Category Archives: Blog

Ringworm 101: A Crash Course in Dermatophytosis

Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is certainly not something that any of us like to think about, especially when it comes to our beloved pets. It’s a fairly common condition, though, which means that it’s something that pet owners (especially cat owners) should know at least a little bit about.

The first thing to know about ringworm is that, although the name does suggest that it’s a parasitic worm of some type, it’s actually a fungal infection.  The fungus feeds on keratin, which is a component of your skin, nails, and hair.

Besides cats and people, ringworm is also commonly diagnosed in other companion animals, as well as some farm animals (such as sheep or cattle).  Why is ringworm so terribly common?

Because it is TERRIBLY CONTAGIOUS!

If one pet in the home has been diagnosed with ringworm, it’s important that you understand that the other humans and pets in the home have also been exposed.  In many cases, house mates will begin to show signs shortly after the initial pet was diagnosed, if they aren’t showing signs of infection already.

On the off chance that your family’s case of ringworm has been confined to a single pet, you should take the following precautions right away:

  • Be proactive. Even if they are not showing signs of ringworm, bring all other pets to your family veterinarian for an exam. Be sure to be courteous to other patients of the clinic, though. Inform the staff that your pet is potentially carrying a highly contagious infection so that they may take the necessary precaution to protect other pets in the hospital.
  • Use an anti-fungal cleaner to disinfect the patient’s home environment as thoroughly as possible. This means that you should throw away any items that may be too difficult to clean. It also means that any home textiles, such as curtains, sheets, and bedding, should be washed and dried appropriately.  It’s a major undertaking, but it’s entirely necessary.  (Note: There are cleaners available today that claim to be effective in treating ringworm in the home environment. If you need recommendations on which ones will work, ask your family veterinarian for suggestions.)
  • Speak with your family’s human medical doctor about the situation with your pet’s diagnosis. There are certain medications and medical conditions that make you or your family more susceptible to ringworm infection, so it’s a good idea to let your doctor know.
  • Avoid taking your pet to public places until the infection has been completely eliminated. Again, this is a courtesy to your fellow pet owners.

Throughout the course of your pet’s infection, be sure to follow your vet’s advice closely. Left untreated, ringworm can become a very severe and unmanageable problem.

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Keep Your Pets Safe and Sane on July 4th Weekend

We discuss the topic of fireworks a few times a year, and although it may seem redundant, it’s worth mentioning again. Your pet’s fear of fireworks is not only natural, but also completely understandable.  Managing your pet’s anxieties effectively is part of the long list of responsibilities that go along with being a pet owner.  So, when your dog’s fight-or-flight instincts kick in, be ready to calm them in whatever way that works.  You may have seen our “fireworks survival tips” mentioned before, but here’s a quick refresher:

  • Wear them out with something fun! Before the fireworks are scheduled to begin (which usually occurs around sunset in most places), go for a jog, enjoy a romp around the dog park, or play a simple game of fetch in the back yard.
  • Stay with your pet through the duration of the fireworks display. If you have plans, arrange for someone to watch your pet closely throughout the holiday festivities.
  • Use the holiday ruckus as an excuse to get away from home for a bit. This year, Independence Day falls on the weekend, so a weekend getaway should be feasible for most families.  Treat yourself and your pet to a nice short vacation somewhere quiet.

Whether you choose to stick it out at home with your pet or take a weekend getaway, it’s important to know that countless pets go missing on noisy holidays like July 4th. This is largely due to your pet’s natural instinct to run and hide during times of distress.  If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know that it is a heartbreaking and scary experience, regardless of the time of year.  It’s also very dangerous for your pet.  Here’s how you can prevent it from happening:

  • Keep your pets indoors! It seems like common sense, but this is how the majority of them go missing in the first place.  It doesn’t matter how secure you believe your fence to be. Bring your best friend inside!
  • If you’ll be attending any holiday events, count your pet out. Large crowds, loud noises, and flashing lights may sound like fun for you and your human friends, but we can guarantee that your furry sidekick does not agree.  Hire a trusted pet sitter to keep your pet safe during the commotion.
  • Make sure that all of your pet’s identification is up-to-date, just in case. That means that any tags should have current information, and they should still be in good enough condition to be legible.  It’s also a good idea to contact your pet’s microchip company to be sure that they have the correct information on file.

Finally, as you go about celebrating this fun holiday, remember that all of the usual rules apply.  You shouldn’t feed your pet those delicious scraps from the grill, no matter how cute he or she begs. You should also keep in mind that fireworks are never really safe, and they are just as dangerous for pets as they are for people.  Don’t let your beloved family pet become a July 4th statistic.

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Why Pets are Especially Awesome for Senior Citizens

There’s no denying that pets are a great addition to any home, regardless of the size of the family who lives there. Pets bring something special to our lives that is hard to explain with words, and most pet owners would agree that a life without a furry sidekick is simply lacking.

While we agree that pet ownership is great for anyone of any age, numerous studies have demonstrated that the benefits of owning a pet are especially noticeable in senior citizens.  Here are a few of the things we know for sure about the potential advantages of pet ownership for seniors:

Companionship and Purpose

By the time our elderly friends reach their “golden years”, it’s safe to assume that the large majority of them have some pretty impressive achievements under their belt.  They remember everything from their first job at 15 years old to the day they retired… and everything between.  They’ve watched their families grow, and the little ones they once cared for have moved on to form families of their own.  So, it stands to reason that, by comparison, the senior years can come along with a good bit of loneliness and boredom.

Owning a pet will give your senior family member a new “someone” to care for, as well as a renewed purpose in life.  Caring for a pet can be a full-time job, but its rewards are tenfold.

Exercise and Getting Outside

Pets require attention in a lot of ways, and one of the biggest influencing factors in their overall well-being is physical activity. For dogs, that often means daily walks or playing in the yard.  For cats, it may mean playing chase around the house or jumping in and out of boxes.

Whatever activity they prefer is extremely likely to require the involvement of their owner, which means that your senior family member will also be walking more or taking time to throw a ball around the yard.  It’s a great way to get your loved one moving!

Enhanced Social Life

At any age, we all have need for some level of social interaction. In our younger years, we meet these needs through our daily activities, such as making friends with coworkers, team mates, or neighbors. It’s an unfortunate truth that the need for social contact is often not met for elderly people, especially those who have outlived their spouses and friends.

Pets give us a reason to get involved in something worthwhile. We take them to training classes, the dog park, pet-friendly events, and just about anything else you can think of. Participation in these types of activities often leads to just the kind of social interaction that our senior friends need.

Other benefits of pet ownership for seniors include an increased sense of personal safety, stress management, lower blood pressure, and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about adopting a senior pet for an elderly family member, check out The Pets for the Elderly Foundation for more information.

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Socialization: A Critical Part of Your Puppy’s Overall Well-Being

The socialization of pets, particularly puppies, is the process of exposing animals to the variety of stimuli that they will experience throughout their lives, and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior suggests that it should be made a part of every puppy’s standard of care in the first few months of life.

Here are some things that you should know about socialization and its importance in every young animal’s life.

Why is socialization so important?

When adult animals are exposed to new stimuli, they often become stressed and may respond in negative ways.  These stress responses are commonly seen in the form of fear aggression and avoidance behaviors (such as hiding under or behind your furniture when guests come to visit). In fact, poor socialization (among many other contributing factors) may be one of the culprits in the rate at which dog bites are being recorded across the U.S.

As adults, dogs tend to be exposed to far more of the outside world than their feline counterparts. For that reason, the socialization of puppies receives more attention than it does with cats.

When should socialization begin?

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), socialization should begin as early as possible.  From birth, this means that puppies should be handled frequently (by trusted individuals in clean environments, of course), and they should become accustomed to the manipulation of various body parts.  For example, gentle handling a newborn pup’s feet now could make his nail trims significantly easier on the caregiver when he is an adult.

The AVSAB recommends beginning puppy classes around 7-8 weeks of age, which also means that he or she will have had at least one round of vaccines and one deworming by the first class meeting.  It’s important to note the importance of vaccines to the health of puppies, and all socialization should occur in places where the risk of illness can be minimized.

What is involved in the socialization of puppies?

In general, effective socialization involves exposure to a variety of people, other well-behaved animals, and new places whenever possible.  Special consideration should also be taken for the animal’s individual circumstances, as well.  For instance, if the pet is expected to participate in significant travel throughout its lifetime, he or she should be brought along for as many car rides as possible while still young. If the pet is expected to live in a home with cats, he or she should be exposed to cats during the socialization process.

The concept of socialization is heavily built on common sense.  By exposing young animals to new situations while they are still impressionable and curious, you allow them the opportunity to experience these things without fear or reservation. All too often, pets react fearfully to harmless stimuli simply because it’s unfamiliar.  Socialization gives your pet the best shot at a happy, outgoing life, free from depression and anxiety.

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A Few Swimming Safety Tips for Dogs (and Their Owners)

If you own any of the water-loving breeds of dogs, it’s safe to assume that keeping your pooch away from the pool during the summer is about as impossible as herding cats.  Of course, there are exceptions to any generalization, but some of the breeds that are notoriously drawn to swimming include Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs (duh!), Standard Poodles, and just about any type of Retriever or Setter.  Regardless of your pup’s breed, however, there are certain safety precautions that you should always keep in mind if your dog likes to play in or around bodies of water:

  1. The first and most important thing that you should always remember when swimming with your pooch is that your own safety comes first. If your dog panics, think carefully before you react.  Never put yourself in harm’s way to pull a dog out of the water (especially a dog that is as large as or larger than you are).
  2. Dogs should know where the exit is located. If you’re swimming in a lake, be sure that he or she is able to get to shore safely (without your help, if necessary).  If you’re swimming in a pool, show him where the stairs are.  Again, for your own safety, the idea is that you should not have to help your pup out of the water.
  3. Never assume that your best friend knows how to swim, simply because he or she is a dog. Dogs, just like humans, need the chance to become comfortable in water.  Of course, they tend to pick up the art of swimming a lot faster than we do, but they deserve for you to have a little patience, nonetheless.  Never toss your dog into the water or force the issue if your pup is obviously nervous.  Talk about traumatic!
  4. Water in your dog’s ears can be a real drag, and it could potentially cause a terrible ear infection. There are a variety of ear cleaning solutions that will clear the ears after swimming and eliminate the risk of bacteria-laden water staying trapped in the ear canals. If you have a swimming day planned, ask your vet about ear cleaning options before you go.
  5. It’s not always a good choice to swim with a special needs dog. If your dog has uncontrolled epilepsy, weakness or paralysis, or other neurological conditions, please speak with your veterinarian about water safety before you decide to take the plunge.

Accidents happen around water every year, and it’s true that a portion of those accidents involve beloved family pets.  Dog swimming safety gear is easy to find online, and if you’re not sure that a certain flotation device is the right choice, ask your vet or someone who has experience in buying such things.

It’s important to have fun, but you should always do it safely.  That goes for you AND your pets.

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Three Great Reasons to Avoid Giving Your Dog Table Scraps

Most pet owners have an opinion about giving dogs table scraps: they either love the idea, or they hate it. For some pet owners, it makes practical sense to give the family pets whatever food is left over after dinner.  It’s better than simply throwing it in the garbage, right?  Well, the answer to that question is not always as straightforward as you would think.  Sure, your pooch goes absolutely wild for whatever remains on your plate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she should really be eating it.

Regardless of your feelings on the topic, there are a few undeniable consequences of feeding your dog from the human table.  We’ll just list a few of them for you here and let you decide what works best for your household.

Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced to meet your pet’s dietary needs. 

You absolutely should not rely on table scraps to provide 100% of your pet’s daily nutrition.  We can guarantee that your leftovers simply do provide everything that your pet needs, in terms of vitamins, minerals, and macromolecules (such as lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates).  If you absolutely must give your pet table scraps, it is recommended that this should not exceed 10% of your pet’s total daily intake.

Feeding your pet human leftovers commonly reinforces bad behaviors.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  We’ve all met one, from time to time: the dog who wouldn’t break a rule to save his life.  You could wave freshly-cooked bacon in front of this pup, and he wouldn’t bat an eyelash. If that description applies to your pooch, you can disregard our concerns for his impending behavioral issues.

For the rest of us, feeding a dog from the table means that your beloved sidekick turns into a dinnertime nuisance… begging and whining and making it virtually impossible to invite company over for a meal.  Feeding table scraps has also been associated with food aggression and the lovely habit of digging in the trash can.  Our advice is to do yourself a favor and commit to a “no table scraps” policy while your dog is still young.

Sometimes, the things you love the most can cause the most harm.

In your pet’s case, we’re talking about the health concerns that go along with eating foods that are not meant to be consumed by domesticated animals. Those fat trimmings from the delicious steak you just ate… Your vet sees those as a raging case of pancreatitis waiting to happen. The salty snacks that you and your pet love to share can cause an electrolyte imbalance for your dog. The list goes on: everything from avocados to onions to grapes, and more.

The risks of feeding your pet from the human table are simply not worth it.  If your veterinarian has prescribed a balanced home-cooked diet either on a short or long term basis, you can rest assured that your pup will do fine.  However, if you’re simply dropping leftovers for your dog to clean up, we want to encourage you to think again.  There are better ways to treat your pet to something nice.

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June is Adopt-a-Cat Month!

It makes sense that America’s favorite time of year for cat adoption falls during the month of June.  Each spring, thousands of newborn kittens are surrendered to the care of animal shelters across the country. By the time June rolls around, those newborns are bright, energetic, and ready to go out into the world.  This is what is known by veterinary professionals as “kitten season”.

Unfortunately, kitten season does not result in a happy ending for every kitten.  It’s not uncommon for the population of adoptable cats to exceed the number of households willing to adopt them, and well… you already know how that ends.

So, of course, if you’re in the market for a new cat or kitten, we want to encourage you to remember the following:

  • When you adopt one pet, you save his/her life, as well as the lives of those who enter the shelter in his/her place. You’re creating a domino effect that has a huge positive impact.
  • One unaltered animal can result in thousands of offspring in a relatively short amount of time. Spaying or neutering your pet is a wise choice for a variety of other reasons, as well.
  • If it’s feasible for your personal situation, many shelters encourage families to adopt kittens in pairs. They’re not simply trying to “clean house”.  It’s a fact that cats crave (and need) plenty of exercise and attention, and they are very good at providing these things for each other.
  • If this is your first pet, you should have a veterinarian in mind before adopting the cat or kitten. If you’re new to the area or have no idea where to start, ask the shelter for recommendations for a veterinarian who is close to your home and has office hours that work for your schedule.
  • Avoid giving adopted pets as a gift to friends or family members. If this is something that you absolutely insist on doing, don’t make it a surprise.  Offer the gift beforehand and include the recipient in picking out the pet.  This goes for all species and breeds, of course.

The decision to adopt a cat (or any other animal) is huge, and it requires careful planning ahead of time. Once you’re ready though, head to shelter and save a life a two.  You can be sure that they will have a variety of feline companions to choose from, especially this time of year!

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Bufo Toads are Everywhere This Time of Year, and They Shouldn’t Be Ignored

These toxic toads have special glands that release poison when they feel threatened, which is a very effective defense mechanism; they have been known to kill household pets in minutes. It’s especially troubling for outdoors pets or those who take their meals outside, because the toad is attracted to dog water dishes.  (For bathing and soaking, of course). Once the Bufo’s toxins have come in contact with your dog’s gums or any other mucous membranes, it won’t be long before you begin to see the effects.

Also sometimes referred to as the “Cane Toad”, this particular group of toads was imported into Florida in the 1930’s as a natural means of controlling sugar can pests, the “white worm”.  This experiment came about after a similar experiment had been successful in Hawaii.  However, that was obviously not a well-thought-out plan.  They all quickly died.  Of course, the sugar industry wasn’t quite ready to give up.  They followed up with a few more attempts, one in Glades County and one in Dade County, both of which failed.  Nothing changed for the species until the 1950’s when a large shipment of toads broke free from their shipping container while on the tarmac at Miami airport. This time, they were able to establish themselves, and through an interesting series of events, were able to migrate through the canal systems found throughout South Florida.

Since their introduction in the early-to-mid 1900’s, they have proliferated at alarming rates, particularly in the southern states.  The Bufo Toad is the largest species of toad in the world.  In fact, it has been known to grow as large as 1 foot wide and weigh as much as 5 pounds!  They also love to eat, and they will quickly swallow up any smaller creatures that the encounter.

So, while your pet doesn’t necessarily need to worry about being swallowed by a toad, the toxins that they produce are of significant concern, especially during the warm rainy months.  It’s extremely important to monitor your yard for signs of the Bufo Toad.  If you see them in your yard, speak with an expert about how you can safely remove them.  (Do not try to touch the toad, because their toxins have also been known to cause skin irritation in humans.)  When taking your pet outdoors, be sure that he is she is closely supervised.  If you have seen the toads in your yard, leash walking your pet is best until you know that they are no longer a problem.

The potential harm that is caused by the Bufo Toad is not something that you should talk lightly. If your pet has been exposed, immediately wash his or her face and mouth, and contact your veterinarian immediately.

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Hot Weather and Pets: A Dangerous Combination

During the summer months, it’s common to hear of pets becoming overheated.  Surely, you’ve seen the warning signs posted in shopping centers and online about the dangers of leaving your beloved pet in a hot car during these warmer times of year.  It’s a common misconception, though, that a hot car is the only potential source of overheating in pets.  In fact, your pet can become overheated pretty quickly just doing normal activities, such as walks or a quick bathroom break in the backyard.

An overheated pet should be considered an emergency, and as with any other critical condition in pets, immediate treatment is necessary to give your pet the best chances at a successful recovery.  So, it helps to know the warning signs.

Here are some of the “red flags” that your pet may be overheating:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive salivation, lip-smacking, or other signs of nausea
  • Weakness or sudden lethargy

With these very obvious symptoms and a bit of common sense (it’s hot outside, right?), it’s relatively easy to know when the heat has gotten to be too much for your furry sidekick.  If this is the case, your first step should be to call your veterinarian’s office to let them know that you’re on the way.  Next, you should work to keep your pet comfortable until he or she can be seen by the doctor.

  • If you’re pet has been hanging out in direct sunlight, move him or her into a shaded area or even better, bring your best friend indoors.
  • Of course you’ll want to offer plenty of water to drink. While you’re at it, get your pet a little bit wet. Avoid using water that is too cold, because this can “shock” your pet.  Instead, opt for cool to room temperature.
  • Allow your pet to lay on a cool surface, such as tile or hardwood. As much as you know he loves his favorite blanket, avoid snuggling him in an effort to comfort him.  Give him room to cool down.
  • If you have rubbing alcohol handy, you can lightly dab it on your pet’s paw pads as a means of temporarily cooling him or her down. This method is widely used by veterinary professionals, and it is very safe and effective.

Remember that no animal is safe from the harmful effects of the summer heat.  If your pet has a thick coat or is very overweight, he or she is at an even higher risk.  Moreover, even if your pet never truly experiences the effects of overheating, it simply is not kind to leave your best friend outdoors on a scorching day.  Take the opportunity to spend more quality time indoors if you think that the heat may be too much for your pet.  Limit long walks to early morning and late evening hours, and keep bathroom breaks short and to the point.

Your pet, just like you, deserves to be comfortable.

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Pets and Snake Bites

For most people, the very sight of a snake is enough to make their skin crawl.  The thought of being bitten by one is even worse.  Fortunately, most of us will carry on through life without having to go through this excruciating experience, but did you know that it’s a pretty common occurrence for pets?

Snake bites, especially among dogs, are one of those seasonal problems that tend to happen more during the summer than other times of year.  It makes sense, right?  You’re out enjoying this beautiful weather, and your dog is loving it, too.  Well, the snake tends to agree with you there.  They love to be out and about during warmer seasons, so during this time of year, veterinarians see plenty of snake-bitten pets coming through the door.

Pets who have been bitten by a snake will quickly develop obvious swelling around the bite.  For most pets, the bite will occur on the snout (…for sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, Fido!).  To give you an idea, below is a photo of a dog who has been bitten by a snake:

Photo Credit: avickiv via Compfight cc

 

Some pets will develop far worse swelling than you see there, but hopefully, you will be able to have your furry friend treated before too much time has passed.  Other signs include moderate to severe pain, lethargy, and sometimes vomiting.  Even if you are unsure about whether or not your pet has been bitten, these are all symptoms that require the immediate attention of a veterinarian.  Swelling of the face and neck, especially, should be treated right away in order to reduce the risk of airway obstruction.

Once you arrive at the veterinary hospital, your doctor will likely order a series of tests.  Among them, you will hear of something called “clotting times”, because the venom of certain types of snakes can cause bleeding disorders.  Other tests may include a CBC, chemistry panel, a urinalysis, blood pressure, and/or an EKG.  Ask your pet’s doctor what all of these tests are checking for and how they work; he or she will be happy to explain.

Fortunately, most snake bites are treatable with just a day or two of hospitalization.  The most common treatments include pain medications, intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and steroids, but your veterinarian will recommend the best course of action based on your pet’s test results.

As with most injuries and illnesses, the quicker your pet receives treatment, the better.  So, if you suspect that your pet has had a run-in with a snake, do your best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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