Dental Care for Your Pet
Contrary to popular opinion, dogs and cats greatly benefit from proper dental care. They are just as prone to cavities, gingivitis, and dental disease as humans. Dental disease is believed to be a major link to common diseases of other organs, such as kidney, liver, and heart disease, due to the excellent blood supply in the mouth. Bacteria can be easily carried from diseased teeth to other organs though the blood. To better ensure long term dental health for your cat or dog, you can provide at home care such as special treats and chews to provide cleaning and weekly brushings, get yearly dental check ups from the veterinarian, and have occasional proffesional cleanings.
Ear mites are insects that live and thrive in the ear canal. Ear mites cause excess wax production, severe itching and inflammation, and the production of a dark brown grainy discharge. They can lead to ear infections, which may cause foul odors, and are extremely contagious from pet to pet. Ear mites can be detected by a microscopic exam of ear discharge and are treated topically. Yeast and different bacteria can also cause ear diseases. These organisms cause thick discharges and odors, itching, pain, and ear damage.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is caused by a particular coronavirus that mutates in some cats to become disease-causing. Diagnosis of this virus is particularly tricky, because the test only verifies exposure to any coronavirus, including ones that only affect dogs, pigs, etc. A positive test means that the cat has been exposed to some coronavirus and 1) will never show any signs of illness, eventually converting to negative status, 2) will never show signs of the illness but become a chronic or intermittent shedder of the virus, or 3) mutate the virus into FIP- causing organism and become sick with either the wet or dry form of the virus.
Signs of disease in an FIP infected cat can be classified as 1 of 2 types: wet or dry. Both forms are eventually fatal, usually within a few weeks or months. The wet form causes abdominal distension (due to accumulation of a yellow, viscous fluid in the abdomen), kidney disease, weight loss, and/or diarrhea OR thoracic disease due to fluid accumulation in the lungs. Organs in one or both caviies may have grainy, whitish, membranous deposits on them. These cats may continue to eat, but appear painfully thin. The dry form is not as obvious and seems to develop in cats with a stronger immune system. It may cause nervous system problems, paralysis, seizures, depression, fever, anemia, kidney or liver failure, etc. This form usually takes longer to progress than the wet form.
The only treatment for FIP is supportive, and is ultimately not successful. The only options once a positive test is obtained are to 1) take your chances with other cats, 2) euthanize the positive cat, or 3) test all of your other cats and vaccinate ones who test negatively, although this can get pretty expensive.
The best way of dealing with FIP is to prevent it. A vaccination is available for negative testing cats. The vaccine requires 3 doses, 3-4 weeks apart, and is about 80% effective.
Feline Leukemia Virus
This is the virus that causes the Feline Leukemia infection in cats. If your cat tests positive for this virus, that means that it has been exposed and may or may not become sick. Some cats are able to fight the virus off on their own, possibly even testing negatively for it in the future. Others may fight the virus off temporarily but remain a chronic carrier, and can become ill later in life in response to stress or immunosuppressive drugs (steroids). The remainder who become sick with the virus will succumb within 2 years.
The nature of Feline Leukemia is to suppress the immune system, therefore, there are no specific symptoms. Usually the cat is just "sickly" (thin, eye discharges, diarrhea, and/or respiratory symptoms). Cats are often anemic and can have various types of cancer. These symptoms do not occur from the virus directly, rather the virus impairs the cat's ability to fight off other diseases.
Feline Leukemia Virus is spread through mainly through saliva (grooming, bite wounds, food bowls, sneezing). It can also be spread through urine, tears, feces, and from mothers to kittens. There is no treatment except good nursing care when any ill episode occurs. Infected cats should be isolated from other cats to avoid spread of the virus. Areas where a positive cat has been should be disinfected with a 1:30 chlorox solution and other cats not allowed there for 30 days.
A 2 dose vaccine is available that offers greater than 90% protection. Kittens are best vaccinated at 9-10 weeks and again at 12-13 weeks. Animal house requires testing for the virus before vaccination, since a vaccination could cause a cat that is already positive to begin showing symptoms. Some feel that Feline Leukemia vaccination is not necessary in indoor cats, but we've seen cases in indoor cats, and there's too much of it around to take the chance!
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, also known as Feline AIDS, is caused by a lentivirus. This type of virus usually causes a slowly developing disease. Like Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS has nonspecific clinical signs because it acts by suppressing the cat's immune system. Feline AIDS is associated more with mouth and skin problems than the other cat viruses. Common mouth problems include gingivitis, stomatitis, and periodontitis. Common skin problems include chronic abscesses and chronic dermatitis. F.I.V. can also cause GI, respiratory, nervous system, opthalmic, or reproductive symptoms. A positive cat may be asymptomatic for years, but most vets believe that the cat will eventually succumb. There is no treatment except supportive, and once the cat has developed signs, the disease will eventually progress to death.
The virus is spread mostly through bite wounds, so is most common in male outdoor cats, but can also be spread through blood transfusions, and to kittens from the mother (via placenta, birth canal, or nursing). F.I.V. positive cats should be quarantined from healthy cats, especially in a mulitple cat household, cattery, etc.
There is a newly developed vaccination from Fort Dodge but its protection is not complete (only about 80 %). Two or three doses are required, starting at about 9 weeks of age, 3 weeks apart for each dose. To be vaccinated, the cat must first test negatively for the disease. If a positive cat was vaccinated, it could cause the disease to progress faster than it originally would have.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are long worms that live within a pet's heart.
Who gets heartworms?
Mostly dogs get heartworms, but they can occasionally occur in cats.
How do they get them?
Infected heartworm larvae are injected through the pet by infected mosquitoes.
How will they affect my pet?
In dogs, heartworms cause difficulty breathing, heart failure, lung disease, liver disease, joint disease, and problems with the nervous system. In cats, the condition causes respiratory disease and coughing.
What are symptoms of heartworms?
Increased urination and thirst, weight loss, cough, decreased exercise tolerance, abdominal swelling.
What do I do if my pet gets them?
Make an appointment at the veterinarian for heartworm treatment, which kills all of the adult heartworms.
What can I do to prevent heartworms?
Start heartworm prevention at eight weeks of age. It costs as little as $8.00 -$25.00 a month and can save your pet's life!
Urinary Tract Infections
Cystitis, or an infection of the urinary tract, in not uncommon in adult female dogs and cats. These infections are characterized by frequent attempts to urinate, passage of small amounts of urine, urinary discomfort, urination in inappropriate places, and possibly blood or pus in the urine. They are usually caused by small crystal formation in urine with or without a viral and/or bacterial infection. Treatment most commonly includes adjusting diet, high water intake, and possible antibiotic suspension.
The main species of worms in the Southeast are roundworms (ascrids), hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. These gross and harmful critters are particularly common in young puppies and/or kittens and have the potential to cause varying degrees of illness and/or death. Roundworms are a thick, round worm that occupies space and absorbs nutrients. A heavy load of these can cause death in young kittens and puppies. Hookworms attach to the walls of the small intestine and suck blood from animals. They can cause severe anemia and death even in an adult dog. Whipworms, found usually in dogs only, attach to the large intestine and absorb blood, causing anemia, illness, and death in an adult. Tapeworms are flat, nutrient absorbing worms that reside in the small intestine and can reach lengths of over one feet. They pass small moving segments that can be seen in bowel movements, and are caused by animals swallowing flea(s) that's carrying immature stages of worm or by swallowing a small rodent infected with tapeworms.
Worms can be detected with a fecal exam at the veterinarian's office. If your animal has worms, you may notice diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, bloody stool, and possible vomiting. If not treated, these symptoms could progress to cause serious illness and/or death.
The types of worms listed above can cause various forms of diseases in humans and, except for whipworms, can be transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated feces. The best form of prevention is to start worming your puppy or kitten at 4 weeks, and redose every 2-3 weeks until their last puppy/kitten vaccination. After that, it's best to reworm at every regular yearly veterinarian visit. If your animal is often around other dogs and/or in kennels frequently, they should be wormed about twice a year.
Spays & Neuters
Most female cats and dogs come into heat at an average age of seven months, therefore we recommend spaying before this age. The best time for spaying is six months, because the animal is an ideal size for handling anesthesia and they have not come into heat yet. If you are not planning to breed your animal, spaying is the next best action for numerous reasons, including prevention of problems associated with childbirth and heat cycles such as bleeding and wandering off to possible injury. Spaying can also prevent later health problems with a cat or dog's reproductive tract, such as pyometra (infected uterus) and cancers in the uterus and ovaries. Most importantly, it keeps a dog or cat from birthing unwanted kittens and puppies that could later birth more unwanted kittens and pups. The surgery consists of removal of the uterus and both ovaries and is performed under general anesthesia.
Most male cats and dogs become sexually active between nine and twelve months of age. We recommend neutering your cat or dog at six months. Castration, or neuter, has several advantages for male cats and dogs including a less tendency for them to spray or "mark" their territory, lessening their aggression, and helping to prevent them from wandering off in search of a female in heat. Castration also makes cats and dogs less prone to problems with their reproductive organs, including infections and cancers associated with prostates. Castration consists of removal of both testicles, and is performed under general anesthesia.
The cost for spaying or neutering depends on the sex, age, size, and condition of your pet, but it is a one-time cost, and a relatively small one when compared to the numerous benefits.