Pet Health FAQ

Pet Health FAQ

What is heartworm disease?
Do both dogs and cats get heartworm disease?
How is heartworm disease prevented?
How is heartworm disease treated?
What are the best methods to control fleas on my pet and in my house?
What is "Lower Urinary Tract Disease" in cats? How does it differ from a urinary tract infection, and how is it treated?
What does a stool sample on my pet look for? Is it important even if she is rarely or never around other animals?
What is Ringworm, and how do pets get it?
My pet is vomiting. What should I do at home; when should he/she be seen by a veterinarian?
My pet is itchy and scratches or chews his skin. What could be causing this and how do I treat it?
What Is A "Hot Spot"?
My pet is having diarrhea. What should I do at home, or when should she be seen by a veterinarian?
My pet has an ear infection. What are the causes and how do I treat it? What about chronic or recurring ear infections?
It seems like there are so many options on vaccinations for my pet. What does he/she need, and when should the vaccinations be given?
I’m only getting my dog groomed, do I need to get a kennel cough vaccine?
I think my pet has gotten into something toxic. What should I do?
I just added a new puppy to my life. Now what?
I have just added a new kitten to my life. Now what?
I have been told that my pet is overweight. How do I get him to lose weight?
I am considering having my cat declawed; should I? What do you recommend? If I do decide to have my cat declawed, what do I need to know about the procedure and aftercare?
How should I care for my pet's teeth?
My Dog's Teeth Are Worn Down. Should I Be Concerned?
How do I know if my dog has a urinary tract infection, and how should I treat it?
Why should I have my pet spayed or neutered?
My senior dog is drinking lots of water. Is it just old age?
How often should my dog be groomed?
At what age will my pet need grooming?

What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that migrates to and resides in the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery (the main vessel leading from the heart to the lungs). This parasite begins as a larva which is transmitted to animals through a mosquito bite. After a period of migration, the adult worm develops in the heart and produces microfilaria (baby heartworms) which are then ingested by a mosquito to continue the cycle. Worms can become up to 30 cm (almost a foot!) in length causing structural damage to the vessels in which they reside. The turbulent blood flow caused by the adult worms as well as the circulating microfilaria primarily affects the lungs but can affect other organs such as the liver and kidneys. Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot to the lung) can be fatal. Animals can also die from right sided congestive heart failure caused by the parasite.

Do both dogs and cats get heartworm disease?
Cats seem to be more resistant to the parasite than dogs, but cats can and do get heartworm disease. Heartworms are difficult to diagnose in cats, and there is no treatment, so prevention is especially important in cats.

How is heartworm disease prevented?
Heartworm disease is prevented by giving your pet a monthly preventative. The season in which preventative is most important to be given to your pets depends on your environment. Recommended months for giving preventative in Indiana include April through December. Although it is NOT harmful to give your pet preventative year round as certain intestinal parasites, which are also controlled by most preventatives, can be transmitted even during the coldest months. Preventative products which our hospital provides are as follows:

Dogs

Interceptor® - A beef flavored tablet given monthly; Prevents heartworm and the intestinal parasites, whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Heartgard® Plus - A beef flavored chewy treat given monthly; Prevents heartworm disease and the intestinal parasites, hookworms and roundworms.

Revolution® - A topically applied product used monthly; Prevents heartworm and controls fleas and the brown dog tick.

Sentinel® - A beef flavored tablet given monthly; Prevents heartworm and the intestinal parasites, whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Also contains a flea growth hormone regulator which can help control fleas if all pets in the household are using a similar product.

Cats

Heartgard® Plus - A small beef flavored chewy treat given monthly; Prevents heartworm disease and the intestinal parasites, hookworms and roundworms. Revolution® - A topically applied product used monthly; Prevents heartworm disease, fleas, ticks, ear mites, other mites, and intestinal parasites, hookworms and roundworms.

Prior to starting any type of preventative, in dogs over 6 months of age, a blood test should be done and repeated on an annual basis. Heartworm preventatives can cause serious complications in dogs that are already infected. Due to the cats' immune system, initial and annual testing is not required for cats. Any preventative medication should be administered as directed by the doctor.

How is heartworm disease treated?
After a positive diagnosis is made in the dog, additional tests are performed to asses other organ involvement prior to treatment. Treatment consists of 2 injections of an organic arsenic-based drug deep into the muscles of the back. These injections are done over a 24 hour period and require a hospital stay. In severely affected dogs, injections may be separated by one month and then 24 hours (3 injections total). This is done to help decrease the adverse affects of the dying parasite in the dog. Because the worms die slowly over a period of days to weeks, strict cage rest for 4 to 6 weeks is required. Dogs are monitored closely for complications during its recovery time. A second treatment to eliminate microfilaria, the circulating larvae of adult heartworms, is done approximately 4 weeks after the treatment for adults. It involves an oral dose of medication given in the hospital, with monitoring for any adverse reaction for a few hours. Monthly preventative is typically started about 4 weeks after treatment. A blood test is done 4 months after treatment to confirm treatment success. In rare cases, a second course of adult worm treatment is required. If a positive diagnosis is made in cats, the symptoms are controlled with anti-inflammatory drugs for about 3 years, until the worms die.

Treatment is can be quite COSTLY; prevention is inexpensive and best for your pets' health.

What are the best methods to control fleas on my pet and in my house?
We offer several good options for flea and tick control. Most are topical, though there are some oral options as well.

Nexgard – is an oral beefy chew that kills fleas and ticks.

Frontline - topically kills fleas, larvae, flea eggs, and ticks on dogs and cats.

Revolution - topically kills fleas, ticks, as well as preventing heartworm disease.

Trifexis - is an oral heartworm preventative that also kills fleas.

Capstar - is an oral tablet usually given to pets in-hospital with live fleas on them. It only lasts a few hours, but will kill every flea on the pet during that time.

What is "Lower Urinary Tract Disease" in cats? How does it differ from a urinary tract infection, and how is it treated?
Lower urinary tract disease (often abbreviated LUTD) is a complex and complicated group of disorders in cats. Often medical and behavioral issues co-exist, so a cat that is urinating outside the box (a common presenting sign) may have either or both issues. All cats with inappropriate urination should be examined by a veterinarian, as should cats increasing the number of trips to the litter box, passing blood in the urine, or urinating with increased frequency.

Painful urination (usually marked by vocalizing in the box) and especially male cats that strain but produce no urine should be examined promptly. Blocked cats occur when a combination of crystals, cells, and other debris lodge in the narrow urethra (the tube from the bladder to the end of the penis) in male cats. These cats can die within 24 hours if left untreated, so it is a true emergency. Since most of these cats are thought to be constipated, because of the way in which they strain, it is important to report any abnormal trips to the litter box to your veterinarian.

Bacterial urinary tract infections are rare in cats less than 9 years old. A urinalysis can diagnose such infections. In addition to the aforementioned blockages, metabolic diseases that cause crystals to form in urine, or to form stones in the bladder or urethra, are common causes of LUTD in cats. A condition called "Interstitial Cystitis," which may be comparable to the same disease in human women, is poorly understood, but is a fairly common LUTD. Diagnosis is made on the basis of a physical examination, a urinalysis, and sometimes x-rays. Special x-ray procedures may also be warranted to further clarify the problem.

Treatment may include antibiotics for infections, pain medication or muscle relaxants and dietary changes. Obstructed males have their obstructions relieved, usually under sedation.

Inappropriate urination issues can be extremely frustrating to cat owners. We are happy to help you sort out medical and behavioral issues and offer appropriate solutions.

What does a stool sample on my pet look for? Is it important even if she is rarely or never around other animals?
When checking a stool sample, your veterinarians look at a variety of different characteristics such as color, consistency, and the presence of internal parasites. For a routine health exam, we examine the stool for any evidence of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and giardia. Pets become infected with these worms as a puppy from their mother, as an adult they may consume eggs from the soil in the environment, generally through normal grooming. These eggs remain infective in the environment for months to years, so although you may not see anything on your pet after playing in the park, she may have still picked up some eggs. Therefore, even if your pet doesn't interact with other animals, if she walks outside she can pick up these parasites. In compliance with the Center for Disease Control and the Companion Animal Parasite Council, we recommend a routine fecal exam every 6 months; this is required for all boarding animals. Visit www.capcvet.org for more information.

What is Ringworm, and how do pets get it?
Ringworm is not a worm, it is a fungus that can infect the skin of animals and humans. A more appropriate, if challenging, name is dermatophytosis. Ringworm is spread by contact with infected animals, and by touching objects that the infected animal has touched; such as bedding, brushes or grooming equipment, furniture, rugs, etc. Not every animal or human who touches infected animals or objects will become infected; age, immunity, skin condition and grooming habits all influence the fungus’ ability to grow and infect. In animals, the classic Ringworm lesions are patchy areas of hair loss and scaliness, usually with very little inflammation or redness. It is not usually itchy.

Ringworm is best diagnosed by doing a fungal culture -- adding some hair and skin scraping material to a tube of growth media (culture) and seeing what grows on it. This can take several days to a few weeks. A quick "in office" test is the Wood's lamp test, using an ultraviolet (black) light in a darkened room to see if the affected area will fluoresce to a yellow-green. It should be noted that not all ringworm fungal infections will fluoresce, and other (non Ringworm) skin infections will not fluoresce at all. One caution with an infected animal is the potential to spread the fungus to other animals, humans, or contaminate the environment. Topical medications vary in effectiveness. Oral medications are generally reserved for severe and/or chronic infections and can be expensive and with side effects. Please speak to the doctor about what treatment is best for your pet's condition, age, and general health status.

My pet is vomiting. What should I do at home; when should he/she be seen by a veterinarian?
Vomiting is a common sign of illness in dogs and cats. Although we associate vomiting with disease of the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, many non-GI diseases can result in vomiting. For an acute onset of vomiting in an otherwise healthy, young dog, simple at home therapy can be tried for 24 hours. This would include withholding food; restricting water so the pet cannot swallow a large amount of fluids at once, and administering some protectant like Pepto-Bismol®. Due to a cat's sensitive digestive system, food should not be withheld and over the counter medications should not be given without specific direction from the doctor.

If vomiting lasts longer than 24 hours, or if your pet loses interest in food, or acts sick in any other way, then he or she should be seen by a veterinarian. As with any sign of illness in your pet, calling the doctors' office and speaking with the trained personnel will allow them to best assess the particular circumstance and advise you accordingly. When re-instituting food, small amounts of a bland diet are appropriate. Our staff can offer examples of a bland diet if you would like to make something at home, or several commercial canned and dry diets are available at our office.

My pet is itchy and scratches or chews his skin. What could be causing this and how do I treat it?
One of the most common causes of itching in dogs and cats is FLEAS! To treat fleas, there are a variety of veterinary-prescribed medications that are both safe and effective. Beyond fleas, your pet may be itchy due to mites buried beneath his skin, a fungal or bacterial infection, or an allergic reaction to either his food or environment. Your veterinarian will be able to help determine the cause of the itching. Mites may be treated with a topical or oral medication prescribed by the doctor. If your pet has a bacterial infection, antibiotics will likely be prescribed and an antiseptic medicated shampoo may offer additional benefits. Similarly, if a fungal infection is determined to be the cause of itchy skin, the doctor may recommend a topical ointment for a small lesion, a medicated shampoo for a large infection, or oral medication if the topical medications are impractical.

Allergic dermatitis is an extremely common cause of itchy skin in both dogs and cats. Major allergies that we see in pets include:

  • Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD): An often severe allergic reaction to the saliva of fleas caused by flea bites.
  • Atopy: An environmental-allergy to airborne substances, including pollens, molds, housedust, housedust mites, or fabrics. These substances can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Diagnosis may require allergy testing.
  • Food allergy: An adverse reaction (itchy skin, gastrointestinal symptoms, or both) to one or more proteins in food. Some preservatives may cause symptoms as well. Diagnosing food allergies involves feeding an “elimination” or “hypoallergenic” diet for 8 to 10 weeks to look for a decrease in or elimination of symptoms.
  • Contact allergies are rare, but sometimes occur from skin contact with an irritating substance. All of these conditions can require prescription medications and examinations by your veterinarian to ensure an appropriate response to treatment. Most animals can be quite successfully treated.

What Is A "Hot Spot"?
A hot spot, also called acute moist dermatitis, is a localized area of skin inflammation and infection. These common skin lesions are usually caused (and made worse) by biting, licking, or scratching. The important thing for successful long term treatment of a hot spot is to find the underlying cause to break the cycle of continued skin trauma and resulting inflammation. Redness, oozing, pain, and itchiness are hallmark signs. Hair loss is commonly present.

There is usually an inciting factor to initiate the extreme licking and scratching behavior. Look for fleas, mites, or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite, allergies (food, inhalant, contact), or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc.). Some animals have been known to "start" a hot spot out of boredom or stress-related psychological problems.

My pet is having diarrhea. What should I do at home, or when should she be seen by a veterinarian?
If your dog has diarrhea without any other signs of illness:

Withhold food for 12 to 24 hours. Then feed small amounts of a bland diet (A commercial prescription bland diet or 2 to 3 parts boiled white rice to one part low fat cottage cheese, boiled lean hamburger, or boiled chicken breast.) In some cases, an over the counter protectant such as Pepto Bismol® or Pepcid® AC may be appropriate to help settle your dog's gastrointestinal tract.

*For dogs and puppies 10 pounds and under.

** Only withhold food for 6-8 hours, then try a bland diet.

Cats should not have food withheld, and due to their sensitive digestive systems, most over the counter protectants cannot be given to cats. If your cat maintains a normal appetite and shows no other signs of illness, you should wait 24 hours for diarrhea to resolve before scheduling an exam. Please bring a fresh stool sample to the appointment, if possible. If the diarrhea is frequent (every few hours), or persists for more than 24 hours we recommend having your pet examined. If your pet seems sick, we recommend seeing your pet that same day. As with any concerns about your pet’s health, err on the side of caution. Our trained staff would be happy to assist you with any further questions regarding your pet's individual issues.

My pet has an ear infection. What are the causes and how do I treat it? What about chronic or recurring ear infections?
Ear infections may be due to a variety of causes. The problem may be heavy floppy ears which decrease air flow (i.e. Cocker Spaniels), hair in the air canal (i.e. poodles), wet ears (i.e. Labrador Retrievers that swim all summer), or allergies. Yeast or bacteria, which are naturally within the ear canal, begin to multiply when the ear becomes inflamed (for the above reasons). The yeast and/or bacteria cause more inflammation and the cycle continues until we intervene. At the physical exam, the doctor may take a sample of the material in the ears and look at it under the microscope to determine whether yeast, bacteria, or both are involved.

For yeast, a topical ointment if often sent home to apply daily anywhere from 7 to 14 days, depending on exam findings. For bacteria, a topical or oral medication may be prescribed. In addition, a sample may be sent to the lab for a bacterial culture to determine what kinds of bacteria are involved, and the proper antibiotic may be prescribed. Once treatment begins, a recheck examination should be scheduled so the doctor can ensure the infection is resolved. One of the most common causes of recurring ear infections is that the infection was not completely resolved during the first round of medication. Multiple rechecks are occasionally needed to ensure complete resolution of the infection.

If the infection is chronic or recurring, then either a food allergy or environmental allergy may be the cause. A food trial may be recommended to determine which type of allergy with which we are dealing. Food allergies are discussed above.

To help prevent ear infections, an ear cleaner may be recommended to use after every bath, every swim, or 1-2 times weekly based on your pet's history. There are veterinary ear wash solutions available or homemade solutions are also an option. Any ear treatment should be managed by the veterinarian.

It seems like there are so many options on vaccinations for my pet. What does he/she need, and when should the vaccinations be given?
The goal when vaccinating a pet is to stimulate the pet's own immune system with the vaccine, in order to protect against a specific disease. Traditionally, in the dog and cat, vaccinations have been given annually. Over the past 5 years, we have begun to re-evaluate how often vaccines need to be given in order to maintain adequate levels of protection against serious infectious disease.

Rabies is unique in that the revaccination interval is set by state government. In Indiana, the law states that the 1st rabies vaccine given is only good for 1 year; the subsequent boosters need only be given every 3 years. This holds true for dogs and cats.

The other vaccines given to dogs and cats are undergoing changes as far as who receives what and how often. A pet's overall health, age and lifestyle most likely will determine which vaccines are appropriate and when they should be administered. An example would be the change in the use of the feline leukemia virus vaccine. Until 5 years ago, we recommended vaccinating all cats for feline leukemia virus because it was felt to be a fatal non-treatable disease. Although that perception of the disease has not changed, today, we recommend vaccinating only those cats who go outside and may have direct contact with an infected cat….or live inside but share the house with an indoor/outdoor cat. Also, since cats develop a strong natural immunity to Feline Leukemia when they are older, we very rarely give the vaccine to senior cats. Re-emerging disease, like Leptospirosis, have also put some pets at risk.

Currently, the best recommendation as to which vaccines are appropriate for your pet will come from a discussion with your veterinarian.

I’m only getting my dog groomed, do I need to get a kennel cough vaccine?
Any time your pet will be exposed to other dogs in a confined setting, we do recommend a bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine. This disease is highly contagious, and is spread through the air by infected dogs sneezing and coughing. Exposure occurs in environments where there are other dogs in proximity, such as kennels, dog parks, and at the groomer. Symptoms begin usually 3 to 5 days after exposure, and include a dry, "non-productive" cough. Sometimes the coughing/gagging seems very violent. The episodes of coughing may go on for minutes at a time and then be repeated at intervals.

I think my pet has gotten into something toxic. What should I do?
Call immediately if you think your pet ate something toxic for further instruction. Time is very important!!! It only takes 30-60 minutes for ingested products to become absorbed into the blood stream. Many toxins can be fatal, but with immediate action the outcome can be favorable.

The most common toxins include:

  • Chocolate (particularly dark (semi sweet) or bakers' varieties)
  • Advil
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Onions
  • Grapes/raisins (in large quantities)
  • D-Con® /other rodent poisons
  • Antifreeze (only takes a few licks to be fatal)
  • Lead

Cats are particularly sensitive to acetaminophen (Tylenol®), Daylilies, and Philodendrons as well as the items listed above. To see a list of toxic plants, visit the ASPCA page.

For a list of SAFE plants, visit The Cat Fancier's Association page. In order to successfully treat the toxicity, time is crucial. Animals are examined, then vomiting is typically induced to empty the stomach contents, and activated charcoal is administered to absorb the toxins. Depending on the toxin, IV fluids, lab work, and specific antidotes may be necessary as well.

I just added a new puppy to my life. Now what?
Congratulations on adding a new puppy to your life! Nothing compares to the joys of watching a pup discovering the world around him or herself. This may also involve the less enjoyable issues of chewing, housetraining, and other possibly destructive behaviors. Fortunately, there is much known about normal development and behavior that can make adjustments easier. While we usually try to schedule your new pet for an examination and to cover these areas very soon after your little one comes home, a few tips presented here may help get you started. Puppies, ideally, should be brought into their new homes at about 7 to 9 weeks old. While pups brought home at other ages will likely be just fine, this recommended age range will provide time with its mother to be socialized as a dog before the human socialization period begins. Socialization, which is the term for the process during which the puppy develops relationships with other living beings in its environment, is vitally important in developing into a well-behaved dog later. Several exercises are described, and our nursing staff and doctors can share them with you. Housetraining is an additional challenge; see housetraining specific question. Remember that puppies have basic requirements for chewing, play, exercise, exploration, feeding, social contact, and elimination. Appropriate outlets for all these needs exist.

Vaccinations for puppies are essential. Several severe, potentially fatal diseases can be effectively prevented by giving vaccinations to puppies at appropriate times. The initial vaccinations are recommended at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Boosters are given at 3 to 4 week intervals until 4 months of age. This will allow the pups own immune system to respond to the vaccinations as any immunity from the mother decreases.

The first visit entails vital information for the new pup owner. Because most puppies have intestinal parasites, and some can become debilitated from them, fecal examinations and deworming are part of the first visit. Additionally, some inborn problems (called "congenital defects") can be detected on the physical exam. Heartworm and flea/tick preventative options are also discussed at the first visit. (Please refer to question specific to heartworm &/ or fleas for product options and details.) Appropriate diet and age of sterilization will also be covered in the initial visit. With so much information, any additional questions that arise from the visit will be gladly answered by our staff.

We thoroughly enjoy the visits we get from new puppies and their excited, often sleepy, and occasionally worried new human families. We are delighted to be of help during your process of adding this special new pet to your family.

I have just added a new kitten to my life. Now what?
Congratulations on adding a new kitten to your life! Nothing compares to the joys of watching a kitten discovering the world around him or herself. This may also involve the less enjoyable issues of housetraining (which is instinctive for most kittens) and destructive behaviors such as scratching. Fortunately, there is much known about normal development and behavior that can make adjustments easier. While we usually try to schedule your new kitten for an examination and to cover these areas very soon after your little one comes home, a few tips presented here may help get you started. Kittens have periods of socialization with their mothers; many believe this occurs strongly between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Adopting kittens after this time of "learning to be cats" is recommended. Most kittens will use the litter box based on training from their mothers. Finding a good location for the box (for example away from the noisy furnace in the basement), a type of litter that manages odor and is a good texture for the kitten, and a style of box that is comfortable are all important factors.

Several excellent kitten foods exist, which our staff can discuss with you, and some would even suggest trying different flavors to help avoid finicky behaviors later in life. Urinary tract issues can be significant issue in many cats, so understanding the dietary issues that may contribute to or help decrease their risk are important; one of the veterinarians or technical staff can help you with deciding an appropriate food for your kitten.

Vaccinations are as vital for kittens as they are for puppies. The vaccinations are chosen based on the risk factors for your kitten (especially whether your kitty will be going outside or not). Vaccinations against feline panleukopenia, along with respiratory viruses, are given to all kittens starting at 6 to 9 weeks of age. One or more booster vaccines are given every 4 weeks until 3 months of age. A test for feline leukemia, a fatal and non-treatable, viral disease of cats, is recommended at the first visit. A vaccine is available for this disease if your kitten is considered at risk.

Along with the physical examination, vaccinations, and discussions regarding diet and behavior, a stool sample should be tested for intestinal parasites. Due to the high percentage of kittens with intestinal parasites, all kittens receive an oral deworming on their first visit and control is then based on the result of the stool test.

We thoroughly enjoy the visits we get from new kittens and their excited, often sleepy, and occasionally worried new human families. We are delighted to be of help in any way during your process of adding this special new pet to your family.

I have been told that my pet is overweight. How do I get him to lose weight?
Ideal body weight is, in a very simple sense, a balance between calories consumed and calories burned. Exercise and activity influence calories burned while visits to the food bowl (combined with treats and any "table food") contribute to calories consumed. By some estimates, greater than 60 % of the pets in the USA are overweight. Although there are a variety of food items designed to help pets lose weight, the simple truth is that no matter what the pet is eating, if the pet is too heavy he or she is eating too much. Exercise helps the body lose weight because exercise prompts the cells to utilize stored fat…so the body loses weight at a quicker rate than can be achieved by just restricting food intake. Medical conditions can influence an animal weight and ability to lose weight; so it is always advisable to check with the doctor prior to beginning a weight loss program for your pet.

Weight loss is never an emergency, and, particularly in cats, should be undertaken judiciously. Some animals seem to have greater weight loss success with high fiber, low calorie foods, while others may do better on high-protein, low carbohydrate foods.

The doctor or technical staff can advise you on good weight loss plans and diets. There are also good online resources to help with feeding suggestions. Because excessive weight on dogs and cats can contribute to or worsen several medical conditions, from diabetes to arthritis, it may be the most challenging “disease” we treat.

I am considering having my cat declawed; should I? What do you recommend? If I do decide to have my cat declawed, what do I need to know about the procedure and aftercare?
Declawing cats is a somewhat controversial subject. While cats are certainly happier with their claws intact, many can be destructive in the normal process of scratching and sharpening. It would be ideal if cats could all be trained to use a scratching post, and many can. Others may do well with frequent nail trimming, or with the application of "press-on" vinyl caps called Soft Paws which are applied every 4 to 8 weeks. But for some cats, having the claws surgically removed is the only option for their owners .Obviously, declawing should be reserved for cats that live exclusively indoors.

Declawing cats involves surgically removing the 3rd phalanx (the bone furthest down the toe), which eliminates the claw and prevents it from regrowing. In general, just the front claws are taken, since the back claws rarely are used for scratching furniture and other objects, and because it allows cats to climb trees to escape harm if they do get outside. It is possible, however, to remove the claws from all four feet at the same time. The incision is closed with surgical glue, and the foot is bandaged for 24 hours. Most cats are discharged the day after declawing surgery.

The procedure can be performed on cats 3 months or older, though most people wait until about 4 to 6 months of age, so that spaying or neutering can be done at the same time under one anesthetic event. Two very significant things are part of aftercare for declawed cats. First, there can be pain in the first few days after surgery. We feel very strongly that aggressively eliminating pain is a vital part of care for cats that have been declawed. Fortunately, excellent pain management protocols exist, and we give pain medicine in the hospital at the time of surgery, as well as dispensing it for use at home the first few days after discharge. In most cases, a drug called Buprenex is sent home and a few drops are applied to your cat's gums twice daily. Second, keeping cat litter out of the glued incisions in the toes is important in proper healing and avoiding infection. Shredded newspaper can be substituted, as can a product called Yesterday’s News, which is litter made from recycled newspaper. Most cats do remarkably well after surgery, especially if it is done when they are kittens.

Please let us know if you have further questions about declawing or any of the above mentioned alternatives.

How should I care for my pet's teeth?
Approximately 85% of our patients 4 years and older have some form of dental disease. Good oral health has been associated with good overall health in humans as well as in our pets. The American Veterinary Dental Society recommends routine dental prophylaxis as frequently for pets as the American Dental Society recommends for people, every 6 months. Thorough at home oral care can significantly increase the length of time between dental prophylaxes for our pets. There are various products available for at home use. Any product you choose should have the acceptance seal of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Care should be performed on a daily basis for the maximum benefit from most products.

Using pet approved toothpaste with a toothbrush or finger brush is still the “gold standard”. Avoid using a human toothpaste or baking soda as your pet cannot "rinse & spit," and these products can be harmful if swallowed. Concentrate on brushing the cheek side of the teeth using care to reach back to the molars. Your pet's rough tongue and residue from the toothpaste will take care of the inner surfaces of the teeth. Start slowly and increase brushing time to 30 seconds per area. The entire process should take less than 5 minutes and should be done regularly with pets 6 months of age and older.

Unfortunately, not every pet will tolerate the use of a toothbrush with paste. Recently, a vaccine has been approved for use in dogs for a bacterial organism called Porphrymonas. This vaccine may also benefit patients by decreasing the number of these bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Other options include oral rinses or sprays, oral diets (such as Hill's Prescription Diet® T/D), or dental treats(or rawhides). Always use caution with rawhides as some dogs have gastrointestinal issues with rawhides. Never substitute with cow hooves as they can break teeth and damage the tooth enamel. Pig ears should also be avoided as most dogs cannot tolerate the high fat content. OraVet® Sealant is a product that has been quite effective for some pets. It is a waxy substance that prevents bacteria from attaching to the tooth’s enamel, thus preventing plaque and tartar from building up as quickly. It is applied on a weekly basis and can be started a month after a prophylaxis during which an initial sealant was applied. At home dental care is not an alternative to dental prophylaxis. Pets do require general anesthesia for prophylaxis during which their teeth are scaled and polished much like your dentist cares for your teeth. A detailed examination and assessment of gum health is made, and if your pet already has advanced periodontal disease, our hospital offers dental x-rays to assess damage below the gumline and aid in tooth salvage recommendations, if applicable. Our staff would be happy to assist you with any questions you might have regarding your pets' dental care.

My Dog's Teeth Are Worn Down. Should I Be Concerned?
Worn teeth are usually darker in color, oddly shaped, or worn down to the gum line. The teeth most commonly affected are the incisors and canine teeth. The incisors are the small teeth in the front of the mouth, and the incisors are the "fang" teeth. Teeth wear down by rubbing on each other (a malocclusion or "bad bite") or by the pet chewing on their fur and skin (as in the case of itchy allergies) or by the pet chewing on items (pet toys, bones, sticks, rocks, etc.). This change usually occurs gradually, and the tooth responds by laying down additional dentin to harden the injured area. In these cases, the teeth are normally left alone unless they are painful or the gum is infected. In the case of sudden wear or a fracture of the tooth caused by chewing, this necessitates an examination by your veterinarian. If the teeth are very worn, your veterinarian may want to do dental radiographs even if your pet is not showing signs of infection or discomfort. Radiographs will rule out a "dead" tooth that appears fine on the outside, but not vital on the inside. This could cause problems later on.

How do I know if my dog has a urinary tract infection, and how should I treat it?

The most common signs of a urinary tract infection include:

Increased frequency of urinations/ urinary accidents/ straining to urinate and or dribbling urine/ blood in urine/ discolored urine/ malodorous urine. In order to treat a urinary tract infection it is necessary to examine your dog and a urine sample. The urine specimen is evaluated for the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, crystal formation, pH, glucose, and the urine concentration. An increased number of white blood cells and red blood cells usually indicate a urinary tract infection. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infection.

If dogs have had previous urinary infections, it may be necessary to do additional tests to identify any underlying problems. Additional tests may include a urine culture and or bladder x-rays. A culture can isolate the bacteria present in the bladder and identify any resistance to antibiotics. An abdominal radiograph can identify the most common types of bladder stones. If male dogs are dribbling small amounts of urine or are not able to urinate, it is important to have us examine your pet immediately. This situation could be an emergency for the dog.

If a female dog is dribbling small amounts of urine and a urinary tract infection has been appropriately ruled out or treated, then she may need to be treated for incontinence. When your dog (male or female) displays any of the common signs of a urinary tract infection, he/she should have a physical exam with urinalysis.

Why should I have my pet spayed or neutered?
Whether your pet is a male or female, he or she should be neutered/spayed simply because a responsible owner should make every effort for their pet to not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.

Female dogs benefit from a significantly decreased risk of developing breast cancer or serious uterine infections. Females spayed before the first heat cycle (generally around 6 months) show a drastically reduced tendency to develop any kinds of mammary tumors. Heat cycles cause messy spotting which sends many dogs away to costly kennels or to inconvenient, strict confinement. Complications from breeding can be costly, and ill pups require extra care. Not every female is maternal, so owners must be prepared to care for the pups. Finally, finding "good" homes for the pups can be difficult.

Male dogs benefit from a significant decrease in testicular and prostate cancers. Behavioral urine marking also decreases and improves housetraining. Studies have shown a reduction in aggression, anxiety, and roaming which also decreases the risks of fighting, becoming lost, or being hit by a car.

Female cats also benefit from a decreased risk of developing breast cancer and uterine infections. Although, female cats do not typically have the messy spotting that is common with female dogs; they do have behavioral changes which include an annoying yowling and crying which resembles severe pain. This can reoccur every two to three weeks during certain times of the year. Cats can actually become pregnant before their kittens are weaned. Spaying will not only stop these behaviors, but it will also decrease urine marking.

Male cats (last but not least) display behaviors that might be normal to the feline world but are not acceptable to humans. These include roaming, fighting, and urine marking. Neutering reduces these unacceptable behaviors by about 90%.

Although your beloved pets can be taught many things, they cannot be taught to control their mating instincts. The final result of a happier, healthier pet is your decision, one that your pet cannot make for themselves. You must choose to make the important "life-time" investment of having your pet spayed/neutered. Our staff would be happy to answer any additional questions you might have regarding care, cost, pain medication, anesthesia, etc.

My senior dog is drinking lots of water. Is it just old age?
Increased water intake can be a sign of many different illnesses, including, but not limited to; kidney failure, Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), Diabetes Mellitus or Diabetes Insipidus, Hyperthyroidism, kidney or urinary tract infection, and Pyometra (infection of the uterus) to name a few. It can also be seen when taking some medications, such as Prednisone. If you notice a change in your pet's water intake (and subsequent increased urine output or increased urinary accidents) please contact us for an examination.

How often should my dog be groomed?
Dogs that need haircuts (i.e. poodles, schnauzers) should be groomed every 6-8 weeks. With an especially long haircut, your dog may need grooming every 3-5 weeks. Dogs that need a good grooming bath (i.e. Pugs, Labradors, Beagles) also benefit from 6-8 week groomings, but frequency of grooming is really up to the owner. If you have any questions about grooming, please contact our groomer, Pam.

At what age will my pet need grooming?
The sooner the better! Our groomer likes to see your pet as a young puppy or kitten, so that he or she can get used to the sights and sounds of grooming. Three months old is a good time to come in, even if it's just for a facial trim, nail trim or bath. We want your pet to enjoy grooming! Dogs and cats who receive their first grooming at 6 months or older can be very nervous and afraid of the clippers and dryers, and it may be more challenging to get them accustomed them to relax and enjoy themselves. If you have any questions about grooming, please contact our groomer, Pam.