Rabies – Controlling The Threat

Rabies. Almost everyone knows how scary this disease is- because it is fatal to both people and pets. Most people believe that rabies is well under control due to vaccinations and regulations. But what you may not know is that every spring and summer, we see an emergence of rabies. Worse yet exposure to rabies can happen in your own backyard.

The reason rabies continues to be of concern each year is because of a “spillover” of the rabies virus that lives in the wildlife population. Spring and summer are the seasons when most wildlife is very active and on the move, and there is an increased exposure of our pets to wildlife – even if you live in the city. While it is true that the majority of rabies cases occur in wildlife, most exposure to humans occurs when they are bitten by a domestic animal that has been exposed to rabies. That is why current rabies vaccinations are so important for our pets.

The primary wildlife reservoir hosts are bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and wild dogs. These are also the wildlife that our pets are most likely to encounter. Some people are under the assumption that their pet is not exposed to wild life, but I have had 3 cases in the last month where the dog or cat picked up a bat that had fallen into to backyard or had flown into the house through the chimney. The primary hosts vary in different parts of the country. Keeping both dogs and cats vaccinated, and limiting your direct contact to wildlife is the best way to protect you and your pets from rabies. Rabies vaccination regulations also vary from state to state and your veterinarian is your best resource for rabies information.

Still, with all of the knowledge and vaccination protocols available, each year, there are rabies incidents reported in people, so it is important to know what to do if you think you may have been exposed to rabies. The rabies virus is usually transmitted in the saliva through a bite. Everyone should consider ANY animal bite – whether from wildlife or pets – as an emergency and get prompt medical attention. Animal bites should also be reported to your local animal control so that proper quarantine measures can be taken if necessary.

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Any wildlife animal that bites a person or pet will be euthanized and tested for rabies immediately. But what if the bite is from a domestic animal? If a person or pet is bitten and the dog or cat is vaccinated and appears healthy at the time of the bite, the pet can be confined by its owner for ten days and observed. No anti-rabies shots would be required. Unvaccinated pets may be required to be euthanized and tested. If the owner is unwilling to do this, the pets must be quarantined for six months and vaccinated before release. If a vaccinated pet is bitten by a rabies suspect, the pet must be kept under observation for 45 days.

The reason for these time periods is due to the incubation time of the rabies virus in the host. Studies show that unless the virus is shed in the saliva, it is not transmitted. Only late in the disease when the virus has reached the brain and caused an encephalitis does the virus shed in the saliva and therefore able to be transmitted. Most of the signs are very obvious within three to five days of the quarantine and observation period.

Rabies vaccination for your pets – dogs and cats – is still the number one prevention you can take. Keep proper rabies and identification tags on your pets at all times. Always maintain control of your pets, and have them spayed or neutered to help reduce the number of stray animals in your community. Report any stray or wildlife animals to your local animal control. Do not try to capture an animal yourself. Consider any stray animal as a rabies risk.

Caring for Your Cat’s Teeth

We all know how important good dental hygiene is for our own health, but many cat owners are unaware that this is true for their pets too. Dental disease is one of the most common preventable illnesses in pets, affecting more than 75% of dogs and cats over three years of age. Infections of the teeth and gums can cause pain, loose teeth, and damage to internal organs like the kidneys and heart. All of this can be avoided by practicing proper dental care techniques.Caring for your Cat's Teeth

Dental Disease in Cats
The term dental disease includes a variety of ailments. The most common of these is periodontitis. Plaque, a soft mixture of bacteria, food, and saliva accumulates on your cats teeth, especially near the gums. The plaque hardens to become tartar. The plaque and tartar irritate the tissues around the tooth and its root. This starts out as gingivitis (reddened gums). Infections and abscesses develop around the tooth, resulting in bad breath, bleeding, pain, and tooth loss. Infected, bleeding gums allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body, damaging the kidneys and heart.

Another common condition in cats is Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs). This is a big word for kitty cavities that occur on the sides of the teeth, near the gum line. They cause the tooth to erode, exposing the pulp to infection or causing the tooth to break. They are also associated with severe inflammation of the gums. Unlike cavities in people, the cause of FORLs is not well understood. Fluoride may have a preventive benefit. If your cat develops a kitty cavity your veterinarian will advise you about the necessary treatment and care, which may include tooth restoration or extraction.

Dental Examinations
Each time your cat has a routine physical examination, your veterinarian will check his teeth and gums. He is looking for buildup of plaque or tartar, reddened gums (gingivitis), bleeding, broken teeth, and other problems. Your cat should receive a dental exam at least once or twice a year. If you notice problems like breath odor, drooling, or difficulty eating, he should be examined right away. The sooner that dental disease is identified and treated, the better the outcome.

Professional Care
Most cats require professional dental cleanings and periodontal care periodically. If your veterinarian detects signs of gingivitis or tartar accumulation during the exam, he will recommend a professional cleaning in order to halt the progress of periodontal disease.

Your cat will receive anesthesia for the dental cleaning. All surfaces of the tooth will be carefully cleaned, even below the gum line. The teeth will be polished to discourage deposition of new plaque. Fluoride or other preventive treatments may be applied. Because your cat is asleep, his mouth can be inspected carefully for signs of additional problems. The professional cleaning is the only way to stop the progress of periodontal disease once tartar has formed.

Treats, Chews, and Other Products
A variety of products are marketed to help keep your cats teeth clean at home. These include dental care diets, plaque reducing treats and toys, and solutions that are applied to your cats mouth. Check with your veterinarian before using these products, because some may be unsafe or may interfere with other treatments your cat is receiving. Also, remember that although these products may be of some benefit, there is no substitute for daily tooth brushing.

Debra Garrison, DVM

Elimination Behaviors in Cats

Elimination behaviors in catsThroughout their lives, many household cats will experience some problem with elimination behaviors. These behaviors may include urinating, defecating or scent marking outside of their litter box. Although the causes for these behaviors vary greatly, most stem from medical issues, litter and litter box aversions, or stress caused by changes to environmental factors. In order to diagnose and correct the behavior it is important to determine the underlying cause behind the new behavior.

There are many different medical conditions that may cause your pet to begin eliminating in unwanted areas. It is important for your veterinarian to perform a complete examination and, perhaps, other tests to determine if there is a medical condition that would precipitate the behavior. Some of the medical conditions that your veterinarian would look for are diseases of the urinary tract, liver, kidneys or endocrine system. Many of these diseases can cause pain when urinating or may cause increased fluid intake and excretion. Other diseases of the colon and digestive tract may also cause defecation problems. When examining your cat for medical causes, your veterinarian will also look for limitations in motor and mobility functions. If your pet is having difficulty with its senses, joints or other muscular issues it may not be able to access its current litter box as easily and, therefore, result in unwanted elimination behaviors.

At times, some cats may experience an aversion to their current litter or litter boxes. These aversions may be due to smell, size or the tactile sensation. If your pet has started to eliminate in unwanted areas, analyze where the behavior occurs, the type of substrate, the time of day, and the frequency with which the animal demonstrates the behavior. Your pet may demonstrate these behaviors if the litter box is located in an undesirable area. Area that are considered undesirable vary by pet, but are often high traffic areas, areas that are far away from all family members, such as basements, or areas that are inhabited by many pets. Determine the type of substrate your pet prefers to eliminate on, such as hard surfaces or on carpet. Some pet owners notice that their pets only practice the unwanted elimination behaviors at specific times of day, such as when the owners are preparing to leave or when a child returns home from school. Other animals may demonstrate these behaviors when their box is cleaned, due to an aversion to the scent of the cleaners used.

In order to minimize unwanted elimination behaviors it may be necessary to try many different combinations of location, litter and box, until your cat is satisfied with its new litter box. Begin by offering your pet two litter boxes. One box should remain in the current location and the other should present a new option of box, litter or location. Once your pet demonstrates a preference for a new choices, change the first box to that choice and keep offering new options with the second. This process will allow you to find the perfect match for your pet.

Some ideas for determining different animals preferences include: For a cat that location appears to be the problem, work to move the new box to a quite are of the home. If your pet prefers to eliminate on a specific type of substrate, mimic that feeling in the litter box. For example, for a cat that prefers to eliminate on tile, linoleum, or another hard surface, line the litter box with newspaper or a fine layer of litter over plastic; for a cat that prefers carpet, line the rim of the box with carpet and place a fluffy litter inside; and for a cat that prefers eliminating in plants, use a sand or very fine litter. For a cat that may be experiencing physical conditions such as muscle pains, experiment with low sided boxes or ramps. Some cats crave privacy and will only eliminate in boxes with hoods, while others feel that they may be ambushed and will not enter a box that is covered. The key to determining your cats preferences is to slowly and patiently analyze your pets behavior and choices. Continue to work with your cat and offer new choices, until you and your pet are satisfied with the perfect combination.

During the process of determining the best elimination scenario, it may be necessary to confine your pet when you are not able to be present and supervise its behaviors. If confinement is necessary, be sure to choose a secure location where the animal has not inappropriately eliminated in the past and provide comfortable bedding, food, water and a litter pan with the preferred substrate. As you find the right combination of elements and your pet begins to eliminate appropriately, the confinement periods should be able to be eliminated.

When analyzing the cause of your pets behavior, be sure to look for factors that may cause stress elimination. Cats are very sensitive to changes in their territory and may stress easily. Strong stress factors such as new pets, a new baby or the loss of a family member may trigger unwanted elimination episodes. Other factors such as new furniture, changes in routine or moving may also cause issues. Finding the perfect combination for your pet, may take time and patience, but your beloved pet will soon be demonstrating model behavior.

Debra Garrison, DVM

Allergies in Cats

Allergies are a major cause of skin disease, discomfort and distress in cats. Pruritis, or intense itching, is the most characteristic sign of allergies. This itching is caused by the release of histamines from mast cells located throughout the body. Hair loss, redness and skin infections may result secondary to the allergy. Over time, the hair coat may become stained from excessive licking and the skin may become dark and thickened. Ear infections may also result from allergic conditions. The two most common types of allergic conditions exhibited by cats are those of inhalant allergies and food allergies.

Allergies in Cats

The treatment of allergies can be achieved by using three methods; removal of the allergen source, suppression of the itch with antihistamines, or corticosteroid administration and gradual desensitization of the immune system to the specific allergens affecting the pet. The removal of the offending substance is appropriate if the allergen source is a food item, flea saliva or something that is easy to remove from the environment. Elimination of certain diets and food trials are often implemented if food allergies are suspected. If flea bites are the problem, it will be necessary to eliminate fleas on the cat. Your veterinarian will suggest the appropriate flea treatment for your cat. Many allergens, however, are difficult or impossible to remove, such as pollen in the air or dust in the home.

The use of antihistamines or corticosteroids is the second method. Antihistamines act by reducing the release of histamine by the mast cells and are often very effective in controlling allergy symptoms. Corticosteroids act in many ways to suppress the allergic reaction before and after the allergy develops. Steroids are very effective, but must be used with caution. If used excessively, adverse effects can be seen. Because of the often-extensive self-trauma associated with allergic conditions, antibiotics are often administered to control the secondary infections that are frequently present.

The final treatment option is the process of desensitizing the patient over time. This densensitization process begins by identifying the allergens that the cat is sensitive to through specialized intra-dermal tests or blood evaluation. Once the allergens are identified, specialized mixtures of these substances are combined into an injectable form that is given at regular intervals. With time, the cats immune system response to these allergens diminishes and many cat owners note measurable improvement in their pets.

When ingestion or food allergies are suspected, a food trial lasting 6-12 weeks may be done. This involves changing the diet in an effort to eliminate possible allergens that may be present in the current diet. Complete compliance to the trial diet is needed for the trial to be of any value. Your veterinarian will likely be assessing your cats allergy symptoms and will form a therapeutic plan that suits your cats needs. A combination of the different therapies discussed is often needed. The management of highly allergic pets can be a very challenging undertaking, but the results obtained dramatically improve the quality of life for both you and your cat.

Eosinophlic Granuloma Complex in Cats

catEosinophilic Granuloma Complex (EGC) comprises three related conditions that affect cats, causing ulcers or swellings of the skin and mouth. Although their cause is not completely understood, the conditions are mediated by the cats own immune system.

The cause of Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex is unknown and can affect cats of any age, breed, or sex. Most commonly the first appearance of the disease will occur while the cat is still young or middle-aged. The lesions produced by EGC contain large numbers of active eosinophils, a type of immune cell normally associated with allergies and parasitic infections. Many cats with EGC have underlying allergies that may contribute to the development of EGC. Some researchers suspect that EGC is an autoimmune disease and may have a genetic origin. It is also possible that the cause of each of the three types of lesions seen with EGC may be different.

Types of Lesions
Three different kinds of lesions can be caused by Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex. It is possible for a cat to have more than one type of lesion.

An indolent ulcer (rodent ulcer) is a moist, reddish-brown ulcer that usually occurs on the upper lip. They can be found less commonly on other parts of the lip or inside the mouth. The indolent ulcer is painless and does not itch. Indolent ulcers are most common in middle-aged cats.

Eosinophilic plaques are moist, reddish, thickened, round or oval skin lesions usually found on the abdomen or inner thighs. They are intensely itchy.

Eosinophilic granulomas (linear granulomas) have different appearances depending on location. When found on the surface of the skin, they appear as line-shaped, hairless wounds or ulcers. Linear granulomas are most commonly found on the backs of the thighs of young cats, but can also occur on the face or the feet. They are painless and do not itch. Granulomas of the chin or lip do not always ulcerate but may simply appear as a swollen area with no other symptoms. Granulomas that occur inside the mouth appear as white spots or swellings. The presence of numerous granulomas in the mouth can cause difficulty eating.

Diagnosis of EGC is achieved by biopsy of the lesion or lesions. Microscopic examination of the tissue will reveal the presence of eosinophils and other characteristic changes associated with EGC.

The first step in treatment is to identify and control any possible underlying diseases that may be contributing to the problem, such as allergies or parasites. Remission of EGC lesions is often possible using treatment with drugs that suppress or modulate the immune system, such as corticosteroids. Prognosis is good, however, lesions may recur.

Disaster Preparedness For Pets

Taking your animals with you in an evacuation requires some forethought and planning. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Each year we see disasters in various forms all across the country. Tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes, blizzards and more can disrupt our lives and our families. In many families, that includes our animals.

When you consider gas leaks or toxic spills and acts of terrorism you realize anyone can be affected by a disaster. You could be told to leave your home for a short time, only to find the situation keeps you away from your home for weeks. If you do not take your animals with you, an evacuation of your family could mean another disaster back at home with your pets.

Because events occur quickly and decisions are made fast, you need to have a plan for yourself and your animals in case of a disaster.

First, acquaint yourself with the types of disasters that can affect your area. Then develop an evacuation plan for your animals. For pets this may mean putting the small animals in a carrier and into the car for immediate evacuation. For farm animals, you would need to have an appropriate trailer handy and know where you can take each animal to be away from the danger and where they can receive proper care. This takes some thought and planning.

In case you are not at home at the time of a disaster, place stickers on the front and back of your home or barn to notify neighbors or emergency personnel that animals are on your property and where they can find your evacuation supplies. Include a list of the number, type and location of all your animals. Have leashes, carriers and halters near by and easy to find.

If you have a friend or neighbor that you trust and is willing to help, let them know where they can find a key to your property and pre-arrange with them to take care of your animals in case you cannot get back home for some time. This is another reason to have supplies ready and easy to find.

Be sure all your animals have proper identification. Rabies and ID tags are the best form for small animals. Microchipping is becoming a popular form of animal identification. An ID tag on a halter works well for large animals.

An animal carrier and an evacuation kit are the two most important things to have ready in advance. Have your evacuation kit near the carrier or cage and keep the items in it fresh. This allows for fast action. For an evacuation all you would need to do is put your pets in the carrier and grab the kit. An old overnight bag or back pack works well.

Some of the items to keep in your animal’s evacuation bag:

Bottle of water
Gloves and muzzles
Paper towels
First aid kit
Veterinary records
List of contact phone numbers including your cell and prearranged evacuation spot, your veterinarian, local humane society, and friends
Towels for clean up or bedding
Trash bags
A letter signed by you giving others the authority to treat your pets in your absence.

When an evacuation order is issued, what are the steps you should take?

Bring all pets inside
Make sure they all have ID tags on
Get all pets into their carriers
Grab your evacuation kits
Get everyone into the car
Leave as soon as possible with your pets in the car
Along the way, call your pre-arranged evacuation site.
Let friends know where you are going

When you return, what should you do?

Look around both inside and out for dangerous objects, animals, or chemicals.
Let your pets have access to the indoor areas only until you can evaluate the outside areas for safety.
Don’t let animals engorge themselves with food or water when you get back.
Return to a normal routine slowly.
Let your pets rest and sleep
If your pets are lost, call shelters daily and visit lost pet web sites often.

If there has been any injury or exposure to questionable substances, call your veterinarian for a health exam.

As we have seen in several wide spread disasters, many people will not evacuate without their pets. Leaving your home with your family and pets in an emergency is smart, but takes pre-planning and thought.

Plan now and be able to act fast when minutes count. Your veterinarian can help you with this planning

Hope this helps

Debra Garrison. DVM

Feeding Your Cat

feeding you catAs in human nutrition, the goal of good nutrition in animals is to maximize the length and quality of life. It is very important to feed our companions a healthy and well balanced diet that meets their specific needs. Lets begin by taking a look at the nutritional needs of cats.

It is first important to remember that not all cats are the same, just like no two people are the same. Because of this, their nutritional needs can be very different. One thing all cats have in common, however, is their need for a complete and balanced diet. A complete and balanced diet means that your pet is receiving the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber and other key nutrients.

Lets examine cat foods a little closer. Complete and balanced diets, those without excesses and deficiencies, help to avoid health problems. Giving your cat the right food throughout its life helps to avoid diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and of course obesity. Lets look at choosing the right food for every stage of your cats life. There are many high quality premium cat foods available, such as Hills Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba and many more. It is important to avoid generic diets that have too many fillers and too little nutritional value. Your veterinarian will recommend a diet that is ideal for your cat and he or she will also have special prescription diets available if the need arises.

We will begin with kittens. A kitten requires a great deal of nutrition to get through her first year healthy and happy. In order to get the correct nutrients for growth, such as calcium and phosphorous, it is important to feed a diet specifically for kittens until they have stopped growing. This usually occurs by twelve months of age. As a kitten becomes an adult cat, her nutritional and energy needs change. As responsible pet owners, we will want to shift to a diet to meet the nutritional requirements of the adult cat. These high quality diets contain carefully balanced ingredients, such as vitamins and antioxidants that are vital for preventing disease. Feeding the right diet at the right life stage can have a significant impact on increasing the life span of our pets.

By age seven, we should be transitioning our nutritional focus to our pets golden years. As our pets slow down, so do their nutritional needs. Premium diets targeted to the needs of older cats contain fewer calories, yet just the right balance of essential nutrients. Obesity at any age will likely shorten your pets life span; however, feeding the correct diet will help to prevent obesity. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is overweight. You should be able to feel his or her ribs, but not see them. If you can not feel your cats ribs, your cat is probably overweight. If you can easily see the ribs, your cat is probably too thin.

Genetic factors, as well as overfeeding, greatly influence weight gain. Some animals overeat because they have access to too much tasty food. Cats in multiple pet households may be influenced to overeat due to competition by housemates. Cats require nutrients in their diet that differ from dogs. They require more fat and certain nutrients in higher levels, such as Taurine. For this reason, a cat should not be getting the majority of its food from the dogs dish. Human foods should also be avoided. Cats can quickly become acclimated to many of the foods that we enjoy. Offering commercially prepared treats in moderation is a much better alternative.

The amount of food needed changes rapidly during a kittens first year. Most kittens should be fed 3 times a day until they are 6-8 weeks of age. After this age, most cats are fed one to two times daily. The quantity of food can be determined by reading the suggested feeding volumes listed on the food bag. Regularly scheduled meal times may be better than free feeding throughout the day if your cat is prone to becoming obese.

Your pets nutritional needs are paramount to a long and healthy life. With the help of your veterinarian, you can develop a well balanced nutritional program that will help to ensure a happy and healthy cat!

Debra Garrison, DVM

Parasites on Your Cat

ParasitesParasites are organisms that live in or on your cat, causing harm. Minimizing parasites is an important part of keeping your pet healthy. Some pet parasites can cause problems for people too, so keeping them out of your home is also good for you and your family.

External parasites are insects or arachnids that live on the skin or in the ears, feeding on blood or cell fluids. Most are large enough to be visible, but its easy to miss them on a furry pet. Your veterinarian can tell you about parasite control products that are safe, convenient, and effective.

Fleas are about twice the size of the head of a pin and are brown in color. They scurry rapidly through your cats hair coat and can jump several feet. Fleas can be detected by combing your pet with a fine-toothed flea comb. The presence of flea droppings is another sign. Flea droppings look like black sand. A good trick for differentiating flea droppings from dirt is to add a drop or two of water. Flea droppings contain partially digested blood, and will produce a red color when wet.

Fleas cause severe skin irritation and allergies. Your cat may scratch so much that he creates raw spots, which can become infected. Severe infestations can cause anemia. Fleas are also the carriers of tapeworms. Although fleas prefer furry creatures, they can cause itchy bites on people.

There are many products available for flea control. The newest, safest, and most effective are available from your veterinarian. These products are also very convenient, requiring only a few drops of liquid applied once a month. You may still notice a few fleas occasionally. Sprays for the home and garden can minimize this problem. Make sure to read and follow label directions on all flea products. Some products can be dangerous to you or your cat if they are used improperly.

Lice are whitish insects that are smaller than fleas. Their eggs, or nits, can be detected on the hair shafts. In cats, lice are much less common than fleas. Lice can cause skin irritation and anemia. Insecticidal shampoos and other products can be used to treat lice, but it is very important to treat the bedding as well. Although people get lice, they are a different type, so you dont have to worry about getting lice from your pet.ticks

Ticks are arachnids, relatives of spiders. Their size varies tremendously, depending on the type, age, sex, and whether the tick has fed on blood. Larval ticks may be smaller than the head of a pin, whereas some adult ticks are larger than a corn kernel. Ticks are detected by careful examination of your pets skin and ears.

Ticks can cause anemia and are carriers of many serious diseases, including Lyme disease and Ehrlichia. They can also bite people.

Some of the topical flea products available from your veterinarian for flea control are also effective for ticks. In addition, powerful tick-specific products may be recommended. Many tick control products are safe for dogs only, so read all labels carefully before using a product on your cat.Microspcopic view of earmites

Mites, like ticks, are arachnids, but they are much smaller. Many mites are difficult or impossible to see without magnification. Ear mites can be detected by your veterinarian during a physical examination. Skin mites usually require a skin scraping test. Symptoms vary depending on the type of mite, but can include itching, irritation, and hair loss. Skin mites are the cause of mange. Effective mite treatments are available by prescription. The treatment often takes several weeks.

Debra Garrison, DVM

Hypertension in Older Cats

Hypertension in catsHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in older cats suffering from kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and various heart diseases. These are the three most common causes of hypertension in cats. Symptoms may include dilated pupils and/or blood in the eye chamber. This is caused by a build-up of blood in the eye due to increased pressure and can lead to detached retinas and blindness if not treated quickly. Other symptoms of hypertension may include an increase in water consumption and increased urination due to kidney disease. A heart murmur caused by various cardiac diseases is another sign of hypertension. All of these symptoms are serious and should be given prompt attention by your veterinarian.

Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are more common causes of high blood pressure in cats than heart disease. Aging kidneys tend to develop scar tissue and shrink causing less space for blood flow. This can subsequently cause blood to become backed up in the arteries, which causes the blood pressure to rise. Hyperthyroidism is caused due to an overproduction of thyroid hormone and is a common disease in geriatric cats. The thyroid regulates metabolism in the body and when the thyroid is producing excessive hormone and the bodys metabolism is elevated, this causes the heart to pump blood even faster resulting in hypertension.

Hypertension can be tested for by your veterinarian. A sphygmomanometer is a device used to test a pets blood pressure. Several tests may need to be performed to establish an average. Treatment of high blood pressure is normally approached by treating the underlying disease. Although kidney disease and heart disease cannot be cured, they can be significantly controlled with medications and this will normally lead to a more stable blood pressure level. Approximately twenty five percent of cats have hypertension associated with hyperthyroidism. Fortunately, hyperthyroidism can be treated and cured, which leads to a normal blood pressure. Humans have several medications available for the treatment of hypertension, but there are no drugs currently approved for the specific treatment of hypertension in cats.

There are many things we can do as pet owners to help prevent the conditions that lead to high blood pressure. It is very important that our pets receive a healthy, well balanced diet as recommended by your veterinarian. All of the diseases mentioned above can develop due to obesity. A healthy diet coupled with regular exercise is often all it takes to avoid your pet from becoming overweight. If your cat stays indoors, try to encourage play behavior that will help him to get the exercise he needs to stay healthy. Regular visits to the veterinarian are very important to monitor your cats overall health and blood pressure!

Debra Garrison, DVM

Spaying your Dog

Spaying your dogSpaying, or ovariohysterectomy, is a surgical sterilization procedure that can provide major health benefits for dogs. Here are some important facts you should know before getting your dog spayed.

The Spay Surgery
The ovariohysterectomy is an abdominal surgery that is performed under general anesthesia. Your dogs belly will be shaved and cleansed, and an incision will be made a few inches below her belly-button. The veterinarian will remove both ovaries as well as the uterus. Several layers of stitches will close the incision internally. Your veterinarian may also close the skin with stitches, or may use a surgical adhesive. Following spay surgery, your dog will no longer go through heat cycles and will be unable to get pregnant.

Although the spay surgery is very routine, it is still a major abdominal operation. It carries the risks normally associated with general anesthesia and surgery. Your veterinarian takes numerous measures to keep your dog safe, such as checking her heart and lungs before administering anesthesia and monitoring her constantly while she is asleep. You can ask whether your veterinarian recommends any additional safety precautions, such as pre-anesthetic blood tests or administration of IV fluids during the procedure.

Unspayed female dogs usually go through two heat periods each year. During her heat period, your female dog may drip blood. She will also make every effort to sneak out to find a mate. As a result, she is at high risk for being hit by a car.

Unspayed female dogs suffer from a high incidence of mammary tumors, false pregnancies, uterine infections, and reproductive cancers. Breast tumors are the most common type of cancer in dogs. One out of every four unspayed dogs will get breast cancer, and half of the tumors are malignant. Unspayed dogs are also prone to pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus. Spaying removes the possibility of diseases of the ovaries and uterus, and comes close to eliminating the chance of mammary tumors.

The final benefit of spaying is that its the best way you can help end pet overpopulation. Every year, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. animal shelters. None of us wants to contribute to that sad statistic, but we may do so unwittingly. Puppies adopted to apparently good homes may be given away or lost. In six years, one female dog and her offspring can produce as many as 67, 000 dogs!

Considerations Before Surgery
Consult with your veterinarian about when to schedule your dogs spay surgery. Traditionally, pets are spayed at around six months of age. However, some veterinarians advocate performing the procedure earlier. If possible, schedule your dogs surgery when she is not in heat.

The night before your dogs surgery, remove her food and water before you go to bed. She should not eat or drink anything during the night or the morning of her surgery.

Considerations After Surgery
Your dog may go home the day of her surgery, or may stay in the hospital overnight. If she goes home the same day, expect her to feel a little groggy. Keep her indoors, in a warm, safe, quiet room away from other pets. During the first week after surgery, try to restrict her activity level. Leash walks are OK, but avoid excessive running, jumping, and roughhousing. Be sure to check her incision daily. Mild swelling and soreness are common, but let your veterinarian know if you see any discharge or if the swelling is excessive.

If your dog was in heat when she was spayed, she will continue to attract males during this time. Keep her away from male dogs during her recovery so that she isnt accidentally injured. Stitches, if present, will need to be removed in about 10 14 days. If you have any concerns about your dog following her surgery, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.

Debra Garrison, DVM