A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
Ever wonder what its like to share your world with a bunch of crazy critters? Tune in to find out!

Monday, March 31, 2014

End of March Snaps

Well - I tried to get at least one of each of the critters for my end of month wrap up - some of them were more cooperative than others....

Miss Violet - checking to make sure that soda is really, really empty


Phoebe - who wasn't in the mood for pictures today

Emma - who isn't in the mood for pictures any day







Theo - snoozing behind the TV cabinet

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Month in Review

Once again another month has whizzed by - time just goes too fast.

March was a good month for the pup - she had her 11th birthday, had a few play days and enjoyed lots of treats geared towards decreasing that pesky liver enzyme number.

The kitties are well - I am so happy and relieved to say that - its been a bit since I could say with affirmation that all four of them are well.  Aggie keeps going strong and the meds for my hyperthyroid babies are working like a charm.

The ferrets are full of life and energy and are such happy creatures - March was good for them as well. Clooney seems to be doing just great.  The younger ferrets took good care of me while I was under the weather this month.  It's hard to feel icky with them around!

All in all - March was a good critter month - no need for a vet visit for the first time in a while!  Woohoo! Here's to a warm up in the weather and a happy healthy April for my fur babies!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dr. Finn

March has been a bit of a tough health month for the zookeeper.  Early in the month I had some dental work done and then a couple weeks after I caught a cold - ugh.

Finn has been quite the resident physician while I have been working through ailments.  The day I came home from the dentist he started checking my mouth.  He pushes his little nose on my lips and makes me open and then he looks in there to make sure things pass his inspection.  He did this multiple times a day at first - now that things are healing - only a couple times a week.

Then I had a cold - for the first few days I steered clear of the ferrets as they can catch my germs.  When I was sure I was over being contagious and was interfacing with them again - Dr. Finn was back on the case. He has been checking out my nose with his nose.  The interesting thing is he knows which nostril was plugged up and was only interested in that side.  As I have gotten better he has decreased the frequency of these checks but they still happen a couple of times a week.

I have noticed in the past that he is very aware of and interested in any kind of small wound too - a scratch, blister, cut.  He smells them and checks them repeatedly.  He seems to be the only one who is like this.

Violet is the nurse maid if any of the other animals are ill and she did check on me from time to time while I was feeling bad.  Theo was very dedicated and quite concerned - especially when I cough - a noise he is not used to hearing - but there were no inspections associated with his concerns.  Not sure why Finn is so interested.  He is quite sweet and its hard to feel cruddy with a handsome ferret Dr. in charge of your care...

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Stories of the Day

Its been a crazy critter day - mostly thanks to Theo....

Exhibit A - Zoey got up on one of the kitchen chairs and knocked down a box of Keurig pods.  Theo decided these looked like fun to play with so he poked holes in a few of them with his teeth and proceeded to carry them all over the kitchen leaving lovely trails of cocoa, tea and coffee in his wake.  What a mess...

Exhibit B - I gathered up the garbage to go downstairs which of course woke my ornery Theo from a dead slumber.  I tied the bags up tight so he couldn't break in - no worries - he just ripped a hole in the side of the bag and proceeded to explore the bag.  Now he smells a bit like Chinese takeout.

I had a helper when I changed the bed - Phoebe decided to play in the covers so it was a bit of make and remake on each layer.

Violet tried to kill the vacuum hose while I cleaned up Theo's mess - she has no love for the hose.

Emma has been a perfect pup today - we have had play time and outside time and treats and there has been minimal barking and no scratching!

Its been a somewhat cloudy day today - overcast = snoozy critters.  Maddie, Finn and Clooney have spent the bulk of the day sacked out.  Same goes for Zoey, Aggie and Ollie.

Exhibit C - As I type this - Theo just plunged into the bedroom trash can.... it has the potential to be a long evening...I better sign off and go wear him out....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Aviary Wishlist

Wouldn't it be amazing to have a giant bird aviary?  I would love it.  I would want big birds though (not Big Bird the muppet but big birds).  I would love to have pelicans - they are one of my favorites.  How about some lovely blue herons and some flamingos - oh and maybe a spoonbill or two?  We could have some little birds too - some finches and some doves and some cardinals....and a cockatoo - I love cockatoos!

The reality is - I likely will never have a bird.  It's not practical or safe to have them with ferrets and they are noisy and messy and they need lots of space.  But - its always fun to dream....its more practical than the tapir which is on my critter wish list...  :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Four Kitty Update

The kitties are doing great - everyone is finally back to good health and they all seem happy and active.  Ollie is up to his regular orneriness, Phoebe is playing with her toys, Aggie is hanging out being the observer that she is and Zoey is her regular persnickety self.  All is right in feline world.

Aggie still appears to be in perfect health.  My thyroid children - Zoey, Phoebe and Ollie all seem to be quite stable on their ear meds.  They show no symptoms of the disease and are all doing just great.  Kitty land is all good!  :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Latest Theo Snaps

My youngest baby boy Theo was out and about today so I thought I would grab the camera and get a few shots.  He is tough to photograph because he is always on the move.  He is a joyful and happy boy who is very affectionate and loves to play.  Love that boy:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Emma's Birthday

My sweet puppy girl turns 11 years old today.  Oh how we love her!

Today was spent spoiling her a bit more than usual.  She had some special treats, she got a new toy to play with, she got to go on a walk, she was allowed to bark at leaves in the yard and birds passing by and last but not least - she got my whole fortune cookie after I finished my Chinese take out - one of her favorites.  I think she had a good day today!

Overall my girl is in great health.  We are still working on bringing that slightly elevated liver number back into line but other than that she is fit as a fiddle.  She is quite active and if this past weekend was any indication she has excellent stamina - playing for hours.

Happy Birthday to my sweet sweet girl:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Clickers

Oh Theo!!  My youngest boy has stolen both the upstairs and downstairs TV remotes and we can't find them anywhere.  He has hoarded them into one of his hidden stashes and they are missing in action.

He doesn't like the Roku remotes - thank goodness.  He loves the remotes with lots of buttons.  I have looked in all the known hiding spots and nothing.  I may have to invest in multiple universal remotes and we may have to figure out a way to secure them - velcro, string, something...

I do love that little critter but this is a bit inconvenient -

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Emma's Play Day

Miss Emma had a great afternoon today!  She got to go to a family BBQ and play for the afternoon with 3 other pups.  There was Cosmo the ginormous St. Bernard, Trio - not sure what Trio is exactly - maybe a Cockapoo? and Chloe the Chihuahua. Emma and Cosmo really hit it off and spent the day running and romping around the backyard.

They found the creek and splashed around in muddy water - I think there is most definitely a bath in Emma's future.  They played frisbee and football with the kids and she got lots of attention and pets.  She had a fantastic afternoon.

Now we are home and she is sacked out sleeping soundly on the bedroom floor.  We have had hands on all the other critters and are ready to sack out ourselves.  Glad she had such a great afternoon!

Friday, March 21, 2014

ZooCam - Aquarium of the Pacific

Yep - I am featuring another aquarium web cam in my series...this month - Aquarium of the Pacific located in Long Beach, California.  They have an amazing bunch of webcams to choose from:

They have the Weedy Sea Dragon camera which I love:

There is also a Penguin cam - two actually - above and below water:

They also have an amazing Tropical Reef cam - so mesmerizing with the rays passing by:

The Honda Blue Cavern:

The Jelly Fish cam:

The Sex Change Exhibit - yeah - you just have to check that one out for yourselves:

 ...and last but not least - The Shark Lagoon

Check them out...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Clipping Ferret Claws

We have lots of ferret toes in this house - 100 to be exact.  Clipping nails is a full time job around here.  This is a great article that tells you the whys, whens and hows of ferret mani/pedis.  My strategy is to get them when they are sleepy and not paying much attention. Clooney and Violet hate get their nails cut - the other three are pretty good:

by Gary Schooley
Ferrets are diggers. In the wild, their claws are kept short by wear from digging. Also, a wild ferret doesn't come into contact with nearly as many things that they can get claws snagged in, as domesticated ferrets do. Since domesticated ferrets don't have the same opportunity to wear their claws down as wild ferrets do, it must be done for them. If a ferret gets snagged on something, they can panic and twist around, only making matters worse. They have even been known to lose a claw / toe from it (this is why it's important to always keep a pair of scissors handy).
Un-clipped claws can get tangled in a wide assortment of materials; the sharper the claw, the finer the material it can penetrate. Some of the things to avoid are: Fleece; Terry Cloth; Flannel; Wool; Fur. I list these five because, over the years, at one time or another, even some of my own ferrets have gotten snagged on them. Nothing is more frustrating than to come home and find one of your babies sitting there on the bottom of the cage with one paw raised because it's tangled in fleece (or worse)!
Anatomy of a Snag
Unlike cats, who shed an upper (outside) "sheath" to reveal a new, sharp claw (like those grease pencils where you tear off the strip of paper), it has been my observation that a ferret seems to shed a similar sort of "sheath", but from the underside. This is perhaps due to their digging nature. The problem is, that theirs comes off from root to tip, and doesn't always happen all at once. This results in a counter-facing "barb", not unlike what's on a fish hook. Anything the claw can penetrate can get caught on this counter-facing barb.
I recently got a very good look at this when one of my ferrets got snagged on, of all things, a (fake) fur comforter type thingy that they love to play in. I never dreamed that a (regularly clipped) claw could possibly get caught in fur, but it CAN. A counter-barb formed, got hold of fifteen or twenty fur strands, and he was held fast; snagged. Black fur on a white claw showed it very clearly; hairs crossed this way and that, wedged under that barb, and he wasn't going anywhere.
Note: During playtime, I'm in the room almost constantly. If they get snagged, it's not long before I notice and bring the scissors to the rescue. It's the things in the cage, and the many hours when I'm not there to take care of it, that concern me (and should you).
Even a clipped claw can get snagged, if the material it gets snagged in is loose enough. Not too long ago, one of my boys was pursuing his usual past time of trying to disembowel my day pack. He got the zipper partially open and got hold of my wool hat, but it wasn't open enough for the hat to come out. In the meantime, he had gotten snagged. He wasn't there more than five minutes, but he was so upset that he has peed and pooped there. I was sitting there the whole time, but he didn't make any noise, and was out of sight around the end of the couch, so it took a few minutes before I noticed his absence. Poor baby...
As I cut a little hole in my wool hat to release him, I was thinking, "Maybe it's time to clip their claws again", but as I was about to clip the offending snagged claw, I noticed that they were all pretty blunt, as I had just clipped the week before. On finer cloth, they would not have snagged, but on a loose wool hat, it's pretty much impossible to cut them short enough that they won't penetrate. So, you might want to avoid wool things for your ferret, or at least be there with scissors to cut them loose if they do get snagged.
Among their countless toys are some soft, "flannel" (like?) balls with bells inside. One would not think something like that would pose a hazard to a ferret, right? Wrong! As I sat here one day, I hear this little, evenly spaced, "Ding, Ding, Ding" going across the room. During normal play, there is no such rhythm (just chaos). When I investigated, I found my littlest boy running around with a rear claw snagged on one of those balls and it was just running along side of him!
Terry cloth also poses a hazard to ferrets. It is made up of small loops, just perfect for snagging a claw. Likewise, loop carpet can do the same thing. Although I have not had a ferret snagged on loop carpet, (because there's none here anywhere), I have seen cats get snagged on it, so I have no reason to doubt that a ferret would get snagged as well.
By now, you might be wondering just what IS safe for ferrets? I like Denim and that nylon (?) wind-breaker type material that many coats are made of. In fact, I have made several slings and sleeping bags out of coat sleeves. Since they always would curl up in a coat sleeve anyway when done playing, whenever a coat expires, I save the sleeves for them. Anything that has finely woven fabric should be safe for them (as much as is possible). But, just a few days ago, one of mine got snagged on the loose threads inside a pillow case, where the seam is sewn. With ferrets, you never know exactly what to expect, so be vigilant.
When to Clip
I find it necessary to clip about every two weeks, but I would not recommend clipping more often than once a week. If you see your ferret running around and occasionally a claw gets temporarily hooked on something, but it quickly releases, it's time to clip. I've seen one of mine run across a (tight wool) comforter on the couch, and with every step, the wool is pulled up a little and then releases.
There is a thin vein that runs about half the length of the total claw. This vein tends to grow in proportion to how long the claws are kept. If they are clipped regularly, the vein will shorten, and conversely, if they are left long, the vein will be long as well. In ferrets with very dark toes, it can be difficult to see, but, with white toes, the vein is quite visible.
BE CAREFUL not to get into that vein, or they'll squeal and "bleed like a stuck pig", and you'll feel just awful! (Nope, never done that, but I've read about it). If a ferret has long claws and hasn't been kept clipped, it may take a while for the vein to shorten, so don't get in a hurry. This means, don't clip more than a quarter of the way. The main thing is to get the sharp points off.
Note: Some vets actually use a vein in the claw to take blood from, by intentionally clipping into it (I don't really favor this method; it sounds painful and traumatic, and I'm sure there's a less painful way to get blood).
How to Clip
Opinions and techniques may vary, but this is what works for me:
First, you will need something to pacify your ferret (no, don't get 'em drunk). This means you will need something like "Ferretone", a skin and coat supplement that ferrets LOVE. There are other similar products, with different names, but they are pretty much the same. Anything that's not bad for them that they like will do. Just something to hold their attention for a few minutes. Without some sort of pacification, I know of no other way to clip a squirming ferret's claws without requiring (at least) two people.
Now, that is providing that your ferret knows and likes Ferretone. Some don't. Some have never seen or tasted it and may reject it. This happened when I was given a little deaf boy. His claws seemed to have never been clipped, and needed clipping badly (he's the one who got the ball stuck to his rear claw). But, he didn't want Ferretone. So, I had to sprinkle it on his food and get him used to the taste. After a few days, when he decided that it was the best stuff he had ever tasted, and I could give it to him straight, then I could proceed to clip his claws.
You will now need a towel (ironically, terry cloth!), an ordinary (sharp) fingernail clipper, some Ferretone and a well lit place to work. It doesn't take any sort of custom clipper for this. Once you get the hang of it, it can easily be done within a minute or two.
Take the towel and fold it in half lengthwise. Lay it out flat and roll both ends toward the center. Turn it over and push it down between the rolled ends, forming a "V". This makes a perfect "hammock" to lay them in. As you clip, you may find it necessary to rotate the towel a bit; this makes it easier.
Now for the fun part. Take one squirming ferret, holding it in one hand, up near the shoulders, and (try to) lay it on its back in the "V". The quicker you get the bottle of Ferretone near its mouth, the easier it will be. Once the Ferretone has got their total attention (0.5 seconds), and their tongue starts to going, bring the tip of the bottle onto their chest and smear out some all over it. Not too high, you don't want it on their neck where they can't reach it; just all over their chest.
This should result on one hypnotized ferret, oblivious to anything but the mess on their chest they are licking. Sometimes, particularly the first few times, they might resist and try to turn over, but they soon figure it out. Just be patient. Once the ferret is pacified, you can move onto the actual clipping.
I always start with the front claws, as they seem to be the ones that get snagged most often. Some claws, particularly the rear, don't grow as fast or large as front ones do, and I occasionally don't find the need to clip them all.
Gently take one paw and lightly hold it between your fingers. It doesn't take any real pressure, just enough to hold it steady. Occasionally, the ferret may draw the paw back, then lean over it and continue licking, with both paws on one side. If this happens, it sometimes helps to re-position them in the towel; you can even lean them from side to side by simply rolling the rolled ends underneath one way or another. Just keep trying. If the ferret finishes the Ferretone before you are finished, squirt some more there. I usually give one shot for the front, then one for the rear claws.
They can be clipped from the top, or the side, but I prefer the top; it seems to give a cleaner cut. That is, look at a side profile of your finger and how you would clip your own claws, then look at a side profile of a ferret's claw, and turn the clippers 90 degrees to that (clipping vertically).
One by one, clip each claw, remembering not to take too much off. Gently hold each toe as you clip (remembering that ferrets have five claws per foot). From time to time, a ferret may suddenly jerk back when you have clipped one. I've had this happen a number of times, but there has never been any blood or squealing, so I don't think I went too far. I think this is due to a hair getting pulled, as sometimes, their fur grows down almost as long as their claws are. Anyway, they soon get over it. Once you have finished the front ten claws, it might be time to put another shot of Ferretone on them.
A word of Warning: Safety glasses may be appropriate when clipping claws. Once, a claw I had clipped flew right up into my eye! That was a VERY frustrating and painful episode, and I couldn't function at all till I got it out. I now point the opening of the clippers away from my eyes. You might also want to try to keep the claw points out of the ferret's "licking zone". It's probably not good for them to ingest them.
Now, clipping the rear claws might be a bit more challenging. That's because certain things make ferrets shiver. One of those things is Ferretone, and it is particularly evident in the rear legs. Some ferrets don't shiver much at all, so it's no problem, but some can shake violently, making it difficult to do. Imagine trying to clip the toenails of someone who has tremors; that's what it's like.
But, if you give them a thumb to push their back paws against, that usually dampens the shaking enough to get them clipped. Sometimes, they will even wrap their claws around and sort of try to "hold" it. This makes it real easy to clip right on down the line. Some professionals, who do it every day, can clip a ferret's claws in under thirty seconds.
Once you have finished, brush off any clippings, lay your ferret on the floor and it'll probably lay there licking for five minutes or so. With multiple ferrets, you can do it quick enough that you have them all lined up on the floor licking. Once they finish their own Ferretone, they'll (gladly) go help the others get it off themselves, too. Since one ferret represents 20 claws, I currently must clip 60 claws, twice a month (120 a month). Now, if you dare have something like ten ferrets, you are looking at clipping 400 claws a month! (but then, you don't need this article, do you?) So, it pays to get good at it.
One final note: Another benefit to keeping claws clipped is that they can't climb as many things as well or as high. Ferrets are so curious that they border on "suicidal", and if they can climb all the way up a screen door, or to the top of the curtains, they will. If their claws are left sharp, they can. Not being the most graceful of God's creatures and kind of clumsy, totally lacking common (domesticated) sense, they have a tendency to fall off of things. This can result in a broken back, other serious injury or even death.
That's all there is to it.
Good luck and I hope this helps.

The author, Gary Schooley, is always happy to hear from other ferret owners and get their feedback. His email address is
schooleyATmail2world.com (of course replace the AT with @)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ease Life for Your Senior Cat

I have three of the four kitties who fall into the senior category:  Aggie at almost 17 and Ollie and Zoey pushing towards 13.  I thought this was a great article about the things you should think about when you have a senior kitty:  

With age, you may notice some changes in your cat's behavior.
She may take more time moving from spot to spot, her coat may not be as shiny or as full as it once was, and she may become more sensitive to changes. The needs of your senior cat change as she ages. By recognizing and accommodating these changes, you can make your cat's golden years more comfortable and enjoyable.
Senior Healthcare

Your senior cat is more inclined to develop a variety of age-related ailments partially due to a decline in her immune system. Regular visits to a veterinarian are essential. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key for a better quality of life. By detecting and treating one ailment, you can prevent a series of related problems that contribute to the overall decline of your cat's physical and mental health.
For example, pain due to arthritis can contribute to a lack of activity which, in turn, can lead to loss of muscle mass and tone. Movement becomes even more difficult, and depression and a series of other problems may develop. If your veterinarian diagnoses arthritis, you will need to work with your veterinarian to effectively manage the joint problem. The more your senior cat is able to move about freely, the more exercise she will get - further benefiting her overall physical and mental well-being.
Window Perches are ideal for pets less active and need more visual stimulation from the outdoors.Mental and Physical Stimulation
Regular exercise contributes to better mental and physical health. Incorporate play and exercise in your daily routine to help keep your senior cat physically and mentally fit. Keep her favorite toys accessible. For low-impact exercise and mental stimulation, you might also turn on her favorite "cat video." The Window Perch is an excellent way to provide both mental and physical stimulation. Allow your cat easy access to her favorite window with an Indoor Ramp or the Cat Stair-Steps.

Creating a Friendly Environment for Your Senior Cat
Though regular exercise will help maintain greater mobility, some senior cats may still have some difficulty moving about. Be sure to make everything easily accessible. If you live in a multi-level house, keep your cat's litter box on the level she stays on most frequently. Place several litter boxes throughout the house and consider litter boxes with lower sides like theCatty Corner for easier access. This will help prevent "accidents" from happening.

Cats go through the aging process and change like us. As your cat ages and becomes less active, there are things you can do to make the golden years more comfortable and enjoyable.Minimizing Stress
With age, your senior cat's senses gradually decline. She may not see or hear as well, making her more prone to stress. Because your senior cat is less able to cope with stress, you should provide quiet areas where your senior cat can feel safe and secure. Orthopedic foam beds are ideal. The calming effects of Comfort Zone plugged near her bed can help alleviate stress. Your senior cat is also more sensitive to temperature changes. If you live in an area that experiences cold winters, provide a heated pet bed or a thermal cushion to keep her warm and comfortable.

Most behavior changes are just a part of normal aging, but in certain senior cats, it may be an indication of a more serious ailment. Don't be quick to dismiss changes as simply part of aging. Whenever you are not certain, consult your veterinarian to help ensure the quality of life your senior cat deserves.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I am feeling a bit under the weather today - nothing major - just  minor head cold.  The kitties are keeping me company.  The ferrets would be as well, if I would let them - but sadly they can catch human colds and flu.  So - they are having a couple of days with no attention from their mom.  It stinks for all of us because they could most certainly make me feel better with their sweet kisses and crazy antics.

They are pretty good about entertaining themselves - with five ferrets they can always find someone to play with.  They can do without being picked up a hundred times and loved on for a couple of days.

Emma is under the bed again today - more inclement weather here.  Have I mentioned we are ready for spring?  Wow - this winter has been really icky!

Hoping that I am feeling better and able to interface with the weasels soon....

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Liver Treats and Milk Thistle

In an effort to get Miss Emma's liver numbers back in line we are trying a holistic approach - Milk Thistle:

She loves the treats - even though they smell really awful.  I am hopeful that this will do the trick.  After much research - milk thistle for pets has many many uses.  Below is a great article from Fairgrounds Small Animal Hospital:

Consider Milk Thistle for:
  • Chronic Liver disease
  • Acute Hepatitis
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Liver poisonings including aflatoxins
  • When using drugs that can injure the liver (NSAIDS, Phenobarbitol)
  • Preventative in animals with history of liver disease
  • Early stages of liver enzyme elevation
  • Lead and Zinc poisoning
  • Inflammatory cardiac (Heart) diseases
  • Kidney disease
  • Immune modulation
  • Antioxidation
  • Delays the onset and severity of diabetes
  • Effective for pancreatitis
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Fatty Liver

I would like to tell you about a wonderful herb and a must for every pet owner’s natural medicine chest. Milk thistle, known in Latin as Silybum marianum, is one of the most effective herbs for detoxifying and regenerating the liver. I have used this herb in virtually any type of liver problem. It has saved many pets from what appeared to be a fatal condition. The liver is responsible for breaking down and eliminating most toxic substances. These include drugs, preservatives in food, artificial flavoring and coloring agents, flea sprays, dips and shampoos, environmental chemicals, chemicals found in tap water, household cleansers, air pollution, tobacco smoke and poisonous plants. Hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated that milk thistle can protect the liver from potent toxins such as poisonous mushrooms, heavy metals and alcohol.How does it work? When the constituents of milk thistle are absorbed, they selectively accumulate in the liver. The herb has several mechanisms of action.
  • It stimulates protein synthesis, which contributes to re-generation and replacement of liver cells.
  • It helps protect the liver against poisoning by blocking the absorption of toxins into liver cells.
  • It inhibits the formation of inflammatory substances that contribute to liver degeneration.
  • It helps the liver break down toxins.
Milk thistle is a potent anti-oxidant (more potent than Vitamins C and E). This means it can counteract free radical damage that can cause degenerative diseases including cancer.
It increases intracellular levels of glutathione, a substance necessary for detoxicating reactions. Milk thistle has a long history of use and no significant toxicity has been seen.
Clinical studies in humans have confirmed milk thistle’s benefits. Trials in more than 2,000 patients showed benefits in alcohol and chemical induced fatty liver, cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, bile duct inflammation and non specific changes in liver tissue. Elevated liver enzymes (blood tests for liver function) also improve with milk thistle therapy. Silymarin may also help prevent or treat gallstones by increasing the solubility of the bile. The best-known active compound in milk thistle is silybin. It is important to remember that there are many other naturally occurring ingredients that are vital for optimum activity. Therefore, use the whole herb or a high quality extract.
Many drugs used today have significant liver toxicity. If your pet has been medicated with antibiotics, cortisone, chemotherapy, anti-seizure medications, heartworm preventive / treatment, anti-inflammatory, etc. or has had other liver problems, you should consider a course of milk thistle. Of course, it is also important to reduce your pet’s exposure to liver toxic substances. Most drugs can be eliminated under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian through the use of natural alternatives. Toxic additives in the food and water can be reduced significantly by feeding balanced, home-prepared foods and purified water. A low toxicity flea control program can be instituted until the pet is healthy enough to no longer require it. (That’s right, healthy pets don’t have significant flea problems.) For household cleaning, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are two safe alternatives.
When shopping for milk thistle, I prefer a standardized (70 or 80% silybin) product. A typical adult human dose is 100 – 150 mg. of silybin, which is approximately 200 mg. dry herb three times daily, or the equivalent in a liquid. For pets, simply use their body weight as a percentage of the human dose. For example, a 30-pound dog would get 30% of a human dose and a 10-pound cat would get 10%. Most products purchased at health food stores have the recommended human dose on the label. Give it for 2-3 months. Medicinal herbs should not be used continuously for extended periods. I suggest 5 days on then 2 days off for 6 weeks. Skip 1 week and begin again. It could be used one week each month as a little extra protection in otherwise healthy pets.
by Russell Swift DVM
© Copyright June, 1999 – 2005
Russell Swift is a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. He has completed the Homeopathic Master Clinician program and currently has a holistic house call veterinarian practice in the South Florida area. He is also a consultant for several companies in the development of new nutritional supplements for pets. Dr. Russell Swift can be reached at 954-720-1624.
Recommended Dosage
Dog’s size% of adult human dose
5 lbs10%
5-10 lbs15%
11-20 lbs20%
21-40 lbs30%
41-70 lbs50%
71-100 lbs75%
100 lbs100%
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Milk thistle is a flower, more specifically a member of the aster family. Its seeds and roots have been used for an assortment of medical purposes for thousands of years. Three biochemicals of interest have been isolated from the milk thistle: silychristine, silydianin, and silybin. The mixture of these three substances is called Silymarin. Silymarin has been traditionally used in the treatment of liver disease and, while it has recently been advocated for use in pets, all scientific information available concerns human use. The biological mechanism of action is yet unknown but several theories exist:
  • Silymarin may control cell membrane permeability, which means that silymarin may control what substances enter the interior of a cell.
  • Silymarin may inhibit chemical pathways leading to inflammatory biochemicals.
  • Silymarin may have free radical scavenging properties, which means that it may absorb harmful reactive atoms that could damage other molecules.
  • Silymarin may increase protein production by liver cells.
  • Silymarin may stabilize mast cells (cells containing inflammatory granules).
  • Silymarin in higher doses increases the flow of bile.
How This Medication Is Used
The most scientific information concerning the use of Silymarin regards Amanita mushroom poisoning. Silymarin prevents uptake of the poison into the cells of the liver and thus prevent the lethal liver damage associated with this type of mushroom poisoning.
Silymarin is regularly used for an assortment of liver diseases including cirrhosis and viral hepatitis in humans. The only actual studies conducted in dogs have concerned mushroom poisoning as above and other uses in pet species are inferred from human use. Milk thistle extracts appear to be safe to use; however, their benefit is not well defined scientifically.
Side Effects
At doses greater than 1.5 grams per day, the increased bile flow side effect may cause diarrhea. Side effects are very rare but the following has been reported for humans: upset stomach, headache, joint pain, weakness.
Interactions with Other Drugs
While there are no known drug interactions, it is important to remember that herbal medications are not held to the same standards of efficacy and safety that other drugs are. Impurities in processing may include less innocuous plant biochemicals.
Concerns And Cautions
Silymarin is not recommended for humans during pregnancy. It is probably a good idea not to use milk thistle products in pregnant dogs until more information becomes available.
Milk thistle products should be stored at room temperature.
Because herbal medications are not held to the same purity and efficacy standards as other medications, there may be tremendous variation in strength between brands or even between batches of the same brand.
By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP
Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com
Web Page
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum )
Constituents:flavolignans, silymarin (silybin, silydianin, isobilybin), bitter, amines, tannin, polyactylenes.Energy: pungent, warm, bitter, dry.
Western uses: Stimulates digestion, reduces liver congestion, promotes bile flow, vitalizes blood, promotes tissue repair, reduces hepatotoxicity (autotoxicity and ingested toxins)
Veterinary Examples: All animals with any form of hepatotoxicity or hepatic damage may benefit from Milk Thistle. Patients on hepatotoxic drugs, those with hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver degeneration, and functional biliary obstruction can be helped by this powerful herb. What do you currently know as medical options for pathological changes in liver tissue? Milk thistle may also be used as an adjunct detoxicant in any condition that is currently treated with toxic drugs. For example, if heartworms are a problem in your region, the USDA approved monthly heartworm preventatives (e.g. HeartgardTM, InterceptorTM) may be given while using milk thistle to protect the liver. Milk thistle also may be used as part of a regular detoxification program due to our inhabiting, even on the best days, a toxic planet. Lastly, during the healing and “clean-up” phase of tissue repair, the liver has extra work to do and can be benefited by Milk Thistle as a dietary addition.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dinner Parties

Today was our early St Patrick's Day celebration - we hosted a few friends for a yummy dinner.  It's always interesting to find out how the critters are going to behave when we have guests.

This go around was pretty good.  Emma barked at first - always has to let you know someone is coming. She had her nose where it shouldn't be a couple of times - smelling all they yummy food is hard for a puppy to ignore.  Once I gave her a bone she was good to go and was actually very well behaved.

Oliver was in the middle of everything as usual.  Once he got some attention and it became apparent that he was not going to get any more because we all sat down to eat he settled in for a nap.  He got lots of attention after dinner which he of course loved...

Phoebe was Miss Brave Girl for some reason tonight - usually she is a fraidy cat when guests come over. Not tonight - she was in the middle of things and wanted to be loved on and played with.  Not sure what was up with that but I will take it!!

Finnegan was the only ferret who ventured downstairs for a visit.  He is quite social and crawled on laps and spelunked in the sofa.  Other than that - the rest of the ferrets played upstairs.  Aggie stayed upstairs hiding which is normal for her.  Zoey slept through the entire event on the kitchen chair.

All in all - it was a pretty good evening for the furries....

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Update

Its been a pretty low key day for the critters.  I am happy to report that from a health perspective everyone seems to be doing pretty darn well.  Its been a it since we have been able to say that.

Phoebe is going through the phase of being irritated that I have to meds on her ear.  Zoey and Ollie went through this as well.  Soon she will resign herself as the others have.  Emma is taking her liver supplement - the main ingredient is Milk Thistle - comes in a really stinky treat that she seems to love and I dread having to open the bag to give her - ugh.

Ferrets seem really good - happy, healthy, active and interactive.  The little boys will get some new toys later this evening when they are up from their naps.  Theo and Finn are truly my toy ferrets.  Clooney only plays with his cow and Violet and Maddie much prefer a pen to any toy.

Today has consisted of some play time with the ferrets.  Emma had a visit and some treats from her Grandpa.  Kitties have been lounging for the bulk of the day - they have it so rough.  Tonight - playtime, meds, treats and new toys - a pretty average day around here.

Looking forward to a low key weekend....

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mid-ish March Snaps

Makes me swallow hard to think we are already into mid March - time just keeps marching on.  Today I had a few minutes as several centrally located critters who participated in my snapping.  We missed out on Theo, Ollie, Zoey and Emma in this session.  Zoey and Ollie were downstairs snoozing, Emma was hiding under the bed because its windy and rainy and Theo was napping behind the tv cabinet....

I did get some good ones of the others though - so here you go:

Finn (mouth open) and Maddie 

Finn (left) and Maddie

Finn and Maddie (mouth open)


Finn and Madison (facing camera)



Finn giving me kisses





Sleepy Clooney


Violet - wet head from the new fountain

Violet - love the water drops on her face - she was playing in the fountain

Violet and I playing


Aggie demonstrating the rough life of a Grant cat

Aggie looking great for 16 years 9 months...

Really Sleepy Clooney

Miss Phoebe who always sits with her feet crossed like that