healthy pet blog

Many people think they only need to take their pets to the veterinarian when vaccinations are due, and while vaccinations are an important part of your pet’s health, there is so much more the veterinarian will need to assess to keep your pet healthy.  For example, the veterinarian will want to discuss your pet’s lifestyle.  Does your cat stay indoors only or does it go outdoors?  Does your dog frequent the dog park, take regular walks, or spend most of it’s time napping?  Also, your veterinarian will need to know information about your pet’s diet and any medications or supplements being given to the pet.

What to expect

After the veterinary team has obtained a detailed history, the veterinarian will give the pet a complete physical examination which will include listening to the heart and lungs, examining the mouth for possible dental disease, checking ears and eyes and thoroughly examine the skin looking for anything unusual.  Routine diagnostics will be performed to check for heartworm disease and intestinal parasites.  Screening blood work may be obtained also to make sure there is no systemic problem.

Once the examination is complete the veterinarian can make recommendations for your pet including a healthy diet and weight management if needed, dental care, and parasite prevention.

Keeping your pet healthy is more than routine vaccinations.  It is important that pets receive preventive healthcare for their overall health and happiness.

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dog treats blog

This may be old news to some of our readers, but we wanted to emphasize the warnings that some pet jerky treats are being linked to serious illness in pets.  The problem appears to be tied to dog treats made in China, although investigators haven’t yet found a certain cause.  The FDA has received reports of illnesses in 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the United States since 2007, and 580 dogs died.

Pets can suffer from a decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting and diarrhea among other symptoms within hours of eating treats sold as jerky strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potato or dried fruit.  Researchers haven’t been able to pin down what ingredient may be causing the problem because many of the treats and their ingredients are imported and the FDA doesn’t want to conduct a recall without a definitive cause.

We would like to advise caution when considering your choice of treats for your pets.

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There is good news in the pet food industry.  Calorie counts will soon start appearing on the labels of almost all dog and cat foods and treats, which will help owners and veterinarians compare products and determine feeding amounts.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is adding the new labeling requirement to its 2014 model feed regulations on the recommendation of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.  It is felt this information is important to address the issue of obesity, since a recent survey indicated that 53% of dogs and 55% of cats in the United States are considered obese or overweight by their veterinarians.  But this caloric information is also important for working dogs, dogs and cats in gestation and lactation, and growing puppies and kittens.  Consumers need to know the calories in order to make good feeding decisions.

Currently, the AAFCO model regulations require light or low-caloried pet foods to list calories and in January 2013, AAFCO approved a proposal requiring all dog and cat foods to list calories.  A spokesperson for AAFCO said the new labeling requirement protects consumers by helping them make more meaningful comparisons between foods.  This change safeguards animal health by making it easier for pet owners and veterinarians to determine the right amount of food for pets.  The new labeling requirement also covers pet treats.

It is important for consumers to know that not all pet food manufacturers follow AAFCO standards.  We recommend that one purchase only pet food with the AAFCO feeding trial statement to guarantee the food meets the minimum standard set by pet food regulators.

cat in sinkDehydration is an imbalance of water and minerals (electrolytes) in the body, and can cause serious complications for pets and people alike.  Water is essential to cats as they depend on proper daily fluid intake to maintain appropriate health and replace fluids that are routinely lost through urine, feces and respiration.  Water makes up 80% of your cat’s body and is necessary for all his biological processes including circulation, digestion and waste removal.

What causes dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when fluid levels drop to less than normal.  This is due to either reduced water intake or increased fluid loss.  Overheating in hot weather, increased activity, vomiting or diarrhea can all result in fluid loss in cats.  Often times, owners do not notice whether their cat is drinking enough water until they have lost much of their body’s water content.  That is why it is very important to give your cat access to fresh water at all times to maintain proper hydration.

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

Dehydration is usually manifested by dull, sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, dry mouth, panting, decreased skin elasticity and constipation.  You may be able to tell if your cat is dehydrated at home by gently lifting the skin on the back of your cat’s neck or between the shoulder blades.  In a normal cat, his skin should return to normal position.  If he is lacking in fluids, the lifted skin may not quickly return to normal.  Also, you can lift your cat’s lips and gently press your finger to his gums for a few seconds.  If the gum returns to pink color within 1 to 2 seconds, the cat is not dehydrated.  If the gum remains pale or white this is a sign of likely dehydration.

Dehydration may indicate a serious underlying problem.  If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated, take him to the veterinarian immediately.  A veterinarian will administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids and may run additional tests if necessary to determine the underlying cause of the condition.

How can I prevent dehydration?

Provide clean water for your cat at all times, and change it frequently to ensure freshness.  Also, wash your cat’s water bowl every day to prevent bacteria from forming.

Observe your cat to determine his preference for obtaining water.  Some cats prefer certain bowls, while others like either tap or bottled water.  Other cats prefer water fountains that can be found at may pet stores.  Try placing multiple bowls of water around the house for easier access.  If your cat is recovering from diarrhea or vomiting, give him an ice cube to lick initially and provide small amounts of water at regular intervals to avoid over-hydrating too quickly.

leptospirosisScanning electron micrograph of a number of Leptospira sp. bacteria

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that infects domestic animals, wildlife and humans.  It is the world’s most common zoonotic disease, meaning it is a disease that can infect both animals and humans.  The disease-causing bacteria are spread through urine of infected animals and can survive from weeks to months in soil and surface waters such as lakes, streams, rivers and stagnant water like puddles.  Rodents, raccoons, skunks, opossums, cattle and swine can all carry and spread Leptospirosis.  Leptospirosis can cause fever, jaundice, kidney failure, abortion and even death.

When is your dog at risk?

Leptospirosis is typically spread when an opening in the skin or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth) comes in contact with the infected urine.  Your dog may be exposed to this  bacteria by drinking, swimming or walking through contaminated water.  The curious nature of your dog, following their nose, may also bring them into contact with the infected urine.

The threat to humans.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 100-200 human cases of Leptospirosis are reported in the United States annually.  In people, the symptoms are often flu-like and in rare cases the disease can develop into a life-threatening illness.  Most human cases of Leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics.

Clinical Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Signs of Leptospirosis infection in dogs may include fever, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and abdominal pain.  If you suspect your dog has been infected, contact your veterinarian, who may perform urine and blood tests to determine if your dog has Leptospirosis.  Antibiotics and fluid therapy may be necessary to treat the disease.  If left untreated, your dog could develop kidney or liver failure and the disease may even be fatal.

What can you do?

To give your dog the Leptosiprosis protection it needs, veterinarians recommend vaccination on a yearly basis.  Also, keep your dog from drinking, swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.

Pooh Bear

Once upon a time, a young Chow dog was found abandoned in a ditch behind a school in the Dallas area.  He was lucky enough to be taken in by a great group of people at dfwrescueme.org where he received medical care, love and attention.  On December 26, 2012 he received a special gift from Santa and was adopted by a very loving family and went to his new forever home.  Three weeks later his new owners were notified that he had heartworm disease.  This is a deadly disease caused by mosquitoes and can be easily prevented with preventive medicines.  Pooh Bear then had to undergo the very painful and dangerous treatment for heartworm disease.  But he was a trooper.  He had some complications with breathing and had to be on oxygen therapy for a time, but now is recovering nicely.  He still has some health issues that are  being addressed, but for the most part is in good physical condition.  His age is estimated to around 3 to 4 years old.

But here is where the story gets better.  Pooh Bear was adopted by a Vietnam veteran and has been a very healing presence in the life of this man who has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He is now scheduled to begin therapy dog training in the hopes of helping many others with PTSD.  We know he will good at this because you can tell by that face that he a such a gentle soul.   The moral of this story is we often do something good in the hopes of improving another being’s life, such as adopting a pet.  But the love and gratitude that a pet gives in return often improves one’s own life.

boxer with tongue outAs the summer heats up it is time to give extra attention to your dog and his environment.  In the heat of summer dogs are susceptible to heat stroke/heat exhaustion.  Heat stroke is an emergency situation and requires immediate treatment.  Because dogs do not sweat (except minimally through their foot pads), they do not tolerate high environmental temperatures as well as humans do.  Dogs depend on panting to exchange warm air for cool air.  But when air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.

Common situations that can possibly cause your dog to overheat include:

  • Being left in a car in hot weather
  • Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
  • Being a short-nosed breed, such as Bulldog, Pug, Boxer or Pekingese
  • Suffering from a heart or lung condition that interferes with efficient breathing
  • Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
  • Suffering from a high fever or seizures
  • Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
  • Being confined without shade or fresh water in hot weather
  • Having a history of heat stroke

Heat stroke begins with rapid and excessive panting.  The tongue and mucus membranes become bright pink or red and the saliva is thick and tenacious. The dog often vomits and sometimes has diarrhea.  Gait is staggering and unsteady.  Body temperature (rectal) is 104 degrees F or higher (normal body temp is 101-102 degrees F).

TreatmentEmergency measures to cool the dog must begin at once.  Move the dog out of the heat source, into the shade or preferably into an air-conditioned building.  Begin cooling by gently wetting the dog with a water hose or immersing him into a tub of cool (NOT ICY COLD) water for up to 2 minutes.  Alternatively,  a wet towel to the groin area may be helpful.  Give small amounts of cool water, but DO NOT let your dog guzzle large amounts of water at a time.  If possible, monitor the dog’s temperature rectally.

Following an episode of heat stroke, take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Heat stroke can be associated with laryngeal edema (throat swelling) and this can seriously worsen the breathing problem.

I recommend having your vet’s contact information in your phone just in case you need it in a hurry when you are out and about and you may even want to make a list of the animal emergency centers that are close to your home as well. Prevention, knowledge of your dog’s normal behavior and being prepared will help you to enjoy the outdoors with your dog safely in all types of weather – get out and have some fun!