All posts in Canine

Itchy Pets are Miserable Pets!

Seeing a beloved pet scratch often leads many owners think their pets have fleas.   When trips to the veterinarian and doses of flea products fail to resolve the itchiness, it is time to think about environmental allergies, or ATOPY.

Just like people, our pets can suffer from allergies and sensitivities to particles in the air.  Many times, pollen, certain grasses and trees or even dust mites can trigger this reaction in pets.

Unlike people though, our pets rarely sneeze and show signs similar to “hay fever”.  Instead, our pets are itchy and they will do anything to relieve that sensation.  Some pets scratch constantly, others lick and chew at certain spots, like their feet and still others might rub against carpets and furniture.  This behavior, and the consistent noises and thumps produced, is often too much for many pet owners.  Sadly, some pets are relinquished to shelters or rescues due to a condition that is actually manageable.

Whenever your pet is itchy, it is important to remember that external parasites or even food allergies can cause very similar symptoms.  Your veterinarian must help you distinguish between flea bite allergies, food allergies or atopy.

According to Dr. Kimberly Coyner, a board certified veterinary dermatologist with the Dermatology Clinic for Animals in Las Vegas, about 10% of dogs suffer from atopy and some cats can develop this condition as well.  Many pets will start showing signs as early as six months of age and most will occur before the animal is five years old.

Beyond the itchiness (known medically as pruritus), pets might also show recurrent skin and ear infections or seem to be obsessed with licking their paws.  These symptoms most commonly occur in warm weather for pets with pollen or dust allergies, but can also occur year round in some cases.

Diagnostic tests for atopy try to determine what allergens are causing your pet’s problems.  Blood tests are often convenient since they can be done by most veterinarians, but Dr. Coyner cautions that this method has drawbacks.  Skin testing (similar to scratch testing in people) is the gold standard for determining what is causing your pets allergies and is more accurate than blood tests.

While not simple, atopy can be managed with baths, medications, managing the environment and sometimes with immunotherapy.  You’ll need good communication with your veterinarian and maybe a veterinary dermatologist!

First, for pets that suffer seasonal allergies, being prepared ahead of time is key.  Some mildly suffering pets can benefit from daily cool water rinses and a fragrance free shampoo one to two times weekly.  Clipping longhaired pets decreases the allergen load and makes bathing easier.

Pollen counts in the home can be reduced by asking family and visitors to remove their shoes at the door.  Routine vacuuming of areas that the pets frequent and washing of pet bedding in mild, fragrance free detergents can also limit the allergen exposure inside.

Some pet owners opt for antihistamines to help provide relief, but experts caution that they are only effective in 30-40% of dogs.  Other owners insist that “steroid shots” or pills are the answer.  However steroids simply decrease the symptoms and do not solve the problem – and they are not without secondary side effects.

Ideally, all pets with atopy would undergo skin testing and then start an allergen specific immunotherapy, guided by a veterinary dermatologist.   By slowly exposing the pet to increasing quantities of the allergen, this immunotherapy can actually “desensitize” the pet and, over time, help reduce the severity of the symptoms.  Dr. Coyner says that 70-75% of allergic pets respond to this treatment and it takes several months to become effective, so it is not a certain cure or a “quick-fix”.

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Pet Dental Health

Dental care in pets is necessary to provide optimal health and quality of life. Poor dental hygiene leads to diseases of the oral cavity,  and if left untreated, are often painful and can contribute to other local or systemic diseases.

Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. Approximately 80% of all dogs and cats have periodontal disease by the time they are only two years old. Dental disease affects much more than fresh breath. It frequently leads to more serious health problems such as liver, kidney and heart disease. That’s why we’re  not just treating dental disease, but taking new steps to prevent it. A major step in this process is encouraging our owners to participate in their pet’s oral health at home.

Periodontal disease in pets is the same as it is in people. It’s a sneaky and insidious process that begins when bacteria in the mouth attach to the teeth and produce a film called “plaque”. When the bacteria die, they are calcified into “calculus” commonly known as tartar which makes a rough surface for even more bacteria to stick to. In the beginning, plaque is soft and can easily be removed by brushing or chewing on appropriate toys or treats. But if left to spread, plaque leads to gum inflammation (called “gingivitis”) and infection. Eventually, the infection spreads to the tooth root and even the jaw bone itself – causing pain and tooth loss.

Examining a dog or cat’s mouth can be compared to opening a Christmas present. Inspecting the outside of the box may give you a hunch about the contents, but until you completely unwrap it, you’ll never really know what’s inside.  In the same way peeling away the wrapping paper and packing material brings a present into the light of day, our new dental radiology equipment allows us the opportunity to look beyond the obvious and better examine teeth and their supporting structures below the gum line – exposing hidden, and often undiagnosed, problems.

The American Animal Hospital Association has devised guidelines for veterinarians in order to highlight the need for more professional oral hygiene care for pets. The organization stressed the necessity of going beyond the traditional “scraping the surface” of routine dental cleanings, known as “prophies”. We are encouraged to teach owners the importance of good oral hygiene when puppies and kittens are only a few months old in order to begin a lifetime of healthy benefits.

Research proves that unchecked dental disease can be the root of other problems.  In a 2009 study at Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine, researchers have discovered significant associations between the severity of periodontal disease and the risk of cardiovascular-related conditions, such as endocarditis and cardiomyopathy.

A recent roundtable discussion between veterinary dental experts shed even more light on the impact that good preventative dentistry plays in a pet’s life. They strongly recommend daily dental care for pets and twice yearly mouth exams beginning when puppies and kittens are two months old. And while that schedule may seem too complicated for some pet owners, dental specialists, veterinary supply companies have developed products that will help pet busy owners put some bite into home dental care for their pets.

A recent development that goes beyond good veterinary and at-home care, is the actual prevention of plaque using a barrier sealant gel. This is applied by the veterinarian and continued at home by the pet owner. Called OraVet®, this system is the first method used by veterinarians to create a physical barrier that reduces bacterial plaque adhesion above and under the gum lines. It is applied at home only once a week after the initial hospital application.

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Pet Disaster Preparedness

Recently, a client asked that I participate in a local disaster preparedness expo.  He explained that there was a tremendous amount of information regarding human survival and little if any information for the survival and well being of his beloved family pets.  After the tragedy and adversity that our neighbors in Joplin have recently endured, I agreed to participate.   I have relied upon personal experience and summarized some notable  information from both the ASPCA and FEMA.

Effectively preparing for a disaster requires anticipation and real attention to detail.  If there was one goal that I could accomplish, I would like you to start anticipating what you’re next disaster will be like for you, your family and your pets.  The more detailed your plan, the better prepared and the greater likelihood you will survive the challenge.

I am not a Disaster Preparedness Expert, just a veterinarian.  The closest thing to a natural disaster for my family was the ice storm in the winter of 2007.  Like most who live in Southwest Missouri, our family was without electricity for 6 days.  Many families endured weeks before power could be restored.  The real challenge of this disaster was just keeping warm, because everyone endured single digit temperatures in the days immediately following the storm.  Because our home depends upon a well for a source of water, no electricity means no water.  Fortunately our business never lost electricity, so we had another location with a supply of the essentials to keep us going.       Since then, I have always thought of “Filling the Bath Tub with Water” as an acronym for disaster preparedness because had I filled our bathtubs with water before we lost electricity, I would have spent more time on keeping my home warm, rather than hauling water from our veterinary hospital.  The key to preparing for life’s next “ice storms” means anticipating our needs and organizing our supplies and equipment – working out the details – before the disaster occurs.

Borrowing trouble comes more natural to some folks than others, so if you’re not good at that, I want you to start by thinking outside the box, because each type of disaster requires different measures to keep you and your family, and pet’s safe.  Will you be able to stay in your home or will you have to evacuate?  If you can stay, will you have electricity, running water or food?  What will the weather be like?  Hot, or cold. Will the roads be safe for travel?  Flooded or ice covered.

Because everyone in my extended family lost power and heat, and my house had the only functional wood burning stove, everyone stayed at our house.  This included all the beloved pets from a family that inspired me to become a veterinarian.  After several days of close living quarters, stoking the fire, and hauling water to flush 4 toilets, my best recollection was my nerves were worn pretty thin – like my father-in-law like to say, “company and fish start to stink after 3 days”.  That was the same day the wood stoves door was left open and the flu was still closed filling our house to the rafters with smoke.

Looking back, this was only a minor “hic-up” in a week of Man vs. Wild – Arctic Survival 101, but at the time it was pretty darn aggravating.  So what did I learn?  Things are going to happen in your survival situation that you just can’t plan for.  Plan to adapt.  You can’t change the tide, so be ready to “suck it up” and roll with it.  Sometimes no amount of preparation will get you completely through the storm. Plato said it best in 400 BC “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”

Now for the details that could keep your pets out of hot water.  I believe this step can be applied to almost any situation.  Start your planning with some research, phone calls and record keeping.  Keep your research stored in a safe place and keep copies in an evacuation bag with your pet’s essential supplies.  For most of us, keeping an accurate record of our house pets is no challenge, but if you have a farm, having an accurate record of your livestock inventory will help you your neighbors track them in a disaster.  Record a list of ailments or medical conditions, medications and special foods will help you maintain the health of your animals.  Simply contact your veterinarian for a copy of your pet’s medical records.  Also collect Names, locations and phone numbers of your veterinarian, kennel and any other caregivers should be at your fingertips.  Your veterinarian can help you with a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.  Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster homes for pets and identify hotels or motels inside and outside your immediate area that accept pets.  Ask friends and relatives in and outside your area if they would be willing to take in your pet.  Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.  We recommend micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by scanner at most animal shelters.  My last homework assignment is for you to prepare a rescue sticker or sign that can be posted in windows in case you have to evacuate without your pets.  These help rescuers workers identify and locate all your pets after the disaster has occurred. If everyone evacuates, write “EVACUATED” across the posted sign, if time allows.

Remember, leaving your pets behind is absolutely the last option. If it’s not safe for you it’s probably not safe for your pets.  They may become trapped or escape to life-threatening hazards. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it’s important to have a predetermined shelter for your pets BEFORE the disaster strikes.  Our empty veterinary hospital’s kennel filled beyond its brim in the time span of 4 hours on Saturday morning while ice accumulated on trees and power lines.  Many of our clients who had not even lost power, were booking hotel rooms in Branson and further south in Arkansas to wait out the worsening weather condition.

The next step is to start carefully considering a designated care-giver before the disaster strikes. Your choice could change depending on your circumstance, so consider and speak with several.  Look for someone who is home, when you’re at work so they can watch your pet and even offer swapping shifts watching their pets.  Look for someone who lives close to you, a neighbor or family member. Sometimes a long drive in bad weather is not practical.  Especially with a pet who doesn’t like to travel in the car.  It might be someone you could trust with the keys your home, or someone who is willing to bring your pet into their home.  If you don’t ask, you won’t know and don’t just assume like most pet owners that, “everyone just loves my pet, after all, how couldn’t they?”  Some people have allergies to pets, and more will be less willing to take on a pet during a stressful situation.  Perhaps finding a neighbor or family members who already have pets is your best solution.  Last but not least, consider someone as a permanent caregiver in the event something should happen to you.

Now it’s time to gather your emergency supply inventory.  Let’s start with the essentials, food and water.  Plan for a minimum 7 day supply of both food and water.    The food should be rotated in accord with the manufacture expiration dates, but in general, don’t keep dry kibble longer that 2 months.  Plan on your pet eating 1 cup or can of food for every 20 lbs of ideal body weight.  A 60 pound dog will need 3 cups of dry kibble or 3 cans of dog food every 24 hours.  You average size cat will require ½ cup of dry kibble in a day.  Store 1 oz of water, for every pound of body weight, every 24 hours.  That same 60lb dog will require a half gallon of water in 1 day.  Another important item for you list is a pet first aid kit.  The ASPCA offers a complete kit $50, and offers a complete list of items at aspca.org.  You may want to review the list and add items as needed to your own first aid kit.  Depending on your pets pre-existing medical conditions, owner should have a 2 week supply of prescription medication like insulin, anticonvulsants and arthritic pain relievers.  These medications should be rotated like food to ensure their effectiveness.  Other emergency items should include;

  • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans) for cats.
  • Supply of litter or paper towels for cats and pocket pets.
  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant.
  • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up.
  • Pet feeding dishes.
  • Extra collar, harness and leashes.
  • Photocopies of medical records
  • Recent photos of your pets for identification or lost pet posters.
  • Travel bag or pet flight kennel ideally for each pet.
  • Head mounted flashlight
  • Blankets (pillow cases for cats or pocket pets)
  • Chew toys or rawhides
  • Evacuation pack for supplies

Some final considerations in the midst of the calamity that I should mention are that animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid.  Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis. Always bring pets indoors immediately at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. In addition, separate dogs and cats.  Even if you dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.  In the event you take your pets with you, have a plan to pack your vehicle with family members, pet crates and supplies.  And remember, if you think you may be gone for only a day; assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks.

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TOP PRODUCTS TO HELP PETS AND HELP PETS HAVE FUN!

The ever growing pet product market ranges from fashion to fun, exercise to IQ puzzles, gourmet pet foods and treats….and everything in between.
These products are available on-line pet specialty sites, at pet boutiques and superstores… even the neighborhood groomer is likely to have a pet product line tempting you.

In considering which new products to purchase, it’s important to evaluate what your pet will enjoy, if the product provides healthy fun activity and the value to your pocketbook.  Here’s a look at some innovative products by major categories.  And remember this is a very abbreviated list!

EXERCISE AND  PLAY  products are dually beneficial.  Look for pet-engaging toys with healthful options such as the following products:

1)    The Hydro Freeze® family of toys.  This toy product group provides hours of dog-chewing, fetching fun while simultaneously hydrating the dog.  The award winning HydroBone® is now being joined by their new HydroBall® and HydroSaucer®.

2)    If your pet needs more exercise than you have time, check out the DogTread® treadmill.  It provides great fitness at home, and there will be no more traipsing out in the rain, snow, or mud with Fido!

3)     Let your pet go wild with the Bubble Buddy®!  This bubble blower, specially designed for dogs, uses SCENTED bubbles…like chicken or bacon!  Just sit back…blow the bubbler…and let the dog exercise while chasing those tasty bubbles!

4)    For those tough pups, try Kong’s Wubba…specially designed for durability and keeping your pup entertained!

BOREDOM or BEHAVIOR ISSUES can be positively handled if you have the right product.

5)    The ThunderShirt® has a calming effect on the pet’s nervous system and has proven successful for that anxious canine, especially during summer storms.

6)    Felines are not forgotten either when it comes to good therapeutic products!  Cats that suffer from cabin fever, can safely enjoy the outdoors in their Kritter Kondo®.     This easy-to- set up enclosure gives the cat a fun way to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment.

7)    A great indoor cat product is the eco-friendly cathouse system®.  These cardboard kitty play houses are foldable, stackable and changeable and they provide hours of play fun for indoor cats.

NUTRITION AND FEEDING PRODUCTS. You can even find innovation on the pet food aisle!

8)    Award winning and very popular KONG®  continues  to introduce new toys for dogs and cats. Their new KONG Wobbler® dispenses food while providing entertainment too.  And now KONG® has come out with KONG Stuffin’®- a pepperoni-paste filler for the KONG toys!

9)    New pet food diets are released almost every week.  We strongly advise everyone to consult with your veterinarian to find the right food for your pet!

10)    Veterinarians know the importance of fresh water…so much so that a veterinarian invented the fresh-flowing Drinkwell Water Fountain® system for cats and dogs.

11)    And grooming has never been easier with products like FURminator®, the ultimate pet shedder too.

TRAVEL & SAFETY PRODUCTS. Today more folks are traveling with their pets, and there are many great travel and safety products available.  There’s everything from GPS collars for tracking that wayward pet to cute pet themed totes, safety belts, and of course—haute couture for the pet traveler. Fun travel products are sure to add charm to Fido’s adventures.

With so many new and great pet products in the marketplace, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  Key things to look for include: Award winning designations, American- made, Eco-friendly, and of course veterinarian endorsed products.  Other important factors to consider when selecting the right products are your pet’s age, agility, and interests.

With a little research on-line or through your veterinarian, you’re sure to become an educated pet product consumer…and a real hero to your pet too!

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Question and Answer on Generic Rimadyl

Our clients regularly ask us great questions regarding their pets.  This was question Dr. Denise answered via email in August of 2011 regarding the use of a generic carprofen (Rimadyl).

Dr. Denise,

Can you get me a prescription for the generic of Rimadyl? Spot currently takes Putney Carprofen Caplets, 75mg twice a day. Our current bottle has 180 caplets in it, non-chewable.

I can go on petmeds.com if you cannot order it but need the prescription from you, correct?

Thanks,

Jane

Hello Jane,

Yes we can certainly write you a prescription to order the Carprofen caplets.   My question is, are you using the caplets because they are less expensive or because Spot would not take the chewable Rimadyl tablets?

The reason I ask is that we competitively price our Rimadyl chewables in line with the generic carprofen tablets so that our clients have the ease of giving the chewable tablets rather than trying to hide the caplet in something every day.

If Spot would eat the chewable, you could use the Rimadyl 100 mg chewables and give 1 tablet in the morning and 1/2 tablet in the evening (which is equivalent to 75mg twice daily)  The Rimadyl chewable tablet is scored so it is easy to split.  The Rimadyl can be given only once a day (Rimadyl was tested with once daily dosing). However with a pet the age of Spot, I usually divide the dose up to get really good 24 hour coverage. If you went to the bigger size and gave 1 1/2 tablets total for the day rather than two of the 75 mg tablets a day you would end up saving money since you would be using less tablets each day. I’ve included cost comparisons below for you to look at – our hospital versus Pet Meds.

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  75mg  #180count  $178.44  ($1.00/tablet)    2 tablets a day = $2.00 a day  $60/month

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $215.19 Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $194.00

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  100mg  #180count $188.94   ($1.05/tablet)

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $236.19

Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $199.99 ($1.11/tablet)  1 1/2 tablets a day = $1.67 a day   $50.10/month

So you could go to the Rimadyl chewables, give 1 1/2 tablets a day and spend $10 less a month than the generics you are using twice daily. Now obviously if Spot won’t take the chewables then all bets are off and we will stick with the caplets. One last note, if we do go with the chewables be sure to keep them out of reach- some dogs have been known to “counter surf” to get to the bottle of chewables because they taste so good.  Unfortunately, that becomes a medical emergency.

Dr. Denise

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