August 18, 2010

Keeping Your Dog Cool This Summer

Filed under: dogs — Tags: , , , , — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:37 am

We’re down to the final weeks of August and summer has rapidly coming to an end. It is usually during these weeks that we see some of the hottest temperatures ever. To fully enjoy the amazing weather, it is important to keep both you and your pet safe.

Some precautions that pet owners can take include:

Don’t Overdo It With the Exercise

In really hot weather it is quite easy for your pet to suffer heat stroke, especially if the hot weather is accompanied by vigorous exercise. Your pet will enjoy running around for as long as you want it to. Has a dog ever wanted to stop playing fetch? As a pet owner you should take your dog out early in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler outside.

Keep Your Pet Hydrated

Becoming dehydrated can also lead to heat stroke. It is important to have a ready supply of water available to your dog at all times. Hosing your pet down every so often will also help them stay cool.

Frozen Treats!

Just as you probably enjoy drink milk shakes, smoothies or eating Popsicle and ice cream your dog to would enjoy some cold treats. Giving your pet some ice cubes to lick would be greatly appreciated by your dog. In addition, you can even add some flavors to the ice or add some food to it such as chicken. The treats would be tasty and cool!

Apply Sun Protection

Dogs need protection from UV lights. You can apply natural sunscreen that even humans use or buy pet sunscreen from the pet store.  Areas such as the ears, nose, and abdomen are very susceptible to the sun.

Do Not Leave Your Pet In the Car

This is one of the biggest no-no’s. A parked car on a hot day, regardless if the windows are open heats up very quickly. If you were to leave your pet in there even for a little while they would feel a great deal of discomfort and may even suffer from heat stroke.

I hope the tips helped and that you have a great summer!

August 17, 2010

Skin Allergies in Dogs

Filed under: dog allergies — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:36 am

Normally when we think about dogs and allergies, we’re talking about the kinds of allergies that humans get because of pet dogs.  Yet, skin allergies are a common condition that affects all breeds of dogs.  Sometimes known as allergic dermatitis, there are a wide range of factors that lead to skin allergies in dogs.  Dog allergic dermatitis is most commonly the result of allergies to flea bites, foods, or the inhalation of airborne allergens.  Yet many other factors are associated with skin allergies in dogs including drug or hormonal reactions, allergies to bacteria and parasites, and even contact allergies such as reactions to topical treatments, various materials, and household cleaners.

Moreover, skin allergies in dogs may first appear at nearly any age.  While flea and inhalation allergies usually present in young adults, food allergies in dogs may begin at any age.  Moreover, some breeds seem to be predisposed to developing atopy, an allergy that results from inhalation or absorption of allergens through the skin.

Allergies are typically extremely difficult to diagnose because their symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of other conditions.  As a result, veterinarians normally diagnose allergies after a process of elimination.  Nevertheless, there are a few symptoms to watch for if you suspect your dog may be suffering from a skin allergy.

  • Scratching, licking or chewing the skin
  • Rash-like bumps on the skin
  • Pus-filled bumps on the skin
  • Darker skin pigmentation
  • Hair loss
  • Head shaking
  • Dark saliva

Once your veterinarian has conducted a thorough history and physical exam and conducted a variety of tests like skin scraping or cytology, a diagnosis of allergy can be made.  Subsequent treatment depends on the particular allergy but will usually include limiting exposure to the allergen, the use of antibacterial shampoo or ointments, and possibly immunotherapy.

August 16, 2010

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Vaccine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:59 am

feline immunodeficiency virus treatmentLike HIV, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a highly contagious disease that eventually results in the development of an AIDS-like syndrome.  The prevalence of FIV in North America hovers around 2.5 per cent, although the virus may be much more prevalent in other countries (up to 44 per cent in some locations).  It is generally believed that there are five strains of FIV that each causes an AIDS-like syndrome in cats.  In fact, FIV is the only non-primate variation of immunodeficiency viruses that are associated with AIDS.  While not usually fatal in cats, the effect of FIV on the immune system of house cats has justified the development of a vaccine.

In March of 2002, researchers announced that they had discovered a vaccine for FIV which was subsequently approved by the FDA.  The discovery of this vaccine was not only of great importance in the veterinary world but was also heralded as a breakthrough in the search for a vaccine for HIV.  The excitement about the vaccine notwithstanding, subsequent researchers and veterinarians have questioned its efficacy.  Indeed, since its introduction to the medical community, the FIV vaccine has been criticized for many reasons.

First of all, all cats treated with the FIV vaccine test positive for the virus.  For many cat owners, this has sparked justifiable fears that if their cat runs away and is found by animal control, it will likely be destroyed because it is FIV-positive.  In addition, the vaccine does not provide full protection against the virus.  At the moment, researchers are aware of 5 subtypes of FIV but the vaccine only protects against two of those strains.  Finally, the FIV vaccine has been shown to possibly cause sarcomas which are equally dangerous to FIV.

Ultimately, whether you should vaccinate your cat against FIV is a very tricky decision and one that should not be taken lightly.  Speak to your veterinarian and make an informed choice regarding the health of your cat.

August 13, 2010

Stress in Cats

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:52 am

Stress can have serious implications for the health of your cat.  Just like stress in humans has a negative impact on various organ systems, stress in cats can likewise lead to more severe illnesses.  Moreover, stress in cats is often manifested in behavioral problems like litter box avoidance, scratching, aggression, and even depression.  Because stress in cats is known to exacerbate existing medical conditions while creating behavioral issues, it is important to limit your cat’s exposure to stressful situations.

Like humans, stress in cats may be the result of emotional factors.  Separation anxiety and the associated feelings of loneliness are among the most likely causes of stress in cats.  Furthermore, environmental changes, exposure to new family members or pets, loud noises, and other environmental problems can lead to stress in cats.  The most important responsibility you have as a cat owner is to help your cat alleviate stress and to avoid stressful situations.

Exercise is crucial for cats, humans, and just about any animal for coping with stress.  Our stress responses have developed over many generations as a way to help us avoid dangerous situations and as a result, stress is actually a very natural response.  Too much stress, unfortunately, causes serious health problems.  Exercise is known to reduce stressful feelings while also promoting healthier responses in stressful situations.  Regular play and even walks around the neighborhood are great ways for your cat to get the exercise it needs to reduce stress.

In addition, there are a number of natural remedies available for stress.  The efficacy of such remedies, which are usually developed using plant and herbal extracts, is yet to be seen but many cat owners rave about holly, rock rose, and vine essences for ameliorating stress in their cats.  Still, most importantly, you can reduce your cat’s exposure to stressful situations.  Give your cat time to adjust to new environments and introduce new family members gradually.  Ultimately, your cat will be happier.

August 12, 2010

Housetraining your Puppy

Filed under: training your dog — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:44 am

Whether you’ve just gotten a new puppy or you’re caring for an older dog that has not been house trained, you probably know the importance of house training.  Obviously it is inappropriate to allow your dog to urinate or defecate in the house, but knowing how to teach them the appropriate behavior is another issue altogether.  Fortunately, housebreaking your dog doesn’t need to be difficult.  With positive, consistent training, your dog will be housebroken in no time.

One of the first things to remember when training your dog to do anything is that reinforcement works better than punishment.  A lot of dog owners are confused about how to rely on praise and reward rather than punishments because it doesn’t seem logical.  However, by praising your dog and rewarding good behaviors, you are much more likely to see immediate and lasting results.  This means you need to praise your dog whenever they urinate or defecate outdoors.

Another important factor to realize is that dogs sometimes urinate submissively.  In other words, when you scold your dog, he may pee as a sign of respect.  Dogs are pack animals with distinct ranks in their pack.  Your family is essentially your dog’s pack and he likely knows that he’s at the bottom of the totem pole.  Often, when dogs meet superior pack members they will squat and urinate, likewise when the pack members meet them with aggression.  So, if your dog urinates when scolded, he’s not really breaking housetraining, rather showing that he understands his position in the pack.

Finally, during any training plan it is imperative that you remain consistent.  Give your dog ample opportunity to toilet outside, and lead him outside when he demonstrates those behaviors that indicate he needs to toilet.  With consistent praise and patience, you’ll have a happily house trained dog.

August 11, 2010

Feline Epilepsy

Filed under: Feline Epilepsy — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:18 am

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can affect nearly every species of mammal.  Well-studied in humans but still not fully understood, epilepsy has also been known to affect cats.  The disorder is characterized by recurring seizures usually as a result of uncoordinated firing of neurons in the cerebrum.  The exact mechanism of the disease is not understood although it has been related to other sensory stimuli and the improper balance of particular neurotransmitters.

Generally speaking, when cats have seizures, this is not always an indication of epilepsy.  Indeed, seizures are merely a symptom of the condition but they may occur for a wide range of reasons.  For example, seizures are also a symptom of heat stroke, brain trauma, and other chronic diseases.  Seizures have been caused by a range of conditions:

  • Congenital defects
  • High blood glucose levels (usually in association with diabetes)
  • Anemia
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Kidney disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Poisoning

Clearly, the causes of seizures are quite varied.  Epilepsy in cats is only diagnosed when cats have had recurring seizures over a period of time.  Your veterinarian will need to take a full history as well as conduct neurological exams, x-rays, and a panel of laboratory tests before diagnosing feline epilepsy.  When the cause of the seizures cannot be identified, an epilepsy diagnosis is usually given.  Some cat owners are surprised to learn that there is no specific test for epilepsy and some expert argue that epilepsy is not a single condition.

Nevertheless, when feline epilepsy has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will normally prescribe an anticonvulsant.  Unfortunately, there are no cures for feline epilepsy and treatment focuses on controlling epileptic fits, or seizures.  Currently, Phenobarbital and potassium bromide are the most common medications for treating feline epilepsy.  As an owner with a cat suffering from epilepsy, it is important to remember that while epilepsy cannot be cured, it is possible to control the seizures for improved quality of life.

August 10, 2010

Why Does My Dog Eat Feces?

Filed under: Dog Behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:07 am

dog habits eating fecesWe’ve all seen some dogs eat feces and wondered what that’s all about.  This condition, also known as coprophagia, occurs when a dog eats its own feces or the feces of another dog or animal.  While the reasons for coprophagia in dogs are generally unclear, the condition has been associated with various medical problems.  For example, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, overfeeding, and malabsorption are all possible causes of fecal consumption in dogs.  Moreover, many researchers have also suggested that coprophagia in dogs is associated with a variety of behavioral problems and may be the result of attention seeking.

There has actually been little research into why dogs eat feces.  Coprophagia has been associated with higher levels of anxiety and stress or it may be the result of evolved scavenger behaviors.  Some researchers even suggest that dogs that have been punished for defecating in the past are more likely to engage in eating feces.  Even hunger may explain why your dog is eating feces.

Whatever the reason for coprophagia may be, it’s not surprising that dog owners wish the behavior would stop.  In fact, it can be very difficult to train your dog not to eat feces because he will likely do it when you are not present.  Still, a well organized training plan that reinforces positive behaviors and encourages dogs not to eat feces can be effective.  Some veterinarians also recommend adding a meat tenderizer to dog food because their feces will taste extremely bad.  Similarly, there are a number of food additives that cause the feces to smell excessively putrid to dogs making it very unlikely that they’ll eat the feces.  You can even add hot sauce or other additives to the feces that dogs don’t enjoy.  Finally, to prevent your dog from eating feces, be sure to clean up dropping around the yard to deny them access to eat it.

August 9, 2010

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Filed under: poisoned pet — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:05 am

We’ve probably all heard it and yet we wonder if it’s true that chocolate will kill your dog.  More importantly, you probably want to understand what you’ll need to do in the event that your dog ingests some chocolate and to that end you have several questions.  Chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine that is most certainly toxic to dogs if a large enough quantity is consumed.

Fortunately, for chocolate to be poisonous and potentially lethal to your dog, they must consume a relatively large quantity.  In fact, on average your dog must ingest somewhere around 150mg of theobromine per kilogram of body weight to cause a toxic reaction.  Every type of chocolate contains different levels of theobromine.  For example, milk chocolate contains around 44mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate, semisweet chocolate around 150mg per ounce, and baker’s chocolate around 390 mg per ounce.  This means a dog weighing 10 kilograms would have to consume 22 ounces of milk chocolate, 11 ounces of semisweet chocolate, or around 3 ounces of baker’s chocolate.

Still, even when dogs consume smaller quantities of chocolate, some digestive problems like stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea are likely to occur.  Also, while these quantities are quite large, you can easily see that it’s not impossible for a dog to eat that much chocolate, especially around Easter and Christmas holidays.

The predominant symptoms of chocolate toxicity include:

  • Hyper excitability
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.  In most cases you will need to induce vomiting within 2 hours if you don’t know how much chocolate he has ingested.  In emergency situations, your veterinarian may want to use activated charcoal to prevent the absorption of the toxin and anticonvulsants may be prescribed if neurological symptoms are apparent.

August 6, 2010

What is Canine Distemper?

Filed under: Dog Diseases — Dr. Amber Reed @ 2:35 pm

Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are responsible for a wide range of illnesses and diseases that affect dogs.  Canine distemper is one example of a viral infection that is most frequently seen in domesticated dogs and ferrets, but can also affect wild animals.  Closely related to the measles and rinderpest, canine distemper is usually prevented through vaccination but remains one of the most common serious diseases that infect dogs.

Generally, puppies between 3 and 6 months of age are more susceptible to the canine distemper virus.  The virus is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids as well as through contaminated food and water sources.  Certain bodily tissues in the dog, namely the lymphoid, epithelial, and nervous tissues, are particularly susceptible to infection, but once the virus enters your dog’s bloodstream it will have an impact on the respiratory, gastrointestinal, central nervous, and optic systems.  In most fatal cases of canine distemper, dogs suffer infections that reduce immune functioning often leading to secondary illnesses like pneumonia, encephalitis, and hyperkeratosis.

There are a variety of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurological symptoms that aid in the diagnosis of canine distemper.  Some of these symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive salivation
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Involuntary twitching or seizures
  • Chewing gum fits
  • Light sensitivity
  • Poor motor skills

During the long history of canine distemper, treatment has been relatively unsuccessful.  However, in recent years, treatment has moved from palliative in nature to prevention through vaccination.  Also, even when vaccination is not possible, canine distemper can often be treated with Ribavirin and vitamin A, Interferon, and other treatments that are used for similar viruses like the measles.  Nevertheless, prevention is the most effective way to avoid canine distemper which is why your puppy should be vaccinated.

August 5, 2010

Top 5 Puppy Care Tips

Filed under: Puppy Care — Dr. Amber Reed @ 2:32 pm

If you’ve decided to get a puppy, do your research first.  Introducing a new pet to your family brings many challenges and rewards but if you’re prepared the good will surely outweigh the bad.  These tips should help you to prepare for your puppy so that your family and the new addition make a seamless transition.

1.       Carefully choose your breed.  Many new dog owners hastily decide on a new puppy because they like the way they look or some other arbitrary reason.  The problem is that dogs have a wide range of personalities that are often associated with breeds.  Small dogs are not always the best choice for families with children while breeds like labs and golden retrievers make excellent family dogs.  So, do a little research before you choose your breed and make sure to select one that will fit well with your lifestyle.

2.       Get your supplies ready in advance.  Choose a good puppy food, specifically formulated for young dogs and maybe even the particular breed.  Also, make sure you have a dog bed, feeding bowls, collar and leash, and a few toys so you have everything you need when your new dog arrives.

3.       Don’t forget to puppy proof.  Puppies are basically baby dogs and you need to ensure that there are no hazards around the house.  Make sure household cleaners are out of reach and remove objects that your puppy may chew.  Electrical and telephone chords, shoes, and other items are attractive to puppies but may also be dangerous.

4.       Find a veterinarian.  You’ll probably want to research local veterinarians in advance.  Visit the facility to ensure it is clean and well equipped and even ask for references from current clients.

5.       Finally, never feed your puppy (or dog) human food.  Human food can throw off your dog’s balanced diet and some human foods can be fatal.  Always use a veterinarian recommended puppy food to ensure the health and safety of your new puppy.

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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.