect me from temperature extremes outdoors before embarking on a dog walk or bike ride, it seems comical that I should have anything to do with a treadmill. Knowing its origins as an actual device of torture, one might ask why any self-respecting, outdoors-loving adult would deign to use such a boring and tedious contrivance to get exercise?

Ice. Frankly, I am not a big fan of falling down, and I’ve had some injurious falls due to black ice in my past. A broken tailbone and cracked ribs are painful enough to be strong deterrents to venturing outside for exercise when there is any danger of slipping on ice. Call me wimpy, I’m OK with that.

So, naturally, I hurt my heel jogging on the treadmill. And no, I did not trip or perform a spectacular, YouTube-worthy fall off the treadmill, I simply was jogging at a moderate pace. I didn’t even have the thing set on an incline.

The pain started as a dull ache at the beginning of my workout, but I kept going, trying to ignore it. After a mile or so, the pain in my heel seemed to feel a little better, so I was convinced it was nothing. But, it began to return, and after 3.5 miles, I could ignore it no longer. Stepping off the treadmill, I barely was able to walk.

This was no small, tweaky muscle thing that I’d experienced many times before. It was very painful, and I felt very dumb for having tried to “push past” this one. Now, I looked like Igor hobbling around Dr. Frankenstein’s lab whenever I tried to walk even short distances, much less trying to make it through a full day of seeing appointments or doing surgery at work.

I did not know what I had injured – I only knew that it hurt like the dickens. I figured it was a soft-tissue thing, probably from over-use, and reasoned that if I rested it up, used ice, took anti-inflammatory medicine, all would be copacetic in no time.

I was feeling anxious about not keeping up with my exercise regime – it had taken months of hard work to get to where I was when I had to stop running altogether. I could barely hobble around, so even walking was out of the question. However, the most serious anxiety-laced question loomed – how was I going to continue with my regular consumption of ice cream and hamburgers if I didn’t keep up with my daily calorie burn?! Being healthy, pursuing fitness ideals, yadda, yadda – being able to eat what I want and still fit into my jeans is the real motivator. What if this were more than just a muscle or tendon pull? What if it turned out to be something really serious?

My Google search of diagrams of the anatomy of the human ankle and some perusing of sites that described my symptoms and treatment for associated injuries helped a little to allay my fears that I had done something awful or permanent to my heel. It did not, however, allay my pain, which continued for almost three weeks before I called the doctor and arranged an appointment.

When pets are ill or injured, their owners feel anxiety, too. After all, pets are becoming more and more like family members these days. It’s rough to see your faithful companion hobbling around on three legs or your normally snuggly cat spending its days hiding under the bed and refusing to eat.

While many minor maladies go away on their own, if they don’t, it’s important to take action. And by “take action” I don’t mean spending hours Googling your pet’s symptoms. There’s a T-shirt for sale online that reads, “Don’t confuse your Google search with my veterinary degree.” Snarky, yes, but it must be said.

The internet has had two effects on my clientele. It has been an invaluable tool for educating owners on the diagnosed illnesses of their pets, and has helped them understand more about the diseases and their treatments. On the flip side, the internet also has caused many owners to delay seeking veterinary care for their pets.

In lieu of seeing a professional’s help face-to-face, many owners have trusted faceless, sometimes nameless strangers online. By the time we see their ailing animals, things often have spiraled out of control. Getting their pets’ ailments diagnosed and treated becomes frustratingly more complicated and more costly than it would have been if they had been in sooner.

Folks, nothing substitutes for an actual hands-on visit with the veterinarian. A thorough physical examination combined with your historical account of your pet’s symptoms brings your pet that much closer to a diagnosis and proper treatment. Hearing, “The internet said I could give this (medicine, supplement, herb, magic cure-all)” often is anxiety-inducing to the veterinarian, since some of these things actually are remarkably harmful and may interfere with the treatments we may wish to prescribe, delaying proper care further.

So, back to me, because, after all, this piece is all about ME. After my physical examination, my doctor diagnosed a tendon pull from overuse, and prescribed (in addition to the ice, rest and anti-inflammatories) physical therapy. The result? My anxieties over the uncertain future of the pursuit of my semi-athletic endeavors were relieved almost immediately. The heel pain took a bit longer to be relieved.

After only two sessions with the physical therapists and dutifully performing the prescribed exercises at home, I was walking almost normally. Within a month (yes, a month) I was pretty much back to normal. Thanks to my fantastic physical therapists at the Costello Center (ladies, you rock!) I’m feeling good as new.

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at life@

Creature Comforts

All the dogs in my family (immediate and extended) have gotten into various snacks, treats, and other edible, but unsanctioned foods that have fallen to the floor accidentally, or been left unattended within reach. This includes garbage, fresh … not so fresh … or worse.

“Within reach” is an interesting concept for some pet owners, by the way. It sometimes comes as an unpleasant surprise to discover how very agile and resourceful pets can be when a much-coveted, potentially delicious prize is in the vicinity. Heavy plastic bottles, childproof caps, or closed cabinet doors are all far from foolproof with a determined pet around. Gift wrapped food items are no challenge to the determined canine – especially if said gift happens to be chocolate and the dog is a dachshund.

Even the cats have sampled food off unattended plates or sampled beverages that are not intended for them, particularly in their curious kitten phases of life.

Below is an incomplete list of unsanctioned stuff my pets (and those of my extended family) have eaten. Some items on the list are more dangerous than others. Fortunately, all incidents resulted in happy outcomes, despite some serious concerns.

Tigger (Lakeland terrier): Balloons (popped first).

Ashley (Golden Retriever): Deer (and other animal) carcasses encountered on walks in the woods, cat toys, Christmas ornaments, crayons.

Sydney (Aunt Adelaide’s Australian terrier): a sewing needle.

Ramona (Newfoundland mix): Used chewing gum, a lap desk, cigarette butts, 1/2 lb. semisweet chocolate, half a dozen doughnuts, a spider, the top half of a fried bologna sandwich, a whole KFC drumstick (bone included), a whole loaf of freshly-baked bread, poo (all kinds).

Russell (Beagle mix): His dog bed, mustard, paper towels, salsa, dryer sheets, partially chewed rawhides as much food as he could consume in 10 minutes from his (left open by accident) dog food bin.

Wyatt (XL domestic shorthair cat): Various house plants and flowers, insects, orange juice, beer.

Virgil (Wyatt’s brother): Plants, insects, rubber bands, jigsaw puzzle pieces (edible, but very ANNOYING).

Miriam (dachshund): Nerf darts, underpants, poo (any variety available), rabbits, several tubes of Chapstick, a dead, frozen possum under the deck, moldy bread on the sidewalk, used tissues.

Walter (dachshund): An entire stick of butter, the WHOLE enchilada, complete slices of pizza, gum, candy (some chocolate), an entire container of turtle food, a tube of hand lotion, coffee, an attempt to swallow a whole meatball without chewing it.

Shultz (dachshund): Chocolate, cough drops, chocolate, dry noodles, boxed chicken broth, dry oatmeal, lunchbox and backpack leftovers (via the holes he created in more than one lunchbox or backpack), one capsule of a prescription heart medication found under a bed during a nursing home visit.

Kevin (dachshund): All of my potted oregano (not harmful, but geez!) Mysterious plum-like fruit from the exotic tree in the backyard (not toxic, apparently), sticks, bread dough.

Sherman (my sister’s Labrador Retriever): An entire can of Slimfast chocolate shake mix, 36 full-size fundraiser chocolate bars (with wrappers), an entire box of All Bran cereal, half a jar of peanut butter (chewing the jar open for easy no-thumbs-needed access), 72/96 Oreo cookies (because, my sister pointed out, eating all 96 would have been “piggish”).

Sherman and Georgia (my sister’s Rottweiler mix): 100 rimadyl tablets.

Gunther (my sister’s Labradoodle): Purportedly 100+ pairs of underpants (unverified).

Which brings us to our latest adventure in unsanctioned ingesta amongst our family pets.

Phoebe (my sister’s 6-month-old St. Bernard mix puppy): Socks, a bowl of grapes, more socks.

What could seem more innocuous than a fresh, sweet, delicious bunch of grapes? A healthy, low-fat, low calorie snack, right? In that vein, a lot of people have reported that they have given grapes to dogs as yummy treats, and have not noticed any untoward after-effects. As a public service warning, however, we veterinarians strongly advise against feeding grapes, raisins, and also currants to dogs.

While the toxic principle is still unknown, the ingestion of grapes by dogs can have serious and even deadly consequences in the form of acute renal failure (ARF). Symptoms may appear as soon as an hour or two after ingestion, usually beginning with vomiting, but may not appear for 24-72 hours or more, once the kidneys abruptly shut down and fail. Acute renal failure patients exhibit poor appetite, vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, increased thirst, increased urine volume, followed by decreased to no urine produced (in the critical stages of the disease.) Grape and raisin toxicoses have been associated with calcification of the stomach lining, filtration units of the kidneys, heart lining and the pancreas with concurrent pancreatitis. Suffice it to say that none of those things are good.

Data collected on the topic has shown that any type of raisins or grapes, seeded or seedless, grocery store purchased or grown organically in the backyard, skins on or off, have the same effects on dogs that consume them. In some canine patients, the toxic dose may be as little as 0.32 ounces of grapes per kilogram of dog. This equates to about 3 ounces. of grapes (a little less than 1/3 cup of grapes) per 20 pound. dog. It is possible that some dogs may be more sensitive to the toxic effects than others, but who those dogs are remains a mystery.

Phoebe received prompt treatment for her grape-eating debacle. Under the direction of two veterinarians, (my sister knows a few) she induced vomiting, which helped evacuate Phoebe’s stomach and purge not only the undigested grapes, but also three socks. (A happy accident, to be sure!) Phoebe was taken to her local animal ER, received IV fluid therapy, medications, and multiple blood tests to monitor her progress. She is now home and doing well, thankfully having avoided both acute renal failure and an intestinal blockage. My sister’s family held an “Emergency Sock Meeting” to plan a strategy for prevention of unsanctioned ingestions. So far, her dogs win the prizes for “most prolific” and “most suicidal.” We’ll see how it goes.

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at