Spring is here. Say goodbye to winter, get your four legged companion and go for an enjoyable hike. But wait; is your dog properly protected for a springtime outing?
The most common pest that your dog can pick up on a walk— or at home—is fleas. Infestation can be easily prevented (or eliminated) with a number of products currently available, from topical treatments to oral tablets.
Another pest you may encounter outdoors is mosquitoes, which can spread diseases, such as heartworm. Dogs with heartworm infections can develop often life-threatening problems over time. The worms grow in the heart and can migrate to other organs. In regions where the temperature is consistently above 57°F year-round, a prevention schedule is highly recommended. Your veterinarian can perform a simple heartworm test as a part of your dog’s annual check up and recommend the appropriate products for prevention.
Animals that share the wonderful outdoors, such as raccoons, coyotes and squirrels, can also transmit internal parasites. As a puppy, your dog was dewormed, but that doesn’t mean he has a life-long protection. He can also become infected with parasites later in life. Your veterinarian can test your dog’s stool during an annual exam and, if needed, provide treatment for him.
While some parasites can be a nuisance and a health risk to your dog, they can also affect you. One in particular is Leptospirosis. It is transmitted by a microscopic organism, Leptospira, and its toxins can affect kidneys and liver. The contaminated animal (small mammals, deer and even domestic stock) voids the bladder and spreads live Leptospira, which could come in contact with your dog. There is an optional vaccine available; however, your dog might have an adverse reaction to it. Therefore, you should discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine with your veterinarian. The best way to avoid Leptospirosis is limiting your dog’s access to contaminated water.
Another concern for both you and your dog is Lyme disease. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to pets and humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose and treat. There is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs; check with your veterinarian about the risk of the disease in your area. It is also a good idea to use tick-repellant products, such as collars or topicals, that can prevent ticks from attaching to your dog. Don’t forget to check your dog after a walk for any ticks that might have hitched a ride.
There are a variety of products available to help protect your dog from parasites and pests. Some can combat multiple problems; for example, a product that kills fleas, can also prevent heartworm disease, and treat and control hookworm, roundworm and whipworms. Ask your veterinarian to help you select a product that will be best suited for your dog. Preventive care goes a long way.
Annual Pet Exam
The Annual Exam For Your Pet
How often do you take your pets to the veterinarian? Every owner should have their pet examined at least once a year. If your pet is older, you should take him in for a check up every 6 months.
Why do older pets need to be seen more often?
As with humans, pets can develop health problems as they age. The rate of aging in a typical family pet is much higher than that for a human. For all dogs, the first year of life (in human terms) equals 15 dog years—that’s a lot higher than to the once standard 7 to 1 ratio. At 5 years, the average canine is about 36 years old. Once an animal reaches 6 years of age, the size of the animal comes into play. A large breed dog (weighing in around 50-plus pounds) will begin accumulating more dog years than that of a small breed dog (weighing in around 20 pounds or less).
For example, a large breed dog at age 10 will be the equivalent of a 66-year-old man; whereas a small breed dog will be the equivalent of a 56-year-old human. As one can see, that is about a 10 year age difference.
Blood & Urine Tests
Once critical part of an annual exam is blood and urine tests. A young healthy pet may only need a basic blood panel to check for parasites and organ functions. In contrast, older pets may need additional testing to determine how well their liver, kidneys and basic body chemistry are functioning. These tests can also reveal issues with a pet’s thyroid and lymph nodes.
For older pets, the veterinarian may order imaging diagnostics, such as radiographs. These are exceedingly important as they will help show if arthritis is beginning to form within the joints. Early detection can greatly help with your pet’s longevity as well as his quality of life.
The annual examination is also a good way for pet owners to learn about any parasites that can be found in their area, as well as the various preventative treatments that can be done to prevent infestation.
A pet’s annual exam is just as important for him as it is for you. The length and quality of your pet’s life can be enhanced through the knowledge gained during an exam. Have you taken your pet for his annual exam yet?
By Jennifer Woodward, RVT
Post Operation Pet Care
After Surgery Pet Care Tips
If your pet requires surgery, such as for spaying or neutering, you should be aware of the extra care and consideration he will need to recover quickly and completely.
At the time of your pet’s hospital discharge, a veterinary assistant or staff member will go over the veterinarian’s instructions and answer any questions you may have regarding at-home care, follow-up appointments, exercise, feeding, etc.
If your pet is prescribed medication, make sure you know what it is and its purpose. Every prescription should have a label that contains the following: the medication’s name and strength; administration instructions (how often and when, with or without food, shaken or diluted, etc.), storage instructions (refrigerated or not), expiration date and the veterinary hospital’s contact information.. If you miss a dose, check with your veterinarian on what to do. If this is your first time administering the type of medication prescribed, such as ear drops or a pill, ask the veterinary assistant to show you how before attempting it at home.
You will also be advised on feeding. Will your pet on a special post-op diet? This is especially important to know if you were planning on hiding the medication in something tasty. You’ll also want to know how often and how much you should feed your recovering pet. The majority of pets will be back to normal in no time. That said, it is better to feed your pet smaller but more frequent meals the first day or two following surgery. If your pet is in pain, he may have a decreased appetite. However, a complete absence of any desire for food should be reported to your veterinarian. Unless specifically instructed otherwise, fresh water should always be available.
Limit Your Pet's Activity
After the surgery, your pet should be kept calm in order to prevent injury; if needed you can use a crate or ask the veterinarian to prescribe a sedative. Designate a safe and quiet space for your pet’s recovery, and make sure he has proper bedding.
Your pet may also be groggy due to pain medication. Make sure he doesn’t have access to the pool or stairs, and limit access to slippery surfaces as his balance and coordination may be affected. For routine procedures, such as spaying, you will be instructed to limit activity and exercise for approximately 14 days. For dogs, this means they should be on a leash when taken outside for any reason.
Prevent Wound Licking
Since dogs and cats have a tendency to lick at their wounds, you need to make sure you prevent this behavior as it can seriously jeopardize healing. Your pet should be fitted with an Elizabethan or cone collar. It should be longer than your pet’s muzzle so that he is incapable of reaching the wound. Bitter apple or similar bad-tasting sprays can also be topically applied to discourage your pet from licking; however, it may not always be effective.
Your pet’s incision site is another concern. Usually, a veterinary assistant will instruct you on how to keep the incision site clean. Applying non-prescribed ointments are not necessary and may be unwanted; check with your veterinarian before applying any over-the-counter ointments. If there is a bandage, it should be kept clean and dry at all times.
Watch For Excessive Discharge
What if there is discharge? Some redness and swelling is to be expected after a procedure, as is a small amount of reddish or yellowish fluid. Inspect the sutures daily. If you notice any additional redness, swelling, foul smelling odor, excessive discharge or opening of the wound, take your pet to the hospital as soon as possible. Even the most routine surgeries can have unexpected complications, so it is better to keep a vigilant eye on your pet’s recovery.
Older/Weak Pets Care Tip
Older or weak pets may need to an extra hand when it comes to getting upright and even walking. A towel underneath a dog’s belly or a “belly sling” can be used to give them a boost, but only if it doesn’t cover and put pressure on the wound site. (This method is not intended for spays, as the incision is on the belly.)
Make sure to call your veterinary hospital if you have any questions or concerns. Surgery can be pretty traumatic for a pet as well as the owner, but with some tender love and care, you can make the recuperation process a lot easier on your friend—and you.
By Vesna Ban-Smedberg, RVT
Frostbite and Dogs - What You Should Know
Frostbite on Dogs
As snow covers the ground, we should pay special attention to our four-legged friends. That wonderful white scenery holds a cold truth: Dogs get frostbite.
Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to freezing temperatures and it may take a couple of days to see the full damage of frostbite. Short hair, wet fur, diabetes and a small size are just a few contributing factors for dogs. The body parts on dogs which are most commonly affected are the ears, tail, scrotum and nipples. Interestingly, foot pads are rarely frostbitten. Explanations for this include the arrangement of blood vessels and specialized epithelial cells.
The Three Stages of Frostbite
The first stage is characterized by pale to gray skin that might be cold or hard to the touch. When the skin warms up, it will have a reddish appearance. The second stage is marked by an appearance of blisters. The third stage is the most serious. The skin turns dark or black during the next couple of days, and it might start sloughing. The tissue is dead and it must be treated to prevent serious infections. In extreme cases, amputation of a limb may be required.
Keep in mind that when your dog is frostbitten, her body temperature might also be affected. Hypothermia (low body temperature) requires immediate attention.
What to Do if you Notice a Problem
Get your dog inside immediately. If you are transporting your dog, make sure you do not turn up the heater to high. Cold to gradual warm temperature is much more appropriate. DO NOT RUB! Even though you need to warm up your pet, rubbing can cause further damage to the tissue and it might release accumulated toxins. Instead, submerge the affected area in lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F) for about 20 minutes. Pat the area dry and prevent your dog from licking or scratching. As frostbite is very painful, you need to contact your veterinarian for pain medication and, if required, antibiotics. Keep a close eye on the frostbite as the true damage might not appear for days to follow.
How to Prevent Frostbite
Certain breeds, such as huskies and malamutes, are very well adapted to cold weather and thrive in it. They have a double coat and “snowshoes,” which is hair between their toes and can withstand temperatures as low as -60 degrees F. How about the rest of the breeds? We took our companions inside, where they adapted to a leisurely lifestyle in which household heat is common. If you are going for a walk, you might consider booties to protect your furry friend’s paws from cold and blisters. The veterinary assistant at your hospital can show you how to fit your dog for booties. A coat or a jacket may not be a bad idea either—and your pet will look fashionable while warm. With the proper precautions and preparation, you and your dog can enjoy a wonderful winter.
By Vesna Ban-Smedberg, RVT
Unusual Cravings in Cats: Strange Things Cats Eat—Part 1
Cats With Pica
As with some humans, cats are known to eat strange things. The urge to eat “non-food items” is known as “pica,” and is common for many of our feline friends. For example, there is a behavior called “wool sucking,” which occurs in cats that are weaned too soon. The younger the kitten, the greater the urge to nurse and the more likely it will suck on wool. This means fuzzy items such as sweaters, stuffed animals, towels and fleece will fall victim to this behavior.
Causes of Pica?
Some cats might find other strange items irresistible: paper, plastic grocery bags, houseplants, carpet and even electrical cords. Usually there is nothing to worry about; however, pica can be associated with several diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency or feline leukemia. In any case, a cat needs to be examined by a veterinarian since pica can be caused by several things:
Genetics: Wool sucking is seen more commonly in Siamese and Birman cats (not to be confused with Burmese cats). Wool sucking could be more of a nursing behavior, which is related to kneading.
Dietary Deficiencies: While it is normal for cats to eat a bit of grass, eating a large amount of plant material could mean something is missing from their diet. Eating cat litter might mean the cat is anemic.
Medical Issues: Besides feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency (or FIV), pica can also be associated with diabetes or brain tumors.
Environmental Conditions: Cats can get bored and therefore might need more mental or physical stimulation. Cats might also be seeking attention, be hungry, or are attracted to scents (grocery bags that contained meats, for example). It might also be a learned behavior.
Compulsive Disorder: If all other possibilities, such as a medical issue, have been ruled out, pica might be a compulsive disorder.
Although it mainly shows up in younger cats, pica can also appear in older cats as well. While occasional chewing on items should not be a problem, pica could be dangerous. Chewing on power cords can be a major problem; so is ingesting foreign materials, which can cause blockage in the stomach or the intestine. Either way, it can be fatal to a cat.
By Penny Derbyshire-Baldyga, RVT
Common Mistakes Owners Make Feeding Cats
Cat Feeding Tips
Most people think the process of caring and feeding a feline is general knowledge, but often a lot of mistakes are made. The most common error is to feed dog food to a cat. Cats need twice as much protein as dogs. Plus cats also need taurine (an amino acid) in their diet along with vitamin A. Over time, a cat that has been eating dog food could develop severe heart disease and other health issues.
Vitamin Supplements Can Cause Problems
Unless a veterinarian advises it, do not add vitamin supplements to your cats’ diet. Excessive vitamin A can cause sterility and hair loss, while an overdose of vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium can cause kidney and metabolic bone disease. Supplementing vitamins are not needed as long as your cat is fed a well-balanced diet.
Contrary to popular belief, fish is not the usual diet for cats. Raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase that destroys thiamine, causing a B vitamin deficiency. This can result in loss of appetite, seizures and brain damage. Cooking the fish will remove the enzyme, but a regular diet of fish does not contain adequate amounts of needed vitamins and minerals. Tuna as an occasional treat is fine per most veterinarians. However, tuna does not contain enough vitamin E and can cause yellow fat disease, or Hepatic Lipidosis, which damages the liver.
Reminder...Cats Are Carnivores
Many owners these days think a homemade diet is best; however, a homemade diet may not necessarily mean a healthy diet. Unlike dogs, cats are carnivores (dogs, like humans, are omnivores.) Feeding a cat a diet loaded with tuna, liver or oils such as cod liver oil, can lead to vitamin A toxicity, which could result in dry skin, brittle bones and joint pain. If you wish to feed your cat a homemade diet, be sure to check with your veterinary assistant who can recommend a good, balanced diet.
As with dogs, cats should not be given table scraps, as they are usually too spicy and contain too much fat. Plus, feeding scraps from the table can lead to begging and/or stealing from the table. In addition, do not give any type of bone to cats. Chicken or turkey bones can splinter causing injury, and beef or pork bones can become lodged in the intestinal track.
Cats and Milk
Everyone knows cats tend to love milk. However, cats are lactose intolerant and giving them milk can cause diarrhea. Also, milk should never replace water intake as the resulting diarrhea can cause dehydration.
Lastly, feed the correct food for your cat’s stage of life. If you have a kitten, it is important to feed beginning-stage cat food since it contains more protein and fat than regular adult cat food.
Catnip (also known as catmint, cat’s play, catswort, Chi Hsueh Tsao) is a perennial herb, a member of the mint family, and is best know for its hallucinogenic effects on cats. Catnip is native to Europe, Africa and Asia plus it grows in some parts of Canada and the Midwestern United States. It not only affects the common house cat but also ocelots, lions, bobcats, leopards, pumas and lynx but not tigers. Rats and mice may dislike catnip and avoid the areas where it grows.
How your cats responds to catnip is genetic as some cats (around 30) are not affected by it. The cats that do inherit the “catnip” gene do not seem to develop a reaction until around three months of age. In fact, kittens under 8 weeks of age usually have an aversion to it and will try to avoid it.
The active ingredient, nepetalactone, found in leafs and stems of the plant are what create the amusing behavioral reactions. Sniffing the catnip will create the first reaction. Cats will sniff, lick and chew on the plant, rolling or rubbing against it. They may bite it, paw at it, rub against it, roll and jump over the catnip. Purring, salivating and growling, meowing and even hissing may also be a reaction to the catnip. However, not all cats will re-act the same. Some cats may become aggressive and may fight with other cats in the household.
The effect usually lasts about 10 to 15 minutes at the most. Despite what it appears, catnip is not addicting to cats. There will be no withdrawal symptoms and they cannot overdose on it. Once the cat is done with the catnip, they will simply walk away.
The reason why exposure to catnip causes such an intense happiness is not really known. It is believed that the reaction to smelling the nepetalactone causes the cat to eat or bite the stems and leaves which releases the essential oils. Some experts feel that catnip stimulates a pleasure center that may mimic feline courtship.
Humans have used catnip for medicinal uses: drinking it like tea. It is believed to help settle an upset stomach, treat insomnia and help headaches. Some cultures use it for muscle pain and toothaches while it can also be used as an aromatic herb in cooking and salads.
Good quality catnip is dark green and smells like mint. It can be purchased from many veterinary hospitals and pet stores. It can be used fresh or dried, as an extract, an aerosol spray, as seeds or in dried form. Many cat toys contain catnip. If you are concerned about the effects of catnip on your feline family member, contact your local veterinarian and speak to the Veterinary Assistant with your concerns.
Enrichment for the Indoor Cat
Now that the weather is cooler, more of the inside / outside cats are becoming indoor-only cats. Most veterinary professionals agree that keeping your cat indoors is the preferred choice regardless of weather. This lessens the chance of encountering injury or disease and they can adapt quite well, but providing an enriched environment helps minimize boredom, keeps them physically fit and can reduce or even eliminate some unwanted behaviors!
Some Basic Requirements
Sure, we know that food and water are the basics for all living creatures, so that’s a given. Of course, you will want to have a litter box as well. Additional things that cats need, to enhance their indoor experience and to allow them to perform their natural behaviors, are a scratching post and toys. They also need their own personal space!
Food and Water
Since cats are solitary hunters, it’s preferable to place their food and water in a location where loud noises won’t travel (on the washing machine during the spin cycle is not recommended!!). Also place their food in an area sheltered from regular household traffic; a place where they’ll feel safe eating. Keep in mind, the cat’s litter box shouldn’t be near by, either.
Many cats enjoy a bit of running water, either from the sink or a bowl that circulates the water. Obtaining water this way can be more stimulating than a regular bowl. Cat grass is something that can enrich your indoor cat’s munchies cravings. Cats will chew on a bit of grass when allowed outdoors and a cat appropriate indoor grass will bring some of that outdoor fun inside!
You can enrich your little hunter’s dinner time by simulating the hunt. There are commercially made “toys” that you can place either a bit of moist food or treats in and your cat can “stalk” its prey. They have to interact with it and the food will be released. Not only does this satisfy their inner lion, but it helps them stay active.
Living Space (and personal space)
Cats tend not to have a social hierarchy, like dogs do. If you have multiple animals, it’s important to provide each animal with their own “space”. Small adjustments to your household environment, like having beds in multiple spots or clearing perches for your cat (even an empty spot on the window sill will work) provides opportunities for the cat to disengage with the household and have some quiet time to themselves.
One natural cat behavior (that drives their humans crazy!) is scratching. In the “wild”, scratching not only maintains the health of their claws, but it leaves behind pheromones as well as visible claw marks to alert other cats they they’ve been there. Vertical scratching posts work well, as this is the natural position that many cats prefer (think of those trees!). Commercial scratching posts generally have carpet, but many cats prefer natural sisal. Sisal is from the agave plant that yields a fibrous material often used to make rope, dartboards, and other similar items. Sisal allows the cats to really sink their claws in! Other substances that cats enjoy are cardboard scratchers. While some cats will take right to these, many owners have a complaint that their cat won’t even look sideways at the post. Watch how and where your cats tend to scratch. Do they prefer to stretch up? If you notice that they do, then a vertical post will be more appealing (especially with a bit of cat nip application!). This behavior ties into territory marking, so positioning these posts in the location where the cat tends to frequent will increase usage. If your cat spends most of her time in the spare bedroom, then position the post there. If most of her time is spent on the couch, place one in very close proximity.
As we’ve established, cats are predators and they require prey in order to keep the mind satisfied. Natural hunting behaviors would be stalking, pouncing, jumping, biting and chasing; all things that humans do not appreciate much, especially at 2 am!! However, understand that cats need to do this as it is instinctual. When engaging in play with your cat, discourage the cat using you as the toy. Do not let him bite your hands or your feet. This may lead to play-related aggression issues later on. More appropriate toys would be something like a battery operated toy that moves on its own to encourage pouncing. Cat nip filled toys are often light weight, allowing the cat to toss the toy around and catch it, enacting a natural behavior if they had caught a small rodent. Other great toys that you can interact with your cat are the light beam toys (hours of chasing and jumping!!) or toys at the end of poles (like those feathers) or wands.
Providing an enriched indoor environment for your feline will combat boredom while keeping your cat more active. Indoor enrichment can also improve unwanted behaviors, such as excessive vocalizing or aggression. If you are experiencing any behavioral problems with your cat, it’s recommended to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the behavior and ensure that there is not a hidden health issue before focusing on behavior modification. Your veterinary assistant can also review what enrichment strategies you’ve been utilizing and offer further advice. Working together with your veterinary team, you can provide your cat with a fulfilling indoor lifestyle.
Are Dogs Colorblind?
Can Dogs See Color?
One of the most common questions that a veterinary assistant is asked is “Are dogs really colorblind?” The answer to this question is, “Yes, they indeed are.” However, one truly needs to understand the perimeters set to be considered “colorblind”. Being diagnosed “colorblind” does not mean that they can only see in black and white. In fact those that are known as “colorblind” are not completely blind to all colors. They are able to see certain colors or the lack of certain colors. It is commonly referred to as ‘Red/Green’ and ‘Blue/Yellow’ which are determined by what color the individual is having trouble viewing.
Dogs Have Less Color Receptors Than We Do
Found in the eye are color receptors which are referred to as “cones”. Cones help the individual in distinguishing 3 main colors; red, blue, and green. These three receptors are able to blend together to help form the variety of colors that humans are able to see in their daily lives. Dogs, on the other hand, only have 2 color receptors; blue and green. Due to only have two receptors instead of three, dogs have difficulty in seeing the color green, which falls into the category of “Red/Green” colorblindness.
Dogs Can See Some Colors
The big question is which colors do dogs truly have issues seeing? There is a list that many believe are colors that our canine friends are unable to see: red, orange, green, green/blue colors, and some shades of purple. This does not mean that dogs are not completely unable to see things in these colors. Could you imagine if a dog were unable to see your lawn? These colors are simply not received by these receptors so these colors will show up in various shades of grays and blacks.
Color Vision Deficiancy
In order for your veterinary assistant to truly answer this particular question accordingly, it would be better stated that dogs have Color Vision Deficiency. This means that they are able to see some color but are limited to the Blue and Yellow color receptors, and do not have the ability to see anything in the green category as its true color.
Reading Cats’ Like a Book
How To Read a Cat
In order to work with cats, whether it be as a veterinary assistant in a private practice or at home (or even as a cat trainer!), it is important to know a bit about their body language and communication in order to understand them better.
How Cats Communicate
Cats actually have many ways of communication. We are probably most familiar with their voice. Cats have several types of meows, depending on what they are trying to communicate. (Fun fact: Adult cats usually don’t meow at each other. They save it for their humans!) The one we most frequently hear is the “hello” meow! Of course, this is the cat’s way of saying “welcome home”, especially if they have been alone for the day. Of course, anyone who’s owned a cat can tell you about the slightly more urgent meow of “food time”. Additionally, if you have a cat that goes outside, you will note the longer meow of “please let me in”.
When a Cat Yowls
You may note that a previously quiet cat may become more vocal as they age too. Cats can suffer from cognitive dysfunction and become confused. If you couple this with a bit of elderly loss of hearing, your senior cat may yowl! This yowl will be made loudly to seek reassurance from their owners.
Other Cat Noises
Along with meows, cats have a wide repertoire of chirps, growls, hisses and purrs. Cats will frequently chirp or chatter when highly excited; for example, when they are hunting and have spotted prey (or if they are inside only cats, when they have an interactive toy that they are “hunting”).
Growls and hissing is usually self explanatory- for both human and other cats. “You’ve caught me off guard but I’m ready to tussle- watch out!” is their main motive. Purring is, indeed, an expression of contentment; however, many people may not know that a very stressed cat (say the one in the exam room at the veterinary hospital, waiting for vaccinations) may purr as well, as an indication of the stress.
Understanding A Cat's Body Language
Body language is the main form of communication between cats, so this may be very helpful for the veterinary assistant to be able to interpret in a clinical setting. They use their ears, tail, and body posturing and even facial expressions. The tail is a wonderful barometer of how the cat is feeling. A tail that is straight up, which may be shaking as well, indicates excitement. The tail that is moving side to side is indicating that this cat is becoming impatient, which could lead to a sudden whipping of the tail! Watch out! That cat is ready to strike! A tail that is that is hanging down means that this cat is relaxed.
Watch A Cat's Facial Expression For Clues
Facial expressions can give you some insight to what kitty is thinking. Ears that are held straight up and forward signal a happy, relaxed cat. Couple that with eyelids that are partially closed and winking a bit means you have one very content kitty! If your cat’s whiskers are positioned very forward while the ears are in this position, with narrow pupils but wide eyes means kitty is ready to play (watch your toes!).
A scared cat will have the whiskers positioned very close to the face, ears held flat and wide eyes with dilated pupils. Use slow movements when handling this guy. An angry cat will stare you down, with narrow pupils. Those ears will be up a bit, but twisted back.
Reading Body Posture
Cats’ body posturing may be hard to determine, but when you take in other locations of the body, it’s easier to determine their state of mind. A cat that holds their head up high, or stretched out along with stretching their back legs fully says this is one confident feline! A cat that has slightly bent hind legs and keeps their head down a bit, along with being more compact in the body (crouching, more or less) means the cat is feeling defensive and protective. We are all familiar with the Halloween cat stance- back arched, hind legs fully planted and most of the fur erect means that this is a very angry cat and needs to be approached with utmost caution.
When working with cats as a veterinary assistant, it is important to learn to read the cat’s body language. This can mean less stress for the cat and less injury to the staff, which is a win-win experience for all!
Sources: Arizona Humane Society
Dog Parks: Things to Think About
Dog Parks Can Be Great! Just Be Prepared
Dog parks have popped up all over the United States. These parks provide a chance for that couch potato pooch to get up, get moving and meet new friends! Dogs, just like humans, need both physical and mental stimulation to achieve a sense of well being. (They say a tired dog is a good dog!) Dog parks provide this outlet. However, there are a few things to consider before you pack up Fluffy and head on over!
Many people think that if they put their Maltese in with that group of Boxers, all will be fine and they will naturally form a play pack. This is not necessarily the case. It’s important to assess your own dog’s personality. Even though you may feel that this would be a great experience to get out and meet new friends, your dog may not be the social butterfly type and he may prefer long walks with you or maybe some playtime in a familiar environment with familiar dogs. Dog fights are no joke (for both the dogs as well as the owners involved) and if you know that your dog may not be the best fit to run with the pack, then it’s best to respect your dog’s personal boundaries.
Are You Current On Your Vaccines?
Dog parks are a bit like preschool! Sharing is caring, but do you want that adorable Lab puppy to share his Parvo with your pooch? Many viruses can be shed through feces without the animal showing any outward symptoms themselves. This particular virus is pretty hardy and can remain in the soil for over a year! Not only is picking up after your dog good etiquette, it also keeps communicable diseases (and parasites) from being spread via dirt and soil in a dog park.
Bordetella (Kennel Cough) Vaccine Option
A common infection that dogs love to share is Bordetella, more commonly known as Kennel Cough. It’s a complex of viruses and bacteria, but it’s quite contagious and airborne. As with Parvo, the animal can look perfectly healthy but still be contagious. While there are a few other very contagious viruses that can be shared, the core vaccinations for dogs usually have incorporated these components in what is frequently called the “distemper” vaccine. The DHLP-P stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvo and Para Influenza. Some veterinarians do not incorporate the “L”, or Leptospirosis, into the vaccinations at their office. Bordetella is a vaccine that is optional, so be sure to discuss your dog’s lifestyle with your veterinary assistant so you can be sure that his needs will be met.
Parasites- Inside and Out!
Parasites, both external (like fleas and ticks) and internal (like roundworms) are another thing that dogs do not mind sharing! Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and giardia all may be found in a dog park environment. Again, a dog may harbor these parasites but seem perfectly healthy. However, dogs can still pass microscopic eggs on to other dogs through their feces. All it takes is your dog to walk by and have a casual sniff and get a bit of microscopic eggs on their nose. A quick lick of the nose has now introduced those eggs to your dog’s intestinal track! Luckily, most heartworm preventions and some topical preparations (by prescription only) can help prevent not only heartworms, but many of these parasites as well. Again, discuss your dogs lifestyle with your veterinary assistant and she can help you choose what heartworm and/or flea and tick treatment with the extra benefit of intestinal parasite protection will be the best fit for you and your dog.
You may think that you have to cross the dog park off of your weekend to-do list, but this does not need to be the case! The socialization with both humans and other canines is important for your dog and, of course, the exercise benefits a fit body and psyche for your canine companion. Common sense and communicating your dog’s lifestyle needs with your veterinary assistant is all that’s needed to ensure that your dog is protected and ready to romp!
Anaphylaxis in Dogs
Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) in Dogs
A French Bulldog is brought into the veterinary hospital. His face is visibly swollen, and he is breathing with great effort and difficulty. His skin is covered in bumpy hives. The owners were obviously very concerned as they were seeing the rapid progression of the symptoms for, what seemed like, no known reason. The veterinary assistant assessed the dog and immediately took him in the treatment room for the veterinarian to examine the patient. The veterinarian determined very quickly that the patient was suffering from a severe allergic reaction. As the cherry on the sundae, the veterinarian found a bee stinger still stuck on the dog’s lip! The veterinarian started the treatment, administering oxygen to offer respiratory support and intravenous medications, steroids and antihistamines. During the conversation with the owners, the information started to trickle out in regards to what happened. The dog enjoys chasing flies, lasers, lights, feathers, etc. He was just outside in the backyard for 15 minutes taking a potty break. After that, he came in with his face swollen and raspy breathing. The veterinarian pointed out that this fits with the very possible scenario that the dog was outside, unsupervised, was chasing a bee and got stung by it. The venom from the bee caused the dog’s body to over-react to it and cause a severe allergic reaction. It was a good thing they had brought the pet in when they did, since this could have a serious and deadly outcome. The French Bulldog was discharged from the hospital next morning.
The dog was very lucky! Anaphylaxis (or allergic reactions) is a life threatening condition and it requires immediate veterinary attention!
Symptoms To Watch For
Not all allergic reactions are life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is characterized by a rapid onset of symptoms after the exposure to a foreign substance (insect stings, certain medications, rarely vaccinations etc.) to which the body reacts with an allergic response. The symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, drooling, hives, pale gums, elevated heart rate, weak pulse and respiratory distress. When the circulatory and respiratory systems are threatened, we consider this an anaphylaxis or allergic shock and it is classified as an emergency.
The definitive diagnosis can take time, which is why the timely treatment needs to be started as soon as possible. If the condition is left untreated, the time from exposure to death can be within an hour. Different medications and treatments are available for supporting the heart and blood pressure, and they will also control the release of the chemicals that perpetuate the anaphylactic reaction, called inflammatory mediators. Oxygen access needs to be secured, in critical situations. This can include oral intubations or placement of the oxygen tube directly into the trachea. Depending on how severe the anaphylaxis was, the hospitalization usually lasts between 24 to 48 hours.
If you recognize the anaphylaxis early and seek aggressive veterinary intervention, the chances of survival increase exponentially. Owners should keep an eye on their pets, especially outdoors where there is possibility of venomous insects.
Does Animal Behavior Change With A Full Moon?
The Full Moon Has Physical Effects On Your Pet: Myth or Fact?
It is very common for veterinary assistants to receive inquiries from their clients that are a bit on the odd side. A popular question among many clients is, “Will the full moon affect my pet?” It is then up to the veterinary assistant to advise the client to the best of their abilities, but how do you answer a question like that? Is there any fact behind a full moon having actual health or behavior affects on a pet, or is it all myths and rumors?
How The Moon Affects The Earth
The Moon and the Earth have a very strong magnetic pull on each other. As water is not stationary and able to move about freely, the Earth does not have full control over it. This enables the magnetic pull of the moon to influence large bodies of water on Earth. This magnetic pull is so strong that it creates ocean currents which in turn cause tides to form.
Statistics Show Doctor Visits Increase During a Full Moon
As we have seen the lunar effects on the Earth, many people have begun to believe that this magnetic pull can also influence animals and humans alike. One study done by Dr. Raegan Wells, DVM, suggested that emergency room visits during the 3 days the moon is full increases by a staggering percentage. Her research shows that there was a 23 greater amount of cats and a 28 greater amount of dogs in the emergency room during a full moon’s 3 night peak.
Full Moon = Increased Activity
The study sited above is just one of many studies hypothesizing on the full moon and its effects on animals’ behaviors and health. The issue still begs the question: does the full moon affect animals? On must remember that those three days of peak light from the moon often encourage night activities, which could lead to more pet owners having nocturnal outings with their pets. As activities increase outside at night, a greater amount of emergency room visits could feasibly be expected.
Behavior Change is Scientifically Unproven, BUT…
It is the job of the veterinary assistant to caution pet owners on the importance of pet safety while out at night. Light reflecting collars or collar flashers should be used so automobiles may see your pet from a distance. Also, owners should be given the contact information to the nearest Emergency Center so they may plan accordingly. While many workers in the veterinary world like to joke about the weird occurrence that can happen on a full moon, and while many studies have hypothesized about the possible effects the moon may have on your pet, it has not yet been scientifically proven yet. However, that does not mean that you shouldn’t be careful during a night time romp with Fido!
Knee Injury in Dogs: Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
One of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs is a torn anterior cruciate ligament. If you are a sports fan, you are very familiar with this injury, especially since it puts the player’s career on hold. A torn anterior cruciate ligament (or ACL) is a tear of the ligament (tissue holding two bones together ), located in the knee.
The dog will limp usually although sometimes the limp going away for a while despite the presence of the tear. The inside of the knee can swell up. The veterinarian’s exam will include a physical examination and x-rays to confirm the diagnosis. During the exam the vet holds the femur in place and if the ligament is torn, the tibia will usually slide forward when manipulated. While examining the x-ray, the veterinarian is looking for fluid retention, possible bone fragments and the degree of arthritis that has set in.
In dogs, ACL is caused by a variety of possible factors. One of these factors is heredity. Certain breeds have had higher occurrences of torn ACL’s then others. Also, obesity will put more stress on the knee and potentially lead to knee degeneration. Or it can be a simple mis-step that finishes off the already affected but not yet torn ligament.
In small dogs, under 30 lbs, the veterinarian may opt to restrict the dog`s activity and prescribe anti-inflammatory medication. With the proper care the ligament will start healing and the condition may improve between 6 weeks to 2 months. Keep in mind that a lack of a healthy ACL may cause bone spurs, pain, arthritis and decreased range of motion.
In the case of large dogs, surgical repair is required, as the ligament is not able to heal on it’s own due to excessive size and body pressure. There are multiple surgical techniques, all of them with the intention of stabilizing and reconstructing the joint. They can consist of using synthetic sutures to re-create the ligament or cutting and repositioning the bone with plates and screws. Post-operation, the dog will not be bearing weight for about 3 weeks. With proper care, they should be able to start using the leg fully in 2 to 3 months.
Keep in mind that when one leg is affected, the other leg will carry much more weight then normal. This added strain on the unaffected leg can often lead to a tear of the ligament in the opposite knee.
When the dog is discharged from the hospital after the surgery, the veterinary assistant will make sure that the owner is thoroughly informed of the proper care. One of the things you can do at home, to help the healing, is ice the knee in order to reduce swelling. The veterinary assistant can demonstrate passive range of motion which is a great physical therapy. The emphasis needs to be placed on restricted activity, for surgical and non-surgical cases. This includes keeping the patient confined in a crate at all times during recuperation, except for leashed short walks only for the animal to void their bladder and defecate. Especially with large dogs, assistance while getting up may be needed. For giant breeds you may need to use the sling up to 4 weeks, while small breeds may not need any assistance at all. If the dog is overweight, a diet needs to be implemented. Hydrotherapy is also a great low impact exercise, but it is up to the veterinarian’s discretion to include it as a part of the treatment plan.
In short, if you notice your dog being lame on a hind leg, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible, not only to treat the problem, but also to prevent any possible complications. Unaddressed injury can cause permanent lameness and pain.
Hairballs in Cats
Cats are fastidious groomers as we all know. When a cat grooms, the tiny, hook-like structures on the tongue catch loose or dead fur which the cat then swallows. For the most part, this fur is passed through the digestive tract without incident; but some of the fur may stay in the stomach which develops into a hairball. Because this hairball must pass through the esophagus in order to be vomited up, they usually appear to be tube-like rather than round.
Long-haired cats are more likely to have hairballs as do cats that shed a lot or are compulsive groomers. A cat trying to expel a hairball will retch, gag and hack, but will usually vomit the hairball without trouble. However, problems can occur when the hairball cannot be vomited. Frequent retching, gagging or hacking without the production of a hairball, a lack of appetite, vomiting undigested food, swollen abdomen, sluggishness, diarrhea or constipation may be an indication a hairball has caused a blockage. This blockage makes it impossible for the cat to either vomit or have a bowel movement which constitutes an emergency situation. If you suspect that your cat may have a blockage, contact your veterinarian hospital immediately and speak to the veterinary assistant on duty with your concerns. There may be several options that the veterinarian will discuss with you but a severe blockage will require surgical removal.
Although you cannot prevent hairballs, you can reduce the amount and/or frequency. Home remedies such as butter or oils should not be used as they may cause other digestive problems. One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount and/or frequency is to groom your cat on a regular basis. Many cats will accept brushing or combing by their owners but those that do not can be taken to a professional groomer for brushing and a possible hair cut, especially for long-haired breeds.
There are many hairball products on the market which are actually a mild form of a laxative which will help the hairball pass through the digestive tract. Most are petroleum-based and are flavored to make them more appetizing to the cat. There are also special “hairball formula” cat food on the market which contains a high fiber formula. This formula will not only help hairballs to pass through the digestive tract, they also help to reduce shedding and can improve your cat’s coat.
Water is also important for your cats’ digestive system; be sure the water is clean, fresh and easily accessible. If you suspect that your cat is a compulsive groomer, try offering other distractions such as a new toy to play with or find one that you can play with together.
You cannot stop a cat from grooming, but you can help prevent problems associated with hairballs with simple preventive practices.
February is National Pet Dental Month - A Healthy Mouth is A Healthy Pet!
Let’s talk about the most prevalent disease that affects our beloved furry family members; periodontal disease. Periodontal disease affects up to 85 of dogs and cats by the time they are 4 years old. It is estimated that 80 of people brush their teeth daily. What would you guess the percentage is for our canine and feline counterparts? Oral health is as important for our pets as it is for us.
Periodontal disease affects 4 types of tissues in the mouth that support the tooth structure; the gums (gingival), cementum (a boney like connective tissue that covers the roots of the tooth), the periodontal ligament (fibers that actually connect the tooth to your jaw bone) and the jaw bone itself which is called the alveolar bone.
The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is the only stage that is reversible. It starts with plaque accumulation. Plaque is what we call a bio-film composed of mucin (which is a protein found in saliva), skin cells of the oral cavity, and bacteria (lots of them!). Once removed, plaque will reform within 24 to 48 hours.
The second stage of periodontal disease occurs when plaque has combined with mineral salts found in food and tartar has formed. Most humans stay within the tartar range, but since most of us do not take our animals in for their 6 month dental check up, animals develop something called calculus, which is a very thick layer of tartar. Once this calculus accumulates the bacteria levels have increased. Calculus is also really irritating to the gum tissues. The bacteria combined with the irritated tissues can change the pH of the mouth, allowing the bacteria to move under the gums. The waste product from these bacteria actually eats away at the supporting tissues, such as the periodontal ligament, resulting in a 25 loss of tooth support.
The third and fourth stage is a more progressive form of the first two stages which results in loss of the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. Not only is this causing discomfort to your pet, but studies have shown, (in both humans and pets) that periodontal disease also affects other organ systems, causing kidney dysfunction, heart damage and even diabetes.
Prevention is the key. If your animal already has calculus formation, it must be removed professionally at your veterinarian’s office. Many people have concerns about placing their animal under anesthesia and have heard about “anesthetic-free” dental cleanings. These are usually performed by non-licensed individuals who have had minimal training. This is considered practicing veterinary medicine without a license and is illegal. Firstly, bacteria found inside the mouth becomes aerosolized when being removing mechanically. When your animal is having a professional cleaning, an endotracheal tube is placed into the trachea to provide a pathway for the gas anesthetic to reach the animal. This endotracheal tube also protects the lungs from these bacteria, preventing a lung infection. The animal is not protected if they are awake. Secondly, it can be very painful to the animal, particularly if there is an infection. Thirdly, this type of “cleaning” can do more damage than good, for both the operator as well as the animal. The facilitator getting bit by the animal is only one hazard. If the animal makes a sudden movement, oral tissue can be profoundly damaged.
Once your animal has had their teeth professionally cleaned, you may start on a home routine. Your veterinary assistant can show you techniques that will effectively remove plaque formation. While there is a flood of products on the market that claim to keep your pet’s mouth in excellent shape, nothing takes the place of mechanically removing the plaque.
One of the first things to note is that you must be dedicated to this. The “occasional brushing” defeats the entire purpose. It must be done on a regular basis, minimally three times a week. The ideal scenario would be a daily cleaning for your pet. If you do start a home regimen, remember, animals do not spit and fluoride is toxic if swallowed. You need to be sure that you are using an animal specific dentifrice. They often come in animal friendly flavors, like chicken or fish, and have enzymes that assist in breaking down the plaque. Your veterinary assistant will recommend introducing this to your pet by letting them lick a bit of paste from your finger. You will want to gradually introduce the brush and increase frequency once accepted. Most dogs will allow this to be done. Cats, however, are individual with their acceptance, but do not let one “not so perfect” incident discourage you. Patience and perseverance will result in a healthy, long lived relationship with your furry family member!
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the dog suffers from recurring seizures over a period of time. These are caused by an imbalance of the chemicals that transmit the electrical impulses in the brain. Grand mal seizures, which are most commonly associated with epilepsy, are characterized by loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.
Epilepsy can be idiopathic (which means it comes from an unknown cause) or it can be acquired. The idiopathic epilepsy represents about 5 of dogs, which accounts for 80 of recurring seizures. The acquired epilepsy has an identifiable cause, most usually a head injury. The mass of scar tissue or lesions on the brain can be identified by performing different tests such as skull X-Rays, EEGs (also known as Electroencephalograms), CT (Computed Tomography) scans or a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
"True" epilepsy involves the seizures to be recurrent and similar. They usually become more frequent with age. The seizures start between 6 months of age to 5 years. For certain breeds inheritance of epilepsy has been proven. This is the case with breeds like the Beagle, Dachshund, Keeshond and Belgian Tervurens. Other breeds that are most commonly associated with suspected inheritance are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Miniature Schnauzers and Akitas to name a few.
A typical epileptic seizure (grand mal seizure) consists of three phases. The first phase is called an Aura. This is when the dog will become restless, anxious, and may demand affection or seek seclusion. It is followed by an actual seizure (the Ictus phase), which lasts less then 2 minutes. The dog looses consciousness, may stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds and has rigidly extended legs. It is followed by rhythmic jerking of the legs (known as "paddling"), chomping, chewing, defecating and urinating. In the post seizure (known as Post-Ictal), state the dog will regain consciousness and will act confused and disoriented. He will exhibit poor coordination and balance including possibly stumbling into walls or appearing blind. Less common behavior would include frenzied barking, licking or nibbling himself, staring into space or snapping at invisible objects. This state can last from a couple of minutes up to an hour. All of those phases may not be observed by the owner, especially if the animal is resting or sleeping.
Status epilepticus seizures or cluster seizures are multiple seizures lasting more than 5 minutes without the dog regaining consciousness. This is an emergency! If you can, call the hospital that you are headed to and advise them you are on your way to their facility with a dog that is having seizures that will not stop. The veterinary assistant or the staff answering the phone will remind you to safely handle the dog so you do not get injured. Precautions would include using a comforter or a towel to wrap up and pick up the dog. The dog is having involuntary muscle contractions and may bite unknowingly. The veterinarian needs to administer intravenous (in the vein) anti-convulsion medication to stop the seizure and prevent brain damage or death. This is urgent and time sensitive.
During the dog's seizure, make sure the dog is safe. Make sure that the dog is not able to injure himself by doing something like falling in the pool, tumbling down the stairs, etc. Try not to disturb the dog during the seizure as it may trigger further seizures and you could put yourself at risk of being injured. Never open the dog’s mouth to pull out the tongue and do not put any objects in the dog’s mouth, no matter what you might have heard!! Note the length of the seizure and inform your veterinarian. You will be asked to describe the seizure to the veterinarian, veterinary technician or the veterinary assistant. Since the veterinarian’s treatment is going to be based on your information, a log should be kept. Note the date, frequency, duration and the behavior before, during and after the seizure.
Since epilepsy is not curable, the goal of treatment is to minimize the frequency and severity of the seizures. There are different types of medication used to treat this condition; however, anti-seizure medications are not 100 effective. A combination of multiple drugs may be used. The rule of thumb for the veterinarian to start your dog on medication to manage seizures is if your dog is having 2 or more seizures per month. If this is the case and your dog is put on medication, the goal is to reduce that number to 10 or less per year. The levels of the certain anti-seizure medications are going to be monitored with a simple blood test. Dosages may need to be adjusted though time so frequent follow-ups with your veterinarian are required.
Canine Distemper (also known as Hard Pad Disease) is a disease that young dogs and puppies are prone to. Canine Distemper is often mistaken at first for Canine Parvo Virus as it presents similar symptoms. This disease is second in severity only to the Canine Parvo Virus and it is highly contagious, potentially fatal, and not easily treated.
The basic transmission of the Distemper Virus is spread through secretions of bodily fluids, such as urine, blood, feces and airborne transmissions (such as coughing and sneezing by infected animals). The dog contracting the virus is infected generally though the nose or mouth, where these infected cells can begin to reproduce. The symptoms for Canine Distemper include gooey eyes and nasal discharge, fever, anorexia, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. Side effects from this virus also can include thickening of the skin over the pads, which causes them to become hard.
The major concern with this virus is the development of pneumonia, as well as a secondary bacterial infection. This secondary bacterial infection would be caused by the comprising of the digestive tract. After the virus has infected the respiratory and digestive tract it then moves to the central nervous system, where it can lead to tremors, imbalance, weak limbs and eventually seizures.
There is currently no cure for this virus, although with supportive treatment that would include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and air-way dilators which can help to clear the airway as well as “coupage” (which is the act of gently patting your hand over the chest of the patient to help knock mucus loose from the lungs), the patient can make a full recovery. During this time it is increasingly important for the veterinarian or the veterinary assistant to monitor the patient and provide the specified treatment. Canine Distemper can be avoided if dogs are properly vaccinated against this virus at an early age. Your veterinarian should also be able to advise you on the proper vaccination time line for a new household puppy.
Can Your Pet Become A Blood Donor?
Just like in human medical emergencies, giving blood to a veterinary patient can save a life. There are programs where owners can register their dog and sometimes their cat to become a blood donor. Critical care animals with clotting issues, cancer, anemia or some types of injury (such as having been hit by a car that caused internal bleeding) need blood or plasma. Depending upon the city where you live, there may be a volunteer based animal blood bank. Check with your veterinarian or veterinary assistant to receive a list of local animal blood banks that may be near you. Keep in mind that while some blood banks utilize both dog and cat donors, many are dog only banks.
There are certain guidelines for a pet to become a blood donor:
- They must be friendly and even tempered
- They must be between the ages of one to six years old
- They must be in general good health
- They must be current on vaccines and on heartworm preventive medication (if the area you live in is prevalent with heartworm)
- Females must be spayed and have never been pregnant
- They must have never been a recipient of a blood transfusion
- Cats must be indoor cats only and cannot have a heart murmur
- They must be a large dog (over 50 pounds) or a large cat (over 10 pounds)
If your pet meets these requirements, an initial blood screening with a physical examination must be preformed and you may have to commit your pet to donate six to eight times a year for dogs and four to six times a year for cats.
The actual blood donation usually takes around 30 minutes but many hospitals require the pet to stay for several hours after donating as nourishing fluids are given to replace the blood that was removed. Sedation is not usually necessary for dogs and they will need to be fasting for 10 to 12 hours prior to donation. During an average dog blood donation, approximately 450 milliliters or 16 ounces of blood will be taken. A catheter is usually placed so the replacement fluids can be given intravenously.
Cats are usually given a mild sedative to keep them calm. During an average cat blood donation around 60 milliliters or 2 ounces of blood are taken and replacement fluids are given under the skin to hydrate them. The area around the neck is shaved and surgically scrubbed as the jugular vein is utilized for obtaining the blood.
Being part of a blood donation program not only means you and your pet are saving lives but your pet will receive annual blood work, heartworm, Lyme disease and other screening tests for free.
Most blood banks have some type of donor program along with membership requirements. Membership usually includes benefits such as free blood products for the life of the donor and its housemates.
What You Should Know About Tracheobronchitis
What is Kennel Cough?
Tracheobronchitis, better known as Kennel Cough, is an infectious condition in which the upper airways of the respiratory tract become inflamed. It may be caused by a multitude of the viruses including Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Distemper, Canine Adenovirus 2 and the bacteria Bordetella Bronchiseptica. Kennel Cough is characterized by a hacking dry cough, which would be easily elicited by palpating, or gently rubbing, the dog’s trachea. More severe signs would include a fever, yellow or green discharge from the nose and the animal may become listless with a decreased appetite.
How would my animal catch Kennel Cough?
Commonly, animals that find themselves in an environment that has many other pets, such as boarding facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, training classes or even the waiting room of their veterinary hospital can come in contact with the infectious agent, as it thrives in warm, poorly ventilated environments and is usually airborne. Stress from boarding with many unfamiliar animals may also lower the animal’s natural immune defenses, leaving them a bit more susceptible to infection. The incubation period, which is the time from when the animal was exposed until the time symptoms start showing, may be as short as two days or as long two weeks!
Great, my dog is coughing… what now?
If your dog starts coughing after being boarded or groomed, he may have developed Kennel Cough. Sometimes it may be self-limiting; meaning that the virus will run its course and the animal will improve on its own. However, since there can be potential for Kennel Cough to develop into Pneumonia, it is always advised to call your veterinarian and have your animal examined. The veterinarian can make the diagnosis, sometimes just with a physical exam. Most likely, your animal may be prescribed a cough suppressant and antibiotics to combat any secondary bacterial infections. The veterinary assistant will explain how to best utilize nursing skills (such as good nutrition) and environmental considerations (such as using a humidifier to sooth irritated respiratory tissues and being in a smoke free household).
Can we prevent this?
Some of the components that cause Kennel Cough are found in your dog’s regular vaccine, DA2PP, also known by the slang term “Distemper” vaccine. That vaccination includes Distemper virus, Canine Adenovirus type 2, Parainfluenza and Parvo virus. It’s considered a core vaccine and is usually given annually. If you board your dog or go to the grooming salon, those facilities often require proof of the DA2PP vaccination as well as the Bordetella vaccine. The Bordetella vaccine is generally given intra-nasally (in the nose) which many hospitals feel provide better immunity than the traditional injected form of the vaccine. If you plan on boarding your dog, check with your veterinary office for their recommendations on when to schedule the vaccination, as it may take about 5 days to for your animal to generate an immune response from the vaccine in order to provide the needed protection. Happy Holidays!
Merck Veterinary Manual- Online
Veterinary Partners- A VIN subsidiary
Blood Typing in Dog and Cats
Dogs and cats have different blood types which can be an important factor before a blood transfusion is given. Just like humans, animal blood types do not change so the test would only have to be done once. Also, just like humans, if an incorrect blood type is given to an animal, especially in cats, reactions can occur.
The blood types for cats are A and B with a rare type of AB. Cats with the rare AB type can be universal recipients for blood transfusions, which mean they can receive either type A or Type B blood. The majority of cats in the United States are Type A. For dogs, there are eight to twelve canine blood groups which are categorized under the DEA system. DEA stands Dog Erythrocyte Antigen with Erythrocyte being the red blood cells. The system is grouped into a DEA category followed by a number or numbers which indicates the antigens that are present on the red blood cells. An antigen is something that can induce the formation of antibodies.
In order to determine what blood type your dog has, the veterinarian, veterinary technician or veterinary assistant must draw a blood sample. This blood sample is dropped onto a type of well that contains certain proteins that is then mixed with a blood typing fluid. This fluid is then checked for clumping. If clumping occurs, the dog would be considered a DEA 1.1 positive. Dogs do not seem to have any naturally occurring antibodies as cats or even humans. Cross matching, which is used to detect antibodies in the dog that is receiving the transfusion with the antibodies in the dog that is giving the blood, may seem less important. However, if the dog receiving the blood has had a transfusion before, it should be cross matched to make sure the blood is compatible before receiving subsequent blood transfusions.
For cats, blood must be drawn and deposited in two wells, one marked “A” and one marked “B”. If the blood that is dropped into well A clumps, the cat is a Type A. If there is clumping in well B, the cat is type B. If the clumping occurs in both well A and well B, the cat is type AB. There are certain disorders or diseases that will cause the blood to clot. This means that the blood must be sent to a special laboratory that would be able to detect the blood type despite the naturally occurring clumping.
If you are interested in having your dog or cat tested for blood type, contact your veterinarian and speak to the veterinary assistant about scheduling a test.
To lose a beloved pet is hard enough but to have to decide to euthanize might sometimes prove to be even more difficult. Some pet owners may choose to not euthanize and just make their home as comfortable as possible for their pet’s last remaining days. Their pet may have some health issues or may be deteriorating from old age. Some things to consider in making the home more comfortable is to surround him/her with his/her favorite toys and blankets. The blankets should be very soft with lots of cushion. If your pet is unable to move much, then they may develop sores on certain areas of their bodies, so make sure to provide a comfortable lounging option for them. Some pets may also no longer be able to control their bladder. If this is the case, you may need to check your pet regularly so that he/she does not lie in soiled blankets. They do have puppy pads that you can place under your pet in case any accidents were to occur. They also sell clothing such as doggy bands and doggy diapers in case your pet were to have incontinence problems.
Although some may choose to keep their pet at home and let him/her go naturally, others may feel that euthanasia is a better decision. Signs to look for in your pet could be anything from his/her behavior changing to visible physical changes. Some cats and dogs don’t always cry out in pain. They might show excessive panting, irregular breathing, lethargy, seclusion, loss of appetite, and loss of energy. If you have other pets in the house, they may even start to show changes in their behaviors due to the one pet that is ill. If you are ever unsure of how your pet is doing, then it would be in the pet’s best interest to have them see their Veterinarian. Once at the veterinarian’s office the Doctor, Technician, or Veterinary Assistant will be able to assist you with any questions you may have as well about symptoms you may have noticed. The problem may even appear to be bigger than what it really is so it’s always best to seek professional help.
If the problems persist, medicine doesn’t seem to be working, your pet appears to be in pain, and the veterinarian has advised you that euthanasia might be an option, then it might be something to consider with your family. Euthanasia is a procedure that’s painless and done very quickly. To let an animal die naturally might not always be the best option as it could involve seizures, starvation, dehydration, hemorrhaging, etc. causing your pet a long process of pain. Once the decision is made to euthanize your pet, the next question will be whether or not to be present. Some feel that staying with your pet offers your companion love and comfort for their remaining seconds of his/her life. Some owners may also feel a type of comfort for themselves as well if they were to stay. Other pet owners sometimes see this as more difficult and might not be able to handle it well. For this reason, they might choose to not be present.
Although no one wants to ever think about what might happen one day if they were to lose a loved one, it is usually best to know all your options now and plan for things ahead of time.
Vaccine-Related Fibrosarcoma in Cats
It has been discovered that cats can develop a vaccine related fibrosarcoma (a cancer of fibrous tissues such as muscle). Studies done in the past several years have shown an association of a soft tissue sarcoma at the vaccine sites such as rabies and feline leukemia (FeLV). These studies have shown that the appearance of these fibrosarcomas is between 4 weeks to 10 years post vaccine. It also determined that no single vaccine manufacturer or vaccine type can be associated with this type of cancer. Although the mechanism that causes the cancer to develop is not actually known, it is thought that the inflammatory reaction is why the tumor will develop at a later date.
Vaccine related fibrosarcoma will appear as a lump at the vaccine site. A CT scan (Computed Tomography), also known as Cat Scan or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) may be needed to evaluate the extent of the cancer to help determine a proper treatment. Surgery is recommended to remove the tumor plus the surrounding healthy tissues. There must be a wide margin (2 to 3 cm all around) plus underneath the tumor removed as this is an aggressive cancer. If the healthy tissue is not removed, the incidence of reoccurrence is high and the cancer can reoccur within 2 to 3 months. Due to the fact that 50 of these tumors will reoccur, the first surgery is the best way of removing the entire tumor. This is a major surgery and should be done by a board certified surgeon. If the tumor is on a limb, the usual course of action is amputation. Although many owners are hesitant to have a three legged pet, the animals do quite well with three legs.
Keep in mind that, although the surgery will remove the visible tumor, cancer cells can be left behind. To kill the remaining cancer cells, radiation therapy may be used. The timing of the radiation therapy will depend upon the individual veterinarian, oncologist and / or surgeon but it may within two weeks post surgery. Using chemotherapy on the vaccine related fibrosarcoma may or may not have any benefits for the patient as it does not appear to affect the cats overall survival. However, it may delay the time that the tumor will reoccur.
As with all cancers, especially when cats are receiving radiation and / or chemotherapy, weight loss can occur. This is usually due to loss of appetite or general feeling of illness due to the side effects of the cancer treatment. It is important to have sufficient nutritional support to reduce the post surgical complications and help the healing process.
The prognosis for cats by surgery alone is poor while cats that have received surgery plus radiation and /or chemotherapy improve with a higher survival rate. If you notice a lump on or close to a site where a vaccine has been given, it is important to call your veterinarian and speak to the veterinary assistant to schedule an appointment or for a referral to a board certified surgeon for a definite diagnosis.
Halloween Holiday Hazards
During the holidays it is extremely important for a Veterinary Assistant to know all of the hazards that can occur to the family pets. Knowledge is power and if pet owners are educated, they can make sure their pets have a safe, fun, and happy holiday season.
Halloween is an extremely important holiday to be educated on as there is a large amount of candy that is circulating the family home. Many Halloween treats, mainly chocolate, can be poisonous to dogs and cats. Candy should be kept in a location where it is not easily knocked over and spilled on the floor, which grants easy access to our furry friends.
Decorations can also be hazardous. Remember to keep open flames out of reach from inquiring noses and paws. A great alternative to candles are electric flameless candles that can be found at all locations that sell Halloween décor. It is also the job of Veterinary Assistant to caution owners on the safety risks of certain décor like cotton spider webs and their plastic spiders. These tend to be of interest to cats and dogs. The suggestion should be made that these decorations should be hung at a high enough location that the family pets are unable to reach.
A fun toy to play with during the holiday season is silly string. Silly string is known to be poisonous to ingest. This is why it is very important for the Veterinary Assistant to caution pet owners about this hazard. This product should be cleaned up after the festivities are completed and kept away from pets in the home. Be mindful of your four legged family members whenever you are having a holiday party or fun festivities. Pets should be kept in a location away from the front door, since during Halloween the door is likely to be opened frequently and possibly for long periods of time. Frightening costumes and loud noises could scare your pet and cause them to flee or suffer from noise fright.
As much as we humans love to dress up for Halloween, our domesticated partners may not be so thrilled. Owners will need to be considerate of their pets’ comfort and health. Some costumes are known to be constricting and uncomfortable to pets. Little Fluffy should not be made to wear something that could cause her harm. If you do decide to place your pet in a costume, it should be checked to make sure that it does not fit too tightly or agitate your furry friend.
Sadly, another big thing to remember is that all cat owners should keep their feline companions inside on Halloween. Cats are known to disappear on this holiday, so pet owners should err on the cautious side and keep them in for the night. Client education is a very large role to a Veterinary Assistant and should be considered one of the top tasks to be completed on or near any major holiday.
The Big “C” - Part 2 - Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)
The most common bone tumor in pets, Osteosarcoma, usually affects older or giant breed dogs but has been seen in younger canines as well. It is rare in cats. Although it is an aggressive cancer that can be found in any bone, it mostly develops in the limbs. Therefore, Osteosarcoma steadily becomes more painful as it progresses.
Patients with Osteosarcoma in the limbs will show swelling at the developed site along with increased lameness. Sometimes, the first sign that the patient has bone cancer is a fracture at the site of the tumor. Other signs would depend upon the location of the cancer: e.g. bone cancer of the spine could present neurological symptoms. Due to the high rate of metastasis (spread of tumor cells) to the lungs, x-rays are taken of both the chest and the affected limb. Sometimes bone scans are done of the other limbs as well.
The spread of cancer to the lungs and other organs is the most common cause of death in patients with Osteosarcoma. As other tumors can show up in the limbs as well, a biopsy of the affected site may be the only way to confirm the presence of bone cancer.
As Osteosarcoma is a painful, aggressive cancer with a high rate of metastasis, a positive diagnosis of Osteosarcoma usually means the affected limb must be removed followed by chemotherapy and possible radiation. The more commonly used chemotherapy drugs include Carboplatin, Cisplatin and, sometimes Doxorubicin. There are side effects that are associated with chemotherapy drugs but the risk usually is outweighed by the benefits. A veterinary oncologist would be the best source of information regarding chemotherapy drugs.
Pets with cancer can experience weight loss due to the presence of the cancer. Post-surgical pain, lack of appetite, and the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs such as vomiting and nausea may also occur. It is important to provide nutritional support to decrease post surgical complications, improve quality of life and increase response to therapy. A special diet can be suggested by the veterinarian, the veterinary oncologist or a veterinary assistant.
The prognosis depends on the location of the tumor, how extensive the disease is, the general health of the pet, and if the cancer has spread to other organs. If the cancer has spread to other organs or limbs, the prognosis could be poor. A patient with an amputated leg does not lessen the quality of life for your pet but it does depend upon each individual animal. There is a website called Tripawds.com that is a wonderful source and help center for people with pets who have gone through an amputation to share their stories. Although Osteosarcoma is not preventable, effective treatments and early diagnosis can improve the life of your pet.
Veterinary Assistant are often called upon to explain medications to pet owners who arrive to pick up their pet following surgery or hospitalization. This is a very important responsibility in the veterinary hospital. The veterinary assistant must convey three important messages to pet owners:
1. How and when to administer the medication
2. What the medication is intended to treat
3. The possible side effects of the medication
While explaining how to administer any medication to a pet, the Veterinary Assistant should be careful to speak slowly and clearly. It is the protocol of many veterinary hospitals and clinics that the owner is asked to repeat the information back to the Veterinary Assistant. Be careful not to assume that an owner understands. The pet parent should also be informed of side effects that may occur and be instructed to pay careful attention to their pet’s behavior during the course of the prescribed treatment. It may be beneficial to ask the owner if they have any additional questions at least three separate times. This will give a shy or reluctant owner plenty of opportunity to clear up lingering confusion or hesitation.
Once the owner takes the pet home, it will be their responsibility to administer all prescriptions as directed. Any misunderstanding about a medication can decrease the owner’s compliance with the administration instructions. This can have serious consequences. Many medications can cause severe health problems in a pet if not administered as directed. Furthermore, if the owner does not fully understand why the medication was prescribed, they may decide that the medication isn’t working and therefore discontinue administration against medical advice.
Many veterinary hospitals create informational hand-outs for some medications as an additional means of ensuring owner compliance. The Veterinary Assistant should always know where these hand-outs are kept, and educate themselves on their hospital’s protocol. A follow-up phone call, about 5 to 7 days after the pet has started a course of prescription medication, is often very helpful to owners, especially if they are having difficulty in administering the pet’s medication.
The Big “C” - Part 1 - Fibrosarcoma (Soft Tissue Sarcomas)
Fibrosarcoma, also known as soft tissue sarcomas, are malignant (harmful or dangerous) tumors that form in connective tissue such as fat, blood vessels, lymph nodes, smooth muscles, skeletal muscles, etc. Although fibrosarcomas can re-appear locally, they are known for spreading to other parts of the body (metastasize.) This metastasis can occur weeks or even months after the fibrosarcoma have been removed. For this reason, part of the treatment may include chemotherapy and / or radiation.
To diagnosis fibrosarcoma, a technique called Fine Needle Aspirate is used in which the veterinarian will collect a few cells from the animal using a needle and syringe. However, this may not be enough to reach a definite diagnosis, in which case a biopsy may have to be performed. This, along with blood tests and x-rays will assist the veterinarian or oncologist in making a diagnosis. In dogs, fibrosarcomas are normally found in the trunk and limbs. In cats, it could be caused by virus-induced or vaccine induced (usually by the feline Leukemia virus) inoculations. Older cats can also get solitary fibrosarcomas along the trunk, limbs, toes and ears.
Deep and wide removal of the tumor is usually the best surgical option for fibrosarcomas, because unless the entire tumor is removed, the chance of it coming back within a year is over 70 . Radiation can help to prevent the tumor from re-occurring at the original site. Chemotherapy can be used for tumors that cannot be removed or to help prevent the cancer cells from making new tumors at other areas of the pets’ body.
As pain is very common in pets that have cancer, untreated pain will decrease the animal’s quality of life. Untreated pain will also prolong the recovery and / or treatment process. It is vital that the vet assistant helps the owner to recognize pain in their pets and the best way to manage it. Usually the best treatment is to stop it before it starts and administer pain medication before any procedures are started.
Weight loss is often observed in pets that have cancer not only due to loss of appetite, but also because of an altered metabolism and the side effect of the radiation and / or chemotherapy. The prognosis for fibrosarcoma is actually good. However, the recurrence of the tumor coming back depends upon how much of the tumor that could be removed along with post –surgical options such as radiation and/ or chemotherapy. The management of soft tissue reoccurrence is more difficult to handle than the original tumor. It is important for your pets to have long term follow up vet visits.
Any new or previously unseen lump or bump should be checked out by your local veterinarian. If they suspect fibrosarcoma, they may refer you to an oncologist for further diagnostic testing. If you have any questions, contact the veterinary assistant at your pets veterinary office.
Hypothyroidism is one of the most common hormone deficiencies in dogs, and yet one of the most overlooked. Simply put, when dogs suffer from Hypothyroidism their thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the thyroid hormone. The causes of this condition can vary. The onset of Hypothyroidism may be from a naturally slowing down gland due to the dog’s age, a congenital problem or in some cases, a tumor on the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is located on each side of the trachea (or windpipe). The thyroid gland’s major function is to control the body’s metabolism by circulating hormones in a regulated fashion. It secretes two hormones which are T3 (triiodothyronine), and T4 (thyroxine). T3 is considered the “active” form of the hormone while T4 is what circulates through the blood stream, but is not considered to be active.
Hypothyroidism is most common in medium to larger breed dogs such as the Doberman Pinscher and Golden Retriever, with the age of onset between 4 to 10 years. It seems to be rare in small or toy breeds, although some small breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer and Dachshund are predisposed to this condition.
Since this condition affects the metabolism, warning signs that owners can look for usually are weight gain and skin conditions. The Veterinary Information Network has noted that 88 of cases had some sort of skin issue and 40 had hair loss. Classically, the hair loss manifests around the tail, giving a “rat tail” appearance. The percentage of overweight animals is about 49 and 48 of owners found that their dogs had become very lazy, or listless. If you suspect your dog may have this issue, it’s very important to make an appointment with your veterinarian or veterinary assistant for testing.
Testing for hypothyroidism is as simple as drawing a bit of blood and sending a blood panel to the laboratory. There are several types of thyroid testing and depending on your dog’s condition; your vet assistant may recommend more than one test.
If it turns out your dog does have hypothyroidism, it can commonly be treated by giving a thyroid supplement orally, usually twice a day. This treatment will be a necessity for the dog for the remainder of the animal’s life. Upon initial treatment, your veterinary assistant will make a follow up appointment with you to have your dog’s thyroid level checked again, to ensure that the thyroid levels are within the normal range. If the level is too high, that may lead to further complications involving the heart or kidneys. If the levels are too low, then the medication will not be working as well as it is intended to do. It is imperative that your dog has the levels rechecked upon initial medicating or if there is a change in dose. If everything has been stabilized with your canine’s medication, you should still have your dog’s levels checked annually. Many times, your vet assistant will request that you bring your dog into the clinic at a specific time, a number of hours after you have administered the medication, for “post-pill” testing. Remember, it may a bit frustrating to tailor the dose or frequency of the medication in the beginning, but once your veterinarian has it perfect, it is smooth sailing for a happy and healthy pet!
Finding pieces of pills on the carpet after wrestling with your pet means they are not receiving the proper amount of medication needed. There is a customized and precise formulation used to give your pet the proper dosage each time that is not only easy but will also make sure your pet is receiving the proper dose. This process is called compounding pharmacies.
Compounding pharmacies have been around for a long time and have become an important part of veterinary medicine. Some medications that have been developed for people do not come in the smaller dose that would be needed for pets. In some cases, certain medications are no longer being manufactured which can result in the veterinarian having to use a drug that is not as effective. Another problem is owners are required to cut pills or tablets into half or into thirds to try and get the proper dose for their pet. By compounding medicines, the veterinarian can get the specific dose needed.
Compounding is the process of altering a medication to either change the dosage or, in some cases, change the composition if your pet is allergic or sensitive to the ingredients. Other reasons for getting compounded medications are that it may be easier for an owner to give their pet a liquid form of medication rather than a pill or tablet. Some pets are difficult to pill and many not only find the pill hidden in their food, but refuse to take their medication even when hidden in something tasty such as cheese or meat.
Compounding pharmacies can offer medications that are appetizing and not bitter. Flavoring can be added such as fish, beef, chicken, liver, sardines, cheese and bacon and can be formulated into liquid, powder, or even a paste. If your pet will not accept any oral medications, many medications can be formulated into a topical application.
It is also possible to formulate multiple medications and combine them. This will reduce the amount of times a medication would have to be given making it easier for both the owner and their pet.
Veterinarians rely on a well known animal compounding pharmacy and choose one that follows the guidelines used by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). If you are having problems pilling your pet, contact your veterinary office and speak to the veterinary assistant about getting your pets medications compounded.
Cervical Vertebral Instability, more commonly known as Wobbler Syndrome, is a deformity of the spinal column typically seen in large breed dogs like Doberman Pinchers and Great Danes. Although this syndrome is relatively rare, genetic background, lifestyle and traumatic injury can predispose some dogs to developing this disease. It is thought that early nutrition may play a role in the development of this disease. Large breeds tend to go through quick growth spurts during puppy hood.
A few studies have shown that large breed puppies which are fed diets designed to promote fast growth may be at a higher risk of developing this disease. Disproportionate growth can cause deformity and compression of the vertebrae, thereby damaging the cervical portion of the spine. As an ABC Certified Veterinary Assistant, you may be called upon to care for these animals during hospitalization. These animals typically require a high degree of care due to the sensitive and painful nature of this condition.
Dogs with Cervical Vertebral Instability typically have an obvious uncoordinated gate, weakness or lameness in the hind limbs. In a standing position, the hind legs may appear to be spaced awkwardly apart and bent (not fully extended) which makes the dog look as if it is crouching. Diagnosis typically involves injecting a radioactive solution into the spinal column. Many veterinary hospitals may not have the proper equipment to perform such a test. Many dogs suspected of having this disease may be referred to a Veterinary College for testing.
Initial treatment of Wobblers typically involves medication to reduce inflammation around the affected vertebrae. Dogs with a confirmed diagnosis of Cervical Vertebral Instability will require surgery to relieve the compression around the spinal cord in order to relieve the dog of pain and help prevent further damage. This surgery is not considered curative. However, the purpose of this surgery is to prevent further damage to the spinal cord and to relieve any pain. Success is dependant upon the amount of existing damage. Some loss of function in the hind limbs may be permanent and can predispose these dogs to arthritis of the knees, hips and back.
There is no specific diagnostic testing that can reveal when or if a puppy is going to develop this disease. Wobbler Syndrome is generally not noticed until the dog has developed a noticeable wobbling walk. Veterinary assistants should be familiar with risk factors associated with the development of Cervical Vertebral Instability in order to provide the best possible care for these special patients.
Pets and Fireworks
Fireworks can cause a great deal of stress to many pets: not only can the loud noise be terrifying but fireworks are poisonous to animals. Fireworks contain dangerous chemicals such as potassium nitrate (one of the components of gunpowder) charcoal or sulfur, and heavy metals. Plus, if your pet is exposed to a spark or flame, their fur can catch fire, causing severe burns.
If fireworks are ingested, your pet can have bloody diarrhea, a painful abdomen and vomiting. Trembling and / or seizures may occur along with panting, jaundice (having a yellow cast to the skin), burns to the lips, nose or inside the mouth. The smoke from fireworks can also cause eye irritation.
Pets have sensitive hearing so loud noises such as fireworks, thunder and / or gunshots can be a very uncomfortable and terrifying time for them. Known as noise phobia the common symptoms can include:
- Lose of bowel or bladder control
- Trying to hide or runaway
- Shaking or trembling
- Barking and/or howling
- Drooling and / or refusing to eat
Always talk to your veterinarian or veterinary assistant if your pet seems to have noise phobia. Sometimes, behavior modification can help but many pets will need some type of tranquilization to help alleviate the symptoms.
Prevention is always the key. For the safety of your pet, keep them home and do not take them with you to “enjoy” the festivities. Keep them indoors with the windows and curtains closed. Turning on a radio or television may help offer some distraction. Make sure your pet has urinated and/or defecated before locking them in the house to prevent accidents.
Offer a safe place for them to hide such as a crate or quiet, dark room. Have your pet become familiar with their safe place before you need it. A frightened pet can be very destructive. They can jump over or tear down fences, dig at the floors and carpets, jump through windows, chew and tear at walls and doors and much more. All which result in injuries and sometimes lost pets. It is always a good idea to be sure your pet has proper identification in the event that they do escape from the home or yard.
Summer is here! With the warm weather, brings many more opportunities for your pets to be outdoors. One thing to be on the look-out for is bee or wasp stings. It can cause not only pain and swelling, but if there is an allergic reaction to the venom, it can be deadly to your pet. Often when they try to play with bees, that’s when they get stung on the head, face, or inside the mouth. If you suspect that your pet has been stung by either a bee or wasp, below are some measures to take.
The best thing to do first is to remove the stinger, if you can see it. As long as it remains in the skin, it may continue to pump venom into the body. Wipe or scrape it off using your fingernail, knife, or even a credit card. Never use tweezers; it could force more venom into your pet.
The next step is to access your pet. Generally a single sting does not pose much of a concern. The severity of the reaction will depend on the type of allergic reaction your pet may be experiencing.
The most severe, signs such as rapid breathing, wheezing, vomiting, and/or pale gums, may indicate that your pet is experiencing anaphylactic shock. A condition caused when there is insufficient blood circulation. It is vital to get your pet under the care of a veterinarian if symptoms, such as these, are apparent. Death from shock can occur if not treated immediately.
Typically, as long as your pet’s breathing is normal, there are several remedies to alleviate the pain and swelling. Applying an ice pack or a cold washcloth against the swollen area may help reduce inflammation, and soothe the pain. Another option may be to treat with an over the counter antihistamine, like Benadryl. Once taken, decrease in swelling should be noticeable within 20 minutes. For the dosage, please check with the veterinary assistant at your local vet office.
If the sting is inside the mouth, try offering ice cubes. Another option may be to flush the area with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a pint of water. You can use a turkey baster, but be careful that your pet does not inhale any liquid. With stings in the mouth, appetite may be affected. It may hurt to chew, so softening the food may help. By day 2, regular diet should resume. If however, it does not, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Another symptom your pet may develop is hive-like reactions. It may cause them to experience itching all over the body. Cold water soaks or oatmeal baths may relieve the itching. The hives should be gone within 24 hours and sooner if treated with an antihistamine. With any concerns or questions you may have, the best advice is to check with your veterinarian. Enjoy your summer!
The War against Fleas and Ticks
Since the life cycle of the flea and tick vary between several weeks to several months it may take that long to get the infestation under control so be patient. Fleas combs, dips, shampoos, sprays and powders will usually kill the fleas and ticks that are on your pet: however, you must remember to treat the environment also. There are many choices for killing and / or preventing fleas and ticks on your pet but be sure to check with your veterinarian before combining fleas products such as shampoos along with topical products and / or foggers for your home. You can also get assistance in choosing the right products from an ABC Certified Veterinary Assistant.
Keeping your pets out of the grasses and wooded areas will help to keep ticks from attaching to them: however, fleas are prevalent in all areas.
Once a month flea and tick products are applied to a small area along the back or neck of the pet. They last the longest, are the easiest to use and are contained in pre-packaged doses. But some only kill fleas and not ticks so it is important to read the product information before using. It is also vital that these products are used correctly:
- Use the correct dose for the correct weight of the pet.
- Do not apply more than the recommended dose – more of the topical flea and / or tick product is not better and can cause serious side effects including skin irritation or sickness.
- Never apply topical flea and / or tick products that are made for dogs on cats: this can cause serious illness or even death.
Shampoos and Dips:
Some shampoos have a residual action as opposed to dips but should be applied in a well ventilated area. When shampooing or applying a dip, the entire animal must be covered and the shampoo and / or dip be allowed to sit for several minutes (read the instructions carefully) before rinsing the pet. It is important to not only protect the eyes of your pet (shampoo and dips will sting the eyes and may cause ulcers on the corneas) but also the ears. Placing a cotton ball just slightly into opening of the ear will keep any shampoo and / or dip from entering the ear canal. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself make an appointment with the veterinary assistant or receptionist at your local veterinary hospital.
Powders can be quite messy so use in a well ventilated area and try not to inhale any of the powder yourself. It is important that the powder reaches the skin of your pet so you must lay the fur opposite the growth and apply well. Do not allow the powder to fall into your pet’s eyes as it will cause irritation.
Camping with your pet
As the summer season approaches, many Americans are looking forward to long weekends spent outdoors at a campsite. While we enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery of the many state parks and mountain recreation areas, veterinarians and veterinary assistants recommend taking a few extra considerations if you plan on bringing your four-legged friend with you for the adventure.
Exercise – Is your dog an experienced trail hound? Even big sporting breeds like Labrador retrievers may not be physically fit enough to handle an 8-hour hike over rough or steep terrain. Get your dog used to longer walks and increase physical activity gradually. If your dog isn’t experienced or physically active enough to maneuver through areas which may require jumping or climbing, start working on these skills before your trip to decrease the risk of serious knee or ligament injuries.
Heat – While you are on the trail, monitor your dog for signs of exhaustion. You do not want to end up carrying your 60+ pound dog back to the campsite! As physical activity increases, water requirements increase as well, so remember to bring plenty of water for both of you and avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.
Wildlife – There are many threats to your dog’s health in the great outdoors. Aside from the obvious dangers like snakes, there are many invisible threats. Drinking from streams and rivers is a common cause of Giardiasis in dogs, and in many areas, deer ticks carry Lyme disease. Sharp rocks can cut paw pads. Thorns and foxtails can easily become embedded into the skin, mouth, ears and eyes. It is a good idea to pack a small pet first aid kit along with your own first aid kit when preparing for your trip.
Work on basic obedience commands (I.e. “sit”, “stay”, and “come”) and consult your local veterinarian for recommendations about any special vaccines or preventative medications to help protect your dog while camping. Know where the closest veterinary hospital is and keep the phone number of your local veterinary assistant handy, just in case an emergency arises.
Symptoms You Should NOT Ignore In Your Pet - Part II
As an owner, or someone in an animal career there are many symptoms in pets that should not be ignored. The symptoms listed below may help you save your pet or a clients pet. Please make sure to contact a veterinarian right away if you notice any of these symptoms in your own pet, or a client’s pet.
•Fainting or collapse: a sudden loss of consciousness can cause your dog to loss strength and fall. Dogs usually recover fairly quickly and can appear normal afterwards. However, whatever caused your dog to collapse needs to be addressed by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
•Weight loss: can be considered clinically important if it goes over 10 of the
normal body weight. The reasons vary greatly including gum disease and / or tooth problems, reduced caloric intake, tumors in the stomach or intestines, worms, or cancer.
•Trouble urinating: if your dog is straining to urinate, shows discomfort while
urinating or makes frequent attempts to urinate, there are several underlying causes and they must be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms include constant licking of the urogenital region, crying out when attempting to pass urine or turning around and looked at the urogenital area while trying to urinate. Do not wait as this is an emergency situation.
•Jaundice: when there is an appearance of yellow in the whites of the eyes, gums or skin. This is caused by an elevated amount of bilirubin in the blood. Although there are many causes, it is an abnormal condition and needs to be checked out by the veterinarian.
•Excessive drinking and / or urination: This is a classic sign of diabetes mellitus, thyroid gland problems, or pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus in a female.
•Convulsion or seizures: Can vary from a serious episode of falling down, barking, paddling, uncontrolled urination and defecation to a slight twitching to the face and can last from several seconds to several minutes. Although not a disease, it is a sign of a type of neurological disorder with the cause being tumors, an ingested toxin such as antifreeze or a form of epilepsy. Make an appointment with your veterinarian as tests will need to be run. Check with the veterinary assistant on duty to verify which tests will be needed.
Fever: The normal temperature for a dog varies from 100.5 to 102.5 Fahrenheit.
Although a fever is believed to be the result of the body’s defense system to fight bacteria or viruses, a prolonged fever can have long term adverse effects.
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, is a type of bacteria that is resistant to some forms of antibiotics, particularly the cillin class of medications. Staph aureus is common bacteria found on our skin and doesn’t usually present a problem.
For many years, it was thought to be exclusively a human condition. But MRSA has been reported in horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, sheep and cattle. There are two ways to contract MRSA- hospital acquired (HA-MRSA) and community acquired (CA-MRSA).
HA-MRSA is defined as an individual who has contracted the bacteria after being hospitalized or who have had a medical procedure preformed.
CA-MRSA is contracting the bacteria without being exposed to a medical facility. Risk areas for CA-MRSA include athletic facilities, child care facilities or schools and veterinary hospitals.
MRSA is primarily transmitted by direct contact but may also be spread by indirect contact with sports equipment, towels, bedding or contaminated bandages. In the veterinary community, it has been estimated that up to 10 of veterinary staff members are colonized with MRSA.
Clinical signs in animals are similar to humans. Usually it manifests as some sort of skin infection, such as an abscess or pus filled sore. People often think they’ve been bit by a spider. To diagnoses MRSA, in humans or animals, a swab of the infected area is sent to a laboratory for bacterial culturing and antibiotic sensitivity testing. Treatment involves a course of oral antibiotics. It’s important to place an absorbent bandage on the affected area if the wound is draining.
Preventing contamination is as easy as practicing excellent hygiene. Proper hand washing is an essential task for the veterinary assistant. You must use warm water and soap, thoroughly washing in between fingers, for a minimum of 30 seconds. An alcohol based hand sanitizer is also effective in lieu of a sink. Avoid touching mucus membranes, such as your nose or eyes, until you’ve properly washed your hands.
If you are changing bandages on an animal with infected wound(s), wear gloves and always wash your hands after properly disposing of the contaminated bandages. Your veterinary assistant can provide further information on household hygiene. Above all remember, basic hygiene is the best prevention.
Restlessness and / or pacing: this can be a sign of a serious problem as dogs that appear restless or won’t stop pacing can be due to distress, discomfort and / or pain.
There is a condition called “bloat” that involves the stomach and gives the appearance of a pot belly appearance.
Unproductive vomiting: also another symptom of “bloat.” You need to call your veterinarian right away and speak to the veterinary assistant on duty regarding your dog’s symptoms. If it’s an emergency your pet will need immediate attention which may include emergency surgery.
Loss of appetite: can be the first indicator of an illness. They may not want to eat or are unable to eat which will be a serious health issue if it lasts over 24 hours.
Labored breathing: if your dog is having trouble breathing, they are not getting enough oxygen to their lungs. Plus, in the case of heart failure, the heart will not be able to pump blood to the muscles and other tissues. This could be labored breathing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. There may be an accumulation of fluid around the heart and / or lungs causing the symptoms.
Redness of the eye: could involve one or both eyes. Causes could be a foreign body in the eye, glaucoma which is pressure with the eye itself, or certain diseases. It may affect the cornea, the third eyelid, or the eye ball it’s self. If left untreated, it could lead to blindness.
Distended abdomen: known as bloat, it is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. An enlargement of the liver, spleen or kidneys may also give the appearance of a swollen abdomen. The accumulation of fluid will place pressure on the lungs causing labored breathing. This is an emergency situation.
Bleeding and bruising: abnormal clotting can occur on the skin, the mucous membranes (the gums), the internal organs, tissues and the body cavity.
Coughing: continuous coughing could be pneumonia, heartworms, tumors in the lungs, kennel cough, an obstruction in the windpipe or heath failure. Persistent coughing needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, please contact your veterinarian right away. Make sure to let the vet assistant or technician on staff know how long your pet has been displaying the symptom(s) and if they have worsened. This may help the veterinarian decide what could be the causing of the symptom(s) and / or if they are related to a known illness.
Liver Shunt (Portosystemic Shunt)
Normally in the fetus, the patent ductus venosus, also know as a shunt, is present. This shunt bypasses blood away from the liver to the placenta so that the blood for the fetus can be cleansed by the mother. Then, within three days after birth, once the fetus is born, the shunt closes, and the puppy’s liver must clean the blood on its own. However, there are times, when the shunt does not close off. This is an abnormal vessel that allows the blood to bypass the liver not allowing the blood to get cleansed by one of the body’s filters (the liver). This is called a liver shunt (a portosystemic shunt).
There are different types of liver shunts. Two of the main ones are known as intrahepatic shunt (inside the liver) and extrahepatic shunt (outside the liver). The intrahepatic shunt is commonly found in large breeds and tends to be much more difficult to operate. The extrahepatic shunt is usually easily operable and more commonly found in small breeds. As a vet assistant you may learn about these types of liver shunts.
A few clinical signs you may learn in a veterinary school include abnormal behavior after eating, pacing and aimless wandering, pressing their head against the wall or constantly rubbing their head, (the blood not being filtered causes ammonia build up which makes their head feel funny), constant illnesses, (since the liver is not filtering the blood, it causes toxicity in the blood making your pet constantly ill), episodes of apparent blindness, low weight gain, bad mouth odor, (young pets should have good breath), lethargic, not very active, decrease in appetite, crystals in the urine,(this is from the excess ammonia), and UTI’s. Some dogs may show several clinical signs while others only show one. Furthermore, some dogs might not start showing any signs until they are older.
There are a variety of tests that could be done to diagnose a portosystemic shunt. An ultrasound can help identify the shunt. A variety of blood tests can also help support this diagnosis. The most common test to help diagnose a liver shunt is a bile acid test. Once your pet is diagnosed then you may begin treatment. Your pet will have to be on a low protein diet. Protein promotes toxicity in an animal that has a liver shunt. Giving your pet lactulose may also help. At first this may cause diarrhea but then it will immediately help to detoxify your pet’s system.
Your Veterinarian will choose the best treatment option. One option might be to operate and the other might be to medically manage your pet depending on what type of liver shunt it has. A scintigraphy will help determine if the shunt is intrahepatic or extrahepatic.
If surgery is the best option, then your dog will have to be as stable as possible. This involves your pet being on a low protein diet and on prescription medication such as antibiotics and lactulose. If you have questions about what kinds of food are low in protein, you can ask your veterinary assistant or vet tech. The antibiotics are used as bacteria to circulate in the blood. Normally it is removed by the liver, but in this case, it will bypass the liver.
After surgery, your pet might be in some pain for a few days. Then within the next four months, you will begin to notice weight gain, muscle development, improvement in general appearance, lots more energy and no more head rubbing. After four months, you might also have to redo the bile acid test to check on the surgery status. If the test results are normal then you can put your pet back on regular food. Surgery is normally the best option, and it has an overall success rate of 85.
The most common vaccines for felines
When vaccines are given, the immune system responds by a protective response. Then when the cat is exposed to that particular organism, the immune system can either prevent infection or reduce the severity of the disease. The choice for your cat’s vaccine will be decided by your veterinarian and several factors:
- The age and health of the cat
- The risk that the cat poses to humans ( for example, rabies)
- The risk of infection
- The exposure the cat has to other cats and / or the environment the cat lives in.
The most common vaccines are:
Feline Calicivirus / Herpes virus: an infectious upper respiratory tract disease. Once infected, many cats do not recover totally and become “carriers” either continuously or off and on. This vaccine is usually recommended for all cats.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV): is spread from cat to cat through bite wounds and from an infected mother cat to her kittens. Most at risk are outdoor cats, and indoor / outdoor cats. This vaccine may be recommended: however, the risk of cancer at the injection site has been a problem. Whether to give this vaccine should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Feline Panleukopenia virus (feline distemper): a highly contagious and deadly viral disease that can survive extreme temperatures for many months plus is resistant to most disinfectants. It was once considered the most infectious disease for cats but, thanks to very effective vaccines, it is now considered an uncommon disease. But, due to the very serious nature of this disease and its continued presence, this vaccine is recommended.
Rabies vaccine: Because of the fatal nature of rabies, and due to the number of increased incidences of rabies in cats, this has become a major public health concern. A rabies vaccine is high recommended for all cats and can be required by law in many parts of the country.
There are also vaccines for Chlamydia (can cause an upper respiratory infection), ringworm and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP - causes inflammation of certain organs in the body) are available but are not usually recommended. Again, it will be the decision of your veterinarian what vaccines would be best for your cat.
Always make sure to keep up to date records of your cat’s vaccine records. If you need a copy you can contact the veterinary assistant at your vet hospital to obtain this information.
The pancreas is a V shaped organ located behind the stomach and the first section of the small intestine. It has two main functions, 1) production of insulin that helps the body metabolize sugar and 2) produce enzymes to digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed by an excess growth of digestive fluids in the pancreas, it leads to a condition called pancreatitis. It can be sudden (acute) or happening over a course of time (chronic). Though pancreatitis can occur in both dogs and cats, it is a condition most common in dogs. In dogs it tends to be acute, whereas in cats it tends to be chronic. Often middle-aged (about 7) and elderly dogs are more prone to canine pancreatitis, with a higher likely hood found in female versus male dogs. Genetics also can play a role. Yorkshire terriers and miniature schnauzers are more often prone to have the condition.
The common symptoms of pancreatitis are abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite, and or weakness. It is very painful, not to mention very serious and can be life threatening. Once you suspect that your pet may have pancreatitis, call your veterinary office and schedule an appointment. When you go in the veterinary assistant will take your pet’s vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respiration rate). The veterinarian will do a physical exam checking for abdominal tenderness/soreness. Next the doctor will recommend running a thorough blood test that will measure levels of enzymes in the pancreas. If the two pancreatic enzymes, amylase and liapase are elevated, it is a strong indication your pet has pancreatitis. To further confirm the diagnosis, x-rays and an ultrasound may be done as well.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will recommend hospitalization. Allowing the pancreas to heal on its own is the key factor. Which means no food or water by mouth for 24-72 hours. Oral fluids are given to prevent dehydration and flush out toxins. Medications are given for pain management and to reduce diarrhea and vomiting.
To prevent future episodes it is important to feed your pet dog food that has a good source of protein and fat. The first ingredient should be real beef, chicken, lamb, or seafood. Avoid ingredients like meat-by-products, food coloring, and/or corn gluten. Also, avoid feeding table scraps. Pancreatitis is preventable with proper food nutrition and exercise.
What Vaccines Does Your Dog Need?
The best all around answer is based upon three factors: the age of the dog (or puppy), the area in which they live and how much contact they have with other dogs. Puppies obtain immunity from their mother’s milk (colostrum) but these antibodies only last the first few months. Plus, vaccines will not work while the mother’s antibodies are present: therefore the first vaccines should be given when the puppy is between 6-8 weeks of age. This vaccine is a combination of distemper, adenovirus Parainfluenza), parvovirus and, sometimes Leptospirosis. This is known as the DHLPP vaccine. This vaccine should be given and repeated every 3-4 weeks until the puppy reaches 20 weeks of age.
For dogs over the age of 20 weeks, the veterinarian will likely need to give regular “booster” shots depending upon the area you live in, the dog’s life style and the circumstances within your neighborhood. Rabies vaccine should be given as recommended by the local stage law.
Distemper: present in most areas of the United Stages and is hard to treat. And, even if the treatment is successful, it can cause long term health problems including pitting of the adult canine teeth and possible seizures.
Adenovirus 2: although not as common as it use to be, it is still a threat in many parts of the country. This virus causes a form of kennel cough but the vaccine can protect against hepatitis in dogs.
Leptospirosis: a type of bacterial infection. Although not common in many parts of the country, it would be the decision of your veterinarian whether this vaccine is necessary for your pet or not.
Parainfluenza: a respiratory disease that is mistaken for kennel cough. It is highly contagious which produces a dry, raspy cough and the dog may have trouble breathing.
Parvovirus: is the most common viral disease and is more common in puppies. It causes vomiting, listlessness and a very distinct bloody diarrhea.
Corona virus: a highly contagious virus that affects the intestinal tract of dogs and can affect older dogs as well as puppies. It causes a fever, listlessness, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
Bordetella: also known as kennel cough. Also a bacterial infection, dogs that are boarding or show dogs are recommended to have the vaccine. It can be give either by an injection under the skin or intranasal (as drops).
All vaccines and their schedule will be determined by your veterinarian. If you have any question, please call your local veterinary hospital and speak to the veterinary assistant on duty.
Pearly Whites – Dental Care Program
The first step in preventing oral disease in pets is to have routine physical examination which includes an oral exam. These exams can help to identify potential problems such as plaque and tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease along with broken and / or abscessed teeth. The veterinarian will examine the teeth and gums along with checking the “bite” to see if anything is maloccluded. They will also look at the soft palate (or the roof of the mouth), the tonsils and the tongue. Any swelling or discharges along the head or under the eyes could suggest an infected tooth or abscess. Smaller dogs are more prone to dental disease rather than large dogs are you are more often feed softer foods. However, all pets should have a regular home care.
Home oral care is another step to preventing dental disease. This includes brushing the teeth with specially formulated toothpaste. Regular human toothpaste should never be used as most contain fluoride which can be toxic to pets, bleaches or other irritants that will upset their stomachs. There are many commercially made toothpaste formulated for pets.Also the use of a pet toothbrush is recommended as the bristles are softer for pets and are shaped for the canine and / or feline mouth. You should start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are young so they get use to the idea. Start slowly and carefully, concentrating on the gum line. Also, giving them kibble to eat or hard biscuits and / treats will also help keep the tartar to a minimum. It is also a good idea to check the gums and teeth on a regular basis. Reluctance to eat or drink cold water, pawing at the mouth or cheek area, bad breath, bleeding gums or any unusual growths in the mouth are signs of concern and should be checked by your veterinarian. If you are concerned, call the veterinary facility and
speak to the veterinary assistant as they will be glad to answer any of your questions.
Most pets need, at some point or another, a dental cleaning at the veterinary facility. Unlike their human counterparts, pets are reluctant or unwilling to sit still for a dental cleaning. This means they will have to be put under anesthesia to accomplish this task. Blood work must be performed prior to induction and antibiotic may be prescribed. The procedure can be accomplished within one day with the pet returning home in the evening. While they are under anesthesia, dental x-rays may be needed to check for abscesses, bone loss or broken teeth at the roots. Each tooth can also be inspected and any abnormalities can be recorded for future reference. The area under the gum line must also be cleaned, and plaque and tartar scaled off with an ultrasonic cleaner followed by polishing to smooth the tooth surface.
There are also commercially available chew toys that will aid in removal of plaque: however, good home care and regular visits to the veterinarian are the keep to good health.
Pearly Whites – Dental Health for Pets
With our pets living longer lives due to better medical treatments, diagnostic tools and advanced nutrition, pets are heather and happier than ever. But with these longer lives, more and more cases of dental disease have been arising. In fact, most of the severe medical problems diagnosed in veterinary hospitals are dental problems. It is as important for our pets to have good dental health as it is for us.
Puppies have 28 baby teeth that will erupt at about 4 weeks of age and will have 42 adult teeth around 4 months of age. Kittens have 26 baby teeth at around three weeks and will have 30 adult teeth around three to four months of age.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease with periodontal disease the most common problem in dogs, especially the smaller breeds. Another common problem is broken teeth, especially with outdoor dogs and cats. This can be caused by aggressive chewing on something hard and many times it’s due to a commercially available chew toy. About 28 percent of cats can develop painful lesions during their lifetime.
Just like their human counterparts, pets get plaque, tartar buildup and periodontal disease.
Pets rarely get cavities but they are prone to tartar build-up and gum disease. Food and bacteria collect along the gum line which forms plaque. If the plaque is not removed, it combines with the minerals in saliva which creates tartar (or calculus) within 3-5 days after it forms. Gingivitis is the tartar that causes the gums to become inflamed and looks like reddening of the gums next to the teeth. This contributes to bad breath with red and inflamed gums. You can learn more about these signs from your local veterinary assistant.
If the tartar is not removed, it causes a build up under the gums. This build up can cause pockets around the teeth which will cause bacteria to build up. This damage is usually irreversible, can cause teeth to fall out, bone loss and or infection. This condition is called periodontal disease and the build up of bacteria may enter the bloodstream. This in turn can cause endocarditis or infections of the heart valves or even infect the kidneys.
With proper care from your veterinarian, the disease can be slowed or stopped.
With the advent of pet dentistry becoming more common and with newer and more sophisticated procedures, our pets can live longer and healthier lives. There are more and more veterinary and veterinary assistant schools that specialize in pet dental health. Root canals, crowns and even braces are becoming more of the norm.
The old days of just pulling teeth are becoming a thing of the past with new products being developed for veterinarians and their owners to provide the best care for our pets.
Harmful foods in the home
Many owners like giving their special four footed family member a special treat. However, there are many foods that harmful to your pets. You can always check with your local veterinary assistant for foods you should not give your pets.
Alcoholic beverages: can cause intoxication, coma and death.
Avocado: may cause pancreatitis and fluid accumulation in abdomen, chest and heart.
Baby Food: could contain onion powder which is toxic to dogs and cats.
Bones (fish, poultry, or other meats): could cause obstruction or lacerations in digestive system.
Caffeine: May be toxic and cause vomiting, restlessness, and even death within several hours.
Cat Food: too high in protein and fats for dogs.
Chocolate: Contains caffeine. Chocolate can cause seizures, coma and death depending upon amount ingested. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to pets. Symptoms may not show up for several hours with death following within 24 hours.
Egg Whites (raw): will deplete your dog of biotan which can cause hair loss, weakness, growth retardation, or skeleton deformity.
Fat trimmings: can cause pancreatitis.
Fruit pits and seeds: contain cyanide, which is poisonous.
Grapes and raisins: As little as a single serving may cause kidney failure in dogs and / or death.
Gum, candies or anything sweetened with Xylitol (artificial sweetener): low dose will increase insulin in body and may cause weakness, vomiting, staggering and seizures. High dose will bring onset of liver failure and death.
Ham and Bacon: way too much fat content which could cause pancreatitis.
Human vitamins: may damage the lining of digestive system and be toxic to liver and kidneys.
Liver (raw or cooked): could lead to vitamin A toxicity.
Macadamia nuts: an unknown toxic is contained in macadamia nuts which could affect the nervous and digestive systems and muscles. It may also cause weakness, muscle tremors and paralysis.
Marijuana: will depress the nervous system causing vomiting and change the heart rate.
Milk or other daily products: Could result in diarrhea.
Mushrooms: could contain toxins which could cause shock, and result in death. Wild mushrooms can cause drooling, liver and kidney damage, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death.
Nutmeg: possible tremors, seizures and death
Onion and / or garlic (any form): could damage red blood cells which would cause anemia. Cats are more susceptible than dogs.
Raw yeast dough: Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.
Salt & salty foods: If eaten in large quantities it may lead to electrolyte imbalances.
Tea leaves: contain caffeine. This may be toxic and cause vomiting, restlessness, and even death within several hours.
Lumps and Bumps
Finding a lump or bump on your family pet can be an unsettling situation. As our pets live longer lives, cancer becomes a common concern as they can get all types of cancer – bone cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the liver and pancreas. The lump could be nothing but it can also be bad news.
Some can be felt or even seen on the skin or be discovered just under the skin. Cancer would automatically come to mind but a lump or bump on the skin could be an abscess, a hematoma (blood filled), a benign tumor or just hives due to an allergic reaction. Plus soft lumps that are just under the skin could be a simple fatty tumor (called a lipoma) and are usually not considered a problem. You can learn about different kinds of lumps and bumps in veterinary assistant school.
Any lump or bump that you find should always be evaluated by the veterinarian. You should consult with a veterinarian right away if the lump or bump is ulcerated, painful, warm, and seems attached to the underlying tissues or has been growing rapidly.
The veterinary technician or veterinary assistant may ask a series of questions such as how many lumps have you found and where are they located, how long has the lump been there and how fast has it been growing. They may ask for you if your pet has had any recent injections or vaccines and if the lump has changed in appearance, size and color. Also if your pet has gained or lost weight, any diarrhea or vomiting, loss of appetite, drinking more or less water, or changes in behavior.
The veterinarian may aspirate the mass checking for fat cells, blood cells or cancerous cells. This is done by inserting a small needle that is attached to a syringe and drawing out the cells. These cells are then placed on a slide, stained and viewed under a microscope for identification. This process is quick, painless and can usually lead to a diagnosis.
If the diagnosis is unclear, a biopsy may need to be performed which either means a small sample is taken or the veterinarian may suggest removing the entire mass which is then is sent to a laboratory for analysis. If the mass is simply a benign (non cancerous) lump or a fatty tumor, most times nothing needs to be done. If the diagnosis is cancer, there are many chemo treatments that are available, depending upon the type of cancer and its location.
Through diagnostic testing and treatments, the pet’s life can be saved and they can live a long, comfortable life. If you are concerned about a lump or bump that you have found on your pet, you can contact your veterinary facility and speak to a vet assistant for further help.
Don’t Dump your Pets – Part 11
With the economy the way it is, some pet owners can no longer afford their pets. In these hard times, include your pets into your family budget including food and non-emergency visits to the veterinary hospital since the best way to cut costs down is to keep them healthy. For their vaccines, contact your local Humane Society or animal shelter for places that offer low cost vaccine clinics. As cute as they are, resist purchasing the sparkly collars, pet clothes or even the pet ortho bed to keep the costs down. It is important, however, to keep them on their prescribed medication such as heartworm or other veterinary recommended medicine. Resist the temptation to switch them to a cheaper but lower quality food as this can create poor health in the long run. A good, homemade diet could also help cut costs.
If you find yourself in a position where you simply cannot keep your pets, remember that dumping them is simply not an option. You can contact your local veterinary hospital and ask if you can post a home needed sign in their waiting area. There are also many animal rescue sites for most breeds of dogs and cats that may be able to either accept your pet or foster them until arrangements can be made if you are between homes.
You can also research no-kill shelters in your area. Find out what types of pets they will accept and what vaccines and health history they will need. The advantages of a no-kill shelter over a regular shelter is that the regular shelter is usually run by the county and there is a time limit that your pet will have in which to be adopted. When that time is up, your beloved family member will be euthanized.
Fostering unwanted pets is another service that may be offered at a no-kill shelter. That means they will be staying in someone’s home instead of cages until they are adopted. Fostering pets will keep them interacting with humans and other animals and, therefore, easier to adopt.
Despite some owners feelings that their pet will simply languish away without them and decide to euthanize instead, remember that there are many owners who are looking for a new companion to enrich their lives. Pets are very capable of adjustments in a new home, a new area, and or new owners. Give your pet a chance for a new happy, healthy life.
If you are unsure what choices you have, check with your local veterinary hospital and speak to the veterinary assistant that works there. They are a wealth of information and may have options that you had not thought of.
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Don’t Dump Your Pets, Part 1
There are many reasons why someone can no longer keep their pet. When you work with animals, you hear many reasons from pet owners why “Fluffy” has to go. However, dumping them in the ‘wild” is the worst option. Many people feel that your dog or cat will “be free” and can survive on their own. However, hundreds of years of domestication have taken the survival instinct out of our family pets. Those animals that are dumped will more than likely get hit by a car and left to die by the side of the road, starve to death, be attacked by truly wild animals such as coyotes, or become infested with fleas, ticks or lice that will debilitate their host. Those that do survive will more than likely breed, adding to over population and homelessness.
If you are moving and cannot take your pet to your new place try to working something out with the landlord, even if you have to pay an up front fee or have a small pet charge added to your monthly rent. If your move is temporary, check with friends, co-workers or family to see if some one can take your pets until another place can be found.
Some people feel that, once they have a child, they won’t have time for their pets. If you make sure your pet is properly introduced to children, kids and pets work well together and keep each other company. Just be sure to lavish as much attention to the four-legged member of your family as you do to the new one with two legs. Proper planning will give wonderful results for both you and your pets.
If you are sick, have a serious illness, or health issue, pets can provide a lot of comfort. There may be volunteers in your area that will not only care for you, but the pet as well. Check with your local rescue groups and see if they have any suggestions.
Some owners have taken their pets to animal shelters or to veterinary hospitals to be put to sleep because the pet became pregnant. Spaying or neutering your pet is your responsibility especially since there are many inexpensive low cost and free spay and neuter clinics in every state. Check with your local shelter for the names and phone numbers for places that offer those services through veterinary hospitals, mobile clinics, rescue groups or perhaps the shelter itself.
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Micro Chipping Your Pet
Micro Chipping Saves Lives
Microchips very small transponders which are about the size of a grain of rice. A micro sized coil along with a memory circuit is enclosed within a biocompatible glass which is small enough to fit into a hypodermic syringe. A unique number is registered to your pet that is contained in the chips memory circuit and it can be read by special scanners.
Microchip Pros and Cons
Pros: The chip cannot be moved, once implanted, and can last up to 75 years.
The veterinarian or technician implants the device in less than a minute.
Pet does not have to be put under anesthesia to place micro chip.
Pets are not bothered by micro chip once placed.
Does not disfigure like a tattoo and they are tamper-proof.
Cons: More expensive than tags or tattoos.
If pet is found, many people would not know to take the pet to a shelter or veterinary hospital to scan.
Most chips are standardized; however there are still several brands that have to be registered.
Micro Chip and Collar Combo
Due to the fact that people who do find lost pets may still be clueless regarding micro chipping, a combination of both the micro chip and collar with identification tags would increase the chance of your pet being returned. Your local veterinary assistant can help you scan a lost pet that you may have found for a microchip.
Over weight Pets Part III - Does this leash make me look fat?
Losing weight is tough for both the two legged caretakers and four legged pets. Being cute and cuddly may not have anything to do with the amount of fur our pets have. It is not a matter of if an obese pet will develop a serious, secondary medical condition but rather when.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our dogs or cats can tug on our heart strings. The sad eyes at dinner time, the paw on the leg as you enjoy a steak dinner as their dry kibble sits untouched in the kitchen, the rolling on the back begging for attention is enough to melt even the most stern resolve. Face it: our pets have us well trained.
To help with your pet weight loss program, try these few tips;
- Give some veggies as a snack rather than a bite of chicken or just a little more kibble in their bowl. Pets actually like vegetables such as carrots, peas or celery.
- Give smaller meals more often, especially at the end of the day.
- If your dog is begging and the food bowl is empty, take them for a walk or outside to play. Sometimes all they really want is attention and a walk, throwing a Frisbee or bouncing a ball is a distraction.
- Don’t free feed. Any pet will eat out of boredom or just because it’s there.
- Make them work for their meal. Put the bowl of food upstairs so your pet has to walk up the stairs to eat.
- If you live in a multi-pet household, separate the pet that is on the diet away from the other animals.
- Make sure there is plenty of fresh water to drink.
- Be sure to check how many calories those treats contain. Even a few too many will keep the pounds packed on.
- No adding leftovers – human food is loaded with fat, sodium and calories.
- Kitties can pack on the pounds too. Even a string dragged across the floor will peak enough interest for them to run and chase. Laser lights or a cat nip ball can bring out the kitten in them.
Check with your veterinarian or the veterinary assistant with other ways to sneak the pounds of your pet. Remember, it’s up to us to keep our pets healthy and happy for a longer and more enjoyable life.
Over weight Pets Part II - Does this leash make me look fat?
Counting calories for pets can be challenging but a safe guideline is 3-5 body weight loss per month. Check with your veterinarian, the vet technician or veterinary assistant about how much your pet currently weights and how much they should weight. Your veterinary assistant will be able to recommend several special weight reduction diets that will help trim the calories out of your pets’ daily intake.
Offering a diet food, in small portions, several times a day will help reduce your pets’ caloric intake. But watch the treats and no adding human food to encourage them to eat. Many treats are high in calories and Grandma’s left over meat loaf gravy is high in fat and sodium. And follow the guide lines of the food you are giving: giving too much will not reduce the calories and giving too little can cause a serious disease. Cats that are not eating enough can develop a condition called Hepatic Lipidosis (or fatty liver disease.
The easiest way to reduce the caloric intake could be to just feed less of the food you are currently feeding. If you are feeding 2 cups a day, cut it down to 1 ¾ cups a day. The reduced food intake coupled with exercise will trim your pet and keep them healthy.
Most pets will reach their ideal weight in about 6 to 8 months so don’t become discouraged if they don’t slim down quickly. If it takes longer than 8 months, either the diet needs to be updated or the exercise routine needs to be increased. Keeping a log of your pets’ initial weight and the pounds they are losing, will help encourage the dedicated pet owner to stick to a weight loss program.
Also keep in mind that younger, more active pets will tend to lose weight faster than older, more sedate animals. The secret to weight loss is their loving and caring human companion as pets don’t realize they are overweight or that the extra weight could cause serious health problems.
When you work with animals, you learn how to recognize an obese pet and can assist the owner if choosing a reduced calorie diet that will work for both them and their pet.
Over Weight Pets Part I - Does this leash make me look fat?
Overweight Dogs and Cats
56 percent of dogs and cats in America are overweight. When a pet is overweight, they are at risk for developing severe, secondary medical conditions. These include:
High blood pressure
Heart and respiratory disease
Shorter Life Expectancy
Not only do heavier dogs and cats have less interaction with their human companions, but they tend to live shorter lives. Because of the extra pounds they carry, some owners feel it is “normal laziness” or that “cats are supposed to sleep all day” which may mask more serious, medical conditions.
Is Your Pet Overweight?
How can you tell if your pet is overweight or not? Looking from the side and the top of the animal, you should see a distinct waist line. There should not be any bulges or bumps. You should be able to feel the ribs as you lightly run your hands over the chest area (no cheating – squeezing the chest does not count!). If you can reach under your pets belly and grab a hand full of fat – your pet is overweight.
Check With Your Vet
Although weight loss is tough, it will add years to your pet’s life and make those years more enjoyable for both of you. To start, check with your pets veterinarian before starting any weight lose program as there may be medical conditions that is causing your pet to be overweight. Some common diseases that tend to pack on the pounds are Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism and they need to be ruled out before beginning any diet or exercise routine. You can schedule an appointment with your local veterinary assistant to check for these conditions.
How To Exercise Your Pet
An easy place to start is with exercise. Although dogs like to “stroll” at a leisurely pace, checking each bush and blade of grass for the previous visitor, a more brisk pace would certainly burn more calories. Keep the leash tight and close to your body. Start off at an easy walk or jog (remember to pick a pace that you would be able to handle) for 10-15 minutes. For cats, feathers attached on the end of a stick and waved around is usually enough to grab and hold their attention for several minutes of chasing and playing. Squeaky toys, balls, or anything that your pet finds fascinating is a good choice for play time.
However, sometimes exercise is not enough and the possibility of lowering the calories your pet consumes has to be added to the weight loss program. Attending a veterinary assistant school will help you learn how to recognize an overweight pet where you can assistant the owner in ways to reduce their pet’s weight.
The PVC (Packed Cell Volume)
The packed cell volume is a simple test that helps to determine the relative amount of red blood cells that are in the body. Depending upon the age of the animal or if they are dehydrated will determine whether the PCV is high or low.
Red blood cells carry a protein called hemoglobin. It is the hemoglobin that gives red blood cells their red coloration. Hemoglobin is what carries oxygen through the body. When the PCV is low, which means there are fewer red blood cells, it is called anemia.
Anemia can be caused by external or internal bleeding, hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) or because the body itself is not producing enough red blood cells in the bone marrow. A puppy, kitten or small dog can get anemia due to an infestation of fleas and or ticks.
In cats, the feline leukemia virus may cause anemia.
Onions, raw, cooked or dehydrated can also cause anemia. Ingestion of aspirin, zinc propylene glycol (found in some canned food) and acetaminophen, found in Tylenol can also lead to toxin reaction and blood loss.
To run a PCV, a small amount of blood is drawn and placed in a very thin tube then spun down. The veterinary assistant will usually be the one to draw the blood and run the test.
Treatment will depend upon the cause of the anemia. In some cases, a blood transfusion will be needed to increase the red blood cells in the body. IV fluids and certain medications may also need to be given to reverse the anemia.
To prevent anemia, do not give any drugs or over the counter medication unless specifically requested by the veterinarian. Remember that giving Tylenol can be fatal to both dogs and cats. There are many products on the market that will repel or kill fleas and ticks that are easy to apply. For felines, limit your cats contact with unfamiliar cats or by vaccinating for Feline Leukemia.
Despite the name, Ringworm is not a worm but actually a fungus. Known as Dermatophytosis, it can be spread from cat to cat or even from pet to human. As it is a fungus, it contains spores and these spores can live in the environment for up to 24 months and can live on furniture, bedding, clothing or anything that the infected animal has been in contact with. Individuals with animal jobs should be very careful since it is very easy to bring ringworm home to your family members and pets.
On occasion, ringworm can infect an animal’s entire body but most commonly appears as scaly, hairless sores on the ears, tail and or head. These sores can be very itchy and fill with pus, and may cause an increase in shedding. Sometimes ringworm will also cause the nails to grow deformed.
A fungal culture done at your veterinary hospital is the more common way to diagnosis ringworm. The treatment can include an antifungal cream but an oral treatment may have to be used in the more severe cases plus the animal may have to have regular dips. The fungal cultures must be negative for 2 weeks before any treatment is stopped.
Kittens under 12 months old are the most susceptible but also outdoor pets, older pets or animals whose immune system may be compromised. Persian cats also appear to be more susceptible to the ringworm fungus.
Since ringworm is so contagious, it is important to wash your hands and clothes anytime you come in contact with new kittens and or cats as ringworm is the most common skin infection in felines. This is very important if you work with animals as you can pass it on to another pet. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, isolate the pet and call your veterinarian immediately. It is important to wear gloves when you have to handle an infected animal and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. However, not every human or animal that comes into contact with the fungus will become infected. Current immune system, health, age, condition of skin, and grooming habits will determine if the infection is actually able to take a hold and grow.
Blood Tests - The CBC (Complete Blood Count)
Pets cannot tell us what is wrong with them. The veterinarian relies on the owners’ observations and intuition to know when their pet is not acting quite right. One of the tools the veterinarian will use is doing certain tests, depending upon the symptoms and / or age of the animal.
One of the more common tools is doing blood work and a CBC (complete blood count) is a typical laboratory procedure. The CBC measures the packed cell volume (PCV), total plasma protein, total white blood cell count and the total platelet count. It is a screening test that can check for such problems as infections, anemia and other diseases. You can contact you r local veterinary assistant to schedule an appointment for a CBC test.
The PCV (packed cell count) is a way to estimate the amount of red blood cells in the body but it could vary depending upon if the pet is dehydrated or their age. A decrease in RBC’s could be due to external or internal bleeding, or some conditions that causes a reduction in the production of the red blood cells.
Total plasma protein includes plasma pre-albumin, albumin globulin (which are simple proteins and is needed for proper healing) and fibrinogen (which becomes fibrin and assists in blood clotting). White blood cells or WBC’s ( also known as leukocytes) are part of the immune system that helps the body to fight infectious diseases. An increase in the WBC count could mean there is some type of viral or bacterial infection. However, certain types of cancer can also cause an increase in the white blood cell count.
Platelets are actually irregular shaped disks that are sticky. They are instrumental in stopping bleeding by forming clots in the blood. Too many or too little platelets could indicate different problems such as blood clots that obstruct the blood vessel if the number is too high to excessive bleeding if the number is too low.
For the CBC, blood will be drawn from either a vein in the front or rear leg, or the jugular vein in the neck. Many veterinary hospitals have special hematology analyzers that are able to run tests in-house. Other facilities will send blood samples to a laboratory, which means the results, would not be ready right away. Veterinary assistants are usually responsible for not only drawing the blood but also for running the in-house tests.
Pain Management Part II
If you think your pet is in pain, a complete physical will be needed so your veterinarian can figure what is wrong and give you several options to choose from. There will be questions such as your pets appetite, movements, attitude and behavior. The more information you can provide will assist the veterinarian with a diagnosis. You can speak to your local veterinary assistant in advance to be more prepared for the physical.
Cats seem to hide pain as natures way to protect them from predators. However, although there may be no outward signs of pain, that does not mean that pain is not present. You have to assume it is present and take them to the veterinarian.
A physical exam can include x-rays, blood tests, lab work or even a scan. After that, your veterinarian will be able to recommend a treatment protocol. There are many pain medications that are now available to pets. They can be given via pill, liquids or even a skin patch or gel which helps not only with acute but also chronic pain. The veterinarian will discuss what medications would be best for your pet.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) are commonly used for many types of orthopedic pain. There are other animal jobs that offer alternative pain management that include message therapy, holistic medicine, or even acupuncture. Keep in mind the side effects and the time needed for each treatment option including the risks versus the benefits of each option.
There are non-pharmaceutical compounds and or neutraceuticals that have been developed in the past few years for joint heath. Glucosamine and chondrotin help joint inflammation that is common with old age or joint disease.
If you pet has had surgery, pain management is very important of more rapid healing. It is important to follow the veterinarians or vet assistant’s instructions carefully and call if you have any questions or problems. If you pet has been prescribed a pain medication, give it on time and as directed.
Keep your pet warm and comfortable plus quiet and relaxed, allowing them to heal with re-injury. It is also very important to keep them from the surgical site as they will lick and / or remove stitches. If needed, a special collar can be obtained from the veterinary hospital. Don’t forget that lots of love and attention will go a long way in your pet’s recovery.
Pain Management - Part I
The pain that pets experience appears to be similar to the pain humans feel. It was previously believed that pets had a high tolerance of pain. It was believed that pain helped to keep pets quiet so they could heal. Added to that fact, they thought there was no real way to know if a pet was in pain or not. That is why the idea of pain management has changed over the last 10 years. Like humans, pain not only can shorten a pet’s life, but also the quality.
Pain management does not necessarily mean the use of drugs: like humans, physical therapy, vitamins, weight loss and other life style changes such as more exercise can make a difference to lessen pain.
There are several types of pain:
Acute pain – comes on suddenly due to an infection, surgery or injury. This type of pain usually only lasts until the reason for the pain has been identified and treated.
Chronic pain – longer term and can be slower to develop. Old age problems such as illness, arthritis, cancer and/or bone disease can lead to chronic pain. Because this type of pain could have developed over time, the pet could have developed a tolerance and had learned to live with it.
Symptoms of pain could either be the pet is abnormally quiet and listless or whining, crying or, for a cat, meowing nonstop. Biting or licking at one spot of the body could mean there is a problem. Acting out of character, looking for a lot of attention, trouble eating, sleeping or getting comfortable could also be signs your pet is in pain.
The most effective way to manage pain is by blocking it before it starts. That may only be possible with elective type of surgeries such as spays, neuters, orthopedic procedures or mass removals. For that type of pain, giving medication prior, during and/or after the procedure would provide the best pain management.
If the pain is already present, such as bone disease, broken bones, arthritis, etc., there are many types of medications to help relieve or block the pain from progressing further. Please talk with your local veterinary assistant about different options you may have for your pet.
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Roundworms in Cats and Dogs
One of the most common intestinal worms for cats and dogs are roundworms (Toxacara). They can be identified in your pets stool or vomit as they look somewhat like pieces of cooked spaghetti as they are long and thin. Other symptoms include diarrhea, a lackluster fur coat, vomiting and / or a pot-bellied appearance.
Pets can be infected by being exposed to feces that contain roundworms or by ingesting animals (such as mice or rats) that are infested with roundworm. Puppies and kittens can also be infected by their mothers before birth or shortly afterward when they are nursing. They are often found in soil and the eggs are very resistant to not only weather but also chemicals. And they can survive for many years which could mean your pet can be infected over and over again. Pets can pick up the eggs in their fur or paws ingesting the parasite when they groom or lick.
The eggs hatch and become larvae which continue to grow in the pets intestine. After 3-4 weeks, the larvae mature and become adults which then produce more eggs. Those eggs are passed through the feces to begin the cycle again.
Treatment is a two or three step process. The preventive medication for roundworms only kills the adult worms. That is why it is necessary to give a second dose 3-4 weeks later. If that dose is skipped, the eggs that were laid by the adult roundworms will hatch, produce more eggs and will continue the cycle and your pet will become re-infected. It is essential to follow the protocol given by your veterinarian.
When a pet is being treated for roundworms, it is very common the roundworms to be passed through the stool. If you do not see any worms, there is no reason for alarm. Some worms may or may not pass.
Part of the wellness for puppies is for a fresh stool sample to be brought in for testing for worms. You can contact you local vet and speak to the veterinary assistant at the hospital for any information or questions you may have.
Many veterinarians do recommend routinely deworming puppies and kittens even if there is no sign of an infection because of the possibility of infecting family members.
Toxoplasmosis is a single-celled parasite that is found throughout the United States and can infect any warm-blooded animal, bird or human. You may be at a higher risk of contracting Toxoplasmosis if you work with animals. However, the parasite rarely causes significant clinical diseases in cats or any species.
The eggs, or oocysts are ingested by rodents, birds, or other ground feeding mammals such as sheep, cattle, goats and pigs which then migrate to the brain and muscle tissue. When an intermediate host eats an infected prey, the parasite is released into the mammals’ intestinal system and is passed into the feces where the life cycle is repeated.
The danger lies in the fact that any warm-blooded host, the T.gondii can also be transmitted in utero (or across the placenta) and through the milk. In the United States, people are more likely to become infected with Toxoplasmosis through eating unwashed fruits and vegetables or raw meat then from handling cat feces.
Cats are the primary hosts of T.gondii as they are they only mammals in which the parasite is passed through the feces. Because cats only shed the parasite for only a few days in their entire life, the chance of human exposure is very small. Having a cat does not mean you will come down with Toxoplasmosis and it is very unlikely you would be exposed by touching an infected cat merely due to the fact that they do not carry the T.gondii on it’s fur. If you are unsure if your cat has Toxoplasmosis you can contact your local veterinary hospital and speak to a veterinary assistant for testing. Cat bite and scratches also will not infect humans with the disease.
Common symptoms include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. However, most infected pregnant women do not exhibit symptoms. Treatment for toxoplasmosis requires a course of antibiotics or other drugs that will inhibit the T.Gondi reproduction. The treatment needs to start as soon as a diagnosis is made and must be continued for several days after the signs have disappeared.
Pregnant women or people who are immunodeficient (someone is who is undergoing a immunosuppressive therapy such as for cancer or organ transplant) are at the highest risk.
There are several factors that will reduce the risk of becoming infected:
- Wear gloves while gardening and wash hands when done.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
- Keep children’s sandboxes covered.
- Do not eat undercooked or raw meat.
- Wash hand prior to eating.
- Remove feces from litter box daily. However, people with suppressed immune systems or pregnant women should not clean the litter box.
- Don’t drink unpasteurized milk
- Clean food prep areas with warm, soapy water after handling raw meat.
- Boil any water that is taken from the streams or ponds.
- Control the rodent population or other intermediate hosts.
Panleukopenia in Cats
Also known as feline distemper, Panleukopenia is a very contagious viral disease that occurs in any age of cat. However, cats that have not been properly immunized, sick cats or young kittens are more susceptible.
Passed from an infected cat to another cat through fecal waste and/or other secretions of the body, it can also be transmitted through bedding, food bowls, and the hands and clothing of pet owners. The virus is very stable in the environment and can live for months or even years. Once exposed to the virus, the loss of cells causes complications and/or bacterial infections.
Panleukopenia causes the white blood cells to decrease in number, and it usually occurs within four to six days of exposure. The cells in the intestines and the lymph tissues are most susceptible, but the virus can also affect the G.I. tract.
Symptoms can include a dull coat, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, the appearance of the “third eyelid,” lack of grooming, and a hunched-over appearance which indicates abdominal pain. The owner may also note that her cat is hanging around the water bowl and is exhibiting a marked depression. Some owners may be led to believe that their pet has been poisoned or has swallowed a foreign object, which sometimes delays treatment.
Supportive therapy is the recommended treatment. This includes giving fluids either intravenously or subcutaneously (under the skin) to help combat the fluid loss that occurs with diarrhea and vomiting as well as nutritional support and antibiotics to prevent the secondary bacterial infections that can occur with this disease. It is important that the patient is isolated from other cats, kept warm and clean, and given a lot of attention, petting, and love along with hand-feeding as the depression can cause the cats to “give up.” It is also important that the caregiver does not transmit the disease on their clothing, hands and/or shoes.
Cats that survive the disease can develop an active immunity to help protect them for the remainder of their lives. However, vaccines are the best method for protection as they stimulate the cat’s system so that it produces its own antibodies. It is important to give the vaccine prior to the cat being exposed to the virus.
The frequency of the vaccine varies from area to area. It is best to consult with your veterinary assistant to determine the correct schedule for your cat.
What You Should Know about Spaying and Neutering
According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter one of the approximately 6000 U.S. animal shelters each year. Of these animals, an estimated 3 to 4 million are euthanized. An estimated 25 of these animals are purebred. A veterinary assistant or any veterinary professional can inform you of the benefits of spaying and neutering pets.
Many of the animals euthanized in animal shelters are perfectly healthy and young. The animals are commonly the offspring of a beloved family pet that had an unintentional litter, and as is common in most cases the owner wasn’t able to find homes for each puppy or kitten. There are simply more homeless animals than there are people willing to provide them with loving homes.
A fertile dog may produce two litters of puppies per year with an average of six to 10 puppies per litter. Cats can produce up to six kittens per litter and have up to three litters per year. Spaying and neutering is the only 100 effective way of controlling the ability of cats and dogs to reproduce. Spaying or neutering your pet will help you to avoid adding to the pet overpopulation problem.
The benefits of spaying your Female dog or cat are as follows:
• She won’t go into “heat,” meaning that there will be no mess for you to clean up.
• Eliminate the risk of diseases like pyometra (pus-filled uterus), uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer.
• Drastically reduces the risk of mammary gland tumors (cancer of the mammary gland).
• No risks associated with pregnancy like false pregnancy, retained placenta, prolapsed uterus, dystocia (difficulty giving birth), or eclampsia – all of which are extremely expensive to treat and may result in death of the mother.
The benefits of neutering your Male dog or cat are as follows:
• Neutered animals tend to be calmer and more relaxed and may be less territorial or aggressive.
• It decreases the risk of a male pet “running away” or “roaming” when they sense a female “in heat”.
• It eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.
• It drastically reduces the risk of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Over 80 of un-neutered male dogs develop some form of prostate disease.
Ashlie Herring a veterinary technician who works with animals says, “There are many misconceptions about spaying and neutering. For instance, some people think that pets that have been spayed or neutered become fat or lazy. It is up to the owner to make sure that her cat or dog gets fed a healthy diet and has regular exercise.” Surgical sterilization will also not affect the physiological development of a dog or cat. There is not scientific data that supports the theory that spaying or neutering affects a pet’s physiological or psychological development. Again, it is up to the owner to provide her pet with adequate nutrition and the loving care that is necessary to help their pet grow into a happy and healthy adult.
What is Parvo?
Parvo or Parvovirus is a serious viral disease that affects puppies and young dogs. It has been shown that certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to this disease. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds do have an increased risk to this disease. Carriers of the infection can shed the virus without showing any clinical signs. It can last up to 9 months or longer in the environment which means excessive heat or cold will not kill it.
Parvo causes an inflammation of the small intestine (known as Enteritis) causing vomiting, listlessness, loss of appetite, fever and a very distinct foul and bloody diarrhea. The clinical signs usually appear suddenly, usually within 12 hours or less but the incubation from the actual exposure could be from 3 to 10 days.
Although the enteritis is the most common sign of Parvo, severe inflammation of the muscles of the heart and the death of cells (called necrosis) would cause difficulty of breathing and death in puppies less than 8 weeks old. If the dog is older, the chance of survival is better but it will cause scarring in the muscles of the heart.
Treatment for Parvo is mainly supportive care which would include giving fluids either intravenous or subcutaneous (under the skin) to replace the loss of fluids due to the vomiting and diarrhea, something to stop the vomiting (an anti-emetic), antibiotics to help fight infection, and possibly a blood or plasma transfusion for protein loss and to help with possible anemia.
To protect your puppy, vaccinations should start at 6 weeks of age, and be repeated at 9, 12, and 16 weeks with a booster every 3 years. It is best to check with the veterinary assistant or technician at your pet’s veterinary clinic regarding the Parvovirus risk in your area and vaccinate accordingly.
Although highly contagious, it is not transferable to cats or humans. And it is important to remember that any breed of canine can get the Parvovirus so it is important to keep the vaccines up to date and current.
Safe Air Travel for Pets
According to the Humane Society of the United States, transporting your pet by air subjects them to very hot or very cold temperatures, low oxygen and air circulation plus the possibility of rough handling in the cargo hold of a plane.
Due to problems associated with pets and air travel, Congress passed the Safe Air Travel Act in April 2000 which the Department of Transportation adopted in 2005. What this means is that all airlines that are based in America must report incidents in the cargo holds of their planes which includes losses, injuries and / or deaths. If you wish to view a month to month list of these incidents, go to Air Travel Consumer Report which is on the Department of Transportation website.
While researching for safe travel options for your pet, always consider what is best for your pet and convenient for you. For an additional fee, if your pet is a cat or small dog, many airlines will allow you to take the animal on board with you. When you contact an airline, remember to ask:
- Can you take your small dog or cat on board with you?
- Is there a restriction on transporting the pet as cargo?
- What type of carrier does the airline require? Although soft –sided carriers are more comfortable for your pet, many airlines require a hard-sided carrier.
- Are there any pet health or vaccination requirements?
To increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet:
- Carry a photograph of your pet and examine them once you are in a safe area after the flight. If something appears wrong, take the pet to a veterinarian right away.
- Try not to fly during holidays or the summer as it will increase the chance of rough handling.
- Do “trial runs” with your pet in the carrier about one month prior to trip so they will become comfortable and reduce stress.
- Place a label on the carrier with your name, permanent address and telephone number along with an emergency contact person. Put this information on the collar but be sure the collar isn’t too tight.
- Pug-nosed breeds should not be shipped as their short noses make it harder for them to breath.
If you have any questions, the veterinary assistant at your pet’s veterinary hospital should be able to answer any problems or concerns you may have.
What You Need Before Traveling With Your Pet.
Set up an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian to ensure they are healthy prior to any travel. An examination is needed to obtain a health certificate for many forms of travel. Many times, these questions are answered by veterinary assistants in the facility they work in.
The veterinarian may update your pet’s vaccines and test for heartworm and internal parasites. If needed, appropriate medication will be prescribed. A sedative or tranquilizer may also be prescribed and it is recommended that a trial run be conducted in order to observe the effects on your pet. While traveling, keep the health certificate, rabies certificate and medical records in an easily accessible place.
Pets may travel throughout the United States with the proper documentation. However, Hawaii has a 30 or 120 day quarantine for all dogs and cats although the regulations may vary by species.
If traveling to Canada, a certificate issued by your veterinarian that identifies the pet and certifies that they have been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36 month period is needed.
Heading to Mexico? A health certificate signed by your veterinarian within two weeks of the day you enter Mexico is needed. It must include a description of the pet, lot number of the rabies vaccine, a note that the distemper vaccine has been given and a statement by the veterinarian that your pet is free from infectious or contagious diseases. This certificate must be stamped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and averages around $16.50 for the stamp.
Be sure to learn the quarantine policies before you even pack your bags. You should be able to obtain a country’s legal requirement through your veterinarian, the internet, or by contacting the embassy of the country you wish to visit. It’s worth the research to ensure an uneventful trip for you and your pet with no last minute surprises.
Attending a veterinary assistant school can give you the tools you need to handle situations like this and improve the health and general well being of pets everywhere.
Administering Oral Medication to Dogs and Cats
Pet owners will often come across the challenge of having to administer oral medication to their animals, whether it be antibiotics, pain medication after surgery, or otherwise. The veterinary assistant is responsible for pilling your pet while she is still within the veterinary hospital’s walls; however, upon bringing your pet home, you will become accountable for this crucial task.
Professionals in animal jobs will tell you that opening a dog or cat’s mouth is a sensitive task as there is always the risk of getting bit. The biggest advantage of oral medication is that it allows you to continue your pet’s ongoing medications without having to give them painful injections. Oral medication can also shorten an animal’s hospital stay due to the fact that oral medication may be administered at home. Many injectable medications are also manufactured in pill or liquid form.
Before departing from the veterinary facility with your pet, make sure to ask the facility’s vet assistant to demonstrate the administration of oral medication to you. He or she should be happy to do so. You can also follow the helpful instructions provided here.
Pilling a Cat Hold the cat’s upper jaw over the top of her head with your thumb and index finger behind the top canine teeth. Your fourth and fifth finger should wrap around the back of the cat’s head, pointing it upward. Hold the pill or syringe full of liquid medication in the other hand and use one finger of that hand to pry the bottom jaw open. If the medication is in pill form, drop the pill as far back in the cat’s mouth as possible without allowing it to fall to the sides of the mouth. Keep in mind that the esophagus is to the left of the trachea, so the pill should be placed in the left-rear portion of the throat. You can use your finger or a pill gun (available at pet supply stores) to guide it down the esophagus, but work quickly if using your finger to avoid being bitten. Close the mouth immediately and hold it shut, stimulating swallowing by either blowing in the cat’s nose or massaging her throat. Make sure your cat swallows the pill; you should be able to visibly see her swallowing. Rinse her mouth with a syringe full of water. Bad-tasting pills will cause a cat to salivate excessively, which can be a problem if the medication comes back up. To limit salivation, try to act quickly to decrease the amount of time the pill is in her mouth. If your cat is resisting by pushing away with her limbs, wrap her in a towel to restrain her limbs.
Pilling a Dog The difference between oral medication administration of canines and felines is that with a dog, you may stick your finger inside his mouth behind his upper canine teeth and apply pressure to the roof of his mouth. The sensation of your finger across the roof of the dog’s mouth will coerce him to open his mouth. As with felines, use the other hand to hold the medication and open the bottom jaw. Drop the pill as far back in the mouth as possible, slightly to the left as this is where the esophagus is located. Allow his head to return to a normal position so he may swallow, and then repeat the process with a syringe full of water. If your dog is resistant to taking medication, try this trade secret used often by those in animal jobs such as your veterinary assistant – hide the pill or capsule in a piece of tasty food such as cheese or a hot dog to turn stressful medication time into a treat.
Administering Oral Medication to Dogs and Cats
Pet owners will often come across the challenge of having to administer oral medication to their animals, whether it be antibiotics, pain medication after surgery, or otherwise. The veterinary assistant is responsible for pilling your pet while she is still within the veterinary hospital’s walls; however, upon bringing your pet home, you will become accountable for this crucial task.
Professionals in animal jobs will tell you that opening a dog or cat’s mouth is a sensitive task as there is always the risk of getting bit. The biggest advantage of oral medication is that it allows you to continue your pet’s ongoing medications without having to give them painful injections. Oral medication can also shorten an animal’s hospital stay due to the fact that oral medication may be administered at home. Many injectable medications are also manufactured in pill or liquid form.
Before departing from the veterinary facility with your pet, make sure to ask the facility’s vet assistant to demonstrate the administration of oral medication to you. He or she should be happy to do so. You can also follow the helpful instructions provided here.
Pilling a Cat
Hold the cat’s upper jaw over the top of her head with your thumb and index finger behind the top canine teeth. Your fourth and fifth finger should wrap around the back of the cat’s head, pointing it upward. Hold the pill or syringe full of liquid medication in the other hand and use one finger of that hand to pry the bottom jaw open. If the medication is in pill form, drop the pill as far back in the cat’s mouth as possible without allowing it to fall to the sides of the mouth. Keep in mind that the esophagus is to the left of the trachea, so the pill should be placed in the left-rear portion of the throat. You can use your finger or a pill gun (available at pet supply stores) to guide it down the esophagus, but work quickly if using your finger to avoid being bitten. Close the mouth immediately and hold it shut, stimulating swallowing by either blowing in the cat’s nose or massaging her throat. Make sure your cat swallows the pill; you should be able to visibly see her swallowing. Rinse her mouth with a syringe full of water. Bad-tasting pills will cause a cat to salivate excessively, which can be a problem if the medication comes back up. To limit salivation, try to act quickly to decrease the amount of time the pill is in her mouth. If your cat is resisting by pushing away with her limbs, wrap her in a towel to restrain her limbs.
Pilling a Dog
The difference between oral medication administration of canines and felines is that with a dog, you may stick your finger inside his mouth behind his upper canine teeth and apply pressure to the roof of his mouth. The sensation of your finger across the roof of the dog’s mouth will coerce him to open his mouth. As with felines, use the other hand to hold the medication and open the bottom jaw. Drop the pill as far back in the mouth as possible, slightly to the left as this is where the esophagus is located. Allow his head to return to a normal position so he may swallow, and then repeat the process with a syringe full of water. If your dog is resistant to taking medication, try this trade secret used often by those in animal jobs such as your vet assistant – hide the pill or capsule in a piece of tasty food such as cheese or a hot dog to turn stressful medication time into a treat.
Thinking of Becoming a Veterinary Assistant?
Do your friends call you the “crazy cat lady?” Do you have more framed portraits in your house of your dog than your nieces/nephews? Do you love animals more than you love most people? Would the perfect job for you involve working with animals daily? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re the perfect candidate for the numerous animal jobs out there!
It’s eternally fulfilling to spend your days working in a field that you love. Lucky for animal lovers, there are many, many jobs available to us. Some require minimal schooling, while others call for a degree, such as a Bachelor’s in Animal Science. In this article, we will discuss becoming a veterinary assistant, as the demand for professionals in this field has risen considerably (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for professional veterinary services will rise more than 22 by the year 2014) and the requirements are few.
Becoming a veterinary assistant does not necessarily require any certification or a degree from a veterinary assistant school, though it is recommended. An assistant (in comparison to a veterinary technician who must achieve at least a two-year Associate’s degree) is usually trained on-the-job for all of the procedures he/she will be responsible for. However, when Animal Behavior College (ABC) polled veterinarians across the United States, they found that over 96 of all veterinarians surveyed stated they would prefer to employ an assistant who pursued and achieved certification over those who did not. Thus, certification from one of the more well-respected veterinary assistant schools is highly recommended.
Also, keep in mind that while some certification programs will simply suffice, you will be much better off becoming certified by a veterinary assistant school that includes hands-on training as part of their curriculum, such as ABC’s Veterinary Assistant Certification program. Extensive research of veterinarians nationwide indicates that 88 of veterinarians prefer to hire certified graduates from veterinary assistant schools where the curriculum included a hands-on training module in a veterinary setting. Also, the hands-on training is a great learning experience that will stay with you throughout your career.
Once you have decided whether you will seek certification prior to attempting a career as a veterinary assistant, make sure to choose the right school that covers all necessary topics. If you have any questions about what you need to learn, try questioning the veterinarian at your local veterinary clinic or hospital. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you what he or she requires out of their assistants. Then, compare that information to the courses offered by your choice of veterinary assistant school to ensure that everything is covered. Your responsibilities will be numerous and will include (though will not be limited to) assisting in examinations, laboratory testing, imaging (including x-ray and ultrasound), assisting with front office procedures, administering vaccinations, drawing blood and obtaining urine and fecal samples for testing, assisting and answering questions for clients, exercising dogs on their daily walks, and much, much more. Learning how to do all of this before applying for a job at a veterinary hospital or clinic will put you far ahead of the competition.
First-aid should always be followed up by a visit to the vet. Although first aid may prevent an injury from worsening, help to alleviate pain, or even save your pet’s life, you should always seek the advice of a veterinarian if your pet becomes injured. A certified graduate from one of the many accredited veterinary assistant schools can also be a reliable reference for first-aid tips, though keep in mind that an assistant may not diagnose and is limited in what he or she is allowed to do.
We have outlined some basic dos and don’ts of pet first aid, but you should speak with your veterinarian about specific recommendations for first-aid care. All recommendations should be used with good judgment and in conjunction with advice from your veterinarian or veterinary assistant. You should remain calm and always use caution when handling an injured animal. Even the most trusted and loving animal may become fractious when frightened or in pain. All families who share their home with a pet should have a first-aid kit in an easily accessible location. Also, learning some simple animal restraint techniques is recommended.
A basic first-aid kit should contain:
Canine First-Aid Kit
- A good pet first-aid book
- Phone numbers: veterinarian, nearest emergency clinic, poison-control center/hotline
- Paperwork: proof of rabies vaccination, and copies of other important medical records
- Rectal thermometer (normal temperature for a dog: 100 – 102.5 F)
- Gauze rolls, pads, and adhesive tape (white porous and self-adhesive tape)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
- Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment
- Petroleum jelly
- Antiseptic lotion, powder, or spray
- A nylon leash
- A carrier for small dogs
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Splints and tongue depressors
- A muzzle or strips of cotton to prevent biting
- Penlight or flashlight
- Bandage scissors
- Needle-nosed pliers
- Plastic eyedropper or syringe
- Sterile saline solution
- Glucose paste or corn syrup
- Styptic powder or pencil
- Latex gloves
- Ear-cleaning solution
- Nail clippers
Feline First-Aid Kit
- A good pet first-aid book
- Phone Numbers: veterinarian, the nearest emergency veterinary clinic, a poison-control center/hotline
- Paperwork: proof of rabies vaccination status, and copies of other important medical records
- Rectal thermometer (normal temperature for a cat: 100 – 102.5 F)
- Sterile gauze rolls, pads and adhesive tape (white porous and self-adhesive type tape)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Petroleum jelly
- Antiseptic lotion, powder, or spray
- A pillowcase to confine your cat for treatment
- A carrier
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Splints and tongue depressors
- A cat muzzle or strips of cotton to prevent biting
- Penlight or flashlight
- Needle-nosed pliers
- Ice pack
- Plastic eyedropper or syringe
- Sterile saline solution
- Latex gloves
- Ear-cleaning solution
- Nail clippers
If Your Pet Is Bleeding
Locate the area actively bleeding. Apply a pressure bandage using gauze pads and self-adhesive tape. Make the bandage snug but not tight enough to cut off circulation. Do not apply a tourniquet as this may cause more problems than it prevents. Use extreme care if bandaging around the face and/or neck. Do not attempt to clean an open wound. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately so that he/she (with the help of a technician or a veterinary assistant school graduate) can evaluate your pet’s condition.
Fractured or Dislocated Limb
Do not attempt to manipulate or place a splint on an injured limb. These injuries are very painful and any manipulation will likely cause greater pain. If possible, transport your pet in a carrier to avoid excessive movement, and take your pet to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. The clinic workers will assist you in safely removing your pet from your car without causing further injury. Use extreme caution when handling an animal with this type of injury.
If You Suspect Heatstroke
A pet that has had a heatstroke will have rapid, shallow breathing; excessive drooling; bright red gums; weakness (often they are recumbent, or refuse to move); and a very high body temperature. Some pets may show signs of agitation with or without vocalization. Do not attempt to bring the body temperature down by pouring rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol on your pet as this may cause the temperature to drop too drastically and may cause your pet to go into shock. Wrap your pet in cool (not cold) damp towels, and get your pet to the vet immediately. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency. The hospital’s veterinary assistant or technician will evaluate your pet’s condition prior to the veterinarian’s diagnosis.
Preventing heatstroke is actually very easy. Make sure your pet always has fresh, clean water readily available. Since cats and dogs don’t sweat and have a naturally higher body temperature than humans, they can overheat very easily. Never leave your pet in a hot car – even if the windows are down and you will only be gone for a few minutes. Do not leave your pet outside on a hot day and always make sure your pet has a cool, comfortable place to escape the heat. For more tips on keeping your pet cool and preventing heatstroke, speak with professionals such as a vet assistant, technician, or veterinarian.
If You Suspect Your Pet Has Been Poisoned
If your pet has been poisoned, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Do not feed your pet or attempt to make it vomit. Some poisons can do more damage to your pet coming up than going down. Your veterinarian (with assistance from a veterinary assistant and/or technician) will detoxify your pet once it has been admitted to the clinic. If detected early, most poisons can be eliminated from your pet’s body without extensive treatments. Keep cleaners and pesticides out of your pet’s reach. If you have houseplants, find out if they are poisonous to animals and keep them out of your pet’s living area. If you know what poisoned your animal, make sure you take the label – or something else that identifies the poison – with you to the vet.
In the event of any emergency or injury involving your pet, always be sure to stay calm, act responsibly, and call your vet as soon as possible. Your veterinarian and his or her staff will guide you and your pet to safety. Remember, your pet is counting on you.
A recent international poll found that 61 of pet owners will not evacuate during a disaster if they cannot bring their pets with them. In 2006, Congress addressed this issue by passing the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, which requires state and local emergency management agencies to make plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency.
Disasters may happen anywhere at any time. Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes may occur with little to no warning. Unexpected emergencies such as fires often leave families – and pets – separated without means of communication with each other. The Humane Society of the United States advocates all pet owners plan ahead to care for their animals when disaster strikes. For additional advice, owners may consult their veterinarians or others in animal jobs (i.e., veterinary assistants).
What can you do right now to prepare for a disaster?
• Put a collar on each of your pets which clearly identifies your pet with his or her name and your contact information. Indoor-only pets should have collars also.
• Take three pictures of you with each of your pets in a well-lit area. You should be able to see your pet’s entire body clearly. The three pictures should be two side-view shots and at least one clear picture of the pet’s face.
• Talk to your neighbors, family, and friends about what they can do for your pets – and what you can do for their pet – if a disaster strikes. All parties should agree upon a location to meet in the event of an emergency. Those in animal jobs can usually provide advice on animal-friendly places to meet.
• Create a list of hotels (or friends’ homes) that would allow your pet(s) to stay with you in the event of an emergency.
• Create an Emergency Preparedness Kit (you should have one kit per pet – see below). Again, professionals in animal jobs, such as a vet assistant, can help you create your kit.
An Emergency Kit for your pet should contain:
• A three-or-more-day supply of food and water stored in airtight containers
• A sturdy leash or harness – or a suitable carrier if you have a small dog
• Extra feeding and watering bowls
• Current photos and a physical description of your pets, including identifying markings and microchip or tattoo numbers
• Any medications that your pet may be taking, vaccine records, and basic first-aid supplies (ask your veterinary assistant for advice regarding basic first-aid needs)
• “Comfort” items such as a special toy or blanket, and suitable bedding
• Waste disposal bags (i.e. “Pooch Pick-up Bags”)
• Cats should have a litter box with litter and a carrier large enough for one cat to use as a temporary “apartment” for several days. Professionals in animal jobs, such as a certified veterinary assistant, can guide you to the appropriate size.
Each kit should be kept in a place where, if you are evacuated or need to leave your home for any emergency or disaster situation, it can be easily accessed. Do not leave pets unattended at any time while traveling in an evacuation situation as they may be experiencing fear and anxiety for which you – the owner – may be the only comfort for them.
What if a disaster requiring the evacuation of your pet occurs while you aren’t home? Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor, friend, or veterinary assistant to collect your animals. This person should be familiar and comfortable with your pets, know where they are likely to be in your home, and know where the pet’s emergency kit is located. Discuss with your friend a specific location to meet after an evacuation.
If you own horses or other farm animals, you should contact your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency to provide you with information about your community's large-animal disaster response plans.
Source: Humane Society of the United States
Pets and Cold Weather
Cold weather affects pets as well as humans. Some pets are better suited for cold weather than others. There is a common (and false) belief that dogs “will do just fine” if left outside. This is not true; professionals, including veterinarians and veterinary assistant, will tell you that all pets need proper shelter and protection from the cold. Pets should not be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather as they can suffer hypothermia and frostbite just like humans, especially the young or very old.
A designated area inside is best, but if that is not possible, an adequate shelter that is insulated with blankets or straw and that is protected from wind, snow, rain, and cold will help retain your dog’s body heat. Also, don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh water as licking ice or snow will not provide enough fluids. Using a heated water dish will keep the water from freezing. Consult pet professionals such as a veterinary assistant school graduate or pet care specialist at your local pet supply store about finding heated water dishes.
The use of heat lamps, space heaters, or other electrical devices is not recommended as they may not only burn your pet but may also create a fire hazard. Pet product suppliers have heated mats for pets to sleep on. A recovering pet will generally be placed on such a mat in a veterinary facility post-surgery. These mats could also be placed under a dog house. Be sure to read all manufacturers’ directions carefully to avoid misuse or injury to your pet. Also, note that outdoor pets require more food than normal for energy and for maintaining body heat. Veterinary assistant or your vet technician can provide guidelines regarding feeding during cold weather seasons.
Large chunks of ice can get between your dog’s or cat’s foot pads, causing discomfort. Clipping the hair between the pads will help in keeping such ice from forming. Some dogs will tolerate dog boots which offer protection when walking in snowy areas or on icy sidewalks. Your groomer or a vet assistant can help you in trimming the fur between your dog’s or cat’s toes.
Salt and Chemical De-Icers
De-icers can cause chapped, dry, and painful paws, and afflicted pets will lick their paws. This could cause stomach irritation and vomiting. Be sure to wash your pet’s feet with warm water after a walk on icy ground.
Antifreeze is sweet-tasting, and pets are prone to lap up spills. Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately. If it has ingested antifreeze, the pet must be taken to a veterinary clinic to be assessed and treated by a veterinarian immediately.
The warm engine of a car is a tempting area for cats to curl up and sleep during cold winter nights. Before starting your vehicle, honk the horn or bang the hood to frighten off any sleeping animals.
Senior pets with arthritis have a more difficult time in the winter cold. Be cautious of icy walks, provide warm and soft bedding, and handle pets gently. Should you notice that your arthritic pet is having trouble getting around, contact your veterinarian and have your veterinarian and his/her veterinary assistant or technician examine your pet.
Finally, be sure to have plenty of supplies in case the roads become unsafe.
• Pet food
• Fresh water
• Warm blankets
• Any medication that the pet takes on a daily basis
Have a happy, safe, and warm winter with your pets!
An Owner’s Responsibility in Preventing Dog Bites
Although most interactions between dogs and people are positive and harmonious, there are still an estimated 4.5 million dog bites reported each year in America. These bites range from minor nips to major attacks. There is no way to guarantee that your dog would never bite someone, because all animals have the potential to become aggressive in certain situations. Fortunately, there are many things that an owner can do to reduce the chances of their dog inflicting an injury on someone. Dog owners should make themselves aware of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of their dog biting someone. (Professionals working in animal jobs must also learn the same skills because of the likelihood of a groomer, veterinarian, veterinary assistant or technician, dog trainer, etc. being bitten by a client’s dog.) Learning your dog’s body language and knowing what situations your dog is comfortable in and what situations make your dog nervous or scared is crucial to your safety.
Socialize your dog at an early age. Speak with your veterinarian, veterinary assistant, and/or dog trainer regarding their recommendation on a safe age for a puppy to meet other dogs. Introducing your dog to different situations and people greatly reduces the dog’s chances of becoming nervous and/or fractious in social situations. For instance, taking your new puppy to the veterinarian early on in life and often gives him exposure to your veterinarian, veterinary assistant and technician, receptionists, other clients, etc. and gets him used to a situation that may otherwise be viewed as frightening.
Train your dog. Taking your dog to training/obedience classes is not only an excellent way to socialize your dog, but your dog will also learn how to sit, stay, lie down, and most importantly, trust you. Training is a family matter, and anyone who lives in the same house as the dog should be familiar with the training techniques used and actively participate in the dog’s education. Never hit a dog as a punishment as this can cause a dog to exhibit dangerous behavior as a defense and is very hard to correct with training. Training should always be a fun activity for your dog. Just ask professionals in the various animal jobs out there – training is a life-long commitment, and you should try to work with your dog as much as possible. This will not only reinforce behaviors already learned, but will strengthen the bond between you and your dog as well.
Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Do not teach your dog to chase after or attack people or animals for fun – dogs do not always understand the difference between play and serious situations. The first time your dog exhibits signs of potentially dangerous behavior toward a person or another animal you should seek the advice of those in animal jobs, such as a vet (input from his/her vet assistant is valuable, too, but should be reinforced by the opinion of the vet), animal behaviorist, or qualified dog trainer.
Be a responsible dog owner. Follow all laws related to owning a dog. Again, those in animal jobs can point you in the right direction. License your dog, and provide him with proper veterinary care, including keeping rabies vaccines up-to-date. When you go on outings with your dog, keep him on a leash at all times, and never let your dog roam off-leash or unsupervised. Dogs are social animals and want to be part of a family. Isolating your dog in the backyard or on a chain by himself increases the risk of your dog displaying dangerous behavior.
As a socialized and happy member of your family, your dog will be much less likely to bite. If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, use caution and work with professionals in animal jobs––such as your dog trainer, veterinarian, or veterinary assistant ––to help your dog become comfortable and accustomed to new situations. Working with your dog, building relationships with professionals in animal jobs for guidance, and educating yourself about dog behavior and training is the best way to keep both yourself and others protected from dog bites.
Source: Humane Society of the United States
Senior Wellness in Pets
Due to advances in veterinary medicine, and the commitment of those in animal jobs (such as your veterinarian and veterinary assistant), our pets are living longer and healthier lives. However, they can suffer the same ailments as senior humans – diabetes, dental disease, liver and kidney disease, stiff joints, heart disease, and cancer. As pets age seven times faster than their human companions, a 10-year-old, 20 to 50 lb dog would be 60 in human years, while a 10-year-old feline would be the equivalent of a 64-year-old human senior.
Many conditions can be detected early by your veterinarian and treated successfully by your vet assistant (with guidance from your veterinarian) while adding years of a comfortable and active lifestyle to your pet’s life. A routine, semi-annual physical exam with blood testing and other diagnostics along with careful observation by pet owners can assist the veterinarian and veterinary assistant in detecting possible problems. Diagnostics are usually recommended when pets reach the age of seven years old.
Indications of possible problems could include:
• Increased water intake, more frequent urination, or “accidents” in the house
• Changes in hair coat (thinning or roughness), lumps, or changes in the color of the skin
• Inability (or unwillingness) to jump up, limping, or difficulty getting up
• Drooling excessively
• Bad breath
• Coughing or choking
• Reluctance to play or tiring easily
The following tests, done often by the veterinary assistant, can help the veterinarian detect the possibility of certain problems:
• The Complete Blood Count (CBC) and chemistry panels can detect infections, problems with the liver and kidneys, assess the condition of the pancreas (which produces insulin and enzymes), and check the level of calcium and phosphorus in bones and electrolytes in the body. Blood is drawn and tested by your vet’s veterinary assistant or technician.
• Thyroid testing for hormonal imbalances by your veterinary assistant or technician can indicate the pet’s thyroid level. Too low of a thyroid level can result in weight gain, poor hair coat, and listlessness, while a thyroid level that is too high (mostly in senior cats) can cause kidney and heart disease along with weight loss.
• Urinalysis (also completed by the veterinary assistant or technician) will help detect bladder and kidney problems.
• Parasite exams, done by your veterinarian and/or his/her veterinary assistant or technician, include flea control and identification of internal parasites such as giardia, coccidia, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms.
• Heart exams could detect heart murmurs. Further diagnostics using x-rays, ECGs and/or ultrasound imaging may be required if a murmur is found. Your veterinarian will conduct the heart exam, though imaging is usually done by the veterinary assistant or technician.
• Skin inspections by the veterinarian and/or veterinary assistant include checking for bumps or changes in skin color which could indicate cancer.
• Eye exams include checking for cataracts and/or glaucoma.
• Radiographs can help in detecting masses in the abdomen, bone cancers, and conditions of the chest and lungs. Radiographs are often completed by the veterinary assistant and then assessed by the veterinarian.
• Dental exams are done by veterinarians to detect infections in the mouth and dental disease which can occur by the time your pet reaches the age of seven years old. Tartar and broken teeth need to be removed and/or repaired.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight through a good diet and plenty of exercise, scheduling him or her for routine exams and proper vaccinations, and giving him or her lots of love will help your pet to live a longer, healthier life.
Reference: Your Vet Connection
Trouble Areas in the Home – Dangerous Places for Pets
Trouble Areas in the Home – Dangerous Places for Pets
Both dogs and cats can get into a lot of trouble in many areas of a house or yard. Keep all areas safe for your pets and watch them closely. For guidance regarding safety for your pets, consult those in animal jobs, such as your dog trainer, veterinary assistant, or animal behaviorist.
• Swimming Pools – A pet can fall into a pool and drown. Keep the area around a pool fenced. Provide a ramp in case a pet falls into the water.
• Gardens, Garden Sheds, and Garages – Pesticides, antifreeze, fertilizers, gasoline, and oil all contain chemicals that may cause serious illness or death. Keep containers tightly closed and out of harm’s way in locked cabinets or placed high on shelves. If your pet is suspected to have ingested harmful chemicals, take him/her immediately to the veterinarian to be assessed by the vet and his/her veterinary assistant.
• Balconies – Pets can either fall from balconies or slip through railings that are spaced too far apart. Make a barrier to either keep pets away from balconies or to block railings.
• Doors and Windows – An open door or window is an invitation for a pet to run away and explore if left open. Doors should be kept closed and all windows should contain screens.
• Electrical cords – Electrocution can occur if pets chew on electrical cords that are plugged into a wall. Keep cords for computers and all electrical systems hidden under carpets or behind appliances.
• Washer and Dryer – Cats are known for jumping into washers and/or dryers. Keep lids closed when these appliances are not in use or when you need to leave them unattended for even a few moments. Spilled bleach can cause chemical burns if walked through or illness if ingested. Again, if your pet is suspected to have ingested harmful chemicals, take him/her immediately to the veterinarian to be assessed by the vet and his/her veterinary assistant.
• Fireplaces – Eating fireplace ashes can cause a pet to get sick. Keep a screen in place and ashes out of pets’ reach. If your pet ingests fireplace ashes, contact your veterinarian or bring your pet to the animal hospital to be examined and treated by the veterinarian and his/her veterinary assistant.
• Trash Areas – Spoiled food can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Fruit pits may cause blockage in the pet’s intestines as can aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Empty tin cans could cause cuts on the mouth and/or tongue if chewed on. Pets may get their heads stuck in discarded containers. Again, it’s crucial to take your pet to the veterinarian immediately to be assessed by the vet and his/her veterinary assistant if your dog is suspected of having ingested harmful substances (such as onions from the trash can).
• Bathrooms and Kitchens – Cleaning products, either ingested or picked up on the pads of the feet and licked off, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. An owner’s prescription medication may cause serious side effects or death if left out and ingested by a pet. Take your pet immediately to emergency veterinary care to be assessed and treated by the veterinarian and veterinary assistant if he/she ingests cleaning products or prescription medications.
Reference: ASPCA Pet Insurance
Flea Control - Shut Down the Circus in your Home
Do you have a flea problem in your home that just won’t go away? Do you seem to keep treating your pets (following the advice of your veterinarian or their assistant) but never seem to stop the prolific infestation of fleas?
Here are some facts and tips to help you plan an attack that will shut down that flea circus in 24 hours.
A flea has four stages in its life. First, fleas are laid in eggs which hatch into larvae. The larvae resemble tiny maggots and within a week build a protective cocoon around themselves. Once in this cocoon state, they are called pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage until warm, moist conditions are present (up to a year) which are necessary for them to hatch into adult fleas. Adult fleas live up to two years, and an adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs every 24 to 48 hours, totaling up to 1,000 eggs in her lifetime.
Fleas can transport themselves from one animal to another by walking, jumping, or being transported by a host. They feed off the blood of pets, with the female flea consuming up to 15 times its own body weight of your pet’s blood each day. Young puppies and kittens can develop “flea anemia” if the infestation is out of control, which can lead to death within a day or two. Graduates of veterinary and veterinary assistant schools can explain the graveness of this disease.
Adequate flea control involves the following steps:
• Removing fleas from the inside of your house
• Removing fleas from the outside areas surrounding your house
• Removing fleas from your pets
• Using preventative flea control products on your pets
A treatment program should be planned and executed within a 24-hour period with help from professionals (such as your veterinarian, anyone who has attended an accredited veterinary assistant school, etc.). Since fleas do not live on your pets (they usually just jump on for a meal), they will live and lay their eggs in your carpets, curtains, bedding, throw rugs, and areas around the house where your pets sleep, such as dog beds.
In the morning, take your pets to the veterinarian for a flea bath or flea dip by a veterinary assistant (whichever your veterinarian recommends) and leave them there for the day.
Then, treat the indoor environment with the proper amount of flea bombs or flea foggers. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Next, treat the outside environment with a pesticide spray that includes agents that kill fleas specifically. Be sure to spray kennel areas and any warm, moist areas in the grass and/or dirt where your pets play or lay. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Many pest control companies can be hired to spray the indoor and outdoor environments for you if you do not want to do this yourself.
Lastly, ask your veterinarian about topical flea products that will kill the flea when it bites, or internal flea growth regulation medications that cause the female fleas to lay only sterile eggs when feeding off your pet.
The best plan for flea control is prevention before the problem becomes dangerous to your pet’s health and well-being. It is important to keep your pets protected all year ‘round. Remember that prevention is crucial in keeping the flea circus from setting up and thriving in your home!
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