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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

cat exams and vaccines

     The national trend in veterinary medicine is for less cat visits, while dog visits are the same or up.  Why the change?  Most authorities cite the economy, a lack of understanding why they need to be seen, the difficulty of getting the cat into the carrier and then to the vet, the stress associated with that visit in a strange place, and just plain lack of time.  What's the answer to this trend, I consider home visits the best answer, though others are working on newer ways to ease the stress of your pets also.  Both can be used to ease the visit, and to get puss-in-boots their annual check-up.  
     First, let's hit on why the annual exam.  With a solid history in the making, your cat's weight trends, health issues past and present,  and some future risks can be assessed.  What do I mean?  A slowly increasing weight over the years suggests a need for less food, more exercise, and maybe even a change to a senior diet to keep weight associated diseases lower (diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, etc).   Coat changes can point to internal parasites, external parasites, lack of proper nutrition, chemical imbalances, stress/behavioral issues, and mouth problems.  A good palpation can find masses on, and sometimes in, the body.   Eye changes can point to chemical imbalances, high blood pressure, or infections.  This isn't an exhaustive list, just a suggestion of all the things we try to rule out when examining your pet, young or old. 
     At the same time as the exam we can recommend needed maintenance issues.  Brushing the coat more, adding supplements or changing foods to balance the chemistries, checking the teeth for cleaning or extractions (cats get a nasty form of cavity that breaks off the teeth straight across), nail trims, etc.  Vaccines are still recommended, just on a case-by-case basis, and on a longer cycle than previously.  The rabies is still the only officially required vaccine, but the upper respiratory is recommended for most, and the FeLV is recommended for outdoor and multi-cat households.  FeLV/FIV testing is a very good idea if your cat gets out on a semi-regular habit, or if any wounds have been inflicted by a "stranger" cat.  If you live in a high musquito area the heartworm preventive is strongly recommended, since the tests for feline heartworm aren't quite as accurate as the dog and the treatment can be as dangerous to cats as the disease.  Dewormings on a regular basis (monthly for tapeworms if your cat hunts) are a protection to your cat and your children.  Topicals to ward off fleas and ticks are a great idea in some areas, especially if you have lots of rodents(fleas) or wildlife (ticks).  
      So, what can be done to make it easier on the feline population to be seen by their veterinarian?  I suggest home visits, obviously, since I'm a mobile vet.  however, getting the cat used to the carrier by leaving it out, using it for feeding and catnip breaks, adding vanilla and other calming scents around the area, and keeping your own stress down about the visit (yes they are that attuned to your vibes) can help.  The American Association of Feline Practitioners has a full paper on how to calm the kitties so they get seen.  I always found that just taking them around in the care when they were younger helped the most.  My older cats took a while to adjust to this arrangement (taking them on short jaunts to nowhere and then back home), but even they got the hang of it over time.  I usually started with accomodating them to the carrier over a period of time (2-3 weeks or longer), then to the car (same thing), and then to the car running, and then moving.  Each step can take time depending on the cat.  The newest kitten never took any time at all, she liked the warm purr the car made and fell asleep immediately (score!).
     As you can see, there are lots of things that can be addressed at an annual exam, on top of any new problems or issues you may bring up while there, so it is a worthwhile endeavor to go at least once a year (new quidelines recommend twice).  Watching your pet for subtle changes such as increased drinking, increased urination, decreased appetite, lack of activity, hiding, aggression, and etc may find a disease long before it turns serious.   This can allow for diagnostics to find the disease early and lead to longevity and health.  Dental disease treated early can lead to a happier and less smelly pet, not to mention the health benefits.  Make an appointment with your veterinarian sooner rather than later, and make your companion a well taken care of pet.  For the mobile services I provide - 303-279-2322.  The office visit includes the trip fee for the month of July.  Multi-animal discounts apply, as well as senior discounts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kitty boredom: videos or a new kitten

I admit I'm an aurilophile, in other words a cat lover.  At my worst I had 9 cats on 6 different prescription diets.  The youngest was 2 days old, and the oldest was 25 years.  Last year around July, I found myself in the unique situation of having only 1 cat.  Unfortunately, he was a bored cat, and his answer to boredom was to pester me for food.  So, to the drawing board for ways to entertain him without feeding him.  Toys that involved the kids or I pulling or throwing lasted at maximum about 15 minutes, then either we or he would walk away.  The kitty videos interested him if they were birds or small rodents, but I got sick of all my knick knacks going flying when he attacked the TV or surroundings looking for those same critters off-screen.  What to do?  What to do?  I finally succumbed to my weakness and adopted another kitten.  This one a 4 week old 1 pound waif from the middle of a street in Sterling.  The kind samaritan who brought her in couldn't afford another cat and just wanted her to have a safe home.  Problem solved, well almost, first I had to clear her parasites, get her vaccinated, and set a spay date.  While doing all that I kept her isolated in my upstairs bathroom.  This worked great until the day she broke out.  After a panicked search all over the house we found her, and my 2 year old male, engaged in mutual cuddle and cleaning in the cat scratcher apartment.  Okay, love at "first" sight!!!  No more begging at all hours, no more whining to play, no more bored kitty.  Now we have 2 speed demons who knock over everything and anything at full tilt.   Life is back to normal, and the dogs just stay out of the way.  They know better than to be in the middle of any floor, as that means they are fair game for tag or pounce.
Moral of this story, get any new pet vetted (check up, vaccines, deworm, spay or neuter), and take time to allow the "isolated" animal to integrate into the household.  (They fell in love under the door.)  There are pheromones, training systems, etc to help with the introduction of new animals to a household.  If you plan ahead and nothing is working, take the time to call a professional and have an evaluation. 
On a side note, this kitten is microchipped, we don't want to lose her ever.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eww, what's that? Or, the things you need to know but may not want to.

     When I take my dogs out for their walks, or to the park to play, I don't like to think about what they're finding out there.  So I was really thrilled (not) when I found a 7 page article on all the cool things you and your dog can catch at the local park.  Some are mild (the old style kennel cough), and some are ugly (parasites, viruses, etc), but all are out there and some smart risk management can help.  The list included viruses (distemper, parvovirus, influenza, rabies), parasites (ticks, fleas, lice, mites, intestional worms, cryptosporidia), infections (fungal, bacterial, tick-borne, musquito-borne), heatstroke and bite wounds, and toxins (plants, pesticides, chemicals, etc).  Researching the active ones that are worst in the area you are going to be is a good place to start.  For instance, Leptospirosis is rare but occurs in isolated water bodies in Colorado; Rabies is active in some counties; plague has re-emerged in the fleas of wildlife; distemper often occurs in raccoons; ask your local veterinarians or officials.  Not every pet is at risk for every disease everytime they step outside!!!, just plan ahead and ask to keep your companions safe.
     Risk management is having your pets vaccines up-to-date (esp Rabies, DAPP, and bordetella), regular check-ups with your veterinarian, and parasite prevention (heartworm and intestinal, and in some cases topical).  Parasite prevention includes keeping your pet away from other animals excrement (read poop), socializing your small puppy with a few pre-vetted companions until they get some immunity built, getting regular dewormings, and avoiding obviously ill pets and their owners.  I also recommend bringing your own snacks and water with bowl.  Sharing bowls is just like sharing glasses, if done at all it's reserved for your closest companions, not the entire world.  Avoiding injuries and bites can be a little harder, but having your dog under full control, being able to call them away from anything, following the rules of the park, and sometimes even using the "shy" fenced off area can all help.   If you see something you aren't comfortable with, don't stick around, you are the final decision maker.  Just like a child your pet depends on you for their safety in this new world of running free and interacting with others; and just like a child some pets will be gung-ho about the experience, while others need more time and training.
      Bringing up the subject of children, before bringing them to a dog park, make sure they are also up-to-date on how to make contact (or not) with the other dogs in the area.  The proper safety training for them is just as important as for your pet.  Not all dogs like children, not all dogs like to be petted, not all are approachable, and some are down-right unfriendly.  Don't go near wildlife, don't go into the water (or even just play in it with your hands) and remember the insect repellant and sunscreen.  You and your children can also pick up interesting things (called zoonotic infection) from a pet or wildlife or insects.  Multiple regulated websites have great lists of these annoying pests.  I prefer a source with some credentials behind them like the CDC, the CSU-Veterinary teaching hospital, your local veterinarian, or the AVMA. 
      With all that said, should you hide from the summer and keep yourself and your pets isolated?  NO!, just employ common sense, research the possibilities out there, and be an informed consumer of all those wonderful sunny parks and recreation areas.  Oh yeah, and keep a first aid kit and your veterinarian's number with you in case of need.  Never hurts to know the number of the nearest emergency vet too, especially when traveling, but that's another posting.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

9 PetCheck

    9News and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association are getting together again this year to do vaccine clinics for pets who might otherwise not receive a check-up and rabies.  This a serious issue to me, I think rabies in Colorado can be very under-vaccinated, and we are in the middle of an outbreak once again this year.  The virus isn't into the Denver metro area yet, but since it IS in the surrounding areas, I strongly recommend looking at your dog's tag or papers and getting an update if they're overdue.
     Microchips and spay/neuter are also issues dear to my heart, so if your pet isn't done yet, set up that appointment.  I have multiple vaccine clinics and microchips clinics setup, and spay/neuter organizations exist in the Denver area.  (DDFL LuLu Mobile, Harrison Memorial, and spay Colorado come straight to mind.)  The 9News one is for low-income, but the others are open to anyone.  The next will be at the Arvada Sunflower Pet Fair, June 25, from 11am to 2pm.  See you there.

Canine Influenza

     I had a few questions from owners about canine influenza, it's vaccine, and how it relates to humans.  First off humans do not get this form of the influenza virus, that said it can be a very mild to very severe disease for dogs.  The influenza virus A strain H3N8 is the culprit, and at this time very limited immunity exists in our dog populations.  First noted around dog tracks, it has spread due to direct contact (licking and nuzzling); through the air (coughing or sneezing); and through touch (owner's hands or clothing).  The cough at first mimics any other respiratory disease (kennel cough), but in some dogs can develop into fever, runny nose, severe lack of energy/appetite, and in severe cases pneumonia.  The pneumonia is the worst because it is usually a mixed bacterial infection, and thus harder to fight off.  However, at this time no active outbreak is apparent.
     The recommendations for this vaccine at this time are mostly limited to dogs in multiple-dog environments, such as kennels, shelters, dog parks and events, training, and grooming regularly.  Keeping your dog in good health with the usual good food (not generic or bulk), clean water at all times, good housing, and great care will also help them to fight this virus.  At this time, though the virus is real, I am not advocating this vaccine for most of my patients.  In the future this may change, depending on whether a large outbreak once again threatens.   More info is available at, if interested.
     For the nonce, with no major signs of it and a conditional vaccine in a world of many vaccines, I'm much more worried by rabies, DAPP (and Lepto if you have a water loving dog), and bordatella (kennel cough).  These are much more prevalent and also serious diseases. 
     Don't forget parasite prevention through the entire summer months, and into the winter for heartworm. 
     Keep your pet out of the car during summer also, since 15 minutes in a "cool" car (70 degrees outside) can produce life-threatening temperatures inside that glass-encased cage in the sun.  You can get out or open the door when you get too hot, they can't.