Why do cats purr? How do they purr?

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This is one of the oldest mysteries known to cat lovers.  Let’s start with some facts we do know and work our way to the mysteries of the purr.

  • Fact: kittens purr at just a few days old.
    • Speculation: perhaps this is to let the mother cat (queen) know that the kitten is present and ok. Perhaps it is for bonding the kitten to the queen.
  • Fact: adult cats purr too.
    • Speculation: cats seems to purr when content such as when their owners rub them in their favorite spot.  However, cats have been known to purr when they are less than happy.   We have quite a few cats that purr right through receiving vaccinations or a painful injury.  So why do cats purr?  Perhaps it is a calming mechanism – used to comfort kittens, bond with a mother, or try to calm down in a stressful situation.  What do you think? When does your cat purr?
  • Fact: cats with a disease called laryngeal paralysis cannot purr.
    • Speculation: This fact gives us an important clue for how cats actually make the purring sound.  It is currently believed that the sound originates by some mechanism of laryngeal muscles.   Other scientists believe that the purring noise comes from alternating vibration of the diaphragm and larynx.  A “neural oscillator” in the cat’s brain may signal the purring noise.
  • Fact: cats can purr both while inhaling and exhaling.
    • Speculation: this fact makes purring somewhat unique.  Meowing and other vocalizations are usually on the inhale.
  • Have you ever noticed a cat’s purring making you feel more calm?
    • Interestingly, there are some studies that show noises in the 24-140 hertz range (like a purr at 25-150 hertz) can promote healing, pain relief, and bone growth. So if you are not feeling well, some purr-therapy maybe help you feel better.  Of course we recommend following your medical doctor’s advice with regards to your own health!
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September is Animal Pain Awareness Month

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Identifying pain in animals can be quite tricky!  Some of them are stoic and mask their pain very well.  The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management has declared September as Animal Pain Awareness Month so we thought it would be a great month to talk about how to tell if your pet is in pain.

  • Change in activity. If your pet stops enjoying tasks he usually enjoys, that can be a sign of pain.  Pacing and restlessness can also be a sign of pain.   Therefore if something about your pet’s activity seems off to you, you should have your pet evaluated for pain.
  • Jumping on counters or in the car. One of the changes we see frequently in arthritic cats, is a decrease in the amount of jumping – particularly on the counter or tall furniture. Dogs also can display this sign, but it’s usually a decrease in the ability to jump into the car.
  • Slow to rise and get moving. If your pet seems stiff and slow moving after sleeping or lying down, this is a sign of arthritis.  Arthritis causes painful joints and difficulty moving.
  • Grumpiness or change in personality. One sign of pain that can be very subtle is a change in personality.  If your pet has been extra grumpy, clingy, or aloof lately, it could be a sign of pain.
  • Some animals, especially dogs, will pant when painful.
  • Whining, barking, or other vocalizations can be an indication of discomfort
  • Change in potty habits. If your housetrained pet is suddenly having accidents, they could be in pain. If you notice your pet taking longer than usual or taking an abnormal posture to urinate/defecate, this is another sign of pain.
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Heartworm Awareness Month

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April is Heartworm Awareness Month.  Here at My Zoo, we practice the most up to date recommendations for keeping your pet healthy and safe from these terrible parasites!  In honor of Heartworm Awareness Month, here are the basics of heartworms.

 

Who can get heart worms?

Among our pets, heartworms are most common in dogs.  However, cats are not immune!   In both species, heartworms cause damage to the heart and lungs and cause your pets to be very sick.  The longer the worms stay in your pet, the more damage can be done.

 

What can be done to protect my pet?

Heartworm preventatives are very effective.  There are multiple varieties available and we can help you decide what is right for your pet’s lifestyle.  Generally, there are monthly medications that can be applied topically (on the skin) or given as a treat depending on the medication.  There is also an injection we can administer here in the clinic to protect dogs from heartworms for 6 months.  Our team can help you pick the right one!

 

Do I need to test my dog every year even though I use heartworm prevention?

This is an excellent question.   Heartworm prevention is very effective, however if you are late or forget a month, your pet can be at risk!   Some dogs may even vomit the pill outside or rub off the skin treatment while you are not looking.  Studies show the longer those worms are in the body, the more severe the damage is to your pet’s heart.  Therefore, we perform yearly testing for dogs to make sure they live happy, healthy, and long lives!

 

Where do heartworms come from?

Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes.  When an infected mosquito bites your dog (or cat), the worms crawl out of the mosquito and enter your dog.  The baby worm then travels in the blood to heart, where it matures and starts reproducing.  The baby worms then travel to the small blood vessels near the skin’s surface to await a mosquito.  The mosquito then carries the baby to the next host.

 

Do I have to give prevention year round? 

Yes!  That is what is best for your pet!  I wouldn’t bet my pet’s health on a Missouri winter!  This last winter is a perfect example of why I don’t bet on a cold enough winter.  1 mosquito is all it takes.

 

 

If you have more questions, feel free to give us a call at 573-875-3647.

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Pregnant with Pets – Concerns about Cats

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Wear gloves and a mask!

In this photo, Dr. Katie is demonstrating proper personal protective equipment for litter box cleaning if you are pregnant. Pregnant women who clean the litter box should wear gloves and a mask, and thoroughly wash their hands when finished. Masks and disposable gloves are available at many stores and online.

Many people have had a lot of questions about being safe around animals during pregnancy.   The most commonly asked question is “Is it safe to be around cats when you’re expecting?” We hope to answer that question and maybe give a few more tips about being safe around pets when you or a loved one is expecting.

 

Is it safe to be around cats? The short answer is yes, but precautions should be taken to protect the mother. Generally when people ask this question, they have the disease toxoplasmosis in mind.   Toxoplasma is a parasite that can be very harmful to an unborn baby if the mother acquires the infection for the first time during pregnancy.   It can cause miscarriage, neurological defects (brain damage), blindness, and other symptoms. Some of these symptoms may not be apparent at birth, but they may become evident as the child grows.   Cats pick up this infection by ingesting small animals (mice, birds, etc). For this reason, we recommend keeping your cat indoors to minimize hunting of small prey.   Infected cats shed the parasite in the feces. It takes one or more days for the parasite to develop in the cat’s feces to an infective form.

 

How would a pregnant woman become infected with toxoplasma? Interestingly, most people acquire toxoplasma by eating undercooked meat or contaminated produce.   A pregnant woman can also become infected by inadvertently ingesting contaminated cat feces or inhaling litter dust while cleaning the litter box.

 

 

Here are some tips quoted directly from the Center of Disease Control on preventing toxoplasmosis (http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections-toxo.html):

  • Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change the cat’s litter box daily. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box every day, because the parasite found in cat feces needs one or more days after being passed to become infectious. Wash hands well with soap and water afterwards.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after any exposure to soil, sand, raw meat, or unwashed vegetables.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly; that is, to an internal temperature of 160° F and until it is no longer pink in the center or until the juices become colorless. Do not taste meat before it is fully cooked.
  • Freeze meat for several days before cooking to greatly reduce the chance of infection.
  • Wash all cutting boards and knives thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use.
  • Wash and/or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Wear gloves when gardening or handling sand from a sandbox. Wash hands well afterward.
  • Avoid drinking untreated water, particularly when traveling in less developed countries.

 

 

Do you have questions? Feel free to give us a call at 573-875-3647. If you have an idea or a question you’d like answered on a blog, leave a comment here or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MyZooAnimalHospital)

 

 

 

MORE INFORMATION

 

Remember, if you are expecting, it’s even more important for your pets to be healthy and up to date on vaccinations. Schedule an appointment today to get your pet checked out and up to date. Call us at 573-875-3647.

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Life with a Blind Kitten – Stevie’s Story

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By  Dr. Katie

Hello everyone!  A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about how many pets I have (How Many Pets Does a Veterinarian Have?).   Well I have an addition to my household, and here’s the scoop on my newest edition….

Dr. Katie snapped this photo on the first day she got Stevie.  You can tell her eyes are not normal

Dr. Katie snapped this photo on the first day she got Stevie. You can tell her eyes are not normal

Early in September, 3 college age ladies brought a tiny 1 pound kitten to My Zoo Animal Hospital.  They found the little kitten under a bush near their apartment complex.   The kitten clearly had a problem with her eyes, and the ladies were concerned that some sort of trauma had occurred to injure the kitten’s eyes.   They named her Stevie (after Stevie Wonder).  Since she’s a girl kitten, I tend to think her as named after Stevie Nicks now.  The kind-hearted young women decided to bring this little kitten in for an exam and her first vaccinations even though their apartment didn’t allow pets.

Stevie is wondering what the glasses are.  Are they another cat toy?

Stevie is wondering what the glasses are. Are they another cat toy?

Well, I fell in love with the adorable little creature.  Since the ladies couldn’t keep her, I offered to take Stevie and find her a good home.  I took her home that day and started treating her eye infection.  It’s been 5 weeks, and I think we can safely say that Stevie’s going to stay in my home.   She follows the sound of my footsteps as I work around my house.  She sits on my shoulder when I sit on the couch.   Her playful antics and adorable personality have won my heart.  It doesn’t bother me a bit that she has severe congenital defects with her eyes.   Part of her eyelids didn’t develop (eyelid agenesis) and her eyes are too small for her head (microphthalmia).   I believe she is almost completely blind, but she hasn’t let it slow her down.   In my house, I am careful to keep her environment safe.  When I’m at work, I keep her in a small room away from my dogs so she doesn’t get into any trouble.  As she grows, I’ll see how her eyes continue to develop.  There’s a possibility I may have to perform surgery to make sure she stays a happy, comfortable cat, but for now…I’m enjoying watching my blind kitten grow up!  They grow so quickly!

 

Stevie is pretty sure ponytails are just another form of cat toys.

Stevie is pretty sure ponytails are just another form of cat toys.

Stevie isn't a great companion for naps.

Stevie isn’t a great companion for naps.

You can even tell from this picture that Stevie has defects with her eyes.

You can’t even tell from this picture that Stevie has defects with her eyes.

Dr. Katie's blind kitten and her greyhound share a water bowl.

Dr. Katie’s blind kitten and her greyhound share a water bowl.

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A Day in the Life of a Flea

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Hi!  My name is Mrs. Fleanice, and I am here today to talk today about what it’s like being a flea.

 

So I am a Ctenocephalides felis, or a cat flea.  Although I am called a cat flea, I can feed off any mammal.   My species is also the most common type of flea infesting dogs as well as cats.  I am a small (1 to 2 mm long), dark brown to black insect with a thin appearance, and I have very powerful hind legs that can propel me quite high (almost 1 foot) for my small size.

 

I had a very normal flea childhood.  My mother laid a salt-like egg that slid right off of the dog she was living on.  My egg resided in between the boards of a hardwood floor for a couple of days.  After about 4 days, I hatched into a flea larva (which looks like a tiny maggot).  It sounds quite gross, but as a larva, I fed on my mother’s and other family members’ poop.  Flea poop is a nutritious meal for flea larvae as the poop is essentially dried blood.  As I grew, I shed my skin a couple of times and went through 3 larval stages.  In ideal conditions (warm and humid), I began to spin a cocoon and became a pupa during my 3rd larval stage.  My cocoon is very sticky so I can stick to a host or gain a shell of dust and fine debris.  After about 3-4 weeks, I emerged as a beautiful butterfly…just kidding!   After 3-4 weeks, I became a full-fledged adult flea.   I found a comfortable dog to live on and started meeting boy fleas and partying!  So far I’ve produced over 100 eggs, and I plan to continue feeding, partying, and producing more eggs until the day I die!

 

Here are some really interesting facts about my life and fleas:

  • If I didn’t find a suitable host right away, I could have lived for months without a blood meal.  I would simply wait for an appropriate host to come by.  Sometimes while people are on vacations and their dogs are not at home, we party in their house.  So when the owners come home, a bunch of us have hatched and we’re ready to feed.
  • If you see me on your dog, then you probably have hundreds more fleas in the larval and egg stages in your house.  As adults, we only make up about 5% of the flea population.   That means for every adult flea you see, there are 95 more you’re unable to see.
  • Our eggs and larvae tend to accumulate wherever the animal we’re feeding on spends the most time.  We don’t really care if that’s a pet’s bed, a human’s bed where the pet sleeps, a couch, a dog house, or even the dirt in your back yard.  As long as the temperature and humidity are ok – we will survive.
  • When the temperature is between 55F and 90F, and the relative humidity is 92% we can go from an egg to an adult in about 14 days, but it can take 140 days when the environment is not as ideal.
  • We also carry a tapeworm that can be passed to dogs and cats if the animal happens to eat one of us on accident.
  • I can bite a pet up to 200 times per day!
  • There are a number of products that can kill us.  Because of our complex life cycle, your pet’s veterinarian can recommend a treatment plan that encompasses multiple life stages.  If you just focus on killing adults, you’ll continue to see fleas because of all the other stages of our life cycle.  Of course…as a flea, I recommend just letting us feed on you and your pets forever!

 

 

I hope you found my life very interesting.  Even though I love partying on your pet, I know Dr. Katie or Dr. Debbie would love to help you stop our party.  If you have any questions, call them today 573-875-3647.

Hi!  My name is Mrs. Fleanice, and I am here today to talk today about what it’s like being a flea.

 

So I am a Ctenocephalides felis, or a cat flea.  Although I am called a cat flea, I can feed off any mammal.   My species is also the most common type of flea infesting dogs as well as cats.  I am a small (1 to 2 mm long), dark brown to black insect with a thin appearance, and I have very powerful hind legs that can propel me quite high (almost 1 foot) for my small size.

 

I had a very normal flea childhood.  My mother laid a salt-like egg that slid right off of the dog she was living on.  My egg resided in between the boards of a hardwood floor for a couple of days.  After about 4 days, I hatched into a flea larva (which looks like a tiny maggot).  It sounds quite gross, but as a larva, I fed on my mother’s and other family members’ poop.  Flea poop is a nutritious meal for flea larvae as the poop is essentially dried blood.  As I grew, I shed my skin a couple of times and went through 3 larval stages.  In ideal conditions (warm and humid), I began to spin a cocoon and became a pupa during my 3rd larval stage.  My cocoon is very sticky so I can stick to a host or gain a shell of dust and fine debris.  After about 3-4 weeks, I emerged as a beautiful butterfly…just kidding!   After 3-4 weeks, I became a full-fledged adult flea.   I found a comfortable dog to live on and started meeting boy fleas and partying!  So far I’ve produced over 100 eggs, and I plan to continue feeding, partying, and producing more eggs until the day I die!

 

Here are some really interesting facts about my life and fleas:

  • If I didn’t find a suitable host right away, I could have lived for months without a blood meal.  I would simply wait for an appropriate host to come by.  Sometimes while people are on vacations and their dogs are not at home, we party in their house.  So when the owners come home, a bunch of us have hatched and we’re ready to feed.
  • If you see me on your dog, then you probably have hundreds more fleas in the larval and egg stages in your house.  As adults, we only make up about 5% of the flea population.   That means for every adult flea you see, there are 95 more you’re unable to see.
  • Our eggs and larvae tend to accumulate wherever the animal we’re feeding on spends the most time.  We don’t really care if that’s a pet’s bed, a human’s bed where the pet sleeps, a couch, a dog house, or even the dirt in your back yard.  As long as the temperature and humidity are ok – we will survive.
  • When the temperature is between 55F and 90F, and the relative humidity is 92% we can go from an egg to an adult in about 14 days, but it can take 140 days when the environment is not as ideal.
  • We also carry a tapeworm that can be passed to dogs and cats if the animal happens to eat one of us on accident.
  • I can bite a pet up to 200 times per day!
  • There are a number of products that can kill us.  Because of our complex life cycle, your pet’s veterinarian can recommend a treatment plan that encompasses multiple life stages.  If you just focus on killing adults, you’ll continue to see fleas because of all the other stages of our life cycle.  Of course…as a flea, I recommend just letting us feed on you and your pets forever!

 

 

I hope you found my life very interesting.  Even though I love partying on your pet, I know Dr. Katie or Dr. Debbie would love to help you stop our party.  If you have any questions, call them today 573-875-3647.

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A Normal Day – A Day in the Life – Dr. Katie #7

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7:20 amWoke up.  I rolled out of bed, let the dogs out, got dressed, and trudged down the hall.

 7:30 am – I started the day by eating a cup of yogurt and watching the local news.   I always check the weather.   During the hot days of summer, I always worry about animals getting too hot.  Remember to provide shelter and water for your animals.  Pets can over heat too!

7:50 am – Arrived at work. Before starting appointments at 8 am, I poured a cup of coffee and checked the schedule and files of patients coming in.   I perform physical exams on any patients here for surgery to make sure they are healthy enough for anesthesia.  Usually I don’t get to sit and finish my coffee and end up gulping down the last bit when it’s already cold!

 

8-8:45 – Spayed a cat.  The most common surgeries we perform here are castrations and spays.  Interestingly, the term neuter refers not just to males but also to spaying a female animal as well.  We blogged about neutering pets in an earlier blog post (http://www.myzooanimalhospital.com/ruby-speaks-out-on-neutering-pets).

9:00- about noon – During this time I saw appointments.  Today, I gave an 8 week old puppy her first set of vaccinations and started her on heartworm prevention.  Puppies can still get infected from heartworms even though they are young, so it’s important to start them on prevention around 8 weeks of age!  During this first visit, I also dewormed for common intestinal worms.   I also saw a sick 17 yr old cat.  We performed blood work on the cat and found out that this cat’s kidneys aren’t functioning as well as they should.  This is a really common problem in older cats, and one that can be managed with a special diet and keeping the pet appropriately hydrated.   During the afternoon appointments, I also saw a dog with low thyroid, a cat with flea allergies, and a family of 3 healthy cats for routine vaccinations. I also cleaned up a wound on a dog’s paw, and applied a medicated bandage.

Gus is sleeping with his nub hanging of the shelf

Gus is sleeping with his nub hanging of the shelf

12:30 – Lunch.  I went home to let out my geriatric greyhound.  While our technicians were caring for lodging animals, I headed home to take care of my dogs.  I have an old greyhound who depends on a regular bathroom schedule.   Gary has written quite a few blog posts about caring for older dogs (Care of the Older Dog , and Avoiding Heat Stroke).   During lunch I also checked on my 3 chinchillas who are usually sleeping at that time.  They are just so cute when they sleep!  My 3 legged chinchilla (Gus) was sleeping with his nub hanging off the ledge today!

 

1:30 – Closing – During the afternoon, I continued to see appointments.   During this afternoon, I performed examinations and gave vaccinations to 3 more dogs and 2 cats.   3 of these animals were overweight so I discussed weight loss plans and took measurements that help me calculate a healthy weight.  Overweight pets are more inclined to have arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, and other issues.   Overweight pets have a shortened life expectancy and a decreased quality of life!  Around 3:00pm, I saw a 19 year old cat who no longer was enjoying life.  After discussing numerous options, the owners decided that it was time to say goodbye.  I performed euthanasia to ease this pet’s suffering and let her rest.  As a veterinarian, this is the hardest part of my job, but I know that it’s one of the most important tasks.   Guiding a suffering pet to a peaceful rest is the final act of service I can perform to help an animal.  I gave the owners a great big hug as they headed out the door.   Around 4:00pm we performed x-rays on a patient we diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago.  The lungs were still free of visible metastases!  Hooray!  I saw a couple more appointments before closing: 2 more puppies, a constipated cat, a limping Yorkie, and a beagle with ear issues.

 

6:00pm – Around 6:00pm I headed home for the evening.  I took my dogs on a walk while I warmed up for a jog.  My dogs are old so they don’t like running, but they do enjoy the warm-up walk!  Then I met a neighbor and we ran together for 3 miles.   We’re preparing for a 5K in July to benefit orphans in Haiti.   I watered my flowers, and cleaned up after the run.  Last night, my husband cooked a stir-fry dinner that was ready around 9:00pm.  After dinner, I get ready for bed and the next day!

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How many pets does a veterinarian have? – Day in the Life – Dr. Katie #6

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In response to a question asked on Twitter, today I’m going to blog about my pets and how I got them.   I have 2 dogs, 1 cat, 3 chinchillas, 1 betta fish, and a 10 gallon tank of tropical fish.  How did I come by all these animals?

 

The day Dr. Katie met Gary for the first time.

The day Dr. Katie met Gary for the first time.

Gary the Greyhound – When I was finishing up my last year of college, I started researching what type of dog would be a good companion while I went to vet school.  I was looking for a low energy, low maintenance dog with a good temperament. It was also important to me that I rescued an older dog instead of purchasing a puppy.  Greyhounds, contrary to what you might think, are actually couch potatoes at heart.  During vet school, I took Gary on 3 small walks per day (he preferred to walk less than ½ mile per walk).   Occasionally, we’d go to a dog park so he could run.   A run lasts for all of about 30 seconds before he’s ready to go back to the couch!  Gary is now 11 years old, and he’s in great health for an old dog (other than being skinny!).  I feed him 6 to 9 cups of prescription b/d (for healthy brain and aging). He’s on a special food to help him with “cognitive dysfunction.”

Here's a picture of Ruby just after Dr. Katie found her.

Here’s a picture of Ruby just after Dr. Katie found her.

 

Here's Ruby after Dr. Katie dewormed, spayed, and fed her a high quality food for a couple of months.

Here’s Ruby after Dr. Katie dewormed, spayed, and fed her a high quality food for a couple of months.

 Ruby the Mutt – In the summer of 2009, just before Chase and I got married we found a dog and 3 puppies in the woods.  We were looking for the Red Cockaded Woodpecker (an endangered bird in Southern Arkansas), but we found a litter of puppies instead!  We didn’t plan on keeping any of them, but no one wanted the little momma dog.  Her fur coat was rough, her eyes were dull, she was very skinny, and her mammary tissue was saggy from nursing puppies.   We gave her a silly name R.C.W.  (named after the bird we were looking for) since we weren’t keeping her.   Well it’s been 4 years, and you can guess that Ruby isn’t going anywhere!  Chase fell in love with her and decided we could keep her.  The funny part about all of this is…Chase does not consider himself a dog person, and I warned him that since he was marrying a veterinarian dogs would just find me!

Home Boy

Home Boy the CatChase and I bought our first house in June of 2012.  Unexpectedly, our house came with an asthmatic, indoor/outdoor cat named “H.B” (short for Home Boy).  The name seemed appropriate so we didn’t rename him.  The first week I had him, I decided he needed to have some vaccines boostered.   He’s a good cat, and he’s now  well adjusted to his new owners!

 

Dr. Katie and her chinchilla (Bert).

Dr. Katie and her chinchilla (Bert).

The Chinchillas – I got my first chinchilla (Chimi) shortly after graduating vet school.   He was given to me from a family who didn’t really have enough time for him, and they wanted to find him a new home.  We loved Chimi from the start, and what could be more cute than a chinchilla?   We decided that we wanted to get him a buddy so I posted on Facebook that I was looking.  One of my colleagues quickly responded that she had a customer who was looking to rehome a chinchilla.  So that’s how we acquired Bert.  Now my third chinchilla (Gus), I’ll have to confess…I got him off Craigslist!   Gus is a 3 legged fellow and we just couldn’t resist.  We’re up to 3 chinchillas, and that’s probably the number we’ll stick with.

 

Merlin the Betta – Merlin the betta lives in a 5 gallon tank on my desk at My Zoo.  When I have spare time, I work on trick training.  So far my betta will go through a hoop on command for a treat.  I’ll try to write a blog with picture proof in the future!  I got the betta to prove that even a betta fish could be taught tricks!

 

The Fish – we have a 10 gallon tank with 1 swordtail and 6-ish platys.  The platys are constantly reproducing, but only 1 or 2 babies survive each time.  Why do we have fish? Well, my husband and I bought a Betta (named Iroh) 4 years ago.  We bought our betta a 10 gallon tank with some bottom dwelling fish (corydoras).  Well the corydora fish harassed Iroh endlessly, so we moved our poor old betta back to a smaller tank.  Then we purchased more fish for the 10 gallon tank.

 

Question? or idea for a blog post?  Just leave a comment here, tweet us, or post on facebook!

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Holiday Hazards #2 – Special Plant Edition

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A few weeks ago we blogged about Holiday Hazards that face pets, and this week we wanted to talk a little more specifically about plants that are dangerous to pets – especially plants that are common during the holidays.  The ASPCA just posted an article with a lot of good information and photos on spring and winter holiday plants:  “How Dangerous are Winter and Spring Holiday Plants to Pets?”  (click here for article).   We’ll highlight some of the major points in this blog, but it’s a great article read for yourself!

Here are some of the winter and spring holiday plants that are hazardous to animals:

  • Poinsettias – These beautiful plants have leaves that range from red to white that are often mistaken for flowers.  Their flowers are actually tiny and yellow.  These plants produce a sap that can be very irritating to animals.   Usually ingestion of this plant causes GI upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
  • Christmas cacti – Although this plant is considered a cactus, it is not a desert plant. This tropical plant features flattened branches with spiny notches at the margins.  The flowers at the end of the branches can be a variety of colors.   This plant is not highly toxic, but can cause mild gastrointestinal upset.
  • Mistletoe – mistletoe is in the genus Phoradendron.  Mistletoe plants in the wild grow as vines that suck water and nutrients from the trees on which they grow.   One toxic effect that Mistletoe can have is on the heart.  Mistletoe can cause the heart rate to slow leading to a low blood pressure.   The most common signs of mistletoe intoxication are depression and gastrointestinal upset.  More severe signs such as severe blood pressure drops and death have been reported.   
  • Holly – This is another beautiful plant that is commonly used to decorate for the holidays.  Ingestion of this plant can cause head shaking, lip smacking, salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea.    Sometimes rinsing the mouth can help alleviate some of these signs. 
  • Shamrocks – These are commonly purchased around St. Patrick’s day.  These plants produce a substance called oxalates.  These oxalates can accumulate in the kidneys and damage them.  Similar to the other plants mentioned, the most common signs relate to GI upset.  Animals that eat large amounts of shamrocks should be monitored for kidney damage.
  • Easter lilies – These innocent looking flowers are actually highly toxic to cats.  Easter lilies, Japanese show lilies, rubrum lilies, and an assortment of other lilies cause kidney failure in cats.   These are so toxic, one leaf might be all it takes to be lethal to a cat.  GI upset are the first signs noticed after ingestion.  Over the next 3 days, kidney values on blood work can continue to rise.  If your cat has eaten any part of a lily, please schedule an appointment ASAP.  Postponing treatment for more than 18 hours may result in death from the kidneys failure. 

If your pet eats any of these plants, feel free to call us to schedule an appointment!   Happy Holidays!

ASPCA’s Toxic Plant Article:  click here.

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More Than a Pretty Smile

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What is Dental Disease?

Dental disease is one of the most common diseases seen in dogs.   Dirty teeth are more than just a cosmetic issue.   Although dogs and cats don’t tend to get cavities like we do, they get plaque and tartar on their teeth.  Plaque is actually a biofilm that develops on teeth as a result of bacterial growth.  As time progresses, the plaque starts to mineralize forming tartar.  As more plaque and tartar accumulate the gums get more and more infected and inflamed.  Once tartar develops, it is very difficult to remove and requires the use of special dentistry instruments.   Plaque and tartar is very irritating to the surrounding gums and causes the tissue around the tooth to become infected and inflamed (called periodontal disease).   Periodontal disease can be very painful, and left untreated can result in teeth falling out.

What are the signs of dental disease?

The most common sign is foul breath.  Other signs of dental disease include a decreased appetite, refusal to eat hard food, losing interest in bones or favorite toys.  Other signs may be more vague.  For example, dental pain can cause a change in the mood.  Your dog or cat may act more “grumpy.”

Does dental disease seriously affect my pets’ health?

Yes! Each gram of tartar can have over a billion bacteria!  The mouth has an excellent blood supply, which means the bacteria is picked up in the blood.   The blood then carries the bacteria to important organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.   Studies have shown that dogs and cats with bad teeth (severe periodontal disease) have more damage in their liver, kidneys, and heart on a microscopic level.   So a pretty smile for your pets can mean a longer, healthier life!

 

How do we treat and manage dental disease? 

There are many things you can do to prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar on your pets’ teeth.  Brushing is the best thing you can do, but if this doesn’t suit your lifestyle there are still products that help.  When you pick out treats for your pet, we recommend picking a treat that is on the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved dental products.  http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm  These products have undergone controlled clinical trials and have been shown to help prevent tartar accumulation.  We carry a number of these products here  at My Zoo Animal Hospital.

Once tartar develops on the teeth, it is strongly adhered to the surface of the tooth.  At this point, we recommend a dental cleaning.  A thorough dental cleaning involves anesthetizing the dog or cat, performing a thorough dental exam, using an ultrasonic scaler and hand scales to remove tartar and plaque, and polishing the teeth.  For information on why this is performed under anesthesia see the American Veterinary Dental College Website:  http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html

 

If you think your dog has dental disease, please schedule an appointment with one of the vets at My Zoo Animal Hospital for an examination and specific recommendations.

We offer 20% off dental cleanings during the month of January.  Schedule your pet’s cleaning early since the schedule books up fast!

 

More resources:

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Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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Gary the greyhound here!  I’m going to talk about keeping your pets safe and warm this winter.   With the temperatures dropping, winter is fast approaching!  I talked about hazards of the heat this summer, and now I’m going to talk about the hazards of the cold this winter.   I don’t really mind the winter, because Dr. Katie takes precautions to keep me safe.  Here are some tips for keeping your pets safe and healthy this winter

  • Shelter.  If your pet cannot (or refuses to) come inside the house, providing a safe and warm shelter is a must.   Home Boy (HB) is a feline friend who doesn’t like Ruby (my younger house-mate who loves to bark and chase cats) so HB won’t come in our house.  Since HB prefers the outdoors, Dr. Katie and her husband built a shelter for him.  It’s made of a plastic box with lots of insulation to keep him warm.
  • Water.  If your pet lives outdoors be sure to provide fresh water.  If the temperature drops below freezing, your pet’s water bowl will freeze as well.  There are special heaters made to keep water from freezing that you can order or purchase.
  • Lost.   Never let your dog off leash if you take him on walks or hikes.  Snow can mask scents, and your dog can easily get lost.  If you live in an area that receives a lot of snow, snow drifts can also pose a threat to your pets.
  • Cars.  Below freezing temperatures can mean patches of ice can form on the roads.  This means your pet may be more likely to get hit by a car that cannot stop fast enough. Another way an animal could be injured by a car is by getting caught in the hood.  Outdoor and feral cats may crawl into the hood of a car for warmth.  It’s a good idea to bang on the hood of the car before starting it to try to scare out any cats/animals that may have crawled in.  Chico, My Zoo’s clinic cat, was surrendered to the clinic after getting caught in a fan belt when he was a kitten.  He was lucky he survived and was given a safe, warm home in the clinic, but he will always have a limp.
  • Antifreeze.  Antifreeze has a very sweet taste, but it only takes a small amount to hurt your pet.  For example, if your cat walks though a puddle of antifreeze and licks his feet, he can get a toxic dose of antifreeze just from licking it off his feet.  Be sure to clean up antifreeze appropriately, keep the lid on securely, place the bottle in a safe location, and don’t pour it out in gutters.
  • Rodent poisons.  Winter is one of the most common times for rodents to sneak into the home.  We don’t recommend using toxins in your house if you have pets.  The rodent poisons are also poisonous to pets!  Your pet could either eat the poison directly or eat the dead rodent.
  • Ice melting products.  Salts and other salt melting products can be irritating to the skin, mouth, and GI tract.  Only use these products where your pet cannot get to them, and wipe off paws and skin if your pet comes into contact with them.   Sometimes snow or ice can get packed between the toes so it’s a good idea to wipe your pet’s paws when he comes inside from the cold.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Holiday Hazards

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Happy holidays from the vets and staff at My Zoo Animal Hospital!  With the holidays rapidly approaching, there are few facts pet owners should know to protect their pets from holiday hazards.  What hazards do the holidays present to animals? Here are few with tips to keep your pets safe this season.

  • Chocolate.  Be sure to store any candy where your pet, especially dogs, can’t reach it.  Chocolate is toxic to animals.
  • Poinsettias, mistletoe, lilies, and holly.  All of these plants are toxic to animals.  All of these plants can cause gastrointestinal upset.  Mistletoe can cause damage to the heart.  Some lilies (such as Tiger, Easter, and Star Gazer) can hurt the kidneys of cats in particular.  It’s best to keep these out of your pet’s reach.
  • Holiday decorations.  Christmas lights can be dangerous if your pet chews on the cords.  Glass ornaments can cut the GI system, and tinsel can get stuck.  If your pet has a tendency to chew on ornaments, move the ornaments out of your pet’s reach.
  • Christmas Trees.  If you plan to put a Christmas tree in your house, be sure that it is properly secured so it doesn’t fall and injure your pet (or children).  If you have a live tree, be careful your pet is not tempted to drink the water.  Some live trees have preservatives or other additives that can be toxic if ingested.  The pine needles can cause an upset stomach if eaten.
  • Gifts.  Be sure not to place any food items under the tree as your pet (especially dogs) can sniff them out.  Ribbon if eaten can get caught in the GI tract and cause serious damage if not removed surgically.  As a child, Dr. Katie recalls an instance when the family beagle, Mr. Bailey, found a box of cookie mix wrapped as a gift under the tree.  He ate the cookie mix, opened all the other presents looking for more food, and had diarrhea all over the house.  Dr. Katie’s mother was less than pleased.  Luckily for Mr. Bailey, he recovered and gifts were placed in a safer location in subsequent years.
  • Batteries.   During the holidays, people tend to use more batteries for cameras and battery operated toys.   If ingested, batteries can cause severe ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.  Be sure to dispose of used batteries properly, and store new batteries in a safe location.
  • Open doors.  With company coming to visit more in the holidays, there is an increased risk of your pet running out the door.  We recommend keeping the id tags up-to-date so people know how to get your pet back home.  Microchipping is a very good way to identify your pet.  Unlike a collar with tags, a microchip cannot be lost, and most veterinary clinics and shelters have microchip readers.  If you would like for us to implant a microchip in your pet, give us a call!  It’s a quick and easy procedure that can be performed within 15 minutes.
  • Holiday food.  With so many delicious meals and foods, you may be tempted to feed your pets more table scraps during the holidays.   It’s best to refrain from giving table scraps and stick to a species appropriate pet food as new foods can cause diarrhea and vomiting.  Do not give your pets any meat with bones that may splinter or get lodged in the GI tract.  Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis.  Nuts can also be toxic (Macadamia nuts are particularly bad).
  • Candles.  Candles can be appealing for pets to play with and possibly knock over and start a fire.  Be sure to keep these out of reach!
  • Guests.  Many pets can be stressed by having a lot of guests over.  Always monitor your pet’s behavior when guests, especially children, are visiting.  Provide a safe place, like a crate or kennel, where your pet can retreat from guests.

 

We hope you have a happy and safe holiday season this year!  Happy holidays!

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What is toxoplasmosis and how can you protect yourself and your family from it?

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We’ve all heard that pregnant women should never clean the litter box.  Why is this recommendation made?   This blog will provide basic information on the disease and tips that will help prevent its spread to humans.

 

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoal parasite that is a leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S..  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60 million people in the U.S. carry the protozoa, but are asymptomatic because their immune systems keep the parasite at bay. That means roughly 22.5% of the population has been infected at some point.  However, Toxoplasma becomes a big problem when a woman becomes infected for the first time during pregnancy OR in anyone with a compromised immune system.

 

The Life cycle of Toxoplasma

Cats are Toxoplasma’s definitive host.  Since cats are hunters by nature, they acquire toxoplasmosis by ingesting small animals that are infected.   The parasite then sets up in the cat’s body and begins shedding eggs (called oocysts).   The cat as Toxoplasma’s definitive host is the only animal in which oocysts are formed.   After a cat is infected, it can pass these eggs in the feces for weeks.  Humans and other animals get toxoplasmosis from eating these eggs. These eggs are small and light enough to become airborne with litter dust.  Kittens can be infected before birth while still in the uterus.  Therefore even indoor cats could be at risk for toxoplasmosis.  In any animal other than a cat (including humans), the parasite enters the host’s body tissues and forms a cyst full of bradyzoites, a slow moving form of the parasite.

 

Preventing Toxoplasmosis

-The most common way toxoplasmosis is spread is by eating contaminated food – unwashed vegetables or fruits or under-cooked meat.    You should always cook meat thoroughly and wash produce thoroughly.  Always use clean knives and cutting boards.  For example, use a different, clean cutting board for salad than for meat.

 

-Always wash your hands after cleaning the litter box.  The litter box should be cleaned daily as it takes 1 to 5 days for the oocysts to become infective.  If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, it is best to have someone else clean the litter box.  Pregnant women should avoid ANYTHING that has come into contact with cat feces.  This can include contaminated soil in the garden.  If you must clean the litter box while pregnant, wear disposable latex gloves and a dust mask and wash your hands after completing the task.

 

-We recommend keeping your cat indoors to reduce the likelihood of your cat becoming affected.  Do not get a new cat or kitten while pregnant.

 

Why is Toxoplasmosis a big deal in a pregnant woman?

The woman may not even have any symptoms if she becomes infected, but the parasite can be passed to the unborn child.  Unfortunately, the unborn child’s eyes and nervous system may be severely affected causing severe consequences.  Other potential consequences of infection during pregnancy can include miscarriage and still birth.   Children infected before birth may not show signs until later in life and could include loss of vision, mental disorders, and seizures.   If you have already been infected (prior to pregnancy) the risk of toxoplasmosis harming the unborn child is minimal.  Your doctor can perform a series of tests to determine if you have been infected recently or in the past.

 

If you would like to learn more about toxoplasmosis, please call and ask us or check out the CDC’s website.

 

http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/

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Mean Kitty

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So you just brought home your new kitty, and much to your surprise he’s attacking your hands and pouncing on your feet.  At first it was cute, but now it hurts!  So what can you do?  The first thing you should do is stop encouraging aggressive behavior.  This behavior in a kitten can lead to aggression as the kitten grows into an adult cat.  You should never intentionally encourage your cat to play with your hands or feet. If your kitten is biting your hands, refocus the behavior on cat toys.  Most kittens love toys so provide a variety.   You can even rotate them so old toys are forgotten then reintroduced.   Also if your kitten or cat is fearful, provide safe hiding places where he can get away from things he fears.  For example, a laundry room with a baby gate the cat can get over, but the dog cannot.  Other examples include shelves, ledges, or cat furniture where your cat can view what’s going on from a safe distance.

 

The next thing you can do is reward good behavior – like sitting quietly at your feet.  If you feed your cat meals instead of letting him graze all day, you can begin to use meals as a reward for good behavior.   So in the morning when your cat is waiting for his meal, wait until he politely comes and sits.  When first training this, reward as soon as your cat sits.   Reward the behavior (sitting in this case) you want multiple times during each meal.  So as long as he’s sitting politely, he intermittently gets treats.  Stop feeding him, if he reaches to grab his food or meows.   Once your cat politely sits every time he sees you get his food ready, you can add a cue word (i.e., “sit”) to the behavior.  In this way you can shape your cats behavior.  Reward good behavior.  Ignore bad behavior.

 

Even an old cat can learn new tricks.  There are many good books and resources available for training animals.  Check your local library for books on training or drop by and talk to us.

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Common Household Toxins

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Hi, I’m Chico.  I live here at My Zoo Animal Hospital.  I eat a prescription cat food, R/D, to help with weight loss.  You see, I like to eat anything and everything I can find, so I gain weight really easily.  However, there are some things pets should never eat.  Dr. Debbie and Dr. Katie told me some of these things are very common in households, and I want to share what they told me so none of my feline or canine friends get into anything they shouldn’t.

  • Chocolate – Although the sweet taste of chocolate doesn’t really appeal to me, my canine friends love it.  So what’s so bad about chocolate? Well, it’s actually got 2 toxic components in it:  theobromine and caffeine.  Both of these are chemicals called methylxanthines.  An overdose causes the muscles to become over-stimulated and can lead to seizures.
  • Cigarettes – The nicotine is toxic to animals.  It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excitation, and even death.  Just how much is toxic?  Well just a handful of cigarette butts or 1 whole cigar could be lethal to a small (< 10 pound) dog.
  • Bread dough – Bread dough made with yeast can expand in the stomach and cause distention.  As the fermentation progresses, alcohol is produced which is also toxic to animals.  Signs to look for include abdominal distention, nonproductive retching (as if to vomit), and signs of drunkenness.
  • Raisins – So this one is a mystery.  Nobody knows what about grapes and raisins are toxic.  This one seems to mostly affect dogs, but there have been a few scattered cases of them hurting cats (and ferrets) too.  The minimum dose that causes illness is not known and appears to vary according to each individual.  So keep those raisins and grapes away from your pets!
  • Xylitol – Xylitol is a sweetener used in a variety of products including chewing gum.  It causes the sugar in the blood to drop dramatically – so much that it could be fatal.
  • Antifreeze – Ethylene glycol has a very sweet taste that appeals to dogs especially.  Unfortunately it damages the kidneys and can lead to death.  The early signs of antifreeze poisoning are vomiting followed by weakness, depression, rapid breathing, and difficulty walking.
  • House plants – many different types of house plants are toxic to animals.  Certain types of lilies are particularly toxic to cats.  Be sure to keep these out of reach of your pets.  Here are some examples of poisonous plants: azaleas, rhododendron, castor bean, cyclamen, foxglove, kalanchoe, lilies, marijuana, oleander, sago palm, tulip/narcissus bulbs, and yew.
  • Human medications – As animals, we have a different way of processing drugs and chemicals than humans.  Therefore, many human medications are not safe for us.  Please don’t give us any medications at home without first consulting Dr. Debbie or Dr. Katie.  If your furry friend gets into any of your medications please call us as soon as you find out.

Other toxic foods include alcohol, avocados, macadamia nuts, mold/spoiled foods, onions, garlic, and coffee.  More toxic household items include cleaning agents, baits for pests, insecticides, paint, polishes, fuels/oils, and rodenticides.

So what do you do if your pet has gotten into any of the things I listed here?  Stay calm, write down what and how much your pet ingested, and give us a call for more directions.

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