November 25, 2010

Feline Asthma

Filed under: Asthma — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:27 pm

feline cough Asthma in cats is an increasingly common condition that currently affects about 1% of cats around the world.  Feline asthma is a chronic allergic respiratory disease that has no cure.  Marked by breathing problems such as wheezing, coughing, and labored breathing, feline asthma can actually be fatal when cats suffer from severe broncho-constriction.  Furthermore, as we are being exposed to more and more industrial chemicals, some researchers believe the incidence of feline asthma is actually on the rise.

Cat owners need to be wary of their cat’s breathing problems.  Labored breathing may be a symptom of other respiratory illnesses, but whether your cat is suffering from asthma or a different respiratory condition is of little consequence.  Clearly, respiration is a very important part of your cat’s health and any problems in this system should be addressed immediately.  Also, keep in mind that cat coughing sounds much the same as when your cat passes a hairball.  So, if you notice coughing for a prolonged period you should visit your veterinarian.

Your vet will first try to rule out other respiratory diseases or causes of infection.  During the diagnostic process, your veterinarian will likely take blood tests and a chest x-ray.  Respiratory distress can be caused by a wide range of factors including heartworm, lungworm, and heart disease.  Once your vet has ruled out these conditions and diagnosed asthma, you can begin to develop a treatment plan.

Feline asthma is incurable but there are a number of useful treatments to ameliorate the symptoms.  Typically, your cat will require asthma treatment for the course of her life.  Feline asthma is most commonly treated with bronchodilators, glucocorticosteroids, or both.  In mild asthma cases, bronchodilators are effective but as the symptoms progress, as they almost always do, your veterinarian will likely begin treatment with steroids.  Moreover, treatment options for feline asthma have improved over the years and it is possible to use inhaling devices as well as oral and injected medications to treat feline asthma.

November 13, 2010

Feeding Kittens

Filed under: Kitten Care — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:01 pm

So you’ve just brought home a new kitten and you want to do everything you can to make sure it grows into a happy healthy cat.  Obviously, nutrition is one of the most important factors for determining your kitten’s future health and as such cat owners should learn how to properly feed their kittens.  From mother’s milk to solid foods, this guide will give you information about the basic requirements of kitten nutrition.

During the first 2 or 3 months of your kitten’s life, she should have access to mother’s milk.  Indeed, in her first 10 weeks, your kitten will grow considerably.  Kittens at birth weigh less than 5 ounces and will gain an ounce of weight every day and within a few weeks will weigh at least a couple pounds.  Throughout this period of rapid growth, the mother’s milk provides complete nutrition in addition to antibodies that help kittens fight disease.

At around the 3 week mark, you can start introducing solid foods to your kitten’s diet.  Still, at this point the mother’s milk will be the main source of food but you can offer solids as well.  Canned foods are the best to introduce first as they are soft and palatable for kittens who have no teeth and fragile stomachs.  Gradually over the next several weeks you can introduce more solids as your kitten weans off its mother’s milk.

Finally, once your kitten is fully weaned off its mother’s milk you need to create a balanced diet for your kitten.  Your kitten’s new diet should be rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins; it is recommended that you purchase cat food specifically designed for kittens.  Also, be wary of inexpensive cat foods that are packed with fillers but may not offer the nutrition your kitten needs.  A balanced kitten diet includes:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Thiamine
  • Zinc

Throughout the first several weeks of your kitten’s life you have an important responsibility to provide your kitten with adequate nutrition.  With a complete and balanced diet, your kitten will be an active, healthy cat.

November 11, 2010

Lymphoma in Dogs

Filed under: Cancer — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:05 pm

canine cancer Lymphoma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that is found in many mammals, including dogs.  In most cases, canine lymphoma is usually diagnosed in middle-aged dogs, but the disease can afflict any age dog.  Unfortunately, the survival rates for lymphoma in dogs are very low but research in recent years has yielded a number of treatments that significantly extend the life of a dog with lymphoma.

While lymphoma is one of the most common forms of cancers to affect dogs, its causes are unknown so it is a very difficult condition to prevent.  Environmental factors including herbicides and pesticides, exposure to magnetic fields, and even diet have all be related to the development of lymphoma in dogs.  Lymphoma tends to affect the lymph nodes and some internal organs such as the liver and spleen and left untreated the life span of a dog with lymphoma is usually less than 2 months.

There are 4 types of canine lymphoma.

1.       Multicentric lymphoma

This type of lymphoma focuses primarily on the lymph nodes and lymphatic organs and can be recognized through the formation of enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, groin, and under your dog’s front legs.

2.       Alimentary lymphoma

Generally affecting the digestive tract, this form of canine lymphoma is one of the most difficult to diagnose.  Symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea may not appear until the late stages of the disease.

3.       Mediastinal lymphoma

This lymphoma mostly affects the chest and thymus gland leading to symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fatigue, and lethargy.  Mediastinal canine lymphoma is rare.

4.       Cutaneous lymphoma

Finally, this form of lymphoma attacks the skin and lymph nodes causing raised lumps and lesions on the skin.

All forms of canine lymphoma are associated with similar symptoms including fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, hair loss, frequent urination, and the formation of lumps particularly in the neck.  If you suspect your dog is suffering from canine lymphoma, visit your vet immediately.  Chemotherapy is the preferred treatment method for canine lymphoma although new treatments including the use of stem cells and new drug combinations are being developed.

November 10, 2010

Winter Care for Dogs

Filed under: Winter Pet Care — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:12 pm

As the winter approaches, the temperature drops and we experience the nastiest weather Mother Nature has to offer.  Even breeds of dogs that come from wintry climates can struggle to adjust to the cooler temperatures, the snow and ice, and the shorter days.  As such, the winter season brings with it the necessity to provide your dog with extra care, beyond a simple shelter.

Outside dogs are obviously not going to be immune to the weather changes.  Especially for older dogs, the colder temperatures can be very difficult to bear.  Medical conditions like arthritis are usually worse during the winter and dogs will need access to warmth, shelter, food, and water.  Still, whenever the temperatures drop below freezing, you should bring your dogs inside.  Even dogs that spend the vast majority of their time in the outdoors will need to be kept warm or they may develop hypothermia and could possibly die.

During winter, you can use a heated water bowl to prevent water from freezing.  In addition, if you plan to leave your dog outdoors, you need to increase your dog’s food rations.  When cold, dogs and humans alike burn more energy and as a result we need more calories.  Most importantly, shelter is crucial.  Whether they are looking for somewhere to escape the wind, snow, or rain, outdoor dogs will benefit from a well-insulated shelter where they can stay warm and dry.  These shelters should also have some kind of insulated flooring so your dog is not sitting or sleeping on the cold ground.

You may also consider dressing your dog for the weather.  Dog coats can provide added warmth and can be purchased in a wide range of sizes.  Also, keep your dog’s paws clean.  During the winter, we often salt our driveways and walkways to prevent the formation of ice; but this salt can dry and crack your dogs paws and as such can be very painful.  At the end of the day though, you have one very important responsibility.  Keep your dog warm.

November 9, 2010

Top Reasons to Adopt an Older Cat

Filed under: adopting — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:08 pm

Perhaps your family has decided to add another pet to the mix and you’ve decided to head down to the local animal shelter and pick up a new young and healthy kitten.  While young families love to have a baby cat in the house, many animal lovers choose an adult cat instead.  More importantly, when it comes to finding suitable homes for adult cats, the need is much greater.  So if you’re planning on bringing a new cat into the family, here are the top reasons to adopt an older cat rather than a kitten.

1.       Older cats are developed socially and physically which usually means you get a much better idea of their temperament and personality.  A kitten may become aggressive or antisocial, but you’ll be able to get a good sense of an older cat’s behavior.

2.       Adult cats are less likely to chew and scratch your furniture.  Kittens teeth and often chew for comfort but they are also keenly attached to evolved behaviors.  Cats evolved to scratch to maintain their nails and you’ll have to teach your kittens an appropriate replacement for this behavior.

3.       Adult cats are self-sufficient.  They clean themselves, toilet themselves, and generally groom themselves with ease.  Kittens who do not have the benefit of an adult cat to teach them grooming techniques, can often be a bit messy.  As the kitten owner, it will be your responsibility to groom her.

4.       Adult cats make better companions for children.  Kittens can be rambunctious and even a little aggressive and they often bite or scratch children, even in defense sometimes.  However, adult cats are usually more familiar with children and better equipped to deal with them.

5.       Adult cats need a home.  Indeed, this may be an adult cat’s last chance for adoption before being euthanized.  Adult cats still have a lot of love to give and can make great pets if you give them a chance!

November 8, 2010

Choosing a Pet Pharmacy

Filed under: Pet Pharmacy — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:02 pm

As the cost of pet medication continues to rise, many pet owners have begun looking for cheaper alternatives to provide their beloved pets with the care they need.  Recently, finding a good pet pharmacy has required expanding your searches to online resources.  Of course, your main concern is finding a pet pharmacy with cheap pet medications, but there are some other factors to consider if you really want to maintain the health of your pets.

1.       Are there licensed pharmacists on staff at the online pet pharmacy?

Many online pet pharmacies save money but cutting corners and the reality is that a large number of these pharmacies are actually third-party distributors.  A pet pharmacy without licensed pharmacists is essentially turning a profit by selling products they have purchased from another store.  Unfortunately, any online pet pharmacy that does not staff a legitimate pharmacist will not be able to answer your questions and they will not carry a full line of pet medication.

2.       Do they require prescription information?

As all kinds of online pharmacies have become more popular, it is difficult to find a reputable online pet pharmacy.  Indeed, one of the qualities that separate the best from the rest is whether they require a prescription from a veterinarian.  Cheap pet drugs are certainly available at licensed online pet pharmacies; fraudulent pharmacies will likely not require a prescription.  Moreover, a good online pet pharmacy will try to make the transaction easier for consumers by taking the time to contact your veterinarian directly.

3.       Consider the shipping costs.

Every online pet pharmacy is different, but many less trustworthy sources for cheap pet medications will entice customers with very low prices and then ding them with unreasonable shipping costs at checkout.  Unfortunately, pet drugs can sometimes be difficult to ship and you may find high shipping costs.  The point here is to compare the shipping costs across online pet pharmacies so you can ensure you are getting the best price on your dog meds or cat medication.

November 5, 2010

Protecting your Pets from Birds of Prey

Filed under: Protecting Pets from Predators — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:56 pm

protect your petAs determined by their nature, many birds of prey like owls and hawks hunt small animals and while we’d be happier if they could tell the difference between a pet and wild prey, they cannot.  Consequently, pet owners are often fearful of birds of prey as they have been known to attack small dogs, puppies, cats and kittens, rabbits, or other defenseless birds like ducks or chickens.  Clearly small pets are going to be at the biggest risk, but all pet owners should be vigilant about the risks posed by birds of prey.

First, it’s important to understand that birds of prey do not hunt for sport.  If they are going after your pet, it is because they are hungry or because they are protecting their territory.  Among the most common pet attackers are Great Horned owls, Northern goshawks, and Red-tailed hawks; yet any owl, hawk, or falcon will attack a pet if they feel hungry or endangered enough.

There are many things a pet owner can do to protect their pets from birds of prey.  Obviously, if you have these birds living near your home you should never leave your pets unsupervised.  Hungry birds of prey are less likely to attack when there are larger animals nearby, namely you, the owner.  When pets are left unsupervised, they should have a covered cage for protection.  Pets should also have outdoor cover like a sheltered run.  If this isn’t possible, leash your pets near natural cover like a tree or shrubs so they are not visible from the air.

Also, if you must leave your pet outdoors, make sure he has a companion.  Birds of prey are less likely to attack if they fear the other animals will defend or steal their prey.  And finally, never feed your pet outdoors.  When pets are eating, their defenses are down and they will likely not notice an impending bird attack.

November 4, 2010

Cat Obesity

Filed under: Obesity in Cats — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:42 pm

cat obesityJust as with humans, obesity in cats can pose serious pet health risks.  Unfortunately, over the past several decades we have witnessed a steep increase in the number of obese cats, and as the problem becomes more common, pet owners need to be concerned about diabetes, hepatic lipidosis, arthritis, and a whole host of related illnesses.  Indeed, today there are more obese and overweight cats in North America than cats of normal weight and veterinarians frequently warn cat owners about the risks of excess weight for cats.

Without harping on the possible outcomes for an obese cat, let’s just jump right to what we can do for our cats.  If you have an overweight or obese cat, you need to help her get her weight under control.  Obviously, the best way to oversee a cat losing weight is through diet and exercise, just as a human would do.  However, you also need to be careful to implement changes slowly as sudden changes in diet and exercise may also have adverse effects on your cat.  Nevertheless, the problem always comes down to burning more calories than are consumed, whether you are a cat, dog, human, or basically any other kind of animal.

canine cancerThe main cause of feline obesity is certainly overeating.  Nowadays, many cat owners leave a dish of food out for the cat at all times.  While many cats will effectively regulate their eating habits, many will not and obesity occurs.  Instead, you should feed your cat two to four small portions of food daily to control their caloric intake.  In addition, cats cannot process carbohydrates as humans do because they are carnivores.  As such, you should try to find a cat food that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein as this is much more similar to their natural diet.

Finally, exercise is also important for your obese cat.  Cats are usually very good at keeping themselves active but for sedentary cats consider investing in some interactive play toys.  Spend time playing with your cat to increase their exercise levels but also to improve bonding.  And remember, getting your obese cat’s weight under control will require time and patience so don’t give up!

November 3, 2010

Homeopathic Healthcare for Dogs

Filed under: Homeopathy — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:23 pm

Probably spurred by the increasing popularity of natural remedies for human illness, homeopathic healthcare for dogs is a growing field.  Using herbal or other homeopathic remedies provide pet owners with a natural alternative to medical care.  Most importantly, the increasing research into homeopathic dog healthcare has yielded some interesting results and has ultimately given dogs and dog owners a greater range of treatment options for common canine ailments.

First, we can start by discussing homeopathy itself.  Essentially, homeopathy is an alternative treatment method that is based on creating or restoring a balance in the body through natural products and processes.  Plant, animal, and mineral sources are important in the field of homeopathy which has been a leading treatment alternative for several hundred years.

While homeopathy may not focus explicitly on relieving the symptoms of a particular canine illness, these natural treatment methods aim to improve overall health and immune functioning so your dog is more capable of fighting the ailment himself.  Indeed, homeopathic treatments are very similar to vaccinations in the sense that by exposing your dog to small doses of natural substances that cause the symptoms he is experiencing, your dog eventually builds the defenses to fight these illnesses naturally.

Another benefit of homeopathic treatment is that it is cost saving.  Veterinary visits can be very expensive, especially if your dog is suffering some kind of chronic illness.  Alternatively, homeopathic dog healthcare gives dog owners another, more affordable option.  While homeopathic care may not always be indicated for every canine ailment, there are a number of efficacious uses of homeopathic and herbal remedies.  For example, sea mussels provide nutritional support for cartilage production and have been found to help dog’s ease the pain associated with arthritis.  Red clover and dandelion root help your dog to detoxify thereby reducing the effects of skin or food allergies.  Even psychological symptoms like anxiety can be relieved naturally with valerian, passion flower, and skullcap.

Clearly, the field of dog homeopathy has a lot of room to grow but there is already some exciting evidence that natural treatments can relieve the symptoms associated with a wide range of canine illnesses.

November 2, 2010

When Suffering From Diarrhea Cats May Need Veterinary Care

Filed under: cat diarrhea — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:23 pm

As a pet owner, you are probably already aware that diarrhea is a relatively common symptom for cats.  In most cases, when they are suffering from diarrhea cats just need a bit of time to adjust and the diarrhea cures itself.  Dietary changes or mild intestinal irritation are among the main causes for diarrhea in cats, but when they have diarrhea cats could also be very sick and you may need to visit your veterinarian.   Indeed, diarrhea in cats can also be caused by parasites, bacteria, or even a more serious disease like cancer, pancreatitis, or liver disease.

Determining the severity of your cat’s diarrhea can be tricky.  While you are no doubt serious about pet healthcare, you do not want to run to the veterinarian every time you cat shows the slightest indication of illness.  You can help your cat avoid diarrhea by maintaining a consistent diet.  You should never abruptly change your cat’s diet and most experts recommend that you choose one brand of food and stick with it.  However, if you have found a better pet food or you need to change your cat’s diet for any reason, you should make the changes gradually.  Initially, you can mix the old food and new food, adding a little more of the new food every day until the change is complete.

Still, as mentioned, there may be more serious causes of cat diarrhea.  If there are parasitic or bacterial infections, your veterinarian will likely recommend some pet medication, cat antibiotics, or other course of treatment aimed at killing the parasites or bacteria.  When they are suffering from diarrhea cats need plenty of fluid so they stay hydrated.  Kittens with diarrhea should visit the veterinarian immediately.  However, adult cats should be taken to the veterinarian only if they have had diarrhea for a prolonged period or if you notice other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, or changes in appetite.

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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.