With spring transitioning into summer, there are many types of pollen and other allergens circulating throughout the air and environment. Many dogs and cats have seasonal allergy issues, just like us humans do. Allergic reactions can be brought on by both inhaled allergens and contact allergens.
Dogs and cats show typically their allergy symptoms in their skin and ears. You may notice pets scratching or licking themselves more than usual this time of year. Having an itch you can’t get rid of can be very uncomfortable. You may also notice a funny odor coming from their ears. Often allergic reactions can be accompanied by bacterial or fungal infections that require medication in order to put a stop to the clinical signs.
There are many different treatments for allergies. Not all treatment plans will work the same for each pet. Some of the most common treatments include the following:
- Bathing with appropriate medicated shampoo
- Topical medication such as antibacterial or anti-inflammatory cream
- Oral medication such as antibiotics, steroids or antihistamines
- External parasite treatment (flea bites are very itchy and many pets can have are hypersensitive to flea saliva)
Some allergic reactions can be brought on by the food that your pet is eating. It is often difficult to narrow which ingredient your pet is allergic to. Your veterinarian may suggest trying a hypoallergenic diet for six to eight weeks. Allergy testing (via bloodwork) is available and very informative, but can also be quite expensive.
Just as with people, allergies can be frustrating for your pet. Be sure to bring them in to see their veterinarian if you suspect they are having issues with their skin or ears. Treatment of allergies has a much greater prognosis if caught early. Your pet will give you a giant kiss to thank you!
Heat exhaustion can be fatal if not treated immediately. The weather is warming up out there – be extra careful with your dogs. If your dog over-exercises on a hot day or is stuck inside a confined space with no airflow such as a parked vehicle, they can suffer from heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when the dog’s ability to regulate its body temperature is lost.
The following tips will help protect your pets from heat exhaustion:
- Keep plenty of cool, clean water in a spill-proof container available to your pets. When outdoors, your dog may enjoy a baby pool filled with fresh water to lie in when it is very hot out.
- Bring pets inside, especially during the hottest hours of the day. Be particularly careful with senior and overweight pets as they have more difficulty regulating their body temperatures.
- Brush your pet’s coat to keep it free of mats. Do not shave off your pet’s coat completely because bare skin can get burnt in the sun. Fur protects your pet from the heat and insects and retains cooling water after a refreshing swim or wetting down from a garden hose.
- Exercise your pet during the cooler morning and evening hours. Avoid the hot pavement that can burn and blister your dog’s footpads. On hot, humid days, avoid jogging or running with your pet.
- Don’t take your pet with you when you head out to run errands. The temperature inside a parked car can kill a pet in a matter of minutes – even when you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked open.
The following are signs of heat exhaustion:
- Loud, rapid panting
- Rapid pulse
- Excessive salivation
- Elevated body temperature
- Glazed look in the eyes
- Pale, tacky gums
- Staggered walking
If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, cool your pet down immediately by placing them in the shade and sponging or hosing them down with cool water (especially on the head, footpad and groin area). Give your pet small amounts of water to drink. If they drink too much water too quickly, they may vomit. It is recommended to have to your pet examined by their veterinarian if you think they are experiencing heat exhaustion.
- How many teeth does my kitten have? 26 deciduous teeth.
- How many teeth does my adult cat have? 30 teeth.
- How many teeth does my puppy have? 28 deciduous teeth.
- How many teeth does my adult dog have? 42 teeth.
- Why does my pet have bad breath (halitosis)? Bad breath usually comes from an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Some bacteria can produce sulfur compounds as waste products, which produce an undesirable odor.
- How often should I brush my pet’s teeth? Once daily is ideal.
- Can I scale my pet’s teeth at home? No, there is no way to effectively scale your pet’s teeth at home. While it may look like you are making a difference for the teeth cosmetically, proper and thorough scaling must be performed with the pet under anesthesia.
- Why is anesthesia necessary to scale my pet’s teeth? Non-anesthetic cleaning only provides a cosmetic improvement for your pet’s teeth. A proper dental prophylaxis involves a thorough oral examination, scaling and polishing of the teeth. Scaling is the process of removing tartar above and below the gum line (using an ultrasonic scaling device and hand scaling tools). Polishing is the process of “smoothing” the tooth surfaces after scaling. This makes the teeth more resistant to future plaque and tartar formation. Proper polishing of the teeth is very important and should always be performed following scaling. An awake pet will not allow their teeth to be scaled and polished properly, which may lead to even more dental disease issues in the future.
- Why does my pet need to have teeth extracted? Teeth often need to be extracted because of severe periodontal disease, abscessed tooth roots, fractures, resorptive lesions, misalignment, and other problems that may cause discomfort or difficulty chewing.
- My pet has both deciduous teeth and adult teeth in place. What should I do? This is a very common problem, especially among small breed dogs. The deciduous teeth must be extracted (if they do not fall out on their own) once the adult teeth have fully erupted to avoid future orthodontic problems.
Cat mouth model inside a dog mouth model. Showing off the “dirty” side.
- Plaque (a transparent film of bacteria, cells and food particles) forms and sticks on tooth surfaces
- Plaque build up causes bad breath and redness or inflammation of the gum line (gingivitis)
- Plaque can begin to calcify within 72 hours and form tartar (a visible shell on the outer surface of the tooth)
- Increased inflammation of the gums becomes evident and may cause bleeding at the gum line
- Tartar stuck on the tooth surfaces is covered with newly formed plaque
- The bacteria in plaque secretes toxins and enzymes which cause further inflammation of surrounding periodontal tissues
- With continued gingivitis, some loss of tissue attachment begins at the gum line and leads to the beginning stages of bone loss around tooth roots
- The mouth can be quite painful and uncomfortable when eating
- Recession of the gums due to tartar buildup
- Gingivitis may progress to infection of the tissues and bone around the tooth roots and the tooth (or often a few teeth!) may need to be extracted
- A change in eating habits may be noticed – either not wanting to eat at all or swallowing food without chewing
Throughout all stages of periodontal disease, bacteria can be picked up and carried by the bloodstream to the liver, kidneys and heart. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily and feeding them an appropriate dental diet can help decrease oral bacteria and stop dental disease in its tracks.
**Thank you to our wonderful mouth model, Daisy, a 4 year old Maltipoo.
A healthy body begins with a healthy mouth. Brushing, regular dental exams and oral health nutrition is the combination for a long, healthy life.
There is a strong link between good oral health and heart and kidney health. Plaque full of bacteria builds up on the teeth daily and causes the gums to become irritated. The irritated gums eventually begin to bleed and allow the active bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream then travel throughout the body and can negatively impact vital organs such as the heart and kidneys.
Follow these steps to improve your pet’s oral health:
Daily brushing is the foundation of oral care. Life gets very busy at times, but squeezing in this extra daily task is well worth it. By brushing your pet’s teeth daily, you can make a big impact in their oral health. Brushing helps remove plaque (a colourless film containing harmful bacteria) before it has a chance to mineralize into tartar on your pet’s teeth (the yellowish-brown debris visible on your pet’s teeth).
To maintain your pet’s optimal oral health, annual or semi-annual dental checkups should be done. Some animals form tartar in their mouths more quickly than others. For those pets with a history of oral health problems, more frequent exams are a great idea and regular professional cleanings may be advised.
As well as brushing and regular dental checkups, there is also specially formulated food available to aid in removing plaque and bacteria and help reduce gingivitis. The pieces of food work like a toothbrush as they are crunched by your pet.
Foreign body ingestion is a favourite pastime for many of our pets. Dogs and cats often ingest things they shouldn’t. We will never know what drives them to do this but they sometimes seem to think it is ok to ingest rocks, toys, tennis balls, socks, underwear, bones, needles and thread, string, fishing hooks, Nerf gun darts, pieces of carpet, rope, garbage, etc. Sometimes the object will pass through their intestines without complication. Sometimes the object will pass through only causing a mild upset stomach or diarrhea. Other times, the object will become stuck in the stomach or intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage.
The following is a story about a dog that seems to have a different palate for flavor than most other dogs:
Snoopy is a 2 year old Havanese mix weighing 12 pounds. He had been vomiting intermittently for one week and had minimal interest in food. He hadn’t had a bowel movement in quite a few days. He is normally very energetic but was feeling quite depressed when he came to see us.
Upon exam, it was found that Snoopy had a mild fever. His blood work showed no abnormalities. His abdomen was quite painful on palpation. We suspected that he had a foreign body stuck in his intestines or stomach that was preventing food from passing through. A firm “object” was palpated in his intestines and he cried when this area was touched. We proceeded to take radiographs of Snoopy’s abdomen, which led us to take him directly into surgery.
From Snoopy’s small intestine we removed a hard, rolled up piece of carpet. From his stomach, we removed this:
An extremely long, long, long piece of rope?! How?! Why?!
Snoopy made a full recovery and is now back to bouncing and running around like he used to. He was up and eating 12 hours after surgery. We all hope he has learned his lesson about ingesting anything but dog food.
Some of us resolve to learn new skills in the New Year. Some of us resolve to improve on skills we already have. Many of us resolve to eat healthier, exercise more and lose a bit of weight. Your pet’s resolutions may also follow the same guidelines – new tricks, old tricks and a healthy body.
Obesity in pets can cause many of the same problems as it can in people. An overweight pet is prone to many problems such as: diabetes, joint/ligament/tendon problems, breathing problems and heart problems. Being overweight can also cause dogs and cats to develop skin and hygiene issues from not being able to reach areas and groom themselves properly.
Healthy pets do have some padding over their bodies, but a little padding goes a long way. To assess your pet’s body condition, first rub your hands over their ribs. The skin should move back and forth easily and you should be able to feel the ribs without having to press down too hard. Look at your pet’s waistline. Your pet should have a definable “waist” beginning at the bottom of their rib cage. You will notice the abdomen should tuck in slightly between the rib cage and hip area.
Crash diets are not safe for pets (especially overweight cats since they are prone to developing fatal liver problems if they stop eating or are forced to reduce their food intake amounts to quickly). A pet doesn’t become obese overnight and shouldn’t be expected to lose weight rapidly. It may take 4-6 weeks before you notice any change in their weight once they are started on a new diet and exercise plan. Slow and steady wins the race! You may bring your pet in and weigh them on our scales at any time to track their weight loss progress.
To help your pet lose weight, follow these tips:
- Consider a diet change. There are many low calorie diets available that can help your pet feel full after each meal.
- Maintain portion control (treats must be accounted for in these portions!) and invest in an accurate measuring cup.
- Try splitting meal portions. Sometimes your pet may be happier with two or three feedings per day, rather than just one. Just remember to divide the total portion for the day without any extras (including those tasty treats!).
- Walk or play away the weight. A combination of diet and exercise will help any pet lose weight.
- About those pesky treats again – feed healthier, low calorie treats. Many treats on the market are very high in fat, salt and calories.
Playing new games with your pets, teaching them new tricks and practicing old tricks is great to keep their brains sharp and healthy for 2014. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment and can be very stimulating and rewarding for everyone. Good spirits and a healthy brain and body lead to a long, fulfilling life. Cheers to 2014!
The holiday season is upon us and with it comes a variety of holiday hazards for your pets. With all the gifts circulating, visitors to your home, holiday baking and decorations, we never know what kind of trouble our pets will get into! Below are a few hazards to be aware of:
Any gifts that include any kind of food, chocolate, dog treats or dog toys should be kept in a safe place out of your pet’s reach until Christmas day when they are ready to be opened. Pets have powerful senses of smell and may sometimes unwrap the presents and eat all the contents. Avoid purchasing pet toys with small or soft pieces that can be chewed and swallowed. Be sure to inspect your pet’s toys regularly and discard any deteriorating ones.
Some snow globes contain ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to all pets. If a snow globe is broken, it can lead to a potentially fatal intoxication. Keep all breakable ornaments in a safe place away from your pet’s reach!
If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard and may leave a trail of hot wax that will easily burn the pads of paws and more.
Over the holidays there is always an abundance of food spread out throughout the house. Many pets are not shy about helping themselves to food left out on counters and tables. It is especially dangerous if they get into food such as chocolate, bread dough, alcohol, etc. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is harmful to pets. Although we often stray on our diets over the holidays, the best thing you can do for your pets over the holidays is to keep them on their regular diet.
Avoid giving bones to your pets, especially turkey bones. Poultry bones easily splinter and can cause serious problems such as intestinal blockages or lacerations.
Many visitors come over for Christmas and often bring their overnight bags. In these bags they may have medication that is not safe for animal consumption. Your pet(s) may often be quite curious about new things in the house and may go into the bags and get into pill vials. Have your guests place their medication in a secure bathroom cupboard.
Ices melting salt, homemade play dough and salt-dough ornaments can all be tempting treats for pets. Too much salt can be dangerous for your pet and cause life threatening imbalances in their electrolytes as well as an upset stomach. The salt used to melt the snow on the roads can also irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. After walking outside, be sure to gently wipe off your pet’s feet with a warm cloth.
Many popular holiday plants are poisonous to pets such as mistletoe, holly, ornamental pepper and Christmas rose. Poinsettias are very irritating to their digestive tracts and can cause vomiting or diarrhea if ingested.
If you have a Christmas tree and pets, you have a recipe for trouble. Be sure your tree is well secured. Many cats enjoy climbing up trees and may knock it over. Try to place decorations above paw reach and use string to hang bulbs rather than metal hooks (which are easily dislodged and played with or eaten). Avoid using tinsel to decorate your tree. Cats and dogs often feel a need to ingest the tinsel (especially cats!), which can cause intestinal irritation or blockages. Cords for lights should be made inaccessible to pets. Chemicals added to the water reservoir of your Christmas tree to keep your tree living longer won’t do the same for your pet. The chemicals are toxic to pets, so keep the reservoir covered.
Dogs in Pick-Up Trucks
It is never appropriate to transport a dog in the back of an open pick-up truck, but it is especially dangerous in the winter. Wind chill plus slippery road conditions result in higher accident rates, which puts your dog at greater risk of injury or death. Bring your best friend along for the ride up front in the cab or leave them at home where it is warm.
Many animals enjoy the taste of antifreeze and will readily consume it when given the opportunity. Antifreeze, even in the smallest amounts, can have a very harmful and often fatal effect on your pet. Please call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet has ingested antifreeze.
Cats and wildlife gravitate to warm engines during cold winters. Bang on the hood of your vehicle before starting the engine to avoid injuring an animal warming up inside of it.
We wish you and your pets a safe and happy holiday season! Please leave any comments with additional pet hazards you can think of.
It could be freezing cold outside with five feet of snow and our pets will still want to go outside to play and explore. Even the smallest of our 4-legged family members (both cats and dogs) enjoy a good outdoor winter adventure now and then. Pets with a healthy hair coat and undercoat usually don’t have a problem with maintaining their core body temperature in cold weather as long as they keep active and continually moving. If your pet doesn’t have a very thick hair coat, putting a doggy coat or vest on them can help keep their core warm.
Your pet’s body responds to cold temperatures by keeping its blood supply focused on the main organs in the body so they don’t become damaged from hypothermia. Tiny blood vessels in the ears, tail and paws constrict in attempt to preserve core body heat and keep blood moving toward the vital organs. If this shift in the blood supply away from extremities goes on for too long, frostbite can occur. Freezing temperatures allow tiny ice crystals to form within the exposed tissues while the blood is not fully circulating to them. These ice crystals injure and can destroy healthy skin cells. If your pet is wet or damp, their tissue is even more vulnerable to frostbite.
Frostbitten tissue is usually noticeable within a few hours of warming up. It may cause the tissue in the area to initially appear pale or gray. It may also still feel hard and cold once your pet’s body has warmed up. As the tissue begins to thaw, it may appear red and can be very painful. In severe cases, the damaged tissue may eventually turn black and slough off.
Dogs and cats with extra hair between their toes can sometimes build up little ice balls between the toes, which can be very uncomfortable. Salt used on the roads can be quite irritating to your pet’s paws. Be sure to clean their paws once you arrive back home. You can also get little booties for them to wear when walking outside in winter conditions (although it may affect their “cool” look!) to keep their paws clean and comfortable.
If you think your pet has been exposed to extreme cold temperatures, move them into a warm and dry indoor area (or even into a warm vehicle) as soon as possible. Wrap your pet in warm, dry towels or blankets to improve their circulation and increase their core body temperature. If you think there are areas of frostbite, do not rub or massage the affected areas. Allow the circulation to return naturally as your pet’s body warms up. Your veterinarian may need to prescribe your pet pain medication and antibiotics (to prevent secondary bacterial infection in cases of tissue death and sloughing) in severe frostbite situations.
As your pet begins to age, their organ systems are often affected. Having annual exams and bloodwork performed on them will help your veterinarian to proper evaluate your pet’s health status, internal organs and catch any disease processes early. Some common disease processes that occur in senior pets include:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Dental disease
- Intestinal disease (irritable bowel disease, colitis)
- Endocrine disease (thyroid issues, diabetes, adrenal gland disease)
What are some benefits of senior pet wellness bloodwork?
Comparing Baseline Values
Comparing current bloodwork results to baseline results from previous years will help identify subtle changes to your pet’s health. If all test results are normal, then you have piece of mind that your pet is healthy, inside and out.
Identify Unseen Disease at an Early Age
Not all disease processes show signs on the outside before making changes on the inside of your pet. Identifying disease before clinical signs appear allows for a better chance of a successful outcome and can often lessen the cost of treatment.
There are many common age-related illnesses, which require medication. Bloodwork can help determine whether or not a medication will be safe for your pet.
Senior pets often require anesthesia more frequently than younger pets for common procedures such as dental surgery or skin growth removal. Bloodwork is a vital part of pre-anesthetic evaluation of all pets.