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Get Ready for Spring with a New Weight Loss Program for Pets

we all have some weight to shed, even our petsWe’ve written on numerous occasions about America’s pet obesity epidemic and have provided tips on how to slim and trim your pet. We’re honored to welcome Rainier Fuclan as a guest blogger with a new canine or feline weight loss plan to help our pets lose weight safely.  Rainier Fuclan is a marketing strategist, freelance writer and pet lover! When he’s not busy working you can find him at home playing with his dog Peanut and cat Anya.

Anya

Rainier’s cat Anya, perfectly slim and trim.

Spring is almost upon us, and with the warmer weather comes the realization that some of us will need to take off a few pounds we’ve gained over the winter months. While you’re taking a critical eye to your waistline, now might be a good time to see whether your four-legged friends could afford to shed a few pounds as well. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50 percent of cats and dogs are currently overweight, and one-third of those pets are considered obese, or weighing more than 30 percent over what is considered a healthy weight for them.

Having an overweight or obese pet can be more problematic than just having a few extra pounds of pet to love. Pet owners spend millions of dollars annually to treat obesity-related conditions, and aside from the financial strain on a pet owner’s pocketbook, the pets themselves can suffer from conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, and cancer. Read More »

Walking the Dog – How Exercising with Your Pets Can Motivate You to Stay Fit

Ready for a WalkI’m not what you would consider an athletic person. For years I struggled with laziness and weight gain and not even my own deteriorating reflection looking back at me couldn’t get me up and moving to do anything about it. But about a year ago, spurred by an office “biggest loser” competition and the possibility of a substantial cash prize, I finally made the leap and started a walking regime, and walking the dog was the natural way to get going. But you know, it wasn’t long til the money didn’t matter…I started feeling great, eating right, and best of all, I came to realize that daily walks were as rewarding and beneficial for my dog’s physical and emotional well-being as my own. Daily walks and explorations became a necessity, a welcome obligation, and my dogs have become two of my biggest motivators to get moving and get fit.

Now don’t get me wrong, my dogs are active and get plenty of exercise, but that’s all thanks to having access to a fenced back yard, a lovely local dog park, and family lands where they are free to roam, play and run as much as their hearts desire. It’s always been easy just to open the door or take a short drive to let them run, while I enjoyed a maple-shaded park bench or a nap in the grass. Involving my pets in my newly adapted physical regime has become not only one of the most motivating aspects, but also priceless bonding time and a unique chance to really see my four-legged friends in the elements they love. I don’t think I could imagine two better walking partners to keep me on the path to success. Let me tell you why… Read More »

Dealing with Hot Spots – Pet Health

Has your pet ever experienced hot spots? Hot spots, otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis (AMD), are red, oozing lesions that may form on your pet’s skin…they’re kind of wet and scabby. The patches of irritation may start out as an unnoticeable bite, sting, pustule or other minor skin problem, but your dog’s natural instinct to lick, chew and scratch the area leads to a larger, more visible patch which progresses from a minor bump to hair loss, staining, flaking and possibly infection or permanent scars.  Hot spots can can be a problem any time of year, and for any dog, and if you’ve ever had a pet develop hot spots you can guess from seeing them how aggrivating and painful they must be to experience. Let’s discuss hot spots and how you can prevent, heal and otherwise deal with AMD.

What Causes Hot Spots?

Hot Spot FoamHot Spots have lots of causes, and they rear their ugly heads quickly, and sometimes without any warning. Some of the most common causes are flea or insect bites. Allergens or other irritants that come in contact with your pet’s skin are also a common cause. Small scratches or wounds can also begin an outbreak, particularly as your dog instinctively licks the area. Dogs that experience stress, anxiety or boredom can also scratch or chew, simply to occupy their minds. But the underlying blame falls on bacteria that infest these minor skin breaks, further inflaming an already irritated area. Any dog can develop a hot spot, but dogs who are not washed and brushed regularly, those with sensitive skin, and those with thick, long fur can be more prone to developing hot spots. Read More »

Getting Personal with Your Pet’s Vital Signs

Matias' Eye ExamIt’s a good practice to get in the habit of performing monthly quick checkups on your pets in the comfort of your own home. You never know when a lump or other malady might show itself. Getting a “baseline reading” of your pet’s body will help you to detect early on when they might be having issues and let you know when it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. This article focuses on determining your pet’s baseline vital signs so that you can determine when something is amiss.

Temperature: Body temperature is measured rectally in pets (yikes). I keep a spare digital thermometer for my dogs and use a healthy coat of Vaseline if I need to take their temperature. It can come in handy when you are trying to diagnose your sick pet. A dog’s temperature is usually between 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any pet with a temperature under 99 or over 104 should see a vet immediately.

Heart Rate: It is best to get a good reading on heart rate when your pet is calm and relaxed, perhaps after a massage or good belly rub. Find the heartbeat on the left hand side of the ribcage, near where the elbow fits into the chest. Count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds then multiply this number by 4. This is your pet’s resting heart rate. Dog’s heartbeats will accelerate and decelerate with each breath. This is normal! Your pet’s normal heart rate will depend upon the size of your animal. Larger dogs have slower heart rates than lap dogs.

B0030P0006Respiratory Rate: While your pet is relaxed and calm, maybe even sleeping, it is a good time to determine your pet’s respiratory rate and normal breathing pattern. Avoid measuring this when your dog is panting.  Count the number of times your pet inhales for 1 minute. This is the respiratory rate. Also note if it requires your pet any extra effort to inhale or exhale. This function should be smooth and effortless. If your pet is having difficulties, contact a vet immediately.

Lil' GumsMucous membranes: Your pet’s mucous membranes (read: gums and eyelids) are important in diagnosing problems with oxygenation and blood flow. Normal gum color is pink, but some dogs have pigmented gums (Barret’s are black), and this makes determining if the color is normal difficult. You can  open the eye and gently lift the eyelid to get a good look at the coloring. Any membrane that is pale, white, blue or yellow should be investigated by a veterinarian. While you’re examining the mucous membranes, do a quick test for capillary refill time. This is also a good diagnostic tool to determine if blood and oxygen are flowing normally. Briefly apply pressure to the gums and release. The area should turn pale (where you applied pressure) but will rapidly return to the normal color. This refill time should be no longer than 3 seconds but should also not take less than 1 second.

Hydration: A properly hydrated pet should pass the ‘scruff test’ with flying colors. Gently grab your dog’s scruff (the loose skin on the back of the neck). Release it. The skin should immediately spring back into normal position. If there is a delay, your pet may be dehydrated.

Get into the habit of performing these tests on your pet every few months to keep tabs on their vital signs. I almost forgot the most important part: write down the results and keep them somewhere safe, where you will have access to them in an emergency situation. I use the Pet First Aid app to keep track of my pet’s information (I reviewed this app last year).

A Lump in the Night – Should You See the Vet?

Bear has a bum paw

The bandaged foot, kept clean and dry.

Barret had spent the evening on my lap, as usual, but I noticed after a bit that he was chewing on one of his paws. I got up to examine it and was shocked to find a red, raw, inflamed toe. Just one toe, and it had to be twice the size of the rest of his toes. It looked painful!

I examined his paw for the source of the discomfort, a cut or scratch, maybe a burr or stone, even a bug bite, but could not find anything. He didn’t seem like he was in pain and was perfectly content to lick on his Lickety Stick while I soaked his foot in warm soapy water and bandaged it up. In every other way he seemed completely normal. I made the decision to keep an eye on it and treat it at home.

ouchie!

Bear’s offending paw. Looks painful!

The next night, he was relaxing on his back while I gave a well-deserved belly rub when I noticed a large lump had formed in his armpit (on the same leg as the swollen toe). Why is it that we find these things after regular vet hours? I hopped on the internet and did some searching. There wasn’t much to go on but I had myself convinced it was a lymph node swollen because of the infection in his toe. The next morning I made an appointment with my regular vet and was fully convinced that I’d leave with a course of antibiotics and instructions to keep the toe clean.

I’m very glad I consulted with my vet, because on further examination my assumption was wrong. The toe was infected, though it was a more severe infection that I had originally thought. It required 2 full courses of antibiotics before it cleared up. The lump on his armpit is another matter entirely. The doc’s conclusion was that it is a cyst with a clearly defined blood supply, but should cause him no problems and doesn’t need to be removed unless it starts to get in his way. Phew!

The moral of the story is that you should always consult your veterinarian rather than making guesses at home. Your kids’ health is at stake! If I hadn’t sought care for Barret’s foot, the infection could have spread and required IV antibiotics or more drastic measures.

Glad to be back from the vet

Back from the vet with a clean bill of health

Dogs often have lumps and growths all over their bodies and as pet parent’s it is our duty to examine and find these anomalies early, before they get out of hand.  Many lumps and bumps, like Bear’s cyst, are benign and nothing to worry about, but a similar lump might actually be cancerous and require treatment. The earlier you find and treat a problem, the easier it is to manage.

Watch for a future article where I’ll go over a step by step home physical so that we can track the changes in our pets bodies and know when to schedule an appointment with the vet. In the meantime, please share your stories of lumps or bumps that turned out to be nothing or turned out to be problematic. We can learn from each other’s experiences.

-Heather

Porcupine Problems – How to Handle a Pet that has been Quilled

PorcupineDogs love to run, play and explore. Their rambunctious ramblings and curiousity may well be some of your favorite attributes about your pet. Personally, I love to watch my dogs off-leash in the countryside where they can run free, roll around and really live life to it’s fullest, even if it’s only for a few hours each week. While we love to let them roam and investigate new places and things, there is always the possibilty that they may run into something unfamiliar or even dangerous in the wild frontier.  A single encounter with today’s creature of topic can result in a face full of painful pricks. not to mention anguish (yours and your dogs) and the potential for a hefty vet bill.  Let’s talk a little about the prickly porcupine. Read More »

Canine Influenza: What You Need to Know

YorkieHave you heard of Canine Influenza? Like the flu that can cause us misery any time of year, this virus is a highly contagious, airborne illness that can affect the respiratory system of your dog if he is exposed.  Recently, a number of cases have been reported and confirmed in Lancaster County, triggering the temporary closure of several local kennels and boarding facilities.  This virus is easily spread with a cough or a sneeze from an affected pet, and it can be transferred or contaminate any surface, potentially infecting any other dog that walks through the area. While the virus can make your pet quite ill, the bright side is that it is rarely fatal. Here are some other quick facts about Canine Influenza you should know. Read More »

Rabbit Health: How a Misaligned Jaw Almost Killed my Pet Rabbit

Despite being partially blind, Matthew the rabbit is easily one of the liveliest pets in my house. His outgoing personality, penchant for mischief, and insistent foot stomps for attention are both endearing and frustrating. So, when boisterous Matthew huddled in the back of his cage one night and refused to eat or play, we knew something was wrong. When his head suddenly listed to one side and his muscles tensed minutes later, we were terrified that we were losing our little mischief-maker.

Fortunately, Matthew survived. Quick online research confirmed what we already thought; Matthew had suffered a stroke, though minor enough that he regained most of his muscle control. We scheduled a veterinarian appointment and monitored him carefully in the meantime. While he could nibble some of his pellets and try to chew with his right, the left side of his face seemed locked and stiff, and he could not move his lips enough to grasp hay or fully close his right eye.

We figured this was a result of the stroke only, but our veterinarian found a root cause that surprised us. After determining that Matthew’s lips still had circulation and feeling, he used a scope to view Matthew’s back teeth, which are tightly positioned back by the cheeks and almost impossible to examine otherwise.  After this check, our vet informed us that Matthew’s jaw was slightly misaligned, causing one of his back left teeth to wear improperly. This created a sharp, uncomfortable point that discouraged him from using that side correctly for a while. The area underneath this tooth became infected, and the infection’s swelling had likely triggered the stroke. While the movement of his left facial muscles would slowly return, the pain from the tooth and infection was discouraging him from using them. Matthew required a few weeks of antibiotics to overcome the infection, along with some rabbit-safe painkiller and anti-inflammatory to encourage proper use of the pointed tooth.

While the vet explained that sedating Matthew and physically filing the back tooth was an option, he did not recommend this after such a high health risk as a stroke. He explained that the location and of the tooth and current discomfort made filing without anesthesia impossible, and our safest bet for Matthew was to see if we could get him to use that side again himself. He also recommended purchasing rabbit-safe cardboard tubes to chew. Unlike normal wooden chews, these would be softer and help prevent making the sensitive area sore. If Matthew still could not wear his tooth enough to be comfortable, sedation and filing was still an option, but it would indicate that he would likely need it every couple of months. Placing a sensitive animal such as a rabbit under anesthesia so frequently is in itself risky, and he suggested we wait on that option unless it seemed necessary.

We left the vet’s office both fearful and optimistic, armed with information, medicine, and a powdered probiotic food to maintain Matthew’s digestive system after his time spent with inadequate eating. As his poor muscle control made using a water bottle difficult, we also boosted his fluid intake with feeding syringes. Providing dishes of water was a poor idea for Matthew; with his poor vision and compromised health, he merely kept his distance from the unfamiliar shape.

After a few days, slow improvements began to show. Matthew’s energy was returning, and he no longer sulked in the back of his cage. He began eating his pellets more regularly and could use his water bottle again, and we stopped the supplemented feed soon after he began his first clumsy bites of hay. He could fully blink his left eye, and movement returned to the left side of his face.

As of today, Matthew seems to be recovered and shows no difficulty grasping, chewing, or biting. While there is no way to correct his conformation, the medications assisted him enough to begin wearing the tooth more properly. I’ve seen many different health conditions in rabbits, but I never expected such an unusual cause as a poor jaw alignment jaw to potentially cause something as serious as a stroke. The vet suggested keeping a close watch for any changes in behavior, as infections as he had can be difficult to truly eliminate in rabbits and might eventually reoccur. For now, Matthew is himself again: stomping for attention, digging at the floor, and watching the activity around him with an alert curiosity.

 

 

Pet Compatibility – Helping to Ensure Successful Cohabitation Between Pets and People

Boxer & CatBringing a new pet into the family or combining households each coming with their own pets can pose some interesting problems. It’s important to consider the logistics of forming relationships between pets and between people and pets before rushing them into a situation that may be strenuous for all involved. There are some easy ways to minimize or even eliminate problems during these transitions if you are willing to take take the steps necessary.

Adopting a New Friend

Whether you may be looking into adopting your first pet or bringing a new one into the family, it’s important to meet lots of candidates before deciding on the one who will fit best in your family. While you may be attracted to a specific breed or look, it is ultimately a pet’s personality that will make integration a success.

Doggie kissIf you already have a dog or cat or have previous experience in living with one (or more), you probably already have an idea what you’re looking for in your next companion. You probably already know what works for you as far as pet behavior and personality and what animals may be the best fit for your situation. First time pet people may have more difficulty in making the right choice and getting past the first impression they may have from a photo or first glance. Pet seekers may think that they know what they want, but may fail to understand the tendancies and potential issues that may come along with specific types of pets, and it may be hard to muster patience and understanding to get through if you’re a first-timer. As a result return rates to shelters can be as high as 20 percent, failed connections and sad endings that may have been avoided with a little more time or planning.

The ASPCA has developed a simple and effective method for helping those ready for their next friend to find a good fit. Their Meet Your Match program begins with a personality assessment of each pet they bring in to determine each individual’s dominant traits and characteristics including friendliness, playfulness, energy level, ect. The animals are then categorized into one of nine color-coded personality types including laid-back “Couch Potatoes,” or “Go-Getter” types.  The personalities are not assigned on preconceived breed notions, but on the individual.  These classifications help you as a potential adopter, to meet cats or dogs with personalities who might suit you best. While you are not restricted to choose pets in your category, representatives encourage you to meet and interact with these pets first in hopes of creating a forever situation.

Be sure to consider how any current pets may feel or adapt to a new pet in the house as well.

Pulling Pets Together

Cats GroomingPerhaps you are adopting a second pet or maybe you’ve reached a point in your life where you will be combining households, whether through a new marriage, relationship or some other situation. Now both sides have to consider how your pet(s) will adjust to new surroundings or new entities that haven’t been in a shared space before. Some pets venture through these transitions with ease, while others can become stressed or exhibit undesireable “acting-out” behaviors you may not expect or appreciate. Take steps to ensure a smooth move and adjustment, but stay prepared for issues that may arise that could require extra attention, patience, time from the humans in the house.

One of the most important first steps is to let potential housemates meet and interact in a neutral location. This helps to seed relationships without as many complications with territoriality and/or possessiveness.  Dogs may be a little easier to socialize than other pets. Take the pups and the whole family to the dog park or a similar locale to meet and play, and do it several times so everybody gets to know each other. If you’re adopting, ask the shelter if you can bring your current pet(s) to meet the potential adoptee–many shelters will ask that you do othis anyway, and they often have dog runs or contained areas where the animals can interact before you bring the new pet home. Keep open communication about your pets, making sure (specifically with children) that you all know what pets like and don’t like. If your dog doesn’t like his ears touched, for example, be sure the new crew knows it to prevent any misunderstanding.

Once things seem kosher on neutral ground, give the new home a visit. It may help to remove familiar items like toys, bowls and treats from the area which may bring out some territoriality in established animals. Be watchful during these initial visits to deal with any problem behaviors. Dogs are pretty good at communicating and setting up a natural order.  After a few visits the pecking order should be established and the permanent move should be pretty smooth. Be consistant in training and attention to all pets involved so the natural order isn’t upset by jealousy or competition.

Cats and other pets may not be quite as easy. Try slow introductions and be sure to give them some space to avoid each other if they want to. Remember, even if you take all the precursory steps, matches aren’t always ensured and sometimes a relationsip may never form between pets (or pets and people for that matter). Just be prepared to accommodate if they choose not to like each other, possibly even dedicating seperate spaces where they can avoid each other.

 

Cats Grooming image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jessica Deily
Doggie Kiss image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mike Baird

Pedicures for Pups – The Importance of Paw Maintenance

Paw PartsLike the human foot, your dog’s paws are designed by nature to function to protect leg bones and joints from the impact of walking, running, and jumping.  The specialized calloused tissue of the pads form a protective barrier against hot and cold and help your dog to grip terrain as they explore. We’re fortunate to have a plethora of shoe styles to protect our feet, and the luxury of going for periodic foot pampering sessions and exams to ensure that our feet can do their job effectively. Did you know that there are lots of easy things you can do at home for your pet to keep his paws in prime condition too? Take a look below to learn some simple ways to keep your pet’s peds happy and healthy year round. Read More »

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