June 30, 2010

Caring for Koi Fish

Filed under: fish health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:30 pm

The Koi fish is a vibrantly colored fish that is especially popular throughout Asia and is becoming more popular as pets for North Americans.  This ornamental fish often makes a beautiful addition to garden ponds and aquariums and have been widely domesticated for many years.  In fact, the Koi fish can survive in almost any climate and is found in all parts of the world with the exception of Antarctica.  This article will present some of the most important Koi fish care tips so that you can keep a happy, healthy Koi fish.

Many pet fish die every year because of the ignorance of their owners and this is certainly true of Koi Fish.  You may think that fish are a no-maintenance pet but this is simply not true.  In fact, Koi fish are actually quite tricky to care for as their needs change seasonally.  As water temperatures are apt to change with environmental temperatures, it is important to carefully monitory the habitat of your Koi fish.  Water temperatures can change drastically from season to season and even within seasons and this can be dangerous for the health of your Koi fish.

In addition, you must provide your Koi fish with the right type and amount of food.  The size of your pond, the type of filter you’re using, the season, and other factors influence the kind and amount of food you should give your Koi fish.  You also need to ensure that your fish have adequate space and you never want to overpopulate a pond or aquarium as this can also be detrimental to the health of your fish.

It is always advisable to speak to your veterinarian or pet shop about the care requirements for Koi fish.  Depending on your climate, the size of the habitat, and the number of fish, the needs of Koi fish will vary.

June 29, 2010

Turtles as Pets

Filed under: Turtles — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:15 pm

One of the oldest living species of reptiles, turtles are becoming a more popular pet choice.  Turtles are generally considered safe but there are some special considerations that need to be made if you’re going to keep a turtle.  Most turtles are harmless but they have been known to bite from time to time.  Moreover, turtles sometimes carry salmonella and as such they’re not always the best choice for pets, especially if you have young children.  Still, if you educate yourself about proper turtle care, they make great pets.

First of all, let’s talk about their habitat.  Turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica and they usually live in rivers, forests, oceans, lakes, deserts, and grasslands.  They are truly versatile creatures.  Turtles have scales and lay eggs and are known as ectothermic because their body temperature depends on the temperature of their environment.  Because they are ectothermic in nature, turtles usually need exposure to ultraviolet light from UVA/UVB producing bulbs or natural sunlight.

Moreover, pet owners need to understand that turtles are a low maintenance pet alternative.  In fact, some turtles live for 50 years or more and they can grow to very large sizes.  Turtle aquariums need to match the size of your turtle so you need to do some research about the specific species of turtle you wish to have for a pet.  People who have turtles for pets learn quickly that they need a lot of care.  Large turtles can make a lot of waste and all turtles need to eat a variety of different foods including fruits and vegetables.

So, while turtles are cute and sometimes make fun pets, don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re easy pets.  In addition to the fact that they live for many years, turtles often need a lot of special care.

June 28, 2010

Things to know about health supplements for your pet

Filed under: Health Supplements — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:46 pm

Obviously, as pet owners we care about the health of our beloved friends but we don’t often consider the benefits of a general health supplement.  Just as humans often take health supplements, like multivitamins, general health supplements for pets can provide your pet with essential nutrients that are sometimes overlooked in their diet.  In order for them to have a long, happy life, we need to be considerate of our pets’ health and natural health supplements are sometimes a great way to ensure this life.

Indeed, most pet foods, no matter how healthy they claim to be, do not provide your pet with all the necessary vitamins and nutrients.  Some even contain artificial additives and preservatives that have a negative effect on your pet’s health.  As such, a natural, general health supplement can make a big difference in your pet’s quality of life.  General health supplements for pets usually contain a combination of health benefiting ingredients including antioxidants, vitamins, and herbs from natural sources.  These supplements can improve immune functioning while helping your pet maintain a healthy appetite and healthy organs.

If you plan to start giving your pet a general health supplement, speak to your veterinarian first.  Try to get an understanding of which supplements are best for your animal because different kinds of pets and different aged pets will benefit more from specific supplements.  Also, make sure to get an all-natural health supplement for your pet.  The last thing you want to do is introduce more artificial components to their diet.  Many pet owners notice the health benefits of a general supplement almost right away.  Pets that have health supplements as part of their daily routine often have more energy and recover from illness more quickly.  Finally, always to be sure to use general health supplements as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime to ensure optimum pet health.

June 25, 2010

How to Choose a Trustworthy Dog Breeder

Filed under: breeders — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:24 pm

Most of us take a trip down to the pet store or local animal shelter when we want to add a puppy to our family.  However, some people choose to go to a professional breeder usually when they want to buy a pure bred dog.  While most breeders are trustworthy, there are plenty of dog breeders out there that are not.  Some breeders mistreat their animals, keep them in unhealthy surroundings, and focus on only one aspect of dog breeding: making money.  If you’ve decided that you want to go to a breeder for a new puppy, there are some precautions you should take to make sure that your dog comes from a good breeder and has been cared for properly.

First of all, ask your breeder specific questions about the breed and dogs in general.  They should have lots of information about a variety of topics including health factors that affect that breed, genetic conditions, grooming considerations and more.  If you speak to a breeder and he or she seems to be ignorant about the breed, this is your first warning sign.  Next, you want to visit the facilities where your dog was born and make sure that the environment is stable and supportive.  A trustworthy breeder will show you where the puppy was born and where it lives.  Reputable breeders will also let you meet the mother and other offspring.  You should ensure that the environment is clean and that the animals have sufficient space and are receiving proper care.  Finally, it is important to ensure that your breeder is registered with the local human society or other breeding organization like the CKC or CFA.

Generally speaking, reputable breeders want to showcase their animals at professional competitions so these are a great place to find good breeders.  Most importantly, speak to friends who have gone to a breeder and try to get recommendations from the breeders as well.

June 24, 2010

What You Need to Know about Declawing your Cat

Filed under: Declawing Cats — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:14 pm

Some pet owners, when they first get a kitten, consider having their cats declawed.  After all, we already have our cats spayed or neutered in addition to shots and other treatments, but there are few treatments met with as much controversy as declawing.  Mainly, animal lovers feel that declawing is inhumane and even cruel and some countries have even banned the practice.  Before having your cat declawed, you should definitely consider the issue very seriously.

First of all, it is important to understand the purpose of the claws.  Through evolution, cats have developed claws to help them with climbing (and thereby avoiding danger), to defend against other animals, and of course to hunt for prey.  However, domestic cats often use their claws for inappropriate behaviors like scratching furniture, carpets, and draperies, not to mention scratching people.  It is also important to understand that a cat’s claws are actually a part of the paw, unlike human fingernails which grow over the finger.

The main reason people disagree with the practice of declawing is that cats without claws are defenseless.  It is felt that the procedure is in the best interests of the owner rather than the best interests of the cat.  More importantly, cat owners need to understand that declawing is actually a kind of amputation for cats that is very painful.

While you may consider declawing to be the only way to protect your furniture, the fact is that there are other things you can do.  Regularly trim your cat’s claws and ensure that you have a scratching post or another avenue for your cats to satisfy their desires to scratch.  Cats can be trained to scratch the posts exclusively meaning it is not absolutely necessary to declaw your cats.  Whatever you choose to do, you will have your reasons but most animal experts advise against declawing cats.

June 23, 2010

What is Horner Syndrome in Dogs

Filed under: Neurological Conditions — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:07 pm

canine pill delivery Horner syndrome is a condition characterized by a drooping upper lip, narrow pupils, and recessed eyeballs caused by nerve damage in dogs.  While Horner syndrome may be the result of a number of diseases and illnesses, damage to the nerves in the face is the central cause of the condition.  Muscles in the face are no longer stimulated by the sympathetic nerves because of some injury.  In fact, the most common causes of Horner syndrome in dogs include car accidents, bite wounds, IV disc disease, middle ear infections, brain or chest cancer, and even some medications while as many as half of Horner syndrome cases have no known cause.  Moreover, Horner syndrome is particularly common in Golden Retrievers.

horners syndrome in dogs Your veterinarian will diagnose Horner syndrome first by looking for the tell-tale signs of the disease (drooping lip, narrow pupils, etc) and then through a complete physical and neurological exam.  Generally, your vet will order x-rays, blood tests, and maybe even a CAT scan or MRI to identify the cause of the syndrome.  After correctly diagnosing the disease, most treatments focus on ameliorating the underlying cause but the location of injury is also very important.

First of all, phenylephrine drops are prescribed as they can treat the visible signs of the disease.  Other than that, your vet will want to treat the main cause.  A bite wound or middle ear infection would be treated according to your vet’s advice.  In cases where the cause of Horner syndrome in dogs is unknown, clinical signs are treated and normally the syndrome clears up on its own in 6 to 8 weeks.  When the syndrome is caused by injury outside the brain and spinal chord, prognosis is usually better than when damage occurs to the nerves inside the brain and spinal chord.

June 22, 2010

Introducing New Pets to a Home

Filed under: Bringing Pets Home — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:00 pm

Bringing home a new pet is an exciting time in your life.  While all pets need some time to adjust to a new environment, this article will specifically focus on cats and dogs as these tend to be the most common and most social of all pets.  For the most part, new pets can be introduced to your home quite easily.  In fact, many of us don’t spend much time thinking about our pet’s transition at all.  We bring him home and let things go.  We tend to spend more time thinking about house training and other behavioral training issues.  Still, taking some time to prepare your pet for your home and your home for your pet can make the transition stress-free and enjoyable for your pet.

First of all, if you have other pets, you need to ensure that they are healthy and have up-to-date vaccinations before introducing them to new pets.  Unhealthy pets can not only make new pets ill but sometimes their abnormal behavior can cause a rift right from the start.  Always remain calm and proceed slowly when introducing and always do so in a non-confrontational setting.  For example, if you introduce your pets and there is food around, you may end up with pets fighting over the food dish.

Also, make sure there is an area where your new pet can seek refuge.  Having a private room to get away from other pets and family members will help your new pet remain calm and adjust more quickly.  This room should contain everything your new pet needs including food, water, litter box, toys, and other necessary items.  Generally speaking, you want to supervise your new pets closely for the first few days to make sure they are comfortable and happy in their new environment.  Most of the time, pets have few problems adjusting to a new home.

June 21, 2010

Cat Aggression During Playtime

Filed under: cat aggressive behaviour,Cat behavior,Kitten Care — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:39 pm

Anybody who has had a kitten can tell you that their play can be aggressive.  In fact, you may be able to spot a new kitten owner by the scratch marks on their hands and arms.  While some owners can withstand the sort of aggressive attacks that leave marks on the skin, as kittens become cats the scratching becomes more serious (not to mention more painful).  At this point, you want to teach your cat to play without the aggression so as to avoid injury to friends, family, and children.

cat aggression while playingFirst of all, you need to understand that kittens playing aggressively are only acting out on natural instincts.  As hunters, kittens need to develop and hone their skills so that they can feed themselves, or at least this is how cats have evolved.  One of the best ways to prevent this behavior is to direct aggressive play to another target like a toy, or maybe another kitten.  String toys are great for interactive play and they allow kittens to practice pouncing and attacking without damaging your skin.  Also, use a variety of toys to keep your cat stimulated and make sure you can always keep your hands well clear of the toy.

Sometimes during play your kitten, and even cats, may bite you.  While they may not break the skin, they can become overly excited and may even hold on to your hand for an extended period.  Your hand is like their prey and they want to keep control.  Do not try to pull your hand away forcefully as kittens will instinctively try to hold on more tightly.  Instead, relax your hand and attempt to distract your cat with another toy.  Otherwise, you can also try to distract your cat with your free hand by scratching or tapping some furniture.  Your cat should release its grip.

Most importantly, when you’re trying to teach your kitten not to be aggressive, you must be consistent and patient.

June 18, 2010

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Filed under: hip dysplasia — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:33 pm

canine arthritis dogs hip dysplasiaDogs, especially large dogs, are prone to this degenerative disease of the pelvic joint.  Hip dysplasia in dogs can cause extreme lameness and pain in larger dogs and while the condition can be quite disabling, there are many new surgical treatments that often restore function to the affected joints.  Hip dysplasia happens when the top of the femur does not fit into the hip joint properly and this problem usually presents in fairly young dogs.  Hip dysplasia puts extra stress on the hip joint and can cause the joint capsule to rip.

Older animals with hip dysplasia are often suffering from osteoarthritis causing the cartilage in the joint to break down.  The femur and the joint itself may have both degenerated in older dogs with hip dysplasia causing the characteristic lameness and pain.  When detected early, hip dysplasia may be corrected by a triple pelvic osteotomy wherein the pelvis is cut into 3 pieces and realigned so the femur and hip joint fit together properly.  Generally speaking, dogs with hip dysplasia that have undergone triple pelvic osteotomy will require 6 to 8 weeks for recovery so that the bones in the hip heal well.

In more severe cases of hip dysplasia, dogs may need to have a femoral head and neck osteotomy wherein the head and neck of the femur are completely removed.  In this case, the muscles of the hind leg strengthen to form a so-called muscular joint.  While dogs that have undergone femoral head and neck osteotomy may lose some mobility, they can function normally in day-to-day life.  After this surgery, dogs should get moving right away and will almost always require some post-operative physical therapy.

Finally, some dog owners will consider a total hip replacement for dogs with serious hip dysplasia.  The procedure is expensive but can restore normal hip function.  In this treatment, the head of the femur is removed and replaced with a stainless steel implant.  Again, recovery from hip replacement surgery will require 6 to 8 weeks.

June 17, 2010

All about spaying your cat

Filed under: cats spray,cats spraying,spaying your cat — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:25 pm

Spaying a female cat is one of the most fundamental aspects of health care for your cat.  While some pet owners feel spaying is a procedure that simply prevents unwanted pregnancies, it can also prevent mammary and ovarian cancer as well as keeping your cat from going into heat.  A side benefit of spaying your cat is that spayed cats are less likely to urine mark in your home.  This article will describe the procedure and give you a better understanding of what it means to spay your cat.

First of all, let’s understand the procedure itself.  Cat spaying is a procedure wherein the ovaries and uterus are removed, otherwise known as an ovariohysterectomy.  The cervix is tied off so that the vagina ends essentially where the uterus would start.  Some vets choose to leave the uterus but most feel it is beneficial to remove everything.  In most cases, the recovery period for spayed cats is very quick.  Some hospitals will keep the cat overnight after the spaying while others may release them the same day and allow home observation.  Some cats lose their appetite for the first day but this should return quickly.

feline cancerIf your veterinarian has decided to send your cat home on the same day as the spaying, try to keep your cat confined to a small area.  Vets will give you explicit instructions, including when you can reintroduce food and water, and you should never let a spayed cat outside immediately.  You may notice some swelling around the incision site but this usually resolves around 3 or 4 weeks after your cat is spayed.  If you notice fluid drainage or bleeding from the incision you should visit a veterinarian immediately as this is not normal.

Finally, while spaying is not a time sensitive procedure, most cats are spayed around 6 months of age.  Some vets will even spay cats as early as 8 weeks of age.

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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.