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Tip of the Month

Common Treatments to Common Problems
  • Flea Control - Shut Down the Circus in your Home - August 2008
    Do you have a flea problem in your home that just won’t go away? Do you seem to keep treating your pets (following the advice of your veterinarian or their assistant) but never seem to stop the prolific infestation of fleas?

    Here are some facts and tips to help you plan an attack that will shut down that flea circus in 24 hours.

    A flea has four stages in its life. First, fleas are laid in eggs which hatch into larvae. The larvae resemble tiny maggots and within a week build a protective cocoon around themselves. Once in this cocoon state, they are called pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage until warm, moist conditions are present (up to a year) which are necessary for them to hatch into adult fleas. Adult fleas live up to two years, and an adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs every 24 to 48 hours, totaling up to 1,000 eggs in her lifetime.

    Fleas can transport themselves from one animal to another by walking, jumping, or being transported by a host. They feed off the blood of pets, with the female flea consuming up to 15 times its own body weight of your pet’s blood each day. Young puppies and kittens can develop “flea anemia” if the infestation is out of control, which can lead to death within a day or two. Graduates of veterinary and veterinary assistant schools can explain the graveness of this disease.

    Adequate flea control involves the following steps:
    • Removing fleas from the inside of your house
    • Removing fleas from the outside areas surrounding your house
    • Removing fleas from your pets
    • Using preventative flea control products on your pets

    A treatment program should be planned and executed within a 24-hour period with help from professionals (such as your veterinarian, anyone who has attended an accredited veterinary assistant school, etc.). Since fleas do not live on your pets (they usually just jump on for a meal), they will live and lay their eggs in your carpets, curtains, bedding, throw rugs, and areas around the house where your pets sleep, such as dog beds.

    In the morning, take your pets to the veterinarian for a flea bath or flea dip by a veterinary assistant (whichever your veterinarian recommends) and leave them there for the day.

    Then, treat the indoor environment with the proper amount of flea bombs or flea foggers. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Next, treat the outside environment with a pesticide spray that includes agents that kill fleas specifically. Be sure to spray kennel areas and any warm, moist areas in the grass and/or dirt where your pets play or lay. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Many pest control companies can be hired to spray the indoor and outdoor environments for you if you do not want to do this yourself.

    Lastly, ask your veterinarian about topical flea products that will kill the flea when it bites, or internal flea growth regulation medications that cause the female fleas to lay only sterile eggs when feeding off your pet.

    The best plan for flea control is prevention before the problem becomes dangerous to your pet’s health and well-being. It is important to keep your pets protected all year ‘round. Remember that prevention is crucial in keeping the flea circus from setting up and thriving in your home!
  • Administering Oral Medication to Dogs and Cats - March 2009
    Pet owners will often come across the challenge of having to administer oral medication to their animals, whether it be antibiotics, pain medication after surgery, or otherwise. The veterinary assistant is responsible for pilling your pet while she is still within the veterinary hospital’s walls; however, upon bringing your pet home, you will become accountable for this crucial task.

    Professionals in animal jobs will tell you that opening a dog or cat’s mouth is a sensitive task as there is always the risk of getting bit. The biggest advantage of oral medication is that it allows you to continue your pet’s ongoing medications without having to give them painful injections. Oral medication can also shorten an animal’s hospital stay due to the fact that oral medication may be administered at home. Many injectable medications are also manufactured in pill or liquid form.

    Before departing from the veterinary facility with your pet, make sure to ask the facility’s vet assistant to demonstrate the administration of oral medication to you. He or she should be happy to do so. You can also follow the helpful instructions provided here.

    Pilling a Cat
    Hold the cat’s upper jaw over the top of her head with your thumb and index finger behind the top canine teeth. Your fourth and fifth finger should wrap around the back of the cat’s head, pointing it upward. Hold the pill or syringe full of liquid medication in the other hand and use one finger of that hand to pry the bottom jaw open. If the medication is in pill form, drop the pill as far back in the cat’s mouth as possible without allowing it to fall to the sides of the mouth. Keep in mind that the esophagus is to the left of the trachea, so the pill should be placed in the left-rear portion of the throat. You can use your finger or a pill gun (available at pet supply stores) to guide it down the esophagus, but work quickly if using your finger to avoid being bitten. Close the mouth immediately and hold it shut, stimulating swallowing by either blowing in the cat’s nose or massaging her throat. Make sure your cat swallows the pill; you should be able to visibly see her swallowing. Rinse her mouth with a syringe full of water. Bad-tasting pills will cause a cat to salivate excessively, which can be a problem if the medication comes back up. To limit salivation, try to act quickly to decrease the amount of time the pill is in her mouth. If your cat is resisting by pushing away with her limbs, wrap her in a towel to restrain her limbs.

    Pilling a Dog
    The difference between oral medication administration of canines and felines is that with a dog, you may stick your finger inside his mouth behind his upper canine teeth and apply pressure to the roof of his mouth. The sensation of your finger across the roof of the dog’s mouth will coerce him to open his mouth. As with felines, use the other hand to hold the medication and open the bottom jaw. Drop the pill as far back in the mouth as possible, slightly to the left as this is where the esophagus is located. Allow his head to return to a normal position so he may swallow, and then repeat the process with a syringe full of water. If your dog is resistant to taking medication, try this trade secret used often by those in animal jobs such as your vet assistant – hide the pill or capsule in a piece of tasty food such as cheese or a hot dog to turn stressful medication time into a treat.
  • Ringworm - February 2010
    Despite the name, Ringworm is not a worm but actually a fungus. Known as Dermatophytosis, it can be spread from cat to cat or even from pet to human. As it is a fungus, it contains spores and these spores can live in the environment for up to 24 months and can live on furniture, bedding, clothing or anything that the infected animal has been in contact with. Individuals with animal jobs should be very careful since it is very easy to bring ringworm home to your family members and pets.

    On occasion, ringworm can infect an animal’s entire body but most commonly appears as scaly, hairless sores on the ears, tail and or head. These sores can be very itchy and fill with pus, and may cause an increase in shedding. Sometimes ringworm will also cause the nails to grow deformed.

    A fungal culture done at your veterinary hospital is the more common way to diagnosis ringworm. The treatment can include an antifungal cream but an oral treatment may have to be used in the more severe cases plus the animal may have to have regular dips. The fungal cultures must be negative for 2 weeks before any treatment is stopped.

    Kittens under 12 months old are the most susceptible but also outdoor pets, older pets or animals whose immune system may be compromised. Persian cats also appear to be more susceptible to the ringworm fungus.

    Since ringworm is so contagious, it is important to wash your hands and clothes anytime you come in contact with new kittens and or cats as ringworm is the most common skin infection in felines. This is very important if you work with animals as you can pass it on to another pet. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, isolate the pet and call your veterinarian immediately. It is important to wear gloves when you have to handle an infected animal and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. However, not every human or animal that comes into contact with the fungus will become infected. Current immune system, health, age, condition of skin, and grooming habits will determine if the infection is actually able to take a hold and grow.
  • Canine Pancreatitis - February 2011
    The pancreas is a V shaped organ located behind the stomach and the first section of the small intestine. It has two main functions, 1) production of insulin that helps the body metabolize sugar and 2) produce enzymes to digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed by an excess growth of digestive fluids in the pancreas, it leads to a condition called pancreatitis. It can be sudden (acute) or happening over a course of time (chronic). Though pancreatitis can occur in both dogs and cats, it is a condition most common in dogs. In dogs it tends to be acute, whereas in cats it tends to be chronic. Often middle-aged (about 7) and elderly dogs are more prone to canine pancreatitis, with a higher likely hood found in female versus male dogs. Genetics also can play a role. Yorkshire terriers and miniature schnauzers are more often prone to have the condition.

    The common symptoms of pancreatitis are abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite, and or weakness. It is very painful, not to mention very serious and can be life threatening. Once you suspect that your pet may have pancreatitis, call your veterinary office and schedule an appointment. When you go in the veterinary assistant will take your pet’s vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respiration rate). The veterinarian will do a physical exam checking for abdominal tenderness/soreness. Next the doctor will recommend running a thorough blood test that will measure levels of enzymes in the pancreas. If the two pancreatic enzymes, amylase and liapase are elevated, it is a strong indication your pet has pancreatitis. To further confirm the diagnosis, x-rays and an ultrasound may be done as well.

    Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will recommend hospitalization. Allowing the pancreas to heal on its own is the key factor. Which means no food or water by mouth for 24-72 hours. Oral fluids are given to prevent dehydration and flush out toxins. Medications are given for pain management and to reduce diarrhea and vomiting.

    To prevent future episodes it is important to feed your pet dog food that has a good source of protein and fat. The first ingredient should be real beef, chicken, lamb, or seafood. Avoid ingredients like meat-by-products, food coloring, and/or corn gluten. Also, avoid feeding table scraps. Pancreatitis is preventable with proper food nutrition and exercise.
  • What Vaccines Does Your Dog Need? - January 2011
    The best all around answer is based upon three factors: the age of the dog (or puppy), the area in which they live and how much contact they have with other dogs. Puppies obtain immunity from their mother’s milk (colostrum) but these antibodies only last the first few months. Plus, vaccines will not work while the mother’s antibodies are present: therefore the first vaccines should be given when the puppy is between 6-8 weeks of age. This vaccine is a combination of distemper, adenovirus Parainfluenza), parvovirus and, sometimes Leptospirosis. This is known as the DHLPP vaccine. This vaccine should be given and repeated every 3-4 weeks until the puppy reaches 20 weeks of age.

    For dogs over the age of 20 weeks, the veterinarian will likely need to give regular “booster” shots depending upon the area you live in, the dog’s life style and the circumstances within your neighborhood. Rabies vaccine should be given as recommended by the local stage law.

    Distemper: present in most areas of the United Stages and is hard to treat. And, even if the treatment is successful, it can cause long term health problems including pitting of the adult canine teeth and possible seizures.

    Adenovirus 2: although not as common as it use to be, it is still a threat in many parts of the country. This virus causes a form of kennel cough but the vaccine can protect against hepatitis in dogs.

    Leptospirosis: a type of bacterial infection. Although not common in many parts of the country, it would be the decision of your veterinarian whether this vaccine is necessary for your pet or not.

    Parainfluenza: a respiratory disease that is mistaken for kennel cough. It is highly contagious which produces a dry, raspy cough and the dog may have trouble breathing.

    Parvovirus: is the most common viral disease and is more common in puppies. It causes vomiting, listlessness and a very distinct bloody diarrhea.

    Corona virus: a highly contagious virus that affects the intestinal tract of dogs and can affect older dogs as well as puppies. It causes a fever, listlessness, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.

    Bordetella: also known as kennel cough. Also a bacterial infection, dogs that are boarding or show dogs are recommended to have the vaccine. It can be give either by an injection under the skin or intranasal (as drops).

    All vaccines and their schedule will be determined by your veterinarian. If you have any question, please call your local veterinary hospital and speak to the veterinary assistant on duty.

  • Compounding Pharmacies - July 2011
    Finding pieces of pills on the carpet after wrestling with your pet means they are not receiving the proper amount of medication needed. There is a customized and precise formulation used to give your pet the proper dosage each time that is not only easy but will also make sure your pet is receiving the proper dose. This process is called compounding pharmacies.

    Compounding pharmacies have been around for a long time and have become an important part of veterinary medicine. Some medications that have been developed for people do not come in the smaller dose that would be needed for pets. In some cases, certain medications are no longer being manufactured which can result in the veterinarian having to use a drug that is not as effective. Another problem is owners are required to cut pills or tablets into half or into thirds to try and get the proper dose for their pet. By compounding medicines, the veterinarian can get the specific dose needed.

    Compounding is the process of altering a medication to either change the dosage or, in some cases, change the composition if your pet is allergic or sensitive to the ingredients. Other reasons for getting compounded medications are that it may be easier for an owner to give their pet a liquid form of medication rather than a pill or tablet. Some pets are difficult to pill and many not only find the pill hidden in their food, but refuse to take their medication even when hidden in something tasty such as cheese or meat.

    Compounding pharmacies can offer medications that are appetizing and not bitter. Flavoring can be added such as fish, beef, chicken, liver, sardines, cheese and bacon and can be formulated into liquid, powder, or even a paste. If your pet will not accept any oral medications, many medications can be formulated into a topical application.

    It is also possible to formulate multiple medications and combine them. This will reduce the amount of times a medication would have to be given making it easier for both the owner and their pet.

    Veterinarians rely on a well known animal compounding pharmacy and choose one that follows the guidelines used by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). If you are having problems pilling your pet, contact your veterinary office and speak to the veterinary assistant about getting your pets medications compounded.

  • Hypothyroidism in Dogs - August 2011
    Hypothyroidism is one of the most common hormone deficiencies in dogs, and yet one of the most overlooked. Simply put, when dogs suffer from Hypothyroidism their thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the thyroid hormone. The causes of this condition can vary. The onset of Hypothyroidism may be from a naturally slowing down gland due to the dog’s age, a congenital problem or in some cases, a tumor on the thyroid gland.

    The thyroid gland is located on each side of the trachea (or windpipe). The thyroid gland’s major function is to control the body’s metabolism by circulating hormones in a regulated fashion. It secretes two hormones which are T3 (triiodothyronine), and T4 (thyroxine). T3 is considered the “active” form of the hormone while T4 is what circulates through the blood stream, but is not considered to be active.

    Hypothyroidism is most common in medium to larger breed dogs such as the Doberman Pinscher and Golden Retriever, with the age of onset between 4 to 10 years. It seems to be rare in small or toy breeds, although some small breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer and Dachshund are predisposed to this condition.

    Since this condition affects the metabolism, warning signs that owners can look for usually are weight gain and skin conditions. The Veterinary Information Network has noted that 88 of cases had some sort of skin issue and 40 had hair loss. Classically, the hair loss manifests around the tail, giving a “rat tail” appearance. The percentage of overweight animals is about 49 and 48 of owners found that their dogs had become very lazy, or listless. If you suspect your dog may have this issue, it’s very important to make an appointment with your veterinarian or veterinary assistant for testing.

    Testing for hypothyroidism is as simple as drawing a bit of blood and sending a blood panel to the laboratory. There are several types of thyroid testing and depending on your dog’s condition; your vet assistant may recommend more than one test.

    If it turns out your dog does have hypothyroidism, it can commonly be treated by giving a thyroid supplement orally, usually twice a day. This treatment will be a necessity for the dog for the remainder of the animal’s life. Upon initial treatment, your veterinary assistant will make a follow up appointment with you to have your dog’s thyroid level checked again, to ensure that the thyroid levels are within the normal range. If the level is too high, that may lead to further complications involving the heart or kidneys. If the levels are too low, then the medication will not be working as well as it is intended to do. It is imperative that your dog has the levels rechecked upon initial medicating or if there is a change in dose. If everything has been stabilized with your canine’s medication, you should still have your dog’s levels checked annually. Many times, your vet assistant will request that you bring your dog into the clinic at a specific time, a number of hours after you have administered the medication, for “post-pill” testing. Remember, it may a bit frustrating to tailor the dose or frequency of the medication in the beginning, but once your veterinarian has it perfect, it is smooth sailing for a happy and healthy pet!
  • The Big “C” - Part 1 - Fibrosarcoma (Soft Tissue Sarcomas) - August 2011
    Fibrosarcoma, also known as soft tissue sarcomas, are malignant (harmful or dangerous) tumors that form in connective tissue such as fat, blood vessels, lymph nodes, smooth muscles, skeletal muscles, etc. Although fibrosarcomas can re-appear locally, they are known for spreading to other parts of the body (metastasize.) This metastasis can occur weeks or even months after the fibrosarcoma have been removed. For this reason, part of the treatment may include chemotherapy and / or radiation.

    To diagnosis fibrosarcoma, a technique called Fine Needle Aspirate is used in which the veterinarian will collect a few cells from the animal using a needle and syringe. However, this may not be enough to reach a definite diagnosis, in which case a biopsy may have to be performed. This, along with blood tests and x-rays will assist the veterinarian or oncologist in making a diagnosis. In dogs, fibrosarcomas are normally found in the trunk and limbs. In cats, it could be caused by virus-induced or vaccine induced (usually by the feline Leukemia virus) inoculations. Older cats can also get solitary fibrosarcomas along the trunk, limbs, toes and ears.

    Deep and wide removal of the tumor is usually the best surgical option for fibrosarcomas, because unless the entire tumor is removed, the chance of it coming back within a year is over 70 . Radiation can help to prevent the tumor from re-occurring at the original site. Chemotherapy can be used for tumors that cannot be removed or to help prevent the cancer cells from making new tumors at other areas of the pets’ body.

    As pain is very common in pets that have cancer, untreated pain will decrease the animal’s quality of life. Untreated pain will also prolong the recovery and / or treatment process. It is vital that the vet assistant helps the owner to recognize pain in their pets and the best way to manage it. Usually the best treatment is to stop it before it starts and administer pain medication before any procedures are started.

    Weight loss is often observed in pets that have cancer not only due to loss of appetite, but also because of an altered metabolism and the side effect of the radiation and / or chemotherapy. The prognosis for fibrosarcoma is actually good. However, the recurrence of the tumor coming back depends upon how much of the tumor that could be removed along with post –surgical options such as radiation and/ or chemotherapy. The management of soft tissue reoccurrence is more difficult to handle than the original tumor. It is important for your pets to have long term follow up vet visits.

    Any new or previously unseen lump or bump should be checked out by your local veterinarian. If they suspect fibrosarcoma, they may refer you to an oncologist for further diagnostic testing. If you have any questions, contact the veterinary assistant at your pets veterinary office.

  • Vaccine-Related Fibrosarcoma in Cats - October 2011
    It has been discovered that cats can develop a vaccine related fibrosarcoma (a cancer of fibrous tissues such as muscle). Studies done in the past several years have shown an association of a soft tissue sarcoma at the vaccine sites such as rabies and feline leukemia (FeLV). These studies have shown that the appearance of these fibrosarcomas is between 4 weeks to 10 years post vaccine. It also determined that no single vaccine manufacturer or vaccine type can be associated with this type of cancer. Although the mechanism that causes the cancer to develop is not actually known, it is thought that the inflammatory reaction is why the tumor will develop at a later date.

    Vaccine related fibrosarcoma will appear as a lump at the vaccine site. A CT scan (Computed Tomography), also known as Cat Scan or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) may be needed to evaluate the extent of the cancer to help determine a proper treatment. Surgery is recommended to remove the tumor plus the surrounding healthy tissues. There must be a wide margin (2 to 3 cm all around) plus underneath the tumor removed as this is an aggressive cancer. If the healthy tissue is not removed, the incidence of reoccurrence is high and the cancer can reoccur within 2 to 3 months. Due to the fact that 50 of these tumors will reoccur, the first surgery is the best way of removing the entire tumor. This is a major surgery and should be done by a board certified surgeon. If the tumor is on a limb, the usual course of action is amputation. Although many owners are hesitant to have a three legged pet, the animals do quite well with three legs.

    Keep in mind that, although the surgery will remove the visible tumor, cancer cells can be left behind. To kill the remaining cancer cells, radiation therapy may be used. The timing of the radiation therapy will depend upon the individual veterinarian, oncologist and / or surgeon but it may within two weeks post surgery. Using chemotherapy on the vaccine related fibrosarcoma may or may not have any benefits for the patient as it does not appear to affect the cats overall survival. However, it may delay the time that the tumor will reoccur.

    As with all cancers, especially when cats are receiving radiation and / or chemotherapy, weight loss can occur. This is usually due to loss of appetite or general feeling of illness due to the side effects of the cancer treatment. It is important to have sufficient nutritional support to reduce the post surgical complications and help the healing process.

    The prognosis for cats by surgery alone is poor while cats that have received surgery plus radiation and /or chemotherapy improve with a higher survival rate. If you notice a lump on or close to a site where a vaccine has been given, it is important to call your veterinarian and speak to the veterinary assistant to schedule an appointment or for a referral to a board certified surgeon for a definite diagnosis.
  • The Big “C” - Part 2 - Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer) - September 2011
    The most common bone tumor in pets, Osteosarcoma, usually affects older or giant breed dogs but has been seen in younger canines as well. It is rare in cats. Although it is an aggressive cancer that can be found in any bone, it mostly develops in the limbs. Therefore, Osteosarcoma steadily becomes more painful as it progresses.

    Patients with Osteosarcoma in the limbs will show swelling at the developed site along with increased lameness. Sometimes, the first sign that the patient has bone cancer is a fracture at the site of the tumor. Other signs would depend upon the location of the cancer: e.g. bone cancer of the spine could present neurological symptoms. Due to the high rate of metastasis (spread of tumor cells) to the lungs, x-rays are taken of both the chest and the affected limb. Sometimes bone scans are done of the other limbs as well.

    The spread of cancer to the lungs and other organs is the most common cause of death in patients with Osteosarcoma. As other tumors can show up in the limbs as well, a biopsy of the affected site may be the only way to confirm the presence of bone cancer.

    As Osteosarcoma is a painful, aggressive cancer with a high rate of metastasis, a positive diagnosis of Osteosarcoma usually means the affected limb must be removed followed by chemotherapy and possible radiation. The more commonly used chemotherapy drugs include Carboplatin, Cisplatin and, sometimes Doxorubicin. There are side effects that are associated with chemotherapy drugs but the risk usually is outweighed by the benefits. A veterinary oncologist would be the best source of information regarding chemotherapy drugs.

    Pets with cancer can experience weight loss due to the presence of the cancer. Post-surgical pain, lack of appetite, and the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs such as vomiting and nausea may also occur. It is important to provide nutritional support to decrease post surgical complications, improve quality of life and increase response to therapy. A special diet can be suggested by the veterinarian, the veterinary oncologist or a veterinary assistant.

    The prognosis depends on the location of the tumor, how extensive the disease is, the general health of the pet, and if the cancer has spread to other organs. If the cancer has spread to other organs or limbs, the prognosis could be poor. A patient with an amputated leg does not lessen the quality of life for your pet but it does depend upon each individual animal. There is a website called that is a wonderful source and help center for people with pets who have gone through an amputation to share their stories. Although Osteosarcoma is not preventable, effective treatments and early diagnosis can improve the life of your pet.
  • Euthanasia: Having to Face the Inevitable - November 2011
    To lose a beloved pet is hard enough but to have to decide to euthanize might sometimes prove to be even more difficult. Some pet owners may choose to not euthanize and just make their home as comfortable as possible for their pet’s last remaining days. Their pet may have some health issues or may be deteriorating from old age. Some things to consider in making the home more comfortable is to surround him/her with his/her favorite toys and blankets. The blankets should be very soft with lots of cushion. If your pet is unable to move much, then they may develop sores on certain areas of their bodies, so make sure to provide a comfortable lounging option for them. Some pets may also no longer be able to control their bladder. If this is the case, you may need to check your pet regularly so that he/she does not lie in soiled blankets. They do have puppy pads that you can place under your pet in case any accidents were to occur. They also sell clothing such as doggy bands and doggy diapers in case your pet were to have incontinence problems.

    Although some may choose to keep their pet at home and let him/her go naturally, others may feel that euthanasia is a better decision. Signs to look for in your pet could be anything from his/her behavior changing to visible physical changes. Some cats and dogs don’t always cry out in pain. They might show excessive panting, irregular breathing, lethargy, seclusion, loss of appetite, and loss of energy. If you have other pets in the house, they may even start to show changes in their behaviors due to the one pet that is ill. If you are ever unsure of how your pet is doing, then it would be in the pet’s best interest to have them see their Veterinarian. Once at the veterinarian’s office the Doctor, Technician, or Veterinary Assistant will be able to assist you with any questions you may have as well about symptoms you may have noticed. The problem may even appear to be bigger than what it really is so it’s always best to seek professional help.

    If the problems persist, medicine doesn’t seem to be working, your pet appears to be in pain, and the veterinarian has advised you that euthanasia might be an option, then it might be something to consider with your family. Euthanasia is a procedure that’s painless and done very quickly. To let an animal die naturally might not always be the best option as it could involve seizures, starvation, dehydration, hemorrhaging, etc. causing your pet a long process of pain. Once the decision is made to euthanize your pet, the next question will be whether or not to be present. Some feel that staying with your pet offers your companion love and comfort for their remaining seconds of his/her life. Some owners may also feel a type of comfort for themselves as well if they were to stay. Other pet owners sometimes see this as more difficult and might not be able to handle it well. For this reason, they might choose to not be present.

    Although no one wants to ever think about what might happen one day if they were to lose a loved one, it is usually best to know all your options now and plan for things ahead of time.
  • Canine Distemper - January 2012
    Canine Distemper (also known as Hard Pad Disease) is a disease that young dogs and puppies are prone to. Canine Distemper is often mistaken at first for Canine Parvo Virus as it presents similar symptoms. This disease is second in severity only to the Canine Parvo Virus and it is highly contagious, potentially fatal, and not easily treated.

    The basic transmission of the Distemper Virus is spread through secretions of bodily fluids, such as urine, blood, feces and airborne transmissions (such as coughing and sneezing by infected animals). The dog contracting the virus is infected generally though the nose or mouth, where these infected cells can begin to reproduce. The symptoms for Canine Distemper include gooey eyes and nasal discharge, fever, anorexia, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. Side effects from this virus also can include thickening of the skin over the pads, which causes them to become hard.

    The major concern with this virus is the development of pneumonia, as well as a secondary bacterial infection. This secondary bacterial infection would be caused by the comprising of the digestive tract. After the virus has infected the respiratory and digestive tract it then moves to the central nervous system, where it can lead to tremors, imbalance, weak limbs and eventually seizures.

    There is currently no cure for this virus, although with supportive treatment that would include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and air-way dilators which can help to clear the airway as well as “coupage” (which is the act of gently patting your hand over the chest of the patient to help knock mucus loose from the lungs), the patient can make a full recovery. During this time it is increasingly important for the veterinarian or the veterinary assistant to monitor the patient and provide the specified treatment. Canine Distemper can be avoided if dogs are properly vaccinated against this virus at an early age. Your veterinarian should also be able to advise you on the proper vaccination time line for a new household puppy.
  • What You Should Know About Tracheobronchitis - December 2011
    What is Kennel Cough?

    Tracheobronchitis, better known as Kennel Cough, is an infectious condition in which the upper airways of the respiratory tract become inflamed. It may be caused by a multitude of the viruses including Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Distemper, Canine Adenovirus 2 and the bacteria Bordetella Bronchiseptica. Kennel Cough is characterized by a hacking dry cough, which would be easily elicited by palpating, or gently rubbing, the dog’s trachea. More severe signs would include a fever, yellow or green discharge from the nose and the animal may become listless with a decreased appetite.

    How would my animal catch Kennel Cough?

    Commonly, animals that find themselves in an environment that has many other pets, such as boarding facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, training classes or even the waiting room of their veterinary hospital can come in contact with the infectious agent, as it thrives in warm, poorly ventilated environments and is usually airborne. Stress from boarding with many unfamiliar animals may also lower the animal’s natural immune defenses, leaving them a bit more susceptible to infection. The incubation period, which is the time from when the animal was exposed until the time symptoms start showing, may be as short as two days or as long two weeks!

    Great, my dog is coughing… what now?

    If your dog starts coughing after being boarded or groomed, he may have developed Kennel Cough. Sometimes it may be self-limiting; meaning that the virus will run its course and the animal will improve on its own. However, since there can be potential for Kennel Cough to develop into Pneumonia, it is always advised to call your veterinarian and have your animal examined. The veterinarian can make the diagnosis, sometimes just with a physical exam. Most likely, your animal may be prescribed a cough suppressant and antibiotics to combat any secondary bacterial infections. The veterinary assistant will explain how to best utilize nursing skills (such as good nutrition) and environmental considerations (such as using a humidifier to sooth irritated respiratory tissues and being in a smoke free household).

    Can we prevent this?

    Some of the components that cause Kennel Cough are found in your dog’s regular vaccine, DA2PP, also known by the slang term “Distemper” vaccine. That vaccination includes Distemper virus, Canine Adenovirus type 2, Parainfluenza and Parvo virus. It’s considered a core vaccine and is usually given annually. If you board your dog or go to the grooming salon, those facilities often require proof of the DA2PP vaccination as well as the Bordetella vaccine. The Bordetella vaccine is generally given intra-nasally (in the nose) which many hospitals feel provide better immunity than the traditional injected form of the vaccine. If you plan on boarding your dog, check with your veterinary office for their recommendations on when to schedule the vaccination, as it may take about 5 days to for your animal to generate an immune response from the vaccine in order to provide the needed protection. Happy Holidays!

    Merck Veterinary Manual- Online
    Veterinary Partners- A VIN subsidiary
  • Epilepsy - January 2012
    Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the dog suffers from recurring seizures over a period of time. These are caused by an imbalance of the chemicals that transmit the electrical impulses in the brain. Grand mal seizures, which are most commonly associated with epilepsy, are characterized by loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.

    Epilepsy can be idiopathic (which means it comes from an unknown cause) or it can be acquired. The idiopathic epilepsy represents about 5 of dogs, which accounts for 80 of recurring seizures. The acquired epilepsy has an identifiable cause, most usually a head injury. The mass of scar tissue or lesions on the brain can be identified by performing different tests such as skull X-Rays, EEGs (also known as Electroencephalograms), CT (Computed Tomography) scans or a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

    "True" epilepsy involves the seizures to be recurrent and similar. They usually become more frequent with age. The seizures start between 6 months of age to 5 years. For certain breeds inheritance of epilepsy has been proven. This is the case with breeds like the Beagle, Dachshund, Keeshond and Belgian Tervurens. Other breeds that are most commonly associated with suspected inheritance are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Miniature Schnauzers and Akitas to name a few.

    A typical epileptic seizure (grand mal seizure) consists of three phases. The first phase is called an Aura. This is when the dog will become restless, anxious, and may demand affection or seek seclusion. It is followed by an actual seizure (the Ictus phase), which lasts less then 2 minutes. The dog looses consciousness, may stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds and has rigidly extended legs. It is followed by rhythmic jerking of the legs (known as "paddling"), chomping, chewing, defecating and urinating. In the post seizure (known as Post-Ictal), state the dog will regain consciousness and will act confused and disoriented. He will exhibit poor coordination and balance including possibly stumbling into walls or appearing blind. Less common behavior would include frenzied barking, licking or nibbling himself, staring into space or snapping at invisible objects. This state can last from a couple of minutes up to an hour. All of those phases may not be observed by the owner, especially if the animal is resting or sleeping.

    Status epilepticus seizures or cluster seizures are multiple seizures lasting more than 5 minutes without the dog regaining consciousness. This is an emergency! If you can, call the hospital that you are headed to and advise them you are on your way to their facility with a dog that is having seizures that will not stop. The veterinary assistant or the staff answering the phone will remind you to safely handle the dog so you do not get injured. Precautions would include using a comforter or a towel to wrap up and pick up the dog. The dog is having involuntary muscle contractions and may bite unknowingly. The veterinarian needs to administer intravenous (in the vein) anti-convulsion medication to stop the seizure and prevent brain damage or death. This is urgent and time sensitive.

    During the dog's seizure, make sure the dog is safe. Make sure that the dog is not able to injure himself by doing something like falling in the pool, tumbling down the stairs, etc. Try not to disturb the dog during the seizure as it may trigger further seizures and you could put yourself at risk of being injured. Never open the dog’s mouth to pull out the tongue and do not put any objects in the dog’s mouth, no matter what you might have heard!! Note the length of the seizure and inform your veterinarian. You will be asked to describe the seizure to the veterinarian, veterinary technician or the veterinary assistant. Since the veterinarian’s treatment is going to be based on your information, a log should be kept. Note the date, frequency, duration and the behavior before, during and after the seizure.

    Since epilepsy is not curable, the goal of treatment is to minimize the frequency and severity of the seizures. There are different types of medication used to treat this condition; however, anti-seizure medications are not 100 effective. A combination of multiple drugs may be used. The rule of thumb for the veterinarian to start your dog on medication to manage seizures is if your dog is having 2 or more seizures per month. If this is the case and your dog is put on medication, the goal is to reduce that number to 10 or less per year. The levels of the certain anti-seizure medications are going to be monitored with a simple blood test. Dosages may need to be adjusted though time so frequent follow-ups with your veterinarian are required.
  • Hairballs in Cats - February 2012
    Cats are fastidious groomers as we all know. When a cat grooms, the tiny, hook-like structures on the tongue catch loose or dead fur which the cat then swallows. For the most part, this fur is passed through the digestive tract without incident; but some of the fur may stay in the stomach which develops into a hairball. Because this hairball must pass through the esophagus in order to be vomited up, they usually appear to be tube-like rather than round.

    Long-haired cats are more likely to have hairballs as do cats that shed a lot or are compulsive groomers. A cat trying to expel a hairball will retch, gag and hack, but will usually vomit the hairball without trouble. However, problems can occur when the hairball cannot be vomited. Frequent retching, gagging or hacking without the production of a hairball, a lack of appetite, vomiting undigested food, swollen abdomen, sluggishness, diarrhea or constipation may be an indication a hairball has caused a blockage. This blockage makes it impossible for the cat to either vomit or have a bowel movement which constitutes an emergency situation. If you suspect that your cat may have a blockage, contact your veterinarian hospital immediately and speak to the veterinary assistant on duty with your concerns. There may be several options that the veterinarian will discuss with you but a severe blockage will require surgical removal.

    Although you cannot prevent hairballs, you can reduce the amount and/or frequency. Home remedies such as butter or oils should not be used as they may cause other digestive problems. One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount and/or frequency is to groom your cat on a regular basis. Many cats will accept brushing or combing by their owners but those that do not can be taken to a professional groomer for brushing and a possible hair cut, especially for long-haired breeds.

    There are many hairball products on the market which are actually a mild form of a laxative which will help the hairball pass through the digestive tract. Most are petroleum-based and are flavored to make them more appetizing to the cat. There are also special “hairball formula” cat food on the market which contains a high fiber formula. This formula will not only help hairballs to pass through the digestive tract, they also help to reduce shedding and can improve your cat’s coat.

    Water is also important for your cats’ digestive system; be sure the water is clean, fresh and easily accessible. If you suspect that your cat is a compulsive groomer, try offering other distractions such as a new toy to play with or find one that you can play with together.

    You cannot stop a cat from grooming, but you can help prevent problems associated with hairballs with simple preventive practices.
  • Anaphylaxis in Dogs - June 2012

    Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) in Dogs

    A French Bulldog is brought into the veterinary hospital. His face is visibly swollen, and he is breathing with great effort and difficulty. His skin is covered in bumpy hives. The owners were obviously very concerned as they were seeing the rapid progression of the symptoms for, what seemed like, no known reason. The veterinary assistant assessed the dog and immediately took him in the treatment room for the veterinarian to examine the patient. The veterinarian determined very quickly that the patient was suffering from a severe allergic reaction. As the cherry on the sundae, the veterinarian found a bee stinger still stuck on the dog’s lip! The veterinarian started the treatment, administering oxygen to offer respiratory support and intravenous medications, steroids and antihistamines. During the conversation with the owners, the information started to trickle out in regards to what happened. The dog enjoys chasing flies, lasers, lights, feathers, etc. He was just outside in the backyard for 15 minutes taking a potty break. After that, he came in with his face swollen and raspy breathing. The veterinarian pointed out that this fits with the very possible scenario that the dog was outside, unsupervised, was chasing a bee and got stung by it. The venom from the bee caused the dog’s body to over-react to it and cause a severe allergic reaction. It was a good thing they had brought the pet in when they did, since this could have a serious and deadly outcome. The French Bulldog was discharged from the hospital next morning.

    The dog was very lucky! Anaphylaxis (or allergic reactions) is a life threatening condition and it requires immediate veterinary attention!

    Symptoms To Watch For

    Not all allergic reactions are life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is characterized by a rapid onset of symptoms after the exposure to a foreign substance (insect stings, certain medications, rarely vaccinations etc.) to which the body reacts with an allergic response. The symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, drooling, hives, pale gums, elevated heart rate, weak pulse and respiratory distress. When the circulatory and respiratory systems are threatened, we consider this an anaphylaxis or allergic shock and it is classified as an emergency.

    Timely Treatment

    The definitive diagnosis can take time, which is why the timely treatment needs to be started as soon as possible. If the condition is left untreated, the time from exposure to death can be within an hour. Different medications and treatments are available for supporting the heart and blood pressure, and they will also control the release of the chemicals that perpetuate the anaphylactic reaction, called inflammatory mediators. Oxygen access needs to be secured, in critical situations. This can include oral intubations or placement of the oxygen tube directly into the trachea. Depending on how severe the anaphylaxis was, the hospitalization usually lasts between 24 to 48 hours.

    If you recognize the anaphylaxis early and seek aggressive veterinary intervention, the chances of survival increase exponentially. Owners should keep an eye on their pets, especially outdoors where there is possibility of venomous insects.
  • Indoor Cats - October 2012

    Enrichment for the Indoor Cat

    Cat Scratching Post

    Now that the weather is cooler, more of the indoor-and-outdoor cats are becoming indoor-only cats. Most veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants agree that keeping your cat indoors is the preferred choice regardless of weather. This lessens the chance of encountering injury or disease. It can also provide your cat an enriched environment, which helps minimize boredom, keeps him physically fit and can reduce or even eliminate some unwanted behaviors.

    Some Basic Requirements

    Sure, we know that food and water are the basics for all living creatures so that’s a given. Of course, you will want to have a litter box as well. Additional things that cats need to enhance their indoor experience and allow them to perform their natural behaviors are a scratching post and toys. They also need their own personal space.

    Food and Water

    Since cats are solitary hunters, it’s preferable to place their food and water in a location where loud noises won’t travel (on the washing machine during the spin cycle is not recommended!). Also, place their food in an area sheltered from regular household traffic; a place where they’ll feel safe eating. Keep in mind, the cat’s litter box shouldn’t be nearby either.

    Many cats enjoy a bit of running water either from the sink or a bowl that circulates the water. Obtaining water this way can be more stimulating than a regular bowl. Cat grass is something that can enrich your indoor cat’s munchies cravings. Cats will chew on a bit of grass when allowed outdoors and cat-appropriate indoor grass will bring some of that outdoor fun inside!

    You can enrich your little hunter’s dinnertime by simulating the hunt. There are commercially made toys that you can place either a bit of moist food or treats in and your cat can stalk its "prey." He has to interact with the prey toy and the food will be released. Not only does this satisfy his inner lion, but it helps him stay active as well.

    Living Space (and Personal Space)

    Cats tend not to have a social hierarchy like dogs do. If you have multiple animals, it’s important to provide each animal with his own space. Small adjustments to your household environment like having beds in multiple spots or clearing perches for your cat (even an empty spot on the window sill will work) provides opportunities for the cat to disengage with the household and have some quiet time to himself.


    One natural cat behavior (that drives their humans crazy!) is scratching. In the wild, scratching not only maintains the health of their claws, but it also leaves behind pheromones as well as visible claw marks to alert other cats they’ve been there. Vertical scratching posts work well, as this is the natural position that many cats prefer (think of those trees). Commercial scratching posts generally have carpet, but many cats prefer natural sisal. Sisal is from the agave plant that yields a fibrous material often used to make rope, dartboards and other similar items. Sisal allows the cats to really sink their claws in. Other substances that cats enjoy are cardboard scratchers. While some cats will take right to these, many owners have a complaint that their cats won’t even look sideways at the post. Watch how and where your cat tends to scratch. Does he prefer to stretch up? If you notice that he does, then a vertical post will be more appealing (especially with a bit of cat nip application). This behavior ties into territory marking so positioning these posts in the location where the cat tends to frequent will increase usage. If your cat spends most of his time in the spare bedroom, then position the post there. If most of his time is spent on the couch, place one in very close proximity.

    As we’ve established, cats are predators and they require prey in order to keep the mind satisfied. Natural hunting behaviors would be stalking, pouncing, jumping, biting and chasing, or all the things that humans do not appreciate much, especially at 2 a.m.! However, understand that cats need to do this as it is instinctual. When engaging in play with your cat, discourage the cat using you as the toy. Do not let him bite your hands or feet. This may lead to play-related aggression issues later on. More appropriate toys would be something like a battery-operated toy that moves on its own to encourage pouncing. Cat nip-filled toys are often lightweight, allowing the cat to toss the toy around and catch it, enacting a natural behavior if he had caught a small rodent. Other great toys that you can interact with your cat are the light beam toys (hours of chasing and jumping) or toys at the end of poles (like those feathers or wands).

    Providing an enriched indoor environment for your feline will combat boredom while keeping your cat more active. Indoor enrichment can also improve unwanted behaviors, such as excessive vocalizing or aggression. If you are experiencing any behavioral problems with your cat, it’s recommended to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the behavior and ensure there is not a hidden health issue before focusing on behavior modification. Your veterinary assistant can also review what enrichment strategies you’ve been utilizing and offer further advice. By working together with your veterinary team, you can provide your cat a fulfilling indoor lifestyle.

    Interested in becoming a vet assistant? Visit Animal Behavior College to get started on your animal career today.
  • Frostbite and Dogs - What You Should Know - February 2013

    Frostbite on Dogs

    Different dog breeds have paws that are better protected against cold weather

    As snow covers the ground, we should pay special attention to our four-legged friends. That wonderful white scenery holds a cold truth: Dogs get frostbite.

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to freezing temperatures and it may take a couple of days to see the full damage of frostbite. Short hair, wet fur, diabetes and a small size are just a few contributing factors for dogs. The body parts on dogs which are most commonly affected are the ears, tail, scrotum and nipples. Interestingly, foot pads are rarely frostbitten. Explanations for this include the arrangement of blood vessels and specialized epithelial cells.

    The Three Stages of Frostbite

    The first stage is characterized by pale to gray skin that might be cold or hard to the touch. When the skin warms up, it will have a reddish appearance. The second stage is marked by an appearance of blisters. The third stage is the most serious. The skin turns dark or black during the next couple of days, and it might start sloughing. The tissue is dead and it must be treated to prevent serious infections. In extreme cases, amputation of a limb may be required.

    Keep in mind that when your dog is frostbitten, her body temperature might also be affected. Hypothermia (low body temperature) requires immediate attention.

    What to Do if you Notice a Problem

    Get your dog inside immediately. If you are transporting your dog, make sure you do not turn up the heater to high. Cold to gradual warm temperature is much more appropriate. DO NOT RUB! Even though you need to warm up your pet, rubbing can cause further damage to the tissue and it might release accumulated toxins. Instead, submerge the affected area in lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F) for about 20 minutes. Pat the area dry and prevent your dog from licking or scratching. As frostbite is very painful, you need to contact your veterinarian for pain medication and, if required, antibiotics. Keep a close eye on the frostbite as the true damage might not appear for days to follow.

    How to Prevent Frostbite

    Certain breeds, such as huskies and malamutes, are very well adapted to cold weather and thrive in it. They have a double coat and “snowshoes,” which is hair between their toes and can withstand temperatures as low as -60 degrees F. How about the rest of the breeds? We took our companions inside, where they adapted to a leisurely lifestyle in which household heat is common. If you are going for a walk, you might consider booties to protect your furry friend’s paws from cold and blisters. The veterinary assistant at your hospital can show you how to fit your dog for booties. A coat or a jacket may not be a bad idea either—and your pet will look fashionable while warm. With the proper precautions and preparation, you and your dog can enjoy a wonderful winter.

    By Vesna Ban-Smedberg, RVT
  • Inappropriate Urination in Cats - June 2013

    Inappropriate Urination in Cats

    Inappropriate Urination in Cats

    Inappropriate urination can take many forms and have several causes. Sometimes a cat seems to suddenly “forget” her litterbox training, urinating everywhere except where she’s supposed to. Your cat might start to urinate in hidden areas of the house, or choose to urinate on furniture, rugs or clothing. Sometimes, a specific spot is used over and over again; at other times, new places are chosen, from hidden areas to the middle of the room. You might find one large pool of urine or there may be many tiny spots of urine all over the house. Inappropriate elimination is the most common behavior problem in cats.(1)

    Possible Causes of Inappropriate Urination

    There are several reasons a cat will abruptly stop using its litterbox. Many issues are medical in nature and require veterinary attention. Others are solely of a behavioral nature and require a different approach. Before attempting to treat a cat for a possible behavior issue, it is important to make sure that there is not a medical issue that must first be addressed. Your veterinarian can perform blood tests and a urinalysis on your cat to find out if there are any medical conditions that may be causing the unwanted behavior.

    Inappropriate urination has put an end to many a cat’s life

    This is not because it is a deadly condition in and of itself, but because many cat owners are unable, unwilling or simply lack the knowledge to treat the behavior’s causes of this behavior. Many cats with inappropriate urinating behaviors are euthanized at the owner’s request, or are turned into shelters to ultimately face the same unfortunate fate. If you are facing this dilemma please use the following tips and speak with a veterinary professional for help to avoid having to resort to these drastic measures. Once any possible medical issues are ruled out, it’s time to consider behavior issues as a cause. Try to see the world from your cat’s point of view. Many behavior issues can be resolved by understanding the reasons for this behavior and addressing them accordingly.

    Sanitation Issues

    Cats are clean creatures by nature. They also have a much more developed sense of smell than people do. If you can smell a faint urine odor, imagine what it smells like to a cat. It is possible to prevent inappropriate urination simply be maintaining a clean litterbox.

    Stress Related

    Some cats are very easily stressed, which can cause a change in behavior. A change in the household, such as a new cat or dog, a new baby or any other change in the family dynamic, can cause the cat to urinate in inappropriate places. This is not “for spite” as many pet owners suspect. One of the ways a stressed cat reacts is to stop going into areas that are perceived as dangerous. If a cat is unwilling to go into the area where its litterbox is, it will find another place to urinate. “Rubbing her nose in it” is not a good way to teach the cat that this place is not where she should urinate. As with dogs, trying to correct a behavior well after it has taken place will only serve to confuse the cat, and worse, might exacerbate the problem.

    Marking Territory

    Spraying is probably the most well-known form of inappropriate urination. When cats spray, they hold their tails straight up, back up to the furniture or wall and quiver their tails while distributing a relatively small amount of urine for the purpose of scent marking its territory. The intact male is the most common perpetrator of this act. A neutered male will spray and, rarely, even a female will give it a try. Any cat who believes his or her territory is being invaded by an unwelcome visitor will engage in this activity.

    Factors outside of the house can also trigger a cat to spray. Cats seen through a window can be perceived by your cat as a threat to his territory. It may take some detective work on your part in order to find the cause. Discontinuing access to the view is one way to remove the perceived threat and solve the problem. It is also possible to avoid this cause of inappropriate urination by having your cat neutered before he becomes sexually mature, which occurs at about six months of age.

    Solving the Issue

    Start by thoroughly cleaning soiled areas around the home to remove all traces of urine. There are several products on the market to help you locate the source of urine and eliminate the smell from almost any surface. The most effective products use enzymes to eliminate the urine and odor. Using strong smelling deodorizers is no substitute for removing odors. Because of a cat’s sensitive sense of smell, these deodorizers may be considered offensive. In any case, the urine odor will still be apparent to the cat, and most likely to you as well. In the event of spraying, a feline pheromone spray can be applied to the area after it is cleaned to “trick” the cat into believing that the scent mark is still present – without the offending odor.

    Litterbox Maintenance

    Scoop solids daily, and thoroughly clean the box and replace with new litter at least weekly. Harsh chemicals should never be used on a cat litterbox for the purpose of routine cleaning. Mild soap and water is best, but if a more powerful disinfection is desired, diluted bleach can be used. A freshly made solution of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water works well for most disinfecting purposes. Remember to rinse completely and dry thoroughly before refilling the box.


    Consider what goes into the litterbox. Cats may prefer one type of litter over another so strongly that refuse to use anything except their favorite. If a brand or type of litter is changed, this can be enough to cause the issue. Litter choices are endless. In addition to “non-clumping” and “clumping” clay litters, both of which are widely available, there are litters made from recycled newspapers, pine, corn and wheat, as well as “crystals” (made from silica). Some contain baking soda or carbon to absorb offending odors, while others are scented—the latter may be offensive to cats. There are also brands that contain an attractant to encourage cats to use their litterbox. Sometimes this option will do the trick when all others have failed. Once you find a litter that appeals to your cat, it is best use it continuously.

    The Box Itself

    The size and configuration of a litterbox can be an important factor, too. When choosing a litterbox, consider the size of your cat. The box should be large enough for the cat to comfortable walk into and turn around inside. Small kittens may find the sides of the litterbox too tall to easily climb over, making a box with shorter sides necessary until the kitten grows enough to use a larger box. Talking about size, many items sold as litterboxes are, in fact, too small for the average-sized adult cat. In addition, while a covered litterbox may sound like a good idea, a cat may not feel comfortable squeezing herself into this cramped space. If you are unable to find a litterbox that is large enough at the local pet store, think outside the “litter” box. Peruse the “storage container” section of the local discount store or home improvement center. Look for a large, sturdy box that can be easily cleaned. Those made for under-the-bed storage or any other large, low-sided box, work well.


    If there are multiple cats in the same household, the rule of thumb is one litterbox for each cat, plus one extra litterbox. So, two cats should have access to three litterboxes, situated in various areas of the house. Each cat might or might not choose to use the same litterbox over and over again, but has the option of urinating elsewhere if another cat is blocking access to one of the boxes. The location of each litterbox is also important. Place boxes away from high-traffic areas. Cats require privacy just like we do. If your home has more than one level, it is best to have at least one litterbox on each level.

    Remember to reward your cat for using the litterbox. Reinforce good behavior with calm praise, a gently pet or a favorite treat.

    Reducing Stress

    Cats are quite sensitive to their surroundings. Like people, they react to noise, activity, and changes in their environment, and have the same need to feel safe and secure. Cleaning, feeding and play times should occur at the same time each day. Cats are comforted by predictable routines.

    Using a feline pheromone spray or diffuser could help avoid behavior issues before they start. Start usage a few days to a week before a possibly stressful situation, such as a move, new pet, impending guests or before you depart for a vacation. Never use the spray on the cat and also be careful not to use the spray while the cat is in the room. These artificial pheromones mimic those released from the cat’s cheeks and paw pads that are used to scent mark territory.

    Solving the issue of inappropriate urination could require some dedication on your part. Inappropriate urination issues with your cat can be solved through a team effort between you, your veterinary office and these helpful tips.

    Sources: 1. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine - -
    "Feline Behavior Problems: House Soiling"
  • The “Athletes” Knee in Dogs - July 2013

    The “Athletes” Knee in Dogs

    How to Become a Veterinarian Assistant

    The most common injury in medium- to large-size dogs is the same injury many athletes suffer: the tearing of the ligament in the knee. This tear can be caused by activity (running, jumping or even falling) or by an inherited defect in the knee itself. This ligament, called the cruciate, is what keeps the knee from sliding around as the dog walks, runs or climbs. Located between the femur and tibia, the cruciate can tear partially or completely. Either way, the knee will become painful and swollen, causing the dog to limp. Left untreated, the animal could develop arthritis and/or could cause more damage to the already injured knee.

    For treatment, your veterinarian could initially require that the dog’s leg be rested, meaning no running or jumping and will probably recommend that the dog be confined to a small area, such as a bathroom. Resting the leg allows scar tissue to develop, which could help the injured knee by keeping it from sliding back and forth. In addition, an anti-inflammatory drug could help with the pain and reduce inflammation. This works pretty well for dogs who are less than 30 pounds; however, for the larger breeds, a surgical approach will more than likely be recommended.

    One of the surgeries your veterinarian might recommend is one where a heavy suture material is placed along the joint. This suture acts like a “fake” ligament that will eventually scar over and help keep the knee stable. This technique is known as a cranial cruciate ligament repair or CCLR

    Another option is a technique called tibial plateau leveling osteotomy or TPLO. Osteo means “bone” and tomy means to make an incision. The word “plateau” refers to having the tibia cut then turned just a little to remove the angle in the bone where it is then “leveled” out. Then, the tibia is held in place using a special shaped plate and stainless-steel screws. Once the tibia is leveled, the knee will no longer slide out of place. Most general practitioners do not have the equipment or the knowledge to perform this surgical procedure , so you might be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

    Whether your dog is giving a CCLR or a TPLO, the injured limb will need to be bandaged to help keep the surgical area stable. This bandage may have to be changed over the course of several weeks and x-rays will need to be taken to check the surgical repair. During this time it is very important that the dog is not allowed to run or jump as it could cause re-injury of the repair or the bone plate, depending upon which surgery was performed.

    This healing period is usually 8 to 12 weeks. You will be able to slowly increase your dog’s activity after that, which will help with rebuilding the muscle tissue and assist with healing the bone.

    Interested in becoming a vet assistant? Visit our website to learn about our Veterinary Assistant Program.
  • Hot Spots on Dogs - September 2013

    Dealing with Hot Spots

    Hot Spots on Dogs

    One of the most dramatic looking and annoying skin problems a dog can have are hot spots. An inflamed patch of hairless skin, oozing pus and foul odor, usually appears within hours. It gets progressively worse as the dog continuously licks the area.

    A hot spot, or acute moist dermatitis, is a skin inflammation triggered by an allergy to seasonal pollens, food allergies, fleas, insect bites or a skin wound. The dog will start itching, scratching and chewing at the site, leaving the broken skin a perfect environment for secondary bacterial infections. The pus gives the skin a wet appearance and a characteristic smell. The spot’s size can vary from a quarter to a whole cheek or thigh. It can occur as a single spot or in multiple locations. The condition is very painful.

    Your veterinarian will more than likely do the following to resolve the hot spot:

    • Treat the bacterial infection with antibiotic.

    • Clip the hair around the wound to prevent contamination and reduce irritation.

    • Use an antiseptic solution, such as chlorohexadine or betadine, to gently clean the wound.

    • Recommend a topical spray to relieve the itching and help with the healing.

    Most of the time, veterinarians are unable to determine the specific cause of the itch without extensive allergy testing, but they do treat the inflammation with steroids and antihistamines. The prescribed anti-inflammatory relieves the itch while an Elizabethan collar prevents the dog from licking the wound. A veterinary assistant can provide helpful tips on how to secure the collar properly and offer advice on how to get your friend through this shameful experience (he does look silly and clumsy with a big cone on his head). The hot spot will get dramatically better in a couple of weeks of being treated.

    No dog is safe from hot spots and prevention is difficult. However, in cases in which hot spots are associated with seasonal allergies, your veterinarian might prescribe a low dose of steroids and antihistamine during the hot spot season. Flea control should be used year-round to prevent the itchy bites. Hot spots are more common in dogs with long and heavy coats so make sure to remove dead hair by brushing. You should also dry your dog thoroughly after washing. Regular grooming helps your dog have a healthy coat and skin, and enables you to detect any problems or changes early on.
  • Cataracts in Dogs and Cats - October 2013

    Pets with Cataracts

    Dog's eyes with cataract

    A cataract is when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy or has a milky appearance, leading to diminished vision. Cataracts are sometimes caused by head injuries or diabetes. In cats, Feline Leukemia (FeLV) or Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) can cause cataracts. In addition, puppies and kittens who were not feed a proper diet are more prone to developing cataracts.

    What Causes Cataracts?

    Most of the time, cataracts appear when a pet is getting older or are an inherited trait for that breed. Most cat breeds are not prone to developing cataracts. However, certain dog breeds, including golden retrievers, poodles, shepherds, Afghans, sheepdogs, Boston terriers and Cocker spaniels, seem more prone to cataracts or develop them earlier. For most pets, cloudy lenses are just part of their aging process.

    Check With Your Veterinarian

    If your pet’s eyes look cloudy or milky, make an appointment with your veterinarian so he/she can determine whether the cataract is part of the normal aging process or not. If your pet is young, or has no history of head injuries, the veterinarian might want to run tests to rule out any underlying disease. If those tests came back negative, you might be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further testing.

    Options For Your Pet With Cataracts

    At this point in time, there are no medications available that treat or prevent cataracts. Just as with humans who develop cataracts, the most effective treatment is to surgically replace the cloudy lens with a synthetic one. This procedure is done by a veterinary ophthalmology surgeon who specializes in dogs and cats. Cataract surgery in pets is usually successful; however, there are always small percentages of surgical failures. It is important to know that complications can occur and eye drops will need to be administered before and after surgery.

    Does Your Pet Really NEED Surgery?

    If you opt to not put your pet through the surgery, keep in mind that pets are remarkable in adapting to most situations in their lives. A dogs and/or cats sense of smell is very acute. And even with the cataracts, your pet can still see much better than you think she can. A blind dog or cat can still maneuver through the house without any problems and enjoy a full and happy life.

    The main concerns with pets who have problems with their vision is if they are in pain and/or the eye is inflamed. If it appears your pet is producing a lot of tears (runny eyes that stain the fur in the corners) or it seems as though the eye is changing shape (becoming more pronounced or rounded) or if she seems to be squinting, you need to visit your regular veterinarian to rule out glaucoma or some other type of eye disorder.

    Click here if you are interested in pursuing a rewarding career as a Veterinary Assistant!

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