I think Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ He was saying that it’s better to try and avoid problems in the first place, rather than trying to fix them once they arise. What exactly does this have to do with veterinary medicine? Everything! Preventative medicine is the foundation of staying healthy for you and your furry friends. Pet immunization is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pet immunization is an important aspect of preventative medicine. All puppies and kittens should have three series of vaccines typically at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. The mother’s milk provides antibodies to protect puppies and kittens from contagious disease. These antibodies start to decrease between 8 to 12 weeks of age, and that’s why we start to vaccinate during this time frame. We are trying to stimulate the animal’s immune system to develop protection on their own before the mother’s protection is completely gone and most importantly, before they get exposed to the real disease. After this initial series of pet immunization, adult animals need yearly vaccinations.
But it’s not just all about the “shots.” The physical exam is the most important aspect of the visit. A comprehensive physical exam involves checking every aspect of the animal from head to tail. During puppy/kitten exams, your veterinarian is primarily looking for congenital birth defects and parasites. Animals age faster than we do, so an annual exam to them is like you going to the doctor every seven years. Annual examinations help us to detect and treat diseases early before your pet starts showing symptoms.
In animals, parasite prevention is as important as vaccinations. 34% of dogs in the United States are infected with intestinal parasites. 1-3 million people are infected with hookworms from their pets each year. The CDC recommends at least once a year deworming for intestinal parasites. It’s also important to keep the environment free from all fecal material to prevent infection from you and your pet. Heartworms, a blood parasite, are easily prevented with monthly medication that is only available through a veterinarian. There are 244,000 dogs diagnosed with heartworms every year in the United States. Heartworm prevention cost an average of $6.00/month. Heartworm treatment can cost $500-$1000 and left untreated heartworms can be fatal.
The jingling of tags on a collar. The low whistling whines. The inevitable sound of “lick, lick, lick” that brings you out of a dead sleep and is the pet owner equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. “STOP!” Silence. You lay back down, settle into your pillow, and then- “lick, lick, lick.” This is the song of an itchy pet.
Just reading that probably raised your anxiety level by a good four notches. Your dog is not doing that to drive you crazy, nor does he likely have a severe neurosis or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Odds are your dog is dealing with the same thing a considerable part of the human population is currently, which is seasonal allergies. Like humans, dogs and cats can have allergic reactions to pollens, mold, chemicals, and food.
Where we humans tend to go for the more dramatic reaction like sneezing and puffy red eyes, dogs and cats often present with skin issues and even gastrointestinal issues, which are not the first thing you generally associate with allergies. Pollens can settle on the pet’s skin and cause irritation, which creates an itchy pet, which can result in hair loss or skin scrapes or cuts. Open wounds can become infected, causing even more discomfort and irritation, which leads to increased scratching, and soon, you have a miserable dog or cat that needs serious medical attention.
Fleas are often blamed for itching and scratching, and rightfully so, but sometimes the pet has an allergic reaction to the flea saliva. In these cases, it is imperative that you stay ahead of the flea infestation.
How to relieve your itchy pet:
So, what can you do to make your dog or cat more comfortable so you both can get a good night’s sleep? First, make sure you don’t have a flea issue, and if you do, treat all the pets in the home and the environment. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best flea treatment for your pet, but you will also need to maintain efforts at home to keep them in check. Inside you will want to vacuum frequently around your pet’s bedding and areas they lay or sleep. Wash their bedding and blankets often. Treat outside areas with safe pet products to control fleas and ticks and keep the grass trimmed.
In the early spring and fall when pollen seems to hang in the air, try putting a light fabric shirt on your dog to keep the pollens off his skin. Bathing your itchy pet weekly in a cool bath with an oatmeal shampoo will remove the pollens and soothe the skin. Regular brushing will disperse natural oils throughout the coat to create a barrier for pollens and irritants. You might also consider paw socks or boots for extended outdoor time to keep allergens off their feet.
Letting your dog hang his head out of a car window is never a good idea, and doubly so when the air is full of things just waiting to make him sneeze. Roll those windows UP!
If despite your best efforts your pet is still scratching or chewing or sneezing or bumpy, don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are many pharmaceutical solutions your vet can prescribe, starting with simple antihistamines and progressing up to prescription medication in severe cases. Your itchy pet doesn’t have to suffer, and neither do you. The next time you are awakened by the “lick, lick, lick” take a moment to check your pet over. If you don’t see signs of fleas, it is probably time for a quick trip to the vet for a bit of allergy relief. You will both sleep better for it!
The last few weeks, I’ve seen several cases of inappropriate elimination in cats. Spraying or avoiding the litter box is the number one sited reason cats are surrendered to animal shelters. Hopefully, the knowledge you gain from this article can reduce the chance of litter box problems.
The most common reason a cat will use the bathroom outside of its litter box is that it’s not clean. Let’s face it- when we go to a public restroom and find a dirty toilet, we go to the next stall; if it stinks, we will find another bathroom somewhere else. Why do you think it’s any different for your cat?
How to prevent inappropriate elimination in cats:
- Use unscented litter.
- Scoop the litter box every day
- Clean the litter box once a week with mild soap and water
- Don’t use ammonia or citrus scents
- If the box begins to smell like urine, use an odor neutralizer or replace the box with a new one.
The number of litter boxes needed depends on the number of cats in your household. The general rule of thumb to follow is the number of cats you have in your household plus one (example: 2 cats = 3 litter boxes). I would also recommend providing different types of litter box and varying the size of each of the boxes. We have similar choices: home vs. public restroom, inside vs. outside, and handicap vs. regular stall. It’s nice to have a choice.
If you have inappropriate elimination in cats and you have tried the above suggestions, your cat may have a medical or behavioral condition. Contact your veterinarian for an exam and diagnostics in order to resolve the issue early. Never punish your cat for going outside the litter box, as this may cause other behavioral problems. Some individuals think the cat is trying to be vindictive, when in fact, there is a legitimate reason why the cat is not using the litter box. Try thinking about the problem from your cat’s point of view. Ask yourself if you were presented with the same problem, what would you do?
It’s me, Mani. I haven’t written in a while because this summer has been really busy. I turned nine this year. Mama Stef says that’s almost old but not quite actually, really old.
So anyway… I was supposed to have surgery in June to take some lumps off my leg, tummy, chest, neck, and chin. I had to go to work with Mama Stef at the pet hospital. She made me skip breakfast and wouldn’t even give me a sip of water! It made me sad. When I got there, they took some of my blood with a needle so they could make sure all of my organs were working. Guess what. They found out my kidneys are old and tired! Then, they checked my blood pressure and said it was too high. Dr. Coffin said I couldn’t have surgery yet.
Mama Stef got worried, but Dr. Coffin said I just have to eat special food to help my kidneys and take one pill every day to make my blood pressure settle down. Now, I get special food that none of the other dogs get to eat. That’s pretty cool. It’s made by a company called Royal Canin, and it’s called Hydrolyzed Protein Renal. It’s made just for dogs who have kidney problems and food allergies. It tastes REALLY good, so I don’t mind that I had to switch from my old food.
The medicine for my blood pressure works so well; I had to—I mean, I GOT to—go back and have my surgery. Dr. Coffin used a special kind of anesthesia to make it easier for my kidneys to handle it. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, my lumps were all gone, and I had stitches. Mama Stef is making me wear a silly blow-up donut collar so I can’t lick or chew at them. I’m not allowed to run or play rough with the other dogs until I get my stitches out in 2 weeks. I’m getting a lot of extra love and attention, so I don’t feel left out when the other dogs wrestle.
So, as I said—it’s been a really busy summer. I hope this fall is less exciting.
Last week at our weekly staff meeting, I was discussing some data that I had just received showing that only 50% of our canine patients are on heartworm prevention. This started a conversation about why this number is so low. I believe it’s because many people don’t understand the difference between heartworms and intestinal parasites. I decided to get the word out!
Intestinal parasites are exactly what the name implies; they are worms that live in the intestinal tract (heartworms are worms that live in the heart). Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasites in our geographical area.
Roundworms and hookworms are very common in puppies and kittens as they are transmitted from their mother while they are in the uterus or through the mother’s milk. The adult worms live in the intestinal tract most of their lives and produce microscopic eggs that pass in the feces. Did you know that one female roundworm can produce more than 100,000 eggs per day? Only under severe infestation or after deworming will you see adult worms passed in the stool. These two parasites can also be transmitted to people, especially children, as they are often less careful about hygiene, more likely to put their hands in their mouths and commonly play in potentially contaminated soil. A recent study revealed that 14% of the human population is infected with these parasites.
Tapeworms got their name because they are thin and flat, like strips of tape. A tapeworms body is made of jointed segments which detach and are seen around the pet’s rectum or in their stool and they look like rice segments. These segments cannot infect other cats or dogs. The only way that dogs and cats become infected is by eating an infected flea or rodent. Therefore, a flea eradication program is important to prevent further infestation.
There are many oral and some topical medications used to treat intestinal parasites. A few of these products are available over the counter and unfortunately, don’t work very well. Now to the main point of this entire article: I believe that many people go to the store and get dewormer for their pets and believe that they are also treating their pet for heartworms. Heartworm prevention is a prescription only medication, which means you must get it from your veterinarian. Heartworm prevention and medication to treat intestinal parasites are relatively inexpensive and prevent transmission to other animals and, most importantly, humans. Ask your veterinarian about the products that they recommend.
“It’s too expensive.” “They should be allowed to have at least one litter.” “I can make money selling the puppies.” These are just a few of the reasons we hear for why people haven’t spayed or neutered their pet, with the cost being the most frequently heard reason. People still believe that it just costs too much to get their pet spayed or neutered. What they fail to realize is the enormous cost of not getting their pet fixed. Unfortunately, we see it nearly every day, especially in the spring.
It usually starts out with a very pregnant momma cat or dog. The owner calls and says she has been in labor for three days and still no pups/kittens. After an exam and testing the momma dog is rushed into surgery with an infected uterus (Pyometra,) a condition that can be fatal if untreated. Surgery and antibiotics can cost hundreds of dollars to treat a condition that could be avoided with a simple spay.
We also see female cats that have been attacked by intact toms hoping to either abort the unborn kittens or destroy a new litter of kittens to bring the female back into a heat cycle. Not only do we then have to contend with the physical wounds and injuries of these fights, but there becomes a real concern about the spread of diseases such as distemper, feline leukemia, feline aids, or even rabies.
We get panicked phone calls from owners of small dogs who have bred with much larger dogs, and the owners have waited until the mom dog is in mid-delivery to worry about if the pups might be too big for her to deliver naturally. Trying to find a vet who can perform a C-section on short notice can be costly and near impossible in some communities. All because someone thought their female should be allowed to experience motherhood at least once.
Pure breed puppies can be wildly expensive, especially if you don’t educate yourself on both the breed and the breeder. Dogs seen as money makers will be overbred, causing harm to both the moms and the pups. Without informed and careful attention to health conditions, breeders can create weakened bloodlines that result in litter after litter of pups with chronic conditions such as skin allergies, kidney disease, behavior issues, and heart conditions. People who buy these pups are entering a lifetime of chronic illness and facing the financial responsibility of treating these issues for the lifetime of their dog.
Dogs and cats that are not spayed or neutered can ultimately have hundreds of offspring, all of which are likely to contract some illness while living on the streets. Puppies can go from fun-loving and healthy to full-blown Parvo in no time, which can be fatal if left untreated. Having a pup contract Parvo while living with you can also be a death sentence to future pups, as the virus can live for up to a year in the soil in your yard. Treating Parvo requires a dedicated and attentive vet staff providing hospitalization and hourly attention, often for several days, all of which is an expensive endeavor.
Every spring, we see waves of kittens come through the clinic, foundlings that have lost their moms. Upper respiratory infections are almost a given, which can progress to lung infections, neurological issues, and ultimately, death. Kittens that survive to be weaned and become members of feral colonies can contract and spread numerous diseases, including bobcat fever, a nearly 100% fatal infection contracted through a tick bite.
Every year we see puppies, and kittens suffer needlessly. Spayed and neutered pet’s mean not only preventing an increase in the feral population but preventing the spread of illness and disease. It means keeping your existing pets healthier. It means less worry about pets developing conditions and cancers later in life.
There are numerous programs out there to offset, if not completely absorb the cost of spaying and neutering your pet. Don’t get caught up in the notion that every animal deserves to be a mom at least once, or that there aren’t real concerns for the future health issues an intact pet may face. Being a responsible pet owner starts at the very beginning. Test your newly adopted cat for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia and your newly adopted dog for heartworms and tick-transmitted diseases. Schedule your vaccines as recommended get your pet spayed and neutered when they are old enough. Investing in that first year of pet ownership can help ensure a long and healthy life with your new family member, and that can be priceless in the long run.
External parasites are a major problem for pets in Oklahoma during the summer months. I bet there are a few things in this article that you didn’t know. The main take away is to protect your pet so they don’t get sick.
Did you know that a single flea can bite your pet 400 times a day, drink more than its body weight in blood and produce hundreds of eggs each day? Besides causing skin and allergy issues, fleas can transmit tapeworms to your pet. When you see fleas on your pet, you only see 5% of their population. The other 95%, (consisting of eggs, larvae, and pupae) are living in the environment, such as your carpet, couch, and grass. Weather permitting, new adult fleas emerge every 2 weeks.
Ticks are not only disgusting but also dangerous. They can transmit several different blood parasites that can be life-threatening to you and your pet. Recently, a new tick-transmitted disease called Bobcat Fever has been discovered in our area. This illness is 100% fatal to cats. Did you know that when a tick bites your pet, the anesthetic in their saliva keeps the bite from hurting and contains an anticoagulant that keeps the blood flowing? Some life stages of the tick can be so small that they can be difficult to see.
Heartworms are transmitted from animal to animal via mosquitoes. Did you know that mosquitoes are the number one disease carrier to humans in the world and ticks are number two in the United States? Mosquitoes have a multitude of sensors designed to detect their prey – including heat, chemical, and visual sensors.
For you and your pet’s safety, strict control of external parasites is paramount. There are many products available, prescription and over the counter, that control flea, ticks, and mosquitoes. For successful treatment, all pets in the area need to be treated as well as the environment. Prescription products are typically more expensive but much more effective and last longer than over the counter products. If you have a cat, make sure the product is labeled for cats, as certain types can be life-threatening. If you are having problems controlling fleas and ticks, contact your veterinarian for advice.
Do your neighbors complain about your dog making noise when you aren’t home? Do you have a dog who tries to dig under or climb over your fence? Do you come home to a dog who has chewed up furniture, scattered the contents of your garbage can, or shredded his bed? A variety of different reasons can cause these issues, but the most common one is simply boredom. So today, I’ll give you some ideas to help enrichment for dogs to help them become healthier, happier members of your household.
As we humans go about our daily lives, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that our dogs’ worlds are much smaller than ours which is why it is important to provide enrichment for dogs. While we travel to jobs, meetings, and outings, our dogs are routinely left home. Even with a yard to roam in or toys to play with, our dogs will eventually become bored. After all, dogs are intelligent, energetic creatures. If we don’t find a way to occupy their minds and exercise their bodies, they’ll come up with their own ways of entertaining themselves, and no matter how hard I’ve hoped, my dogs have never blown off some steam by doing the dishes or vacuuming the house.
Instead, bored dogs are more likely to be destructive, noisy, or take off looking for something fun to do outside of their normal stomping grounds. This can lead not just to messes or annoyance but can also be dangerous for our dogs.
Five ideas for enrichment for dogs:
- Spend Time With Them
Your dog craves attention. While we can’t always be home with them, make sure to interact with your dog when you’re around. Talk to them, give belly rubs and ear scratches, snuggle on the couch or the floor. Just let them know you’re paying attention.
- Play A Game
Some dogs enjoy a game of fetch. Others love tug-o-war. I have one dog who loves to play soccer—I kick the ball, and she runs the length of the yard to chase it down and nose it back to me. Another of my pups loves to play with his flirt pole (it’s like a cat wand toy, but bigger and sturdier). Find the game your dog loves best and try to spend at least a few minutes a day playing with them. It’ll help get rid of some of their energy, and it feels good when we humans play, too.
- Teach Them Something New, Practice Something Old
Learning a new trick or an obedience cue is a great way to engage your dog’s mind and body. By using positive reinforcement methods, you’ll also strengthen the bond between you and your dog. If your best bud already knows a bunch of stuff, spend some time asking her to show off for you and rewarding her for getting it right.
- Invest In Durable Toys and Food Puzzles
When you must be gone, make sure your dog has something to do with herself while you’re away. Durable chew toys like Nylabones and Kong toys are a great way to give your pet a way to kill some time without killing your furniture. Food puzzles are another great way to provide mental stimulation—just make sure they don’t have small, breakable pieces that your dog might ingest if left unattended.
- Give Them Some Screen Time
Sometimes, just leaving a tv on for your dog can be a help. I’ve found that PBS Kids is a big hit with my dog Opus. He likes the silly voices and cartoons seem to be engaging to him. He’ll sit in front of the TV, watching Daniel Tiger until he falls asleep. The sound of the TV can also cover outside noises that may cause some dogs to react with barking or destructive behavior.
The recent flood of kittens needing homes has our local animal shelter scrambling. Kittens in shop windows, videos on social media, catchy signs, and slogans- we will try whatever it takes to adopt a pet, including tugging on every heartstring we can. I’m not above scooping up a kitten from the window and walking out on the sidewalk if I see a promising group out front! But the hard truth is not everyone needs a kitten. As much as we joke with people about a “free kitten with every groom” we know that the best adoption is the permanent adoption, and that can’t happen if people aren’t ready to accept what all that involves.
You see it every spring; the car backed up to the street in a shopping center parking lot with a “Free Puppies/Kittens” sign being waved at the passing cars and usually someone holding a little furry and making it wave its paw at you as you drive by. Every fiber of your being screams STOP THE CAR (not to mention the kids are screaming it, too), and the next thing you know you are trying to explain to your wife or your husband just exactly how you went to the store for cereal and a plunger and came home with another mouth to feed. The kids are explaining how they will walk it and feed it and brush it and love it and clean up after it, and there is NO WAY they would forget it even existed after six days. Come on, how much work could it be, really?
The impulse to adopt a pet, the ones acquired with little to no forethought are the ones that often end up being re-homed, passed from household to household, or sometimes even just dumped on a country road or surrendered to a shelter. So how do you know if you are ready to adopt? What can you do to prepare? Your greatest guide will be information, both on the type of pet you think you want and how your household operates.
Everyone has their mental image of the perfect pet: a fluffy Persian cat to sit in your lap, a majestic golden retriever standing by your side, an adorable little Yorkie tucked in your purse. But how often do people consider what they have to offer a breed or pet? You leave for work at 6 am and don’t get home until 8 pm. That little Yorkie will never make it at home by itself all day. It would have multiple potty accidents and probably develop some serious behavior issues if you brought that dog into your home. You work from home, so your lab or retriever gets to enjoy your company all day, but you live in a tiny apartment with no parks or green spaces anywhere near you. How on earth are you going to give that dog the exercise it needs to burn off that energy inherent to its breed? You bring an adorable little kitten home that now you say has turned into an attack cat, but did you quit interacting with it when it started to grow out of that cute phase?
Bringing a pet home is a commitment. If you choose to bring in a new furry family member, you need to be prepared for all that involves, from the expense of regular vet care to physical grooming and maintenance, even appropriate furnishings in your home. You need to be able and willing to invest the time it takes to work with your pet and show them how to fit in with your family, be it through training or establishing boundaries. You also need to have everyone in the family ready to learn how to care for and interact with the new pet, teaching young children how to approach it and what to avoid. Finally, you need to understand the financial obligation you have taken on, accepting the responsibility of spaying and neutering, of properly vaccinating, and of providing safe and secure enclosures as needed.
The odds are very little of this goes through your mind as you slam on the brakes and swerve into the parking lot to check out those puppies being waved in your face, which is how so many people get home with the puppy equivalent of magic beans. But if you take a proactive approach, really think about what you want and what you have to offer, you are far less likely to end up in the parking lot situation.
It sounds like a lot of work because it is a lot of work. There is a lot to consider, a lot of factors to weigh because there is a lot at stake if it is to be done properly. But consider this; if you do your homework, if you spend the time getting your home, family, and self-prepared, bringing a new family member home will be a life-changing experience. A dog or cat, kitten or puppy can be a tool by which your entire family learns patience and kindness and compassion and structure. Watching a kitten or puppy play with its own shadow takes us out of our cloud of stress and worry. Having to help an older animal deal with stiff limbs and fading eyesight helps us all to learn compassion for others, be they pet or person. Having to say goodbye to a true and faithful friend can be the most painful, heartbreaking moment you’ll have to face, but it can also be an incredible gift in recognizing and appreciating unconditional love.
Adopting a pet at any age requires thought and preparation. Taking even these few steps can help make it a smoother and more successful transition within your home and family.
Adopt a pet considerations:
1. Cat or Dog? Outside of personal preference, each species has specific needs. Evaluate your household and lifestyle to see which fits.
2. Long hair or short hair? Cat or dog, long haired pets require more personal grooming, which can mean additional time, money, and physical effort. Sure, you can bathe a St. Bernard at home, it can you get it in the tub?
3. Young or adult? Are you ready for the structure a puppy requires? Let’s face it- they are four-legged toddlers!
4. Breed. This is more about dogs than cats, but specific breeds have specific needs and behaviors. Research your choice before bringing them home.
5. Finances. Money and love always clash it seems, but would you want to bring a child into your home if you were unable to feed it or get it the medical care it needed? I hear all the time how people say veterinary care had gotten expensive, but the truth is we just know more than we used to about how to adequately care for our furry friends. Look into insurance for pets or clinics with wellness plans to help manage the costs.
Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the kickoff for summer activities. The kids are out of school, and summer vacations begin. Many people like to include their pets on their summer outings. It’s important to be mindful of these dangers in Oklahoma and follow these summer safety tips during your summer travels.Continue…