September 16, 2010

Does your dog have cataract?

Filed under: dog cataract — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:07 am

dog cataracts symptomsAs far as eye problems go, cataracts in dogs are among the most common.  Cataracts can affect any age or breed of dog and there are a wide range of types and causes of cataracts in dogs.  Despite the relatively high prevalence of cataracts in dogs, there is still a lot to learn about the disease.  Most cases of cataracts can be treated but only by surgery, which tends to be highly effective.

Cataracts occur when the arrangement of lens fibers and their capsules become disrupted resulting in poor vision.  A dog’s lens is normally transparent but when cataracts appear they interfere with the passage of light through the eye leading to partial or total blindness.  Cataracts in dogs look like opaque white spots on the lens of the eye, but can also resemble crushed ice.

Cataracts in dogs result from the malfunctioning of a particular eye system.  Unlike most of a dog’s body, the lens of the eye is actually maintained in a dehydrated condition that is approximately two thirds water and one third proteins.  Your dog’s eye contains a physiological system that attempts to keep this balance but when this system fails and excess water enters the lens along with excess insoluble protein.  This biochemical imbalance ultimately results in the formation of cataracts.

Dogs can develop cataracts at any age and there are generally three types of cataracts.  Congenital cataracts are present at birth; developmental cataracts arise early in life and are often associated with other illnesses like diabetes; and senile cataracts arise late in life.  Furthermore, there are some breeds of dogs that can inherit cataracts.  Afghan Hounds, Boston Terriers, Golden Retrievers, and Standard Poodles are just a few of the breeds that are predisposed to cataracts.

Treating cataracts in dogs is restricted to surgery.  Your veterinarian will remove all or part of the affected lens to restore site.  While this treatment is not always effective, it has shown a very good success rate for treating cataracts in dogs.

September 15, 2010

Newborn Kitten Care

Filed under: Kitten Care — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:02 am

The first four weeks of a newborn kitten’s life are full of growth and development.  Indeed, these initial weeks are fundamental with regards to your kitten’s personality and character as well as for other factors such as their health.  Very young kittens are especially susceptible to health threats and they are also growing at an unbelievable rate.  In most cases, two scenarios for kitten care may be played out.  Your kittens may have a loving and attentive mother who feeds them and helps them to grow, or they may have been abandoned by their mother or be alone for some other reason.  As a newborn kitten owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that the kitten gets all the care it needs to develop normally.

As newborns, kittens generally weigh about 3 ounces but will gain weight every day.  Charting their growth is important to make sure that the kittens are getting enough food.  Usually, kittens may mew but will not fuss or cry when eating.  Moreover, they should gain a little weight every day.  If you notice your kitten is a fussy eater or that it’s not gaining weight steadily, contact your veterinarian.

If you are left to feed the newborn kitten on your own, you have the choice to bottle feed to tube feed the kittens.  Tube feeding can be difficult as kittens need a precise amount of food depending on their weight, so speak to your vet for his recommendations.  In addition, there are other elements of newborn kitten care.  In the beginning, kittens sleep the majority of the day and eat the rest.  However, newborn kittens cannot defecate or urinate on their own and usually the mother will lick and clean her kittens.  In absence of a mother, it is your responsibility to gently clean your newborn kitten and its genital area with a soft, moist cloth.  This should be done every two hours as it helps to stimulate toileting.  Change your newborn kitten’s blankets twice a day and wipe the kittens clean regularly.

September 14, 2010

An Introduction to Pet Ferrets

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:57 am

In recent years, ferrets have become an increasingly popular pet.  They have been domesticated animals for somewhere around 2000 years and were first brought to North America as pets around 1700.  Still, some regions do not recognize ferrets as domestic animals with regards to the law and keeping animals in captivity.  Moreover, not all ferrets have been domesticated and the black footed ferret is often confused with its domestic cousin.  Because ferrets are related to badgers, wolverines, otters, and weasels, some people think they will not make good pets, but this is simply not true.  They are highly adaptive animals with a playfulness that makes them an excellent pet.

Generally speaking, ferrets live between 6 and 8 years but can live up to 12 years.  Males are slightly larger in length and weight than females but behaviorally there are few differences.  In North America, most ferrets have been spayed or neutered but if you get a pet ferret that is not, it is highly recommended to have the procedure for health and behavioral reasons.  As they are predators, ferrets sleep around 18 hours per day and they tend to be more active at dawn and dusk.  However, ferrets are well known for changing their sleeping patterns to adapt to their owners.  They are very playful animals with poor eyesight but excellent smell and hearing.

If you are interested in getting a pet ferret, you may have heard about their smelly reputation.  Ferrets certainly have a distinct smell but this musky odor is not particularly strong so you should not find it offensive.  Regardless of whether your ferret has been de-scented, their skin glands release this musky odor.  Moreover, while bathing is important, it will not eliminate their smell.  Finally, while ferrets make good pets for children, it is best not to expose them to very young children.  Being relatively small, ferrets do not enjoy rough play and small children often do not understand their own strength.

September 13, 2010

Basic Snake Care

Filed under: Snakes as Pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:42 am

Like all other pets, snakes require the three basic elements of life: food, water, and shelter.  However, there are some other elements of snake and reptile care that cannot be overlooked.  From the temperature of their terrarium to veterinary care, snakes are decidedly different from the standard house pet.  If you’re a first time snake owner, you need to take some time to learn about the specific needs of your species of snake, but this article will give a general overview of basic snake care.

First, let’s talk about food and water.  Snakes can be herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous so you will need to have a good understanding of your snake’s species and preferred diet.  Most carnivorous snakes from the pet store will eat pre-killed frozen mice which are actually a better alternative to live mice.  Live mice carry disease and may even injure your snake.  In addition to a consistent food source, snakes need fresh drinking water to be available at all times.  Room temperature water served in a shallow bowl that your snake cannot knock over is best.

Next, we should talk about temperature.  As reptiles, snakes cannot regulate their own body temperature.  In the wild, they will warm themselves in the sun and cool themselves in the shade depending on their body temperature.  Depending on the species, snakes will have different ideal temperatures but all pet snakes will require an infrared lamp to provide heat.

Finally, snakes are also susceptible to illness, usually as a result of parasites.  New snakes should be checked by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy and parasite, tick, and mite free.  Symptoms of snake illness include weight loss, runny stools, a sudden refusal to eat, or a constant upward gaze.  If you suspect your snake may be ill, you can closely check its skin for ticks but mites are nearly impossible to find.  Should your snake become ill, it is important to visit the veterinarian immediately.

September 10, 2010

Snake Ownership for Beginners

Filed under: Snakes as Pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:03 am

If you’ve never owned a snake before, there are some guidelines you should follow for choosing your pet snake.  While snakes can be very interesting pets, they are not ideal for every family.  A tame snake that has experienced regular handling will make an excellent pet but you should have a good idea of what it takes to own a snake.  Moreover, you should do a bit of research about the different types of pet snakes before you rush into buying a serious snake like a boa constrictor or python.

When you are first choosing your pet snake understand that some species can live up to 20 years and as such, pet snakes are a long term commitment.  In addition, snakes are predators and they generally eat rodents or insects.  If you are squeamish about feeding prey animals to your snake, you should reconsider your decision to get a pet snake.  Most snake food is pre-killed and stored frozen so you will also have to have storage space for your snake’s food.  One of the most important things to consider about owning a pet snake is that they are very good at escaping and hiding so you need to invest in a good tank; even the smallest gap will tempt your snake to escape.

Finally, when choosing your first snake, it is not recommended that you get a constricting or venomous snake as these snakes can pose a significant risk to small children and adults alike.  Your first snake should be reasonably sized and easy to care for.  Some examples of more docile snakes include corn snakes, king snakes, milk snakes, and ball pythons.  On the other hand larger constricting or venomous snakes with more difficult care needs such as boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, water snakes or green snakes don’t make very good pets for first time snake owners.

September 9, 2010

Dietary Types of Fish

Filed under: fish health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:11 am

Just as with mammals, there are 3 main dietary types of fish: carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores.  If you have recently purchased a fish but you are not sure of its dietary type, you need to speak to the pet store or a veterinarian immediately.  Properly feeding your fish is a basic requirement of owning a pet fish.  In fact, pet fish are extremely sensitive to proper diet and over feeding, under feeding, or feeding your pet fish the wrong type of food can have fatal results.

Carnivores are fish that eat meat, just as you would expect with mammals.  Some fish prefer live prey and may only eat food that they can hunt and kills.  Other fish and insects are the most common type of food for these fish.  On the other hand, some carnivorous fish will eat dried shrimp or other meat-based products.  Examples of carnivorous fish include:

  • Acara
  • Archerfish
  • Bettas
  • Hatchetfish
  • Oscar
  • Piranha

Herbivores are essentially vegetarian fish.  As such herbivorous fish will eat a diet made up exclusively or mostly of vegetable matter.  Since herbivores tend to have a smaller stomach, they need to eat more often.  Examples of herbivorous fish include:

  • Molly
  • Farowella
  • Pacu
  • Tropheus

The final dietary type of fish is the omnivore.  Most aquarium fish are omnivores and they will eat both meat and vegetables.  Veterinarians recommend a varied diet for omnivorous fish to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need.  Omnivorous fish can survive on a vegetarian diet, although it is not recommended.  Depending on the type of fish you have, you should do some research about their preferred diet.  The following are examples of omnivorous fish:

  • Angelfish
  • Barbs
  • Danios
  • Festivum
  • Goldfish
  • Guppy
  • Loaches
  • Platy

September 8, 2010

The Basics of Feeding Fish

Filed under: fish health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:56 am

Maintaining the health and well being of your pet fish requires that you choose the correct fish food and that you feed them on a consistent schedule.  Over feeding, under feeding, and malnutrition can have a very serious impact on the health of your pet fish.  In many circumstances, a new fish owner may not even know what kind of food to give their fish.  Always speak to the pet store clerk or a veterinarian about the best way to feed your fish as there is no common rule for every species.  Nevertheless, here are some basic guidelines for feeding fish.

Fish can be omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores so you need to identify which kind of food your fish will eat.  Most small fish that are kept in bowls will survive happily on some kind of fish flake diet, but other fish can have very specific dietary needs.  In addition, fry will need special foods until they develop so you need to do your research before settling on one type of food.  Moreover, adult fish like to have a variable diet so including dry, froze, and fresh foods can help them maintain a balanced diet.

Fish will definitely have different feeding behaviors as well.  Some fish feed from the top of their habitat while others like to feed at the bottom.  Similarly, some fish are day time eaters while others prefer to feed at night.  As a fish owner, you need to find out what time of day your fish prefers to eat as well as where as you’ll need food that sinks for fish that prefer feeding at the bottom of the water.

Finally, remember that fish foods are not good forever.  While they don’t often carry an expiry date, many fish foods, especially fish flakes, can lose their nutritional value very quickly, sometimes in less than a month.  Keep food fresh and make sure that your fish receive a variety of vitamins and nutrients.

September 7, 2010

Finding a Veterinarian for Your Rabbit

Filed under: rabbit as pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:53 am

veterinarian for rabbitsWhile most veterinarians have experience with a wide range of animals, they are not always going to be confident with every pet they come across.  If you have a pet rabbit, you are tasked with finding an experienced rabbit veterinarian that will provide the best possible care for your beloved pet.  Finding a veterinarian for your rabbit is much the same as finding a vet for any pet, but because rabbits are less common than dogs or cats, for example, it is somewhat more difficult to find a vet with experience.

In your search to find a vet for your rabbit, you should start by speaking to local humane societies.  They might be able to put you in touch with recommended rabbit veterinarians or other rabbit owners who have already established contact with a local rabbit vet.  Once you have a list of recommended rabbit vets, you should take some time to meet each of them.  You can even ask these vets who they would refer you to for rabbit care.  Next, you should visit the top vets in your list.  Check out their facilities, determine if you can have a good working relationship with the veterinarian and their staff, and then you can get a general evaluation of the staff and facilities.

Next, you should schedule appointments with your top 2 or 3 choices.  There are a number of screening questions that will help you determine if this veterinarian has experience with rabbits and whether you think your rabbit will be comfortable with this particular vet.

  • How many rabbits do they see in the clinic?
  • How many rabbits do they spay or neuter in a given week?
  • Ask for references from other rabbit owners.
  • Ask for a tour of the facilities.

Although finding the right vet for your rabbit can take a bit of time, it is well worth the effort.

September 6, 2010

What Should I Feed My Pet Rabbit?

Filed under: rabbit diet — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:04 am

Many rabbit owners feel that the rabbit pellets that are available at the local pet store are a sufficient diet for their pet rabbit.  In fact, this is not the case.  Fiber is an essential nutrient for rabbits, without which they will not have a properly functioning digestive system.  As such, fresh hay and vegetables are a necessary part of a healthy rabbit diet.  While rabbit pellets are a normal part of your rabbit’s diet, feeding your pet rabbit these pellets exclusively may lead to obesity and other digestive problems.  Moreover, high fiber diets for rabbits can help ameliorate problems experienced with hair balls while stimulating intestinal functioning.

Hay provides rabbits with the majority of the fiber they need to remain healthy.  As such, rabbit owners should make hay available to their rabbits every day.  Unfortunately, rabbits that have been fed a steady pellet diet may not take to hay immediately.  Rabbit pellets are high in fat and are kind of like junk food to rabbits.  However, if you gradually wean your rabbits off pellets by offering more hay every day your rabbit will eventually make the switch to hay because they are hungry.  Young rabbits should be fed alfalfa hay but by around 6-7 months of age you should start introducing grass hay.  By the age of 1 year, rabbits should be eating grass hay exclusively.

Vegetables are another important part of your rabbit’s diet and depending on the size of your rabbit most veterinarians recommend 2 to 4 cups of fresh vegetables every day.  Carrots, lettuce, parsley, broccoli, turnips, collard greens, and dandelion greens are all great vegetables for your rabbit.  On the other hand, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, and potatoes are not recommended for rabbits as these vegetables can cause digestive problems.  Other human foods should never be fed to rabbits as their digestive systems have not evolved to accept anything other than hay and vegetables.

September 3, 2010

Understanding the Basics of Cat Behavior

Filed under: Cat behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:57 am

After spending enough time with your cat it is pretty easy to see them as miniature humans who prefer not to talk.  Indeed, pet cats are our beloved friends, but unlike humans they have their own instincts and evolved behaviors.  Felines have natural hunting instincts that make them considerably different from humans, dogs, and other mammals.  Understanding cat behavior can help you to be a more patient and loving cat owner.

One of the first things to remember is that cats are active, curious, and highly athletic creatures that have evolved from a long line of hunters.  Kittens require a lot of active play with people, other cats, and/or interactive toys as well as a safe area to climb and explore.  It is always best to keep kittens (and even adult cats) indoors so they are not exposed to predators or other dangers.

Problem behaviors such as aggression, scratching, or inappropriate toileting can arise with pet cats but there are usually very good reasons for this.  Aggressive behavior is often a sign of anxiety so you should try to understand what is causing your cat to feel stress.  Alternatively, scratching is a very natural cat behavior that helps them to maintain their claws, so a professional clipping may help to deter this behavior.  Otherwise, you should provide your cat with an appropriate place to scratch.  Finally, cats are very clean creatures and they do not like a dirty litter box.  In most cases of inappropriate toileting the cat has either not been properly trained or their litter box has not been properly cleaned.

Generally speaking, behavioral problems are rare in pet cats.  If you observe sudden or unexplained behavioral problems in an adult cat, you should visit the veterinarian immediately to rule out a more serious medical problem.

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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.