Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to prevent arthritis

Arthritis is a common ailment for many dogs and cats. It can be a source of chronic pain and negatively affect their quality of life.  Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable.  This causes the bones to move abnormally, first rubbing against cartilage and then, when the cartilage erodes, rubbing bone against bone.  The result is chronic inflammation and is just as painful as it sounds.

The most obvious sign of joint disease is when a dog or cat starts limping. However, there are numerous other subtle signs that may indicate your pet is uncomfortable.  Perhaps your dog doesn’t charge up the stairs like he used to. Maybe your older pet seems to be “slowing down.”  Cats may start urinating or defecating out of the litter box because it is too painful for them to jump into it.  These are just a few examples. Bottom line: if you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, talk with your veterinarian immediately.

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent arthritis from developing as well as to treat it once it has set in.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Poppy's gastrointestinal scare

Poppy and I had a scare recently and it is a great example of what can happen when your dog develops vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and anorexia.  These signs are probably the most common presenting complaints I see on emergency at Friendship.  One morning Poppy wouldn’t eat her breakfast and then proceeded to vomit about four or five times.  I didn’t think too much about it until she vomited again a few hours later. 

At this point I was considering multiple causes for the vomiting, there are about a million of them, but I didn’t really care one way or the other as long as it stopped.  I headed to the hospital to pick up injections of two anti-nausea medications; that would hopefully make her feel better.  After giving the injections she didn’t vomit again but still refused dinner and was acting very quiet, not at all like her usual obnoxious self.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Does sharing the bed also mean sharing diseases with your pet?

I was on Fox 5 today to discuss a recent study out of California that shows sleeping in bed with your dog or cat may lead to disease.  This is an interesting topic as surveys indicate that more than 50% of pet owners let their dogs and cats in bed with them.

The study describes various cases of pet owners contracting horrible diseases like the Plague, MRSA, Cat Scratch Disease and Salmonella.  While this information is scary one must also keep in mind that many of these diseases can be avoided with proper veterinary care and good hygiene.

The Plague and Cat Scratch Disease are caused by bacteria that live on fleas; while Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are transmitted by ticks.  If you eliminate the fleas and ticks on your pets, you make a big dent in possible exposure.  The very best way to accomplish this is with a topical, spot-on treatment such as Frontline or Revolution applied every month.

MRSA is very frightening since it is a bacteria resistant to most antibiotics.  The good news here is that pets are very unlikely to cause an initial infections humans.  In fact, our dogs and cats should be worrying about what we bring home to them as humans can transmit the bacteria to pets in the house.  If you or someone in your home has had a MRSA infection you should be aware that pets can serve as a reservoir and reinfect humans.

The best way to avoid food borne bacteria is not to feed a raw food diet since cooking is the most effective way to rid food of these bacteria.  When you feed a raw diet you are potentially introducing Salmonella or E. coli into your home and yard.

The take home message from this study should be that an adult with a healthy immune system, that practices good personal hygiene and provides proper veterinary care for their pet is very unlikely to contract any of these diseases; even if they sleep in bed with their pets.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The three best things you can do for your puppy

Last Tuesday I neutered Frank, all went well and he was completely unfazed by the event.  He had a few baby teeth remaining along with his adult teeth.  This is very common, especially in small breed dogs.  Since these should have fallen out by now we removed them while he was under anesthesia.

I also manipulated his hips while he was asleep to see if there was any abnormal mobility that could lead to arthritis in the future.  At Friendship we recommend that all large breed dogs have an x-ray taken at this time so we can visualize the bone structure of the hips.  Frank's hips felt a little loose but appeared normal on the x-ray which is good.  In order to protect his joints I have switched him to a puppy food that has glucosamine and chondroitin which help maintain healthy cartilage.  As with all my animals he will also continue to receive a fish oil supplement which helps with not only joint health but just about every other body system.

As this is the end of Frank's routine puppy care I thought it would be a good time to review the three very best things you can do for your puppy.  

1. Bring your new puppy to the veterinarian right away – All puppies should come with a health record of vaccines and de-worming medications administered by the breeder or shelter. On your first puppy visit be sure to bring this paperwork, so you and your veterinarian can discuss and plan out an appropriate vaccine schedule. In addition, a poo sample is helpful so your veterinarian can make sure your puppy didn’t bring home any unwanted friends (internal parasites) with him. At this first visit you can get your puppy started on preventatives for heartworm, fleas and ticks.

2. Take your puppy to basic training class – All veterinary behaviorists agree that early socialization is a crucial step in creating a happy and well-adjusted dog. Exposure to other puppies, new people and places can help prevent your puppy from being fearful and socially awkward. Puppies need to be taught how you want them to behave; a training class will give you proper guidance on how to achieve this. An added benefit: letting your youngster run around and play with other puppies is a great way to work off some of that crazy puppy energy!

3. Spay or neuter your puppy – I cannot stress the importance of this enough. In my opinion, spaying or neutering is the single best thing you can do, not only for your own dog but for the millions of homeless animals living in shelters. Along with eliminating the chances for many types of cancer developing, spaying and neutering can prevent many behavior issues. I have said it before and I will say it again: female dogs in heat are messy and it is always embarrassing to have your male dog humping someone’s leg.

I hope these tips help you give your new dog a great start to a long and healthy life with you.  For more puppy tips please visit the Polite Puppy website.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pudgy Pets

The new year has arrived and with it new year's resolutions. If you have committed to eating better and exercising more in 2011 don't forget to include your pets too. Overweight dogs and cats are at risk for diabetes, heart and joint disease – all conditions we see frequently at Friendship. I know from my own life that it isn’t always easy to keep pets from piling on the pounds: My dog Sparkle (pictured right) loves food more than anything and keeping her at a healthy weight is a challenge but essential.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 42% of dogs and 53% of cats in America are overweight. What’s worse is that an additional 10% of dogs and 19% of cats are considered obese. This means that over 50% of dogs and nearly 75% of cats are at increased risk for diseases that may be preventable. And if that’s not enough to get you motivated, consider this: one study found that dogs kept at a healthy weight live on average two years longer than their overweight counterparts!