Posts Tagged: small mammals
1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?
Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to become a veterinarian ever since I was a little kid, around 5 years old. It was the idea of what a veterinarian actually was that changed for me over the years. When I was in high school, I got to job shadow through the Interact program and Key Club and got a much better idea of what the job entailed and I fell in love with the career. My work as a zoo keeper at Niabi Zoo solidified my want to work with wildlife and exotic species.
As much as I love the work with the variety of species I see on a daily basis, what I love most about the job is giving back to the community and working with the owners of all these pets. Establishing a relationship with my clients and their family and getting to know them is a lot of fun.
3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?
During my last year of vet school, a large male Rottweiler came into the clinic with a swollen abdomen and we took x-rays, thinking the dog had a twisted stomach. When we began surgery, there was nothing wrong with the stomach at all and everything appear normal within the abdomen. During surgery, the dog’s right hind leg began to swell and he did not recover well from surgery. We ended up having to keep him in the ICU and do several more surgeries and through diagnostic testing and bacterial culture, we discovered that he had flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, and was unfortunately unable to recover. I will probably never see a case like that again in my lifetime.
4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Humane euthanasia is always the most difficult part for me. It is such an emotional time for the owners and I’m a crier anyway, so it doesn’t help the situation. The blessing of working with animals is that we have the ability to alleviate their suffering in cases of severe, incurable disease or when it’s time for them to cross that rainbow bridge, but it’s never a happy experience and doesn’t get any easier.
5. Why become a vet when you could have gone into human medicine and made more money?
Because of the variety of species I work with, every day brings something new and challenging. With the exotic animals that I see, as well as the animals from Niabi Zoo, the database of knowledge in some of these critters is extremely limited and brings about my “MacGyver” skills, trying to find new ways to treat patients that have never been done before as well as diagnose their diseases. More money would be nice, but I think I would get bored. I love what I do, so the money really isn’t a factor to me.
6. We know you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements?
Communication skills, creative thinking, and flexibility. Not every patient presents the same way, even if they have the same disease and not every owner has the same budget so approach do disease treatment and animal management is always different.
7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?
8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species?
Many veterinarians “do everything” still, even though we have specialists. There are so many general practitioners in the veterinary world that act as surgeon, dentist, nutritionist, physical therapist, Chiropractor (wink, wink Dr. Meredith), radiologist, and many more. Your role changes so frequently based on your patient and it’s needs. This is much different than practitioners in the human world.
9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?
Holistic medicine is becoming more prominent, as well as animal nutrition. Owners are becoming much more aware of the nutritional needs of their pets and asking a lot more information about appropriate diets.
10. If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?
Yes, but I’d never want to do vet school again!
Has the U.S. become the nation of too much? When it comes to weight, yes we have! Pet obesity has become a huge, no pun intended, health issue for both dogs and cats in this country.
How to Tell if Your Pet is Over Weight
1) Run your hands down the side of your pet with medium pressure. You should be able to feel ribs under a thin layer of subcutaneous fat. If you can’t your pet is probably too heavy.
2) If you feel your pet is too heavy bring them in for a more precise body measurement. This set of measurements can determine exactly how over weight your pet is and what a good target weight is.
Causes of Obesity
1) Sometimes obesity is just a matter of too much food and too little activity.
2) However, obesity can also be rooted in other issues.
- Cushing’s Disease
- Diabetes: Diabetes can be caused by too much weight but can also be the cause of weight gain if an animal develops non-insulin dependent diabetes. Confusing but ultimately weight loss will help both.
- Any disease process that affects the hypothalamus or pituitary gland: The hypothalamus regulates appetite and the pituitary gland regulates most hormone production in the body.
- Breed: Beagles, Labs, Bassets, Cattle dogs, Cockers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers and most cats to name a few.
- Age: Just like us as pets age their metabolic rate slows and the tendency to become over weight increases.
- Neutering and Spaying: When they are not hormone driven animals will put on weight more easily. That said the benefits of altering your pet far outweigh the negatives.
- Activity level: Too many pets spend all their time inside with too little activity. This is a particular challenge for cat owners.
- Food quality: The quality of food we feed has improved. Pets need less to stay fit and healthy. Conversely if you have a finicky pet who has trained you to only feed them high caloric “junk food” they will quickly become overweight.
- Medications: Glucocorticoids, Anti-seizure drugs and tranquilizers can all contribute to weight gain.
Health risks associated with obesity
2) Heart and blood pressure disease: The heart has to work much harder in overweight pets. That leads directly to high blood pressure and heart disease.
3) Bone/Joint damage: Extra weight leads to increased stress on bones and ligaments. Almost all of our cruciate repairs could use a little weight loss.
4) Respiratory problems: Too much fat makes for a greater work load and puts extra pressure on the lungs and trachea. If you own a dog or cat with a shortened, also known as brachycephalic, facial structure this can cause serious health problems. Likewise, many of our collapsing trachea dogs show improvement with weight loss.
5) Increased anesthetic risk: What happens if you have a lot of fat and your anesthetic is fat soluble? You wake up more slowly. How much harder is it to perform surgery in an abdomen that is full of fat? A lot harder. Has obesity been shown to decrease resistance to bacteria? Yes.
6) Decreased lifespan and quality of life: Everything mentioned above will shorten your pets’ life. It will also seriously impinge on their ability to enjoy the life they have.
On the next blog we will talk about strategies for weight loss.
We have already established that pain is, well, a pain! Webster’s defines pain as: localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder and a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus received by naked nerve endings… That’s painful to even read!
If you read our last blog you know how important it is to control pain. Left untreated, pain negatively affects the wellbeing, health and longevity of our pets. The question is how can we help once we know our pets are suffering .
- Drugs: Drugs are generally the first line of defense in pain management. We use anesthetics, analgesics, muscle relaxants, steroids and even antidepressants to treat pain. Local anesthetics are also used to treat site specific pain or as nerve blocks in dental and surgical procedures.
- Nutraceuticals: Cosequin/Dasuquin: The ingredients in these drugs work together to maintain the structure of joint cartilage while slowing the enzymes that break it down. They work well. Just make sure you use products that have verified ingredients and molecular weight. There are many on the market and they are not all equal in ingredients or effectiveness.
- Chiropractic: Chiropractic can help increase an animal’s range of motion, help alleviate back and joint pain, optimize neurologic function and help reduce the need for long term drug treatments. Improved function and decreased pain will all help to provide an overall higher quality of life. Improved neurological function may also lead to improved function of other organs and systems.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is used for many reasons but pain management is one it’s moist important applications. It is believed to have a healing affect through the stimulation of specific points on the body. By inserting a needle in these points acupuncture stimulate nerves, increases circulation, relieves muscle spasms and causes the release of endorphins that ease pain. It has been used in people for over 4,000 years but is relatively new to veterinary medicine.
- Massage: The CVMA defines Medical massage as a practice “that targets conditions based on a veterinarian’s diagnosis; it involves specific techniques with the goal of producing measurable responses from the patient. Medical Massage for Animals brings a scientific perspective to massage therapy for dogs, inspired by the core connections of structure and function. It takes into consideration underlying medical conditions, with the goal of optimizing patient wellness, safety, and comfort by incorporating insights from osteopathic manipulative therapy and acupuncture.”
- Cold Laser: Cold laser is a non-cutting laser which works by stimulating cells and increasing blood circulation. At the correct wavelength, pain signals are reduced, nerve sensitivity decreases and endorphins released. Cold Laser is used in wound healing, ulcers, burns, wounds, cruciate ligament injury, sprain, strain, shoulder lameness, arthritis, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, lick granuloma, head shaking, back pain, back injury, disc disease.
- Heat/Cold Therapy: Heat and cold therapy has been around forever. Cold is effective in reducing swelling and inflammation and heat improves circulation. Both are readily or available, free and they work.
No one likes to feel pain. Pain can be good when it keeps us from doing things that will harm our bodies but untreated pain is never good. There was a time when people believed that animals did not feel pain on the same level as humans. Fortunately we now understand that this is not the case at all. Animals feel pain in much the same way as we do. If you think something would be painful for you, it is most likely painful to your pet as well.
What animals do is mask pain. In the wild the organism that shows pain becomes lunch. Unfortunately, that very stoicism, if unrecognized, can lead to increased suffering for our pets. As veterinarians and owners, it becomes our job then to ensure that our pets receive adequate pain management. Good pain control is good medicine. It is an integral part of patient management at Animal Family.
Why is pain control so important? Uncontrolled, pain affects not only the well being but the behavior, health and longevity of our pets. How so?
- Pain prolongs recovery time from surgery, injury or illness.
- It may cause arthritic cats to urinate or defecate outside the box. Sadly, this may be mislabeled as a behavior problem resulting in euthanasia.
- It can lead to maladaptive pain. That is pain which is caused by things that are not normally painful. An example would be the older dog or cat which bites when a child attempts to pet them.It can cause self mutilation. An animal may lick or chew at a body part unrelentingly creating even further damage.
- It may cause weight loss due to oral or body pain.
- Pets may be unwilling to groom and take care of their coat due to pain.
- A previously active animal may become listless. It may simply be too painful to move.
- A pet can become constipated due to an inability to posture and defecate normally.
- Pain may precipitate pacing and restlessness. A behavior that may be misinterpreted as nervousness.
- Pain can cause aggression towards other animals. An animal which anticipates pain may strike preemptively at a housemate
As owners and veterinarians we must make recognition of pain a priority. It is important to watch your pet carefully for the subtle signs of discomfort or distress. Our new golden rule must be to never allow our pet to remain in pain because we have simply become used to seeing them that way seeing them that way. Watch for changes in behavior and talk it over with your veterinarian. Then as a team you can work to make your pet’s life not only longer but happier.
Puppy is sleeping on the couch and shedding hair with each snore. Kitty just knocked over the potted plant for the third time this month. Then there’s the vet bills, the food, the groomer. Geez! After all, what has Fido or Kitty done for you lately? We like to think that we are the hero in our animal/human relationships but the truth is animals give back plenty. Want some reminders of why we benefit from pet ownership? Read on.
- Pets make our children healthier.
- The Journal of Pediatrics found that kids with pets are less likely to develop eczema.
- Another study found that infants with pets developed fewer respiratory infections.
- Multiple studies have found that Infants with pets also develop fewer allergies.
- Pets make our children happier.
- Pets provide unconditional love and help build self esteem and reduce loneliness.
- Pets can provide a bridge for shy children to interact with others. They give them something to talk about with other children and make it easier for peers to approach them.
- Pets help us get out and exercise.
- The American Journal of Public Health tells us that both children and adults with dogs spend more time in physical activity.
- Pets help us live better and longer.
- Multiple studies have shown that pet owners make fewer doctor visits, have lower blood pressure and are less depressed than no pet owners.
- Pet ownership provides companionship and comfort to seniors. It also encourages mobility and improves overall mood in the elderly.
- Pets can be trained to help in amazing ways.
- Dogs can sniff out, bombs and cancers. They can detect illegal drugs and let us know when we have low blood sugar. Dogs can be taught to alert us to an impending seizure, and they can help guide the blind. They will pick up a pencil for the paralyzed, hear a doorbell for the deaf or help locate a lost child. Dogs will search a collapsed building or a snow slide. They will provide company for our children and protection for home. They entertain, comfort, protect, guide, carry, pull, swim or whatever else we ask of them. Our pets improve our lives over and over in so many ways and most of the time we don’t even realize it. In return we give care, love and shelter. Is it a fair trade? Definitely!
Cavia porcellus, better known as the Guinea Pig is a South American Rodent that has been domesticated for around 3,000 years. They are used primarily for food in South America but are beloved as pets here in North America. Guinea pigs are generally easy to handle, non-aggressive, come in a variety of coat types and colors and are a favorite small companion for children of all ages.
Guinea pigs live an average of 5 – 8 years. Thick bodied with short limbs they can weigh anywhere from 700 to 1200 grams. Pigs are a social animal and prefer to have a housemate. Females become sexually mature at the tender age of 6 weeks of age so if you have a mixed group, neuter your male. Gestation is about 4 weeks. Guinea pigs produce “precocious” young who are eating solid foods within 5 days of birth. One important thing to know is that if females do not give birth before 6 months of age their pubic symphysis will mineralize rendering them unable to deliver a baby.
Guinea pigs can be kept in a wire cage with a solid bottom and shredded paper bedding. Avoid wire bottom cages since they can cause injuries and other foot problems. The same goes for aromatic shavings which cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. Guinea pigs prefer to have a hiding place or hutch for privacy and an exercise area. Do not use an exercise ball. They are not climbers and do not need a cage top. Just make certain that the sides are high enough to keep them in. As their name suggests, Guinea pigs can be quite messy and should have their enclosure and feed dishes cleaned frequently. One final point to remember is that these mountain dwellers do not tolerate high temperatures or humidity. Try to keep temperatures between 61 to 75 degrees. Anything above 80 degrees can cause heat stroke.
Guinea pigs are vegetarians and need a diet comprised primarily of timothy hay, a commercial pelleted feed with added vitamin C and fresh vegetables such as dandelions, parsley and kale. A small amount of fresh fruit is OK but only as a treat. Guinea pigs cannot synthesize vitamin C so great care must be taken to ensure that they receive an adequate (10mg/kg/day) amount in their feed. Vitamin C tablets are also available.
The most common problem we see in Guinea pigs at the Animal Family is dental disease caused by malocclusion of the molars. If your pig is not eating well or simply looks poor it is important to have the teeth checked.
Guinea pigs are very sensitive to changes in diet and environment. Because of this, they are prone to GI problems due to an over growth of “bad bacteria”. Use of the wrong type of antibiotic can also cause GI problems in pigs. Signs may include bloating, diarrhea and loss of condition.
We see urinary calculi and bladder infections more than we would like too. It is more common in pigs on a high calcium diet like alfalfa, but some may simply be genetically predisposed to developing urinary tract problems. Signs may include, frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine and vocalizing while urinating.
Their small lungs and sensitivity to Bordatella bacteria make pneumonia a particular problem for Guinea pigs. Stress, exposure to dogs and other Bordatella carriers and poor ventilation can all cause disease. Signs include nasal discharge, sneezing, rapid respiration and lethargy. Severe cases can cause death.
Bumble foot or Pododermatitis is seen in animals kept on wire flooring. This problem can be quite severe if it goes untreated. Swelling, ulceration and secondary infection can render your pig unable to bear weight. If your pet develops this problem even though you have proper flooring, you may need to check your source of Vitamin C.
Mites and ringworm are another common problem of Guinea pigs. You may see intense itching and hair loss. The good news is both are also easily treated. Your pig will love for helping him with these nasty critters.
Our blog is only meant to be an introduction to Guinea pigs. More information is available through your veterinarian, the library or on-line.
Wow! We are already well into August. As hard as it is to believe, fall is on the way. The cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage remind us that we need to start preparing for the coming winter. But beware; fall can also bring new hazards for our pets. Check our list below to make certain your faithful friend doesn’t fall prey to one of the many hazards of autumn.
- Rodenticides: Cooler weather usually sends mice looking for a warm place to spend the winter. If you battle infestation of these pests with rodenticides make sure they are placed where your pet can’t reach them. If you even suspect accidental ingestion, call your vet right away. These products are deadly to more than just mice.
- Antifreeze: We are all familiar with the fall ritual of adding antifreeze to the car radiator. This sweet and tasty product is deadly to pets and children. Keep it far away from both. While you’re at it, call or write the manufacturer and ask for noxious flavoring to be added to antifreeze.
- Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spiders: Be careful not to bring these poisonous spiders in with your fall fire wood. They both like to hide away in wood piles and other undisturbed places. Neither is aggressive but could bite if frightened.
- Fall Berries: Make sure to find out which berry producing plants in your yard are pet and child safe. Just because birds eat them doesn’t make them OK for your pet. Check out Poisonous Plants of the Midwest for more information.
- Lawn Chemicals: If you like to fertilize your lawn in the fall please make sure to follow directions on how long to keep your pet off the grass after application. Many lawn chemicals can be a hazard to both pets and their people.
- Halloween: Halloween is a dangerous time for pets. All the strange goblins roaming your neighborhood can be scary. This is also a time when pranks can get out of hand and loose pets injured. Keep them safely locked indoors. This goes double if you own a black cat. Finally, keep your pet safe from the treats your little ghoulies bring home. Chocolate and Xylitol sweetened treats are toxic to pets.
- Thanksgiving: Ah, the fatty treats and turkey bones of Thanksgiving keep veterinary offices humming through the holiday. Don’t let a bad case of pancreatitis be your memory of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday.
- Fleas: YES! This is the worst time of year for these nasty critters! Don’t stop using protection just because the nights are cooler.
- Arthritis: Cooler weather is hard on old bones and joints. Keep an eye on your pet. They may require medication changes or chiropractic care as the temperatures drop.
We love creatures of every different type at our clinic! We love the barkers, the meowers, the squawkers, the rodents and the bunnies, the snakes and the lizards. That said, there is one creature that we all hate. The flea! Unfortunately, we have been seeing way too much of Ctenocephalides canis and felis lately. There has been a huge outbreak of flea infestation cases in the QCA. Fleas are a nasty pest but most importantly they can be the source other bigger problems. So …it’s time remind you once again, why it’s important to have your pet on preventative.
- Fleas make their living by biting other animals and feeding on their blood. When fleas bite they inject saliva into the skin of their host which can cause inflammation, itching, allergic dermatitis and hair loss. Even worse, if the host is small enough or the number of fleas’ large enough, anemia can result from blood loss.
- Fleas don’t just bite your pet. They bite you. They bite your children. Everybody gets itchy and everybody can get sick with a myriad of other diseases.
- A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs each day and up to 2000 eggs in her short life time!!! Of course by the time you discover that your pet has fleas, there are most likely eggs and larva throughout your home.
- Fleas act as a transport vehicle for the aptly named “Flea” tapeworm. Pets ingest fleas as they groom. Once the flea is in the digestive system, the larva breaks free and finds a home in your pet’s intestines. An adult tapeworm can grow up to 75 cm (29.5 inches). According to CPAC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), “Infections of children with D. caninum following ingestion of an infected flea are occasionally reported. The disease induced in the child is generally mild, confined to the intestinal tract, and readily treated, but can still be distressing to the family.”
- Fleas carry the Plague – and yes we do mean the Bubonic plague.
- Fleas carry Typhus and yes it can be transmitted to humans. According to Pubmed Health, “Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii.” The form of typhus depends on which type of bacteria causes the infection. Murine typhus occurs in the southeastern and southern United States, often during the summer and fall. It is rarely deadly. Risk factors for murine typhus include:
Exposure to rat fleas or feces
Exposure to other animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats
- Fleas can help to transmit “Cat Scratch” disease from one cat to another. We humans get Cat Scratch Fever when we are scratched by an infected feline.
- Fleas can transmit hemoplasmas, a blood borne parasite that can cause damage to the red calls which results in anemia in your pet.
- Even if your pet never goes outdoors, you can carry fleas into the house on your pants legs. Fleas can survive the winter just fine as long as you continue to heat your home. We have been seeing inside only pets who have fleas.
- Once there is an established flea infestation, it can be time consuming and expensive to resolve. Like so many other problems fleas are much easier to prevent than alleviate.
I don’t know about you but I’m going to go make sure my dog is up to date on his flea prevention.
Baby it’s hot outside! We have all watched the effect of this summer’s heat and lack of water on our lawns and farmer’s crops but what about our pets? How important is water to their well being?
Water is THE essential nutrient. It covers about 70% of the earth’s surface and comprises 70 -80% of a dog or cat’s body mass. Animals can survive the loss of up to one half of their muscle and fat but will perish with the loss of just one tenth of essential body water. (Cat’s are more sensitive to fasting than dogs and may develop fatty liver syndrome if they go without food for even a few days.)
Water helps the body function through:
- Temperature regulation through perspiration and panting
- Flushing out toxins and waste
- Cushioning joints and protecting organs
- Lubricating eyes, mouth, nose, digestive system and all of the body’s tissues.
- Helping blood flow smoothly through the body.
- Providing the “broth” needed to dissolve and mix the body’s essential chemicals.
- Keeping the body’s acid/base balance correct.
How much water is necessary to keep your pet functioning well? According to AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) the general rule of thumb is that most animals should have approximately 28 milliliters (just less than an ounce) per pound per day. So your 40# dog needs at least a liter of water per day while your ten pound cat requires around a quarter of a liter. For the most part, if you just provide clean water, your pet will drink whatever they require.
What are the signs of dehydration?
- Sunken eyes
- Dry or tacky gums
- Depression or lethargy
- Dark, strong smelling urine
- Decrease or cessation of urination
- Increased heart rate
- Higher than normal body temperature if overheated ( normal high is 102.5)
- Seizures/kidney failure/death if not corrected.
Water facts from AAHA:
- Water bowls need to be cleaned daily. Otherwise bacteria can cause unpalatable tastes and even make your pet ill.
- Water bowls need to be flat bottomed or weighted so your pet cannot tip them over.
- Water evaporates rapidly in the heat. Check bowls multiple times in hot weather.
- Chained pets can end up wrapped up and unable to reach their water bowl. Check them often.
- The toilet is not a water fountain. It can contain bacteria and chemicals that can make your pet sick. Smaller pets may actually fall in and drown.
- Many amphibians don’t drink from a bowl or sipper and need to have their water misted or sprayed into a moist environment.
- Retiles need long, shallow bowls that they use for both soaking and drinking. Check bowls for feces and clean them frequently.
- Just like us, the more your pet exercises the more water they require.
We are well into the season of thunder storms and fireworks. If you have a dog that is afraid of loud noises their fear can take much of the fun out of summer. An anxious dog may cower, salivate, pace, hide, howl or even destroy furniture during storms. Finding ways to calm them can be difficult.
Fear is a normal response. It is what keeps us from being run over by a car or falling off a cliff. In those cases fear acts as an adaptive response that aids in survival. However, if fear keeps us from performing everyday tasks it is not normal.
No one really knows for certain why some dogs become fearful and others do not. Some breeds appear to be more prone to developing phobias. In other cases a past traumatic event may be linked to specific noises and act as a fear inducing stimuli.
What are some of the things you can do to help your dog cope with fearful situations?
1) First, determine if your dog is afraid of the sounds or if there are other factors that comes into play. Dogs with storm phobias may be reacting to stimuli such as the flashing lightning, static in the air, rainfall or the wind.
- Try placing your dog a room without windows. Does this reduce anxiety?
- Now try placing foam earplugs or cotton in your dog’s ears . If this seems to help the problem is more likely noise related.
2) Find a safe place for your dog.
- Where does your dog gravitate when frightened? Make sure that area is accessible during a storm or scary event. It could be the basement, bathroom or under the bed. Do not put your dog in a crate unless that is their safe place. Otherwise they could be injured trying to escape.
3) Try adding in white noise. This could be music or even the television as long as it helps distract and/or cover up other scary sounds. Do not make it so loud that it becomes yet another source of anxiety for your pet.
4) Try a thunder shirt. These are wraps that are similar to a swaddling wrap that is used on infants. Your dog has complete freedom of movement but the pressure provides relief and comfort..
5) Distract your dog with something pleasurable. That may be a favorite toy or activity. In cases of mild anxiety this may provide relief.
6) Dog Appeasement Pheromone (DAP) is a product that is believed to reduce anxiety. It is available as a spray or diffuser. Some owners swear by these products.
7) The ASPCA has great information on desensitizing and counter conditioning. Be careful and work with a behavioral specialist because if desensitizing is done incorrectly, you can actually make your dog worse.
8) Medications that control anxiety can be used along with other methods to increase success. Consult your veterinarian about these and all medications.
9) Never punish your dog for being fearful. That will only compound the problem.
10) Don’t over reassure your dog either. Telling them over and over what a poor baby they are may actually reinforce their fearful behavior.
11) Finally, make certain that you are calm. If you’re afraid of storms and loud noises you can’t be much help to your pet.