May 13, 2010

Cat Scratch Fever

Bartonella are relatively common bacteria that are usually transmitted by fleas and ticks.  Bartonella is the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever in humans and because there are several species of Bartonella it is also linked to a number of illnesses in your cat or dog.  Indeed, infections caused by Bartonella can have many mild symptoms in dogs and cats but they often go unnoticed by humans as these illnesses are generally not very severe.

Fever, eye disease, and inflammation of the heart lining, muscle, and valves are among the most common symptoms associated with Bartonella infection.  More commonly, humans become aware of Bartonella infections because they themselves fall victim to cat scratch fever.  Also known as cat scratch disease, this infection is usually transmitted when your cat scratches you.  Some symptoms of cat scratch fever include a low grade fever, swelling of the lymph glands, and other flu-like reactions.  In most cases, cat scratch fever will last only a few days but the symptoms can extend for many months.

While systemic symptoms are not common, they are not impossible and sometimes these symptoms can become serious.  Because fleas are the most likely vectors of Bartonella it is important to ensure your dogs and cats receive some kind of flea prevention treatment.  In fact, Bartonella cannot be spread without a flea or a tick as a vector so you can easily control the spread of these bacteria with a proven flea and tick treatment like Advantage or FrontLine.

If you suspect that your pet has been infected with Bartonella you should visit your vet and have your pet tested.  Various antibiotics can be given to dogs and cats to kill these bacteria so that you can protect your family from possible infection.  Nevertheless, remember that Bartonella is not a particularly dangerous bacteria, just that you will become ill if infected.

May 11, 2010

Children and Dogs

Filed under: Children and Pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:50 pm

In most situations, dogs and kids cohabitate very nicely.  They can quickly form loving bonds that last for many years.  A lot of us remember our first dogs very fondly; yet, because both children and dogs are unpredictable there are some behavioral issues that may arise from time to time.  Not only should you try to select a breed of dog that is suitable for children, but you also need to teach your children how to behave around dogs.

canine stress First of all, it’s important to remember that not all breeds of dogs will interact well with children and that children do not always interact well with dogs.  Medium-sized dogs with a laid back personality are generally well suited to being family pets.  Labradors and Golden Retrievers are obvious examples.  Small dogs should be avoided because children’s rough behavior may threaten small dogs and cause aggressive behavior.  Similarly, larger dogs that have traditionally been used for hunting can have a naturally more aggressive personality and may not make a good pet for children.

Most importantly, you must realize that dogs are pack animals that naturally rank members of their group according to dominance and submission.  Dogs will generally recognize their adult owners as dominant but may not show children the same respect.  Children should be taught to be direct and consistent with dogs and you need to take special care to ensure that your dog understands that he is subordinate to your children.

The vast majority of dog/child relationships are based on love and affection which is why dogs make such great pets for kids.  Still, never forget that dogs and children may not always understand each other’s behavioral cues and as the adult you need to set clear boundaries for your pets and your children.

May 10, 2010

Registering Pets

Filed under: pet registration — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:32 pm

Ensuring the safety and well being of your pet goes beyond proper nutrition, regular exercise, and a safe environment.  One responsibility of any pet owner is registering your pet.  Registering pets has a number of clear benefits:

  1. Registered pets can be easily identified if they go missing.
  2. In cases of pet abduction, registering your pet is the only way to verify ownership.
  3. By registering your pet you are adding your pet to a database that includes photos, medical information, and owner contact information.

While there are different ways to register your pet, some pets may be marked with a tattoo or tags, microchipping animals has become increasingly popular in recent years.  This form of registration involves implanting a microchip under the skin of your pet; the microchip uses an electronic signal to identify your pet.  Microchipping seems to be getting more common most likely because of the effectiveness of microchipping in returning lost pets.  At the moment, many animal shelters and rescue facilities encourage you to register your pet with a microchip because it allows them to quickly identify pets and their respective owners.  In fact, some states require microchipping because they can verify your pet’s vaccination history and because they reduce the need to euthanize unidentified animals.

When you register your animal with a microchip, a veterinarian will record the identification number on the chip and then implant the chip.  A test scan will be conducted to ensure that the chip is working properly.  During the registration process, you will be required to fill out various forms that include information about your contact details, the medical history of your pet, as well as a physical description of your pet.  This information can later be used to ensure the health and safety of your pet and to return your pet in case it gets lost or abducted.

May 9, 2010

Ringworms in Cats

Filed under: Ringworms — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:14 pm

Ringworm is a relatively common fungal infection that affects the hair, skin, or nails of various animals including cats, dogs, and humans. In cats, ringworm is the most common cause of skin infections even though the condition is more common in dogs. Cats with ringworms sometimes develop skin lesions but the condition usually goes away on its own.

Ringworm is caused by various fungi, usually Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, or Trichophyton bacteria. Ringworms are spread when cats come in contact with infected animals or when fungus spores are shed by infected animals into your cat’ living environment. Spores can survive for up to 24 months so if you’ve had an infected animal in your home it is important to take preventative measures to ensure that your cat does not develop ring worms. Animal professionals need to be especially careful not to spread ringworm; fungal spores have been found in boarding facilities, on groomers’ equipment, and even in veterinary offices.

Cats with ringworms will often have skin lesions but there are other symptoms of ringworms as well. Classically, a small, round, hairless lesion may appear in an area and this lesion may have scaly skin. In other infections, ringworms may spread across the face of your cat and may appear as a more generalized skin infection.

In many cases, ringworms in cats are treated with a topical ointment which is applied directly to the infected skin lesion. Miconazole and thiabendazole are among the most common anti-fungal treatments used for cats but it is also important to ensure that your cat eats a healthy diet. In very severe cases of cat ringworms, a combination of oral and topical treatments may be necessary. Long-haired cats may need to be shaved to receive treatment but veterinarians often differ on this approach. Ringworms are not deadly but they can be transmitted easily so take any ringworm infection seriously.

May 8, 2010

Dogs and Cars

Filed under: clean cars,Dog Behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:13 pm

From time to time, you will need to take your dog in the car.  Whether this is going to be a regular routine or an occasional necessity, there are some extra steps you should consider whenever you’re going to take your dog out in the car.  For some dogs, car travel can be uncomfortable and your behavior as a pet owner can greatly impact your dog’s willingness to travel in a car.  First and foremost, remember to never leave your dog unattended in your vehicle.  In some circumstances you may not have a choice, in which case you need to leave at least 2 windows down so that fresh air will pass through the car.  Also, if you need to leave your dog in the car for more than a few minutes, be sure to leave him with a source of drinking water.protection-summer-sun

Other than not leaving your dog alone in the car, there are some other tips that can make car travel less challenging.

- Take regular rest stops so your dog can relieve himself.
- On long trips, avoid motion sickness by feeding your dog a few small meals during the trip.  Similarly, for short trips try to avoid feeding your dog a big meal before you get into the car.
- If your dog has a lot of anxiety about car rides, try introducing him to the idea more gradually by taking warm-up rides.
- Don’t let your dog stick his head out the window.  You should leave the window down slightly so he can get fresh air, but putting his head out the window can be very dangerous.
- Never let your dog ride in the back of an uncovered pickup truck.  He might jump out.
- Likewise, leashing your dog in a vehicle may be dangerous because the leash can be a strangle hazard in an accident.  Try a car harness instead.
- Finally, make sure you have sufficient food and water for your trip as well as some other emergency items like a blanket and medications.

May 7, 2010

Choosing a Pet

Filed under: adopting,pet shop — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:12 pm

We often consider our relationship with our pets as one-sided.  We are the providers and we care for our pets but the truth is that our pets can also care for us.  Still, it is important to choose a pet that fits your lifestyle rather than expecting your pet to adjust to the way you live.  Puppies and kittens are cute but they are also a big responsibility so you must make an educated decision with regards to pet ownership.

Research from around the world has shown that people with pets tend to be happier than people without pets.  When choosing your pet, you want to make a number of lifestyle considerations first.  Ask yourself about your activity level.  Do you love to spend time outdoors or are you a homebody?  People who spend most of their time at home should choose a pet that can live comfortably indoors most of the time.  Cats or bunnies might be a great choice; whereas, if you prefer to spend lots of time outside running, walking, or hiking, a dog might be a great choice.

You also have to consider your family when choosing a pet.  If you have small children or elderly people living in your house you need to think carefully about the energy level of your pet.  Small dogs can be energetic but also may become scared of overzealous children.  Likewise, large, active dogs may be a nuisance to elderly people.  Try to find a pet with personality characteristics that would easily blend into your family.

Finally, you need to consider how much time you have.  It’s not fair to get a dog, cat, or other pet when you know you’ll never be home.  Pets will almost certainly live for several years (10 to 15 for dogs and cats and as many as 30 for birds, for example) and you should ensure that you will be able to give them the attention they need.  Remember that pets are a great addition to your family but you also need to be responsible for their well-being.

Understanding Kitten Development

Filed under: Cat behavior,cat training,training your kitten — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:18 am

kitten developmentThe first 6 months of your kitten’s life will mark several important developmental milestones.  From being dependent on their mother for food and protection to becoming friendly, independent companions, kittens learn a lot in the first few months of life.  As a cat owner, it is important to understand these developmental stages so that you can ensure the best care for your kitten and so that your kitten grows to be a healthy and well-socialized cat.

The neonatal period of development is generally defined as the first two weeks of life.  During this time, kittens learn to orient to sounds and their eyes are not completely open until the end of the second week. At this point, litter mates begin competing for rank and territory but separating kittens from their mother can lead to poor socialization. In fact, kittens should never be removed from their mother too early as this often leads them to be aggressive and even anxiety-prone.feline stress

During the next 4 weeks or so your kitten will be in the socialization phase of development.  By 4 weeks of age, their sense of smell and hearing is well developed and they’re able to see moderately well.  At this point, you’ll notice that kittens interact much more with litter mates. They are walking around and they are starting to get teeth.  By the end of this phase you can see the makings of an adult cat with regular sleeping patterns, refined motor skills, and more social interaction.

From weeks 7 to 14 kittens are most active and really love to play.  Using toys and playing with your kitten helps them to develop coordination as well as social skills.  Ideally, kittens should still be observing their mother at this point so that they can learn a range of beneficial behaviors including grooming.

Finally, the ranking stage lasts from about 3 months to 6 months of age.  Kittens are greatly influenced by their litter and they start to recognize friends of other species like dogs and humans.  In addition, they begin to rank dominant and submissive members of their group, including their human owners.

May 6, 2010

Why does My Dog Eat Rocks?

Filed under: Dog Behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:12 am

dog eating habits Sometimes it seems like dogs will eat just about anything.  They’ll certainly chew on your favorite shoes and you’ve probably even caught them eating feces or other equally unappetizing items.  And now, you’ve caught your dog eating rocks and you’re wondering what that’s all about.  In fact, dogs often eat inorganic substances with absolutely no nutritional value.  Pica is a condition where animals, even humans, eat or desire to eat strange substances.  Sometimes, pica will not pose a threat to your dog’s health but depending on the substance there could be serious health risks.

Eating rocks is one of the most common forms of pica observed in dogs.  Unfortunately, eating rocks can be dangerous for your dog.  Chewing on rocks most obviously can damage the teeth and the tissues in the mouth of your dog.  More seriously, eating rocks can result in blockages of the intestines and subsequently vomiting, diarrhea, and if the rock is large enough it can even cause choking and suffocation.

canine teeth care There are various medical and behavioral reasons why your dog may be eating rocks.  First and foremost, you may not be giving your dog enough attention.  When you react to your dog when he eats rocks you actually reinforce the behavior.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to prevent rock eating.  In addition to the behavioral causes, medical disorders of the digestive system, nutritional deficiencies, and even diabetes may lead to rock eating.  Because of these possible medical causes, it is important to visit your veterinarian to figure out why your dog is eating rocks and treat the underlying condition if necessary.

Efforts to cure pica are associated with the underlying cause.  Behavioral pica should be treated with behavior modification techniques that focus on positive reinforcement.  Meanwhile, treating the medical causes of pica should also end the rock eating.  For example, if your dog suffers from poor nutrition, once you have compensated for nutritional deficiencies the rock eating should cease.  Be sure to visit your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is healthy and to learn the methods that you can use to prevent your dog from eating rocks.

May 5, 2010

Top Tips for Training Your Dog

Filed under: training your dog — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:00 am

Whether you’re training a new puppy or you’re having behavioral problems with an older dog, here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your training sessions.

  • Make Training Enjoyable. You and your dog should be enjoying training time.  Making training a positive experience will enhance the lessons that you’re giving and also ensure that you don’t get bored in the process.
  • Keep Training Sessions Short. For the most part, you should try to keep training sessions to 5 or 10 minutes so that you and your dog can maintain focus.  Also, dogs will be more motivated during shorter training sessions.
  • Reinforcement is the Most Effective. Many dog owners make the mistake of punishing dogs for poor behavior.  In fact, rewards or other forms of reinforcement are much more effective for modifying behavior than punishment.
  • Keep Tasks Simple. Dogs lose motivation as tasks become more difficult so keep your training simple and always try to teach the basic commands like sit, heal, come, and stay.  Similarly, keep commands simple so they’re easier for your dog to understand.  Most dogs will have a lot of difficulty associating complex commands with tasks or even simple commands with complex tasks so simplicity is always the best policy.
  • Use Powerful Rewards. Dogs respond most easily to food and praise so these should be your regular rewards.  Treats are obviously the most effective so they make the best rewards at first.  You can gradually introduce praise as a substitute for treats as the training sessions progress.  Also, when you use food as a reward it is much more effective before your dog has a meal rather than after.  Praise should be delivered in high, melodic tones as these are more pleasing for your dog.
  • Always End Training on a Positive. Never end a training session with a failed response from your dog.  For example, if you are teaching your dog to sit, don’t quit the training session because you’re frustrated.  Instead, you should be patient and end the session by rewarding your dog for success.

Most importantly, remember that training takes time but that all dogs will succeed if you are patient and understanding.

May 4, 2010

How can you tell if my dog has gum disease?

Filed under: dental care for dogs — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:33 pm

gum disease in dogsOtherwise known as periodontal disease, gum disease in dogs is a condition wherein the gums around the teeth become weakened and inflamed.  Dog periodontal disease usually develops because of poor dental hygiene and may result in tooth loss or other more serious side effects.  While most dogs affected by gum disease tend to be older, it is not impossible for young dogs to develop the condition.

Most often, periodontal disease in dogs results from the consistent presence of plaque and food particles along the gumline.  When these food particles are not removed and the plaque forms the gums get irritated and gingivitis results.  You can recognize gingivitis by redness in the gums that are next to the teeth.  In addition, chronic gingivitis is one of the main causes of halitosis in dogs and animals alike.

Eventually, plaque on the teeth forms tartar which can build up under the gums.  This tartar causes your dogs gums to separate from the teeth and allows bacteria to grow.  This condition is periodontal disease and is irreversible.  Symptoms of periodontal disease include pain, tooth lose, abscesses, and even bone loss.  Many factors contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs.  While age and general health are leading factors, diet, breed, grooming, and home care can also be important contributors to dog periodontal disease.

canine teeth careTreatment of gum disease in dogs depends on the severity of the disease.  Professional dental cleaning is recommended for dogs with low grade periodontal disease so that tartar and plaque can be removed.  However, in more advanced cases of dog periodontal disease may even involve surgery.  In order to protect the overall health of your dog it is important to take preventative measures against periodontal disease.  Because periodontal disease is irreversible you should try to maintain dental health through regular veterinary visits, a healthy diet, and daily oral care.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.