healthy pets

Pet Health- Decreasing weight means increasing concern

healthy petMost dog owners spend a significant amount of time worrying about ways to prevent their dogs from gaining weight. The opposite problem is rarely the case. When a dog does appear to be losing weight inexplicably, it is always cause for concern.

The first step toward a resolution is to go over your dog’s eating and exercise schedule. Question all members of the family about their responsibilities related to the dog’s care and feeding. Go as far as making a chart that quantifies amounts of food offered and actually consumed, and duration of and exertion during the various walks the dog is taken on. Not until the logic of this part of your dog’s daily routine has been established should you move on to further investigation.

What to Look For

Weight loss is weight loss. When it represents a threat to your dog’s health, however, it is much more of a concern. Of course, any time significant weight loss is mentioned, a thorough physical exam is called for.

For your current purposes, though, let’s focus on your dog’s immediate issues. Start evaluating your dog as a whole. Analyze his levels of energy and enthusiasm. Check his fur to see if it is sparse, coarse, or dull. Look for any loss of muscle mass. If you observe such a loss, see if it occurred in a symmetric fashion or if it is limited to certain parts of his anatomy. Check for evidence of protruding bones, especially the ridges of his skull, his shoulder blades, spinal vertebrae, ribs, and hips.

What to Do

Now go through the following questions to figure out what to do next:

  • Has your dog been ill recently? Chronic illness, especially organ system failure of the pancreas, kidney, or liver can result in long term nausea and vomiting, often leading to dramatic weight loss. If any of these conditions affect your dog, weight loss is to be expected, but not irreversible if the prognosis for the disease is optimistic.
  • Is your dog’s coat sparse, coarse, or dull? If so, it could be due to the same cause as the weight loss. If your dog’s appetite has remained healthy throughout the weight loss, intestinal parasites may be the problem. Warn your family members to practice strict personal hygiene and submit a fecal sample from your dog to your veterinarian.
  • Is your dog currently taking any medication? Either the illness your dog is being treated for or the medication he is taking for it could be a factor in his weight loss. If your veterinarian approves, try reducing or even eliminating your dog’s chronic medication to see if that helps him regain his appetite and the weight he has lost.
  • Has your dog recently suffered from any form of head trauma? If so, there is the possibility of a concussion, as well as the dizziness and nausea that go with it. These symptoms could very well result in noticeable weight loss over a relatively short period of time. Seek your vet’s help for a neurology consult.

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Safe Summer Tips For Your Pet

pet tips_summerWe all love spending the long, sunny days of summer outdoors with our furry companions, but being overeager in hot weather can spell danger, ASPCA experts warn.

“Most people love to spend the warmer days enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, but it is important to remember that some activities can be dangerous for our pets,” said Dr. Camille DeClementi, Senior Toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “By following a few simple rules, it is easy to keep your pet safe while still having fun in the sun.”

Take these simple precautions, provided by ASPCA experts, to help prevent your pet from overheating. And if you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, get help from your veterinarian immediately.

Visit the Vet
A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they aren’t on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe flea and tick control program.

Made in the Shade
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.

Know the Warning Signs
Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees. Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

No Parking!
Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. “On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time-even with the windows open-which could lead to fatal heat stroke,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars in extreme weather is illegal in several states.

Make a Safe Splash   
Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear floatation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.

Screen Test
“During warmer months, the ASPCA sees an increase in injured animals as a result of High-rise Syndrome which occurs when pets-mostly cats-fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured,” says Dr. Murray. “Pet owners need to know that this is completely preventable if they take simple precautions.” Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.

Summer Style
Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.

Street Smarts
When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your pooch’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.

Avoid Chemicals
Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of pets’ reach as well. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435

Party Animals
Taking Fido to a backyard barbeque or party? Remember that the food and drink offered to guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol.

Fireworks Aren’t Very Pet-riotic
Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.

 

The Human Factor in Pet Health

We can’t emphasize enough the role that our better understanding the overall needs of our companion animals to help them live better plays today. Advances in veterinary care, better education with pet owners in understanding what makes for a healthy pet and even strides in understanding animal behavior have had a hand in that.

But what it really comes down to, according to a recent study, is the human factor.

The State of Pet Health 2013 Report fleshed out some interesting findings, including how far both dogs and cats have come in recent years in terms if their longevity, how advances and availability of specific kinds of preventative care have influenced the change — even whittling down which geographic regions where they have a higher quality of health and life.

The most compelling conclusion is that spaying and neutering pets plays a huge role in extending their healthy years.

 

Spaying and neutering have benefits besides helping to address the overpopulation problem.

For both unneutered male dogs and cats, they are more likely to be hit by a car or bitten by another animal. Intact dogs also have a higher rate testicular cancer. Females that are spayed benefit from the reduced risk of life-threatening diseases like mammary cancer (especially cats) and pyrometra.

Vaccinations, parasite control and dental care are three main areas of preventative care that have made an impact. The latter has had more emphasis in recent years, and isn’t important only to promote a healthy mouth — bacteria from inflamed gums and the pockets that that result can enter the bloodstream and affect major organs, like the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs.

The report notes that factors like dogs living indoors and in a geographic region where disease rates (like Lyme disease and heart worm) may be lower risk, seem to contribute to longer lives. States in the south have high rates of heart worm because of heat and mosquitoes. In the northeast, Lyme disease is more prevalent because of disease-carrying ticks.

Here are other highlights from the 2013 State of Health Pet report:

Average Life Span

• 11.0 years for dogs nationwide.
• 12.1 years for U.S. cats.
• Dogs in Mississippi and Alabama lived 10.1 and 10.2 years, respectively–the lowest of any states.
• Cats had the shortest life spans in Delaware and Ohio, at 10.7 and 10.9 years, respectively.
• Dogs lived the longest in Montana and South Dakota (12.4 years).
• Feline longevity was highest in Montana (14.3 years).

Health Trends
• Most common canine diagnoses: dental tartar, ear infections, excess weight, skin infections and flea infestations.
• Top-five feline diagnoses: dental calculus, excess weight, flea infestations, gingivitis and ear infections.
Almost one in four dogs and cats was overweight or obese.
• Arthritis diagnoses came at an average age of 9 for dogs and 12 for cats.
• Kidney disease was almost seven times more common in cats than dogs.
• Dental disease afflicted 91 percent of dogs and 85 percent of cats over age 3.
• The prevalence of diabetes in dogs doubled over the last five years.

Where They Live

While the medical diagnoses were remarkably uniform across the United States, a few geographic anomalies jumped out:
• Southern states such as Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas recorded the highest prevalence of fleas on dogs.
• Fleas on cats were most common in Oregon, South Carolina and Florida.
• Dogs in Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Hampshire were most likely to have ticks.
• Cats in Eastern states such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Virginia were more prone to ticks.
• Heartworms were most common in dogs living in the Southeast.
• Dogs and cats in Alabama and Mississippi had the most trouble with tapeworms.

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Your Pet’s Physical and Mental Well-being

Diet affects  every aspect of your dog’s physical and mental well-being. When your dog eats  low-quality food and treats, he’s not just consuming empty calories, which packs  on pounds; his body is being robbed of the building blocks necessary to maintain  good health, energy and an upbeat attitude. Feeding good quality food and treats  helps keep Fido’s waistline in check and increase his quality and quantity of  life.

Your dog can’t read labels or  ask questions; he’s relying on you to make intelligent choices for him. Once you  learn to decipher labels, you may be surprised or shocked at what you  see.
For instance, the length of the ingredient list doesn’t  always indicate the quality of the food. A protein from a specified animal  should be the first ingredient. Avoid generic proteins such as “meat” or  “poultry.” Although dogs like to eat some of the animal parts we don’t, proteins  from a specified animal are better than byproducts. Likewise, byproducts are  better than rendered meals.

Always buy the best food you can  afford. When a manufacturer uses cheap ingredients, it has to bulk up the food  with fillers to meet the government’s minimum nutritional requirements. As a  result, the portion size for cheap food is typically larger than for  more-expensive food with higher-quality, more-digestible ingredients.

In the end, you’ll be buying more of the cheaper food, which usually  works out to be more expensive than buying the higher-quality food in the first  place. Just as with humans, obesity is a growing problem for dogs. Limit table  scraps; they’re fattening, and some human food, such as chocolate, grapes,  onions, garlic, bones and Xylitol, is dangerous for dogs.

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