Besides buying supplies and making your home pet-safe, it is important to bring your new pet to your veterinarian for a complete check-up. Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination to ensure that your cat or dog is healthy and determine if they need any vaccines, diagnostic testing and or preventatives. They will also look for external parasites, like fleas and ticks, and check for internal parasites, like roundworms, and tapeworms. Checking your new pet for medical issues and parasites before you bring them home can save you a big headache in long run. Getting a new pet is exciting. Be sure you get your new friend off to a good start by taking them to your veterinarian right away.
Regular examinations are the best way to detect medical problems early and to insure that your cat is protected against preventable illnesses. Your cat can’t tell you when something is wrong, ant they are masters at hiding illness. So never skip a check-up because your cat looks healthy. Just like us, cats can develop diseases like kidney disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, dental disease, cardiac disease and cancer. During a routine visit, your veterinarian will examine your cat from head to tail. Veterinarians have the tools and training to detect subtle signs of diseases. Remember the goal of annual examinations is to not only prevent disease, but also to catch any illnesses early. The earlier diseases are discovered the better the odds are that your cat can be treated successfully. So remember whether your cat appears healthy or not, all cats should see their veterinarian at least once a year.
Have you ever tried to “pill” you cat? If you answered yes, then you know how challenging it can be. Even the most mild-mannered kitty can turn into a spitting and hissing ball of fury. Besides being no fun, pilling your cat is also stressful for you and your cat. Fortunately there are ways to make the experience more palatable for you and your cat.
- For some cats it may be easier to give them their medication as a liquid instead of a pill. So if your cat hates pills, don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian to prescribe the liquid version of a medication, if available.
- If a medication only comes as a pill, try using Pill Pockets to get your cat to take their meds. Pill Pockets look like a tasty treat but they have a “pocket” to hide the pill. Pill Pockets work well for most cats, especially cats that like treats.
- For cats that are picky eaters or too smart to be fooled with Pill Pockets, there is still hope. Most veterinary clinics and pet stores sell “pillers,” devices that help you pill your cat without having to put your finger down your kitty’s throat. Although using a piller successfully requires some skill, your veterinarian can show you how to effectively use these little tools.
- If your cat manages to defeat the piller, a compounding pharmacy may offer a solution. Compounding is the process of mixing drugs to fit the unique needs of the patient. Examples are changing the dose of a medication, making drugs that have been discontinued, removing allergenic ingredients, reformulating a medication as a liquid, and adding flavor additives to make the medication more palatable. Many compounding companies are experienced at formulating common cat medications into tasty tuna cocktails most cats enjoy or at the very least tolerate. Talk with your veterinarian to find out if compounding is an option since not all drugs remain as effective when compounded.
- What if your cat manages to spit out anything you put in its mouth? Thankfully, there is still hope for these cats. Many medications can be formulated for transdermal use. Transdermal means the medication is absorbed through the skin. Transdermal medications are commonly used in people to treat a number of conditions, like high blood pressure, chronic pain, heart disease, and even used for smoking cessation and birth control. Transdermal medications are easy to use and produce better results because of improved patient compliance. Who wouldn’t choose putting a patch on their skin instead taking pill everyday? Unfortunately, little is known about the efficacy of many transdermal medications in cats, so they are best used as a last resort.
Whether you pill your cat by using a piller, hide it in a tasty treat or give it to them in a liquid or transdermal formulation, it doesn’t really matter as long as the method you use works for your cat. If you have any problems don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for help. After all, a medication is only effective if you can get the patient to take their meds.
Getting a new pet is a big deal and everyone knows it’s important to get off to a good start. So besides buying supplies and making your home pet-safe, what else should you be doing if you’re adding a new, furry, four-legged member to the family? As a veterinarian, it’s a question I’m often asked by prospective pet parents. So whether your new pet comes from an animal shelter, rescue or a breeder, I’d like to share important things I believe all new pets should have.
Taking your new pet to the veterinarian is probably the most important thing you should do. Your veterinarian will do a complete physical exam to insure your new pet is healthy or address any existing medical issues. They will also make sure your pet is protected from preventable illness by recommending vaccines and parasite preventatives. Your veterinarian may also suggest microchipping your pet and spaying or neutering them if it hasn’t been done already.
2. FIV and FeLV test
If your new pet is a cat than feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) tests are essential. FeLV and FIV are important disease causing viruses in cats. FIV is sometimes called feline “AIDS” because like HIV, it attacks the immune system and makes the host vulnerable to opportunistic infections. FeLV also weakens the immune system, but in addition to predisposing them to infections, it increases their risk of lymphosarcoma, a highly malignant cancer. Testing cats for FIV and FeLV is important for 2 different reasons. If you already have a cat, you want to make sure that your new cat is free from FIV and FeLV. FIV can be transmitted by a bite or scratch from an infected cat and FeLV can be transmitted by sharing food and water bowls or even a litter box with an infected cat. The second reason to test is that knowing that your new cat has FIV or FeLV is important even though there is no cure for either disease. FIV and FeLV are terrible diseases, but they are not death sentences and cats can live with FIV and FeLV. If you know your cat is infected, you can take additional precautions to protect them from infections.
3. Heartworm testing
When most people think of heartworms, they think of a disease that only affects dogs. In reality, heartworm disease can also affect cats, although less frequently.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by a type of worm that lives in the heart and the arteries of the lungs. It is transmitted by mosquitos and is found in every state, although it is more prevalent in the South. The best treatment for heartworm disease is prevention. Before starting preventative treatments, it is recommended that pets are tested for heartworm disease because serious complications can develop if an animal is already infected.
4. Fecal flotation
Internal parasites can affect both cats and dogs. Examples of internal parasites include tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, hookworms and protozoa like toxoplasma and cryptosporidia. Internal parasites can be detected by testing an animal’s stool with a fecal flotation test (also called a fecal float). It’s important to test for internal parasites because they can be transmitted to other pets and some can even spread to people.
5. Screening blood tests
If you are adopting an older cat or dog, it is always a good idea to get screening blood tests. By definition, a screening blood test is a test done to detect disease before it shows manifestations and becomes symptomatic. So even if the cat or dog you are adopting looks healthy, it is ideal to get a screening blood test to make sure they don’t have problems like diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid disease. Screening tests are also important for animals of all ages if they will be undergoing surgery.
Depending on where your animal came from, some of these tests may have already been done. For example, most animal shelters routinely test for FIV and FeLV before placing a cat in their adoption program. However, never assume and always check your pet’s medical record to find out what has already been done. This is another reason why taking your newly adopted pet to the veterinarian is important: they will review your pet’s medical records to determine which tests or vaccines have been done and what if anything still needs to be done. Following these recommendations can help insure a healthy start for your new animal friend.
As it warms up, these fuzzy little guys are buzzing all over the place. Just like in humans, bee stings can cause severe reactions in certain dogs. If your pet gets stung and has any swelling or breathing problems, see your veterinarian right away.
The Vernal Equinox is not just the start of spring, but also the start of the allergy season. Allergies don’t just affect people. Just like us, pets can also be allergic to grasses and pollens. Pets can also have food allergies or intolerances to certain grains commonly found in pet food. Unlike humans with allergies, who typically sneeze, cough, or develop runny noses or watery eyes, pets typically develop itchy skin. This may be observed as biting, licking or rubbing at their feet, face or muzzle, ears or belly. Chewing and licking can lead to hair loss, skin irritation and infections. Animals with food allergies may also develop gastrointestinal signs like diarrhea and flatulence. Treatment for allergies depends considerably on the type of allergy and severity. Food allergies or grain intolerances may improve simply by switching your pet to a grain-free diet (always transition to new food slowly). More severe allergies may require a combination of oral and topical medications, as well as prescription shampoos.
Be careful of all the holiday treats. Chocolate eggs, bunnies and coins for Easter and Passover are no-nos for pets. Most people know that chocolate is toxic to pets, but xylitol, a sweetener found in many sugar-free gums and candy, can also be deadly to pets. So be sure to keep all these holiday treats out of reach of your four-legged friends.
During the holidays, people often give Easter lilies and flowers as gifts. Remember to look-out for toxic plants. Lilies can be deadly to curious cats that nibble on their leaves. Lilies are highly toxic and can cause kidney failure and death. If you have cats, keep these out of your house and be sure to check any bouquets you get for these and other toxic flowers.
Unfortunately, people and pets aren’t the only ones that enjoy warm weather. Bugs do too! So make sure you pets are on flea, tick and heartworm prevention. Year round parasite prevention is best. See your veterinarian to find out what parasite preventatives are best for your pet.
As a primary care veterinarian, ear infections are one of the most common problems I encounter. Although some animals go to the vet to have an ear problem addressed, many ear infections are discovered incidentally during a routine physical exam. Ear infections can be painful, and if untreated, they can become chronic, lead to hearing loss, and aural hematomas due to head shaking and scratching. In order to avoid these potential problems, I want everyone to know how to recognize an ear infection.
What are some of the common causes of ear infections in pets?
- Ear mites
- Foreign bodies like plant awns
- Polyps or tumors
- Conformation: Large floppy ears cover the canal, trap moisture and decrease airflow creating the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast.
How do you know if your pet has an ear infection?
Rubbing or scratching at ears
Painful sensitive ears
Ear discharge or debris
What should you do if you think your pet has an ear infection?
If your pet has any of these symptoms, take them to your veterinarian. Your vet will check your pet’s ear canals and do a thorough otoscopic exam to look for foreign bodies and make sure that the tympanic membrane (ear drum) is still intact. They may also check for bacteria, yeast and mites.
The goal of treatment is to clean the ear, decrease inflammation, treat pain, and ultimately address the underlying cause. Depending on the cause, your veterinarian will dispense the appropriate medications and of course remove any foreign bodies that may have caused the inflammation and secondary infection.
How do you prevent ear infections? Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that prevents ear infections in pets. However, there are some steps you can take to decrease the chances your pet will develop an ear infection.
- Keep your pet’s ears clean. Certain breeds of dogs are prone to ear infections and benefit from having their ears cleaned regularly. Always use a pet ear cleaner; never use water, alcohol or peroxide. Ear cleaners are gentle and formulated for use in the ear. Next time you see your veterinarian ask them to show you how to properly and safely clean your pet’s ears at home.
- Keep your pet’s ears dry. Excessive moisture predisposes pets to ear infections. So try not to get water in your pet’s ears when bathing them and try to limit swimming if your pet has a history of ear infections. You can also speak with your veterinarian about medications to help dry the ear canal after swimming.
- Catch and treat ear infections early. Become familiar with the symptoms of an ear infection. If your dog is shaking their head, scratching at their ears, or has foul-smelling discharge from their ears, take them promptly to your veterinarian to avoid the problems associated with chronic infections.
Unfortunately, like us, our feline friends can get colds too. In fact, a cold or upper respiratory infection, is one of the most common illnesses seen in kittens. Cold are especially common in settings where many cats live together, like pet stores, shelters and breeding facilities. Like kids in daycare, kittens in pet stores or shelters are more likely to develop upper respiratory infections (URI’s) due to their naïve immune systems and their close proximity to other cats.
What is a URI?
Upper respiratory infections are infections of the nose, pharynx, and larynx caused by either viruses or bacteria. The most common viruses are calicivirus and herpes, and the most common bacteria are mycoplasma, chlamydia and bordetella species. Several of these agents are spread through a process known as aerosolization. When a sick cat sneezes, countless minute droplets containing the infectious agents are released into the air. These droplets are small enough that they can remain airborne for extended distances and can infect cats some distance away. It is easy to understand why upper respiratory infections can spread so quickly in large cat populations. It only takes one sick cat to spread an upper respiratory infection throughout the entire cat population. Infections can also spread through direct contact, or indirectly through fomites. Fomites are inanimate objects that spread disease when they become contaminated and covered with infectious agents. Examples of fomites are bedding material, towels, or food bowls. It turns out that your mother was right when she reminded you to cover your nose when you sneeze and told you to wash your hands with soap!
Signs and Symptoms of a Cold
Most cats will only develop mild symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes, which often resolve without any treatment. Vulnerable cats, such as the very young, very old, or already sick, can develop more severe infections. Cats with severe upper respiratory infections may develop a fever, thick, yellowish nasal or eye discharge, loss of appetite, dehydration and may become lethargic.
Treatment of upper respiratory infections depends on the severity. Although the symptoms are annoying, many mild uncomplicated URI’s are self-limited, and like the common cold, they often resolve without any treatment. More severe infections may require oral antibiotics and/or eye medications depending on the primary symptoms. Cats that are not eating or drinking may also require additional treatments like subcutaneous fluids, appetite stimulants and even hospitalization. The best way to determine what treatment your particular cat needs is to call your veterinarian. Based on your cat’s signs and overall condition your veterinarian will determine whether your cat needs to be examined right away and whether they need medications.
For more information about upper respiratory infections and ways to prevent them speak with your veterinarian.
So you’ve made your New Year’s resolutions and you’re ready to start fresh in 2018. But have you thought about making New Year’s resolution for your pets? Our pets also deserve to be fit and to live healthy lives. So to help our furry friends start out on the right paw here are some suggested pet friendly New Year’s resolutions.
Eat right and exercise more!
1. The number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Like humans, many pets also suffer from overeating and lack of exercise. This year think about increasing your pet’s exercise and improving their nutrition. Cut back on treats and table scraps. It is important to realize that each treat or table scrap adds calories. Increasing daily walks will not just benefit your dog but also benefits your own health and fitness goals.
Regular Veterinary visits
2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most people have heard this well-known saying, but many don’t realize that following this advice can help their pets live healthier lives and save them money doing so! Preventative care, which includes regular examinations, lab work, vaccines, dental cleanings, and parasite control, can prevent some diseases from developing or at least detect disease early before it becomes more advanced and causes complications. The earlier a disease is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. Early diagnosis also means the disease may be treated with more standard treatments and may avoid the need for more expensive interventions and procedures. Remember take your pet to the veterinarian for routine check-up at least once a year as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Improving your image
3. We all want to look our best and our pets are no exception. Make the commitment in 2017 to provide regular grooming for your pet. Depending on your type of pet this may include occasional baths, regular brushing, or trips to the doggie salon for haircuts. Don’t forget grooming includes trimming nails, cleaning ears, and most importantly brushing teeth. It’s not just vanity. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily and obtaining regular dental care can keep your pet’s teeth healthy and avoid periodontal disease and tooth loss.
4. Our pets depend upon to keep them safe. Make your home a pet-safe home in 2018. Clear your house and yard of hazardous chemicals like insecticides, chemical cleaners, rat poison, snail bait, and antifreeze, to name a few. Also, make sure you’re not harboring any toxic plants at home. If you have any questions about whether something is harmful or not, check with your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. Be sure to get collars, identification tags, and microchips if your pets do not already have them. All animals, even indoor cats, should be microchipped. Thousands of pets are lost each year and microchips are the best way to ensure your pet a safe return should they become lost.
5. Lastly, commit to spending more quality time with your pets. Play with them more, take your dogs on more walks, and of course, don’t forget to snuggle with them. Nowadays there are many dog friendly places around that let you shop with your pet or even take them to lunch with you. Take advantage of these places and enjoy the time you spend with your pet.
Hopefully, you can follow these pet-friendly resolutions to help your pet start 2018 out on the right paw!
Let’s face it most New Year’s Eve parties are full of delicious foods. However, certain foods that we may love can be dangerous or even deadly to our pets. It is important for pet parents to realize which foods should never be shared with their four legged friends.
1. Alcoholic beverages- It may seem obvious but pets should not consume alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can cause intoxication, liver damage, coma and even death depending on the quantity that is consumed and the size of your pet.
2. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can have affect your pets gastrointestinal tract, heart and nervous system. The bakers chocolate and dark chocolates are more dangerous because they contain higher levels of theobromine and caffeine than the milk chocolates. Keep all chocolate out of reach of pets.
3. Coffee and Cocoa – Have the same effects as chocolate and thus should also not be shared with your pets.
4. Grapes and Raisins can cause severe kidney damage. Be sure to keep all grapes or raisins out of reach of pets.
5. Onions– Won’t just give your dog really bad breath- they are actually very dangerous, as they can cause RBC destruction, which can lead to anemia. Be careful when you are chopping onions….if you drop onions pick them up right away. Cats are even more sensitive to onion toxicity.
6. Macadamia Nuts– Also contain an unknown toxin that can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscles. Consumption of Macadamia nuts can cause a fever, ataxia, paresis, tremors, and pain.
7. Bones-And as most people know never give your pets chicken or fish bones- these types of bones can splinter and cause trauma or become lodged in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract.
8. Fatty Foods-Also avoid sharing fatty foods with your pets. Fatty food can lead to life threatening inflammation of the pancreas-called pancreatitis.
Keep pets away from the celebration
While most of us enjoy New Year’s Eve, it can be loud and scary for our pets. Nose makers, popping champagne corks and occasional fireworks can
unnerve pets and frightened animals will often escape in order to get away. Runaway pets can become lost or get hit by a car. To keep your pet safe and stress-free during the celebration, be sure to keep them indoors, preferably in a secure and comfortable room. Give your pet their favorite toy or a new chew toy to keep them distracted. Turn on the TV or radio to help drown out loud and scary noises.
Collars, ID tags and microchips
All of your pets should have collars, ID tags and microchips, even indoor-only cats. A door or gate could be left open accidentally during the evening festivities, and your pet can escape if they become frightened. Collars, ID tags and microchips are the best way to ensure that if your pet gets lost they will be returned to you.
Follow these tips to help ensure your pets have a safe New Year’s celebration.
Just like us, your pet can be susceptible to the cold. That means your pet should be indoors as much as possible, and if they need to go outside, make sure they stay warm. If you think it’s cold outside, there is a good chance your pet does too. Give your dog a doggie jacket or sweater, and boots to help keep them warm when they go outside for walks or playtime. Be careful about the amount of time they spend outside depending on how cold it gets. Leaving your pet in a car on a cold winter day for long periods of time can be dangerous. When in doubt leave your pet at home.
2.Wipe their paws
As every pet parent knows, your pet’s paws pick up all kinds of stuff. Unfortunately, that can include dangerous chemicals. During winter, it’s common to find salt, de-icing chemicals, and antifreeze on the ground. Be sure to wipe your pet’s paws immediately after they come inside to prevent them from licking any dangerous chemicals.
3.Use safe chemicals
Keep antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, out of reach of pets. Ethylene glycol has a sweet aroma and taste that can attract animals. Unfortunately, it can lead to kidney failure and can be fatal if ingested. Ideally use pet-friendly antifreeze. Pet-friendly anti-freeze is made from propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. This less toxic alternative is available online and at many automotive stores.
4.Check under the hood
Most people have heard of rodents getting caught in car engines, but did you know that cats occasionally get stuck under hoods too? This happens because outdoor cats hide under cars in order to stay warm on cold nights. Sometimes they will climb under the hood to seek shelter. Unfortunately, this is not a safe place for cats. When unsuspecting car owners turn on their ignition, the moving belts can injure, maim, or kill the cat. To help prevent cats and other animals in your neighborhood from getting under your hood, consider the following tips. Whenever possible, park your car in your garage. Honk your horn or tap on the hood before starting your car to scare away any cats. Likewise, slam your car door and make noise to give the cat a chance to get away. The goal is to make noise so any sleeping animals have a chance to scurry off.
5.Be prepared for emergencies with proper ID and disaster kits
A big winter storms can sometimes lead to a power outage. While we can’t predict emergencies, we can be prepared. The first thing you need to do is to make sure all of your pets have proper identification. Make sure your pet has a collar and ID tag with your phone number. Having a collar and ID tag improves the odds that your lost pet will be reunited with you. Unfortunately, collars and tags are not fool proof. Your pet should also have a microchip so that even if they lose their collar, the microchip will identify your pet. Finally, be sure to have a disaster kit for yourself and your pets. The disaster kit should be easily accessible and should include a supply of food, water, treats, toys and a first aid kit. For more information on making a disaster kit, read my blog on how to prepare for emergencies.
Follow these tips to help keep your pet safe and warm during this cold weather.