Five Common Mistakes Made by Cat Owners

As cat owners, we all want to keep our four-legged friends healthy and happy. And, of course, we want to do everything we can to make sure that happens. Still, the average cat owner often overlooks some important aspects of their pet’s health care. Here are five of the most common mistakes I see cat owners making in my own veterinary practice.

1. Not seeking regular veterinary care

All cats need regular medical care. Yet, on average, cats see their veterinarians less often than their canine counterparts …

Read More…

Five Common Mistakes Made by Cat Owners

As cat owners, we all want to keep our four-legged friends healthy and happy. And, of course, we want to do everything we can to make sure that happens. Still, the average cat owner often overlooks some important aspects of their pet’s health care. Here are five of the most common mistakes I see cat owners making in my own veterinary practice.

1. Not seeking regular veterinary care

All cats need regular medical care. Yet, on average, cats see their veterinarians less often than their canine counterparts …

Read More…

Giardia

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection of both man and animals caused by a single cell, flagellated protozoan parasite Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia).
Giardia is composed of just one cell and it is not a bacteria, virus or a “worm”. This parasite is found worldwide and is a common cause of
“Traveler’s Fever”. Other names are “Montezuma’s Revenge”, “Rocky Mountain Hershey Squirts”, and “Beaver Fever”. Well, you get the idea. The parasite is found in contaminated water and if not properly treated can cause a diarrhea in people as well as our four legged friends.  A lot of dogs can be infected without displaying any signs of illness.
The Giarida life cycle consists of two phases. The delicate feeding form is a single cell with flagella, (the string like tentacles that make it mobile) and it lives in the gut of the infected animal. The cystic form is hardier and is shed in the feces of the animal and can survive several months in the environment, especially in water and damp areas.
Your canine friend can be infected  when it swallows the giardia cyst in contaminated water. The cyst then passes into the dog’s intestine where it develops into the trophozoite or the feeding form. It then attaches to the intestinal wall and begins to feed. If the giardia population is large enough, then there is enough damage to cause the clinical signs of diarrhea, which can be fatal in small puppies. The organism then becomes the cystic form which is passed in the feces and can re-infect the dog, or be picked up by other dogs or even people.
Giardia can be diagnosed with a special fecal floatation test or a direct smear but is often missed becgiardia_2009ause of its small size and inconsistent shedding. If Giardia is suspected, a .snap test can be performed on the feces to detect specific cell antigens to the organism. It is more expensive than the standard fecal tests, but is more accurate. Often times, a presumptive diagnosis is made with the clinical signs and the dog is treated without a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for giardia consists of a round of antibiotics, such as metronidazole, for 5 – 7 days. Other parasiticides, such as fenbendazole, are often administered in addition to the antibiotics. If the diarrhea is severe, other medications to soothe the intestinal tract and even IV replacement fluids may be necessary.
Because of the potential exposure to the human members of the family, if your dog is diagnosed with giardiasis, disinfection of the area and good personal hygiene is important. Particularly, people that are immune compromised, such as AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, should use extra care when handling feces or giving medications.
giardia
To disinfect the pet’s area, diluted bleach (1 part bleach mixed with 32 parts water) can be used and other surfaces can be sprayed with Lysol. The cysts are also susceptible to drying so avoid over-watering the backyard so it can dry out. Wash the pet’s bedding with some bleach added to the water and then toss them into the dryer on hot setting should kill the majority of the cysts.
The best way to avoid infestation of your pet is to avoid areas where other dogs and wildlife aggregate. Bring your pet’s own water with you when you do go on excursions so they will not be tempted to drink from steams or standing pools of water. If you take your dog camping or swimming and they do break with diarrhea when they return, alert your veterinarian to the possibility of contamination so treatment can be started right away.
There was a giardia vaccine available called GIARDIAVAX, however, it was not a preventative. At best it may have reduced the shedding of cysts if a dog was infected. It has been removed from the market due to lack of sales.under license.

Raw Food Diet for Pets

For a majority of pet owners, a quick trip to the local grocery or even pet superstore is the easiest way to pick up their pets’ food.  People might debate favorite brands, but most will use some sort of commercial dry or canned diet for their four legged friends.  For a few pet owners though, preparing a meal for the family dog involves a little more work and a lot of raw meat.  Are homemade or raw diets a good idea?

Take a stroll down the pet food aisle of your favorite store and your eyes will take in every imaginable color, a few cartoon characters and a lot of claims stating the food is “improved”, “natural” or even “organic”.  It’s truly a marketing bonanza!  More than 3,000 brands of pet food fill the aisles and pet owners will spend about $18 billion to feed their pets each and every year.

But, high profile recalls, sick pets and corporate mistrust has moved a small number of pet owners to consider making their pets’ food at home, instead of buying it in a bag.  An Internet search for “raw diets” brings up almost 3 million different results, many of which claim that this sort of food is nutritionally superior to the commercially prepared diets.

The raw food diet trend began in 1993 with the publication of “Give Your Dog A Bone” written by Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst.  Building on the close evolutionary relationship between our dogs and their wolf cousins, Dr. Billinghurst claims that in domesticating the dog we “changed the wolf’s appearance and mind…but not the basic internal workings or physiology”.  Many pet owners agree with this theory and have flocked to a raw meat type of diet for their animals.

Proponents of raw diets claim the foods give their pets more energy, provide more nutrition and overall, their dogs and cats are healthier than animals fed a typical dry or commercial diet.  During the massive pet food recall of 2007, the number of people opting for homemade diets increased dramatically and many have continued to prepare their pet’s food at home.

Adding more fuel to the fire, advocates of homemade foods persist in claims that commercial diets, especially those with a high percentage of grain, are actually shortening the life span of our animals.

How many of these arguments are valid and which ones lack evidence?

First, it is important to understand that all of the reports of increased energy and healthier pets are simply observations by the owners.  Actual scientific and verifiable evidence supporting these claims is non-existent.  To be fair, there is no evidence to refute these statements either.

Many of Dr. Billinghurst’s basic arguments are answered by veterinarians, both in the clinic with clients and in the media.  For example, the claim that dogs must eat meat because they are related to wolves is discussed and usually dismissed.  As a well respected blog, Skeptvet.com, states dogs are omnivores and will often eat a wide variety, including some fruits and vegetables.  Not to mention that there has been more than 100,000 years of divergence between dogs and wolves as well as intense selective breeding, especially in the last 3,000 years.

Another claim that is used by raw food advocates is that dogs and cats can’t digest grains, especially the corn and wheat ingredients found in many commercial diets.  This contention is also refuted by scientific studies showing dogs use these cooked grains as effectively as other carbohydrate sources.

But, perhaps the biggest reason many pet owners opt for preparing their pets’ meals is a mistrust of the corporations formulating the dry foods.  Recalls due to contamination, excessive or deficient nutrients and bacterial contamination seem all too commonplace.  Although these recalls have happened occasionally and pets have become sick, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of commercial diets are not only safe for our pets, they also provide an optimum level of nutrition, helping out pets live full and healthy lives.

So, is one type of diet actually better than another?

The answer to that question is complex and should always involve a discussion with your veterinarian.  Raw diets, for all their purported benefits, do come with significant risks.  Bacterial contamination is more prevalent with these diets and the potential for an imbalance of nutrients is very high.  If you do choose to use a homemade or raw diet, talk with your veterinarian and use an approved veterinary nutritional site, like BalanceIt.com to insure that your pet does benefit from your extra work.

Also, remember that many pet food companies have decades of experience, research and testing proving the effectiveness and safety of their diets.  It’s true that occasional recalls have happened, but these unfortunate events have also helped determine how to effectively handle this sort of crisis.  Lessons learned from past situations will help to prevent future issues.

Looking forward, science may give us an answer to this on-going and very passionate debate.  But, for now, your best source of advice is not an online forum or manufacturer’s website with products to sell, but rather you should put your trust in your veterinarian.
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Dr. Debra Garrison is a veterinarian at the Treaschwig Veterinary Clinic

Taking better care of our older pets

Pets are living longer thanks to advances in veterinary care, diagnostics, and earlier intervention. But the key to enjoying our “senior” pets lies not only in extending their life span, but in helping them enjoy their later years to the fullest.

Like people, dogs and cats are prone to debilitating ailments as they age. Kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, dental disease, cancer, and cognitive dysfunction can occur during the normal aging process. In the past, because many diseases weren’t diagnosed until advanced stages, veterinarians could do little more than make a pet’s golden years a little more comfortable by treating the symptoms of age-related illness. If the pet was lucky, the problems would progress slowly. Most pet owners just accepted the fact that their four-legged friends were just going to live a relatively short life, get old, and pass on.

But thanks to technical advancements in modern veterinary medicine, surgery, diagnostics and nutrition, not only do pets live longer but their quality of life has increased dramatically as well.

One example follows human medicine in the development and use of the new generation of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs help the aches and pains of many senior pets while keeping side effects to a minimum.

Many age related problems are still seen as inevitable, but the attitudes of both veterinarians and pet owners have changed. The belief now is that “age is not a disease”, and veterinary medicine is putting increased emphasis on senior pet health through preventative wellness programs.

“The earlier we can intervene, the better, says veterinarian Dr. John Phillips in New York. “We now have greater knowledge, improved diagnostics and better therapeutics all of which mean we can effectively prevent or manage many senior health care issues.”

Eighty three year old Sam Edwards was raised on a farm and has had pets all of his life. He has taken advantage of advancements in veterinary medicine to extend the lives of his pets. “As I’ve gotten older, I’m glad that some of the same medical advancements that have helped me age well are good for my pets, too.”

Edwards shares his home with “Niki”, a 15 year old cat, and a 16 year old terrier mix named “Bones”. “If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be brushing my dogs’ teeth, I’d thought you were crazy. But I brush Bones’ teeth every night while we watch the news. It’s something we both enjoy and my vet says it’s one of the most important things I can do to keep the old guy healthy.”

Pets are living longer due to advances in veterinary care, diagnostics, and earlier intervention. Even so the key to enjoying our “older” pets lies not only in increasing their life span, but also in helping them enjoy their later years to the fullest.

Just like people, cats and dogs can be vulnerable to incapacitating health conditions as they grow older. Kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, oral disease, malignant tumors, and cognitive dysfunction can take place through the typical maturing process. In earlier times, simply because quite a few health conditions weren’t recognized until the pet was in the advanced stages, veterinarians could do nothing more than make a pet’s golden years a tad bit more comfortable by caring for the symptoms of age-related health issues. If the pet was lucky, the issues could advance slowly. Most pet owners merely accepted the fact that their four-legged buddies were only able to survive a relatively brief life, get old, and pass on.

Yet breakthroughs in technical advancements in modern day veterinary medicine, surgery, diagnostics and nutrition, not only do pets survive longer but their quality of life has increased enormously as well.

One example follows human medicine in the development and use of the new generation of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs help the aches and pains of many senior pets while keeping unwanted side effects to a minimum.

Several age related problems will still be viewed as unavoidable, however the attitudes of both veterinarians and pet owners have changed. The belief now is the fact that “age is not a disease”, and veterinary medicine is adding greater emphasis on senior pet health through preventative health plans.

“The earlier we can intervene, the better, says veterinarian Dr. John Phillips in New York. “We now have greater knowledge, improved diagnostics and better therapeutics all of which mean we can effectively prevent or manage many senior health care issues.”

Eighty three year old Sam Edwards was raised on a farm and has had pets all of his life. He has taken advantage of enhancements in veterinary medicine to lengthen the lives of his pets. “As I’ve gotten older, I’m glad that some of the same medical advancements that have helped me age well are good for my pets, too.”

Edwards shares his home with “Niki”, a 15 year old cat, and a 16 year old terrier mix named “Bones”. “If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be brushing my dogs’ teeth, I’d thought you were crazy. But I brush Bones’ teeth every night while we watch the news. It’s something we both enjoy and my vet says it’s one of the most important things I can do to keep the old guy healthy.”

At what age is a pet considered a senior? Generally, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds, and cats live longer than dogs. Life spans vary with individuals, and pets, like people, grow older at different rates, some more gracefully than others. A few smaller breeds of dogs, like Bones, are considered geriatric at fifteen. Large and giant breeds like Labrador retrievers and rottweilers are considered seniors as soon as seven years old. Cats, especially if they are kept in the house, frequently live to their early twenties and do not attain their golden years until their teens.

The single most crucial way a pet owner can take to keep their pet happy and healthy as long as possible is to pencil in regular veterinary exams. As pets age, these exams tend to be more critical than ever, because as with people, quick detection is essential for disease and problem intervention. Younger pets need routine examinations once or twice yearly. However as dogs and cats approach middle age, these exams should be much more frequent because each year in a pet’s life is equivalent to 5-7 people years.

“Keeping Niki and Bones healthy helps me stay young, too”, says Edwards. “All of us have arthritis so exercise is important to stay in shape and keep from getting stiff. Years ago, when my pets got arthritis, I just accepted it as old age and let them lay around. Now, we go for walks, and there are safer medications for arthritis pain. They even get glucosamine and antioxidants in their senior pet foods!”

Veterinarians tend to recommend routine lab work, electrocardiograms, blood pressure monitoring, and x-rays to locate early conditions like thyroid, kidney, heart, and liver disease. With early detection, pets with organ function conditions can be treated with prescription medication along with specific doctor prescribed quality diets that not only prolong their life span but the quality of their lives. Sometimes, health conditions could even be arrested.

Dr. Leslie Maclean a Tulsa, Oklahoma veterinarian followed the advice she gives her clients and found a hormone problem in one of her own Scottish terriers. “I discovered a rare adrenal gland problem on Brin’s first senior wellness exam. He was acting perfectly normal but his lab work picked up a problem. Early detection meant early treatment and easy management of his disease.”

In general, quite a few early warning signs that your family pet might be having a problem are:

* drinking more water than usual and urination

* urinary incontinence or having mishaps in the house

* recurring throwing up

* terrible breath, drooling or difficulty eating

* excessive panting or tires more quickly when exercised

* lumps, bumps, nodules or alterations in areas of skin color, bumps that bleed or are ulcerated

* change in appetite – ingesting more or less than normal

* changes in behavior for example “spacing out” or increased whining

* abnormal bowel habits – diarrhea or constipation

* fluctuations in body weight – gaining or reducing weight

Watch pets closely and convey any uncommon behavioral or physical matters to your vet without delay. Talk with your veterinarian and develop a specific senior wellness strategy for your pet’s distinctive needs so your precious pooch or kitty can enjoy getting old gracefully.

Common Toxins in Pets

We share so much with our pets, our house, our bed and our food, that we sometimes forget that they are dogs and cats and their physiology, and psychology are different than ours. Their are a few food items that we can eat, but our four legged friends cannot, as the owners of Sparky discovered last night.

Dad was treating himself to some chocolate covered raisins, and left the bag sitting on the couch when he went out on an errand. When he returned, the bag of raisins was consumed by Sparky, a rat terrier. Both chocolate and raisins are considered toxic to pets, and Sparky spent the night in the ER.

The top five common toxins ingested by dogs and cats include:

  1. Chocoloate
  2. Rodenticides (mouse and rat bait)
  3. Ethylene Glycol (anti-freeze)
  4. Metaldehyde (slug bait)
  5. Marijuana

Ingestion of these items warrants a trip to your veterinarian for decontamination and treatment.

The top ten human medications that commonly poison our pets are:

  1. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): These are common pain-relieving medications we all keep around the house.  Whether you refer to them by brand name (Aleve®, Advil®, Motrin®) or by generic (ibuprofen, naproxen), these medications are very dangerous to pets.
  2. Antidepressants: As we begin to understand more of how chemical imbalances can affect our moods and our mental stability, an increasing number of Americans are now taking these drugs.  Examples include:  Effexor®, Wellbutrin®, Prozac®, and Zoloft®.
  3. Acetaminophen:  One of the most common pain relievers in North America, Tylenol® may be great for us, but it can be deadly to cats.   Dogs are also affected, but often not to this extreme. Dogs can experience liver damage and occasionally red blood cell damage.  A single extra strength Tylenol® has been known to kill cats.
  4. Methylphenidate: This medication is used for treating attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder.  Like antidepressants, it is all too common in North American households, especially where children are present.  Ritalin® is an example of a medication containing methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is also supplied as time release patches.
  5. Fluorouracil: This anti-cancer drug is used to treat minor skin cancers in humans. Discarded cotton swabs used to apply this medication are a prime source of pet poisonings.
  6. Isoniazid:  First line tuberculosis drug with a very narrow margin of safety. Extremely dangerous to dogs.  Dogs will have serious seizures and then enter a stuporous state. Toxic doses:  Five 300 mg tablets are fatal to a 10 lb dog.
  7. Anti-diabetic medications: Glipizide (GlucotrolR)  gliclazide, and glyburide (MicronaseR) belong to a class of drugs known as sulphonylureas. These tablets work by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin.  Medications like glipizide and glyburide can cause sudden and major drops in blood sugar of pets.
  8. Vitamin D derivatives: Calcipotriene (Dovonex®) is a form of Vitamin D used topically to treat psoriasis.  It is available in ointments or solutions.
  9. Pseudoephedrine:  This very popular decongestant is found in a variety of cold and sinus products (Dimetapp®, Sudafed®, etc).  It is also a common ingredient as a precursor for methamphetamine. Ma Huang is used as an herbal weight loss aid and is also toxic to our pets.
  10. Baclofen:  Baclofen is used to treat muscle symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis and spinal disorders, including spasm, pain and stiffness.

The Top Toxic Plants

  1. Azalea
  2. Rhododendron
  3. Lily
  4. Oleandar
  5. foxglove
  6. milkweeds
  7. Castor Beans
  8. Cyad Palms (Sago palms)
  9. Lily-of-the-Nile
  10. Squill
  11. Marijuana
  12. Mistletoe
  13. Amaryllis
  14. Tulips and Daffodils
  15. Cyclamen
  16. Kalanchoe
  17. Autumn Crocus
  18. Pothos
  19. Chrysanthemums
  20. English Ivy
  21. Scheffelera
  22. Peace Lily
  23. Yew

The Top Toxic Foods

  1. Chocolate
  2. Moldy Foods
  3. Onions
  4. Macadamia Nuts
  5. Avocado
  6. Rising Bread Dough (Yeast)
  7. Grapes and Raisins
  8. Tobacco
  9. Xylitol (Sugar substitute)
  10. Garlic

Other toxicities that can occur are with improper use of flea and tick medications, insecticides, ant and roach bates, glow sticks, toilet bowl drop-ins, silica gel packets and zinc pennies (pennies minted after 1982).

In the event of ingestion of these substances, contact your veterinarian and the ASPCA Poison Center
800-426-4435

I hope you find this information useful

Prosthetics Help Pets Find Balance

Prosthetics are commonly seen in people, but uncommon in pets. Now, veterinary surgeons, engineers and prosthetic specialists are teaming up to look at new ways of giving our pets the support they need!

Three legged dogs and cats are not an unusual sight in veterinary clinics.   Whether the loss of the limb is due to severe trauma, cancer or even a hereditary defect, many pets live out their lives on three legs. But, on-going research in the field of prosthetics may allow these pets to function like their four-legged friends and just might benefit humans as well!

Dogs and cats appear to move almost normally with three legs and amputation is often done in severely traumatic injuries or with certain cancers.  But, new insights into how our pets manage pain and disabilities may soon change pet owner perceptions.

Dr. Kim Danoff, a veterinarian certified in canine rehabilitation says that “a three legged gait can take a toll on other limbs and the spine due to abnormal posture.”  Young pets could experience even bigger problems.  “Living longer with 3 limbs makes these animals more prone to disc problems and possibly severe cases of arthritis”, Danoff adds.  Additionally, pets with concurrent problems, such as hip dysplasia and cancer, could do worse after amputation.

But, help appears to be on the way.  Martin Kaufmann of Orthopets (www.orthopets.com) is working with veterinary surgeons to utilize titanium implants in the pet’s leg bone as an attachment for prostheses.

Most prosthetic devices are known as “socket prosthetics”, that is, the stump of the limb is placed inside the prosthetic and everything is held up with straps and other attachments.  Owners often find these cumbersome and pets are likely to chew on the apparatus. For human amputees, small variations in their body weight can change the balance and fit of the device.

New technology, known as an integrated prosthetics, may open up more possibilities for how prosthetics are used in humans.  By using the implants, Kaufman says that these devices appear “to allow the patient a greater sensation of the ground.”

Kaufman also says that one day the use of integrated prosthetics will allow amputees to change their prosthetic foot as easy as someone can change their shoes.  These functional prosthetics will allow amputees, or pet owners, to change their device as weather or environment demand.

Many animals benefit from the work at Orthopets.   In his workshop in Colorado, Kaufman has developed orthotic braces and prosthetic devices for llamas, orangutans, and even sheep.

One of his famous cases involves Kandu, a small terrier mix born without front legs.  Occasionally, this rare birth defect shows up in dogs and many have been euthanized because of this handicap.  Although Kandu was very capable of moving himself with just his back legs, his owners worried about damage to his chest.  Kaufman used his expertise to design a rolling ball to ease Kandu’s movements, a padded vest to stop rug burn, and a ski to use during the snowy Colorado winters!

Although all of this is great news, there are still some obstacles to overcome.   A big concern with the new integrated prosthetics is how the skin of the pet will mesh with the titanium of the implant.  Additionally, providing the needed education to pet owners and veterinarians will likely take time.  Both integrated and socket prosthetics require that enough limb is left after amputation to control the device.  Finally, many pet owners may be concerned with how much a prosthetic might cost in relation to simply removing the leg.

Kaufmann says that his prosthetics will generally start at $600 for the device and can run as high as $1800.  The higher priced equipment is known as a “dynamic foot” and is similar to the devices worn by the Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who is known as the “Blade Man”.

These prices are for the prosthetics only and don’t include surgeries, implants, rehabilitation and therapy, or any follow up visits with the veterinarian.

The good news, though, is that options are available for pets whenever serious disease or trauma threatens one or more of their four legs.  If you are faced with an unfortunate circumstance where you and your veterinarian need to contemplate removing a pet’s leg, ask how the surgery will affect your pet and whether prosthetics is an option.

Debra Garrison, DVM