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Pet Care Tips

These tips are not meant to substitute for professional veterinary care or common sense. We hope that they will provide assistance .

Pets in Parked Cars
Pets and Antifreeze
Spaying and Neutering
Summer Pet Care Tips
Winter Pet Care Tips
Kitten Care Checklist
Illnesses


Pets in Parked Cars

Leaving your pet in a parked car can be a deadly mistake. On a warm day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 180 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with partially opened windows. With only hot air to breathe, your pet can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke.

Signs of heat stress: heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, dizziness, vomiting, deep red or purple tongue.

If your pet gets overheated, you must lower his body temperature immediately!

  • Get him into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water all over his body
  • Apply ice packs or cold towels only to head, neck, and chest
  • Let him drink small amounts of cool water, or lick ice cubes or ice cream
  • Get your pet to a veterinarian right away - it could save his life!
On hot days, your pet is safer at home!
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Pets and Antifreeze

Conventional antifreeze is a danger to your pet. Pets are attracted to the taste of antifreeze. Once ingested, ethylene glycol antifreeze changes into a crystalline substance that will attack the kidneys.You must act immediately if your pet ingests it...get your pet to a veterinarian.

Treatment can consist of inducing vomiting. Alcohol administered intravenously can help prevent the ethylene glycol from being converted to the substance that attacks the kidneys. Its unfortunate, but many pets do not survive antifreeze poisoning.The best antidote is PREVENTION.Use these tips:

  • Keep antifreeze and other vehicle related substances closed up where a pet cannot get to them
  • Wipe up and wash away spills. Keep your pet indoors or tied up when changing antifreeze
  • Keep antifreeze in its original container. Seal it before disposal, and label it clearly
  • If you can, take used antifreeze to a recycling center
  • Make sure your car's cooling system does not leak
  • If your pet roams free and returns home covered in an unknown substance, bathe them (its best to keep them in the home or in a fenced yard)
  • When practical, use a safer antifreeze (propylene glycol...less toxic)
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Summer Pet Care Tips

Summer demands a few areas of extra caution. Heat related problems can occur if you ignore your pet's needs. Here are a few tips to help you safely through the hot summer months:

  • Never leave your dog unattended in direct sunlight or in a closed vehicle. Heatstroke can occur and lead to brain damage or death
  • Always make sure your pet has access to fresh water
  • Try to avoid strenuous exercise with your pet on extremely hot days and refrain from physical activity when the sun's heat is most intense
  • Pets can sunburn, especially short haired pets and pets with pink skin and white hair...keep them out of the sun for prolonged periods
  • Apply sunblock to ears and nose thirty minutes before going outside in the sun
  • If your pet is out of shape, don't encourage them to run in soft soil (such as a sandy beach). This is strenuous exercise.
  • On the 4th of July, keep pets away from fireworks displays. Some pets will bolt and run away due to the load noises or large crowds.
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Winter Pet Care Tips

Its never too late to "winterize" your pet to help prevent illness and make them more comfortable during the cold months. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Just like people, pets need to have a warm, dry area to sleep, without drafts. Put a little more insulation under your pet's bed, or even raise it off the floor if you can.
  • If your pet stays outside for moderate or long periods, extra calories may be required in their diet to help their body stay warm on cold days.
  • Bring your pet inside on especially cold days, or if the weather turns bad and they have to deal with cold winds, rain, or snow.
  • Outdoor pets should have a dry and insulated pet shelter.
  • If your pet gets wet or has snow, ice or frozen mud caked on its paws, get rid of it immediately. Pets can get frostbitten, so look for skin that turns reddish, white or gray, or even looks like it is scaling or sloughing.
  • Before you start your vehicle, bang on the hood or honk the horn. Small pets sometimes find a warm engine a nice place to take a nap and put themselves unwittingly in danger by taking shelter in your engine compartment or elsewhere under you vehicle.
  • Pets will drink anti-freeze! Anti-freeze is useful and necessary, but even a little can kill your pet. Make sure any containers are closed and stored away from areas your pet can get to.
  • We decorate our homes with beautiful plants during the cold months, some of which are toxic to pets. Keep Christmas Rose, holly, mistletoe, philodendron, and dieffenbachia away from your pets! If they chew parts of these plants, they can become sick, or even die.
  • Believe it or not, the Holiday months bring potential problems, but can be easily worked around if we use common sense. Watch those Christmas light electrical cords and don't let your pets chew them! Also, keep tinsel, plastic wrap, foil wrap, and sharp ornaments out of reach. Never put ribbons or string around your pet's neck!
    Don't feed your pet your treats...no chocolate! Be very careful with bones!
  • As always, make sure your pet has plenty of water to drink. Water is as essential during the cold months as it is during the summer when its hot!
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Kitten Care Checklist

If you need some advice on caring for your kitten or your adult cat,try these tips
  • Feeding: Feed your kitten 3-4 times daily and your adult cat 1-2 times daily. Use only commercial brand-name cat food formulated for your pet's age. Your veterinarian can assist you with your pet's proper diet. No table scraps, dog food, bones, milk (causes diarrhea which causes dehydration) or raw fish (destroys vitamin B1). Fresh water should be available at all times.
  • House training: Show your kitten or cat where the litter box is located-its mother has probably already taught it how to use the box. Keep it clean by scooping out the waste daily and changing the litter every few days. Use only mild detergents to clean the box. Keep the litter box in an area separate from the food and water dishes.
  • Grooming: Coat: Frequent and regular brushing will prevent a heavy ingestion of hair, which causes hair balls.
    Nails: Trim nails every 2-3 weeks to keep them from getting too sharp. Ask your vet to show you how. Providing your kitten or cat with a scratching post will save your drapes and furniture.
    Teeth: Wipe your pet's teeth every couple of weeks with cotton, gauze, or a child's toothbrush soaked in baking soda. This will prevent a buildup of tartar.
  • Transporting: Always transport your kitten or cat in a pet carrier for its safety and security. Your pet will also be much happier in an enclosed container.
  • Safe Toys: Paper bags, shoe boxes, catnip toys, and rubber balls (large enough so your pet can't swallow them) are safe. No small, sharp objects, string or yarn.
  • Collar and I.D. Tag: Protect your kitten or cat with a current identification tag and collar. Breakaway collars are a must for kittens and cats. The collars are manufactured so that the clasp will pop open if the cat gets caught or twists the collar tight on his neck. Make sure that the collar is not too loose or too tight (you should be able to slip 2 fingers under the collar while the pet is wearing it). Change the collar as the kitten grows.
  • Microchipping: Microchipping is available from your veterinarian, if the shelter or rescue group you adopt from has not done that prior to adoption. It provides lifetime identification for the animal through a national data base. Should you move, you send your new contact information to the manufacture and the information is changed in the data base. Shelters and veterinary practices have scanners which will help identify the pet and its owners.
  • Bed: Provide your kitten or cat with its own bed, away from heavy traffic areas (like the kitchen). Remember, kittens need sleep during the day as well as night.
  • Protection and Supervision: A kitten needs almost constant supervision for its safety and for proper socialization to people. An adult cat requires much less supervision. Keep household cleaners, electrical cords and fragile objects safely away from your pet. Also, many plants such as " Dumbcane " and " Poinsettia " are poisonous to pets.
  • Safety: Keep your kitten and adult cat indoors where it will be safe from countless outside dangers. Toys and attention will keep your indoor cat stimulated and happy. Screen all windows- cats really can fall from ledges or balconies and be seriously injured or even killed.
  • Veterinary Care: A kitten needs to visit the vet several times in its first year for inoculations. In addition, kittens and cats should be checked annually for internal parasites such as worms). An adult cat needs to visit the vet once a year for a rabies vaccination and a physical exam.
  • For more detailed information on kitten and cat care, visit your local library or bookstore, or ask your veterinarian.
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Spaying and Neutering
Here are some tips that will make sense when you are thinkingof spaying or neutering a pet
  • Spayed and neutered pets are better, more affectionate companions
  • Spaying a female dog or cat eliminates its heat cycle. The heat cycle lasts an average of 6 to 12 days, usually twice a year in dogs, and an average of 6 to 7 days three or more times a year in cats. Females in heat can whine or cry incessantly, show nervous behavior, and attract unwanted male animals.
  • Spayed and neutered pets are less likely to bite. Unaltered animals often exhibit more behavior and temperament problems than do those that have been spayed or neutered
  • Neutered males are less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away, or get into fights.
  • Your pet will be healthier. Neutered females are less apt to develop breast cancer and uterine infections. Males will be less likely to suffer prostrate gland problems.
  • You will not have to deal with spraying or staining. Female dogs experience a flow of blood as part of the reproductive process. Unless you are prepared to diaper your pet (and can anticipate the timing) or accept staining of your rugs and furniture, you will want to spay your pet and eliminate this problem. Unneutered male cats mark territory by spraying objects in or out of the house with strong smelling urine. If neutered before they are a year old, cats rarely develop this problem.
  • You will not have to find homes for offspring
  • There aren't enough good homes for the dogs and cats we have, and more are born every day. Each year, an average of 15 million pet animals are turned in to municipal and private animal shelters. Only 25% to 30% of these animals are reclaimed by their owners or placed in new, adoptive homes. The rest, some 11 million dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens must be put to death because no one wants them. The best way to reduce the number of pets that must be destroyed is to have our pets neutered.
  • You help all animals by neutering!
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Illnesses

We'll be adding to this area!
Below are some things you should be aware of and take precautions against (like vaccinations!)as you raise your pet. Always consult a veterinarian for a complete and thorough diagnosis and safe treatment.

Kennel Cough Dysplasia in Dogs Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Heartworms Lyme Disease Ear Mites
Rabies Coccidia Flea and Tick Bite Allergy
Feline Infectious Peritonitis Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis Distemper
Lower Urinary Tract Disease Feline Leukemia Virus Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Kennel Cough for Dogs:

    Kennel Cough, or infectious traceobronchitis, is a contagious upper-respiratory disease. It is transmitted by airborne virus, and often complicated by secondary infection. It is often caught in kennels or shelters. Dogs with kennel cough are usually bright and alert, do not have a fever, and are eating well. They have a dry, hacking cough often followed by gagging motions. If your dog has these symptoms, consult your veterinarian for treatment. Like a cold, it cannot be cured and must run its course. Antibiotics may be prescribed. Keep the dog away from other dogs, and make sure the dog is rested and warm. If there is fever and runny eyes, and if the dog is less active than normal, a more serious problem may be present.

  • Dysplasia for Dogs:

    Dysplasia is a condition usually occurring in large boned dogs, especially German Shepherds. It can occur at both the hips and elbows, but more commonly the hips. It results from the femur (leg bone) head failing to seat itself properly. Symptoms include an inability to run without pain, reluctance to rise from a sitting position and a swing gait. Animals with sever or minor conditions of dysplasia should not be bred. When in doubt, a veterinarian may require an x-ray.

  • Ear Mites:

    Ear mites are parasites that live in the ear canal causing irritation. Animals may frequently scratch or shake their heads. Ear mites cause excessive production of a substance called cerumen which results in the ear canal being filled with a hard brown mass. Mites can be seen with the use of an ocoscope and should be treated for an extended period of time to ensure eradication.

  • Heartworms:

    Heartworms are diagnosed by a blood test. Symptoms include exhaustion, heavy breathing, coughing, fatigue,and loss of weight. It is difficult and expensive to treat. It is not treatable if other organs, such as the liver, are already damaged. It occurs most commonly in dogs but can also occur in cats.

  • Coccidia :

    Coccidia is a parasite that can be diagnosed by a microscopic examination of the animal's stool. Symptoms range from mild to severe bloody diarrhea, which in turn causes weaknessand depression, loss of appetite, and emaciation. It is treated with sulfa drugs.

  • Flea and Tick Bite Allergy :

    Your pet can suffer an allergic reaction to flea and tick bites. Symptoms include the obvious scratching as well as digging at the skin causing rawness and bleeding. Usually fleas will be seen when the hair is parted. Occasionally, only a few fleas can cause the same problems. The animal should be examined by a veterinarian, and will need to be treated by bathing, dipping, and/or injections. If the animal is confined to a particular area in a house or a shed, the structure should be treated for flea or tick infestation. Care should be taken to use proper flea or tick dip for the kind of animal and its age.

  • Rabies :

    Rabies is a severe viral disease that affects an animal's central nervous system. It can be spread via the infected animal's saliva, as from a bite or even a break in the skin. Your pet must be vaccinated against rabies...its the law. If rabies is contracted, there is no cure once the symptoms appear.

    If there is even the remotest chance your pet has been bitten by a rabid animal, take it to a veterinarian immediately. If your pet's rabies vaccination is up to date, a booster will be given. If the vaccination is not up to date, your pet may be quarantined and observed for up to 6 months. If signs of the disease appear, the animal must be euthanized...a good reason to keep your pet's rabies vaccinations updated!

    This disease can be transmitted to humans and other pets.

  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis :

This disease accounts for about 40% of respiratory diseases in cats. The good news is that cats can be vaccinated against it. Cats of all ages can contract the disease, however, it is most serious in young kittens. Symptoms can include moderate fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, coughing, and salivation. A cat that recovers will become a carrier, and can shed the virus during periods of stress.

  • Feline Panleukopenia :

    Also known as feline distemper, this disease is highly contagious.

    Feline panleukopenia, or feline distemper, is a highly contagious viral disease. Confusion surrounds this disease because of its name. It is not, as some think, related to canine distemper, which causes coldlike symptoms followed by seizures. Feline distemper causes fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, depression, diarrhea, dehydration and other complications that frequently result in death.

    Feline panleukopenia is caused by feline parvovirus. Transmission occurs readily through contact with infected cats or by contact with infectious virus from saliva, urine, feces and other discharges in a contaminated environment. The virus may remain infective in the environment for many months. Most common disinfectants have little effect on it.

    In the past, feline panleukopenia killed thousands of cats every year. Because as many as 90 to 100 percent of unvaccinated cats exposed to feline distemper will become ill, and many of them, especially the very young and the very old, will die, this disease used to decimate entire neighborhoods of cats. Vaccination has limited this disease, but it is still a threat to unvaccinated cats and kittens.

    Most veterinarians use combination vaccines that protect against feline upper respiratory diseases as well as feline panleukopenia. Vaccination boosters should be given according to vaccine label instructions--usually every two to four weeks--until a kitten is at least 12 weeks old, with a minimum of two boosters given during this period. Thereafter, annual boosters maintain immunity.

    From the May 1996 issue of Cat Fancy. Author(s): Edwards, Deborah A., D.V.M.

  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP):

    Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease that for some reason does not get as much exposure as feline leukemia virus. We have known about this disease for many years, but the virus is quite difficult to grow in a laboratory situation. Research proceeded more slowly with FIP than with feline leukemia viral research. Approximately 10 percent of the cat population is susceptible to the FIP virus, and it is transmitted the same ways as FeLV. The virus can pass vertically from pregnant queen to unborn kittens or from cat to cat through biting, fighting or sharing food and water bowls. The infection can take the more common form, "wet" FIP, in which fluid accumulates in either the abdomen or the chest due to an immune battle between the body and the virus, or the less common and more insidious form called "dry" FIP. In this form, the viral battle causes dry abscesses to form in any number of sites: brain, spinal cord, kidneys or liver. The eyes can be involved in this form as well, with actual material being formed in the anterior chamber.

    Because the blood test for FIP is often equivocal, diagnosis is usually made on clinical findings. Fifty percent of FeLV positive cats are also positive for FIP due to the immune compromise and increased susceptibility. Cats with FIP usually begin a downward spiral in their health status that is unstoppable; euthanasia is the best option once the cat is clinically ill with anemia, anorexia and excessive fluid accumulation.

    A vaccine given as a nose drop is available. The immune capabilities in the mucous membranes of the nose are powerful, and because the main route of infection in the adult cat is the oronasal route, this site is excellent for vaccine administration. Any cat that is outdoors and exposed to other cats is at risk for both leukemia and FIP and should be immunized against these viral killers.

    From November 1996 issue of Cat Fancy. Author(s): Reister, Margaret, D.V.M.

  • Feline Leukemia Virus:

    FeLV is the number-one deadly disease among cats.

    Feline leukemia virus suppresses the immune system and results in various types of cancer and other chronic and debilitating diseases in cats. Signs of infection include gum disease, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, anemia and infections that are resistant to standard treatments. Although cats can remain apparently healthy for months or even years following infection, once signs begin, they are often difficult to treat.

    FeLV is transmitted through direct contact with an infected cat, such as by mutual grooming, fighting or playing, or by sharing a food or water dish or litter box with an infected cat. The virus can spread from an infected mother cat to her kittens through the placenta or during nursing. Bite wounds are an especially effective method of transmission.

    Affected cats not yet showing signs of illness may shed the virus and be infective to other cats, making it vital never to bring a new cat into your household without testing for FeLV. Many cats appear to be perfectly healthy at the time of diagnosis--another reason every cat should be tested for FeLV. Because the disease's lengthy incubation period may cause an infected cat to test negative for some time after exposure, the cat should be retested 90 days after possible exposure.

    Even though a vaccine against feline leukemia virus has been available to cat owners since 1985, FeLV remains the leading infectious cause of illness and death in domestic cats. At this time, vaccination and preventing exposure to possible carriers are the only defenses against this devastating disease.

    FeLV vaccination consists of two initial injections about three weeks apart with yearly boosters thereafter. It is highly recommended that cats be tested for FeLV before vaccination.

    From the May 1996 issue of Cat Fancy. Author(s): Edwards, Deborah A., D.V.M.

  • Upper Respiratory Infections:

    Causes of upper respiratory infections.

    Upper respiratory infections, or kitty colds, are prevalent among cats. The most common causes are viruses, including the viruses that constitute the annual booster vaccines. Feline rhinotracheitis virus, feline herpes and feline calicivirus are three viruses that have effects that are diminished, but not prevented, by vaccination. Acute viral infections may produce fever, congested nasal passages, thick nasal discharge, lethargy and anorexia. Often, a secondary bacterial infection will complicate the primary viral infection. Antibiotics, which are used to treat URIs in cats, will work only if a bacterial infection is present. Unfortunately, drugs that effectively kill these viruses do not exist, and veterinarians are only able to treat the symptoms.

    URIs can run a course of seven to 21 days. If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a upper respiratory infection, take it to your veterinarian.

    From the December 1997 issue of Cat Fancy. Author(s): Wexler-Mitchell, Elaine, D.V.M.

  • Lower Urinary Tract Disease:

    Urinary tract disorders can cause pain and difficulty in urination.

    Lower urinary tract disease affects about 1 percent of the feline population. Not completely understood, the condition is sometimes called feline urologic syndrome or feline bladder disease.

    Symptoms of LUTD include painful urination, difficulty urinating, increased frequency in urination and blood in the urine. Some cats may urinate outside the litter box. This change in behavior is often the first symptom noticed by the owner, but it is often misinterpreted as intentional misconduct.

    The most serious symptom of LUTD is the inability to urinate. This occurs in male cats when their longer, narrower urethras become blocked by the crystals and debris associated with LUTD. This situation is a medical emergency as urinary obstruction is fatal within 72 hours if untreated.

    In most, but not all, cases of LUTD, sandlike mineral deposits are observed in the cat's urine. These deposits are usually made up of struvite, or magnesium ammonium phosphate. Once a cat develops LUTD, dietary changes are usually recommended. Struvite crystals require magnesium to form. Many low-magnesium diets are now available. Struvite also forms less easily in slightly acidic urine. Special diets formulated to help prevent LUTD produce an acidic urine.

    While the causes of LUTD are not fully understood, veterinarians have been able to determine some risk factors. Cats of every age can develop this condition, but it is most commonly seen in cats between the ages of 2 and 6. Obese or inactive cats or those that drink little water are at higher risk.

    If your cat has LUTD, feed only those diets recommended by your veterinarian. Most importantly, know the symptoms of this disease and seek prompt veterinary attention if you think your cat is affected.

    From the May 1996 issue of Cat Fancy. Author(s): Edwards, Deborah A., D.V.M.

  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus:

    Keeping your cat away from FIV-infected cats is the only way to avoid the virus.

    Feline immunodeficiency virus is similar in structure to the human immunodeficiency virus, but these two viruses are not infective between cats and humans.

    FIV is transmitted primarily through bite wounds inflicted during cat fights. Transmission between a mother cat and her kittens has been known to occur. Transmission of FIV among strictly indoor cats within a stable household is unusual as these cats do not usually bite one another hard enough to break the skin. Therefore, an FIV-positive cat in a household does not pose as great a threat as an FeLV-positive cat in the same household. Even so, bringing an FIV-positive cat into a household is not advisable.

    In the earlier stages of the disease, cats may experience vague symptoms such as recurrent fevers, anemia and weight loss. As the disease progresses, chronic secondary infections develop, including upper respiratory tract infections, bacterial infections of the bladder and kidneys, and severe, progressive infections of the gums. Weight loss and lymphadenopathy, or enlargement of the lymph nodes, are common.

    Opportunistic infections that would not normally make a healthy cat sick become problematic in cats with FIV. Some cats develop neurological signs, such as twitching of the face and tongue, loss of litter box training and compulsive roaming.

    An FIV vaccine is not yet available. The only way to prevent the disease is to avoid exposure to other cats that may be carrying the virus, which usually means keeping your cat indoors.

    Cats may test negative for some time after they are exposed and should be retested 90 days after possible exposure. Maternal antibodies--passed to kittens from the mother in the colostrum--interfere with the accuracy of the FIV test in kittens younger than 6 months. Testing of kittens is recommended after they are 6 months old.

    From the May 1996 issue of Cat Fancy. Author(s): Edwards, Deborah A., D.V.M.

  • Lyme Disease:

    Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is carried by ticks. Lyme disease usually causes a generalized arthritis, but it can also trigger kidney, heart or even brain syndromes.

    Researchers once believed that only the deer tick was capable of transmitting Lyme disease to dogs, but new evidence shows that other ticks (such as the Lone Star tick) may be culprits as well. Since tick identification is nearly impossible unless you are an entomologist, you should assume that any tick you see is a potential carrier of Lyme disease.

    Tick control is the major means of preventing the disease. You should talk to your veterinarian about implementing a good flea- and tick-control program. If you see a tick on your dog, grasp the tick with a tissue and pull gently until it comes loose. Then drop it into alcohol or flush it down the toilet.

    An approved Lyme disease vaccine is available for dogs. Ask your veterinarian about the status of the disease in your area. In some areas, it is almost unknown and vaccination is probably not warranted. But if ticks are common in your area, or if your dog accompanies you on hunting, hiking or camping trips to tick-infested areas, vaccination would minimize its chances of acquiring the disease.

    Author(s): Wilcox, Bonnie, D.V.M. Publication: Dog Fancy Issue Date: September 1993

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