The fall colors are at there peak today and most of us are looking forward to the Halloween festivities this weekend, but our pets can truly be “spooked” by all of the noises and costumes. We hope you have a wonderful time this weekend, but remember Halloween is a holiday with many potential dangers for our dogs and cats.
First let’s consider the ghost and goblin visits on Halloween eve. The excitement of the day may be too much for even the best-behaved dog. Constant visitors to the door as well as the spooky sights and sounds may cause some pets to become fearful. Costumes on people can be scary to pets. Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective or be fearful of people in costumes, even if they normally are very social with that person. Your pet could run away and become injured in a variety of ways. Consider allowing your dog or cat to spend the evening in his own special place inside with special treats, safe and secure from the goblins. Even if you have a fenced yard, Halloween is definitely not a good night for your dog to be outside without supervision and restraint. If you can’t keep your cat indoors, considering a boarding facility or your family veterinarian. Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he does not bite any of the neighborhood ghosts.
Judging by the pet pictures we get this time of year, many of our clients enjoy dressing their four-legged friends up for the holiday. Dressing up is fun for everyone, but may not be very fun for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, there are some things to keep in mind. Your pet must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes. Your pet’s costume should be inedible. If your pet appears uncomfortable in any way, allow him to dress up in his “birthday suit”.
The two biggest concerns for pets during the holiday are injuries and poisonings. Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling a string can be tempting to cats, leading to a foreign body obstruction. Candles inside of pumpkins are easily knocked over, burning your pet or even starting a fire. Although the threat is probably minimal, many people are concerned about black cats during this time of year. It might be wise to keep all cats indoors during this holiday.
Keep your pet away from the Halloween candy. Chocolate can be toxic to pets and even small amounts can cause heart problems and vomiting. Lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract, causing painful obstructions. Low carbohydrate, sugar free, diabetic-friendly candy or gum that is sweetened with Xylitol can cause low blood sugar in dogs and has been implicated in liver failure as well. More
Experts believe that cats and humans have interacted with each other for more than 10,000 years. From their humble beginnings chasing rodents away from our food, cats have vaulted into our homes and hearts as North America’s favorite pet. Unfortunately, despite their popularity, cats aren’t treated to the same veterinary care that we provide our canine friends.
There are more than 80 million cats in US households and, after reviewing veterinary medical records, experts have concluded that our felines are actually 30% less likely to visit a veterinarian than dogs. What could possibly cause this difference?
Many people believe that a cat’s independent nature and their self-sufficiency mean that they are pretty low maintenance. After all, owners don’t need to walk their cats in a heavy rain or freezing blizzard. So, if cats are so good at taking care of themselves, they must not need a doctor, right?
Additionally, more than 50% of cat owners report that they have a difficult time transporting their pets or that the last trip to the veterinarian was too stressful for the kitty. Still other owners express concerns about adverse vaccine reactions or costs of treatments and preventive care.
Not only that, but as small to medium sized predators, cats instinctually hide their illnesses to avoid become dinner for a bigger predator. Owners can often miss the subtle signs that their kitty isn’t feeling well.
The unfortunate result out of all of this is that when we do see cats, they are often faced with advanced problems that are more costly and difficult to treat. Extensive kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes and even widespread parasites top the list of feline issues. One study published showed that flea infestations in cats have increased by 12% in the last five years and ear infections are up more than 34%!
Thankfully, organizations like the CATalyst Council and the American Association of Feline Practitioners are stepping up to help educate owners about their feline friends’ medical needs. By stressing the importance and value of preventive medicine, these groups are working hard to insure that cats aren’t forgotten when it comes to veterinary care.
Our goal is to help owners understand that a visit to Deerfield is more than just a couple of vaccinations for their cats. A full physical examination done annually by our veterinarian is the first and probably most important thing a pet owner can do for their beloved feline. This exam can often spot early issues before they turn into big, expensive problems.
Additionally, cat owners are urged to have open communication with our veterinarians about which vaccines their pet actually needs and which ones can be avoided. We can review the cat’s risk factors and the overall prevalence of specific diseases in our area to make the best recommendation. Although adverse reactions are always a risk, this dialogue can help minimize any potential danger.
We have implemented recommendations from the CATalyst Council to make our practice more “feline-friendly”. Changes to scheduling, a separate entrance to the hospital, special waiting area and exam room for cats and their owners can help to encourage veterinary visits. After all, no cat wants to be seated next to a big, scary dog!!
Cats have been described as “aloof” or even “narcissistic”, but there really is a lot to admire about these wonderful animals. They are athletic, graceful and innately curious, qualities that we really seem to appreciate. The CATalyst Council is a great resource for finding out how you can insure your cat will live a long and healthy life. More
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. More
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”. More
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. More