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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Dr. Katie and Pokemon Go

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A few days ago while driving home from work, I noticed a number of people wandering the sidewalks like zombies with their phones out in front of them.  Upon my arrival home, I found my teenage son wandering in the front yard with his phone in front of him.   Could this be the Zombie apocalypse? I asked my son what was going on…

Pokemon Go.

Apparently there are invisible Pokemon (little digital animals) wandering all over.  You can only see them through a GPS enabled smart phone and the appropriate Pokemon Go App.   Many children (and adults) are wandering around desperately trying to catch and train these little guys.  Gotta catch em all!

 

Upon learning about their existence, I had a number of questions.  Do we have Pokemon here at My Zoo Animal Hospital? When I was child, Pokemon games were all the rage.  I collected the cards, I watched the TV show, and I played the Gameboy game.  I dreamed of being Nurse Joy – helping animals.   How could I not know there could be Pokemon right here at work?  So I asked a customer who brought in her dog.  Sure enough there was a wild Pinsir.  Did you know arthropods have something called hemolymph instead of blood?  Since Pinsir is listed as a bug-type, I wonder if he has hemolymph?  I am rather glad I don’t actually have to get a sample as Pinsir looked rather imposing.

Pinsir and Dr. Katie

Dr. Katie examines her first Pokemon patient

After asking this very kind customer a few more questions, I downloaded the app to try it out.   She told me to start the game, I should ignore the 3 pokemon that first show up and walk away.  Supposedly if you do this enough times (at least 4 or 5), you can start the game with a Pikachu!  As a chinchilla fan, a Pikachu sounds like the perfect start!  Pikachus look like electric chinchillas!  Her tip worked, and I now have a Pikachu in addition to my 2 chinchillas.  The My Zoo Team loves rodents!

Dr. Katie and her chinchilla (Bert).

Dr. Katie and her chinchilla (Bert).

Pikachu

Dr. Katie’s first Pokemon, Pikachu.

It didn’t take me long to realize, Pokemon Go is a walking-intensive game.    What a great opportunity to get my patients moving more!  I have a few tips for you Pokemon Go players out there:

  1. Take your dog! Since this game requires a lot of moving and walking,  many dogs would really enjoy the extra walks!  It’s good for both of you!  Exercise is critical to a healthy life!
  2. If you take your dog, pay attention to him! Dogs (as well as people) can be severely affected by this heat!  Is he slowing down? Panting a lot?  Lagging behind you?  It’s time to get Fido back in doors and cool down!
  3. Drink lots of water. The game is so addictive, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated.  This heat requires you to drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated.  Be sure both you and your dog are hydrated!
  4. Pay attention to your surroundings! While staring at your phone, it would be easy to accidentally walk out in the street…or make yourself vulnerable to being mugged.  Look up from that phone!  OR better yet…take a human companion who doesn’t play with you – like a designated driver!  Parks and other public places would probably be safe places to play!
  5. Don’t trespass or go in areas that are restricted! This could really put you and Fido in danger!   Be sure you are capturing pokemon on public property!
  6. Don’t forget about your real pets! Most importantly, don’t forget that pokemon really are just digital creatures.  Your pets at home still need love and attention!

Just today, Dr. Debbie also met her first Pokemon, an Eevee.  Dr. Katie was jealous that Eevee was so much cuter than the Pinsir!

Dr. Debbie and Pinsir

Dr. Debbie’s first Pokemon patient was much cuter than Dr. Katie’s Pinsir.

Happy Pokemon catching to all of our clients!  Please remember to be safe, pay attention, and stay hydrated!  Also, please be sure to share any Pokemon Go tips and tricks you have with us.

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Firework Fears (and other noise aversions)

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Independence Day is almost here!  While children and adults all over America are excited to celebrate our country’s freedom with fireworks, our pets may be less excited.   Noise phobias are particularly common in dogs and July 4th is a terrifying holiday for them!  There are some things we can do to help with Fido’s fears.   Here are some general tips to help keep your pet safe:

 

  • Create a safe zone. This is a space where your dog can go to feel safe.   Katie’s dog, Ruby, particularly loves the middle bathroom.   Dr. Katie turns the fan on to add white noise, and provides soft bedding so Ruby can be comfortable.  Some dogs may find comfort in their crate, but be careful locking them in as being trapped during a noisy event can increase anxiety.    Dr. Katie usually allows Ruby to go to her safe spot, but doesn’t lock her in.   For dogs that bolt through open doors, use caution during firework season.   A terrified dog may be more prone to run away and get injured during the noise.
  • Don’t coddle. One thing you want to avoid is rewarding fearful behavior.  Instead, work on training and reward for a good response.  For example, practice sit, stay, or tricks and reward for the desired response.   During this time it is important for owners to stay calm and avoid projecting anxiety.  If you are nervous, your dog will pick up on that emotion!
  • Take a long walk before night falls. Before the scary event (ie, fireworks) take a nice walk with your dog, or play fetch!   Activity can help your dog feel calmer by wearing him out and by releasing endorphins.

 

If your pet is very fearful, he or she may have a phobia.  Medications can help, but there is no 1 size fits all.  You can schedule an appointment and discuss options with one of our veterinarians.   We have a new option this year called Sileo.  It is the first and only FDA-approved treatment of canine noise aversions.  We would love to discuss if this medication or another is right for your dog.  Call us at 573-875-3647

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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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Is it Time?

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Gary and MM

One of the most difficult tasks in my career as a veterinarian is helping an owner decide when it is time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. I decided to share my own experience in this matter in hopes of helping others facing this decision.

Christmas 2007 – I wanted a dog. I really, really wanted a dog. Not just any dog, but MY own dog. I started asking my veterinarian what he thought about different breeds. He suggested that a greyhound of all breeds might be a good choice. Over the next couple of months, I went to every “Meet & Greet” that I could. I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the time. Greyhound Pets of America located in Springfield, MO had a few of these events in Fayetteville, and I attended as many as I could.

May 2008 – My graduation present from my parents was the adoption fee for a retired racing greyhound. I was so excited. I contacted the GPA-Springfield, and irony of ironies…a greyhound had just appeared wandering the streets of Fayetteville. His racing name was Gary, and there was no record of his previous owners. He was emaciated with horrible diarrhea. My veterinarian back in Little Rock helped me get him back to good health.

August 2008 to 2015– My greyhound and I packed up and moved to Missouri for my first year of veterinary school. Over the next 7 years, Gary was my companion as I persevered through difficult classes, got married, completed my clinical, and got my first job as a veterinarian. He greeted us at the door when we brought home our first (biological) child. He lovingly greeted the numerous foster children we’ve taken in over the years as well. He was a gentle and kind dog, and comforted many scared, lonely children.

As all living things must…Gary got old. He stopped enjoying long walks in the park, and instead limped if we walked more than a block. He started losing weight. He forgot his house training. He started getting lost at night – unable to rest in his bed to pace the halls endlessly. I tried a number of things to make him comfortable. Whenever our baby cried, Gary walked to a room to be by himself. Sometimes he slept through greetings. He stopped sleeping in our bedroom. He paced the halls repeatedly. At the same time, he was always so happy when I grabbed his leash. He ate well…some of the time! He still came up to adults for gentle pets. Sometimes he even bounded around the yard like the retired racer he was.

Was it time? He still had good days, with a few bad days mixed in. Maybe I could try a different pain management strategy? Maybe a supplement to help brain function? I’ve heard scientist say that dogs don’t feel embarrassment, but in my opinion…that’s not quite right. Gary was sometimes very embarrassed by his accidents.

In the end, I decided that it was time to euthanize Gary. Here’s the truth. I can do a lot…a whole lot of good. I can help arthritic animals move comfortably. I can aid as organ function starts to decline. I can make animals feel so much better. But I can’t turn back the clock. When a pet reaches Gary’s age, there is sure to be a steady decline. I wanted to put Gary down while he was still Gary. I didn’t want him to have even one day when he didn’t enjoy being a dog.

Are you going through this difficult time? There’s never a right answer to when it’s the “right time.” It’s always a very difficult decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Is my pet …
• Enjoying life?
• Eating/drinking?
• Urinating/defecating normally?
• Suffering or experiencing pain?
• Breathing well?
• Tired more often? Or even withdrawn from daily activity?
• Doing the things my pet loves to do?

Do I still love my pet? Or am I starting to resent him?
Has my family accepted it’s time to say goodbye?
Are there any reasonable, humane treatments that can improve my pet’s quality of life?
Am I able to keep my pet’s and my family’s living environment clean and sanitary?
In Gary’s case, he was just starting to lose enjoyment in life, but still mostly enjoyed it. He didn’t eat consistently. He was having accidents every day. His arthritis was starting to cause muscle loss. He was starting to withdraw from us. With his numerous accidents, my husband and I were struggling to keep the house clean. I had tried a number of treatments, but we were reaching a point that there wasn’t much more I could do for my dog. It was time.

June 18, 2015 –I looked out to see my dog stumble in the yard. His back legs were so weak. I decided that today was the day to say goodbye to my beloved friend. Over my lunch break, I made a house call to my own house. We scratched Gary behind the ears, and loved on him. I had him lay down in his bed. A technician gently restrained him with a big hug, while I gave him an injection. He was asleep in seconds, and passed away within a minute. It was very peaceful. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Goodbye Gary
If you are struggling with this decision, we are able to help. Schedule an appointment to talk about what we can do to make your pet comfortable, or just to talk through this difficult decision. Our number is 573-875-3647. All of our veterinarians and team members understand what a challenging decision this is, and we want to help as much as we can.

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April Showers Bring May Flowers

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Spring is upon us! The sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming. Unfortunately, spring time brings more than beautiful flowers: loud storms, pollen, and ticks to name a few challenges! In this blog post, we’ll talk about loud storms and dogs in particular.

Loud Storms
Those strong storms can be quite scary for pets! What can you do to make your pets more comfortable? This is a very complex issue, but we have a few tips to help.
1. Don’t coddle. Dogs thrive on your attention. The best reward for most dogs is a loving pat from their owner. When you pet and love on your dog during a storm, you are rewarding him for a fearful/bad behavior. Instead train an alternative behavior that you can praise!
2. Train an alternative behavior. In Dr. Katie’s house, she trained her dogs to “get in your bed.” When she gives this command, her dogs go lay in their dog beds. During a storm she will move the bed where the dogs feel safe, give the command, and reward her dogs for calmly resting in their beds. This is an example of alternative behavior. Other behaviors to consider: sitting calmly at your feet, playing fetch, hide-and-go-seek, and etc.. But what if your dog refuses to be distracted? Providing a safe place to weather the storm can help.
3. Provide a safe place. One of Dr. Katie’s dogs will not allow distraction during a storm. Instead she prefers to lie on the bathroom floor. Since she is calm in there, Dr. Katie always makes sure the door is open during a storm. She also turns on the bathroom fan and a white noise machine to help with loud noises. We don’t recommend closing a pet in their “safe zone,” because frantic attempts to get out could result in injury. It’s ok to let your dog stay in his safe spot during a storm.
4. Over the counter anti-anxiety products. There are a number of over the counter products and supplements that can help. For example, some dogs do well with a “Thunder shirt.” Others respond to Dog Appeasing Pheromone products. Please call us to find out about other supplements that might work for your dog.
5. Prescription medications. Some dogs are just plain terrified and may need extra help addressing their fears. For these dogs, we can prescribe medications to help keep them calm during a storm. Every pet is different, so we will need to examine your pet and discuss your pet’s individual needs to choose an appropriate medication. It is important to understand that there is no medication that will cure your pet’s anxiety. Medications are tools that can only help in conjunction with active training and behavior modification.

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Pregnant with Pets – Dangers of Dogs

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Ruby the dog

A few weeks ago, I wrote about cats and the expectant owner.   So what about dogs? Are dogs dangerous to pregnant owners? The answer is similar to what I said about cats. Generally dogs are safe to have when you pregnant, but some precautions should be taken.   Here are some tips to help keep pregnant women safe with dogs:

 

Make sure your pet is healthy and up to date on shots. A healthy pet is less likely to spread infection.   Are you a little behind on vaccinations? We’ll be happy to get your pet up to date, just give us a call at 573-875-3647.

 

Does Fido jump? Honestly, one of the biggest risks to the expectant mother from a dog is an impact to the stomach by a jumping dog. If your dog is a jumper, now is the perfect time to take him to obedience school. We have many excellent local training facilities and trainers, and you can call for a recommendation.

 

Obedience is important in general.   Does your dog have some annoying habits? There’s no better time to take him to a training class. It’s going to be even more important than ever that your dog obeys you and respects humans. Babies tend to behave unpredictably (from the dog’s perspective), make a lot of noise, and disrupt routines.   They also pull on tails and ears, and don’t necessarily respond to warnings from pets (like a growl). I’d recommend taking an obedience class with your pet. With the help of a trainer work on getting your dog used to having people handle every part of his body.   Dr. Katie occasionally has small visitors staying in her house, and she has found the commands “get in your bed” and “leave it” very helpful for keeping the children safe.

 

Wash your hands! As with any pet, we always recommend thoroughly washing hands after handling your dog. This is especially important while pregnant.   It’s also best to have someone else in your house clean up accidents or scoop poop. We all love puppy kisses, but it’s probably best to avoid letting your dog lick you when you’re expecting!

 

 

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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The Scoop on Poop!

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Have you ever paid attention to which direction your dog faces when he poops?   Well, neither had we, but a recent study indicates dogs may be more picky about their bathroom habits than we thought!  According to this recent study, dogs prefer to poop with their bodies aligned in a north-south direction.  Researchers at the University of Life Sciences in Prague observed 70 dogs (37 different breeds) for over 2 years.  The dogs were allowed to go about their business in an open field where they wouldn’t be influenced by fences, buildings, or other man-made structures.   They watched over 1,800 defecations and 5,500 urinations.   Their results indicated that dogs have a clear preference to align their bodies in north-south orientation, and didn’t like pooping facing east or west at all.  Of course, this all depends on the geomagnetic field.  The study found when magnetic field fluctuated (like with a magnetic storm, solar flares, etc.) dogs didn’t seem to care which way they pooped.

Here at My Zoo, we decided to do a little survey to see if our clients’ dogs have a preference.

31 people answered our 2 question survey.  16% stated their dog preferred north-south.   9.7% reported their dog preferred the east-west axis.  The rest reported their dog didn’t care or they didn’t pay attention.

What Direction Do Dogs Poop?

This chart shows which direction dogs were reported to poop on our survey.

It’s important to note, however, most dogs in our mini-study were not free-roaming so their pooping habits may be affected by man-made structures!

So next time your dog is performing the “pre-poop spin,” consider the fact idea that he may be trying to align his body with invisible magnetic fields!

Bathroom Situation

Chart showing the bathroom situation for dogs on our survey.

 

Included below are a links to the original study and a link to help with research!  Happy pooping!

Survey:   http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/pdf/1742-9994-10-80.pdf

If you want to help:  https://www.uni-due.de/zoology/research/dogs

 

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The German Shepherd Dog

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Veterinarian's German Shepherd

Xena is Dr. Debbie’s German Shepherd Dog.

One popular dog breed in the United States and among My Zoo’s team members is the German Shepherd Dog (GSD).   Both Dr. Debbie and Patti have GSDs.   In 2012, the GSD ranked number 2 in most popular breeds registered with the American Kennel Club.

 

Origins

German Shepherd Dogs are working dogs originally bred in Germany for herding sheep.  The breed was selectively bred for its intelligence, agility, strength, and sense of smell in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

 

Appearance

GSDs are large dogs and weigh around 50 to 90 pounds.   The GSD is characterized by a long muzzle with a black nose, erect ears, and brown eyes.  They can come in a variety of colors, but black and tan is the most common.  They have medium to long hair on their body and a bushy tail.   Their fur grows in a double coat, with an outer coat and a thick undercoat.  The outer coat sheds all year round.  To reduce the amount of fur shed in a home, GSDs should be brushed regularly.

 

Temperament

German Shepherds are highly intelligent, working dogs.   As such, German Shepherds need an outlet for their mental and physical energy.   Frequent walks or jogs with appropriate training are a must.  Owners of GSDs should be calm, but authoritative.  Without appropriate training and socialization, GSDs can become timid and bite out of fear.    German Shepherds can be wonderful with children, but they need consistent training and socialization.  As with any breed of dog of any size, we recommend ALWAYS monitoring children with dogs.   Additionally, children require education and training on how to handle and behave around dogs.

 

German Shepherds as working dogs

German Shepherds are used as working dogs (especially as police or military dogs). They can be trained for explosive detection, search and rescue, messenger dogs, drug detection, and as guide dogs.   Of course, in some areas they are still used for herding and protecting sheep.  Owners of GSDs are frequently involved with obedience training, agility, herding, and other sporting events.

 

Health issues

Inappropriate breeding has led to the German Shepherd breed having multiple hereditary diseases.   Hip dysplasia is of particular concern as it can lead to hip pain and arthritis.   They can also have digestive issues, allergies, and tumors.   When selecting a dog, it is important to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder.  Of course, we also recommend looking at German Shepherd rescue groups if you are considering this breed.

 

Famous German Shepherds

Strongheart

Strongheart

Strongheart– This was an early canine star in the 1920s.   He helped contribute to the breed’s rise in popularity.

 

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin – Rin Tin Tin is probably the most famous German Shepherds in the movies.    He was originally rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American Soldier, and he went on to star in 27 films.

 

 

 

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Canine Parvovirus

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One of the diseases we recommend vaccinating dogs against is Parvovirus.  Parvo can be a very serious and life threatening disease! This blog is to share a little information on what parvo is, how it infects dogs, and how we can prevent and treat it.  The good news about parvo is it is a preventable disease through appropriate vaccination.  All puppies one week before weaning should receive their first parvo vaccination.  We can help you determine a vaccination schedule for your dog based of your dog’s individual needs.

 

 What is parvovirus?

Parvovirus (“parvo”) is a very common virus that causes an acute (i.e., happens quickly) intestinal/stomach upset in dogs.  Parvovirus is a tiny virus that is resistant to many common disinfectants and can persist in the right environment for almost an entire year.  If your dog becomes infected with parvovirus, your dog may shed the virus in its feces for many months.

 

What dogs are at risk? 

All dogs are at risk especially puppies and unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated dogs are susceptible to parvovirus.  Vaccinating with the right vaccine that has been properly handled and administered is very effective at preventing parvo.  Female dogs should be properly vaccinated prior to pregnancy so she can pass some protection to her puppies.

 

What are the clinical signs in an infected dog?

An infected puppy may skip a meal or may be sleeping more than usual (lethargy).  As the disease progresses, the infected puppy may start vomiting and having diarrhea.  Usually this progression is very fast and occurs in less than 48 hours.  Puppies infected with parvovirus can decline and die very rapidly without treatment!  If your puppy is showing any of these signs, they should be seen right away by one of our veterinarians (Call 573-875-3647 for an appointment).

 

What does parvovirus do inside the puppy’s body?

Let’s say that a puppy is exposed at the dog park by accidentally ingesting infected dirt.  The virus gets swallowed and enters the bloodstream.  The virus travels throughout the body and infects numerous tissues and destroys them.   Since the virus is destroying small intestinal tissue, vomiting and diarrhea develop and the puppy can’t absorb food.  Since the protective barrier of the intestines is disrupted, bacteria are able to escape into the bloodstream and travel to the rest of the body.  Since immune system cells are affected, the puppy’s ability to fight the virus and other concurrent infections is impaired.  Within 4 to 5 days, the puppy can start shedding/passing the virus in his feces.  The puppy can shed the virus even before clinical signs develop.  Puppies start showing signs of illness within 3 to 7 days of infection.    In really young puppies, the virus can even infect the heart.

 

What can we do to help a puppy with parvovirus?

When puppies get parvovirus, they are at risk for dying from dehydration and severe infection.   Our veterinarians can help keep your puppy hydrated, provide nutritional support, prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary infections, and prescribe medications that help control vomiting and diarrhea.  Without treatment, most puppies will die from parvovirus infection.  With treatment, over half of puppies can survive.

 

If your puppy is showing signs of parvo (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite), there’s no time to waste!  Call us today for an appointment!  573-875-3647.   If you have a puppy or dog we recommend letting one of our veterinarians vaccinate and protect your pet from this dangerous disease!

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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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A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian – Dr. Katie 2: Why?

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Top.BMP

Many people spend their entire lives trying to discover their passion. I found mine as a child who loved her dog.  Corky was a feisty, little Corgi-mutt, who entered the family when I was five. He was my loyal defender for eleven years, defending me from friends, parents, neighbors, and everything else he deemed dangerous. Growing up, I always knew there was nothing scarier than my dog under my bed.   As a child, I always enjoyed accompanying him to the veterinarian’s office and plaguing the vet with questions. Even though Corky tried to bite the vet every single time except for his last visit, I wanted to be a veterinarian so I could help pets and their people.  This is the only profession that provides new challenges every day and fulfills my passion for helping animals and people.

So, is veterinary medicine everything I thought it would be?  Every day is a little different, and I never know what cases will walk through the door.   I enjoy the challenge of diagnosing and treating animals’ maladies, and I love meeting new people with their pets.  I truly enjoy learning something new every day.  However, there are difficult things about being a veterinarian.  For example, there are diseases (like cancer) we can’t cure, and patients we can’t save.   When I’m faced with those, I offer the very best that new technology and medicine have to offer, and hope and pray for the best.

 

This post was all about the why I decided to be a veterinarian; next up will be how I got there.

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Care of the Older Dog – by Gary the Greyhound

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Gary the Greyhound

 

Hello everyone!  Last winter, I wrote a blog about keeping your furry friends safe in the winter.  This time I’d like to write a post about caring for older dogs.  You see I am 11 years old, and that’s considered quite old for a greyhound!  Because I’m a more mature fellow, my owner (Dr. Katie) takes extra steps to keep me healthy.

 

Yearly exam and vaccinations – it’s really important for older fellows such as me to come in at least once a year for a full exam and any recommended vaccinations.   The yearly exam enables Dr. Debbie or Dr. Katie to point out health concerns before they become big health problems.  One big one for me and many other older dogs is dental health.

Routine dental cleanings – Greyhounds, as well as many other breeds, tend to have tartar accumulate on the teeth.  This tartar causes the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis).  Since tartar is basically an accumulation of bacteria with minerals from saliva stuck to the teeth, a dirty mouth is a constant source of bacteria to the blood.  Once in the blood, the bacteria can seed various internal organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.   So keeping those teeth clean and getting routine (yearly to twice a year) dental cleanings can really help pets live a longer, healthier life!  Brushing your pet’s teeth can really help as well.  We wrote a full length blog post about dental disease (http://www.myzooanimalhospital.com/more-than-a-pretty-smile) that you can read for more information.

Bloodwork – Dr. Katie runs “mature bloodwork” on me every year.  This helps her keep an eye on my organ function. This lets our veterinarians catch small issues before they become big issues!  Sometimes a simple food change is needed to support organ function.

Cognitive changes – Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve started having some issues remembering how an inside dog behaves.  At night I would get lost and forget where my bed was, and I started forgetting that good dogs go potty outside of the house!  Occasionally, I just felt like barking at nothing! To help me out, Dr. Katie installed a night light to help me find my way to my bed.  She also put me on a special food to help with “healthy brain and aging.”  Dr. Katie calls these changes “cognitive dysfunction,” but I don’t know what that means!  All I know is while I’m on the special food, I can remember much more.

Glucosamine  – Since I was once a great athlete (I’m am a retired racing greyhound), my old joints just don’t move like they used to.  Dr. Katie gives me a joint supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin to help protect the cartilage in my old joints.    I may not be as fast as I once was, but I still can run and play as much as I want!

Regular low impact activity –  Another thing my Dr. Katie does to keep me healthy is she takes me on walks.  I’m not much of a runner, but consistent, low-impact activity (ie, walks) keeps my joints lubricated!  I love my walks!

Routine vaccinations – Old dogs like me are not immune to diseases!   As a matter of fact, sometimes as we age our immune system gets a little slowed down too.  That’s why it’s important to vaccinate your old dogs too!  My Zoo’s veterinarians can recommend vaccinations based on your dog’s lifestyle.

Old Dog Safe House – Of course, we old dogs just don’t get around like we used to!  Dr. Katie made some changes to the house to keep me safer.  First of all, she makes sure I never have to walk anywhere in the dark by turning on night lights.   She also put down rugs on the slippery floors so I could keep my feet under me!  If you have stairs in your house, I recommend restricting access by closing doors or by placing a baby gate.  That way your older dog won’t fall down the stairs!  In the winter, she shovels the snow and ice out of my path so I can walk safely.  In the spring and summer, she makes sure that there aren’t any holes in my backyard and keeps the grass mowed so I don’t trip!

Food – Feeding me a high quality diet is probably one of the most important things my owner does for me.  Since I have some “cognitive dysfunction” (or whatever that is), Dr. Katie is feeding me a special, prescription dog food.  Before I started showing signs of forgetfulness, she fed me a Science Diet kibble made for mature (7 years and over) dogs.  Since we may not be able to digest things quite as well, feeding a high quality diet that uses high quality ingredients is very important.  All of the My Zoo Animal Hospital Team feed their own dogs Science Diet.  We would be happy to give your owner specific recommendations during your dog’s wellness exam!

 

I hope these tips help other old dogs live long and healthy lives!  Please give us a call if you have any questions or concerns!  573-875-3647

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Don’t Break My Heart – Heartworms

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Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of this holiday, we are going to write about protecting your dog’s heart from heartworms. Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the lungs and heart of dogs. Dogs get infected with heartworms by getting bitten by an infected mosquito. Indoor dogs are at risk because mosquitoes can come indoors. When a mosquito becomes trapped in doors, your dog becomes one of the only sources for a blood meal.

Heartworm Life Cycle

Female heartworms living inside an infected dog release microfilariae (heartworm babies) into the dog’s bloodstream. When mosquitoes feed on this infected dog, they pick up the microfilariae. The microfilariae continue to mature inside the mosquito and become infective larvae. When the mosquito bites another dog, the infective larvae enter through the mosquito bite wound. Once in the dog, the worms take 6 months to mature into adult worms. Adult worms can live up to 7 years. Since the immature worms are only susceptible to the medicines used for prevention for a limited amount of time, heartworm preventatives must be given monthly. Monthly preventatives actually work by killing the immature heartworms already in the dog to prevent the adult heartworms from reaching and damaging the dog’s heart.

Clinical Signs

Signs of heartworm disease depend on the number of worms present and how long they’ve been in the dog. Signs include a persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, tiring easily during exercise, poor appetite, and weight loss. Heartworm disease can cause death.

Prevention

Heartworm disease can be prevented by giving a monthly heartworm preventative. These medications kill the immature worms before they reach the heart and lungs.

Treatment

Once a dog has adult heartworms inside its heart and lungs, treatment (performed by a veterinarian) involves injecting the dog with an adulticide (a medication that kills adult worms). These dogs must be kept calm for 6 months as they recover since the worms can dislodge and block blood flow. The dying worms can also cause a life threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). This is why patients are usually hospitalized for adulticide treatment and treated with other medications to prevent complications.

In order to keep your dog’s heart safe from these parasites, the best thing to do is to use monthly preventative. Prevention is the best medicine! We will blog about heartworm disease in cats in a future post.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Xena’s New Year Resolutions

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Xena the German Shepherd Dog

Xena the German Shepherd Dog here!   Every New Year, people across the United States make resolutions – goals to accomplish over the next year.  Well I thought an intelligent German Shepherd Dog such as myself could set and accomplish some goals too!  My goals are excellent goals for any dog.  Here are my 2013 resolutions:

  • Stay up to date on my yearly vaccinations and annual exam.  Our vets here at My Zoo Animal Hospital take care of me and will make sure I accomplish this goal.  My older friends should also get yearly blood work to make sure organs are functioning well.
  • Stay fit and maintain a healthy weight.  I live with Dr. Debbie and she makes sure I always eat an appropriate amount.   You should be able to feel the ribs without excess fat covering, but not see them.  A dog with a healthy weight also has a noticeable waist when viewed from above and a tuck when viewed from the side.  Part of staying fit is getting adequate exercise.  For me, that means I get to run around on the farm.   For my city dwelling friends, ask your owners to take you for walks or play fetch or other games with you.  Walking is great exercise for both dogs and people!
  • Maintain mental health.  Training your pet maintains your pet’s mental health.  The vets here at My Zoo recommend teaching your dog basic obedience or new tricks.   One fun way to accomplish that is by taking a training class at a local facility.  Of course, we recommend keeping vaccinations up to date before attending any training class.
  • Stay well groomed.  Since I live in the country, I routinely have to get bathed.  When you bathe your dog, be sure to use a dog shampoo as human shampoo has a different pH.  After my bath, I get my ears cleaned with an ear cleaning solution.  I also stand still for a toe nail trim.  Some of my canine friends also have to have their anal glands expressed.  If you have a long haired dog, routine brushing can help prevent mats from forming.  Mats can really be irritating to the skin.
  • Stay parasite free.  I stay on flea and tick preventative year round, because you never know what the winter in Missouri will be like!  I also take heartworm preventative every month.  At my annual exam with a My Zoo vet, I am checked for parasites with a blood test for heartworms and a fecal exam for intestinal parasites.
  • Maintain good breath and a pretty smile.  Good dental care is very important for dogs.  Many dogs require yearly or twice yearly dental cleanings.  Brushing your dog’s teeth as well as giving your dog treats that are on the VOHC website (VOHC.org) can help reduce tartar build-up.  Maintaining a healthy mouth can improve overall health and longevity.

 

 

Well I hope all of you had a wonderful time bringing in the New Year, and I hope that my own resolutions will inspire my canine friends and their owners.  If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call us at 573-875-3647 (573-875-DOGS).

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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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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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