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Frequently Asked Questions

Can my cat get heartworms? +

Although there is a lesser incidence of heartworm disease compared with dogs, there is a chance that cats can become infected.

Female cats seem to have a stronger resistance to heartworms than males. Unlike dogs, cats can remain asymptomatic throughout the course of the disease; eventually, heartworms in cats may die off without causing any serious harm to the lungs or other organs.

Just like dogs, a monthly heartworm preventative for cats can be prescribed. This medication is safely formulated for felines and is given once a month to prevent heartworm infection. Currently, there is no safe method for treating heartworm infection in cats.

How can I remove ticks from my dog and cat without harming the pets? +

Animals easily pick up ticks in their fur from the outdoors. Ticks will attach themselves to the skin for several days, until they are full of blood sucked from their host. During this period, they can transmit serious diseases to cats and dogs and should be removed as soon as they are detected on the animal. Some diseases can be prevented by early tick removal, since the transfer of the infectious agent can take up to 72 hours.

Ticks should be removed with tweezers applied to the portion of the tick’s head closest to the skin. Pull gently and with steady pressure. Examine the tick to be sure the entire head was removed. Afterwards, the bite wound should be cleaned with antibacterial soap and rinsed well. You may notice a red bump from where the tick was removed, this is normal.

Several options are currently available to prevent ticks from attaching themselves to your pet, and to kill the ones that do. Frontline® is a safe and effective topical flea and tick control product that is applied to the animal’s skin once a month. A Preventic® tick collar, although not a flea deterrent, is an effective method of preventing and killing ticks for up to three months. There are many shampoos, dips, and sprays that can be used to kill ticks in certain animals. However, kittens, puppies, and some adult cats can be sensitive to these products. Consult your veterinarian about which products are appropriate for your pets.

How can I tell if my dog has an ear infection? +

Check your dog’s ears regularly.

An ear infection is a common ailment in dogs, especially if they have skin conditions or allergies. Most owners will not pick up on the symptoms of an ear infection until the dog’s symptoms are severe. The earlier an infection is detected and treated, the faster the dog will recover, and the less pain and discomfort it will have to endure.

It is recommended that you thoroughly check your dog on a regular basis. This good habit will allow you to detect problems sooner and will teach your dog to cooperate during an examination. It will be much easier to treat your pet if it has already become accustomed to having you touch various parts of its body.

To evaluate the ears, you should look at how your dog holds its head. Is it holding its head normally, or is it tilting it slightly to one side? Are both of the ears being held in the same position, or is one drooping more than the other? Is the dog scratching its ears more than usual? The best test is to lift the earflap and smell. If you detect a foul odor, chances are that an ear infection is present or is about to occur. If the infection is severe, you may even be able to see redness within the ear canal, as well as infective debris draining from the ear. Infected ears are extremely painful, so be gentle when checking them.

If you detect any abnormalities, or your dog won’t allow you to examine its ears, you should schedule the first available veterinary appointment. The doctor will determine the best course of action based on the stage of the disease.

After the acute stage of an ear infection is controlled, it is important to properly clean your dog’s ears. Our veterinary technicians r can teach you how to do this. Regular ear cleanings may prevent ear infections from occurring in the future. This is especially necessary if your dog swims a great deal, since excessive moisture in the ear can lead to infection.

How can we rid our pets of fleas? +

We have two cats and two dogs, all of which are severely infested with fleas. I have used dips, sprays, and flea collars, and have treated the yard as well. We still have fleas, and they are driving our animals crazy. What should we do?

Fleas continue to be an important problem of animal husbandry despite the advances in flea-control products. Using conventional insecticides, one must address fleas on the pet, in the house, and in the environment, a three-pronged approach.

Dips are not safe when used often enough to be effective. Flea collars are not generally useful, and sprays must be applied regularly to have maximum kill. The yard products, such as organophosphates, should help eliminate environmental fleas. You may wish to treat the shady areas of the yard, under bushes and trees, where ultraviolet light does not penetrate, especially if the pets lie there. The entire environment and the pets must be treated concurrently; the clean, flea-free animals must be housed in a flea-free area while the premises are treated. After vacuuming the area rugs, be sure to throw the vacuum bag away.

Despite the apparent expense of the new, topical products such as Frontline or Revolution, these products have proved themselves highly effective in such situations. They should be safe for all members of the household. Please discuss their use with your veterinarian. He or she will assess your situation and customize a flea-control plan for you.

How is a laser used to declaw a cat? +

The laser acts as a scalpel that removes the tissue from which the claw grows.

Using a laser to perform onychectomy, or declaw, in the cat has become popular in many areas due to the increased availability and improved cost of surgical lasers.

The laser energy results in sealing and coagulation of nerves and small blood vessels. This has the effect of decreasing blood loss. Laser techniques are also reported to result in less pain following the procedure. This does not mean the elimination of pain, however, and appropriate pain medications will prescribed by your veterinarian are administered.

In a typical laser declaw procedure (laser onychectomy), after anesthetizing the cat, a bone called the third phalanx (one for each claw) is removed. The tissue from which a claw grows, called the ungual crest, is situated on top of each of these bones. By removing the third phalanges, the claw growth tissue is also removed, thus preventing claw regrowth.

A veterinarian experienced in laser surgery can perform the procedure relatively quickly, with few complications. Overall, owners of cats that have undergone laser declaw, as well as many veterinarians performing the procedure, report better pain control and quicker recovery in the initial postoperative period.

I forgot to give my pet their heartworm medication last month. What should I do? +

Medications to prevent heartworm disease work by killing immature heartworms before they grow and become a threat to your pet’s health. Should you forget a dose, go ahead and give the next dose immediately. To be sure that your pet did not contract heartworms during the lapse, a heartworm test should be repeated six months from the time that you last gave the medication on a regular schedule.

My cat vomits a hairball on my carpet every one to two months. What can I do to prevent this? +

Use a hairball medication.

Hairballs are a common problem in both long and shorthaired cats that groom themselves frequently. When a cat grooms itself, it swallows hair, and over time the hair can accumulate within the stomach. Eventually, the hair causes enough irritation to the stomach that the cat will vomit it up.

Owners may opt to use hairball remedies such as Laxatone, which contain ingredients such as petroleum jelly that will help bind the hair in the stomach and move it into the intestines and then passed in the feces. A cat treated with such a remedy will defecate the hairball instead of vomiting it.

Laxatone treatment initially is given daily for about a week, and then every couple of days thereafter for maintenance. Some cats need treatment only every few weeks to keep hair from accumulating. For those cats that reject Laxatone, there are now hairball diets and treats available that claim to decrease problems with hairballs. If a cat continues to vomit, have it examined by a veterinarian to be sure that the vomiting truly is caused by hairballs and not by an underlying disease. Cats that swallow string or toys may also vomit, but the ingesting of foreign objects is a more serious condition that requires veterinary attention.

My dog has this fleshy, thickened, hairless area over its elbow. What is this? +

A Callus. 

Most dogs that sleep on hard surfaces, such as cement, wood, or tile, will develop calluses over their elbows, hocks or any other bony areas. Large breed dogs and overweight dogs are especially susceptible to the condition. The callus develops from pressure and friction to help protect the skin from damage.

Providing padded bedding often is very helpful in preventing the callus from worsening. All larger breeds should be given a thicker bed of some kind to prevent excessive pressure on the bony parts of the body. Dog beds, foam rubber mats, air mattresses, and straw shavings all will provide support to protect against callus formation. Some people even have used elbow pads or foam placed around the dog’s elbows to prevent calluses.

A callus is rarely a medical problem, unless it becomes ulcerated and subsequently infected. Your veterinarian will be able to verify if the callus is problematic.

My dog is vomiting. What should I do? +

If your dog is vomiting it is usually a sign of gastrointestinal upset and the best course of action is to give the system a break and time to recover. We recommend withholding food and water for the next twelve hours. If the vomiting has subsided, you may offer your pet small amounts of water every two hours. Do not allow him/her to lap up excessive amounts. After two hours, if your pet has kept the water down and seems interested, you may offer small amounts of bland diet such as Purina EN or boiled chicken or beef and rice. Offer small amounts of food every 4-6 hours. If the vomiting continues or your pet seems weak or depressed, please call your veterinarian

What is a "hot spot" in a dog? +

A “hot spot,” or acute moist dermatitis, is an acute, painful, erosive, inflammatory condition of the skin. It results when a dog repeatedly bites or scratches a specific area of its skin or ears. An underlying problem that produces itching or pain usually prompts this self-induced trauma. The hot spot will have a reddish border surrounding a central area of crusty, eroded or ulcerated skin. Hot spots are moist and tend to drain. They often are infected, usually with Staphylococcus intermedius, a bacterium similar to a type that causes boils in people. Small pockets of pus may appear to migrate out from the middle of the hot spot. Hair loss will occur in the affected area. Hot spots tend to occur in dogs living in hot, humid environments and in homes or facilities with poor ventilation. Large breeds are more likely to develop hot spots than smaller dog breeds.

There are many different conditions that may cause a dog to engage in this biting and scratching behavior. The most common cause is fleabite allergy. When a dog becomes sensitive to flea saliva, a fleabite will cause intense, persistent itching. Other allergies, including inhalation (atopy) and food allergies, may also cause scratching and biting that leads to the development of hot spots. Other conditions that may stimulate self trauma include inflammatory conditions of the skin, ears or anal sacs, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections, and joint or muscle pain. Canine behavioral disorders may cause this as well.

Diagnosis of acute moist dermatitis is based on history, clinical signs of biting and scratching and the findings of a physical examination. Diagnosis of the underlying cause may require laboratory tests. These may include various skin tests for allergies, fleas and other parasites, fungal and yeast infections, or bacterial culture and susceptibility. Occasionally a skin biopsy may be necessary.

Treatment is directed both at the hot spot and the underlying cause of the biting or scratching. An Elizabethan collar may be used to mechanically bar biting and scratching of the affected areas. Treatment for hot spots starts with clipping the moist hair to expose the lesion to the air. Clipping is a very important factor in treating these lesions, as they need to dry out in order to heal. Topical or oral medications, including corticosteroids (for their anti-inflammatory effect), antibiotics, and anti-pruritics (anti-itching drugs) may be given to help resolve the hot spot. Occasionally injectable forms of these medications are given. Drying agents may also be appropriate.

The underlying cause of the affected dog’s biting and scratching is treated accordingly. If fleas or other parasites are involved, parasiticides are given and other control measures are taken. If allergies are causing the itching, antihistamines may be prescribed, as well as allergy shots if the allergen (the substance causing the allergic reaction) cannot be avoided. If pain due to arthritis or other conditions is involved, appropriate analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed.

You should take your dog to your veterinarian for a physical examination. First your veterinarian will make sure that the problem your dog has is a hot spot. Then he or she will determine the underlying cause of your dog’s biting and scratching and recommend treatment. Your veterinarian may give you topical medications to help dry the lesion out and decrease the itch. Injections of steroids or oral steroid medications are often used for the acute flare-ups, but long-term control may be better achieved by successfully treating the underlying disorder.

What normal maintenance care does my cat need? +

All kittens should go through examinations, deworming, multiple vaccinations, and neutering. After these are completed, your trips to the veterinarian will be much less frequent. Most healthy adult cats need to visit the veterinarian only once a year.

Vaccinations are continued throughout a cat’s life. Most vaccinations are given once a year, although a rabies shot may be given every three years. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk of contracting serious feline viruses and may require more vaccinations that those that stay indoors.

It is a good idea to have a sample of your cat’s feces evaluated for parasites every year. Outdoor cats are at increased risk of being exposed to parasites and should probably have this test done twice a year.

Heartworm medication is recommended to prevent heartworm infections in indoor and outdoor cats. Since mosquitoes can get inside the house, indoor cats are at risk of heartworm infection. This flavored medication is given once a month.

Monitor your cat’s skin and haircoat for any signs of parasites or hair loss. Fleas and ticks not only are nuisances for cats, but also may cause diseases in your pet. For good management of fleas, we recommend monthly treatment with either Revolution or Frontline.

Routine brushing significantly reduces the incidence of hairballs and provides bonding time between you and your cat. This is especially important for heavy shedders, longhaired cats, and geriatric animals that may have trouble grooming themselves. A hairball remedy or treat may be used to help ingested fur move through the digestive tract and reduce the number of hairballs your cat vomits.

Maintain that perfect pedicure. Cats should have their toenails trimmed periodically to keep them from damaging your house, furniture, and skin. If this practice is started at a young age, the cat will tolerate it more easily throughout its life. Have an experienced person help you the first few times that you attempt to trim your cat’s toenails.

Feel like brushing your cat’s teeth? Some cats will tolerate brushing if it is started gradually and made a pleasant experience. Veterinary toothpaste must be used to prevent stomach upset. Most of these toothpastes are available in a chicken or tuna flavor that cats find appealing. Our technicians can educate you on brushing techniques and supplies.

Feed your cat a good quality adult maintenance cat food. It is not necessary to feed canned or semi-soft food or to provide a variety of food types, as feeding variation can lead to the creation of a finicky eater, not to mention stomach upset or diarrhea from abrupt changes in the diet.

Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water daily. Some cats do not like to drink standing water. Drinking fountains, which have become widely available, may be a better idea for these felines.

Scoop the cat litter daily. Most cats are very picky about bathroom facilities, including the brand of litter that you use. Once you find a brand that you both find acceptable, stick with it for the long haul. This will cut down on the possibility of “mistakes” that you could find around the house.

Finally, be sure to give your cat plenty of tender loving attention and play time. Playing games will help keep that indoor cat from becoming overweight. Plus, those fun times together are what build a strong bond between pet and owner.

Why should I have my male cat or dog neutered? +

We typically recommend neutering when your pet reaches six months of age, although it can be done on younger and older pets. Pets are generally kept overnight so that we can monitor them the next day. After the procedure is finished, your pet is observed to make sure that he recovers normally from the anesthesia and surgery. Discharges are done in the late afternoon. Neutering is most often recommended for reproductive control and behavioral reasons, such as the problem of animals wanting to roam (wanderlust), or urine marking of furniture. There also are health benefits from neutering, such as the lessening of prostate disease in the older dog, and the decreased incidence injury as a result of fighting among tom cats.

Why should I neuter my dog when I can prevent him from mating with another dog? +

Neutering may protect him from cancer and disease.

Most of us are told to neuter our pets to decrease the overabundance of unadopted dogs that are put to death in animal shelters. Although this is a valid argument, it is not the sole reason that neutering should be considered.

Unneutered male dogs have a higher incidence of certain cancers and prostatic diseases. Female dogs that are left intact are more likely to develop mammary tumors, uterine and ovarian cancers, and uterine infections. All of these medical conditions can be quite serious, and may even result in a shortened life span for your companion. Neutered pets tend to live longer and enjoy a healthier life.

Dogs that resist training may also benefit from neutering, because after the procedure they more likely to accept the owner’s leadership. Neutered dogs are also less likely to roam the neighborhood — and hence have a lesser risk of being hit by a car, being involved in a dogfight, or becoming a nuisance to your neighbors.