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Animals sense when something is wrong

Q: Songbirds began to sing outside my bedroom window around five minutes before an earthquake. I assume birds usually are sleeping in the middle of the night! I've never seen anything like it. I have heard of animals warning people about earthquakes. Have you received other reports like this?

A: Many readers have

e-mailed similar stories. I doubt that songbirds living outdoors were trying to warn people, however. It's more likely they sensed something was wrong and were communicating with each other. Do animals know an earthquake, tsunami or other natural event is about to occur? Or do they just sense something is amiss? No one knows for sure. I believe this is worth studying. It's interesting that birds, mammals and even reptiles seem to be able to telegraph natural events. If so, why can't people? Maybe we can but have turned off that sensory ability.

There is documentation that companion animals are often intent on finding ways to warn their people that something is about to happen. Are pet dogs, cats and parrots able to rationalize that warning people enhances their chances of surviving? Do we interpret their generalized expression of anxiety as a warning? Or are pets really concerned about our welfare? No one knows.

Asthma treatments

Q: I think my cat has asthma and my vet said to put the cat on steroids. However, I'm a pretty sharp granny, so I checked the Internet. I found what looks like equipment to treat people with asthma also being used for cats. How can I learn more about this? I figure if my veterinarian knew about this in the first place, I wouldn't be writing you.

A: My guess is you've found the Web site, www. This site was named for a cat with asthma who's doing great thanks to modern medicine. There's great information on the site, as well as videos demonstrating cats using inhalers similar to those used by people.

Dr. Phil Padrid of Chicago is one of the world experts on respiratory medicine for pets. He's also an associate professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Chicago. Padrid helped develop a technique that transformed an inhaler for people to be used for cats, employing an inhaled steroid. While cats are not nearly as impacted by steroid pills as people or dogs, it's still not the best option long term. The inhaled version of the steroid has far fewer potential side effects than steroid pills.

The inhalers are available at for about $55 (no prescription needed). With a prescription, the medication for the inhalers may be purchased through www.

Padrid cautions that you still need to work with a veterinarian to regulate dosage, and for frequent follow-ups.

Pills and pets

Q: I found my puppy eating a Motrin pill. It was half eaten when I took it away. Is this drug toxic to dogs?

A: Ibuprofen is dangerous to pets, especially cats. Typically, in a puppy, half a pill won't do any damage. However, several pills might. Dr. Steve Hansen, senior vice president of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill., says the biggest threat are the giant plastic pill bottles now available at superstores that seem to contain zillions of pills. These bottles may save money for consumers, but Hansen, a veterinary toxicologist, is worried about dogs getting into them. Dogs are sometimes attracted by the pills rattling around in a bottle, making it seem like a toy.

Send questions to Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or e-mail

Animals sense when something is wrong 05/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:39pm]
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