All posts in Pet Safety Tips

Protecting Your Pet’s Vision – The Eye Specialists!

As part of your pet’s regular check up, we will spend time peering into the depths of the animal’s eyes.  In the majority of cases, we see eyes that are bright, clear and free of any sort of abnormality.

Occasionally though, pets are presented with injuries, scratches or irritation to their eyes or eyelids.  Some pets have inverted eyelids (entropion) or even extra eyelashes that grow on the inner surface of the eyelid (distichiasis).  Short faced dogs and cats often find themselves with scratched corneas from normal play and roughhousing with other pets.  Some pups will end up with a condition known as “cherry eye” where the gland of the third eyelid protrudes up and away from its normal position.

In many of these cases, we are able to flush the eyes, provide the right medications or  possibly even perform minor surgery to protect the pet’s vision.  But, if the issue is complex, not resolving or when serious eye problems, like glaucoma, cataracts or even retinal detachments occur, we may recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist for help.

These eye specialists undergo intensive training and testing in order to obtain certification from the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).  After completing veterinary school, candidates for certification often complete an internship before starting a rigorous residency.  All of this extra education must be completed before the doctor attempts to pass the “board exam”.  It is not unusual for a veterinarian to spend an additional 3-4 years in preparation for a testing process that spans four days and includes written, practical and surgical sections.  All told, there are less than 375 veterinary eye specialists in the United States.

These dedicated professionals often have the needed expertise and special equipment that your pet’s regular veterinarian does not have.  Delicate surgical instruments and unique diagnostic tools are just a few of the devices available to veterinary ophthalmologists.  Some of these eye doctors even have special mazes set up at their practice in order to more fully test your pet’s vision capabilities.

Beyond helping dogs and cats, it is not uncommon to see ophthalmologists working with horses, birds and even zoo animals, like sea lions or dolphins!

Each year, the ACVO and its members provide free eye examinations to the thousands of service animals helping disabled individuals around the country.  Partnering with veterinary companies, the ACVO has helped screen more than 6,000 animals for eye problems and donated more than $250,000 in free services to treat issues they have found.   Individuals with service animals are encouraged to visit www.acvoeyeexam.org to find locations and doctors for this annual event.

In addition to this great work, the ACVO has also established the Vision for Animals Foundation.  This not-for-profit organization supports research into many of our pet’s eye disease.  More than $150,000 has been granted to researchers who are focused on eliminating the most serious problems affecting the vision of our pets.

Pet owners can help us and the veterinary ophthalmologist by addressing any eye issue promptly.  It’s important to have the eyes examined if there is any irritation or injury and to avoid using over the counter or previously prescribed medications.  Some of these might contain steroids which will hinder the healing process.  Signs that your pet is uncomfortable include continual squinting, pawing at the eyes or even severe redness.  If you note any of these symptoms, or even your pet just doesn’t seem to see as well as he or she ages, a examination with your veterinarian is warranted.

We will work closely with the veterinary ophthalmologist in order to do what is best for your pet and to protect his or her vision.

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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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New Research Alters Debate on Heartworm Preventative Resistance

The latest study on heartworm preventative resistance spotlights the most important factors in preventing this condition in the Ozarks.  Clarke Atkins DVM, DVM, DACVIM, professor of veterinary medicine and cardiology at North Carolina State University just completed his study in the Mississippi River Delta.  This area is a hotbed for heartworm disease and has been the recent focus area for studies on the resistant MP3 heartworm.

His study suggests that dog owner’s failure to purchase and administer preventatives every 30 days plays a larger role in canine heartworm disease than resistance to heartworm preventatives.  He also adds that current research does not point to any particular product being more effective than another.

His study does not disprove the resistant MP3 strain, only that administering medications in a timely manner (every 30 days) is the most important factor in preventing this parasite in the dog.

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Do Generic Flea Products Meet Your Pet’s Needs?

For a long time, flea control consisted of harsh products that were related to nerve gases of World War I. Many of these carbamates and organophosphates worked well at killing fleas, but unfortunately, they weren’t very safe for pets and had the potential for severe toxicity. Then, about fifteen years ago, modern chemistry helped give us safer topical flea treatments. Because fleas, ticks and other parasites are medical problems that need educated medical recommendations, the companies producing the new products chose to sell these flea medications only through veterinarians.

Fast forward to present day and you can find many flea products both over the counter (OTC) and through veterinary or “ethical” channels. Annual sales of flea and tick medications exceed $1 billion and there are many companies eager to get their share of the pie.

Recently, the compound, fipronil became available for generic use. The original patent holder, Merial, produces an excellent flea product (Frontline®) that was our main choice for many years. Now, no less than 15 “generic” fipronil flea products will be offered in the OTC markets.

What does this mean for you and your pets? Can you feel comfortable with generic flea medications?

First, let’s look at what a generic medication is. When a specific pharmaceutical company develops and patents a new drug, they are allowed the exclusive rights to sell that drug for a period of time. When the patent expires, other companies can then market their own products that use that drug. Since the generic companies don’t have any research and development costs and very little advertising is needed, their costs are much lower and, therefore, their selling price is also lower.

Although generics utilize the same active ingredients as the original, they are not exactly the same product – and that is very important to know. Different inert ingredients that are generally recognized as safe may be included. In the case of flea medications, these inert ingredients are usually the carrier molecules, or what helps spread the medication across the pet’s body. The FDA requires that generic manufacturers prove their product exhibits bioequivalence to the original product.

In the case of topical parasiticides, many of these products are actually regulated by the EPA instead of the FDA. This means that a veterinarian’s prescription is not necessary to purchase the product, although, as mentioned above, most of the original pharmaceutical companies chose to sell their product “under veterinary supervision”. The generic manufacturers do not have that same belief and the new copycat flea products will be found on shelves of Wal-Mart, Target and other big box stores across the country.

So, if the product is essentially the same and at a lower cost, is it ok to buy these over the counter flea preventives?

Fleas, as well as other parasites, can cause a host of medical problems that go beyond simple itching. Serious diseases can worsen if the issues are not handled properly. In a general merchandise store, you will not find anyone with the expertise or training you’ll find at our hospital. Not to mention someone to call should your pet have an adverse reaction to any topical treatment.

Believe it or not, it might be more economical and more convenient to purchase the preventives through us at our hospital. Not only can you get all the products (flea preventive, heartworm preventive, etc) at one location, some of the ethical products sold can actually help with other parasite diseases.  So, a single product could be the answer for your pet instead of several that end up costing more.

We will also provide a single dose of the flea product instead of the six pack you find at the store. It’s another way we can help you save money!

It’s also important to note that the federal government has actually ordered multiple manufacturers of these generic flea products to remove some products from store shelves.

We understand that your pet is unique and may not tolerate certain products as well as others. We hope our medical advice has real value…especially since the wrong product used improperly actually have the potential to be fatal! We understand if there are other possible interactions between flea preventives and other medications your pet is taking.

Finally, our healthcare team  can not only show you how to properly use the products in question, but they will keep a complete record of what you have used in the past, taking the guesswork out and possible preventing future complications. And you already know we will keep track of your pet’s overall health and find medical problems early while they are still inexpensive to treat. We strive to be part of your pet’s health care team.

All of this valued information is not something you will get from a cashier at the grocery store or a display unit in a big box retailer.

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