What's worse than a sick pet? Three of them! Viruses and parasitic infections can quickly spread among your pets, making them feel miserable. Taking these preemptive steps when one of your furry friends shows signs of an illness can help you protect the health of the entire group.
Determine Who's Really Sick
Pets don't always show obvious signs of illness until they're very sick. The behavior stems from an instinctive desire to hide their illnesses from predators that tend to prey on weak animals. Unfortunately, those instincts may make it difficult to determine who's responsible for the puddle of vomit on your living room carpet or the pile of loose stools on the kitchen floor. Tracking down the culprit can be particularly difficult if your cats share litter boxes and you notice that one of them has developed diarrhea.
If you're not sure which of your pets is sick, separate them for the day. Place each of them in a separate room with adequate food or water. If you have cats or housetrained rabbits, be sure to include a litter box with fresh litter. Cover the floor with paper or wee mats to make clean up simple.
Although placing your dogs in their crates may seem like an easy way to determine which pet is sick, confining your pooches to small spaces may not be the best option if vomit or diarrhea is involved. In addition to cleaning the crate, you may also need to give your pet an emergency bath if he or she vomits or has an accident in the crate.
If you don't have enough room to separate each pet, sniff out the sick animal by process of elimination. Keep one pet in a separate room every day until you find out which of your furry friends isn't feeling well.
Prevent the Illness from Spreading
Whether one of your pets has a virus or a parasitic infection, there are a few things you can do to keep your other pets healthy, such as:
- Quarantining the Sick Pet. Place your pet in a quiet room stocked with a soft washable bed, food and water. Your pet needs extra attention during an illness. Be sure to make regular visits to the room to check on his or her condition and offer a few reassuring words.
- Washing Your Hands. Germs can linger on your hands after you pet your furry friend, clean up accidents or scoop the litter box. Wash your hands immediately after contact with a sick pet.
- Cleaning Bedding. Wash bedding, towels, food and water dishes and other items that your sick pet has touched to prevent the spread of disease. Don't forget to clean brushes too. If one pet has mange, the disease can quickly spread to other pets if you use the same brush to groom them.
- Using Separate Food and Water Bowls. Provide each pet with his or her own water and food bowl to prevent transmission of diseases through saliva.
- Finding a New Elimination Spot. Most dogs can't resist sniffing feces. Unfortunately, illnesses and germs can be transmitted when your pets check out a mound of freshly deposited stool. Germs can even linger in the grass after you've picked up stool. If your sick dog is well enough to eliminate outside, take him or her to a new spot far away from the usual elimination area in your yard.
- Keeping Vaccinations Up to Date. Vaccinations prevent your pets from developing a variety of illnesses, including distemper, rabies, bordetella and influenza. Because it takes a few weeks for your pet to build up immunity after receiving vaccines, it's important to ensure that all of your pets' immunizations are current.
- Treating Other Pets. In some cases, your other pets may need treatment, even if they display no signs of illness. For example, if one of your pets has tapeworms, chances are that they all do.
Preventing the spread of illnesses and infestations is particularly important if some of your pets are older or are very young. Because these animals tend to have weaker immune systems, it may be more difficult for them to fight off illnesses.
Are you concerned about your pets' health? We offer effective treatments for common diseases and illnesses and can provide immunizations that prevent your pet from becoming seriously ill. Call us to schedule an appointment for all of your furry friends.
Vet Street: Tips to Living with Multiple Pets, 10/1/12
PetMD: How to Quarantine Your Pet
ASPCA: Common Cat Diseases
AVMA: Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Setting
Blood transfusions are just as crucial for sick or injured animals as they are for people. Without a ready supply of donated blood, animals may die unnecessarily. Thanks to the generosity of donor pets and their people, animals with severe health conditions or injuries can receive the blood transfusions they need.
When Are Blood Transfusions Recommended??
A blood transfusion may be needed if an animal experiences blood loss due to an accident, ruptured tumor or other cause; has severe anemia; has been poisoned or requires major surgery due to an illness or injury. Although human blood banks can be found in small and large towns alike, pet blood banks aren't quite as common. If there are no blood banks close by, small private veterinary practices or veterinary schools may create their own blood banks.
Can Any Pet Become a Blood Donor?
Ask your pet's veterinarian if he or she thinks your furry friend would be a good candidate for blood or plasma donation. If the veterinary practice you visit doesn't have its own blood bank, the employees may be able to recommend one in the area. In some cases, local veterinarians collect blood for regional blood banks, ensuring that you won't have to travel far if your pet becomes a donor. Dogs and cats aren't the only blood donors. In rural areas, cows and horses may also donate blood.
Before your dog or cat is accepted as a blood donor, the blood bank or your veterinarian will consider these factors:
- Health. Donors must be in good health and may not take any medications, other than heartworm, tick and flea prevention medication. All vaccinations must also be current. Pets may be prohibited from donating if they have ever received blood transfusions in the past.
- Blood Type. The blood bank may also consider your pet's blood type when approving new donors.
- Age. Donation is usually limited to younger pets. If your pet is younger than 1 or older than 8, he or she may not be a good candidate.
- Personality. Becoming a blood donor isn't a good idea if your pet hates visiting the vet. Forcing a reluctant pet to donate blood can be traumatic and may make the process much more difficult.
- Weight. Typically, cats must weigh at least 10 pounds and dogs 50 pounds, although weight requirements may vary. Outdoor cats aren't eligible to donate blood.
What Are the Advantage of Blood Donation for My Pet?
Blood banks and veterinary practices may show their appreciation for donor pets by offering free examinations at every donation visit, giving you a copy of the lab analysis performed on the donated blood, informing you of your pet's blood type and offering free services, such as complimentary vaccines or free or reduced-cost veterinary care.
What Happens During the Blood Donation Process?
A small amount of your pet's fur must be shaved in order to allow the needle to be placed in the jugular vein in the neck. Although that sounds a little painful, most pets don't seem to mind the needle. Before donations, cats usually receive a mild anesthetic, as they're less likely to remain still for the donation. If your pet is awake, he or she will receive plenty of attention, and probably a few treats, from the veterinary staff. Some dogs and cats receive intravenous fluids after donations to ensure that they don't experience a drop in blood pressure.
Your local blood bank or veterinarian's office will determine how often your pet can donate blood. Some banks will ask you to bring your pet in for donations every six weeks for a year, while large banks may ask that your pet donate two or three times per year for several years. Donations are needed frequently, as donated blood has a limited shelf life and must be used within approximately one month.
Do you think your pet would make a good donor? Give us a call and we'll help you get the process started.
Petfinder: Can Your Dog Be a Blood Donor?
Humane Society of the United States: Life-Saves: Dogs Who Donate Blood, 11/20/12
PetPlace: Animal Blood Banks in the U.S., 9/23/15
If you've ever taken a close look at the small print on a bag or can of cat food, you've probably noticed that taurine is among the list of ingredients. Taurine is an amino acid that helps keep your pet healthy and prevents a variety of serious health problems.
What Do Amino Acids Do?
Amino acids help the body's cells create proteins needed for the proper functioning of every part of the human and feline body. The acids aid in the metabolic process and play an important role in the transportation and storage of nutrients.
Although many amino acids are produced by the body, some can only be obtained through food. Amino acids that must be obtained through diet alone are known as "essential" amino acids. Although people and dogs can synthesize taurine from other amino acids, cats cannot. If they don't receive enough of this essential amino acid in their food, their health will eventually begin to decline.
How Are Cats Affected If They Don't Receive Enough Taurine?
A taurine deficiency can cause many problems in cats, including:
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart to enlarge, affecting its ability to pump blood effectively. Cats affected by dilated cardiomyopathy may also develop congestive heart failure as a result of pumping issues.
- Blindness. A taurine deficiency can cause degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Unfortunately, once these cells are lost, they can't be replaced.
- Tooth Decay. Taurine helps your cat's teeth stay strong and healthy. When it's in short supply, cavities are more likely to occur.
- Reproductive Issues. Cats that don't receive enough taurine may be unable to have kittens.
- Developmental Concerns. Kittens born to mothers with taurine deficiencies may face growth problems and might be more likely to experience bone fractures.
- Gastrointestinal Problems: Taurine helps the body produce bile salts needed for fat digestion. Without enough taurine, your pet may develop diarrhea and digestion issues.
- Hair Loss. Lack of taurine may also affect your furry friend's coat and lead to hair loss.
- Immune System Disorders. Without enough taurine, your cat's immune system may not function optimally. As a result, your pet might not be able to fight off viruses as easily as healthy cats and may suffer from frequent illnesses.
- Diabetes. Taurine helps the body regulate blood sugar. Your pet may develop diabetes without sufficient amounts of taurine.
- Lethargy. Cats affected by the deficiency may appear tired and listless.
In some cases, it may be possible to reverse the effects of a taurine deficiency if your cat is diagnosed in time and begins to receive supplemental taurine. Unfortunately, heart and vision changes aren't reversible.
How Do Taurine Deficiencies Occur?
Eating a diet that doesn't contain taurine is the leading cause of the deficiency. Cats that eat homemade foods or eat a vegetarian or vegan diet are most at risk of developing serious health problems related to a lack of taurine. Although caring pet owners often create special diets in an attempt to help their pets, the diets may actually harm their furry friends.
Taurine supplements will increase your pet's supply of the amino acid, but the supplements may not provide enough taurine to prevent health problems. If you feed your pet a homemade, vegetarian or vegan diet, it's a good idea to share the diet with your pet's veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist. These professionals can help you tweak the meal plan to ensure that it meets all of your cat's nutritional needs.
Your cat may also be a risk of a taurine deficiency if he or she enjoys sampling your dog's food. Dog food doesn't contain taurine, as dogs can create their own supply of the amino acid. Although your cat may like the taste, a steady diet of dog food is a bad idea. If your cat can't resist chowing down on dog food, feed your dog in a separate room when it's mealtime.
Regular veterinary visits are the key to your pet's good health and help ensure that your cat doesn't suffer the devastating effects of a taurine deficiency. If it's been a while since we've seen your pet, call us to schedule an appointment.
PetMD: Taurine Deficiency in Cats
Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: Feeding the Homemade Diet, 10/17
Texas A&M University: Cat Food for Thought, 12/01/08
A summer haircut may help you feel more comfortable during hot, humid summer weather, but it won't have the same effect on your pet. In fact, cutting or shaving your pet's fur can actually compromise your furry friend's ability to remain cool.
Your Pet's Coat Provides Built-In Climate Control
Although wearing a fur coat in the summer might increase your risk of heat stroke, the same isn't true for your pets. Their coats actually provide a built-in heating and cooling system. During the winter, your dog or cat's fur offers warmth when it lays flat against the body. When temperatures soar, the individual hairs in your pet's coat stand upright, maximizing air flow.
Some breeds, such as Chow Chows, Alaskan Huskies, Sheepdogs, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Scottish Terriers and Shih Tzus, have double coats that keep them comfortable whether it's warm or sunny or snowing and frigid outdoors. The undercoat, the layer of hair closest to the body, insulates your dog's body during the winter. During the summer, the undercoat prevents your pet from becoming too hot by keeping cooler air next to the skin.
Cutting Your Pet's Hair Isn't the Best Choice
Cutting or shaving your pet's hair interferes with your dog or cat's ability to stay cool. Although you may have the best intentions when you turn on the clippers, your pet may have more trouble regulating heat after a shave or haircut. Shaving can even affect your pet for years to come if hair doesn't grow back again after a shave or grows in an abnormal pattern. The problem is particularly harmful if your dogs' undercoat doesn't grow back completely. Without that protective layer of hair, your dog will have trouble handling both hot and cold temperatures.
Sunburn isn't normally a concern when you have a furry pet - unless you shave or cut their hair. Hair protects their sensitive skin from the rays of the sun, preventing burns and reducing the skin cancer risk. Applying sunscreen before trips outdoors is a must if your dog has thin or shaved hair.
Fur also keeps all sorts of unpleasant things from coming in contact with your pet's skin, such as allergens, insects and lawn care products. Without the protection that hair provides, your pet may be more likely to develop painful rashes or bites after spending a little time in the yard.
Better Ways to Keep Your Dog or Cat Cool
The tips can help your pet stay cool during the dog (and cat) days of summer:
- Find Shade. Make sure your yard offers plenty of shady spaces if your dog or cat will be spending time outdoors this summer. Although a doghouse may help keep your dog warm in the winter, the small space traps heat in the summer and isn't a good shade option. If you don't have any trees in your yard, a large deck umbrella or a tarp can be used to create a little shade.
- Offer an Ample Supply of Water. Dogs and cats need to drink more when it's hot. Replenish water bowls frequently when temperatures rise.
- Limit Exercise During the Hottest Part of the Day. Take your dog for walks during the morning and evening when temperatures are a little cooler.
- Know When to Bring Your Pet Indoors. If it's too hot and humid for you to spend more than a few minutes outdoors, it's also too hot for your pet. Although panting can help cool your pet, panting isn't as effective during very humid days. Young pets, old pets, and pets with short noses, such as bulldogs, may react more intensely to heat and humidity and will benefit from spending more time indoors.
- Don't Leave Your Pet in a Parked Car. Every year local newspapers and TV stations run stories about pets that die after being left in hot cars. It only takes a few minutes for temperatures in a car to soar to unhealthy levels, even if you leave the windows cracked. If you can't take your pet to a store or restaurant, it's best to leave him or her at home.
- Brush Your Pet Often. Brushing removes loose hairs and allows air to circulate freely through your pet's coat.
Allowing your pet's natural cooling system to do its job is the best way to keep your furry friend cool this summer. If you have a question about your pet's health or need to schedule an appointment, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.
Safe Bee: Should You Shave Your Dog for Summer? No Way, Vets Say, 5/22/15
Catster: Is Shaving Your Cat Okay? 7/19/17
Washington Post: Dogs and Cats Can Usually Deal with the Heat, but Their Owners Must Be Careful, 7/9/12
Pottery Barn experienced a run on apothecary tables after "Friends'" character Rachel Green bought one for her apartment in a popular episode of the TV series. Viewers decided that if the table looked good in Rachel's spacious New York apartment, it would be perfect for their own homes. It's not just inanimate objects that become fads. Movie and TV viewers also tend to adopt or buy pets based on the animals they see in their favorite films and programs. Here are a few breeds that have become popular after appearing in a TV show or movie.
Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd star of silent movies in the World War I era, started the first pet fad. Everyone wanted a German Shepherd that was as loyal, smart and brave as Rin Tin Tin. Breeders met the demand for the dogs by overlooking standard breeding practices that ensured that puppies were strong, healthy and conformed to breed standards. As a result, today's German Shepherds are prone to developing heart problems, hip dysplasia, cancer and gastric issues, according to a Dogster article.
Thousands of people decided that they just had to adopt Dalmatians after viewing the cute, spotted puppies in the film version of "101 Dalmatians." Unfortunately, real life is a lot different than reel life. Dalmatians acquired from breeders, rescue groups, and animal shelters can't perform the same tricks as their on-screen counterparts without hours of training. Within a year after the movie aired, many shelters saw huge increases in unwanted Dalmatians, according to a September 1997 New York Times article.
Lassie was the kind of dog every family wanted in the 1950s. The collie was the perfect companion to TV's Timmy, regularly rescuing him from difficult situations. Unfortunately, the same type of breed problems that occurred with German Shepherds after the popularity of Rin Tin Tin also happened with collies. As a result of mass production, health and temperament problems increased for some of the dogs.
You may not be able to buy a fictional direwolf, but you can purchase or adopt a Siberian Husky, a dog that looks very much like Jon Snow's best friend. In fact, the demand for the breed increased significantly after "Game of Thrones" became a hit TV show. Although Siberian Huskies certainly look impressive, they're not necessarily the ideal dog for everyone. In addition to their positive traits, such as loyalty and friendliness, the dogs are very high-energy and notoriously difficult to train.
Animal shelters soon saw a surge in unwanted Huskies as the show's fans discovered that caring for the dogs was much more difficult than they assumed. "Games of Thrones" actor Peter Dinklage even joined with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to remind fans that adopting a dog should be a lifelong commitment.
Labradoodles, Cockapoos and Other Mixed Breeds
Certain mixed breeds often become popular after they're seen in the company of actresses or actors. Labradoodles, the result of breeding Labrador Retrievers with standard or miniature poodles, are known for their intelligence and friendliness. Tiger Woods, Jennifer Aniston and Lance Bass are among the stars who've adopted or purchased labradoodles.
Cockapoos, the combination of cocker spaniels and poodles, are also friendly dogs known for their affectionate behavior with family members and strangers alike. They've become a favorite of Lady Gaga, Minka Kelly, Ashley Judd and other celebrities.
Other "designer dogs" include the Goldendoodle (golden retriever and poodle), Chug (chihuahua and pug), Pekeapoo (Pekingnese and poodle), Puggle (pug and beagle) and Yorkipoo (Yorkshire Terrier and toy poodle).
Should You Adopt One of These Pets?
All of the breeds listed above can make excellent pets, as long as you understand the needs, potential health problems and temperament of the various breeds. Although a Siberian Husky might not be the best choice if you live in an apartment, the breed may be a better option if you have a large yard, time for multiple walks a day, infinite patience for training, and an appreciation for the finer qualities of the breed.
Labradoodles make fine family pets, but aren't the best choices if you're hoping to avoid a flare-up of your allergies. Although the breed was initially touted as hypoallergenic, that doesn't seem to be the case. A full-bred poodle or another breed may be a better choice if you're allergic to dogs.
Regular veterinary care is essential no matter what breed of dog you choose. If you've recently added a furry friend to your household, or it's time for your pet's checkup, contact us to schedule an appointment.
The New York Times: After Movies, Unwanted Dalmatians, 9/14/97
Dogster: Breed Fads Are Bad for Dogs
PETA: Peter Dinklage Asks Game of Thrones Fans to Stop Buying Huskies, 8/15/17
VetStreet: Meet 18 Designer Dog Breeds, 7/2/16
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