Any cat owner out there knows that there is a point in time where they will get the pleasure of shockingly stepping onto a gooey, slimy and squishy (and usually cold by the time your foot finds it!) hairball on the floor at home. Not only are hairballs unpleasant for owners to clean up, but they can also be harmful to your cat if they aren’t vomited back up. Hairballs moving through the digestive tract can sometimes cause a lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation, diarrhea or even intestinal blockages.
When your cat works on the task of grooming, their loose and dead hair catches on the hooks on their tongue and then gets swallowed. A majority of this hair is able to pass through the digestive tract without issue. Sometimes though, some of the hair remains in the stomach and forms a hairball. In an ideal world, your cat will vomit the hairball on an easy to clean surface in an area that you won’t step on it with your bare feet. In the real world… it doesn’t always go that way!
What can you do to help keep your cat’s hairballs to a minimum?
- Groom your cat regularly. The more grooming work you do for them, the less they will have to do themselves. Grooming also allows time for you and your cat to bond.
- Feed your cat a diet that promotes healthy skin and hair coats. These diets will minimize the amount of shedding your cat does.
- Discourage excessive and compulsive grooming. Cats that are bored may turn to grooming as an activity to pass time. Find some fun toys that your cat will enjoy playing with.
- Give an anti-hairball or laxative product to your cat. There are many products available which help promote hairball movement through your cat’s digestive tract. Some cats need to be given these supplements once weekly.
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!
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.
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.
What can you look for as some signs of aging in your pets?
While some signs of aging in your pets are obvious (such as graying of hair or decreasing energy levels), there are other changes that may go unnoticed. Senior pets may look and act normally while coping with the following:
- Aching joints
- Tooth pain
- Loss of awareness for surrounding hazards
- Cloudy vision
These are common conditions that are associated with osteoarthritis, dental disease, cognitive dysfunction and the loss of hearing or vision.
What can you do for your senior pets?
Watch for subtle changes in your pet’s behavior or less interaction with your family, as this may signal an underlying discomfort in your pet.
It is a good idea to schedule annual physical exams that include complete geriatric bloodwork and a urinalysis. Early detection and prompt treatment of disease can significantly prolong and impact the quality of life for your senior pet.
What is the importance of a full geriatric blood panel?
Dogs and cats can often “hide” clinical signs of underlying disease and may not show signs of illness until the disease or disorder is well advanced. Testing blood and urine allows us to:
- Detect disease early
- Adjust treatment where there is underlying organ dysfunction
- Obtain baseline data
Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Many of you may have big family gatherings for dinner; some of you may just enjoy a little quiet time with your pets. With all the yummy turkey, gravy and stuffing smells travelling throughout your home, your pets may find it hard to resist not drooling and giving you their best sad-eyed begging for food look. No matter how cute they are, they do not need to stuff themselves with human food.
Allowing your pet to ingest a large amount of Thanksgiving food can lead to stomach upset, constipation, diarrhea or vomiting. It can also put your pet at risk for pancreatitis. Allowing them to chew on bones (raw or cooked) can be fatal. Small pieces can break off and tear or puncture the digestive tract and large pieces can get stuck and cause a blockage in the digestive tract.
Be sure to inform all of your guests of your house rules for your pets. Take your energetic dogs for a long walk before guests arrive. Tired dogs are often (but not always!) better behaved. Allow shy dogs and cats to have a quiet place to go and hide if they are too stressed by all of the houseguests. It is a good idea to ensure that all pets are wearing their ID collars incase they escape from your home.
You found some lumps and bumps on your pet… now what?
- Book an appointment with your veterinarian.
- Your veterinarian will assess them mass (along with a full physical exam of your pet) and take a fine needle biopsy from the mass.
- A fine needle biopsy can be done while your pet is awake. The area of skin over the mass is scrubbed clean and then a needle is quickly poked into the mass. A sample of cells is drawn up through the needle into a syringe. The sample of cells is then put onto a microscope slide, fixed and stained. The veterinarian then analyzes the cells under the microscope.
- Depending on the type of cells seen under the microscope, recommendations will be made by your veterinarian to have the mass surgically removed or to continue to monitor its size and shape (if a mass does not show cancerous cells under the microscope then it is usually ok to monitor the mass as long as your pet is comfortable). Sometimes masses will become an irritant to your pet and if they lick or chew at it, it will become infected.
- If the mass is surgically removed, it can be sent to the lab for complete analysis. The lab will be able to report back about the type of mass, the aggressiveness of the cells and whether or not they think more tissue needs to be removed from your pet (if they think the mass has a high chance of re-growth).
- If a mass has been surgically removed, your pet is not allowed to lick or chew at the stitches. They need to stay calm (short leash walks only for dogs!), clean and dry until the surgical site has completely healed (usually 10-14 days). A cone collar is used to keep your pet from being able to get at their incision. They are able to eat, drink, sleep, walk around, poop and pee with their cone collar on.
Anal glands are two small glands located inside your pet’s anus. They have visible ducts that are located at the four and eight o’clock positions on your pet’s anus. The material found inside these glands can be quite foul smelling. It is usually a light brown to dark brown colour. The anal glands are usually emptied when your pet has a bowel movement. Sometimes they may even empty if your pet gets startled or feel scared.
For many reasons, the anal glands may become impacted (or blocked). For example, if your pet has diarrhea, there is not enough pressure on the anal glands to express them with each bowel movement. The material inside the glands will continue to be produced by the gland and your pet will feel very uncomfortable. Dogs and cats will usually try and “scoot” on the ground (drag their bum along the ground) or excessively lick at their back end. If the glands are left impacted for too long, they are at risk for rupturing and becoming infected.
The anal glands can be manually expressed if needed. External expression is the method typically used on cats and small dogs. Internal expression is typically used for medium and large dogs.
To externally express anal glands: A tissue is held up to the anus and both sides of the anal area are gently squeezed.
To internally express anal glands: A lubricated, gloved finger is inserted into the anus. The anal gland is the gently squeezed between the thumb and forefinger into a tissue held on the outside of the anus. The procedure is then repeated on the other side.
Pet obesity is an extremely common problem. It increases the risk for other serious health problems including arthritis, diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases. Being overweight can also lower your pet’s energy level and effect their ability to enjoy an active lifestyle with you and your family.
Weight gain can result when your pet consumes more calories than they are burning during the day. Overfeeding or overeating, inactivity or low activity levels, breed and age can all play a role in weight gain. Certain breeds, especially smaller ones, are more prone to being overweight or obese, as are many senior pets.
Give your pet plenty of opportunities for regular exercise that is appropriate for their age and health status. A vigorous daily walk (if your dog can tolerate it) is an excellent place to start. You can also take them swimming, running, hiking or have play dates with other dogs. Most cats won’t tolerate leash walking but regular play periods with fun toys can provide satisfactory activity levels and help maintain their health.
It is important to feed a well-balanced diet to your pets. If necessary, feed a calorie restricted diet. When you give treats to your pet, make sure to give healthy treats. It is best to meal feed your pets instead of allowing them unrestricted access to food (or the other pet’s food!). Be sure to get all family members are on the same page when it comes to feeding and giving treats to the family pets.
To help your pet lose weight, follow these tips:
•Consider a diet change. We offer many low calorie diets that can help pets feel full after a meal. We now offer the new Hill’s Metabolic Diet. You can phone us for an appointment and we can get your pet set up on this diet.
•Maintain portion control 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!
•Walk or play away the weight. A combination of diet and exercise will help any pet lose weight!
•Feed healthy, low calorie treats. Many treats on the market are very high in fat, salt and calories.
You may bring your pet in at any time and use our scales to monitor weight loss.
With all the spring flowers in bloom, it is important to keep a close eye on your pets to make sure they don’t chew or eat any toxic plants. The following plant types are some that are more common this time of year and are toxic to dogs and cats:
- Easter Lily
- Tiger Lily
- Day Lily
- Morning Glory
In the wild most dogs and cats know to stay away from these plants. However, some of our domesticated pets are more curious than anything and may decide to take a bite out of them.
If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, contact your veterinarian immediately. You can also contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 to use their 24 hour emergency poison hotline for advice. Some common signs of plant toxicity may include:
- Abdominal pain or bloating
- Pawing at mouth
- Excessive salivation