July 16, 2010

Facts about Genetic Diseases in Dogs

Filed under: Genetic Diseases — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:03 pm

canine arthritis genetic diseases in dogsGenetic diseases are alarmingly prevalent in dogs, and we are not just talking about pure bred dogs either.  In fact, all dogs carry around 4 or 5 defective genes on average making genetic diseases the most common cause of illness in dogs.  Perhaps the main reason for genetic defects in dogs is that most tame breeds come from a very small genetic pool; some researchers believe that the dogs share a common genetic ancestry that can be traced back to only three female wolves living in China.  Moreover, humans bred specific traits in dogs which continued limiting the gene pool throughout the evolution of dogs.

Some 500 genetic diseases have been discovered in dogs and basically all dog breeds are known to be afflicted with various genetic diseases.  Take hip dysplasia as an example.  This orthopedic disease has been noted in 170 different breeds of dog.  And which dog breed is most likely to suffer from a genetic defect?  The poodle.  In total there are nearly 150 genetic diseases that can affect poodles, likely because of the popularity of this breed.  As dogs become more popular they’re ancestors are usually subject to more inbreeding making them increasingly affected by genetic problems.

Recently, solving the problem of genetic disease in dogs has become a half billion dollar annual effort.  Because all breeds of tame dogs were essentially created by artificial means, the problem with genetic defects is likely never going to be overcome.  Cross breeding dogs and other measures, like mapping the dog genome, can help us understand what we need to do in the future to prevent and reduce the prevalence of genetic disease.  Still, as it stands, all dogs are affected by defective genes and reversing genetic diseases in dogs will certainly be an arduous effort.

July 15, 2010

Top 5 Cat Breeds in North America

Filed under: Cat Breeds — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:56 pm

From the luxurious Persian to the ubiquitous tabby, there are a plethora of cat breeds that make a great addition to your family.  But what are the most popular breeds in North America?  If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, you’re about to get the answer.  Here, I will count down the top 5 cat breeds.
top cat breeds
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5. The Abyssinian Large ears and a small face give this cat a sphinx-like appearance. The Abyssinian is an active and playful cat that thrives on human attention. They are often chosen for pets because they are affectionate but when left alone for a long time they can become lonely. Abyssinians get along well with other breeds of cat and get along especially well when they have a companion.
4. The Siamese “We are Siamese if you please…we are Siamese if you don’t please.” Perhaps first immortalized in the famous Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp,” Siamese cats have become increasingly popular in the last couple of decades. They are calm and intelligent cats who enjoy human interaction and can be very demanding for affection. In addition, Siamese cats love climbing and may get stuck in trees.
3. The Exotic Exotic shorthair cats are related to Persians and because of their facial features they often suffer from respiratory problems. Still, these playful cats love to have fun and can be very sweet and caring with humans.
2. The Maine Coon The Maine Coon is a very large cat that is getting more and more popular. Sometimes likened to dogs, Maine Coons can be highly demanding for attention and are often dependent on humans. Because they take between 3 and 5 years to mature mentally, many people think they are lacking in intelligence.
1. The Persian The Persian is a luxurious cat with beautiful long hair. Because they have a calm loving temperament, they make great pets. They are quiet and sometimes skittish but they get along well with other cats.

July 14, 2010

The Top 5 Dog Breeds in North America

Filed under: Dog Breeds — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:11 pm

Whether you want a pet or you’re just interested in dogs, there is certainly no shortage of breeds.  Still, despite the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dog breeds, we tend to see the same breeds as pets agaihttp://crittercures.blogs.tnorth.ca/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=836&message=1n and again.  Here is a countdown of the top 5 dog breeds in North America.

  • 5. Beagles
    Whatever you want to say about beagles, they’re cute.  Originally bred for hunting, beagles are high energy dogs who love company from humans or other dogs.  Unfortunately, like other energetic breeds, if beagles don’t get enough attention they often turn to inappropriate behavior like chewing or barking.
  • 4. Golden Retrievers
    Smart, sociable, cute, and loyal, Golden Retrievers make great family pets.  They tend to suffer from some genetic diseases like hip dysplasia and cataracts but they are a perennial favorite because of their great personalities.
  • 3. German Shepherd
    German Shepherds tend to be fearless and extremely loyal which is why they are often chosen for police dogs.  In addition, they are very intelligent and when properly socialized make great pets.  Like Golden Retrievers, German shepherds are prone to some genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia.
  • 2.Yorkshire Terriers
    Look into the face of one of these little joys and you’ll find it hard not to fall in love.  Yorkshire terriers can be a bit yappy but they are also quite smart so can be trained easily.  Kennel cough is a condition that commonly affects Yorkshire terriers.
  • 1. Labrador Retriever
    Known for their loving and loyal nature, these active dogs are chosen as pets because they are gentle, intelligent, and playful.  The most common condition affecting Labs is hip dysplasia but they are also prone to arthritis which can limit their mobility as they get older.  Still, they’re friendly and easily trained so it’s no surprise that they are the number one dog breed in North America.

July 13, 2010

Understanding Heat Stroke in Cats

Filed under: Heat Stroke — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:10 pm

With the summer season well underway, pet owners need to be extra vigilant about protecting their beloved animals from heat-related illnesses.  Just like in humans or other animals, heat stroke is a condition that occurs when your cat’s body absorbs or produces more heat than it expels.  Because they only sweat through their paws or panting, cats are not well suited for the heat and heat stroke in cats constitutes a medical emergency.

The symptoms of heat stroke in cats include:

  • Excessive salivation with especially thick saliva
  • Excessive panting
  • Dark red or pale gums
  • A bright red tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive grooming
  • Unconsciousness

The problem with heat stroke is that as your cat’s body temperature increases its internal organs and body systems begin shutting down.  Once your cat’s rectal temperature reaches 108.5°F, irreversible damage may occur and death becomes a very real possibility.

Clearly, heat stroke in cats is a very serious condition that should never be taken lightly.  The normal body temperature of a cat is between 100.5 and 102.5°F (or 38.2 to 39.2°C) and if the outside temperature exceeds this, heat stroke is a risk for cats.

There are many things a pet owner can do to prevent heat stroke in cats.  First of all, never under any circumstances, leave your cat in a parked car.  Within 30 minutes your car’s temperature can exceed 120°F in the summer making it a very dangerous environment for pets.  Also, ensure that your cat has adequate access to cool drinking water, shade, and the outdoors.  Most veterinarians also recommend that your cat avoids strenuous exercise during hot days and that you limit exposure to the sun in the middle of the afternoon.  While heat stroke is a serious and dangerous condition, it is also entirely preventable so make sure to take the necessary steps to protect your cat.

July 12, 2010

Understanding Heat Stroke in Dogs

Filed under: Heat Stroke — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:06 pm

Hyperthermia is an elevation in body temperature as a result of exposure to a hot environment or sometimes because of inflammation in the body.  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both conditions that result because of hyperthermia, but heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.  Dogs suffering from heat stroke will display specific symptoms and may become very ill.  In fact, heat stroke can cause permanent organ damage and may even lead to death.

Dogs do not sweat like humans.  In fact, dogs dispel heat through the pads of their feat and by panting and this means it can be very difficult for them to stay cool.  If a dog cannot efficiently expel heat, their internal body temperatures begin to rise.  Once a dog’s body temperature rises to 106°F, cellular and organ damage occurs and may be irreversible.

Heat stroke can be identified by the following symptoms:

  • Increased body temperature (more than 104°F indicates a serious problem)
  • Extreme panting
  • Dark red colored gums
  • Dry mucus membranes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Thick saliva
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

When you suspect heat stroke, it is necessary to take immediate action.  First of all, take your dog out of the sun or away from heat and cool him with wet rags around his feet and head.  Be careful not to use ice cold water as this can cause blood vessels to restrict and prevent natural cooling processes.  Once his body temperature has dropped to 103°F you can stop cooling.  Provide your dog with water but do not force him to drink it.  Finally, visit your veterinarian immediately to ensure that there is no permanent damage.  Even though your dog is cooling, there may be some more serious problems to consider.  When heat stroke is suspected, it is always best to allow a vet to give a complete medical exam.

July 9, 2010

Top 3 Reasons to Adopt a Pet from an Animal Shelter

Filed under: adopting — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:59 pm

canine stress If you have made the decision to get a pet, the only thing that is left to do is decide where to get it from.  Some of us know pet breeders or maybe we have a friend looking to find a loving home for a kitten or puppy.  Still, all too often, people go straight to the pet store to pick up a new dog or cat.  While there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying your pet at a store, there are so many great reasons to adopt a pet from an animal shelter.

  1. When you adopt, you save a life.  Some estimates have between 8 and 10 million dogs and cats taken to shelters every year in the United States.  Of these animals, as many as 6 million of them may be euthanized because the shelters cannot afford to keep them and cannot find them a suitable home.animal adoption
  2. Animal shelters provide you with a lot of choice.  The variety of available pets at animal shelters is pretty surprising.  One reason many people go to pet stores is because they want a pure bred or because they want to pick and choose their new pet.  In fact, animal shelters often have pure bred cats and dogs as well as a wide range of breeds and mixes of any age.
  3. Adopting a pet can save you hundreds of dollars.  Purchasing a puppy or kitten from a pet store can be very expensive and so adopting can save you a bundle.  Most animal shelters don’t take money for the actual pet, but you may have to pay for vaccinations, training, or other costs.

As you can see, adopting a pet from a shelter is an excellent way to expand your family.  Plus, you’ll feel good about possibly saving the life of an animal that otherwise wouldn’t experience the love associated with living with a caring family.

July 8, 2010

Protect Your Pet’s Coat and Skin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:55 pm

Vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat are all aspects of your pet’s diet that help them to maintain a healthy coat and skin.  Without proper nutrition, their skin may become dry or too oily.  Your pet’s coat is vital to protecting their skin and body as it can keep foreign bodies out and prevents bacterial and viral infection.  In addition, your pet’s coat is vital for regulating body temperature.  Changes in your pet’s coat are usually a sign of some kind of nutritional deficiency and should not be overlooked.

For the most part, the coat of your dog or cat is made from protein.  When pet’s suffer from a lack of protein in their diet, their coat can become weak, brittle, and dry and you may even notice that their hair is always falling out.  On the contrary, your pet’s skin is composed of flat, tightly packed cells with durable membranes of fat and protein.  When these membranes are weakened because of nutritional deficiencies, water can escape the cells and your dog or cat are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.

Ensure that your pets receive an adequate diet rich in protein, fats, and the proper minerals and vitamins.  Animal-based proteins from meat are the best source of protein for your pets.  As far as fats are concerned, your pets need adequate amounts of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid which are both omega-6 fatty acids.  Linoleic acid helps to condition the skin and coat while arachidonic acid prevents the coat from becoming dry.

In addition to proper nutrition, regular grooming helps to maintain your pet’s coat.  Brushing your dog, for example, helps to distribute natural oils through the coat so it is strong and healthy.  As a side benefit, regularly brushing your pets removes loose hairs that often end up on your furniture, draperies, and flooring.

July 7, 2010

Toxoplasmosis: Prevention and Treatment

Filed under: Toxoplasmosis — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:51 pm

feline ear mites While most people and animals that have contracted toxoplasmosis are likely not to suffer any serious symptoms, some animals and people with compromised immune systems can become quite ill.  For this reason, many doctors warn pregnant women about the risks of owning a cat to ensure babies do not become ill with the disease.  We’ll spend a bit of time talking about the treatment of toxoplasmosis but first, prevention.

The best way to treat toxoplasmosis is to be careful not to get infected.  You can reduce your risk of getting toxoplasmosis from contaminated foods by taking extra care when preparing and eating foods.  First of all, always cook foods to the recommended safe temperatures and use a food thermometer to check.  toxoplasmosis treatmentBeef, lamb, and veal should be cooked to a minimum of 145°F; pork, ground meat, and wild game should be cooked to 160°F; and poultry should be cooked to 180°F.  You can even freeze meats for a few days before cooking to further reduce the possibility of toxoplasmosis.  With fruits and vegetables, always wash them and peel them before eating.  Finally, ensure that you thoroughly wash cutting boards, dishes, counters, utensils, and your hands after handling raw foods.

Next you’ll want to avoid toxoplasmosis in the environment.  You must carefully handle your cat’s litter box and even wear gloves; and never clean a litter box if you are pregnant or your immune system is compromised.  In fact, it is recommended you wear gloves when gardening as well because cats often defecate in flower beds.  Cover outdoor sandboxes so cats cannot defecate where children play.

Let me mention one more time that most people can fight toxoplasmosis without treatment.  Still, if your doctor decides treatment is necessary, he or she will prescribe medication that controls the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.  For some individuals, you may need to continue drug therapy while you are immune-compromised.

July 6, 2010

Toxoplasmosis: Risk Factors and Transmission

Filed under: Toxoplasmosis — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:45 pm

The next in my series of articles about toxoplasmosis concerns the risk factors and transmission of the disease.  Some estimates have around 22.5% of all individuals over 12 years of age infected with toxoplasmosis in the United States.  The disease is especially common in areas with hot, humid climates and at lower altitudes.  In fact, some countries have an incidence of toxoplasmosis around 95%.  Clearly, this is a very common parasite and a very common disease.

There are two main methods of transmission of toxoplasmosis.  The disease cannot be passed from person-to-person except congenitally where a pregnant mother passes the disease to her infant.  In addition, blood transfusion and organ transplantation are methods by which the disease is transmitted, but are obviously quite rare.  Instead, most cases of toxoplasmosis are contracted through food-borne transmission, animal-to-human transmission, and as already mentioned, congenital transmission.

Food-borne transmission occurs when the tissues from the parasite has infected some food source.  Eating undercooked meat, accidentally or otherwise; especially lamb, pork, and venison can lead to the transmission of toxoplasmosis.  Similarly, you may accidentally ingest the parasite if you do not properly wash your hands after handling raw meats.  Finally, knives, forks, cutting boards, or other raw foods that come in contact with contaminated foods likewise become contaminated and may increase your risk of contracting the disease.

The most common form of animal-to-human transmission involves cats.  Because cats, especially outdoor cats, often eat infected rats, birds, and other small animals, cats often carry the toxoplasmosis parasite.  The parasite can then be shed in feces for as long as 3 weeks after infection.  Therefore, your cats litter box can become contaminated with toxoplasmosis and it is easier for other times around the house to also become contaminated.  You may accidentally ingest the parasite while cleaning a litter box or by touching things that have contacted your cats feces.  As such, it is always especially important to take care when cleaning your cat’s litter box.

July 5, 2010

An Overview of Toxoplasmosis

Filed under: Toxoplasmosis — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:41 pm

feline ear mitesToxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite.  Most often associated with cats, pregnant women and new parents who also have a cat have no doubt heard about this disease.  In fact, toxoplasmosis can infect nearly all warm-blooded animals and some estimates have one-third of the world’s human population carrying the parasite.  While the cat is the primary host of Toxoplasma gondii health professionals warn that it most likely through contact with undercooked meat, specifically pork, lamb, or venison.

Surprisingly, toxoplasmosis is more common than you would think.  Fortunately, most healthy humans are able to fight the infection and usually show no symptoms of disease.  People with compromised immune systems, for example people with HIV/AIDS, those undergoing chemotherapy, and recent organ-transplant recipients, are especially at risk of developing more severe symptoms.   Usually, few people are unaware that they have toxoplasmosis as their immune system prevents the parasite from causing illness.  But in immune-compromised individuals, flu like symptoms including swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, and fever may be experienced.  In more severe cases of toxoplasmosis, people may suffer damage to the eye, brain, or other organs.toxoplasmosis in cats

Recent research about toxoplasmosis suggests that the disease can cause behavioral changes in infected rats, mice, and possibly even humans.  After becoming infected, researchers have noticed that rats and mice actually become attracted to the scent of cats, an advantageous change for the parasite.  Toxoplasma gondii only reproduces when a cat is host, and this change in behavior makes it much more likely that the rat will be eaten by a cat so the cat can serve as host.  Interestingly, behavioral changes in hosts have also been noticed in humans.  Slower reaction times, an increased risk of schizophrenia, and an increased risk of traffic accidents are just two of the reported behavioral changes.  Women may be more outgoing and show signs of increased intelligence; while men show increased aggression and jealousy.

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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.