Cat and dog health tips
For a first-time pet owner, bringing an animal home can be a joyous as well as a terrifying experience. Is it normal that the dog holds his leg at that angle? Do you need to call the vet if your cat vomits up a hairball? What should you do when your dog or cat sneezes? These questions are natural, and over time as you learn what is “normal” for your pet you will become better able to spot problems when they do occur.
There are a number of common and often serious afflictions that might strike your pet, so it is wise to know the various warning signs. The following list outlines a few basic ailments encountered by animal owners. Be aware, however, that this list details only a short list of medical conditions that a new owner should recognize. When an animal is coming from a shelter or kennel situation, new owners must especially look out for highly contagious conditions such as upper respiratory infection and kennel cough. Be aware that there are countless other diseases that may affect your pet. Fortunately, many of them, such as distemper, rabies, and feline leukemia, have effective vaccinations. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is never as true as when it comes to vaccinating your pet.
Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
The symptoms of this disorder include repeated sneezing, fever, discharge from eyes and/or nose, loss of appetite, depression, and coughing. These infections are highly contagious among cats and can be fatal if left untreated. See your vet if you suspect your cat may be infected.
Feline Urological Syndrome
Things to look for are a change in urination, refusal to use the litter box, traces of blood in urine, straining at urination, listlessness, unusual thirst, poor appetite, vomiting and dehydration. If you notice any of these symptoms, see your vet immediately. If your cat has a urinary blockage he may die without immediate treatment. Treatment will vary depending on the exact type of illness your cat has (cystitis, bladder, urethral stones, or uremia).
Watch for excessive scratching of the ears, especially if hair is torn off or bloody sores appear, black debris inside the ears, and tiny moving white specks inside the ears. Ear mites can be eliminated easily, but may lead to infection, coma, and even death if left untreated. Be sure to see your vet if you notice these symptoms.
Kennel cough (KCS)
A gagging cough, hacking, and occasional vomiting of mucus are all signs of this condition. Be sure to see your vet if these symptoms occur, as kennel cough can lead to severe bronchial infections or pneumonia if left untreated. This condition is highly contagious among dogs.
Symptoms are frequent coughing, sluggishness, weakness, rapid tiring during exercise, nervousness, and labored breathing. If your dog exhibits any of the above symptoms see your vet immediately. Heartworm can be fatal but is fully preventable. All dogs, even those with no symptoms, should have a yearly test for heartworms by a vet. If the test is negative the vet will prescribe medication for heartworm prevention.
Canine Parvo Virus (Parvo)
Watch for vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes with blood), loss of appetite, fever, and rapid dehydration. See your vet immediately if you suspect your dog may have Parvo. Treatment is necessary to prevent dehydration, to control vomiting and diarrhea, and to prevent secondary bacterial infections. Parvo is highly contagious among dogs but is also preventable. A vaccine is available and you should ensure that your dog is protected.
Both dogs and cats
Watch for diarrhea or constipation, a huge appetite in very thin pets, pot belly with a thin body in young animals, and a dull coat and listlessness in both young and adult animals. If you notice the above symptoms take a small stool sample to the vet for analysis. As worms can often be detected only by microscopic study of a stool sample, this ailment should not be self diagnosed. If left untreated worms can lead to severe malnutrition and lowered resistance to infection. Note: worming must be done only with veterinarian-prescribed medications, never over-the-counter remedies.
Your pet may have fleas if you notice vigorous scratching and/or chewing and small black specks (flea dirt) on an animal’s coat or in its sleeping area. Eggs may be visible as tiny white dots. If you suspect the presence of fleas, consult your vet. Only use de-fleaing products that your vet recommends, and consult your vet before using any product on a puppy or kitten. Before placing a new flea collar on a pet, remove it from the package and allow it to air for 24 hours. Be sure to ask your vet about new products that are effective in eliminating fleas.
If your dog has orange to brown discoloration of the teeth (tartar), bad breath, pain or hesitation in eating, broken, lost, or loose teeth, and/or excessive drooling, he may have dental problems. Inquire with your vet as to the best course of action. All animals require some dental care, especially as they age. Untreated conditions may lead to infections throughout the body, even to permanent damage of the heart and liver.