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Tips & Tails by "Big Red" is a column written by Tender Care and published monthly in 50+ News & Views. Find out what Big Red has to say about many common pet questions!
My name is Big Red. I am a smart dog. How smart, do you ask? Well, I have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Being a dog, I have firsthand knowledge of what us furry, handsome family members really need. I am also knowledgeable about the other smug, independent furry animal ? the cat. I hope you enjoy the column.
Answer: Experts recommend year round flea control as well as tick control if ticks are a concern for your pet. The reason for this recommendation is that fleas and ticks can lay dormant in the winter months and emerge on the first somewhat warm day. It takes consistent cold temperatures for the fleas to stay dormant. Last winter was fairly mild in Central Illinois with many days above freezing. A flea can emerge on a relatively warm winter day and hitch a ride on your pet as they are out enjoying the slightly warmer weather. If your pet is not on an appropriate flea prevention and brings that flea inside with them, it will begin to reproduce. This can quickly turn into a flea infestation. Ticks can also be active even during the winter as long as ground temperatures are above 45 degrees. If you decide to take your pet hiking in the woods on a slightly warmer winter day they can potentially be exposed to ticks. If your pet spends time in a wooded or other potentially tick infested area in the winter months, you should continue tick prevention in the winter months.
Answer: There really isn't a simple answer to this question. Concentrated urine can be brighter/darker in color and therefore appear very yellow. This would be a normal finding if your pet has not been drinking as much water as usual. Sometimes we can see bright yellow urine with diseases such as liver disease or with severe muscle trauma. We can also see infections result in changes in urine color- these samples are typically much more cloudy and can occasionally have blood in the urine. If you think there may be something wrong with your pet's urine, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will likely want to examine your pet and will likely recommend testing a urine sample.
Answer: Reverse sneezing happens when your pet rapidly pulls air into their nose. This has the potential to make a loud snorting sound. The exact cause of reverse sneezing is unknown, but it is often thought to be made worse by allergies and environmental odors (perfumes, potpourri, smoke, etc). You should consider having your veterinarian confirm that what your pet is doing truly is a reverse sneeze. A short video of your pet doing the behavior you have noticed at home may be helpful to ensure your vet can see the behavior. Your veterinarian will closely evaluate your pets nose, throat, heart and lungs to help rule out other causes such as tracheal collapse, kennel cough, heart disease, etc. If your vet thinks the cough is likely a reverse sneeze, they may recommend trying Benadryl as well as environmental modifications if possible.
Answer: Yes, it is very important to continue heartworm prevention year round. When a mosquito bites an animal infected with heartworm disease, they pick up microfilaria (microscopic baby heartworms). These microfilaria develop into an infective stage over a 2 week period. If the mosquito then bites your dog the infective larvae can be transmitted to your pet. Once the larve are inside your pet, it can take anywhere from 51 days up to 6 months to mature into adult heartworms. Heartworm preventatives work by eliminating the immature stages of the heartworm parasites. Heartworm preventatives are not effective against adult heartworms. It is important to continue heartworm preventatives on a strict schedule year round. If you skip doses in the winter months or administer prevention late, the immature larvae may have already molted into the adult stage of disease.
Answer: You are correct. Chocolate is toxic to dogs. Chocolate toxicity is a dose specific toxicity. Methylxanthines are the specific toxic component found in chocolate. Methylxanthines can be further categorized into 2 substances: caffeine and theobromine. At high doses, methylxanthines can stimulate the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. This can result in tremors, seizures and an abnormal heart rhythm and rate. High dose exposures left untreated have the potential to result in death. At low doses, you may just see vomiting and diarrhea or you may see no signs at all. White chocolate is generally the least toxic because it has the lowest methylxanthine content. Cocoa powder and baking chocolate are generally much more toxic. This means, if you have a large dog that gets into a small amount of white chocolate, your dog will more than likely be okay. If you have a small dog that gets into a significant amount of dark chocolate. this could be a much more concerning exposure.
Answer: If your dog accidentally gets into some chocolate you should contact either your veterinarian or an animal poison control center as soon as possible. They will likely calculate a Methylxanthine dose and decide what needs done next from there. If the exposure was fairly small, they may just recommend monitoring. If the exposure was larger and depending on your pets health history, they may recommend making your pet vomit. This is often done with either an injectable medication at your local vet clinic or with carefully dosed out hydrogen peroxide. Use caution when administering hydrogen peroxide at home- too much hydrogen peroxide can also be toxic to your pet. It is also important to note that some medical conditions can be made worse if you make your pet vomit. If the exposure was very large, your veterinarian may recommend hospitalizing your pet to treat the possible increase in heart rate, tremors or seizures your pet may experience as a result of the exposure.
Answer: The American Heartworm Society recommends yearly heartworm testing in dogs as well as year round heartworm prevention. A small blood sample is drawn to check for heartworm proteins indicative of heartworm disease. Yearly heartworm testing is important to ensure that the disease is caught as early as possible. Heartworm disease is a very serious disease that can be fatal if left untreated. This disease is caused by worms that live in the bloodstream, heart and lungs. If left untreated, it can cause severe damage to the heart, lungs and potentially other organs. If your pet tests positive for heartworm disease, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment protocol to kill both the adult and immature worms in the bloodstream. Your veterinarian may want to do additional testing to confirm heartworm disease before starting treatment. It is very important to restrict exercise while your pet is undergoing heartworm treatment to minimize further damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworm treatment can vary but typically consists of several steps including specific antibiotics, several injections and typically a short stay with your veterinarian. As with most diseases, the prognosis for Heartworm disease is better if the disease is diagnosed and treated early on in the disease process.
Answer: Owning a geriatric dog can be difficult at times. It can sometimes be difficult to tell how they are feeling. You should watch your pet closely for behavior changes, changes in appetite, stiffness, changes in activity level, etc. If any adverse changes are seen you should contact your veterinarian to discuss what should be done next to continue keeping your pet comfortable. Arthritis or Degenerative Joint disease is fairly common in our older pets. Your veterinarian may recommend a joint supplement or anti-inflammatory pain meds. Do not give your pet any over the counter medication without talking to your veterinarian first. Some over the counter anti-inflammatory medications can be especially harmful to your pet. As your pet ages your veterinarian may also recommend a small blood panel to help ensure that your pet is in good health and help to catch diseases before they have progressed.
Answer: Travel with your pet can be both fun and stressful at the same times. You should make sure your pet does well in new environments as well as with travel (car or plane rides). If your pet has trouble with car rides your may consider talking with your veterinarian about medication options for sedation or to help with anxiety. You will likely want to have a Health Certificate with you when you travel as well as any pertinent medical history in case you need to take your pet gets sick on the trip. Mosquitoes, fleas and ticks are typically worse in the warmer states. You will want to make sure your pet is on a good Heartworm prevention as well as flea and tick prevention. You will also want to make sure your pet is healthy and current on vaccines before travel. If you plan to fly to your destination, your chosen airline may have additional specific requirements. You should check with them well in advance to ensure you will have everything you need. You should also make sure your pet is welcome at your destination.
Answer: There are incontinence medications available such as Proin and DES that can sometimes help when your pet is leaking urine. These medications should be used with some caution. Your vet will likely want to rule out other underlying causes such as urinary tract infection or crystals/stones. Other underlying diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes can cause your pet to drink and pee more than normal which can also result in accidents in the house. After these or other diseases have been ruled out your veterinarian may recommend a medication such as Proin. Incontinence can be caused by weakened muscles of the urethral sphincter- this is a muscle that helps to hold urine in the bladder and prevent leaking. Proin works to help increase muscle tone in the urethral sphincter and as a result, help prevent your pet from leaking urine. It is important to note that Proin may also increase your pets blood pressure and should therefore, be used with some caution in patients with heart, liver or kidney disease as well as patients that may be diabetic or have glaucoma. You should contact your veterinarian to see if your pet may be a good candidate for Proin. Your vet may want to do some testing to make sure your pet is otherwise healthy before prescribing this medication.
Answer: Declaw is currently a somewhat controversial topic. Please discuss with your veterinarian to make sure you are comfortable with your decision. Most veterinarians today have a very good pain management protocol in place should you decide to declaw your cat. This often includes strong pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and nerve blocks. The procedure involves the removal of the last digit along with the nail. Some tips if you are trying to avoid declaw involve regular nail trims, plenty of scratching posts, plastic nail caps over the nail, positive reinforcement of appropriate scratching behavior, etc. Studies have shown that destructive scratching behavior often leads to an increased likelihood of relinquishment to shelters, euthanasia or abandonment. If your cats scratching is an issue, you should consider declaw.
Answer: Lyme disease is spread by tick bites, specifically the deer tick. The deer tick can potentially carry a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, which can cause Lyme disease. Typically the deer tick can be found in wooded or grassy areas or near lakes or streams. If your pet lives or spends time where ticks may be a concern, you should make sure to keep your pet on a flea preventative that also reliably protects against ticks. You may also consider talking with your veterinarian about a vaccine to protect against Lyme disease.
Answer: After an infected deer tick bites a dog, it can take up to 2-5 months before your dog will show any clinical signs of Lyme disease. Most commonly dogs present with arthritis-like symptoms and possibly a fever. Other common signs include decreased appetite, joint swelling, and lethargy. Although rare, a potential long-term side effect of Lyme disease is irreversible kidney damage. If you have any reason to suspect your dog may have Lyme disease, you should let your veterinarian know immediately. They will likely want to do a blood test to confirm or rule out Lyme disease or any other tick-borne diseases. If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with Lyme disease they will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
Answer: Cleaning your dog's ears should be a regular part of grooming your dog. You should purchase a safe commercial ear cleaning product made specifically to clean dog ears, please ask your veterinarian for suggestions. Some of the "at home remedies" can actually be very harmful to your pet. You will need commercial ear cleaner (ask your vet if you don't know what to buy), cotton balls and you may want to wear some disposable gloves. To begin, gently lift upward on your dog's ear flap then apply a small amount of ear cleaner down into the ear canal. Next, gently massage the base of your dog's ear canal to loosen any debris. After that, you can stand back and let your dog shake his or her head and then wipe gently with cotton swabs. It may help to reward your pet with a treat to encourage cooperation next time. You should let your veterinarian know if your dog seems uncomfortable, the ear canal seems red/inflammed or more than just a little dirt/debris is seen down in the ear canal as these could indicate your pet may have an ear infection.
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