When should I start my dog on Heartworm Prevention?

We recommend starting your dog on prevention at his first puppy visit, approximately 2-3 months old. As long as he is started before 6 months of age, the worms have not had time to develop and your puppy will be safe. However, if your pet is older and has not been on prevention, he/she must be tested before starting heartworm prevention. Giving prevention to a pet that has heartworms can be fatal. Starting prevention early enables new puppy owners to get in the habit of giving heartworm prevention as soon as they get the puppy.

What age will my dog/cat come into heat?

Although Estrus cycles can vary greatly among individuals, small breed dogs typically come into heat around 6 to 8 months old. Large breed dogs may not come into their first heat cycle until 8 to 10 months old and may be even later for some giant breeds.

Puberty in kittens typically occurs at 6 to 10 months of age depending on when the kittens are born. Typical breeding season for cats is February to August. So those born in late summer to early fall come into their first heat the following spring. Those born during the breeding season will typically come into their first heat the following year.

How long do they stay in heat?

The dog’s estrus cycle is divided up into several stages. The first stage, pro estrus, usually lasts about 9 days. During this time the female’s vulva swells and a discharge may be noted, although the female will not be receptive to the male. The actual estrus stage, or ‘standing heat’, lasts 3-21 days with an average of 9 days and occurs at the end of pro estrus. During this time the female is receptive to the male and will continue to have vulvar swelling and discharge.

Estrus period of cats is dependant upon photoperiod. They will also have a pro estrus period that lasts 1-3 days. They may display increases in affection and rubbing, but this period commonly unnoticed. Estrus is associated with increased vocalizations, increased urination, and the assuming of the breeding position. This period may last 5-8 days and may be repeated every 2-3 weeks during the breeding season if mating does not occur.

What is the gestation period for dogs and cats?

Dog gestation may vary from 57-71 days, although it is usually around 63 days.

Cat gestation is also approximately 63-65 days with a range of 56-71 days.

When should I spay/neuter my pet?

We recommend this procedure be done before the first heat cycle.  This is usually around 5 to 6 months of age.  Spaying/Neutering your pet will prevent unwanted litters and can reduce the risk of health problems such as cancer.

Spay/Neuter: Aftercare following surgery.

You will be given specific written instructions when you take your pet home from the hospital.  Most animals do fine with no special aftercare other than a lot of TLC. However, there are a few precautions that we ask you to take just to insure the safety and health of your pet.  When you come to take your pet home from the hospital they will most definitely be excited to see you.  Just make sure that you don’t allow them to become overly active and injure themselves.  Most pets know what they can and can’t handle.  Also, your pet may be inclined to drink and eat excessively after returning home.  Because this may result in vomiting, we recommend restricting access to food and water for an hour or so until your pet has quieted down.  Then allow only small amounts for the first 8 hours.  Normal feeding may resume the next day.

Many patients may not have a bowel movement for 24 to 36 hours after surgery. This is normal.  If your pet experiences any problems using the bathroom or has not done so after 36 hours, you will need to contact your Veterinarian.

You will need to discourage your pet from licking or chewing at the incision or sutures.  Most incisions will have sutures on the inside and will not have to be removed.  Be sure to check the incision line daily for any swelling, redness, or discharge.  If they appear irritated or infected, notify your Veterinarian immediately.

You may also notice a decrease in activity or appetite for one to two days following surgery.  However, if your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms, please contact your Veterinarian immediately:  Loss of appetite for more than 2 days, refusal to drink water after 1 day, weakness, depression, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Why does my pet ‘scoot’ around on his bottom?

The 2 main reasons we normally see this occur is because of anal glands or tapeworms. Anal glands are scent glands located on the anus. They can become full with time causing pressure and irritation. Tapeworms are small rice like worms that can be seen around the anus and/or in your pet’s stool. Dogs and cats are both susceptible to these worms. They can get these worms by swallowing a flea either by grooming themselves or others. They can also get them from the environment and from eating a rodent or other animal carrying fleas.

Why does my pet scratch all the time?

There are different reasons why your pet may scratch all the time.  Fleas are a very common problem and cause of scratching.  Even if you think you have searched your pet from head to tail and haven’t seen a single flea, it is still possible that they are causing the scratching.  Some pets are so sensitive and even allergic to fleas that just one can cause severe skin reactions and scratching.  If you are using reliable flea prevention and you have treated your pet’s entire environment (home, bedding, yard, etc…), and you still have not noticed any fleas on your pet, you will need to consider other causes of irritation.

Another cause of scratching is allergies. Pets can have allergies just like we can.  They can be allergic to anything from grass and carpet to food and household cleaners.  Fortunately, there are tests available that can determine what your pet may be allergic to.  If your veterinarian suspects a food allergy, he may suggest a strict controlled diet to determine what your pet is allergic to.  Other conditions such as Thyroid diseases and certain infections can also cause your pet to scratch.  If your pets do scratch or bite and chew or lick at themselves constantly, make an appointment with their Veterinarian to determine the cause so treatment can be started.  Imagine how miserable you would be if you were itching all day, everyday.  They will appreciate the relief.

How often should I bathe my dog?

Your pet will sometimes require a bath especially if he has gotten really dirty or acquired an odor for whatever reason. However, you do not want to bathe him too often because you can dry out his skin and dull his coat. If you feel it necessary to bathe your pet regularly, try to make it at most once a week, preferably longer, unless your pet has a special skin condition that requires more. If your pet does have a skin condition that requires more frequent bathing with medicated shampoo, follow your Veterinarian’s instructions closely. If you notice that your pet does have a foul odor even after bathing, the problem may not just be a dirty dog. Certain skin conditions, allergies, and infections can cause your pet to smell bad. If this is the case, you should make an appointment with your pet’s Veterinarian to have their skin checked. It is also very important that you use a shampoo that is specially formulated for pets instead of your own shampoo or any other soap. Your shampoo may dry your pet’s skin and can be very irritating if it gets in their eyes or is swallowed. There are several pet shampoos available from your Veterinarian that will help keep their skin conditioned and their coat shiny.

Why is my pet shaking his head all the time or scratching his ears?

Most of the time if your pet is shaking his head a lot, scratching his ears, or rubbing them on the carpet, he may have an ear infection or even ear mites. Ear mites are almost microscopic white parasites that live in your pets’ ear canals. These mites are highly contagious and frequently infest whole litters of puppies and kittens but can affect dogs and cats of any age. They get these mites from other infected animals. An exterior or interior ear infection can also cause your pet to shake his head, scratch his ears and/or try to rub them on something. If your pet does have an inner ear infection, he may also tilt his head to one side or the other. You may also notice a foul odor, discharge, and the ear may appear to be very dirty. Ear mites, bacteria, fungi, accumulation of wax, thick or matted hair in the ear canal, debris, impaired drainage of the ear, and infections from elsewhere in the body can lead to these ear infections. These can be very painful conditions for your pet. If you notice any of these signs, you should make an appointment with your Veterinarian.

What do I do if my pet has fleas/ticks?

Fleas and ticks are not only a nuisance for your pet, but they can also be dangerous to their health. Ticks carry several types of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Tularemia, all of which you can contract too. Fleas can also cause health problems in your pets such as skin allergies, internal parasites (tapeworms), anemia, and in cats they can spread ‘cat scratch disease’. Fleas brought into your home either on your pet or you can also cause infestations that can be difficult to eliminate. And don’t forget, fleas and ticks can bite you too! At the Animal Care Hospital, we carry several types of flea and tick preventions including Advantage, Frontline, and the newest product from the makers of Advantage, Advantage Multi. All of these products are applied topically and provide protection against fleas for up to 4 weeks. However, Advantage Multi is a Heartworm prevention too and your pet must test negative before applying. Please be very careful with any over the counter products. They are NOT the same type of medication and can be dangerous to your pet’s health. We have seen several pets that have had severe allergic reactions to these products. The most common complaint we hear about these over the counter products is that they simply don’t work.

What do I do if my mother dog won’t allow her puppies to nurse?

In most cases a mother’s ‘natural instinct’ will take over and she will allow them to nurse, and she will care for them by keeping them warm and clean. However, in a case where she refuses to lay down and let the puppies nurse, you may have to step in and help. The first things you need to do is to try and encourage her to let them eat by actually laying her down and placing the puppies on her where they can nurse. You may be able to do this by gently petting her and keeping her calm by talking to her. In some cases you may have to be more forceful with her. Newborns need the colostrum in the mother’s milk to build their immune system and you should try everything you can to get them to at least nurse a couple of times from the mother. If you are unable to make her lay down or to get the puppies to nurse, your other option is to bottle-feed them. There are specific formulas made for puppies and kittens that you can purchase. You should never feed them real milk because this can give them diarrhea and it does not contain the necessary nutrients they need for growth and development. You should contact your Veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the care of newborns.

When should my pet get their first vaccinations?

Puppies and kittens need vaccinations to help strengthen their immune system against deadly diseases. We normally begin the vaccine schedule at 6 to 8 weeks of age. It is important to start their vaccines at this age and to completely finish the series. (see also Why Vaccinate: Prevention of Canine Diseases and Why Vaccinate: Prevention of Feline Diseases.) You’re pet will not be sufficiently protected with only 1 round of vaccines. If you have any more questions about these vaccines or to make an appointment, contact us at 731-285-6270.

What are intestinal worms?

Intestinal worms are actually worms found in your pet’s intestinal tract and can cause serious medical problems if left untreated. Virtually all puppies and kittens are born with intestinal parasites or are infected shortly after birth. However, all animals of any age are susceptible to being infected with these worms. The most common types of intestinal worms are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Roundworms can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and that “pot bellied” appearance that we see sometimes. These are mainly a problem with young animals, but any age can be affected. Hookworms can be acquired from the ground or mother’s milk. These are a severe problem since they suck blood from the animal’s intestines and cause life threatening anemia. We can also see diarrhea with or without blood. Hookworms are a problem at any age. Whipworms are much more difficult to control since the eggs can survive for such a long time in the environment and dogs can be continually infested. We see chronic or intermittent diarrhea sometimes with blood or mucous. Tapeworms can be acquired from two sources; swallowing fleas or eating some type of rodent. Most of the tapeworms in this area don’t cause severe health problems, mainly irritation around the rear end causing some pets to lick or scoot. These worms may not show up on routine fecal exams, so tell your Veterinarian if you notice something that looks like rice or sesame seeds in your pet’s stool. All of these except tapeworms can be prevented with Heartworm Preventatives. Routine fecal exams can diagnose worms before they cause severe problems. Some of these parasites can even affect people if the environment is infested. Your Veterinarian can help you treat as well as prevent those serious parasites.

Can I get mange or any other illness from my pet?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes to several parasites and conditions. There are a couple of types of mange, Demodectic and Sarcoptic. Mange is a skin condition caused by microscopic mites that live in your pet’s skin and hair follicles. Some of the most common symptoms are hair loss, red irritated skin, and scratching. The only way to determine what type of mange your pet has is to look under a microscope at samples taken from your pet. Dogs may acquire demodectic mange mites from their mothers 2 to 3 days after birth but it can’t be passed from dog to dog or to humans like sarcoptic mange. Sarcoptic mange is the only type of mange mite that can affect us. This condition for us is referred to as Scabies. Your physician can instruct you how to treat this condition with medication. Scabies may cause you to have a red irritating rash on your skin. If you notice any hair loss on your pet, especially around the eyes or feet, make an appointment with your Veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Make sure you and anyone that has come in contact with your pet thoroughly washed his or her hands immediately. There are also some internal parasites that can be passed to us from our pets, such as roundworms, hookworm, giardia, and toxoplasmosis. Roundworm infections in our pets can cause diarrhea and vomiting. The majority of human infections with roundworms are well tolerated, even a symptomatic; however, a portion of infected persons develop larva migrans syndromes that may be either systemic or confined to the eye.

The CDC estimates this infection causes hundreds of unilateral blindness cases and uncountable numbers of less permanent forms of illness in children annually in the United States. When a larva invades the eye, known as an ocular migrans, it may leave the person partially or totally blind in that eye. According to CDC data, a minimum of 750 cases of ocular migrans occur every year in the United States. When a person ingests soil contaminated with an infected dog’s feces, that person may experience symptoms of nausea, fever, edema, and even seizures. Annual cases of this illness are much greater than ocular larva migrans. Hookworms are a more severe problem since they suck blood from the animals’ intestines and cause life threatening anemia. We can also see diarrhea with or without blood. When people have contact with soil or sand contaminated by the feces of dogs and cats infected with hookworms, they can develop progressive linear eruptive lesions, a syndrome called “creeping eruption”. Ordinarily, lesions are self-limiting, and the intense itching subsides progressively and completely within a few weeks. However, in cases of mass infection, larvae may penetrate into deeper tissues causing more serious problems, such as chest pain, cough, abdominal pain, diarrhea, abdominal distention, weight loss, and rectal bleeding.

Giardia is a recognized cause of diarrhea in dogs and cats as well as in humans. It is a specific type of protozoan parasite that inhabits the intestines of animals and people. Growing evidence suggests that giardia can be transmitted from pets to pet owners and vice versa. Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite in humans and is most commonly transmitted through contaminated water.

Toxoplasmosis is the disease that results from infection with the organism Toxoplasma gordii. It is an acquired disease that may be characterized by fever, swollen lymph nodes, and lesions in the liver, heart, lungs and brain. It can only complete its’ life cycle by being excreted in the feces of cats. The most common way that a cat acquires the infection is by eating mice, but if a cat ingests an animal or raw meat that carries Toxoplasma it can then pass the organism in its feces. The problem comes when women become infected for the first time while they are pregnant. If she has no antibodies against the organism and is exposed while carrying her child, the infection can cross the placenta and increase the risk of birth defects. The high-risk period is between the 10th and 24th week. If you have a litter box, the best thing for you to do is to have someone else clean it daily. If this is not possible you should wear disposable gloves each time you clean it and wash your hands thoroughly when you have finished. You also need to wash your hands after handling your cat and always before eating.

What are Heartworms and how does my dog get them?

Heartworm disease is a very serious and often fatal condition if left untreated. The best way to protect your dog is to keep them on a reliable heartworm preventative year round for the rest of their life. Heartworms can only be spread from dog to dog by the bite of a mosquito. When a mosquito bites a dog with heartworms it takes in some of the immature microscopic heartworms. This immature stage then develops inside the mosquito and when another dog is bitten the heartworm enters the dog and begins to develop. It takes 6 months from the bite until the worm matures and begins to live in the heart to reproduce. The heartworms take up space inside the heart and can “clog” the valves reducing the efficiency of the heart. Often the worms can move into the large vein that brings blood to the heart from the abdomen or into the artery that takes blood from the heart into the lungs. The first sign that we usually see when a dog has heartworms is a cough. Besides that we see weight loss, a loss of appetite, exercise intolerance, vomiting, swelling in the abdomen, bloody urine, increased thirst, and sudden death.

Heartworms are a lot easier to prevent that they are to treat. There are several types of oral preventions available and even a 6-month injection. Some of these preventions will also control intestinal parasites. Treatment of a dog that already has heartworms is more involved and your Veterinary Hospital should explain that for you.

Your pet must test negative before getting started on a prevention. It only takes 5 minutes for us to test your dog for heartworms and get him/her started on a prevention.

Can I get Heartworms from my pet?

No. We are not susceptible to carrying these worms or contracting them from our pets or mosquito bites.

Why has my cat stopped using the litter box?

There are several reasons why your cat may have stopped using the litter box or in addition to the litter box has now started urinating in other places in the house. Medical problems are one possibility. Inflammation of the urinary tract may cause painful or frequent urination, inability to urinate, bloody urine, and crying during urination. An affected cat is likely to eliminate outside the litter box if he comes to associate the box with painful urination, or if he has an increased urgency to urinate. In addition, kidney, liver, and thyroid diseases often lead to increased drinking and urination. Inflammation of the colon or rectum, intestinal tract tumors, intestinal parasites, and other gastrointestinal conditions may cause painful defecation, increased frequency or urgency to defecate, and decreased control of defecation. Age-related diseases that interfere with a cat’s mobility (arthritis, nervous system disorders, muscular diseases, etc…), or with his cognitive functions can also influence his ability to get to the litter box in time.

Other possibilities include litter box aversions and inappropriate site preferences. An aversion implies that there is something about the litter box that your cat does not like. If your cat has been using the litter box but has recently stopped after you have changed litter brands or gotten a new box or moved the litter box, you may want to try changing things back to the way they were. Your cat may just simply prefer the old litter you were using or the box he/she had or where the litter box was placed before you moved it. You also need to make sure that after you have things back to the way they were that you have thoroughly cleaned and neutralized the area your cat was using. If not, there is a possibility that he or she may return to that spot because it has their scent. However, if this still doesn’t resolve the issue you will need to consider the possibility that this is a medical problem. If this is a new cat that you are bringing into your home and he/she will not use the litter box, try changing a few things first. Try moving the litter box to a different area and if possible you may want to move it to where the cat has used the bathroom in the house. If that is not possible make sure that you thoroughly clean that area and then try moving the litter box somewhere else. If that still doesn’t work, try changing litter types or brands or even getting a different kind of litter box. Once you have set the litter box up where you want it, you may want to try denying your cat access to the other areas in the house he/she was soiling. You can do this by closing doors or covering the area with something like a plastic carpet runner turned upside down so that the points stick up. If there is no way to keep your cat away from this area, try placing his food and water bowls there and maybe a few toys. Cats prefer to eat and eliminate in separate areas, so this may discourage him from using that area if he thinks it is the place he goes to eat. You also need to make sure that you are keeping the litter box cleaned regularly. Some cats refuse to use the litter box after it has so much in it and they start to go somewhere else.

Sometimes cats will stop using the litter box if a new cat has been brought into the home. You may want to try getting a second litter box so the new cat will have a different place to go. You probably don’t want to put them side by side at first, but don’t put it somewhere that you are going to have to move it a long way away later. Because once you get him accustomed to using the box in this area, you don’t want to confuse him by moving it across the house.

If you have tried all of these suggestions and nothing is working, make an appointment with your Veterinarian as soon as possible to have your cat examined for any possible medical problems.

If I have had a pet die with parvo what precautions should I take with my new puppy?

Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea, and can lead to dehydration, shock and death.  It affects puppies and older adults the hardest.  While it is transmitted through an infected dog’s feces, this extremely hardy virus can be readily transported on dog’s hair and feet, people’s clothing and shoes, as well as water bowls and other objects.  An infected dog sheds millions of these viruses daily.  Therefore it is imperative that you thoroughly clean and disinfect any area in and around your home that the sick animal came in contact with BEFORE you bring any new puppy home.  Because Parvo is such a hardy virus it can live in the environment for 1 to 2 years.  We recommend using a bleach and water mixed to kill the parvo virus on surfaces and other objects.   Make sure you clean all of the items the puppy may have had contact with (toys, bedding, bowls, etc…), with this bleach and water mixture.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this process will work.  The best thing would be to dispose of any toys, bedding, food and water bowls, etc… that the sick animal may have had and that you purchase new items for your new pet. You will also need to make sure that your new puppy is vaccinated against these deadly diseases.  Your Veterinarian can give you a schedule of vaccinations your new puppy will need to help build his immune system against these diseases.  Your puppy should receive his entire vaccination program while he is young and then a yearly revaccination program will be started.  Vaccinating them once will not protect them.  (See also “Why Vaccinate: Prevention of Canine Diseases”)