Category: Routine Health (page 2 of 4)

Adding a New Pet – 5 Things You Should Know

Adding a New Pet to the Home

Something funny happened last week. In talking with a client after finishing her pet’s exam, we got to talking about my family of pets…currently numbered at 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, and 1 rat. She asked if we were starting a farm and if we were planning on adding another pet to the house. I told her not now but boy was I wrong!  That night on my deck, I saw the domestic rabbit that had been loose in our yard or the neighbor’s for the past 2 weeks. We suspected this bunny had gotten loose or dumped and had been trying to catch it. Long story short, we caught this scared rabbit and took her (yes, we checked!) into our home for the night. We had checked with our neighbors and the Kingston Community Lost Pets forum but nobody has yet to claim her as their own. Even after the first hour of her being in my home, my wife was convinced that we should add her to our family.

adding a new petHenrietta is the third animal to join our family in 7 months after Sherman the rat and Rudy, our younger dog. Not surprisingly, adding all these pets wasn’t an easy transition for the people or the pets. There are pitfalls that can occur and other aspects that need to be considered when deciding to bring a new pet into the family.

How will the pets get along (if there are others)?

I think this is probably a larger issue for the already established residents in the home. They have a routine and a new pet might mess that up. Cats & dogs may become destructive eating furniture, soiling in the house, or act out of sorts (changes in appetite, less social behavior). When we adopted Rudy, we had some concerns over whether or not Rudy was going to eat our cat Louie. As he was a rescue dog, we didn’t know how he would be with cats and those kitties are fast!! So naturally, Rudy took chase. Fortunately, we did not experience any other issues. I suggest a slow introduction of the pets. New cats can be kept in the bathroom for a few days to allow scents to be traded but it’s also good to monitor for any signs of infectious disease. New dogs can be kept on leash and sit with you. It’s helpful to have one person per dog for introductions so that fights can be avoided. For dogs, consider meeting at a neutral site so that you can minimize territorial issues. It’s best to not leave pets alone with the new pet as you won’t be able to monitor or control any scuffles that take place.

adding a new pet

True meets Floyd

How will your new pet fit in to the routine?

Even if your pet is the first pet at home, there are some challenges that can be faced; maybe even more so if they are older or from a rescue situation. Younger pets may experience some separation anxiety when you leave home. Others will find their way into your bed instead of their own. Rescue pets may have some habits that you find endearing but others that are frustrating to home life. Crate training is highly recommended to give your new pet a safe place to stay when you’re not home and a place of their own. This ensures they have a space where they can have time away from the other pets. It’s important to spend time with a new pet in order to bond but it’s just as important to let them have some alone time to establish independence. This is key time to re-bond with your other pets so they do not feel forgotten. Feeding time can be another issue. Are your current pet(s) meal fed or free fed? Free feeding can not only lead to obesity but in an environment with multiple pets can lead to potential fights or food aggression if they feel resources are limited. For this reason (and many others), I always recommend meal feeding in separate locations.

Who is caring for the new pet?

cat litter memeIf you live on your own, this is a no-brainer. It’s when you have a family involved that things get more complicated. Are your kids begging for a pet? But are they truly old enough and are they going to be the ones responsible for walking or cleaning the litterbox? Setting guidelines before you add a new pet is important as no matter what happens, that animal is dependent on others for it’s care. Deciding on socialization or training classes is also important to help avoid unwanted behaviors. Back to the feeding point; let’s make sure that multiple people aren’t feeding pets and over doing it…your pets most likely won’t admit they’ve already had dinner!

Are costs being considered?

Admit it…aside from giving a cute animal a loving home, you want to spoil them. Aside from the typical care costs of food, collar, or litterbox, there are toys, beds, treats, etc. Another aspect when considering care is preparing for veterinary costs. For kittens & puppies, this can include their initial vaccine series and spaying/neutering. For senior pets, this might involve semi-annual exams, wellness blood tests, or special needs medications. It’s also important to prepare for emergencies. Animals eat strange things. Sometimes they fight with each other and sometimes injuries happen during playtime. Nobody wants accidents to happen but they do. I implore you, be ready to care for your pets and if this will be immensely difficult financially then consider waiting until the time is better.

What about non-traditional pets?

Guida, 24 years old and retired in Florida

Guida, 24 years old

For some people, cats and dogs just don’t do it. Many other types of animals have become pets over the years including snakes, various lizards, birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rats to name a few. All of these animals are quite different not just in appearance but also in terms of body systems and the care required to keep them healthy. Many of these exotic pets who present to the veterinary clinic have problems that can be avoided with proper husbandry or care. Too often, these pets are bought or adopted without proper research beforehand with regards to diet, housing, and environmental enrichment.

It’s a big commitment to expand your family. Take some time to prepare beforehand and it can make life that much better for everyone involved. Are you growing your pet family soon? Do you have anything to add from past experience? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.

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Scratching the Surface of Skin Disease

Scratching the Surface of Skin Disease

Previously, we discussed the top 5 visit reasons that pets get seen at their veterinarians.  Well, we didn’t talk about skin issues but a top 6 list doesn’t sound as cool and the integumentary system has so many facets, it deserves a post of it’s own.  When I was in Florida, I would call it a dermatologist’s dream job because of the number of skin problems.  So why are we veterinarians seeing your cat or dog for skin problems?

hair loss on the head

hair loss on the head

By far, allergies are the most common causes for skin issues in dogs & cats.  Allergy issues themselves are a humongous area of possibilities so we’ll summarize it here.  The three main causes of allergies are environmental, food, and fleas.  When it comes to the environment, it could be year round or seasonal.  The offending allergen could be as common as grass, weeds, house dust mites, or in one rare case I remember – human dander.  Yeah, this dog was allergic to his people!  Sometimes these can be managed by keeping pets away from the cause, through the use of antihistamines or other medications, or in some cases the use of hyposensitization injections.

chewing on the foot

chewing on the foot

The number one thing I hear when I bring up food allergies is always “but he/she has been eating the same food for years!”  Yes, that may be so but over time, your pet has become sensitized to something in the food that is making then scratch, lose hair, or develop skin sores.  Most often, it is the protein source – not grains – and the best way to establish this diagnosis is to do a hypoallergenic food trial.  Typically, the gold standard is going to be a veterinary prescribed diet that is hydrolyzed protein meaning it has been cut down molecularly so the body doesn’t recognize it.  The other option is a novel protein diet, meaning a protein the patient hasn’t eaten before and this could be a certain type of fish, venison, or even kangaroo meat.  The most important aspect is that your pet does not get ANYTHING else to eat for 8-12 weeks, including treats unless suggested by your veterinarian.colored flea

The evil flea…causes of so many problems.  They are the easiest thing to rule out in terms of skin problems and usually the least costly to fix.  During warmer months (though at any time of the year), you should keep your pets on a flea control medication from your veterinarian.  Trust me when I say over the counter meds don’t work and may cause more problems, as noted by a recent CBC Marketplace report.  Newer to Canada are chewable flea control products (NexGard & Bravecto) which can help pets who don’t tolerate or whose family doesn’t want to use topical spot-on products.

Severe skin changes from yeast infection

Severe skin changes from yeast infection

Aside from everything above, we can see superficial rashes or skin infections (pyoderma) which can be treated with medicated shampoos or in some cases oral antibiotics.  Sometimes when these infections are not treated promptly and the pet scratches too much at the area, it can develop into a hot spot – a large inflamed moist infected area which can be painful.  In younger pets, mange mites can be a common finding and can manifest as either scabs around the head (primarily scabies in cats) or small areas of hair loss in multiple places (typically demodex in dogs).  To clear up some confusion, ringworm is not actually a worm but a fungus that can cause crusty skin and hair loss and is also contagious to people.

Redness and crusting in a painful ear

Redness and crusting in a painful ear

Ear problems are often grouped in with skin problems.  Most ear problems can be traced to a mixed infection of yeast & bacteria but your veterinary team can do an ear swab to help decipher the cause.  Ear mites are also notorious especially in young animals and can be spread to all the pets in the house.  If too much head shaking goes on, then a swelling of the ear flap can occur – this is a hematoma and can be mildly uncomfortable.  Previously, surgery was always recommended to fix these after addressing the underlying problem but lately I’ve had good success with draining them.  When it comes to ears, only use a labeled pet ear cleaner and preferably one that also acts as a drying agent.  This means no mineral oil, no peroxide, no alcohol, no water….just an ear cleaner that is labeled for pets.

Tumor on the head

Tumor on the head

These are just the basics of many common skin problems that can be seen in pets; believe me, we could spend a few weeks talking about all of them.  There are also immune system conditions such as lupus and we can also see some specific breed related conditions.  Most skin problems will present with similar signs – itching, hair loss, body odor, and redness.  We haven’t mentioned skin lumps but my colleague Dr. Sue Ettinger has launched a campaign called “See Something, Do Something” and the basic premise is that if you see a lump present for longer than a month and it’s the size of a pea or larger, get it checked out.  As a last note, I want to add that you should never give any medications without first consulting your veterinarian.  Now what are you waiting for?  Go check out your pet’s coat & skin and maybe it’s time for that bath.

Disclaimer:  All blog posts are my own writing and or opinion and do not reflect those of my current or former employers.

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Five Common Reasons Pets Visit Veterinarians

Five Common Reasons Pets Visit Veterinarians

It’s the new year! 2015 has arrived and it’s time for New Year’s resolutions…not just for you but for your pets!  Thinkinghappy-new-year-cat about the most common reasons I see pets, it’s a good idea to share these points so that your pet can have a happy & healthy year.  There are some things you can do yourself to help your pet reach these goals.

Reason #1: Bad Breath/Teeth Issues

dog breathEveryone knows what doggy breath is…but what can you do about it?  I’m definitely an advocate for tooth brushing and you should start your pet when they are young to at least get them used to the idea and the feeling.  You’ll want to use an enzymatic pet toothpaste as human toothpastes can damage the enamel of your pets’ teeth.  You can find this at most pet stores but also your veterinarian where they often have a free sample to try the flavor and can show you some proper techniques or tips.  It’s also best to use a real child’s sizewebmd_photo_of_brushing_dogs_teeth2 soft bristled toothbrush.  When it comes to dental cleanings, yes it can be expensive because your pet needs an anesthetic.  It’s better to have a prophylactic cleaning done before the teeth get so bad that extractions are required.

Reason #2: Limping

Typically limited to dogs, this can also be a problem for cats.  Very commonly, the problem can be traced back to a sprain/strain and may recover with time.  As pets live longer, we are seeing more cases of limping dogarthritis which can be addressed from an early age by starting your pet on a glucosamine supplement.  Other medications, along with keeping them at a good body weight, can also help alleviate discomfort.  Under no circumstances should you give ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) as they can be fatal.  Another common cause of limping can be a torn ACL (cruciate) ligament in the knee.  If your pet starts to limping, you should certainly have them checked out if the signs last more than a day but until your appointment, be sure to keep them on a leash so they don’t over-do it and make things worse.  But be kind and if they are still limping after 24 hours or crying out, get them in to be seen as soon as possible because they are likely in pain.

Reason #3: Urinary Issues

So you’ve got an adult dog or cat who is past the housebreaking or litter training phase…and then they decide to startblocked_cat urinating on the laundry, the kitchen floor, or in the sink.  Or maybe it’s that you’ve been seeing blood in the urine with your dog or your cat is making frequent trips to the litterbox.  In almost every case, this is a sign of a problem and is going to mean a trip to your veterinarian.  For infections, females are predisposed and for bladder crystals or stones, issues are more problematic for males.  To try and help stave these things off, it helps to do a couple of things.  First off, it’s always a great idea to keep your pet at an ideal body weight as obesity has been shown to make these problems worse.  Secondly, with females, if they have an inverted vulva (again worsened by obesity), it can be beneficial to keep the skin folds clean using baby wipes or just a soft cloth and making sure the folds are dried out.  Third, particularly with male cats, I recommend feeding some canned food (in addition to dry) to help urine production and to also keep it more dilute so that they can do their best to prevent accumulation of crystals.

Reason #4: Gastro-intestinal Problems

upset stomach dogThis is a broad category I’ll touch on briefly that includes vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating.  I see many pets being rushed in if they miss one meal or have 1 episode of vomiting or diarrhea.  It’s good that you as an owner are concerned about your pets health.  What I don’t want to see is pets that have been waiting 4-5 days before being seen.  If you ever see blood in the stool or vomit, they should be seen right away.  If your pets doesn’t want to eat dinner one night, you could tempt them with a small amount of boiled chicken and rice or maybe a small amount of tuna for cats.  You can lower the risk of vomiting and diarrhea by sticking to a regular diet and avoiding table food.  Pepto Bismol should never be given to cats due to toxicity issues and it won’t solve every problem with your dog’s intestinal system.  Pancreatitis, parvovirus, and foreign bodies are both life threatening and delaying treatment can only make things worse for your pet.  Bottom line, if they still won’t eat, are lethargic, vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 24 hours, then it’s time for a check up.

Reason #5: Vaccines

Sometimes the only reason I see a pet are when they need “shots” which in some cases might only be every 3 years. feline physical exam That being said, we still do more examinations and vaccinations than anything else.  What I want to stress here is that vaccines are important but not the most important part of these visits.  The actual examination is the most critical part of the visit as it allows us to assess your pet’s total body health and possibly find problems before they become more serious.  It also gives us a chance to discuss the things you should be watching for especially as your pet gets older.  To understand more about the annual exam, visit my previous blog post about it here.

Summary

The one thing missing from this list is skin problems but given the number of facets to that area of the body, it will be addressed as a separate post at a later time.  So start the new year off right and do your part to keep your pet healthy.  Whether it’s brushing their teeth, stopping giving them table food, keeping them clean and at a healthy weight, or just getting a check up even if they aren’t due for a vaccination this year, these are all simple things you can do for them.  And though you think they might resent it, I’m sure they’ll be thankful for not getting sick and having to visit the veterinary clinic later.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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