20 Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Vet
A: While some medications used to treat feline skin ailments and allergies can make animals extra thirsty, older cats oftentimes have a more serious underlying condition that causes excessive urination, making them crave more water than normal. If your cat has bad breath or seems lethargic, kidney disease could be the real problem. If she is losing weight, it could be diabetes or an overactive thyroid.
A: Your dog suffers from the number one canine orthopedic disease, seen most frequently in larger breeds like German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Labradors. Basically, hip dysplasia means that the thigh bone doesn't fit snugly in the hip socket, causing an erosion of cartilage. In most cases, this leads to arthritis, which can occur in animals as young as 4 months. During arthritis flare-ups, ice packs, heating pads, massage, and acupuncture may ease your pet's aches. But he needs a long-term solution, and I recommend prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (Depending on the severity of the situation, corrective surgery may eventually be necessary.)
Indoor or Outdoor Cat?
A: Asking a vet if your cat should be kept inside is like asking a dentist if you should brush your teeth. My office is currently caring for eight felines that are sick or injured as a result of their open-air adventures. Statistics vary, but house cats live, on average, nine years longer than their outdoor counterparts. Makes sense — have you ever heard of a pet being hit by a car while snoozing on a recliner? And traffic is just one hazard. Kitties who roam outside risk exposure to potentially fatal diseases, including feline leukemia, feline AIDS, and rabies, as well as less dangerous but still unpleasant parasites and infections (fleas, ticks, ringworm). Then there are predators, like coyotes, raccoons, dogs, even humans with guns.
Longer Life for Goldfish?
A: Absolutely. The key here is to give the fish a proper abode, instead of depositing the poor guy in any old glass bowl. A simple three-gallon aquarium should cost only about $40, and be sure to pick up a floating thermometer too. Once you bring your fish home, float the bag in your aquarium in order for the water temperatures to equalize. Open the sack and let in a bit of air, then close it up again. When the bag and tank temps reach within two degrees of each other (here's where that thermometer comes in), add half a cup of liquid from the tank to the bag so your fish can acclimate; repeat a few times at 10-minute intervals. Then you can release your fish safely into the tank.
A: Most puppies will chase anything, including their own waggers. The behavior usually stops when they get older, but if Rex continues to whirl around into adulthood, he may be doing it for attention. And funny though this canine merry-go-round may seem, it can result in a back injury. To put the brakes on your dog's performance: ignore it completely; or distract him by offering up a ball for play, and then reward him for breaking the cycle. In some cases, a medical issue causes the tailspin, and a visit to the vet is in order. If you notice that your pet is gnawing or scratching at his hindquarters, a skin ailment, wound, or irritant like fleas could be to blame.
A: Unfortunately, by the time a dog exhibits noticeable signs — a swollen abdomen, chronic cough, and lack of energy — he or she may have had heartworms for years, and the disease is probably advanced. So don't wait: The simplest way to catch the problem early involves a basic blood test your veterinarian can perform.
A: Brushing your cat is the best way to remove loose fur. Though Kitty might be resistant to the routine at first, patiently repeat the process every day and she should become more complacent. If she remains wary, consider one of the soft, nubby grooming gloves available at pet stores nationwide.
A: Kennel cough is a catchall term for bronchitis that spreads quickly among canines in close quarters. Although the illness can be caused by a host of organisms, the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica and the parainfluenza virus top the list of common culprits. A simple vaccine can lower your dog's risk of contracting the pesky cough.
Pets and Pest Control
A: Though professional exterminators use only EPA-approved pesticides, I'd recommend erring on the side of caution when exposing any animal directly to these chemicals. Generally speaking, cats, dogs, birds, and humans aren't meant to come in contact with commercial bug sprays until the insecticides have dried completely.
Feline Leukemia Vaccine
A: Feline leukemia spreads from cat to cat via saliva, when the animals lick, bite, or groom one another. Although you don't expect your indoor cat to come in contact with another feline, there is always a possibility that she could. Have her vaccinated, even if her chances of exposure seem low.