Jan 05 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

What vaccinations are necessary for my pet?

Recommended vaccines for your pet vary according to the lifestyle and risk of exposure to certain diseases. For instance, it is recommended that a cat that lives outside receive vaccines for more diseases than a cat exclusively living inside the home. “Core vaccines” such as rabies, feline panleukopenia, feline rhinotracheitis, feline calicivivirus, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, and canine hepatitis are recommended for most pets. Additional “non-core vaccines” such as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, canine kennel cough, and other vaccines are administered according to the lifestyle and environment of the pet. When your pet comes to our office, we will likely ask questions about your pet’s environment and lifestyle to determine which vaccines are necessary. TOP

Why can’t I seem to control fleas on my pet or in my home?

Fleas are definitely a frustrating problem for pet owners. Common reasons for treatment failures include not treating all animals in the home every month with an effective flea control product. In addition, the environment should also be treated when a home has a flea infestation. There are four stages in the flea life cycle- the adult flea, egg, larva, and pupa. Many flea products are effective against the first three stages, but the pupa is essentially impossible to kill. These pupae can hatch out when the conditions (temperature and humidity) are right, often weeks to months later. This is why treating your pet one time with a flea preventive will not eliminate fleas. The product typically works, but it has to be reapplied monthly to eliminate newly hatched fleas in the environment. A flea infestation in a home may require three to six months of vigilant flea control to effectively eliminate fleas. Contact us if you need help with these annoying pests. We can make further suggestions as to which products are right for your pet. TOP

What is parvovirus and how can I prevent it in my puppy?

Canine parvovirus (CPV-2) is a highly contagious virus affecting the gastrointestinal tract of puppies and dogs. It is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact, contact with contaminated feces, environments, or people. The virus is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and it can survive in the environment for long periods of time. Young puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated are most at risk for contracting parvovirus. Symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and severe, often bloody diarrhea. Death can occur in as little as 48 to 72 hours after onset of symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no drug that can effectively kill parvovirus, so treatment consists of supportive care with intravenous fluids and drugs to control vomiting and secondary bacterial infection. Treatment for parvovirus is far more expensive than simply vaccinating your pet, and some pets die from parvo despite aggressive treatment.

To prevent parvovirus, puppies should be vaccinated with an effective vaccine starting at 6 weeks of age and again every 3 weeks until they reach the age of 16 weeks. It is very important to complete the puppyhood vaccine series. We see many puppies with parvo that only received one vaccine at 6 or 8 weeks of age. Until your puppy has completed its vaccine series, it is important to use caution when taking your pet to dog parks, grooming or boarding facilities, or puppy classes. Do not allow contact with known infected dogs or their premises.

In short, vaccinate for this deadly disease. We see far too many cases of this easily preventable disease. TOP

Is it really necessary to spay or neuter my pet?

Every year, millions of unwanted animals are euthanized in shelters across the country. Here in Marshall County, our animal shelter euthanized approximately 800 animals in 2009. By having your pet spayed or neutered, you will be doing your part to prevent the birth of unwanted pets. Many people think they want to allow their pets to have a litter, but most are not prepared for the amount of work and expense involved in raising a litter and trying to find good homes for them. Many of these puppies and kittens eventually end up in shelters.

During surgical sterilization, veterinarians remove the reproductive organs to prevent pregnancy and to eliminate many behavioral problems associated with mating. In females, this includes removing the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. In males, this includes removing the testicles.
Advantages of spaying a female include elimination of heat cycles, and, if performed at around six months of age, prevention of mammary cancer or uterine infection. Advantages of neutering a male animal include eliminating the breeding instinct and calming the animal so that is has less urge to roam in search of a mate. Neutering can also lessen the risk of prostate disease and testicular cancer.

We usually recommend spaying or neutering your pet around the age of six months. Contact us to determine when the best time to perform this surgery on your pet would be considering its age, sex, and physical condition.

Like any surgical procedure, sterilization involves some anesthetic and surgical risk, but the overall complication risk is quite low. To minimize these risks, we use gas anesthesia and monitor your pet while under anesthesia using monitoring equipment and veterinary technicians. We administer injections for pain immediately after your pet’s surgery which greatly improves their recovery process. After the procedure, owners are usually surprised how quickly their pets recover from surgery and return to their normal behavior.

Please call us if you have further questions about spaying or neutering your pet. We are happy to assist you in this important decision. TOP

What kind of special care does my senior pet require?

Thanks to advanced preventive medicine and advanced veterinary procedures, our pets are living longer than ever before. As a result, veterinarians see many disease processes unique to our older pets. Generally, pets are considered senior, or geriatric, at around seven years of age. However, this varies with breed and size of the pet. Larger breeds typically age faster than smaller breeds. Contrary to popular belief, pet do not simply age at a rate of 7 human years for each year in dog years. Visit the National Pet Wellness Month Web Site at www.npwm.com to determine the age of your pet in human years.

Common health conditions in older dogs include arthritis, cataracts, hearing loss, decreased eyesight or blindness, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or liver disease. Additionally, older dogs may suffer from cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to senility in humans.

Signs that your dog may have arthritis include a reluctance to jump or go up/down stairs, stiffness while getting up from rest, pain when touching areas which may be arthritic, general grouchiness. Arthritis can be managed and your pet’s quality of life may improve dramatically with a few simple changes such as orthopedic pet beds, ramps, medications and joint supplementation. There are even prescription foods containing joint supplementation to help your arthritic pet.

Cognitive dysfunction may be the culprit if you notice any of the following symptoms or behaviors in your dog – Disorientation, house soiling accidents, pacing or wandering around the house, repeating the same actions, unusual aggression, changing sleep patterns, and not responding as well to voice commands. Fortunately, this condition can be managed with medication.

Common health conditions in geriatric cats include hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes. These conditions often display weight loss as a primary symptom. Most of these diseases can be managed to improve your cat’s quality of life. Cats also commonly have arthritis in their older years just like dogs.

The best way to treat geriatric health conditions is to diagnose them early through wellness exams and periodic blood tests. Since pets age more quickly than humans, they may benefit from health examinations and blood work more frequently, usually once or twice yearly. Contact us and we can develop a senior health program specifically designed for your pet. TOP

How do I know it is time to euthanize my pet?

Humane euthanasia is never an easy decision to make, but it may be the kindest thing you can do for a sick, injured, or older pet. Sometimes it really helps to ask your veterinarian questions about this process so you can make an informed decision. Understanding your pet’s prognosis for quality of life is important in making this decision. Asking yourself if your pet has more bad days than good days may also assist you in making this choice. If it cannot enjoy life the way it once did, euthanasia may be an appropriate decision. If your lifestyle will not allow you to properly care for a pet with complex health needs, euthanasia may be the most humane option. The most important thing is not to feel guilty about bringing these concerns up with your veterinarian. We talk to people every day about this decision and sometimes people feel as if they are giving up on their pet if they consider euthanasia.

Euthanasia is usually accomplished by injection of a death-inducing drug. Usually, the pet is given a sedative or tranquilizer first to relax your pet. After the injection of the euthanasia drug, your pet will become irreversibly unconscious as the drug stops heart and brain function. Death is very rapid with euthanasia. Your pet may move slightly and take several deep breaths during this process, but these reflexes do not mean your pet is suffering or experiencing pain.

If your family is facing this decision, feel free to contact us with any concerns you may have. TOP

What common household chemicals or objects can be hazardous to my pet?

We commonly see pets that are sick due to ingestion or exposure to household chemicals, medications, or poisons. In our practice, the most common toxicities seem to be rodent poison ingestion, antifreeze ingestion, overdose of human or livestock drugs, food poisoning, and exposure to some over-the-counter flea medications.

It is important to limit your pet’s exposure to the garbage where rotting food may contain mold and bacteria that could result in food poisoning. Additionally, certain foods should never be voluntarily fed to pets such as onions, macadamia nuts, chocolate, tea or coffee, yeast dough, candy or gum containing Xylitol, fatty foods, grapes or raisins, and alcohol.

Cleaning products should always be stored in a secure cabinet out of reach of pets. Most cleaning supplies can safely be used around pets as long as they are used according to label directions and proper precautions are used.

Proper use of insecticides is also crucial. Always follow label directions for flea and tick products, and never apply a product labeled “for use on dogs only” to a cat or other species as serious health problems or death can occur.

When using rodenticides (rat poison), always place the poison out of reach of pets. We see many cases of rat poison ingestion where an owner thought they had the substance hidden or out of reach of pets. If you observe your pet or suspect they have ingested a rodenticide, call us immediately. Do not wait to see if your pet shows symptoms as treatment is much more successful if instituted early.

Medications, both human and animal, should be stored out of reach of pets. Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, or naproxen can be deadly to pets depending on amount ingested. Remember to store your pet’s medication out of reach as well since many veterinary drugs are formulated in a chewable form which is very palatable to most animals. Do not assume a human medication is suitable for your pet. Always call us before administering human medication to your pet.

Plants which may be hazardous include Lily of the Valley, Oleander, Azalea, yew, foxglove, rhododendron, and others. Other household hazards include potpourri products, mothballs, coins, alkaline batteries, electrical cords, paint thinners, mineral spirits, and other solvents.

If you suspect your pet has ingested or been exposed to a potentially dangerous substance, immediately call us or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435). Make sure to have the label of the substance available to assist in determining what treatment is recommended. TOP

What are heartworms and how can I prevent them in my pet?

Heartworm is a potentially deadly parasite that primarily infects dogs, cats, and ferrets. There have been documented cases of heartworms in people, but it is very rare and results in no signs of illness.

Heartworms are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, young heartworms called microfilariae enter into the mosquito. Microfilariae develop into infective larvae inside the mosquito. The infected mosquito may then bite another animal and transmit the disease to that animal. It takes around 6 months for infective larvae to mature into adult heartworms. These worms usually reside in the heart or blood vessels of the lungs. Female heartworms can be up to 14 inches long! These worms cause damage to the blood vessels and affect the heart’s ability to pump blood resulting in severe heart and lung disease which may result in death.

Early in the course of disease in dogs, your pet will likely show no symptoms, but as the disease progresses, you may notice exercise intolerance, lethargy, coughing, or difficult breathing. Signs of heartworm disease in cats include coughing, respiratory distress, and vomiting. In rare cases, cats may suddenly die from heartworms with no apparent symptoms.

Diagnosis of heartworm disease may be made by simple blood tests which detect the antigen of the female adult heartworm. After diagnosis with this test, further tests such as chest x-rays and a blood profile are usually performed to determine the severity of disease before deciding the best protocol for treatment. In cats, the diagnosis can be trickier and may require both an antigen and antibody test.

The best way to treat heartworms is to prevent them with FDA approved heartworm preventives. The preventives will not kill adult heartworms, but rather the microfilarial stage. Therefore, a heartworm test is recommended before placing your pet on a heartworm preventive medication. Heartworm testing should then be performed periodically, usually yearly, to make sure your pet has not contracted the disease. There have been cases of heartworm disease in animals on heartworm prevention, so it is very important to occasionally test your pet. Additionally, it is very important to follow label directions on heartworm preventive drugs. If your dog tests positive for heartworms, there is an FDA approved drug to treat heartworms. While your dog is treated, it will require complete rest as these adult heartworms are killed. There is currently no effective and safe treatment for heartworm disease in cats. If positive, cats may be treated with medications to reduce the inflammatory response associated with heartworm disease. Occasionally, surgery is performed to remove adult heartworms in severe cases. TOP

Why does my dog scoot its bottom on the carpet, ground, etc.?

While it seems to be commonly thought that dogs scoot on the ground because they have worms, it is much more likely that they could be suffering from distended anal sacs. These two small sacs are located under the skin around the anus. They normally secrete a thin yellow to brown foul smelling liquid. In some animals, the ducts that drain the sacs do not function well, and the anal sacs become distended and painful. If they are not emptied, the anal sacs can become infected (anal sacculitis) and may eventually abscess. This problem seems to be more prevalent in smaller breeds of dogs as well as dogs that are obese, but it can happen in any breed or size of pet. Cats can rarely have anal sac problems as well.

Food allergies, fleas, or other skin disease can also cause your pet to scoot. If your pet displays this unattractive habit, we can usually determine the cause with an examination. TOP

I am seeing small white worms around my pet’s anus or on his stool. What is this?

These unsightly parasites are tapeworms. They are usually up to about ¾ inch long and are white in color. However, when these worms die, they typically appear much smaller and are light brown in color. Tapeworms may be seen in dogs and cats. The most common tapeworm we see is caused by concurrent flea infestation as the flea is an intermediate host. Another source of tapeworms is the ingestion of rats, mice, or other rodents which serve as the intermediate host. Tapeworms typically do not cause severe disease and are easily treated with appropriate medication and flea control. TOP

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