Indoor Cats—not as safe as you think!

Indoor catMany cat owners have pets that are strictly kept indoors.This leads to a common misconception that these felines don’t need regular veterinary care as they are not exposed to as many environmental factors as their outdoor counterparts. According to the veterinarians at Catalina Pet Hospital in Tucson, AZ, this is profoundly untrue.

Indoor cats may not face all of the same risks as outdoor cats, but there are many factors that are unavoidable and can only be detected with proper, regular veterinary care. Some of the more prevalent feline ailments include: dental disease, cancer, and arthritis—just to name a few.

Dental disease is a commonly overlooked condition as it can be difficult to both check and clean a cat’s teeth. Studies show, however, that over 70% of pets over three years old have had some degree of dental disease. Dental disease is painful and progressive. If left untreated, it is possible for the pet to lose all of its teeth as well as developing further complications.

Cancer in felines, though not as common as in canines, is still a very real threat, One of the most common forms of feline cancer is lymphoma—which can be caused by the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Feline leukemia can be prevented through an annual vaccination for it. Signs of cancer can include lethargy, weight loss, hair loss, and even vomiting or diarrhea—therefore, any of these symptoms should provoke a visit to the veterinarian.

Lastly, arthritis is an extremely common ailment among cats; in fact, 90% of cats over 12 have some degree of arthritis. It can be tricky to notice a change in a cat’s behavior as they typically get arthritis on both sides at the same time, and so, will not be favoring one leg or side.

In general, cats tend to be very private animals and do not demonstrate or vocalize pain the way that dogs and people do. Without the help of a veterinarian, diagnosis can be near impossible, and suffering drawn out. Regular veterinary care will help to prevent unnecessary discomfort and help promote a long and healthy life for the animal.

Anxiety in pets

It has been said that anxiety can almost always be traced back to the first two years of life, a traumatizing event or both. Three main types that owners need to be aware of are separation anxiety, noise anxiety, and social anxiety.  According to Dr. Parrish Tanner of Quail Hollow Animal Hospital in Wesley Chapel, FL, it is important to know when to spot these behavioral problems and know when it is time to call in the doctor for assistance. Bringing these issues up with your veterinarian is a good idea. They will be able to help eliminate the behavior or even help your pet cope with it’s underlying anxiety issues.Lonely Days

Some common behaviors that may be exhibited with separation anxiety dogs are excessive barking or howling, inappropriate defecation or urination, destructive chewing or scratching of windows, walls, doors, digging up of carpet and flooring in front of closed doorways when left alone.

Self mutilation behavior is also a sign of anxiety which can result in the formation of lick granulomas (a thick, firm oval-shaped plaque that results from excessive licking of the lower leg). Aggression exhibited toward the owners when they leave the house is one of the more serious behaviors.

Dogs with noise anxiety might behave as follows: shaking, hiding, cowering, urinating uncontrollably or refusing to leave your side. For dogs at the other end of the spectrum, destructive or self-mutilating behavior may be exhibited. Please note that dog’s have the ability to sense changes in the weather. If your dog is thunderstorm-phobic, he may start his noise-phobic behavior well in advance of an approaching storm because he knows its coming.

These are just a few behaviors that dogs with anxiety may exhibit. If you believe your pet may have anxiety problems, Dr. Tanner encourages you to contact your veterinarian for an appointment. It is a good idea to address these issues prior to the fireworks this Independence Day.

For additional details, visit Organic Pet Digest to receive more information on preventing and treating pet anxiety.

The low down on microchips

There is one thing that of veterinary care cannot prevent and that is a lost pet. According to HomeAgain, “1 in 3 pets goes missing during its lifetime”, including those indoor cats that NEVER go outside and for this reason microchipping is recommended. Veterinary hospitalsMicrochipping like Quail Hollow Animal Hospital, in Wesley Chapel, FL offer microchipping services to help make the chances that a lost pet will get back to his or her family a little higher.

Terrie Roberts, CVT at Quail Hollow explains microchip implantation can be done during an already scheduled anesthetic procedure or while the pet is awake. A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is injected, much like a vaccine, under the skin. Every chip is biocompatible so as to not cause any adverse reactions once implanted. Also, microchips are permanent, so once the chip is placed it will always be there!

The way a microchip works, is that each chip contains its own special number that is linked to information that could reunite the pet with its family. Once the microchip is implanted, the pet is registered with the owner’s information with a pet recovery service that has access to a national database. Registering with the recovery service is the most important step of the process. Should that pet go missing and be found, any vet facility or shelter will be able to scan for the microchip number and search the pet recovery service with that number. Once the pet’s information is found, the family can then be contacted. A microchip is only as helpful as the information linked to it.

Occasionally, pets are found with microchips that have outdated information. The key to microchip maintenance is to keep contact information current in case a pet does become lost. For more information about microchipping, refer to

Keeping your pet calm during a storm

Cat yawning. Also useful for yelling or laughing conceptsThunderstorm phobia unfortunately is an all too common condition in many dogs and cats. According to Dr. Parrish Tanner of Quail Hollow Animal Hospital in Wesley Chapel, FL, “The adverse reaction to a storm usually begins early in life, and often symptoms worsen with each storm season. There is likely a genetic component to storm anxiety, and pets often times have other anxieties as well, such as separation anxiety. The more sensitive senses of our pets heighten the noxious stimuli of thunder, wind, barometric pressure changes, and static electricity.”

Treatments for storm phobia vary with the severity of each pet explains Dr. Tanner, but it is of great benefit to begin at the first sign of anxiety because the condition most likely will worsen over time. Storm phobia can also be a learned response from person to animal or from animal to animal. The most important thing to do at the first sign of storm anxiety in our pets is to remain calm and not to reinforce the anxious tendencies. Our animals look to us for guidance in stressful situations, and we need to reassure them with calm upbeat behavior not anxious or pitying actions.

Developing safe areas for our pets to seek refuge in during storms can lessen their anxiety greatly. An interior room or closet with no windows is an ideal safe room. This room should be available to our pet at all times. A light should be on in the room to negate any flashing from lightening. Soft music or white noise can be played to drown out the noise of thunder. Crates or bedding, food and water should be in the room as well. It is important that our pet sees this room as a safe haven, so interact and play with them in this room at times other than while a storm is in progress.

Once your pet is reassured by your calm behavior and has access to appropriate safe refuge other treatments may still be needed. Pheromone therapy with DAP or Feliway collars and diffusers can be beneficial for some of our pets. Thundershirts that provide a pressure/swaddling effect can lesson some patient’s anxiety as well. In many cases patients will continue to show significant anxiety no matter what we do. Medication for anxiety is often needed to combat storm phobias. In mild cases a quick acting medication can be given at the time of a storm. In more severe cases we often will start the patient on a daily medication for the entire storm season and medicate with quick acting medication at the time of the storm. Our goal with medication is to lessen the anxiety not to sedate the patient. We want to lessen the anxiety so that our pets can then learn through all of the other modifications that we have done that every thing will be ok.

Storm phobias are a very common problem for many of our animals. Remaining calm and providing upbeat reassurance at the first bout of anxiety is very important. Hopefully, we can reduce the anxiety early in a pet’s life so that they can enjoy many stress free years to come.

Beat the heat!

With the approaching of the warmer weather and increased temperatures comes an increased risk of heatstroke.  According to Sahuaro Vista Veterinary Clinic,iStock_000015255391XSmall_jpg in Oro Valley, AZ, heatstroke occurs when a pet become extremely overheated and cannot lower its body temperature by itself.  This condition can come on very quickly, and without intervention.

Heatstroke can affect any animal at any time, but is most commonly seen in pets that have been left in parked cars.  A recent study showed cars parked on a partly cloudy, 93 degree day, saw temperatures increase to 120 degrees in just 15 minutes, making this a very real danger for pets.  Risks include exercising in warmer weather and being left outside during hot weather—especially if there is limited access to water and shade.  It is recommended to exercise your pet in the coolest hours of the day—early morning or later evening, and cool them off with a drink or a cool bath afterwards.

Under normal circumstances, animals pant to cool off.  If panting is not sufficient, their bodies redirect blood to dilated blood vessels in the skin—this helps the animal radiate heat to eliminate it from the body.  In a heat-stressed animal, the hotter the animal gets, the more blood is routed to the skin—and away from critical organs like the brain, kidneys and liver, causing these organs to fail.

Symptoms of heatstroke cover a wide range, including: heavy panting, vomiting/diarrhea, dehydration, collapse, seizures, coma and death.  It is imperative that if it is believed that an animal is suffering from heatstroke to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.  Not only will the doctor externally cool the pet, but fluids may need to be administered as well.  Death is common in patients with heatstroke, so time is of the essence.  Stay vigilant this summer and prevent unnecessary suffering.


How nutrition can play a role

dietary-counselingAccording to Catalina Pet Hospital, in Tucson, AZ there is no one cure-all remedy for allergies. Some conditions have a quick fix, while others require a lifelong commitment to careful management. The right nutrition can play a big role in this process.

There are certain aspects of your pet’s diet that can help diminish—or even eliminate—allergy symptoms. Protein is one of the key aspects of proper nutrition as it assists in promoting natural cell repair—and it is important that your pet gets the right kind. Sometimes it is necessary to switch your pet to an alternative protein such as venison or duck to help decrease reactions or intolerances to common food ingredients.

Essential fatty acids are another ingredient that are helping in controlling the symptoms of allergic reactions. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids will help nourish and protect skin from dryness and flakiness.

Lastly, antioxidants are critical in helping to maintain a healthy immune system. Vitamin E and other antioxidants will help protect your pet’s immune system from damage due to cellular oxidation caused by free radicals.

Diet is a simple, every day way you can support your pet’s health and wellness. Talk to your veterinarian today on what diet is right for your best friend!

Do you have an itchy pet?

Fleas can actually survive in cold weather, so make sure your pet is protected all year long! Is your best friend’s chronic scratching giving you the blues? Something as simple as allergies may be the culprit says Tina Williams, Hospital Manager of Sahuaro Vista Veterinary Clinic in Oro Valley, Arizona.

Just as in humans, dogs and cats both suffer from many kinds of allergies including food, environment, dust and pollen. Narrowing down where and why your furry friend is itching can help to quickly find a solution.

Healthy skin will be smooth and soft with no signs of irritation. If there is excessive dryness or oiliness, this can be a sign of an underlying skin problem.

If your pet seems to have itching all year round, this may be caused by a food allergy. This can occur in any age—even mature animals that have been on the same diet for long periods of time. Other symptoms of food allergies include: vomiting, diarrhea, and gas.

If the paw is the culprit, it could be a seasonal allergy. In fact, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 85% of dogs suffering from itchy paws have allergies to pollen, dust mites or airborne allergens. If the paw does seem to be the target area for discomfort, also look for pink paws, fur loss in the area, or scabs.

Other factors such as infections, parasites, and hormonal imbalances can cause severe skin reactions. For accurate diagnosis and treatment, be sure to contact your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) Explained

Most cat owners have heard of feline leukemia virus or seen the acronym, FELV.  Perhaps you have had a new kitten tested for the virus, maybe you have discussed the leukemia vaccination, but few have had the chance to discuss the gravity and prevalence of this incurable disease states Deborah Karpf, Hospital Manager at Galveston Animal Hospital in Galveston, TX.

Graycat_jpg_jpgViruses attack the body by taking over their cells and turning them into virus producing machines.  This can kill the cell, or potentially cause it to become cancerous by changing the cell’s genetic makeup.  “The feline leukemia virus has a particularly devastating effect to the cells that make up the immune system and help produce blood cells,” explains Dr.Christina Guillory at Galveston.  This destruction to the immune system causes the infected cat to be less able to fight off disease and infection than a healthy cat, and more likely to experience harsher symptoms and longer recovery time before being well again, if at all.  The cat’s health will become progressively worse due to persistent illness, and possible cancer or anemia.  Even with the best of care, the life expectancy of the patient is usually no more than 1-4 years from the time of infection.

The feline leukemia virus is fairly easily spread through close contact among cats because the virus can be found in the saliva, feces, blood, milk and urine of infected cats warns Dr. Guillory.  Sharing litter boxes and bowls, mutual grooming, fighting, and sexual activity can all lead to the transmission of the virus.   The incidence of this virus is rather alarming; according to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2.3% of the feline population in the United States is infected, with higher concentrations in areas that have large stray populations.

However, there is a bright side to this disease; the feline leukemia virus is preventable through vaccination!  The leukemia vaccine has been available for years and is very effective in stopping the virus from infecting our four-legged friends.   The American Association of Feline Practitioners advises vaccinating all kittens and at-risk adult felines, such as outdoor cats and group housing feline foster families.  Discuss with your veterinarian what the recommended preventive care plan is for your feline family.

Feel good pet tails; A tiny chinchilla fills a big heart

Judy and I went on a 14 mile hike in the Arizona desert today.  By the time we returned to our truck, it was getting a little cold, and I had a case of the chills.  It reminded me of one winter afternoon when I went to check a bunch of cows at a dairy farm in New York.  6 cows had twisted stomachs and needed surgery.  It was 20 below zero outside and colder inside the barn.

Each surgery took 45 minutes and I had to strip to the waist to scrub up and operated that way.  In between each surgery I pulled my coat on to prep the next cow and regain some body heat.  Before I began the last surgery, I went out to my truck and started it up and cranked the heater and blower up to as high as they would go.  When I finished and dressed again for the last time, my hands were shaking and my whole body vibrating uncontrollably.  The cows were doing fine but the doctor was blue.  I climbed into my truck and felt the lovely, delicious, heart and body warming heat blowing over me like the hot sun in July.  It felt so good I almost shed a tear.

I think of that day whenever I get chilled and remember my old friend, my truck, with the wonderful heater.  It’s amazing the simple things that bring us the greatest and most exhilarating joy.  Life doesn’t have to be so complicated, but it is.  I returned to the clinic to see a few small animal appointments.  I took a short hot shower and then began the appointments.  One of them was an 8 ounce chinchilla with a large tumor on his hind leg.  I had just operated on six 1500 pound cows and wrestled all day with cows, horses, farmers, and all manner of large animals and now my patient weighed less than a cup of coffee.  But the owner loved that little creature with all her heart and that was what brought us together in the exam room.

I had never operated on something so tiny.  It needed to have the leg amputated, so general anesthesia was the order of the day.  I devised a mask from a plastic syringe cover and made a hole in the bottom into which I could place the tube carrying oxygen blended with gas anesthetic to render the beast unconscious and without pain.  We clipped and scrubbed the leg and I chose the smallest  uture materials we had and went into surgery.  I carefully dissected the muscles of the leg and ligated all the tiny bleeders and removed the leg.   I sutured up the muscles covering the bone that was left and then sutured the skin.  I shut off the anesthetic so the chinchilla was just on oxygen, and within 5 minutes, it was up and moving around.  In an hour it was eating and doing well.

It was the most remarkable thing I had ever done.  Such a tiny beating heart about the size of a pea, but valiant in the struggle to live.  It is amazing the effect such a tiny creature can have on a human being.  They can uplift, strengthen, give purpose to being, save from depression, exhilarate, and bring joy to the troubled heart.  It certainly did all of those things for me.  As I watched it recover and run around I felt great purpose in my chosen career as I relayed to the owner the remarkable recovery of her beloved pet and watched her shed tears of relief.

Cited from the book Fella, a collection of lifetime memories that reminds readers of the trust animals place in us to be their friends and guardians.

By: Dan Gilchrist, DVM
Waterville Veterinary Clinic
Waterville, NY

Common dog dental questions – Answered!

85% of dogs over the age of 3 show some stage of periodontal disease. Think about it: If we didn’t brush for years on end, our teeth would be falling out from disease. So it is very important to learn about brushing your pet’s teeth and taking her to your veterinarian for regular oral care evaluations and professional cleanings. Ask a veterinarian to answer some common dental questions, and here’s what you’ll learn.


How many teeth do dogs have? Most adult dogs have 42 teeth. For comparison, people typically have 32 permanent teeth.

When do baby teeth fall out, and what happens to them? This is breed and genetically dependent, so baby teeth will fall out at different times. But in general, around 14 to 16 weeks of age, dogs begin losing their incisors (front teeth), with others following in later months. The canine baby teeth (“fangs”) usually fall out when the dog is between four and six months of age.

What is the biggest factor that contributes to dental problems in dogs? The biggest issue is probably periodontal disease, which is inflammation of the teeth’s support structures. Depending on how advanced the disease is, this can affect gums and/or bone.

Will a dental cleaning help my pet’s breath? Dogs should not naturally have bad breath. A thorough dental cleaning and regular brushing at home is going to improve your pet’s breath.

Give your pet something to smile! Be sure to contact your local animal hospital to find a special dental offer that’s right for your pet or click here to find a location near you!