Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hide your Chocolate!!!!

Halloween and the Holidays are coming up quickly.  That means we'll be stocking up on chocolate for baking, or treats for Trick or Treaters.  Make sure to keep these goodies away from curious pets.  They love the smell and taste of chocolate, just like we do!!! (I know I do.)  They will gorge themselves if given the opportunity.

The main ingredient of chocolate is cocoa, which contains theobromine and caffeine.  These substances, depending on the amount ingested, can cause gastrointestinal upset, hyperexcitability, rapid heart rate and, in the worst cases, seizures and death.

Milk chocolate contains a lot of sugar and milk along with cocoa butter, whereas semisweet and baking chocolate have a higher concentration of cocoa.  The more cocoa the chocolate contains, the smaller the amount that is needed to cause symptoms.  The size of the pet matters, too.  A smaller pet eating the same amount of chocolate as a larger one is more likely to become ill.

So, what do you do if you catch Fido with a chocolate grin, and shredded chocolate wrappers all over the floor?  A visit to the veterinarian is necessary.  We will induce vomitting to retrieve as much of the chocolate (and wrappers) as possible.  A stomach coating agent will be administered to minimize absorbtion of the remaining cocoa, and then we will monitor for, and treat toxicity symptoms if they occur.

Another note -- "cocoa mulch", made from shredded cocoa bean shells, has caused toxicity when ingested by pets.  It's best not to use this product where pets have access, as the cocoa smell is very tempting.

So, keep the chocolate for yourself, even if they beg !!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fleas, fleas and more fleas!!

The fleas never really die in Texas, because we don't have harsh enough winters.  The fleas just sit safely in their   cocoons and wait for the temperature and humidity to be just perfect for them to hatch. The BEST WAY to control fleas is not to get them in the first place!  Use preventatives on a monthly basis all year long to prevent a costly and time consuming flea killing campaign.

Understanding the flea life cycle is important to controlling the little critters.  So, we'll start with an adult flea that lives on a mammal, usually a dog or cat, and takes blood meals periodically.  The flea does not leave it's host animal, because she's got everything she needs: a home and a food source. That flea can lay 50 to 100 eggs per day.Then, as that dog or cat moves through the environment (your house or yard), the eggs drop off onto the carpet, floor or lawn. When the egg hatches into a larva, the larva can move through the environment to areas where the pet hasn't even been!  Larvae like dark places, so under furniture is a great place for it to go.  The larvae then spins a cocoon, and becomes dormant, until it is stimulated to hatch out into an adult flea. The stimulation for the flea to hatch is vibration/movement, usually from the footsteps of a host cat or dog, or even a human being.  If not stimulated to hatch, a flea can remain in it's cocoon for up to 1 year!!! The entire flea life cycle from adult to new adult can be as short as 3 weeks- so think about the possibility of multiple cocoons hatching all at once! (Scary!)

Even an  indoor dog or cat can pick up flea or two when they go out to the bathroom, and then those fleas start to lay eggs, and before you know it, the house is full of fleas, eggs and larvae.  Fleas can also hitch a ride on our pant legs and then jump over to their preferred host, your pet.

When a dog or cat is bitten by a flea to take a blood meal, some of it's saliva is left behind in the skin.  This saliva is irritating and sets up an allergic response - skin redness, irritation, and itching, itching, itching.  One or two fleas can bite a  very flea allergic dog or cat many times a day and cause lots of reaction and skin inflammation. This is why it is so important to have your pets, ALL your pets, on flea control year round. The fleas will quickly find the one pet that is not protected, and then set up residence there and produce a constant source of new fleas IN YOUR HOME.

So, what to do if the fleas are out of control?  The topical or oral flea products will eventually kill the fleas as they hatch, but it may take 2-3 months or more to get all the immature stages (eggs, larvae and cocoons) that are not on the pet yet.  To bring the flea numbers down much quicker, follow these steps:

1.  Start all pets on a drop-on or pill type flea product from a veterinary source. Over the counter pyrethrin and  pyrethroid products, flea collars and baths will give only limited, short term  control.
2. Have the yard treated for fleas, and repeat in 3 weeks and 6 weeks.
3. Treat or have your house treated with a product that has an IGR (insect growth regulator) to arrest the development of larvae and prevent eggs from hatching, as well as something to kill the adult fleas. If you use foggers-- read instructions carefully and follow all precautions- especially the one about getting all people and pets out of the house while using!!
4. Retreat inside the house in 3 weeks to get the adults that have hatched out of cocoons.  The IGR and the adult treatment will not penetrate the cocoon! 
5. Continue monthly flea preventative on your pets . 

If you have questions, or just can't seem to get things under control, set up a time to come in and we can help you with the flea problems and the resulting itching/allergy problems.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Senior Pets-- How to Keep them Healthy and Happy

Unfortunately, dogs and cats age at a faster rate than humans.  The old gauge of 7 dog years per one human year isn't completely accurate.  The larger the animal, the faster the relative age increases.  For example, the expected life span of a Great Dane is about 8-9 years, whereas a poodle may live to 13-15 years.  We have seen cats as old as 22 years of age!  So, at 8 years old, a small dog or cat's age is equivalent to approx. 48 years, and a dog over 90 pounds is like a 64 year old person. 

So, your pet's body changes and ages at a faster rate than your own.  That's why yearly checkups are important- a lot can change in the aging equivalent of 7or 8 years!  A twice yearly exam is recommended for large breed dogs starting at 6-7 years old and 8-10 years old for small dogs and cats. 

Weight loss or gain may signal a problem. Heart rate, rhythm, heart murmur or fluid in the lungs may be early signs of heart disease.  Abdominal palpation may reveal changes in organ size or fluid accumulation in the body cavity.  "Lumps or bumps" on or just below the skin can be checked for possible tumors, or may be determined to be cysts or benign fatty growths. Mouth and teeth are checked for gingivitis, tartar buildup and loose or infected teeth.  Eyes and ears are examined for infection or aging changes.  Lastly, a urinalysis, blood count and blood tests to evaluate liver, kidneys and blood sugar and electrolyte levels can give early indications of problems that may be controlled with medication or diet changes.

Symptoms seen at home that indicate the need for an office visit are :
> Weight loss or gain
> Increase in water consumption and urination 
> Coughing, labored respiration and lethargy
> Changes in urinary or bowel habits
> Vomitting
> Limping, stiffness or pain

Many "aging issues" are manageable with medication or diet, especially if cought in early stages.  Regular check-ups go a long way in keeping your furry friends happy and healthy well into their senior years.

Dr. Mc

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why should I clean my pet's teeth?

Welcome to our blog!!  My plan is to put out some information to help pet owners understand some of the the issues that we see  in patients, and ways to correct or manage them.  In doing so, we hope to help your friend and companion to live a long and healthy life. Watch for the link on our facebook page to see when new information is available.  Thanks for reading!  Dr. McLaughlin

Why should I clean my pet's teeth?

Normal chewing leaves small particles of food that stick to your cat or dog's teeth. As these bits start to break down, bacteria move in and "set up shop" (yuck) with the decaying debris (yuck again!) and form placque- which then hardens into tartar. As the tartar starts to build up, it begins to push under the gum line and, later, in between the tooth root and the bone.  This leads to gum inflammation and pain, bone degeneration and ultimately tooth loosening and loss. In severe cases, infection can spread to the bones of the jaws, causing weakening and damage.  Additionally, the bacteria in the tartar may use the blood vessels in the inflamed gums as a pathway to the rest of the body and lead to infections in other areas, most commonly heart or kidneys.

How do you tell if your dog or cat needs a dental cleaning? You may notice a tan or brown buildup on your pet's teeth, and some bad breath as well. (Those kisses aren't quite as sweet as they used to be, right?)  In more advanced cases you may notice pain when the mouth is touched, pawing or rubbing at the face, or chewing on only one side of the mouth.

By cleaning the teeth, the tartar and bacteria are removed and the gums can heal.  Teeth that are starting to get loose may reattach and become firm again.  The constant source of bacteria in your pet's body is cleared up, and he will be healthier and feel better in general.  Mouth odor will be reduced, and you will enjoy those doggy and kitty kisses again!!

How often do the teeth need to be cleaned?  Just like people, the rate and amount of tartar buildup will vary. Annual exams give us an opportunity to evaluate dental health and make recommendations on cleaning.

So, it's time to "lift that lip" and take a look into your pet's mouth-- or let us take a look for you!

Dr. Mc