June 16, 2010

How to Make Sure Your Dog and Cat are Friends

Filed under: cat stress,dog stress,Dogs and Cats — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:15 pm

feline stress Whether you’re introducing a new dog to a home with a cat or vice versa, it is important to take special precautions to ensure that your dog and cat get along.  First of all, it is important to understand that certain breeds of dogs do not get along well with cats.  We all know the image of dogs chasing cats in cartoons, and while this is generally a misleading image, there are some breeds of dog that do not make good cat companions.  Hounds, malamutes, beagles, border collies, greyhounds, terriers, and whippets are just a few examples.  Before you decide to get a cat or dog, be sure to do some research about which breeds do not make good friends.

Otherwise, dogs and cats can be best buddies.  Most dog owners will learn that a well trained dog is easier to work with when introducing cats and dogs.  Puppies can be a little too energetic and may frighten your cat.   On the other hand, established house dogs often accept kittens more easily than the reverse situation.  Still, you need to monitor new pets more closely during the first few weeks to ensure that all your pets are getting along well.

Moreover, cats need private areas where they can escape and feel secure.  Give your cat a separate room, especially if she seems to be struggling to bond with the dog.  Also, a scratching post is a great accessory because it not only gives your cat an appropriate place to scratch, if it is tall enough, your cat can hide on top of the post.

Before introducing a new pet, give it time to adjust to the new surroundings.  Whatever you can do to alleviate stress levels before introducing your cat and dog will make the early stages of their relationship less anxiety-inducing.  Most importantly, have patience and your dog and cat should be friends in no time!

June 15, 2010

Best Toys for Your Dog

Filed under: Dog Behavior,dog biting,dog toys — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:59 pm

Best dog toys. Best cat toys.While we all love our dogs, we don’t often give them the credit they deserve for being intelligent beings.  Eating and sleeping seem to be the main concerns of our beloved pets, and yet many dog experts argue that dogs show a range of intelligent behaviors.  For example, dogs can understand gestures, facial expressions, and even words (how else would they understand a “sit” command?).  As such, when choosing toys and treats for your dog, you need to consider the mental and physical health of your dog.  Toys can be fun and challenging and can even reduce inappropriate behaviors like chewing, digging, and excessive barking.

Smart dog toys are designed to keep your dog entertained while you are away and usually involve some kind of puzzle or task.  Take the Cagey Cube as an example.  The developers of this toy feel that the Cagey Cube can help to develop coordination skills and intelligence as your dog tries to get squeaky toys out of the cube.  Likewise, some dog toys are great for providing owners and dogs an opportunity to play together.  Owners can demonstrate how to play with a particular toy that may deliver a treat or some other reward.  These kinds of toys improve bonding and possibly even intelligence.

So, the next time you visit the pet store think carefully about what kind of toys are best for your dog.  A chew toy or plush toys provide limited entertainment and virtually no stimulation.  On the other hand, there are more and more dog toys available on the market that are designed to make your dog think.  Many veterinarians believe that such toys not only improve your dog’s quality of life but can also alleviate stress and anxiety when your dogs are alone.

June 14, 2010

Does my cat have rabies?

Filed under: Cat Diseases,rabies — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:52 pm

rabies in catsDespite the fact that rabies is one of the most well known viruses affecting animals, vaccination programs have virtually eliminated rabies infections in humans.  In 2006, there were nearly 45,000 cases of exposure to rabies but only 3 cases of human infection.  Nevertheless, rabies is a serious virus that has no treatment.  In fact, once the disease begins to develop death is a near certainty as it is very rare for animals or humans to survive the virus even with intensive medical care.

Cats are at higher risk of rabies, especially outdoor cats, because they are more likely to come in contact with an infected animal.  Rabies is transmitted when an infected animal bites another animal.  Skunks, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and bats commonly carry the virus and are the most likely suspects when it comes to transmitting the virus.  Most veterinarians will tell you that being bitten by a rabies-infected animal doesn’t ensure that your cat will develop rabies.  In fact, it has been estimated that only about 15% of cats exposed to rabies will contract the illness.

There are several symptoms associated with rabies in cats and they generally appear in a series of stages.  As the virus moves through the nerves from the location of the bite to the brain, few symptoms are apparent.  Generally speaking, rabies in cats will have an incubation period between 2 and 6 weeks and in some cases as long as 6 months.  The first phase of infection is called the prodromal phase and it is associated with symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, isolation and even fever.  During the next phase, the furious phase, cats with rabies become restless, irritable, and sometimes vicious.  Some cats with rabies will die during this phase.  The final phase of rabies in cats is the paralytic phase.  Cats have more saliva and cannot swallow.  Breathing becomes labored and facial muscles become paralyzed.

If you suspect your cat has come in contact with a rabid animal or if you notice bite or scratch marks, visit your veterinarian immediately.

June 11, 2010

Epilepsy in Dogs

Filed under: Dog Diseases,Epilepsy — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:34 pm

epilepsyEpilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent symptomatic seizures that can affect all living animals from humans to our pets.  Seizures are defined as uncoordinated muscle spasms as the result of neurons firing uncontrollably in the brain, usually the cerebellum.  Dogs with epilepsy will generally start to show symptoms around 2 to 3 years of age but the condition may start any time between 6 months and 5 years of age.  While research continues to attempt to discover the causes and mechanism of epilepsy, there are still many mysteries associated with the condition.  A dog suffering from epilepsy will exhibit random fits or convulsions known as seizures.

The causes of seizures are variable and may not always be attributed to epilepsy.  There may be some congenital defects or an associated disease like diabetes or hypoglycemia.  Moreover, seizures may be caused by low oxygen levels in the blood, anemia, kidney disorders, brain tumors, poisoning, liver disease and even certain medications.  As a result, veterinarians must carefully rule out the various other causes of seizures before diagnosing epilepsy.  Diagnosing epilepsy in dogs requires that your veterinarian takes a detailed history and performs a thorough physical and neurological exam.  This process includes a number of laboratory tests, x-rays, and other brain scans.  When the cause of the seizures cannot be identified, epilepsy is diagnosed.

There are a number of treatments for epilepsy in dogs, although none of them are curative.  Because the causes of epileptic seizures cannot be identified, it is nearly impossible to completely cure the disorder.  As such, dog epilepsy treatments are symptomatic and aimed at controlling the seizures to provide your dog with the best possible quality of life.  Oral medications are usually the first course of treatment and these include Phenobarbital and potassium bromide.  Every dog will respond differently to epilepsy medications so it may take some time for your vet to find the ideal treatment.  In very severe cases, where your dog’s epilepsy includes prolonged seizures, intravenous drugs, such as valium, may be required.

June 10, 2010

Ear Mites in Cats

Filed under: ear mites in cats,parasite treatment — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:24 pm

feline ear mitesEar mites are very small parasites that resemble spiders and they infect the ears of cats and dogs.  While they usually live in your cat’s ear canals they have also been known to survive in other parts of the body.  Ear mites in cats can cause a variety of very uncomfortable symptoms and they are known to be the most common cause of ear infections in cats.  Your cat’s ear canals provide the perfect environment for ear mites to live:  the area is moist, warm, and there is little air flow and sustenance for ear mites is provided by the epidermal debris and ear wax.  Eventually, ear mites dig into the ear causing the inflammation and irritation associated with ear infections.

While ear mites are difficult to spot, the symptoms of ear mite infestations in cats are not so subtle.  In fact, cats with ear mites are probably in a considerable amount of discomfort.  With thousands of tiny insects living in their ears, various symptoms are bound to present.  First of all, you may notice your cat scratching her ears or shaking her head.  This is because in the early stages of infestation, ear mites cause the ears to become very itchy.  Eventually, your cat’s ears will become painful to the touch and will appear flatter than usual.  In addition, the ears may produce a foul odor.  Finally, your cat’s ears may begin to bleed because of persistent scratching.

Once diagnosed, ear mites can be treated with drops or other medications.  Your vet may prescribe an insecticide to clean your cat’s ear canals and kill the ear mites but you can also find various treatments at your local pet shop.  Because ear mites are extremely contagious and can be passed between cats and dogs it is important to treat the condition immediately.  Ear mites do not affect humans.

June 9, 2010

Pet Symptoms You Can’t Ignore

Filed under: cat diarrhea,dog diarrhea,dog's urination behavior,Pet Symptoms — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:19 pm

Obviously, we always try to provide our beloved pets with the best possible care; yet, at the same time we could probably list off a number of occasions where we have ignored particular symptoms.  For the most part, we feel that minor symptoms will not likely signify a major illness so it’s best to take a wait and see approach.  Nevertheless, while there are some signs of illness that can be ignored, there are also a few that should never be ignored.

  • Difficulty Urinating Clearly the inability to urinate is a serious symptom and difficulty passing urine is often associated with painful symptoms.  While you’re not likely to ignore this problem, you also might not be aware of the problem because you assume your pet has gone somewhere at some point.  Still, if you notice your pet isn’t toileting normally, visit the veterinarian immediately as an obstruction may be the cause and serious illness can ensue.
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea All pet owners have probably experienced vomiting or diarrhea from their pet.  In fact, vomiting to expel hairballs is quite common in cats and dogs can sometimes eat things that they shouldn’t.  You need to be careful if your pet is vomiting or has diarrhea in addition to other symptoms like depression, lethargy, weakness, or lack of appetite.
  • Physical Injury Physical injury or trauma may be the result of a run in with a vehicle or another animal.  Unfortunately, we can’t always see physical trauma just by looking at our pets.  You need to be vigilant about pain, difficulty moving, lameness, or other signs of physical trauma and see your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has undergone physical injury.  Internal trauma can obviously be life threatening and only a veterinarian can diagnose and treat internal injuries.

June 8, 2010

Choosing the Right Pet Bird for Your Family

Filed under: Choosing a Pet Bird,Pet Birds — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:40 pm

Yellow CanaryPet birds are becoming nearly as common as dogs and cats these days but considering the wide variety of species of birds and the care required for each, it’s important to take some time to think about what kind of bird is best for your family.  Did you know, for example, that some birds live up to 100 years?  Other birds have specific dietary requirements; and if you’re considering a pet bird because you think they are lower maintenance than dogs and cats, think again.  Before buying a pet bird you should think carefully about the size of the bird, its behavior, and the kind of care it will require.

As far as the size of the bird is concerned, larger pet birds tend to require more work from the owner.  While they make great pets, large birds are usually louder and more challenging to care for than smaller species.  Consequently, it is usually recommended that first-time bird owners go for a small or medium sized bird.  Each bird, regardless of size, will have different training, housing, and social interaction requirements so be sure to ask lots of questions at the pet store.

In addition to the size of the bird, its behavior and temperament are also important.  Some birds are quite timid and don’t respond well to coming out of their cages while others thrive in social situations.  While there is a lot of variability within species regarding behavior and temperament, some birds are naturally more social and enjoy being touched.  If you don’t want to spend a lot of time handling your pet bird, it is better to choose a breed that is more comfortable in solitary.

Finally, make sure to do your research about the kind of care your bird will require.  Some birds need to eat a special diet; some birds can feed on seeds and grains while others need fruit, pollen, and nectar.  Remember that birds differ from species to species and unless you know exactly what you’re looking for you need to ask very specific questions at the pet store before coming home with a pet bird.

June 4, 2010

Warts in Dogs

Filed under: Dog Diseases,dog lumps — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:38 pm

Also known as canine papilloma virus, warts in dogs is a relatively common condition that usually affects younger dogs.  As humans, we’re used to seeing warts on our fingers or hands but many pet owners are not aware that dogs also get warts.  These small, round growths on the skin are often the result of a viral condition and can be distinguished from other skin tumors by their appearance.  Generally speaking, dog warts that result from canine papilloma virus have a rough surface that somewhat resembles cauliflower.  In most cases, dog warts will appear in younger dogs around the mouth, lips, and muzzle of your dog but may also be apparent on the eyelids, eyes, feet, and between the toes.

skin disease in dogsCanine papilloma virus is passed between dogs through direct contact with the dog warts.  Moreover, the virus can actually survive in your dog’s environment for as much as two months given the right conditions.  From the point of infection, it usually takes about 2 months for the first warts to apyou gotta be pear.  Young dogs (less than 2 years old) are more often affected than mature dogs because in order for the virus to be transmitted the immune system of the dog must be underdeveloped.

Canine papilloma virus is not a dangerous disease in dogs and in many instances veterinarians will not recommend treatment for dog warts.  In fact, warts in dogs may disappear on their own, without treatment, as your dog’s immune system develops.  On the other hand, if your dog’s warts become painful, they can make it difficult for your puppy to eat.  In these situations, medical intervention is necessary the health risks associated with not eating can be very severe.  Surgical removal of your dog’s warts may be indicated but some vets also opt to crush the wart in order to force the immune system to react.  Finally, a kind of antibacterial medication (azithromycin) has been used to treat warts in dogs.

June 3, 2010

Malocclusion in Guinea Pigs

Filed under: Guinea Pigs — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:30 pm

guinea-pig_bWhile guinea pigs make cute, gentle, and loveable pets, this particular species of animal is also prone to a variety of illnesses and diseases.  Making matters worse, many treatments for other animals including some antibiotics and medication are fatal to guinea pigs.  One such malady that commonly affects guinea pigs is malocclusion.  Malocclusion is a condition wherein the teeth of your guinea pig become overgrown causing various symptoms including pain, infection, lack of appetite, weight loss, cysts, and sometimes even death.

Malocclusion in guinea pigs can affect the front or back teeth and in most cases the condition goes unnoticed until other symptoms begin to appear.  The front teeth of a healthy guinea pig look like the teeth of a beaver; they are slightly longer than other teeth and they stick out the front of the mouth.  A guinea pig’s teeth will continue to grow for their lifetime so it is important to have the front teeth trimmed or filed by a veterinarian to prevent malocclusion.

When malocclusion in guinea pigs develops in the back teeth, many owners are unaware.  Unfortunately, when guinea pig malocclusion develops in the back teeth very serious health side effects occur.  Indeed, guinea pig malocclusion of the back teeth can even result in death as the back molars begin to grow into the gums and tongue.  Pain, cysts, jaw dislocation, and other negative symptoms of guinea pig malocclusion invariably lead to nutrition problems like anorexia.  In fact, sudden weight loss is the main sign of malocclusion of the back molars.

Unfortunately, by the time you have noticed a change in your guinea pig’s body composition, it may be too late to treat the condition.  Instead, veterinarians recommend regularly weighing your guinea pig so that you are immediately aware of any decrease in weight.  Other signs of malocclusion in guinea pigs include mouth infections, discharge from the eyes or nose, and upper respiratory illness.  If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian immediately to learn how you can help your guinea pig.

June 2, 2010

Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs

Filed under: pet poisoning,poisoned pet,what happens if my pet was poisoned — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:48 pm

poisoned dogAntifreeze poisoning is a very serious threat to your dog’s health.  In fact, every year thousands of dogs die because of accidental ingestion of antifreeze and since it requires very little antifreeze to kill your dog you need to take the necessary precautions to protect your dog from antifreeze poisoning.  Obviously, prevention is the best way to keep your dog safe.  Store antifreeze on a high shelf, well out of the reach of pets, and where it cannot easily be knocked over.  In addition, be sure to clean up any antifreeze spills immediately.

There are a number of clear signs that your dog has ingested antifreeze.  In the early stages of antifreeze poisoning your dog will likely begin staggering and vomiting.  He will probably be confused or disoriented and lethargic and may even begin drinking or urinating excessively.  These symptoms will first be noticed about 30 minutes after ingestion and many owners whose dogs have consumed antifreeze describe these early symptoms as very similar to drunkenness.  Over the next several hours these symptoms will persist and eventually you will notice diarrhea, convulsions, and unconsciousness.  These second stage symptoms will appear after a period of apparent recovery but over the next day or so the toxins will cause permanent damage to the liver and kidneys as the antifreeze is metabolized.

If you suspect your dog has accidentally ingested antifreeze, visit the veterinarian immediately.  If you can collect some of your dog’s vomit, take it to the vet for analysis.  While inducing vomiting or activated charcoal will remove poison from your dog’s system, it is not a cure for antifreeze poisoning in dogs.  As such, it is much more important to take preventative actions.  Propylene-glycol based antifreeze is a much safer alternative to ethylene glycol forms.  Also, don’t let your dog roam the neighborhood without supervision as he will be more likely to suffer antifreeze poisoning.

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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.