August 31, 2010

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

Filed under: Traveling with Pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:48 am

While traveling with your dog is by no means impossible, you will need to be more organized and make the necessary plans for you and your dog to travel comfortably.  Traveling with any pet can be a lot of fun but if you’re not properly prepared the stresses sometimes outweigh the rewards.  You’ll need not only to plan the travel arrangements but also to plan for any kind of emergencies that may come up along the way.

First and foremost, make sure that your dog has a collar with the most recent information so your dog can be returned to you safely if he manages to get away.  Some pet owners have already had a microchip implanted on their dog to make it even easier to be reunited with a lost dog.  While this technology isn’t always necessary, many pet owners find peace of mind knowing that their dog can be easily identified in case of an emergency.

Beyond proper identification, you’ll need to make the travel plans.  If you are travelling by air, you need to carefully consider the health and safety of your dog.  While small dogs are sometimes allowed to fly in a pet carrier that stows under your seat, not all airlines allow it.  Furthermore, larger dogs will usually have to travel as cargo which is not an enjoyable experience for even the most relaxed dogs.  As such, you may want to consider other transportation alternatives.

Traveling with your dog by car is a more comfortable experience for your dog.  Especially if your dog has been crate trained, he will usually be fine on a long car journey as long as you make frequent stops for toileting.  Also, bring plenty of food and water whenever you are traveling with your dog.  Finally, if your dog tends to get car sick, be sure to cover seats and surfaces so they can easily be cleaned.  Many dog owners find it’s beneficial to practice short trips to acclimatize their dogs to traveling.

August 30, 2010

Breeding Your Dog

Filed under: breeders — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:44 am

From time to time, dog owners decide they would like to breed their dog.  Whether they want to get another pup just like the one they already have, or they’re looking to teach their children about the birds and the bees, you should not enter into the decision to breed your dog lightly.  Even if you are breeding your dog to try to make money, it is important to realize that you might breed the cutest puppies yet still struggle to find homes for them.  In fact, there are a wide range of good reasons you should not breed your dog.

First of all, you have no actual control over the temperament or appearance of new puppies.  Like in all breeding situations, the traits of the puppies will reflect a mixture of their parents’ traits good or bad.  Even in situations where dogs have been cloned, the temperament of the new dogs cannot be controlled as environmental factors come into play at every biological level.  If you are looking to find a similar dog to the one you already have, there is no guarantee that you will succeed.

Moreover, as a money making venture, the costs of breeding often exceed the profits of selling puppies.  Plus, when you take into account things like vaccinations for new puppies, maternal health care, and the possibility for difficult pregnancies, the costs can be quite steep.  Most importantly however, is finding homes for puppies.  There are numerous happy, healthy dogs available at pet shelters that often cost very little for a family looking for a dog.  In fact, hundreds of dogs are destroyed in North America every day because they have no home.  Indeed, breeding is a difficult and costly process that can rarely be justified.  As such, you should seriously consider the decision to breed your dog and the associated challenges before proceeding.

August 27, 2010

Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth

Filed under: cat dental problems,cat teeth and gums — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:29 am

brushing cats teethDental hygiene is important for all animals, including pet cats.  Many cat owners will choose to brush their cat’s teeth on a regular basis in order to maintain proper dental health.  In some cases, your veterinarian may have alerted you to your cat’s dental problems.  Whether your veterinarian has recommended brushing or you smell an unpleasant odor from your cat’s mouth, it may be time to start brushing your cat’s teeth.  By helping your cat to maintain her teeth you are subsequently helping to ensure that she’ll live a long, healthy, and happy life.

It is best to introduce a brushing routine early in your cat’s life.  While kittens are somewhat easier to control, they are also more likely to adjust to brushing the teeth quickly.  Kittens learn life long behaviors which is why it is important to start brushing your cat’s teeth from a young age.  Older cats may feel threatened if you try to brush their teeth causing them to act out in aggressive ways.  Nevertheless, even older cats can learn to accept routine brushing with few problems.

If you’re ready to start brushing your cat’s teeth, first you’ll need a toothbrush that fits easily into your cat’s mouth.  The local pet store will carry a variety of pet toothbrushes or you may be able to use a children’s toothbrush.  In addition, there is specific toothpaste for cats.  You should never, under any circumstances use regular toothpaste for your cat.  The first few times you brush your cat’s teeth, it is advisable to have two people.  One person should gently, but firmly restrain the cat while the other exposes the gums and teeth and brushes the cat’s teeth.  Finally, if your cat’s mouth has a foul odor, or your cat has painful teeth, tartar, or gingivitis, you should have her teeth cleaned professionally first.

August 26, 2010

Dogs with Jobs

Filed under: dogs — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:26 am

Dogs are known to work in various fields from therapy to the military; but one role that dogs particularly thrive in is service work.  There are a range of service positions that dogs fill, including protection, rescue, and assistance and this article will discuss the four main areas of service that dogs provide.

  • Assistance dogs are those dogs that are trained to help people with developmental or physical disabilities.  Assistance dogs help their owners live more independently and generally improve their quality of life.  While guide dogs for the blind are the most common example of assistance dogs, there are other areas where they can provide assistance.  Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Samoyed, and Collies are all examples of breeds used for assistance work.
  • Rescue dogs are used on search-and-rescue teams in a variety of situations.  From outdoor rescues, to working in disaster areas, dogs can sniff out survivors and help save lives.  Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Portuguese Water Dogs make great rescue dogs because of their intelligence, strength, stamina, and skill.
  • Guard dogs are basically canine bodyguards.  Protection dogs must be smart, strong, devoted, and require extensive training to protect their owners and their homes.  These dogs are also usually a family pet so require an owner who is direct and confident, yet loving and calm.  Doberman Pinschers, Standard Schnauzers, and Boxers are common examples of protection dogs.
  • Sled dogs are larger dogs with strong legs and a hard working disposition.  They pull sleds over snow and ice so they must also be accustomed to colder weather.  These dogs are usually more comfortable in colder weather and breeds such as the Samoyed, Siberian Husky, and Alaskan Malamute are the most common sled dogs.

Dogs make great pets, but when trained properly, they can provide invaluable services to their owners and the community at large.

August 25, 2010

Depression in Dogs

Filed under: Pet Depression — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:16 am

canine stress Like humans, dogs will sometimes suffer from depression.  There are many possible causes for dog depression but it can be incredibly difficult to identify a dog suffering from depression.  In most cases, a dog with depression will go untreated; however, there are some signs that indicate your dog may be depressed.  Much like depression symptoms in humans, depressed dogs may become lethargic and weary, they may demonstrate appetite changes or drink less, they may show little interested in play or exercise, and they may even lose weight.

my dog is depressedDepression in dogs is often associated with major life changes like a move, grief over the loss of a loved one, and in some cases the depression is the result of a chemical imbalance.  Pet owners are often frustrated when their dogs become depressed because it can be very difficult to treat dog depression.  Still, once you have identified that your dog is depressed, there are steps you can take to improve his quality of life.  Firstly, rule out possible physical causes of the depression through a visit with your veterinarian.  Also, consider life changes.  If a family member has recently died, you may not be the only one feeling depressed.  Even the loss of another dog companion can lead to depression in dogs.  In these cases, you must let the depressive symptoms run their course.

Nevertheless, if your dog appears to have been suffering from depression for an extended period of time, treatment for the depression will be necessary.  Some veterinarians may recommend medications to treat the depression.  Currently, the most common prescribed anti-depressant for dogs is Prozac, although there are alternatives available.  In addition, you should increase your dog’s exercise.  More frequent walks, or even runs, will help your dog deal with the stress that is leading to depression.  Finally, in cases of grief, it is recommended that you introduce your dog to new companions perhaps through regular visits to the doggy park.

August 24, 2010

Heartworms in Cats

Filed under: Cat Heartworms,Heartworms — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:32 am

feline worms Heartworms are a potentially fatal parasitic worm that can infect the pulmonary arteries, lungs, and heart of your cat.  One type of roundworm, heartworms in cats are typically thin, white, and several inches long.  While heartworms are more common in dogs, it is certainly possible for cats to become infected and disease can subsequently develop.  Because of the serious nature of heartworm infection in pets, it is very important to take them seriously.  If you suspect your cat has been infected by heartworms, visit the veterinarian immediately.

But how do you recognize a heartworm infection in cats.  Anyone living in an area that has a lot of mosquitoes should be vigilant about heartworms.  Mosquitoes can carry heartworms which are then past onto your pets when the mosquitoes feed.  Diagnosing heartworms in cats can be difficult, but there are several symptoms to watch for.

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

If you notice some or all of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian so that heartworms can be diagnosed.  While diagnosing heartworms is sometimes challenging, your vet will conduct an antibody and antigen test along with a number of other diagnostics including an echocardiogram.

Once heartworms have been confirmed, your vet will recommend a course of treatment.  Heartworms are actually very dangerous in cats and if your cat is showing no clinical symptoms your vet may opt to let the parasite pass in its own time.  Heartworms can live for up to 3 years so your cat will require regular veterinary checkups.  Recently, some veterinarians have recommended prednisone to reduce inflammation and the symptoms associated with infection.  In very serious cases of heartworms in cats, you cat may require help breathing, oxygen therapy, and intravenous fluids.

August 23, 2010

Common Hamster Health Problems

Filed under: Hamster Health,Overview — Dr. Amber Reed @ 1:27 pm

Hamsters are tough little pets but because they’re so small they’re illnesses tend to become more seriously more quickly.  Some of the most common signs of hamster illness include loss of appetite, lethargy, huddling in a corner, sneezing, wheezing, and diarrhea.  Whenever you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit your veterinarian immediately to avoid further complications.  The following are some of the most common hamster health problems.

- Respiratory Infections.  Infections of the respiratory system in hamsters can quickly lead to pneumonia which can be fatal.  Symptoms of respiratory infections include sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. 

- Regional enteritis is a highly contagious hamster disease that most commonly affects very young hamsters.  Characterized by a wet tail, the causes of regional enteritis are unknown but the disease has been associated with environmental issues that cause stress like overcrowding and diet changes.  Hamsters suffering from regional enteritis sometimes die very quickly but the typical symptoms include diarrhea (leading to the wet tail), reduced activity, loss of appetite, and a ruffled coat.

- Diarrhea may be a symptom of another infection or disease, but feeding your hamster too many vegetables or other fresh foods may also lead to diarrhea.  Determining whether diarrhea is a symptom of a more serious illness or if it’s caused by diet can be tricky.  Nevertheless, watch for other symptoms in addition to the diarrhea such as loss of appetite or lethargy.  Also, if your hamster is suffering from diarrhea be sure to provide him with plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

- Skin diseases are also fairly common in hamsters and they are normally caused by mites.  Ringworm and allergies also lead to skin problems which may subsequently cause hair loss along with typical signs of skin problem.  Rash, redness or flakiness of the skin, and lesions on the skin are all significant signs that your hamster is suffering a skin disease.

Living with a Deaf Dog

Filed under: Dog health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:10 am

deafness in dogsA costly trip to the veterinarian and the application of the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test will help you to determine if your dog is going deaf or just ignoring you.  Likewise, you can conduct a few simple tests from home to self-diagnose deafness in your dog.  For example, you can clap your hands loudly or call his name when he is sleeping, or have another family member bang some pots in another room and watch for your dog’s response.  In either situation, if your dog is unresponsive, this is a good indication that he may be deaf or beginning to go deaf.

If you suspect your dog is deaf, you really should visit the veterinarian.  Your veterinarian can inspect your dog’s ears to look for blockages or malformations that can sometimes be treated to restore your dog’s hearing.  Still, as is the case with elderly humans, older dogs may become deaf naturally.  If your dog’s hearing cannot be restored, you must learn how to live with a deaf dog.

deafness in dogsYou must take extra precautions to protect a deaf dog.  First of all, never take your deaf dog off leash in an open area because you won’t be able to call him back.  Furthermore, deaf dogs are at greater risk of accidents or attack as they will not be able to hear potential dangers.  Deaf dogs also tend to be more anxious so you must always approach your dog calmly and carefully so as not to startle him.  Finally, when in the company of other dogs, always make sure there is somebody keeping a watch over your dog.  Dogs regularly use vocalizations like barking or growling to communicate aggression, danger, or other information.  Obviously, deaf dogs will not be able to hear these communications and this can put them at risk.

August 20, 2010

Deciphering Meows: What Is My Cat Trying to Say?

Filed under: Cat behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:44 am

feline stressWhile humans obviously rely on language to communicate, other members of the animal kingdom use a range of calls that help them to communicate.  This is also true for your cat.  While you may think that a “meow” is a meaningless sound, there are a range of different meows that cats use to communicate.  In fact, if you take the time to learn them by listening very carefully to your cat, you may be able to understand exactly what your cat is trying to say.

Cats clearly communicate with each other using meows and other subtle methods of communication.  Relying mostly on body language, cats can understand messages about danger, rank, mating, and aggression.  Indeed, your cat may use a combination of posture, tail movement, eye contact, and even smells to communicate a variety of ideas.  The very astute observer may have already considered how rare it is to see cats meow at each other except in very specific circumstances.

cat meowing soundNevertheless, when attempting to communicate with humans, cats seem to exclusively use the meow in combination with certain body positions.  Depending on the tone, pitch, volume, and rhythm of the meow, your cat may be trying to tell you something different.  Over time, many cat owners become familiar with particular meows, like the one that tells you they are hungry, for example.  But here is a list of different cat vocalizations and the possible meanings associated with them.

  • The standard meow may simply be a way for your cat to get your attention and say hello.
  • Low-pitched grumble indicates danger or a perceived threat.
  • Purr or warble is used to show affection.
  • Low-pitched howl combined with purring is a sign of distress, discomfort, fear, or pain.
  • Howls denote sadness, pain, fear, or stress.

August 19, 2010

Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Filed under: Dog Diseases — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:40 am

The adrenal system is the part of animals that controls hormone levels and not surprisingly, the adrenal gland is one of the main organs of the adrenal system.  Hormones are central to all kinds of animal behavior from sexual behavior, to stress, to immune responses.  Addison’s disease is the most common disease that affects the adrenal system in dogs leading to problems with the levels of particular hormones, namely glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids which are central to metabolism.

Addison’s disease in dogs can be extremely difficult to diagnose because the symptoms associated with this condition are nonspecific.  Lethargy, changes in appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting are some of the most common symptoms seen in dogs with Addison’s disease but they can obviously be associated with a whole host of illnesses.  However, many dog owners become suspicious that a more serious medical condition is at play when their dogs exhibit the symptoms of Addison’s disease repeatedly over a longer period of time.

While Addison’s disease is seen in all ages of dogs, it is most commonly diagnosed in young, female dogs.  There is some evidence to suggest that there is a genetic link and certain breeds may be predisposed to the condition.  Great Danes, Portuguese Water Dogs, Rottweilers, Standard poodles, and West Highland White Terriers seem to be especially susceptible to Addison’s disease in dogs.

Once the condition has been diagnosed, treatment focuses on providing your dog with supplements of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoidsPrednisone is one of the most common treatments as it is known to enhance glucocorticoid levels at low doses.  These oral treatments need to be administered for the life of your dog in order to control the symptoms associated with Addison’s disease in dogs.  Left untreated, dogs with Addison’s disease may die prematurely so it is very important to seek treatment if you suspected your dog is suffering from this condition.

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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.