Tender Care Animal Hospital


(309) 266-1182

300 E. Courtland


(309) 243-1755

9809 St. Route 91

Tips & Tails by "Big Red"

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December 2016 Issue

Question: My dog seems very stiff and is having trouble getting around lately. Is it possible my dog has arthritis? What can I do to make my dog more comfortable?

Answer: Yes, your dog may very well have arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease (DJD). This is something we commonly see in our older dog population. Many people notice that, at first, their dog is slow to get up after resting but seems to do better after they get moving. If you suspect your dog may have arthritis, you should have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian. Arthritis is far from the only reason why an older pet may start to slow down. If your pet is diagnosed with arthritis, your veterinarian may recommend pain medication as well as joint supplements. If your pet is only mildly affected, your vet may recommend a glucosamine joint supplement. If your pet seems more than mildly uncomfortable, your veterinarian may prescribe a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory pain medication to keep your pet more comfortable. These medications are often prescribed initially on an as-needed basis. It is often a good idea to check basic blood work to make sure the kidney and liver are working properly before starting one of these medications. If your pet is severely affected, your veterinarian may prescribe multiple pain medications to keep your pet comfortable. If you think your pet has arthritis, contact your veterinarian because they can help make your pet more comfortable and help differentiate from other diseases that may be causing a behavior change in your pet.

Question: Why doesn't my dog sweat in the heat?

Answer: Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat to cool off. Dogs only produce sweat like humans do from a very small portion of their body. These areas where dogs can sweat to cool off are the areas that are not covered in fur, i.e. nose, paw pads, and around their bottom. Dogs do, however, have sweat glands on each hair follicle. These glands are called apocrine glands and they do produce a substance, but it does not serve the same cooling purpose as sweat glands do in humans. A dog uses panting as their primary mechanism of cooling.

Question: What are some signs my dog could be overheating?

Answer: Some signs of heat exhaustion are excess panting, thick ropy saliva, red-colored gums, warm to the touch, sweating from paw pads, or pink and flushed ears, muzzle, and abdomen. Some breeds are more susceptible to overheating, such as our smooshy-faced breeds (pug, shih tzu, bulldog, etc.), overweight or obese dogs, dogs with a dark or thick coat, or dogs with any underlying respiratory condition. If you think it is too hot outside, it is best to keep your dog indoors and only take them outside for short and monitored potty breaks. If you think your dog may be overheating, you should bring your pet inside and contact your veterinarian immediately.

November 2016 Issue

Question: My dog is scratching and licking so much she is keeping both of us up at night, and she has some small sores on her skin! Why is she doing this and is there anything I can do to help this?

Answer: This is an all-too-common complaint this time of year. For that reason, I would like to chat briefly about allergies this month. Many of our pets suffer from allergies, and those allergies can be especially bad this time of year for some. Generally speaking, there are three types of allergies we commonly see in our pets: environmental allergy (called Atopy), food allergy, and flea allergy. The most common symptom of allergies we see in our pets is itchy skin (scratching and licking) and redness of the skin. When our pets itch and scratch, they can cause secondary skin infections. We can also commonly see anal gland issues and ear infections in our allergic patients.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine the underlying cause of allergies in our pets. In our pets with flea allergies, it can take very few fleas to cause a significant problem. For this reason, we recommend flea medication for all pets, especially in the summer months. A common area to find fleas and flea dirt is around the base of the tail, but some pets can be significantly affected with no obvious evidence of fleas if the allergy is bad enough.

The next step is to consider a diet trial with a prescription hypoallergenic food or a limited ingredient, "novel protein" over-the-counter diet. The "novel protein" diet is less ideal, but often much less expensive if prescription food is not an option. Currently, researchers think our pets with food allergies may be allergic to the protein component of the food. Novel protein refers to a protein source our pet has not seen before, such as lamb, venison, salmon, etc. Chicken and beef are two protein sources to avoid when starting a diet trial.

After we have ruled out flea allergy and food allergy, we are left with the suspicion that a pet may have an environmental allergy. Allergy testing and immunotherapy injections (allergy shots) are available to determine and treat the exact cause of the allergy. Many owners choose to keep their pets comfortable by treating the symptoms of their pet's seasonal allergies. Historically, steroids were one of the few medications available to effectively combat itch and inflammation. Our owners were thrilled that their pet wasn't keeping them up at night scratching, but they were frustrated that their dog was having accidents in the house, drinking more than normal, and gaining weight. The other, more concerning problem was that steroids can have adverse effects with long term use, such as causing diseases like diabetes. Today, several newer medications are on the market that are just as effective at helping with itch but thought to be much safer long term.

Often, by the time an owner brings their pet to the veterinarian, they have a secondary skin infection that will need to be treated. Your veterinarian will likely want to do some cytology to confirm the skin infection (look for bacteria or yeast growing on the skin under the microscope). Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may either recommend topical treatment, oral medication, or a combination of both. Regular bathing, often with medicated shampoo, is another good option for our patients with environmental allergies. If your pet has an ear infection, your veterinarian will diagnose and treat the infection. Antihistamines such as Benadryl can also be helpful if your pet's allergies are somewhat mild or it is used in conjunction with other treatment options. If you think your pet may have allergies, you should contact your veterinarian for evaluation and to discuss the best treatment options for your pet.

October 2016 Issue

Concerned Owner: My dog, Lucy, stayed recently at a kennel. She was fine when she went in, but when she came home she started coughing. She coughed so much, and she threw up a few times. I went to the veterinarian's office and he said she had kennel cough. He gave her medicine, and the cough eventually went away, but I was terrified - it seemed very scary. I am going out of town again, and I am so worried about her staying at the kennel again.

Tender Care: Kennel cough is too general of a term. Like humans, there are numerous bacteria and viruses that can cause a cough; it is very common to dogs. It can occur anywhere where dogs are kept or allowed to interact in close proximity. Common places for kennel cough exposure include pet stores, dog parks, boarding/ kennels, and grooming facilities, shelters. It is very similar to people catching a cold when going to the grocery store. The store can do everything possible - clean, sanitize, and wipe down everything - but it is impossible to get rid of every bit of it if the cold has been brought in.

There is a vaccination for kennel cough, Bordetella. The Bordetella vaccine, like most other vaccines, is designed to lessen the likelihood of infection and the severity of disease if your pet is exposed, but it does not completely prevent infection. There are different forms of the vaccination: injection, intranasal, and oral. There are many different strains of kennel cough, similar to a human cold.

Similar to a human with a cold, most pets exposed to kennel cough will get better on their own without treatment within a week or so. Symptoms and treatment required vary depending on the health status of your pet and the specific strain that is involved. Most healthy pets that have been properly vaccinated will develop a cough that will often resolve on its own in a week or two. In an uncomplicated case, it is very rare to see fever, lethargy, or lack of appetite. If your pet is showing more than mild symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or even cough suppressants. Just like in people, where we run into trouble is when an animal is very old, very young, otherwise unwell, or immunocompromised. Most of us dogs are well equipped to fight off the infection on our own, but a few may require medication or rarely hospitalization and other supportive care.

If your think your pet may have kennel cough, you should contact your veterinarian for recommendations and make sure to keep your dog away from other dogs for a few weeks to prevent further spread. If your dog is in good health, I would not stop your trip. Most boarding/ kennel facilities take precautions to the best of their ability to minimize the risk.

September 2016 Issue

Question: Recently, I have noticed a rather unpleasant odor to my dog's breath. What does this mean?

Answer: A foul-smelling odor to your dog's breath may be in indication of poor dental health. If you suspect your dog may have bad teeth, you should have him or her evaluated by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a dental cleaning. Dental disease can be very painful and even result in your pet refusing to eat. Dental disease can also be a source of infection and a complicating factor in heart disease. In order to clean your dog's teeth, your pet will need to undergo general anesthesia. Your veterinarian will take every precaution to ensure your pet's safety while under anesthesia. Your veterinarian will work with his or her veterinary technician to clean and polish your dog's teeth, including along and under your pet's gum line. Your veterinarian will then evaluate any areas showing pocketing or loose teeth. Some veterinarians offer dental x-ray to evaluate the health of your dog's mouth below the surface and help to decide if a tooth needs to be removed. Regular dental cleanings are recommended to maintain your pet's oral health.

Question: What can I do at home to improve my pet's dental health?

Answer: Veterinarians typically recommend continuing at-home dental care after a dental cleaning. Often, if your pet has visible caked on tartar and foul-smelling breath, brushing at home will not be enough. After your pet has had a dental cleaning, there are several things that can be done at home to help maintain your pet's dental health. Regular brushing is the first recommendation. You should use enzymatic pet toothpaste and try to brush your pet's teeth at least several times per week. For convenience, your veterinarian may recommend using a finger toothbrush with small bristles, instead of a toothbrush with a long handle. This should make bushing easier. If your pet will not tolerate regular bushing, there are many dental chews on the market that can be somewhat helpful. These chews do a good job keeping tartar from building up on the tips of the teeth, but do not work as well at keeping tartar from accumulating near the gum line. Talk to your veterinarian for more specific at-home pet dental care recommendations.

July 2016 Issue

This month, I would like to discuss an important topic currently in the news: the dog flu. As many of you have heard, numerous cases of canine influenza have been diagnosed in Bloomington-Normal and surrounding areas this spring. There are different strains of the dog flu, just as there are in the human flu. The current strain of dog flu in Central Illinois is H3N2.

The vaccine is important, and you need to call your veterinarian if your dog is at risk. If your dog goes to doggy day care, boarding, or grooming facilities or regularly frequents the dog park, then they may be at more risk, and you should probably have your dog vaccinated for canine influenza. If your dog rarely interacts with other dogs or you can keep your dog away from other dogs until this outbreak is contained, you may not need this vaccine for your dog.

Please contact your veterinarian for the current strain of the canine influenza and to find out if your dog should be vaccinated. The vaccine is a two-part vaccine given two weeks apart with protection against the flu virus 10 days after the second vaccine. Please know that your dog will not be protected after the first vaccine alone. Unfortunately, the vaccine does not guarantee your pet immunity from the virus. However, if your pet does get canine influenza after vaccination, your pet is expected to be sick for a shorter amount of time, and the signs are expected to be less severe.

At this time, we have no way of knowing what will happen with canine influenza in the coming months or years. Completely eliminating the possibility for exposure is the only way to ensure that your pet will not catch the dog flu. If you think your dog may be showing signs of canine influenza (coughing, fever, etc.), you should contact your veterinarian immediately and avoid any further exposure to other dogs. Please contact your veterinarian if you have any further questions regarding canine influenza or are considering vaccinating your dog against the flu.

June 2016 Issue

Question: What determines the color of a cat's eyes?

Answer: The quick answer to that question is genetics. All cats are born with very dark blue, almost black eye color. As a kitten grows, that dark blue color fades to a lighter blue and typically by about three months of age to a shade of yellow. The number of pigment-producing cells, or melanocytes, determines the exact color of a cat's eyes. They can range from green to yellow to almost amber in color. A few breeds of cats, such as the Siamese, even have blue eyes. Blue eyes have almost no pigment-producing cells at all. Another interesting tidbit about cat eyes: cat eyes appear to almost glow in the dark because cats have a structure in the back of their eyes that is very reflective of light. This structure is called a tapetum lucidum (kind of makes you think of a spell cast in the Harry Potter books). This structure is highly reflective and helps to improve night vision in cats. This same structure is present in our dogs and most wildlife.

Question: What can I do to naturally help with my cat's diarrhea?

Answer: If your cat has diarrhea, you should probably have your cat evaluated by your veterinarian, especially if the diarrhea is more than mild or has lasted for more than a few days. Diarrhea can be a sign of illness. Your veterinarian will likely ask you detailed questions about the nature of your cat's diarrhea. They will want a description of the diarrhea. They will likely ask you about the frequency of the diarrhea, if your cat is having diarrhea every time it defecates, and if your cat is having accidents outside the box. They will ask you questions about recent diet changes or other changes in the household as well as any changes in behavior or any vomiting you are seeing. Causes of diarrhea can vary from a simple change in diet to intestinal parasites. It can also be a sign of more serious conditions, such as cancer or IBD, especially in our older kitties. Long story short, if your pet is having more than mild diarrhea or it is lasting more than just a day or two, you really should have your pet seen by a veterinarian (and please bring a stool sample with you to rule out intestinal parasites).

March 2016 Issue

Hello Friends, I am going to write a different type of article this month. This is a subject that is very important and close to my heart.

Foster Pet Outreach is an organization that needs your help. There are many seniors reading this that can help. I hope you read this article and realize that you could be an important part of an animal's life. Foster Pet Outreach is a unique animal rescue. They place animals that need fostering in people's homes temporarily. Fostering an animal is very similar to what we think of for children. Sometimes a child may need to be placed into a temporary home until a permanent home is found?pets sometimes need a place to stay while a long-term care solution is found as well. In some cases, this may involve a stay of a few weeks or it may be longer. Foster Pet Outreach strives to place each animal in a home that fits them best. Seniors are perfect for foster pets. Pets also give companionship and unconditional love. There have been numerous studies done on the benefits of pets. A few benefits are lowering blood pressure and improving moods.

One of the biggest challenges for placement are cats. One reason they are hard to place is that they are difficult to take to adoption events to meet potential owners or foster parents. Unlike dogs, cats are usually reserved in the first meeting and may take a little while to warm up. But, I want you to understand that they may take a little longer to warm up but they are in need of love and they want to give their love. Bringing a cat into your home will give the cat time to thrive and in some cases learn to trust again. Cats are perfect for seniors as they do not take up much room, don't need exercise, and are happy to be sleeping on a lap.

With Foster Pet Outreach, you have control of the pet's journey that you foster. You will be part of the adoption process from beginning to end. You know your foster pet best and we want your input on what you feel is best for the animal needs. Foster Pet Outreach provides the support, resources, supplies, and the veterinarian care. Please contact Foster Pet Outreach to foster an animal by filling out a foster home application at www.fosterpetoutreach.org. The love and comfort that you receive will be immense. You can be part of a rewarding life-changing event in an animal's life.

Sincerely, Big Red

February 2016 Issue

Question: I have heard about the benefit of seniors owning dogs? My mother is elderly and has expressed for some time that she would love a dog. Can you tell me some of the benefits?

Answer: There are many benefits for the elderly to own pets. Elderly pet owners who live alone or live in group facilities can benefit by caring for a pet. Pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interactions, and increase physical activity. Pets can reduce depression and lessen loneliness as well. Dogs and cats also live in the here and now moment. They don't care about tomorrow and for the elderly this can be very scary. Owning a pet also can help the elderly person feel wanted and needed by someone. There have been many studies showing that talking to a pet, grooming a pet, caring for a pet, and talking to a pet have huge benefits to helping seniors with loneliness and self-worth.

Please consider before buying anyone an animal:

  • Don't surprise anyone with a pet adoption. Pet ownership is a big responsibility. Please discuss this with the senior or recipient before buying an animal.
  • Let the person choose his or her own pet. You may love dogs. But, your mother may have always loved cats. Ask first before acquiring an animal. You may also love beagles, but your grandmother may have another breed that is her favorite. Acquiring a pet is like dating - the people and pet need to have some chemistry or it won't work.

Warm Hearts for Cold Noses