October 28, 2010

Help Your Dog have a Safe Halloween

Filed under: Halloween — Dr. Amber Reed @ 2:49 pm

Halloween is quickly approaching and while the holiday promises loads of fun for the whole family, there are potential dangers that can compromise the health of your beloved pets.  Indeed, during Halloween dogs face increased risks as well as more stress than other times of the year.  Whether we are talking about the abundance of candy and wrappers in the house or the noise and commotion caused by Halloween visitors, this time of year requires dog owners to take extra care.

Tricks and treats can be a source of anxiety for your dog during the Halloween season.  Fireworks and the constant queue of visiting children can be scary for a dog.  Owners with dogs that are prone to anxiety when they are around strangers should keep their dogs in a safe and comfortable environment.  Not only can normal humans frighten a dog, but when they are dressed up the scare factor is certainly kicked up a notch.  Plus, the loud noise from exploding fireworks and firecrackers is certain to freak out even the calmest dogs.  As such, you should keep your dog in an interior room of the house where he is sheltered from the noise and the visitors.

Beyond the festivities of the day, Halloween also brings a bunch of treats into the house.  Dogs will be curious and have been known to get into the kids treats.  Unfortunately, human treats are often toxic to dogs.  Chocolate and artificial sweeteners like xylitol (often found in gum) are highly toxic and can even be life threatening to dogs.  To be safe, make sure you keep these candies well out of reach and that you dispose of wrappers and packaging effectively.  Every Halloween, dogs are subject to the risk of choking, upset stomach, or gastrointestinal blockage because they consume candies or discarded wrappers.  You may even want to keep some dog treats around so your beloved pet doesn’t feel left out!

October 27, 2010

Cats and Halloween

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

While black cats are a ubiquitous symbol of Halloween, the holiday poses extra dangers to a pet cat and owners should be vigilant to protect their cats.  Apart from the obvious Halloween risk factors like fireworks and constant visitors, Halloween is also a time where cats, black cats in particular, face serious dangers including violence.

First of all, many local animal shelters and rescues have recently banned the practice of adopting black cats in the weeks before Halloween.  In the past couple of decades, black cat adoptions before Halloween have risen dramatically with many of these cats being returned to the shelter shortly after the holiday.  Obviously, adopting a pet cat for the sake of enhancing a costume or as an accessory to a haunted house only to return it within a few weeks is cruel behavior; but the fact is that this is often the least of a black cat’s problems.  During the month of October, black cats are often the victim of physical violence and torture and while statistics on the problem are lacking many vets recommend keeping cats indoors over the Halloween holiday.

Still, even without being subject to this kind of cruel behavior, cats face other risks during the holidays.  The constant explosion of fireworks in combination with the line of kids ringing the doorbell can cause anxiety in even the most well adjusted cat.  Loud noises and constant visitors will likely scare your cat into hiding.  Obviously its best to keep your cat inside on Halloween night but many pet owners go one step further by securing their cats in an interior room of the house.  This can shelter them from noise and keep anxiety to a minimum.  Finally, if you have trick-or-treating children in the house you must also take care to store candy away from your pets to prevent them from eating the candy and becoming ill.

October 26, 2010

Caring for Your Dog in the Winter

Filed under: Dog health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:32 am

As the winter season quickly approaches, it is important for dog owners to make sure their beloved pets are well cared for during the winter.  Especially if you live in cooler climates, you need to protect your dog from colder winter weather.  From grooming and shelter to general health concerns, the winter season requires dog owners to be more vigilant about pet care.

First and foremost, you must provide your dog with adequate shelter during the winter.  Leaving your dog outdoors for extended periods of time is not only uncomfortable but can also pose a serious risk to your dog’s general health.  In addition, wind chill and other weather factors like rain and snow make the outside temperatures even colder.  Your dog needs somewhere warm and dry to sleep; even indoors tile or non-carpeted flooring will be unnecessarily cold for your dog.  Plus, older dogs who may be suffering from osteoarthritis will experience more extreme symptoms in the winter so keep them warm and cozy.

When it comes to grooming, letting your dog’s hair run wild during the winter is hardly a good idea.  You might think that you need to worry less about grooming because a thick coat will protect your dog in winter.  On the contrary, regular grooming is necessary to ensure that your dog is effectively insulated from the cold.  Long-haired dogs should be brushed and hair around their feet should be trimmed to prevent snow build up.  Remember that short haired dogs are not well insulated so they should be kept warm with a sweater or coat.

Finally, dog owners should realize that some of our winter routines pose an added risk to a dog’s health.  For example, antifreeze tastes and smells appetizing to dogs but it can be fatal if ingested.  Always store antifreeze well out of your dog’s reach and ensure that spills are cleaned thoroughly.  Also, treating walkways and driveways with rock salt prevents ice build up but rock salt can also be an irritant to your pet’s feet so be sure to clean and dry your dog’s feet after walks.

October 25, 2010

Plants that are Poisonous to your Dog’s Health

Filed under: poisoned pet — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:21 am

Whether we are talking about household plants, landscaping plants, or even human food crops, there are a wide range of plants that can be poisonous to your dogs health.  Every dog owner who is considering getting some new plants to freshen up their home or yard should carefully research safe plants to ensure they are not dangerous for your pets.  The following list describes some common plants that are poisonous to dogs but is by no means a comprehensive list.  If you are concerned about your dog’s safety, check the facts about the plants you plan to buy.

In the home, dogs sometimes chew inappropriately, and plants are no exception to the items they will chew.  Dogs are fairly flexible with what they will eat and this means household plants can cause a serious danger to your pet.

  • Aloe Vera causes vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors
  • Asparagus Ferns cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and with prolonged exposure may lead to allergic dermatitis.
  • Azaleas cause vomiting, diarrhea, excess salivation, weakness, and in severe cases coma, cardiovascular problems, and even death
  • Chrysanthemums cause impaired coordination, diarrhea, vomiting, excess salivation, and allergic dermatitis
  • Gardenias cause vomiting and diarrhea
  • Geraniums cause vomiting, depression, anorexia, and dermatitis

In addition to standard house plants, many outdoor plants and human crops are dangerous for dogs.

  • American Holly causes diarrhea, vomiting, and depression
  • Apple stems, leaves, and seeds cause pupils to dilate as well as breathing problems and shock
  • Avocado leaves, seeds, bark, and fruit cause vomiting and diarrhea
  • Black Walnuts often carry a mold that causes tremors and seizures
  • Castor Bean plants cause mouth irritation, excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, and in severe cases death
  • Daffodils cause vomiting, diarrhea, excess salivation, and convulsions
  • Grapes can cause kidney failure and death
  • Onions and garlic can lead to the breakdown of red blood cells as well as cause vomiting, panting, weakness, increased heart rate, and blood in the urine.

October 22, 2010

Infections and Cat Antibiotics

Filed under: Antibiotics — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:08 am

Cat antibiotics are indicated for treatment for a wide range of infections and while they represent an effective treatment, not all cat antibiotics are ideal.  In fact, if used incorrectly, cat antibiotics can have some serious and even painful side effects.  So as important as it is to take pet healthcare seriously, one should never treat an infection without the guidance of a veterinarian.

Before beginning any antibiotic treatment, you should first have a veterinarian diagnose the cause or source of the infection.  A vomiting cat may be suffering from an intestinal or stomach infection that is treated with one of many available cat antibiotics while an infection caused by a wound may call for another.  In addition, depending on the type of infection, there may be other treatment considerations beyond antibiotics.  Some pet medications help to reduce swelling and pain, but if there are noticeable abscesses they may need to be drained during treatment.

Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of the infection, he will likely prescribe some cat antibiotics.  Penicillin is commonly used to treat infections in all animals, but because it is such a common antibiotic there are a number of bacteria that are resistant to penicillin.  Veterinarians rely on a range of cat antibiotics including amino-glycosides, cephalosporin, and erythromycin.

Still, most cat antibiotics will be associated with some side effects.  Rash, allergy, fever, and a reduction in white blood cell counts are all possible side effects of antibiotic treatment.  However, cat antibiotics can cause much more severe side effects ranging from liver disease and kidney disease to diarrhea, gastrointestinal disease, and even loss of hearing.  Before beginning your cat on any antibiotic treatment, speak to your veterinarian.  Cat antibiotics will normally clear up an infection in 2 to 5 days with few dangerous side effects.

October 21, 2010

What does Strokes mean to your dog’s health?

Filed under: Pet Strokes — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:55 am

When the normal flow of blood to the brain is blocked or otherwise interrupted, a stroke results.  Strokes can be caused by a burst blood vessel or blood clot with very serious consequences.  When dogs have strokes brain cells are killed and numerous effects may be noticed.  Indeed, the symptoms of stroke range from mild to very serious including paralysis and even death.  While strokes are much less common in dogs than humans, they are certainly not unheard of (though the symptoms in humans are usually more severe and permanent).

If you are concerned your dog may have had a stroke, there are a number of clues that can help you determine whether or not this is the case.  Dogs that have had strokes are often listless, lethargic or sluggish.  In addition, after a stroke dogs may lose bladder, bowel, and muscle control.  Moreover, because of the damage to brain cells caused by a stroke dogs may also lose their balance or equilibrium and you may notice your dog’s head is frequently tilted.  Finally, in more severe instances of stroke dogs will demonstrate paralysis and even impaired vision.

Clearly, dogs who have had strokes must visit the veterinarian so if you recognize any of the above symptoms you should take your dog in immediately.  In order to diagnose a stroke, your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam and record external symptoms.  Next, your veterinarian will likely conduct a neurological exam which may include an MRI or CT scan that will indicate the source of the stroke.  Unfortunately, once a stroke has occurred, there are few treatment options.  Physiotherapy is usually recommended in order to restore muscle control; but ultimately your veterinarian will want to treat the cause of the stroke to prevent further strokes.  One final point, dogs are much less likely to suffer strokes than humans and they also recover much more fully.

October 20, 2010

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Filed under: Dog Behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:49 am

canine vitamins Dogs are remarkably flexible in their eating habits.  As omnivores, they have evolved to eat both meat and vegetables mostly because they are descendant from scavengers.  Still, from dog to dog there is a lot of variability in eating behavior and while one dog may make grass eating a daily routine, others may never touch the stuff.  While grass eating is a relatively normal and apparently harmless activity, many dog owners wonder: Why do dogs eat grass?

Today’s dogs are not exactly like their scavenger ancestors.  After hundreds or even thousands of years of domestication, many species of dog have seen their eating habits change drastically.  In the earlier stages of their evolution, dogs would eat just about anything and would normally consume their prey completely.  dogs eating grassThis included eating the plant-contents in the stomach of herbivorous animals.  However, dogs today probably eat grass as an alternative food source.  For domesticated dogs, grass is typically the most readily available plant food source, but dogs have also been known to eat wild fruit, berries, and other vegetables.

Indeed, one of the main reasons dogs eat grass is because they have nutritional needs.  Perhaps out of hunger, or some nutritional deficit in their diet, dogs will eat grass.  Your dog may be craving some essential nutrients that are not being delivered in his commercial dog food.  Grass fills that need.  In addition, dogs seem to eat grass when they are gassy or suffering stomach upset.  Grass will in fact stimulate vomiting when dogs swallow it without chewing and this may be a natural remedy to common dog stomach woes.  Presently however, there seems to be a lot of debate about why dogs eat grass.  While nutrition and health seem to be the most likely reasons, dogs may eat grass also because they enjoy its texture or smell.

October 18, 2010

Diarrhea Dog Treatment

Filed under: dog diarrhea — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:02 pm

Diarrhea is a relatively common symptom that affects most animal species, including dogs.  The causes of diarrhea in dogs are similar to those in humans: changes in diet, eating spoiled food, infections, and parasites are common causes of diarrhea dogs encounter.  Normally, diarrhea will subside itself but in some cases pet owners will seek pet medication or other treatments for diarrhea.  Furthermore, since diarrhea is also often associated with other concerning symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, and dehydration, it is important to take diarrhea dog treatment seriously.

First of all, dogs with diarrhea need to drink plenty of water because dehydration is a common and serious result of diarrhea.  Moreover, if you have noticed your dog has had diarrhea for several hours, you may want to withhold food for 24 hours to let his digestive system work out the problems.  Pet owners will also want to avoid feeding dogs with diarrhea any human food or table scraps as these may well have been the cause of the diarrhea in the first place.

After the first 24 hours has passed, start introducing food gradually to see if the diarrhea has stopped.  You will want to start with about half of your dog’s normal food portions and stick with more bland foods like unseasoned, boiled hamburger and white rice or oatmeal.  Eventually, you should notice an improvement in your dog’s bowel movements and you can start introducing him to his typical diet.

While diarrhea on its own is not necessarily a major concern, if you notice that your dog is demonstrating other symptoms like vomiting or if your dog’s diarrhea does not pass, visit a veterinarian immediately.  In extreme cases, your vet may recommend animal prescription drugs to treat the diarrhea or the diarrhea may actually be a symptom of a more serious illness.

October 15, 2010

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Filed under: hip dysplasia — Dr. Amber Reed @ 2:59 pm

Regardless of age, size, or breed dogs are susceptible to a joint condition known as hip dysplasia.  While hip dysplasia is more common in certain breeds, almost any mammal including humans, cats, and dogs can suffer from hip dysplasia.  Nevertheless, pet owners with large breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards should be especially concerned with hip dysplasia as the disease tends to affect these larger breeds the most.

Hip dysplasia results from abnormal structure of the hip joint that causes the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that support the hip to degrade.  After time, the leg bone and hip bone become separated leading to a range of symptoms, most notably osteoarthritis.  Puppies as young as 5 months old may experience symptoms associated with hip dysplasia in the most severe cases, while most cases of hip dysplasia tend to present in the middle to later years of your dog’s life.

The most prevalent symptom of the condition is pain in the hip joint.  Hip dysplasia progresses to the point where even normal day-to-day activities become nearly impossible and left untreated hip dysplasia will rob a dog of his ability to walk.  Other common symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

  • Altered gait while walking or running
  • Lethargy
  • Inability or difficulty climbing
  • Limping
  • Severe joint pain

For the most part, hip dysplasia in dogs must be treated surgically.  While there are some non-surgical treatments that focus on alleviating pain, all dogs suffering from hip dysplasia will likely require surgery at some point in order to maintain normal activities.  There are several surgical procedures indicated to treat hip dysplasia depending on the age of the dog and the severity of the condition.  Still, as a dog owner, there are things you can do to prevent or put off surgery.  Most importantly, you need to help your dog maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and keep warm.

October 14, 2010

Keeping your Dog Healthy and Fit

Filed under: Dog health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 2:40 pm

how to keep your dog healthyThere is little doubt that people in today’s society spend a good portion of their time thinking about how to stay fit.  We think about what and when we eat and we try to develop an exercise plan that fits our busy schedules.  Unfortunately, too few dog owners consider their dog’s fitness needs and as a result health and weight problems in dogs are on the rise.  While you may believe that your dog can manage his own fitness, this is simply not true.  However, with the help of their caretakers, dogs can be very fit and lead a long and happy life.

canine vitamins Before starting any new exercise plan with your dog, speak to your veterinarian first.  Depending on the age, weight, and general health of your dog, your veterinarian will probably suggest different types of exercise.  Indeed, even different breeds require different kinds of exercise and you also want to ensure that your dog’s heart and joints are healthy enough for exercise.  But beyond exercise, diet is also an important aspect of your dog’s fitness.  Many commercially available dog foods do not necessarily offer the nutrition we expect.  As such, it is important as a dog owner to carefully review and understand food labels and to provide your dog with a balanced diet that is rich in protein and low in fillers and fat.

Of course, when it comes to exercise, there are many easy options available for dog owners.  Walking is the easiest and most common form of dog exercise that is also a great benefit to owners.  Start with short walks and gradually build to longer walks if your dog is not familiar with the extra exercise.  Many dogs also love swimming which is one of the healthiest forms of exercise.  Swimming is low impact so even dogs with joint problems can do it.  In addition, swimming provides a full body workout to stretch muscles and work the heart.  However you decide to exercise your dog, be sure to stay within his limits and speak to your veterinarian if you are concerned about his ability to partake in new exercise.

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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.