August 22nd: National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day
By: M. Kathleen Shaw DVM, Vermont Veterinary Medical Association
Did you know that Vermonters have the highest percentage of households with cats in the United States? It’s true- we love our feline friends. One action you can take for your beloved cat (besides buying a new toy that they will ignore and play with a paper bag instead) which will keep it happy and healthy have a wellness exam done, yearly. There is no better time to schedule your appointment for a check up than now: August 22nd is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. Regular checkups are part of being a responsible caregiver. They can help avoid medical emergencies by detecting conditions or diseases before they become significant, painful, or costlier to treat.
Cats are masters of hiding illness and pain. A physical exam by your veterinarian, who is trained to detect subtle signs of disease, is essential to keeping your cat happy and healthy. During the checkup, your veterinarian will review your cat’s nutrition, lifestyle, environmental enrichment (key resources such as food, water, litter box, scratching areas, play areas, resting areas, etc.), disease and parasite prevention, and behavior. This is also the perfect time for you to ask questions and share any changes in your cat’s behavior. Even very minor changes could be a sign of a medical issue.
A common misconception is that ‘indoors only’ cats don’t need regular check-ups. There are many reasons why they do! Cats age more rapidly than humans, and checkups are crucial because a lot can happen in a “cat year”. By the time your cat is 8-year-old, it would be 48 in human years, which is a long time to go without having an exam. “Indoor only” cats can still develop heart disease, obesity, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, and so many other diseases that can only be detected by a thorough exam by your veterinarian.
Two major sources of pain that any cat can develop (which they are good at hiding), regardless of indoors or outdoors dental pain and arthritis. Did you know cats have 30 teeth? That’s a lot of potential for problems! In fact, dental disease is the most common disease in cats 3 years and older. Often there aren’t any obvious signs and the cat will still eat without a noticeable change in appetite. This doesn’t mean there is not dental pain- it’s just that the cat is good at hiding it. (If you’ve ever had a cavity, you know it hurts all of the time, but you still do eat your meals.) Arthritis is extremely common in cats over 10, and cats will often not limp – they will just “slow down” and be less active. Because it hurts. This is often attributed to age, but in fact it is pain for which your veterinarian can evaluate and formulate a plan to alleviate it.
One obstacle we can all empathize with is the dreaded cat carrier. So many of us are reluctant to bring the cat in to the vet because we can’t get the cat there safely. This is a valid concern, as without being in a carrier, a cat running loose in your car risks being killed in a car accident or escaping from the car. At the same time, none of us wants to fight the unwilling cat! An excellent resource on getting your cat into the carrier and to the vet is the website of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, www.catvets.com and choose cat care at home--how to get your cat to the veterinarian. If you don’t have internet access then give your veterinarian a call and discuss they can help you.
We know you love your cats and want to have your beloved feline friends around for a long time. Yearly physical exams are the best way to do it. Call your vet today and schedule a check-up. For more information on why yearly cat visits are essential for your cat, go to www.catvets.com. Dr. Shaw works part time in our Latham Animal Hospital!
Intestinal parasites--most of us don't even want to think about "worms" and "eggs" all over our house much less talk about it. But we need to do a reality check here--our relationship with our pets have shifted, and they are much more likely to be part of the family and sharing our couches, chairs, and beds-which means intestinal parasites are a concern for our health as well as theirs.
Many parasites are zoonotic-which simply means that they can be passed onto humans and cause disease in humans as well as cats and dogs. We recommend parasite protection year round because parasites are not readily killed, and prevention is less expensive and safer for all of us than treatment.
What are the typical parasites our dogs and cats may have?
Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, tapeworms, and giardia are what we typically see in practice. We recommend that you bring a fecal sample for your pet's preventive care visit because that is what allows us to diagnose these parasites and provide treatment if necessary. You may also see evidence of parasite infection in your home--if you spot small flat white rice size segments around the litter box, in your carpeting, or on your furniture--Tapeworms have invaded your home. Roundworms look more like small spaghetti strands, and you might spot these as well. Other parasites are not so easy to see but they all have the potential to cause disease.
Year round flea prevention, regular fecal exams, and parasite prevention can go a long way towards keeping your home environment safe for all of your family members--please talk with us about any questions that you may have.
Its summer time, and respiratory infections in our pups are on the rise. Many folks are worried that their pet may be infected with Covid-19 (which is possible in very rare circumstances) but the true answer is usually our more typical problems--bordatella (kennel cough) and canine influenza. You may assume that your dog is not vulnerable to these illnesses if you do not board them-but if they come in contact with other dogs in your neighborhood or at the dog park, infection is a real possibility. According to the AVMA, western Massachusetts is in the middle of a respiratory illness outbreak (original source article-Berkshire Eagle), and this is rather close to home for many of us. While kennel cough or bordatella is not typically a severe illness, canine influenza can be deadly.
What can you do? Vaccines are available for both of these illnesses. Although they are not 100% effective due the presence of multiple strains, they provide a significant measure of safety. If you board your dog, make sure that the kennel requires all animals to be vaccinated so that your dog is less likely to be exposed. If you spot a coughing dog at the park, steer clear. And if you are exposed to a dog that coughs on you, wash your hands and change clothes before playing with your pup when you get home.
If your pet develops symptoms, please call us. There are bacterial infections that can also cause coughing and your pet may benefit from antibiotics or antitussives to help them get back to their typical behavior faster.
Road tripping with our furry family members can be fun-But if you can’t take them with you when you hit your destination, please leave them at home. This summer of rain can be deceiving- it's still warm. It is dangerous to leave your pets in an enclosed vehicle. Cracking the windows does not provide enough air flow to keep your pet cool, and they can overheat rapidly. The temperature inside your car rises much faster than the outside and heat can quickly overwhelm your pet. If you see a pet in distress in a locked car, call for help. Heat stroke kills pets on an all too regular basis in the summer.
While we often think first of heat concerns, unrestricted movement of your pet in the car is also a serious concern. A frightened or anxious dog or cat may interfere with your driving and put you and others at risk as well as themselves--without seat belts, our pets are much more likely to be seriously injured in an accident. Confine smaller pets to carriers and use seatbelts to restrain the carriers. Work to socialize your pup early to sit in one location with a harness attached to a seat belt. Consider using a safety grille that will prevent them from jumping in the driver's seat while the car is in motion. Even the best trained pets can panic in a difficult situation--and if you are in an accident, it will help the emergency responders if your pet is properly restrained so they can't get loose and run off in a panic. Travel with your pet can be a joy--but take precautions and training time to make it a safe experience for all of you.
Ticks are running rampant in our area this year--and doing their usual job of spreading disease to our pets and us. They are all around us--in the woods, on the beaches, visiting your garden, and hanging out in the yard. Tick borne diseases appear to be on the upswing, and none of us want these little creatures on us or our pets or in our homes. What are some of the ways you can help your pets (and your family) stay protected?
First-be sure to use year round flea and tick prevention. Even though it may be colder in our winters, ticks and fleas are not taking a holiday. Consistent prevention will provide the best coverage for your pet. There are many different options out there from collars to topicals to oral medications. Please talk to us to find the best choice for your situation. Make sure you purchase your flea and tick prevention from us or from an authorized veterinary pharmacy. There have been many reports of counterfeit items being sold on line through non certified retailers--these counterfeit items may be harmful to your pets.
Second-Check yourself and your pets daily after outdoor activities. if you see a tick on your pet, remove it immediately with tweezers so that it does not have an opportunity to transmit disease to your pet. It is important to use tweezers so you make sure that you are able to grasp the head and detach it fully from your pet.
Finally, make sure that your dog receives annual testing for tick borne diseases (and heartworm). Early detection of these diseases can help prevent long term problems-tick borne diseases left untreated can cause serious illness and death for dogs. Please ask us if you have any concerns about your pet's health or if you have seen many ticks on your pets.
If you want to understand more about the life cycle of these critters, click the button:
The firework holiday is here and while it may delight many of us, our pets usually don't agree. Between the loud noises, commotion due to people visiting, and eating too much picnic food-the Fourth can be a tough time. What can you do to help your pet get through the weekend?
First, keep your pet safely confined at home. They will often do best in a familiar environment and a crowded fireworks display is not a good idea even for a pet who doesn't mind loud noises. If you are having visitors, make sure they know not to let your pet out of the house or yard--the number of lost pets skyrockets on the Fourth holiday and you don't want your furry family member to be one of those statistics.
Leaving a radio or television on may help some pets weather the fireworks noise better. If your pet is truly phobic about fireworks or thunderstorms, please visit your veterinarian to see if anti-anxiety medications may be appropriate.
If you are having fireworks or sparklers at your home, also be sure to keep them safely locked away from your pets. They contain elements that can be poisonous when licked or ingested. If your pet gets into your fireworks, call your emergency hospital or animal poison control immediately. It is a good idea to have these phone numbers already available and accessible so you do not spend valuable time searching in an emergency. Another risk to pets occurs with getting burned from fireworks--they do not understand what is going on, and may get into the path of danger when they are trying to flee.
We also often see pets with gastric distress after picnics--please remember that overindulging in hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the feast is not good for your buddy no matter how cute they are when they beg. Corn cobs can also be dangerous for your pets--if ingested, they can cause obstructions which require surgery. A buttered ear of corn can be a real temptation for your pet.
Although you may want your pet to participate in all of the holiday fun, its often best for them to have a chill day confined to home. Happy Fourth of July!
Cats can be great at hiding illness and pain from us–but their people often are tuned into subtle changes that let them know that something is not right. Sometimes they can’t really tell us specific concerns, but they know that behavioral changes are there. Their cat may be more lethargic, he may not be eating or drinking the way it used to, or she is not socializing with her folks. Sometimes this gets referred to as ADR (ain’t doing right)–a collection of small signs that are alarming the astute pet owner.
S0-what can you do? First on the list is a thorough exam by your veterinarian–please make sure you tell us all of the symptoms and concerns you see-even if they seem relatively unimportant. This will help the vet in making his or her assessment and diagnosis. In addition to the exam, your vet may recommend diagnostic testing such as lab work and x-rays to get a full picture of what may be impacting your cat.
What are some of the causes for ADR? These can vary by age, but we often find links to several different causes. Some cats may be experiencing oral disease which limits their ability to eat and causes pain. While it is rarer, cats can also develop tumors in the mouth and nasal cavities which can cause ADR symptoms. Chronic kidney disease is often seen, particularly with older cats. Chronic kidney disease is a serious long term illness, but your vet can help you manage it most successfully when it is caught in the early stages–this is part of the reason that we recommend regular preventive care visits with your cats. There are many options in your vet’s toolbox to aid in the detection and management of chronic kidney disease.
Degenerative joint disease can also cause chronic pain for your cat that may cause this vague and non specific symptoms. There are some therapeutic options to help your cat–but like with kidney disease, the sooner this is diagnosed and managed, the better. Sometimes endocrine system diseases underlie ADR symptoms. Hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus are two endocrine diseases that can impact your kitty, and there are others that your vet may diagnose as well.
Many of these diseases can be managed effectively even if they can’t be cured to provide your cat with a good quality of life. Again, the key is often early diagnosis and treatment for the most successful outcomes–so please make sure to see your vet when you notice that your kitty is just not doing right….
The grass is getting greener, the flowers are blooming–and many of us are sneezing our brains out! Our pets can suffer from allergies just like us—and it can be wretched for them. Our critters may be sneezing, have lovely snogs from their noses, ears, and eyes, have hair loss and hot spot sores, and drive themselves (and us) crazy with scratching.
So how can we help? First wipe your pet’s paws off with a cool moist towel when they come in from outdoors to remove environmental allergens. Limit wearing your own outdoor shoes around the house as well. Frequent vacuuming and dusting, as well as washing your pet’s bedding, will cut down on mites and household dust. Be sure to use a detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes as some pets are quite sensitive. Keep toys clean, and place plush toys in the freezer for several hours to kill mites. Regular bathing with hypoallergenic shampoos can be helpful.
Call us if the scratching persists or if your pet develops any respiratory symptoms or open sores. We can help you understand the specific triggers for your pet’s distress, and make a plan to help. We can manage symptoms with topical creams and sprays, special shampoos, dietary changes, or prescription medications, and help you find the best solutions for you and your pet.
It’s a pet owners nightmare–a guest leaves a door open and your dog bolts out. The kids run outside, and suddenly you can’t find your cat. A contractor is working in the house and leaves the backyard gate open–dogs are on the run. What can you do to help get your pet back?
First–take a current picture of your pet right now with your phone or camera so you have a photo to share.
Call your local animal control officer right away and notify them–they will need your contact information if your pet is spotted or picked up.
Use the power of social media–let us know–www.facebook.com/capitalvets–and we will post it out to the local organizations who help find missing pets. Steve Caparizzo’s Pet Connection, Lost Pets of the Hudson Valley, and 518LostPets are all great resources. Ask your friends to share widely and ask for help searching if it is appropriate–some pets are spooked by searchers so you will have to know what would be most helpful for your pet.
Let any local veterinarians, shelters, and groomers close to where your pet went missing know you are looking. People will often bring pets they find into one of these locations because they can’t take the pet into their home.
If your pet is not microchipped, consider having it done–and keep your information up to date. Microchips have been crucial to reuniting folks with their pets in many situations. Veterinarians, shelters, and animal control officers will gladly scan any found pet for a microchip.
We hope you will never have to look for a lost pet–but it happens to many people because of simple accidents such as a gate or door accidentally left open. We will be happy to help.