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Vaccinating Your Pet
Question: I have four cats and two dogs. Until recently, I have had them vaccinated regularly. Please let me know what you would recommend to someone who has cats and dogs and wants to keep them safe but does not want to either endanger them or spend money unnecessarily.
Answer: The veterinary profession has spent the past six to seven years reexamining and discussing vaccine duration of immunity and revising vaccination protocols accordingly to make sure that companion animals get care that is tailored to their lifestyles. The goal is to make sure that an individual’s vaccine protocol is protecting them from risks they face, without vaccinating unnecessarily. For example, in our practice we ask cat owners to describe whether their cats ever go outdoors or whether they are exclusively indoors and what other animals they might come in contact with. If a cat is exclusively indoors, we design a different vaccine protocol than if it goes out regularly or “escapes” with any frequency. Dogs that go to boarding facilities, grooming parlors or doggie daycares will have different recommendations than dogs that do not. The days of designing a single vaccine protocol for an entire species are over. Good communication is the best tool in designing protocols that are proper for your pets. I suggest having a discussion with a veterinarian in your area, giving all of the information you know about your pets’ lifestyles. With that information, your veterinarian can explain what vaccinations he or she would recommend, at what frequency and why.
At that point you can make an informed decision on a vaccination protocol designed specifically for your pet.
This question was answered by AAHA member Dr. Merry Crimi of Gladstone Veterinary Clinic in Milwaukie, Oregon
Heart worm Prevention
Question: My veterinarian has recently started promoting monthly heartworm preventive tablets for my cat. I’ve also heard that the heartworm medicine used long term may be a greater risk to my cat’s health. What should I do?
Answer: Heartworm disease is a serious but preventable condition. Whether or not your cat belongs on preventive medication depends a lot on the incidence in your area. We’re not presently aware of any literature that notes serious risks or side effects of the preventive medicine. However, your veterinarian will take into account any other problems your cat has before prescribing the drug for your cat. Healthy kidneys and normal liver functions are essential in metabolizing most medications. For both dogs and cats, a heartworm blood test must be done before any preventive medications are given.
At what age should I have my pet spayed or neutered?
Question: At what age should I have my pet spayed or neutered?
Answer: There are many factors to consider in selecting the correct time to spay or neuter your pet. Most veterinarians will suggest doing it shortly after the completion of puppy vaccines, which is around five months of age. In the case of male pets it may be an especially good idea to neuter them at this time before they develop bad habits, such as aggression.
Is it ok for my dog to eat grass!
Question: My Scottish terrier recently started eating dirt. He eats one cup of dry food every day, as well as fruits and vegetables that I give him for treats. I believe that he is lacking some element in his diet, any suggestions?
Answer: If you are feeding your dog a high-quality dog food, he is probably not lacking any key elements in his diet. Most cases of dogs eating dirt or grass are behavioural problems. It is usually nothing to be worried about, but if you are concerned that he might have an illness that is causing him to eat dirt, then it would be a good idea to take him to your veterinarian for a physical exam and some blood work to make sure he is
This question was answered by Dr. Ed Foster of Charlotte, Michigan.
How can I help my dog get along with family and friends?”
Question: My dog gets along great with everybody except my brother, who’s never mistreated her. What’s wrong?
Answer: Just like with people, dog behavior doesn’t always have a logical explanation. Dogs can sometimes simply dislike a person for no apparent reason. Maybe your brother has a deep voice that makes your pup nervous; maybe he has the scent of another animal on his clothes. Most likely, you’ll never know what it is about him that sets your dog on edge. But don’t lose hope; you can make your dog happier to see your brother by making sure his visits are associated with something pleasant. First off, you can ask your brother not to stand directly over your dog in a dominant position; this can be threatening to some dogs. Ask him to approach her from a sitting or kneeling position. Supply your brother with a special treat that your dog particularly loves, and have no one but him give her that treat. He shouldn’t make a fuss over giving her the treats; the commotion might make her more nervous around him. Instead, he can just place the treats in front of her whenever she is calm and behaving well. Once she comes to associate him with getting an extra yummy treat, he can start giving her simple commands and giving her the treats as rewards. Over time, she should come to accept him. Who knows? She may even start to like him.
What are the advantages of neutering my dog?
Question: I have a one-year-old male chocolate lab who is not neutered. Could you tell me the advantages of neutering? Is it a painful procedure?
Answer: Modern medicine allows us to do most all surgical procedures without pain. Dogs can be given pre-surgery pain relievers as well as pain medication during the procedure. Take-home medications to keep your dog comfortable are also available. There are many behavior benefits associated with neutering. Neutered male dogs are less likely to roam and thereby less likely to be hit by a car. Neutering also decreases a dog’s desire to show aggression or dominance to other male dogs or people. Health benefits of neutering include a reduction in the incidence of testicular disease and prostate cancer. If you have a family and wish your dog to be your family pet, the best thing in terms of your dog’s health and behavior is to have him neutered.
This question was answered by Dr. Pam Nichols Epperson, hospital director of Animal Care Center in West Bountiful, Utah.
Why does my dog scratch himself silly?
Question: Why does my dog scratch himself silly?
Answer: The most common cause of constant itching is pollen allergy (such as mold, dust, etc.). Realize that allergies in pets, as in people, is genetic. Your pet may experience seasonal allergies. Your dog also may have parasites, like scabies or cheyletiella, or even a skin infection. If your dog is persistently scratching, visit your veterinarian. There are many treatments your veterinarian can administer to ease your pet.
Question: My 12-year old beloved golden retriever mix has been having bloat problems for about a year. His veterinarian has put him on a new diet of chicken and rice, but he hasn’t had a bowel movement in several days — is something wrong?
Answer: Chronic bloating can be a very critical problem. During one of the bloating incidents, your dog’s stomach can actually twist or rotate. This can become an emergency situation very quickly. If it is “simple” bloat or gastric dilation without the twist, it is problematic, but not always as critical. It may be solved by the new diet that your dog is on. It can seem very unusual when dogs do not defecate for some time. However, if your dog’s new diet is more digestible, there is less waste and less residue. Therefore, there will be fewer bowel movements. As for when to worry, as long as there is no straining and as long as your dog continues to eat, there is unlikely to be a problem. However, if your dog is vomiting, has a loss of appetite or straining to defecate then these are signs you would need to be concerned about. I hope that this is helpful. If there is any question or concern, however, I would encourage you to see your veterinarian. He or she may be able to assess if there is a problem or if there is any question, a radiograph (x-ray) could be taken.
This question was answered by Dr. Robert J. Krapfl, director of Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.
Why does my older dog pee on the floor?
Question: I have an eight-year-old female cocker spaniel who is a wonderful dog, except that she has trouble controlling her bladder. When we leave, she pees on the floor, as if to punish us for leaving her. She is housebroken and even comes to us to let us know that she needs to go out when we are home. However, she still pees on the floor when we are gone. Do you have any advice?
Answer: First, take your dog to your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam, including blood and urine testing to make sure that she does not have a kidney or bladder problem. Your veterinarian may even want to do an ultrasound of your dog’s bladder to rule out a tumor. If the tests do not reveal any problems, then I would be concerned that she may be developing incontinence. Incontinence in older female dogs is not an unexpected problem and medication may help prevent her from “leaking.” If she is suffering from incontinence, being left alone may cause her stress and make the problem worse. If incontinence is ruled out and all laboratory tests are within normal range, then I would suspect that she is suffering from mild separation anxiety and medication may help. Ask your veterinarian about appropriate medication to treat anxiety and a recommendation for a veterinary behaviorist. Medication and behavior modification together may help resolve the problem.
This question was answered by Dr. Peg Rucker, hospital director of Southwest Virginia Veterinary Services in Lebanon, Vigrinia.
Is it okay for my dog to lick my son’s face?
Question: Is it okay for my dog to lick my son’s face?
Answer: Yes, it probably is. The only disease that dogs and humans can pass back and forth through saliva is beta strep throat, which is relatively rare. You may want to take your pup to the veterinarian if strep throat has been passed among the members of your family, though. And if your son has a weakened immune system, you may want to be careful about exposing him to the normal bacteria that’s present in the saliva of healthy dogs. Just a reminder–since you have a child in the house, you should be careful to make sure your dog doesn’t become infected with worms. These parasites are not passed by saliva, but children can pick them up by playing on the ground and the floor. A good rule of thumb is, if children are in the house, have your dog dewormed regularly! And even if you don’t have children at home, regular deworming will help your dog stay healthy and will help protect any children or adults who come to visit.
Why does my cat sleep so much?
Question: Why does my cat sleep so much?
Answer: Most likely because he’s a perfectly normal cat. It’s a natural instinct for cats to sleep most of the time. It’s an adaptation they developed in order to survive in the wild. Wild cats are hunters and predators. They are generally active only at times when there is food available. For short periods during the day they will hunt; the rest of the day, they conserve their energy by sleeping, eating, and just resting. This is why your cat seems to have only two settings: “high speed” and “off.” Lazing in the sun is just as much average kitty behavior as racing around the house and attacking everything in sight. If you’re worried that your cat sleeps more than most cats, you can take him to your veterinarian for a full exam.
What’s wrong with an old cat who has lost eight pounds in three
Question: What’s wrong with an old cat who has lost eight pounds in three weeks?”
Answer: Any cat that shows a sudden and severe weight loss should be tested for abnormalities of the thyroid gland, for diabetes, and for kidney disease. If your veterinarian has not yet performed a geriatric blood profile and urinalysis on your cat recently, then you should request that it be done immediately. There are many conditions that are very treatable in older cats if they are diagnosed in time and treated aggressively.
Can I give my cat a bath?
Question: Should cats be given baths? If so, how often? And are there special shampoos?
Answer: Cats are generally pretty clean and do not need regular bathing unless they become dirty or have a skin condition. General bathing can be done once a month. For a basic cleaning an over-the-counter pet shampoo will work. Avoid using human shampoos and other human products as they are much too harsh. If your pet has a skin condition, then a special treatment by your veterinarian is wise since special shampoos may be needed for treatment.
Will declawing my cat change his personality?
Question: Will declawing my cat change his personality?
Answer: This is actually a bit of a controversial issue within the veterinary community. Many veterinarians feel that declawing a young kitten won’t change his personality. The procedure is least traumatic when performed on young animals, because they’re smaller and they have less weight to carry on their feet after surgery. They’ll experience less pain and heal more quickly than full-grown animals, and should therefore be less affected by the surgery. Still, many feel that even adult cats can be declawed without a permanent change in personality. There are some veterinary professionals who feel that declawing may change a cat’s personality and behavior, however. They argue that declawed felines may feel defenceless and may be more likely to mark (urinate on) their territory, avoid contact with others or become aggressive, and change their pattern of vocalization (growling, hissing, or increased crying).
The issue of declawing remains controversial, but the choice to declaw or not is a personal one. For more information, consult your veterinarian.