Featured Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

ACTH Stimulation Test

Glucocorticoids (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoids are two important types of hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids help regulate numerous complex processes in the body and participate in critically important functions.

Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

Acetaminophen Toxicity

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other related medications that are used to treat pain and fever in people. Unfortunately, this drug can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body.

Addison's Disease

Glucocorticoids (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoids are two important types of hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Under normal conditions, the brain releases a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) that stimulates the adrenal glands to release their hormones. Addison’s disease occurs when the brain doesn’t release adequate amounts of ACTH, or the adrenal glands fail to release their hormones in response to ACTH. The medical term for Addison’s disease is hypoadrenocorticism.

Administering Medications to Your Dog

The first part of successfully administering medication to your dog is making sure that you understand the instructions for giving the medication. These instructions include route of administration (for example, by mouth, into the ears, or into the eyes), dosing frequency (such as once daily, every 12 hours, or every 8 hours), duration of treatment (for example, 7 days, until gone), and other special considerations (for example, give with food, follow with water).

Administering Subcutaneous Fluids to Your Dog

Fluid administration is a regular part of veterinary medical care. Any time that a patient is dehydrated or needs fluids, your veterinarian determines the best way to provide them. Fluids can be given by mouth, injection into a vein (known as intravenous fluids or IV fluids), or injection directly under the skin – a procedure known as subcutaneous fluid administration.

Aggression in Dogs

The most common and serious behavior problems of dogs are associated with aggression. Canine aggression includes any behavior associated with a threat or attack (e.g., growling, biting).

Agility Training for Dogs

Dog agility is a competitive sport in which a person (handler) directs a dog through a timed obstacle course. Handlers and dogs race against the clock as the dogs jump hurdles, climb ramps, run through tunnels, cross a see-saw, and weave through a line of poles. Scoring is based on faults, similar to equestrian show jumping. Dog agility competition has become an exciting spectator event, and training for it is a great form of exercise for dogs and handlers, can harness a dog’s energy and boost his or her confidence, and can help improve the human–animal bond.

Alopecia

Alopecia is the medical term used to describe hair loss. Alopecia can occur when hair fails to grow at a normal rate, or when hair is lost more quickly than it can grow back. Alopecia should not be confused with increased shedding. Shedding (even year-round shedding in some pets) is a normal process and is not an illness. Shedding should only be a cause for concern if it is heavy enough to create areas of thinning hair or baldness consistent with alopecia.

Antibiotic Therapy for Ear Infections

The medical term for an ear infection is otitis. Ear infections generally begin as inflammation of the skin inside the outer ear canal (the tube-shaped part of the ear visible under the ear flap). Once inflammation is present, discharge, redness, and other characteristics of an ear infection become established. Inflammation of the canal leads to the overgrowth of normal bacteria and yeast that live in the ear; other “opportunistic” bacteria can also take advantage of the inflammation and unhealthy environment inside the ear to establish infection. The overgrowth of these organisms causes more inflammation and other unhealthy changes inside the ear. In some cases, ear infections that start in the outer ear canal can progress to involve the middle ear and inner ear. Deep infections can lead to deafness and other complications.

Atopy

Some animals may have several of these clinical signs, whereas others may have only one—perhaps an ear infection.

Avoiding Injury: Tips for Interpreting Signs of Aggression in Cats

Despite centuries of sharing our lives and homes with cats, many pet owners know very little about interpreting signs of anger, fear, or aggression in these creatures.  The typical “Halloween cat” posture (arched back, raised fur, ears back, hissing) clearly indicates fear and/or aggression, but cats also use other postures and behaviors that are more subtle and easily missed. It may be impossible to avoid ever creating a hostile situation with a cat, but a few tips can help you (hopefully) avoid injury if you find yourself in such a situation.

Avoiding Injury: Tips for Interpreting Signs of Aggression in Dogs

While dogs have been domesticated by people for a long time, it is important to remember that they are still animals with a very strong instinct for “fight or flight” when danger is present. When presented with a threat, many dogs will try to escape; however, some dogs will choose to fight against the danger and may bite in response to the threat. It is important to follow certain safety guidelines when working with dogs to avoid injury for you and your dog. Remember, an adult large breed dog may weigh as much as a person, and all sizes of dogs have sharp teeth that can easily injure a person with minimal effort. In fact, small breed dogs weighing less than 25 pounds are more likely to bite than larger breed dogs.

Barking

Barking is one of several types of vocal communication by dogs. You may appreciate your dog’s barking when it signals that someone is at your door or that your dog needs something. However, dogs sometimes bark excessively or at inappropriate times. Because barking serves many purposes, determine why your dog is doing it before attempting to address a barking problem. Does your dog use barking to get what he or she wants? For example, dogs that get attention for barking often learn to bark for food, play, and walks as well. Therefore, training your dog to be quiet on command is important so that you can teach your dog a different behavior (such as “sit” or “down”) for getting what he or she wants. Dogs of certain breeds and dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered may bark more than other dogs; therefore, it can be more difficult to reduce barking in these dogs.

Bartonellosis (Cat-Scratch Disease)

Bartonellosis is a disease caused by several bacteria of the Bartonella family. Bartonella organisms can cause bacterial infection in many species, including humans. Certain strains of Bartonella are known to infect cats. Bartonella organisms can be transmitted from a cat to a human via a bite or scratch, so bartonellosis in humans is commonly called cat-scratch disease.

Bathing Your Dog

Regular bathing can help keep your dog’s skin and haircoat healthy, and if you can teach your dog to enjoy being bathed, it can be another way to strengthen your relationship with your dog. The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog about every 3 months; however, certain breeds and dogs that spend a lot of time outside may need to be bathed more often. Some medical conditions may benefit from medicated shampoo products that your veterinarian can prescribe or recommend.

Bee Stings in Dogs

Bee stings can be a serious event and even life threatening in some cases. Dogs are at greater risk for bee stings than people, as they tend to chase or play with things that move. Dogs are likely to get stung in the mouth or on the nose, face, or feet by several different insects, including bees, wasps, and hornets.

Bite-Wound Abscesses in Cats

An abscess is a pocket of pus that is formed when the body’s immune system is unable to quickly clear a site of infection. Pus is a liquid collection of inflammatory cells, bacteria, and damaged tissue. Abscesses can form in any part of the body and often result from bacterial infections in bite wounds, tooth roots, and anal glands. Abscesses just under the skin are quite common in indoor/outdoor cats. This article focuses on abscesses that form when a cat is bitten by another cat or a wild animal.

Bladder Stones and Kidney Stones

Bladder and kidney stones are hardened accumulations of minerals found in urine. Common minerals involved include struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate. Dogs and cats can develop stones anywhere in the urinary tract. Stones can form in many different shapes and sizes.

Bordetella bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronchiseptica (B. bronchiseptica) is a bacterium that is commonly associated with respiratory disease in dogs. It can also infect cats, rabbits, and, in rare cases, humans. It is one of the most common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also sometimes called kennel cough. B. bronchiseptica is highly contagious, easily transmitted through direct contact or the air, and resistant to destruction in the environment.

Breast Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal mammary gland (breast) cells. If left untreated, certain types of breast cancer can metastasize (spread) to other mammary glands, lymph nodes, the lungs, and other organs throughout the body.

Bringing a New Kitten Home

Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. These guidelines will help you and your kitten adjust to this big change in your lives.

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most dogs before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.

Canine Anesthesia

Anesthesia is defined as the loss of ability to feel pain. However, the term anesthesia is more commonly used to refer to a state of deep sedation or unconsciousness during which a patient is unable to feel pain.

Canine Bladder Infections

The bladder is an expandable sac, like a balloon, that lies toward the back of the abdomen and is part of the system that removes waste from the body. Urine flows from the kidneys through the tube-shaped ureters and into the bladder, where it is stored before being eliminated from the body through a tube called the urethra.

Canine Chronic Otitis

Canine chronic otitis is recurrent or persistent inflammation of the ear. One or both ears may be affected. Inflammation of the ear often leads to secondary infection caused by yeast or bacterial overgrowth. This condition can be quite painful. 

Canine Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is an illness caused by the body’s inability to either make or use insulin, which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin permits the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for their metabolism and other functions. Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or when the body’s cells are unable to use available insulin to take glucose from the blood.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a serious contagious disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV), which attacks the respiratory, stomach/intestinal, and brain/nervous systems of dogs. It can also infect ferrets and many wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, minks, weasels, foxes, and coyotes. The death rate can reach 50%, and animals that do recover are often left with permanent disabilities. There is no effective treatment, but virus-associated disease is largely preventable through vaccination.

Canine Heartworm Testing

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is a painful disease that affects millions of dogs each year. It is an inherited developmental disorder of the hip joint and can lead to debilitating arthritis. Its progression can be influenced by environmental factors, such as weight gain, nutrition, and exercise. Certain breeds, especially larger ones, are particularly prone to hip dysplasia, but the disease can affect dogs of any size and breed.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza virus (CIV) was first detected in 2004 in racing greyhounds in Florida. Investigators learned that this new canine influenza developed when an equine influenza virus adapted to infect dogs. This was the first time that an equine influenza virus had been found to “jump” from horses to dogs. According to Dr. Cynda Crawford of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, canine influenza does not infect people, and there is no documentation that cats have become infected by exposure to dogs with CIV.

Canine Nutrition

A high-quality, complete and balanced diet is important for the health and longevity of your dog. Among other benefits, a proper diet helps build strong bones, promotes healthy gums and teeth, protects immune function, and results in a lustrous haircoat. Unlike cats, which are carnivores (meaning that they must eat meat), dogs are omnivores, meaning that they can eat meat and plants as their primary food sources.

Canine Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. According to estimates, 40% to 50% of dogs are overweight and 25% of dogs are obese. Obesity is more common in older, less active pets. Dogs that are fed homemade meals, table scraps, and snacks are more likely to be overweight than dogs that are fed only a commercial pet food.

Canine Pancreatitis

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is involved in helping the body digest food. The pancreas releases enzymes (proteins that are involved in chemical reactions in the body) into the digestive tract to help break down fats and promote digestion. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as pancreatitis.  

Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a deadly disease that is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) virus. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system of puppies and dogs. It can also attack the heart of very young puppies.

Canine Senior Wellness

With many dogs living well into their teens, many owners wonder: When is a dog truly senior? The answer is that there is no specific age at which a dog becomes senior. Individual pets age at different rates. However, most dogs become senior at 7 to 10 years of age, and most large- and giant-breed dogs become seniors earlier than small-breed dogs.

Canine Urine Marking

Canine urine marking is a natural, instinctive behavior in dogs, but it is not appropriate inside the house. Dogs, especially sexually intact male dogs, urinate on objects to mark their territory or to leave a message for other dogs. Urine marking behavior usually begins when the dog reaches sexual maturity.

Cardiac Arrhythmias in Dogs

A cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormality in a dog’s heartbeat. It may be associated with the rate (too fast or too slow), an irregularity in the heartbeat pattern, or a problem in the location where electrical signals are formed in the heart. Some arrhythmias may be harmless and do not require treatment, while others can be serious and life threatening.

Caring for Your New Kitten

During the first 8 to 10 weeks of life, kittens have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion. If you find orphaned kittens younger than 8 to 10 weeks of age, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can give you advice on caring for them and might be able to give you contact information for animal rescue groups. For more information, see the Care Guide titled “Caring for Orphaned Kittens.”

Caring for Your Pet After Surgery

The type of surgery that your pet undergoes determines the in-hospital recovery time and when you will be able to pick up your pet. Because the period immediately following surgery is when most complications occur, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s suggestion for when to pick up your pet. If you would like to visit your pet in the hospital, ask your veterinarian if that would be okay.

Cat Litter

A variety of cat litters are available commercially, including litters made of clay, plastic, wheat, sawdust, newspaper pellets, and corn cobs. The choice depends on what matters most to you and your cat. You may have to try a few to see what you and your cat like. Most cats prefer unscented, scoopable litter because of its sandlike texture. Many owners prefer scoopable litters because they control odors and absorb liquid (clump) well, making it easy for owners to scoop out urine “balls.” This leaves the remaining litter dry and odor free.

Cat Supplies

Every well-kept cat needs some basic supplies. Many kinds of supplies are available, so your choices will depend on your and your cat’s needs and preferences. Here are some basic guidelines regarding cat supplies.

Cherry Eye (prolapsed nictitans gland)

Like people, animals have upper and lower eyelids. However, they also have a third eyelid on the inside corner of each eye for extra protection of the eye’s surface. Tucked beneath this third eyelid is the nictitans gland, a small, pinkish mass of tissue that helps produce tears to lubricate the eye.

Chocolate Toxicosis

Toxicosis is disease due to poisoning. Chocolate contains two ingredients that can be toxic to pets—caffeine, and a chemical called theobromine. While dogs and cats are both very sensitive to the effects of caffeine and theobromine, cats are usually not attracted to chocolate, so chocolate toxicosis tends to be less common in cats.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a very general term used to describe several conditions that can affect the kidneys or damage kidney cells. If kidney disease progresses, it can eventually lead to kidney failure and death.

Chronic Otitis

Ear infections are usually secondary to inflammation of the external ear canals (the tube-shaped part of the ear visible under the ear flap). Inflammation of the canals leads to the reproduction of normal bacteria and yeast that live in the ear to the point where the body is unable to control their numbers (called overgrowth).  Other bacteria can also take advantage of the inflammation and unhealthy environment inside the ear to establish infection. The overgrowth of these organisms causes more inflammation. Inflammation of the ear canal causes swelling, making the tube narrower than usual. Inflammation also causes an increase in the production of wax. The ears become very itchy and painful. Severe ear infections can lead to eardrum rupture and middle and inner ear infections. Deep infections can lead to deafness and neurologic signs.

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is an intestinal condition caused by a microscopic, single-celled parasite. While there are several types of coccidia, dogs with this condition are usually infected with Isospora canis, while cats are infected with Isospora felis.

Colitis

Colitis is the inflammation of the colon, which is the last portion of the digestive tract. Under normal conditions, the colon stores feces while absorbing fluid and nutrients. When the colon is inflamed, these functions are affected. Additional fluid is left in the colon, resulting in diarrhea.

Common Household Poisons

Your home can hold a lot of unrecognized dangers for your pet. Many common food items or household products can sicken or even kill animals. However, a few simple precautions can help keep your pet safe.

Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Congestive heart failure is a broad medical term that means that a dog’s heart cannot deliver sufficient blood to its body. This condition can be caused by a failure of the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is the medical term used to describe inflammation of the conjunctiva—the soft tissues lining the inside of the eyelids and the white portion of the eye.  

Constipation and Obstipation in Cats

Constipation is a condition in which cats pass feces less often or in smaller amounts than normal. Feces are often hard and dry, which may cause cats to strain or have difficulty passing feces. While constipation may occur periodically, obstipation is a more persistent and severe form of constipation, in which defecation is impossible or nearly impossible.

Coping With Cancer

Cancer is extremely common in pets. While a diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet can be devastating, it is important for owners to realize that many forms of cancer can be successfully treated or managed to provide the pet with an excellent quality of life. It is also important to realize that in pets, just as in people, some types of cancer are now viewed as a chronic, rather than a terminal, disease. The best way to fight cancer is to detect it early and begin treatment promptly.

Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a pet. Regardless of whether the pet is old or young, or whether the loss is expected or sudden, family members and other people who were close to the pet will experience similar feelings when a beloved pet dies. These feelings, commonly called the five stages of grief, are the same as those experienced when a person passes away.

Corneal Ulceration

The cornea is the thin, transparent covering of cells on the front of the eye. The cells that make up the cornea are very fragile, so anything that rubs, scrapes, or irritates the eye can damage this thin layer of cells or rub some of them off. This is called a corneal ulcer. Corneal ulceration can occur if the eye is irritated by chemicals, dust, or inadequate tear production. Trauma, such as scratching, can also cause a corneal ulcer.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs. A dog’s stifle joint corresponds to the human knee joint, and the CCL is comparable to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans. Just as in humans, a partial or complete rupture of this ligament is debilitating and extremely painful, resulting in lameness and joint instability. Untreated, CCL rupture results in additional degenerative changes in the joint and, eventually, osteoarthritis. CCL rupture can occur in any dog. Risk factors include obesity, existing osteoarthritis or instability in the knee, and a lack of proper conditioning for the activity taking place, such as a normally sedentary dog that suddenly begins vigorous play.

Crate Training Your Puppy

Many veterinarians recommend crate training as a good way to housebreak puppies, and in some cases, adult dogs. This training method is based on the principle that dogs prefer not to soil where they sleep. A comfortable crate not only provides a puppy with a secure, den-like atmosphere but also prevents destructive behaviors (such as chewing inappropriate items) and protects against household dangers (such as electrical wires) when a puppy isn’t being supervised.

Declaw Surgery in Cats

Declaw surgery, also known as onychectomy, generally involves the surgical removal of the claw and all or a portion of the last bone in each digit. It is usually performed on the front paws only. Younger cats (under 1 year of age) tolerate the procedure better than older or obese cats that bear more weight on their paws.

Dental Care

Bad breath in pets may be a sign of periodontal disease that could lead to other health problems. Periodontal disease starts when plaque (a bacterial film) coats the tooth. Plaque hardens (calcifies) into tartar, a thick yellow or brown layer on the teeth. Tartar can irritate the gums, creating an environment where bacteria thrive. As the disease progresses, the gums become tender, red, and swollen and the bacteria continue to multiply. Eventually, the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that trap more bacteria and food particles. The gums bleed, the roots of the teeth may become exposed, teeth may become loose, and your pet may feel pain when eating. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can create problems for organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Dental Cleaning

It’s estimated that 85% of all pets have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age. Periodontal disease is a progressive disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth and the main cause of early tooth loss.

Dental Exam

The term dental disease in dogs and cats is very broadly used to describe gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (inflammation of the bone and other support structures around the tooth). Another term commonly used to collectively describe these two conditions is periodontal disease.

Dental Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s bones and internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography.  Dental radiography involves obtaining x-ray images of the mouth, teeth, and jaws. Radiography is painless, safe, and completely noninvasive.

Deworming and Prevention of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Dogs and Cats

Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites include any parasites that live in the stomach or intestines of a host. A variety of GI parasites affect dogs and cats. They range from roundworms and tapeworms, which are visible with the naked eye, to microscopic organisms like coccidia and Giardia. Regardless of their size, GI parasites can cause serious illness and sometimes even death in pets. Some parasites are  zoonotic, which means humans can become infected.

Diabetes Insipidus in Cats

When most of us think about diabetes, we think of a condition called diabetes mellitus. This is a disease in which the body doesn’t make an adequate amount of the hormone insulin or the body is unable to use its available insulin effectively. The result is an inability to regulate the body’s blood sugar level.

Diarrhea

A pet with diarrhea has looser or more watery feces than normal and sometimes more frequent stools as well.

Dog Supplies

Every well-kept dog needs some basic supplies. Many kinds of supplies are available, so your choices will depend on your and your dog’s needs and preferences. Here are some basic guidelines regarding dog supplies.

Ear Cleaning

Ear cleaning can help treat or prevent ear problems. Some pets are prone to ear problems and may need regular ear cleanings between veterinary visits. Ear cleaning can help remove dirt and wax that can prevent medications from reaching inflamed areas. It can also get rid of allergens and microbes that may contribute to inflammation or infection.

Ear Infections and Your Pet

Ear infections generally begin as inflammation of the skin inside the outer ear canal. Once the inflammation is present, discharge, redness, and other characteristics of an ear infection become established.

Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Ear mites are small parasites that live on an animal’s body, particularly in the ears of dogs and cats. Ear mites sustain themselves by eating skin cells, blood, and earwax. They deposit their waste (a dark, crusty debris) in the ear of the host animal. They also mate and produce eggs in the ear of the host. The mite’s entire life cycle is only about 3 weeks, and the mite spends its whole life on the animal. Ear mites are contagious to some other animals (for example, cats, dogs, and ferrets), but they are not contagious to humans.

Exercising Your Cat

Cats are notorious for preferring sleep to exercise. However, regular exercise is important to your cat’s health because it burns calories, reduces appetite, maintains muscle tone, and increases metabolism (the rate at which calories are burned).

Explaining Pet Loss to Children

Our companion animals are often treasured members of the family, and we mourn for them when they die or are euthanized. It is important to recognize your feelings of loss and grief and to express them in your own way. In addition, when your child is attached to a pet that dies or is euthanized, it is important to recognize his or her feelings of loss and help your child express those feelings.

Eye Discharge

Eye discharge can refer to any type of fluid that comes from the eye. Most healthy pets have eyes that are clear, bright, and have minimal discharge. However, some types of eye discharge are completely normal. Each time your pet blinks, tears are released from tear ducts and bathe the surface of the eye to provide moisture and deliver oxygen and nutrients. Some pets produce more tears than others, so increased wetness of the eye is not always a medical problem. Some pets can also have crusty material at the corners of their eyes when they wake up. This is usually easy to clean with a damp tissue and is not considered a problem in most cases.

Fecal Analysis

A fecal analysis is a test that examines your pet’s stool to detect intestinal parasites, including worms (hookworms, roundworms, whipworms) and other organisms (coccidia, Giardia). It can also detect other abnormalities, such as increased numbers of bacteria in the stool. If your pet develops diarrhea, vomiting, or weight loss (clinical signs frequently associated with parasites), your veterinarian may want to perform a fecal analysis to help determine if parasites are part of the problem. However, some pets have intestinal parasites without any obvious clinical signs, so your veterinarian may recommend performing a fecal analysis during your pet’s regular wellness examination visits.

Fecal Centrifugation Testing

Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and other intestinal parasites are relatively common in pets, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t cause serious illness. Young, sick, or debilitated pets can even die if they are heavily infected with parasites. If your pet has parasites, accurate diagnosis, including identification of the parasite(s) present, is important to determine the best treatment and help ensure a full recovery. Fecal diagnostic testing, such as fecal centrifugation, is an important part of this process.

Fecal Flotation and Giardia Test

Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and microscopic intestinal parasites (like coccidia and Giardia) are relatively common in pets, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t cause serious illness. Young, sick, or debilitated pets can even die if they are heavily infected with parasites. If your pet has parasites, accurate diagnosis, including identification of the parasite(s) present, is important to determine the best treatment and help ensure a full recovery. Fecal diagnostic tests, such as fecal flotation and Giardia testing, are an important part of this process.

Fecal Smear

A fecal smear (sometimes called a direct fecal smear) is a diagnostic test that helps identify possible causes of diarrhea in a cat or dog. It is generally conducted in combination with a fecal flotation test, which is used to screen for intestinal parasite eggs.

Feeding Your New Kitten

Proper nutrition is especially important for kittens, which need two to three times as many calories and nutrients as adult cats. A mother cat’s milk provides all of a kitten’s nutritional needs during the first 4 weeks of life. A newborn kitten may nurse every 1 to 2 hours.

Feline Anesthesia

Anesthesia is defined as “the loss of ability to feel pain.” However, the term is more commonly used to refer to a state of deep sedation or unconsciousness during which the patient is unable to feel pain. 

Feline Arthritis

Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and cause pain. Arthritis can be caused by injury, infection, the body’s own immune system, or developmental problems. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (osteo = bone; arthr = joint; itis = inflammation) or degenerative joint disease. Normally, joints form smooth connections between bones. Osteoarthritis involves thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this can lead to reduced joint mobility as well as pain.

Feline Asthma

Feline asthma is a respiratory condition that involves constriction and inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Any cat can develop asthma. The underlying cause of asthma remains unknown, but allergens in the air have been implicated in some cases. When a cat develops asthma, mucus forms in the respiratory tract, and the airway walls swell and spasm. These changes can cause wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Without treatment, a severe asthma attack can even be fatal.

Feline Calicivirus

Feline upper airway infections, sometimes called upper respiratory infections, are very common. They resemble the common cold in people and are characterized by clinical signs such as sneezing, wheezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose. Along with the rhinotracheitis virus, feline calicivirus (FCV) is responsible for most feline upper respiratory infections.

Feline Chlamydiosis Vaccine

Feline chlamydiosis (also called feline pneumonitis) is caused by the bacterial organism Chlamydophila felis (C. felis). The C. felis organism does not live for very long in the environment, so infection is generally spread through direct or close contact with a sick cat. Because infected cats sometimes sneeze, contact with these droplets can also spread the infection.

Feline Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is an illness caused by the body’s inability to either make or use insulin, which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin permits the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for their metabolism and other functions. Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or when the body’s cells are unable to use available insulin to take glucose from the blood.

Feline Distemper and Feline Leukemia

Feline distemper is the common name for the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), also called feline parvovirus. Despite the name feline distemper, this contagious disease does not affect a cat’s temperament. Rather, FPV causes serious disease in infected cats and can be fatal.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is also contagious among cats. Unlike many other viruses that enter specific cells in the body and destroy them, FeLV enters certain cells in a cat’s body and changes the cells’ genetic characteristics. This permits FeLV to continue reproducing within the cat each time infected cells divide. This allows FeLV to become dormant (inactive) in some cats, making disease transmission and prognosis (outlook) difficult to predict.

Feline Distemper and Rabies

Feline distemper is the common name for the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), which is sometimes called feline parvovirus. Despite the name feline distemper virus, infection with this virus does not affect a cat’s temperament. Rather, FPV causes serious disease in infected cats and can be fatal.  

Rabies is a dangerous virus that infects animals and humans worldwide. The virus is generally fatal in all species, and any warmblooded animal can become infected. Foxes, skunks, coyotes, and certain rodents are implicated in many cases of exposure. Surprisingly, cats are more commonly involved in transmission of rabies than dogs. In fact, cats are the number-one domestic animal carrier of rabies in the United States. 

Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease of the heart muscle. The exact way the disease occurs in cats is unknown, but the result is that the heart muscle becomes extremely thickened with normal and abnormal cells. The thickened muscle can’t relax and contract normally, so HCM decreases the amount of blood that the heart can handle. Heart failure results because there is so little room for blood to collect and be pumped out to the rest of the body.

Feline Hypervocalization

Most cat owners appreciate some vocalization—meowing, purring, etc.—from their cats. The many sounds that cats make help us communicate with them by telling us what they like, dislike, want, and need. However, some cats vocalize excessively, which can become annoying to owners. Excessive vocalization is called hypervocalization.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is contagious among cats. Although FIV is not contagious to humans, FIV has some similarities to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and has been used to help researchers better understand HIV.

Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is contagious among cats.  Unlike many other viruses that enter specific cells in the body and destroy them, FeLV enters certain cells in a cat’s body and changes the cells’ genetic characteristics. This permits FeLV to continue reproducing within the cat each time infected cells divide. This allows FeLV to become dormant (inactive) in some cats, making disease transmission and prognosis (outlook) difficult to predict.

Feline Leukemia and Rabies

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is contagious among cats.  Unlike many other viruses that enter specific cells in the body and destroy them, FeLV enters certain cells in a cat’s body and changes the cells’ genetic characteristics. This permits FeLV to continue reproducing within the cat each time infected cells divide. This allows FeLV to become dormant (inactive) in some cats, making disease transmission and prognosis (outlook) difficult to predict.

Rabies virus is dangerous and infects animals and humans worldwide. Rabies is generally fatal in all species, and any warm-blooded animal can become infected. Foxes, skunks, coyotes, and certain rodents spread the disease in many cases. Surprisingly, cats are more commonly involved in spreading rabies than dogs are. In fact, cats are the number-one domestic animal carrier of rabies in the United States. 

Feline Nutrition

Proper nutrition can help ensure that your cat has optimal health, resistance to disease, a healthy haircoat, and energy. These factors can result in fewer behavioral problems, a good quality of life, and a long life span.

Feline Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. One of the biggest problems in cats is overfeeding, which can lead to serious problems, including obesity, heart disease, and arthritis, resulting in a shortened life span. Your veterinarian can recommend a proper type and amount of food to maintain your cat’s ideal weight.

Feline Pancreatitis

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is involved in helping the body digest food. The pancreas releases enzymes (proteins that are involved in chemical reactions in the body) into the digestive tract to help break down fats and promote digestion. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as pancreatitis

Feline Senior Wellness

With many cats living well into their teens or even twenties, many owners wonder: When is a cat truly a senior citizen? The answer is that there is no specific age at which a cat becomes “senior.” Individual pets age at different rates.

Feline Stomatitis

Feline stomatitis is a severe, painful inflammation of a cat’s mouth and gums. In most cases, the condition causes ulcers to form in the mouth; these ulcers can involve the lips, tongue, gums, and back of the throat. Cats of any age or breed can be affected.

Feline Upper Airway Infections

Upper airway infections in cats often resemble the common cold in people. Cats, especially kittens, often get upper airway infections. If your cat shows any signs of respiratory illness, such as sneezing, wheezing, or discharge from the eyes or nose (see box), make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Depending on their cause, upper airway infections can quickly become serious, especially in kittens. In adult cats, untreated infections can lead to other (secondary) infections or damage delicate sinuses, resulting in chronic problems.

Feline Urethral Obstruction

Urine flows from the kidneys down the ureters and into the bladder, where it is stored until it is released through the urethra. A urethral obstruction occurs when the urethra becomes blocked, preventing urination. There are many possible reasons for a blockage, including urinary stones, mucus or sediment plugs, blood clots, tumors, and scarring.  Although any animal is susceptible to a urethral obstruction, male cats are at greater risk for urethral blockage than dogs or female cats because their urethras are narrow and long, making them easier to plug. 

Feline Urinary Problems

Here’s how your cat’s urinary system works. The kidneys filter waste and toxins from the blood. These waste products then become part of the urine in the kidneys. Urine leaves the kidneys through narrow tubes called ureters, which empty into the bladder. When your cat urinates, the bladder is emptied through a tube called the urethra. Feline urinary problems are usually grouped into conditions of the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra) and the upper urinary tract (the kidneys and ureters).

Feline Urine Marking

Feline urine marking is a behavior in which cats mark a location with urine to notify other cats of their territory. Often it occurs near door and windows as a way to communicate to neighborhood tomcats wandering through the yard. Although this is a normal behavior in cats, most owners consider it unacceptable when it occurs in the house. Any cat can exhibit marking behaviors, but it tends to occur in male cats that have not been neutered.

Feline Vaccine Recommendations

Companion animals today have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives than ever before. One of the main reasons for this is the availability of vaccines that can protect pets from deadly infectious diseases. Over the past several decades, the widespread use of vaccines against diseases like panleukopenia and rabies has saved the lives of millions of cats. Unfortunately, infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to cats that are unvaccinated; so, although vaccine programs have been highly successful, pet owners and veterinarians cannot afford to become complacent about the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.

First Aid and Your Pet

Dealing with an injured pet can be scary and frustrating. In many cases, you don’t know how bad the injury is, and your pet may not be acting normally. If your pet is injured, the first thing you need to do is try to remain calm. If possible, try to determine how severe the injury is, but remember that caution is extremely important when approaching an injured animal. Any pet, no matter how calm or friendly he or she may usually be, can bite or scratch when in pain.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a severe allergic reaction to a flea bite. Both dogs and cats can develop FAD. Affected pets have an extreme allergic reaction to certain proteins in the flea’s saliva, which the flea injects into the pet’s skin during biting and feeding. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a reaction.

Flea and Tick Prevention

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort for your pet and can also cause serious diseases.

Fluorescein Stain

A fluorescein test is a test that can help detect injuries to the cornea, which is the clear, thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye. The cornea must remain transparent to support vision, but this transparency makes detecting scratches or other injuries on the cornea very difficult because they are invisible.

Follow-up Examination

If your pet is being treated by a veterinarian, it’s likely that you will be asked to return for a follow-up examination. This physical examination is usually scheduled a few weeks after the initial examination and may be done for a number of reasons.

Food Allergy

Food allergy (also called food hypersensitivity) refers to a type of physical reaction to food. Food reactions are classified into two categories: those that are the result of immune system stimulation and those that are not. Food allergy occurs when the immune system begins to overreact to ingredients that the pet has eaten with no problems in the past. Food intolerance occurs when what is eaten has a direct, negative effect on the stomach and/or intestines, such as spoiled meat, chewed up toys, food additives, and abrupt changes in diet. Food intolerance is not an immune reaction.

Foreign Body Surgery

Pets aren’t picky eaters. It’s common for them to eat objects, such as string, toys, rocks, and articles of clothing. Smaller objects may pass through the digestive tract uneventfully. Objects that don’t pass through easily may cause obstructions that can damage or perforate the digestive tract, which can lead to death. A foreign body surgery is an emergency procedure to retrieve an object before it damages the esophagus, stomach, or intestines.

Gastrointestinal Parasites in Cats

Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites include any parasites that live in the stomach or intestines of a host. A variety of GI parasites affect cats. They range from roundworms and tapeworms, which are visible with the naked eye, to microscopic organisms like coccidia and Giardia. Regardless of their size, GI parasites can cause serious illness in cats and sometimes even death. Some parasites are even zoonotic, which means that humans can become infected.

Getting Your Cat Back on Its Feet

The most effective way to treat lameness is to obtain an accurate diagnosis of what is wrong. If your cat is limping, don’t try to guess what the problem is or wait to see if it gets better on its own. A veterinarian can evaluate your cat by a thorough physical examination; if necessary, laboratory tests can be performed and/or radiographs (x-rays) obtained. Lameness can be caused by many things—infections, fractures, soft tissue injuries, and arthritis, to name a few. Paying attention to signs that your cat is uncomfortable and having your cat evaluated quickly can help prevent smaller problems from becoming bigger ones.

Getting a Pet Sitter

It’s important to have someone you trust care for your pet while you’re away. Keeping your pet at home in the care of a pet sitter will spare your pet the stress and health risks associated with boarding facilities. A pet sitter will not only feed and play with your pet but also water plants, bring in the mail, and take out the trash. Some sitters may also perform grooming or behavior training. A pet sitter can help your home appear to be lived in, which can deter burglars. If you don’t have a neighbor, friend, or relative who can care for your pet when you’re away, consider hiring a professional pet sitter. Knowing that your pet is being cared for by a professional pet sitter can add to your peace of mind while you’re away.

Giardiasis

Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease that can affect many species, including dogs, cats, and humans. It is caused by Giardia, a single-celled parasite that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of infected animals. Among experts, there is some question about (1) the number of Giardia subtypes that can cause disease in animals and (2) the potential of these subtypes to also infect humans. While humans are susceptible to infection with Giardia, infection by the same subtypes prevalent in animals is thought to be exceedingly rare but remains a point of controversy and investigation.

Grief in Dogs and Cats

Whether animals feel emotions in the same way people do is a mystery. However, their behaviors are commonly interpreted as reliable expressions of mood—for example, relaxed, fearful, or aggressive. Based on observed changes in behavior, it is thought that some dogs and cats grieve after losing a close human or animal companion. In 1996, the ASPCA conducted a study of mourning in companion animals and found that more than half of dogs and cats had at least four behavioral changes after losing an animal companion. Many of these changes, such as eating less and changes in sleep patterns, were similar to behaviors exhibited by grieving people.

Grooming Your Cat

Cats are known for grooming themselves, but a little help is never wasted. Regular brushing can help keep your cat’s skin and haircoat healthy and can be another way to strengthen the relationship between you and your pet.

Heart Murmurs in Cats

A heart murmur is an abnormal sound that a veterinarian hears when listening to a cat’s heart through a stethoscope. Normally, a veterinarian hears two sounds, a “lub” and a “dub,” which are the sounds of the heart valves closing as blood circulates through the heart. An additional “whooshing” sound, known as a heart murmur, is usually associated with a disturbance of the smooth blood flow through the heart.

Heatstroke

The word stroke comes from “strike,” and heatstroke means “to be struck down by heat.” Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition suffered when a pet is unable to lower its body temperature. Cells in the body become damaged when the core body temperature is between 106°F and 109°F.

Helping Your Arthritic Cat

Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce a cat’s mobility and cause severe, chronic pain. You can improve life for your arthritic cat.

Helping Your Itchy Pet

Itching can make pets absolutely miserable, but it is actually a sign of an underlying problem.

How to Administer Ear Medication to Your Cat

Many outer ear infections in cats require medicine to be put directly into the ear. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your pet becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten or scratched, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your pet, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer Ear Medication to Your Dog

Many eye conditions in dogs require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your dog becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your dog, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer Eye Medication to Your Cat

Many eye conditions in cats require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your cat becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your cat, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer Eye Medication to Your Dog

Many eye conditions in dogs require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your dog becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your dog, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer a Topical Medication to Your Cat

Many conditions in cats require medicine to be applied to the skin. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your pet becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten or scratched, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your pet, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer a Topical Medication to Your Dog

Many conditions in dogs require medicine to be applied to the skin. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your pet becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your pet, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Give Your Cat Liquid Medicine

Liquid medications are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid for easier administration. If you have trouble giving your cat pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible for specific medicines.

How to Give Your Cat a Pill

Medicines in pill or capsule form are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, but many cats dislike taking pills. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid or a powder for easier administration. If you have trouble giving your cat pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible for specific medicines.

How to Give Your Dog Liquid Medicine

Liquid medications are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid for easier administration. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible for specific medicines.

How to Give Your Dog a Pill

Medicines in pill or capsule form are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, but many dogs dislike taking pills. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid or a powder for easier administration. Some medicines for dogs come in a chewable “treat” form. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible or a treat form is available for specific medicines.

How to Keep Your Cat Off Tables and Counters

Cats naturally like high places, so keeping them off tables and counters can be difficult.

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Sick

Any decreases in energy level, appetite, or weight may signal that your cat is not feeling well. If your male cat is squatting to urinate, but no urine appears, call your veterinarian immediately. It is common for the urinary tract in male cats to become blocked. This condition is not only extremely painful; it’s a medical emergency.

Human Foods That Are Dangerous for Dogs and Cats

A number of human foods are dangerous to pets. Many of these foods may seem tasty to our pets but can prove deadly if eaten. It can be very tempting to offer pets food from the table, but pets should not be given human food unless recommended by your veterinarian.

Hyperthyroidism and Your Cat

If your older cat starts losing a lot of weight despite having a ravenous appetite, the problem might be hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when a cat’s thyroid gland (an organ located at the front of the neck) produces excess amounts of thyroid hormone. The problem is usually caused by a benign (noncancerous) tumor on the thyroid gland, although a small percentage of thyroid gland tumors in cats can be malignant (cancerous).

Ibuprofen and Naproxen Toxicosis

Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in medications like Advil and Nuprin. Naproxen is similar to ibuprofen but is longer-acting; it is the active ingredient in medications like Aleve and Naprosyn. Ibuprofen and naproxen are widely used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation in people. Unfortunately, these drugs can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Toxicosis occurs when a cat or dog eats enough of one of these drugs to cause damaging effects in the body.

Keeping Your Pet at a Healthy Weight

Pet obesity has become a very common problem. Studies indicate that nearly 50% of adult dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and that percentage increases among older pets. Obesity increases the risk for other serious health problems, including osteoarthritis, diabetes (in cats), heart and respiratory diseases, and many types of cancers. Overweight pets are also at increased risk for complications during anesthesia if they need to undergo surgery or other procedures. And if a pet already has a health condition, obesity makes the problem that much harder to manage. Being overweight can also lower your pet’s energy level and hamper his or her ability to enjoy an active lifestyle with you and your family.

Kenneling Your Cat

Even being in the best kennel is stressful for many cats. If your cat does not tolerate boarding well, consider using a pet sitter or arranging for your cat to stay in a room at a friend’s or relative’s house while you are traveling. If kenneling your cat is your only option, the following guidelines can help improve your cat’s stay at a kennel.

Kenneling Your Dog

Even being in the best kennel is stressful for many dogs. If your dog does not tolerate boarding well, consider using a pet sitter or arranging for your dog to stay with a friend or relative while you are traveling. If kenneling your dog is your only option, the following guidelines can help improve your dog’s stay at a kennel.

Kidney Disease in Pets

Kidney disease is a very general term used to describe any one of several conditions that can affect the kidneys or damage kidney cells. If kidney disease progresses, it can eventually lead to kidney failure and death.

Kitten Socialization

Socialization is the learning process through which a kitten becomes accustomed to being near various people, animals, and environments. By exposing kittens to different stimuli in a positive or neutral way, before they can develop a fear of these things, owners can reduce the likelihood of behavior problems in the future and help build a stronger bond between pets and the rest of the family. The critical time to socialize a kitten is during the first 3 to 4 months of its life.

Kitten or Adult Cat: Which Is Right for You?

Adopting a cat or a kitten is an important decision that can affect the next 15 to 20 years of your life. Adequate time should be taken to decide whether a cat or a kitten is right for you and your lifestyle. A new cat should be obtained from either a reputable breeder or an adoption shelter. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on breeders or shelters in your area. 

Litterbox Training Your Cat

Cats are usually easy to litterbox train because they are naturally clean and prefer to bury their waste. First, make sure that your cat knows where the litterbox is. Confine your cat to a small area or room with clean water, fresh food, and a clean litterbox until he or she is successfully using the litterbox and seems comfortable. Do not use a covered litterbox during the training period because it might complicate the process. If your cat urinates or defecates outside the litterbox, place the waste in the litterbox; the smell should help your cat find and use the litterbox in the future. If your cat isn’t using the litterbox after a day or two, do the following: After your cat eats, place him or her in the litterbox, and briefly scratch the litter with your finger. However, don’t force your cat to stay in the litterbox; you don’t want your cat to have a negative experience in the litterbox.

Medication Monitoring

Medication monitoring can have many components. It can involve testing the levels of a drug in your pet’s blood to ensure that those levels are high enough to be effective, but not too high (which may cause problems or side effects). It may include discussing your pet’s medical history to help ensure that your pet is not experiencing any unwanted side effects from a medication. It may also involve having your veterinarian examine your pet periodically to ensure that the clinical signs associated with the illness being treated are responding appropriately to therapy.

Microchipping Your Pet

It is recommended that you identify your pet even if you don’t plan to let him or her go outside. Even “indoor” pets can get out by accident, and many lost pets are never returned to their owners because they have no identification. Collars and tags are popular, effective methods of identification, but they can come off. Microchips, which are implanted just under the pet’s skin, are one way to permanently identify pets.

Neutering

Neutering, also known as castration, is a surgical procedure that involves removal of the testicles. It is a common surgical procedure performed on male dogs and cats to eliminate the ability to impregnate females. Neutering is also used to treat certain medical conditions, such as testicular cancer, anal tumors, and some forms of prostate disease.

Nipping and Mouthing by Dogs

Nipping and mouthing are natural, usually nonaggressive behaviors that dogs use to communicate during play and normal interaction with other pets and people. However, most people don’t appreciate nipping and mouthing by dogs, and adult dogs can inadvertently cause injury while nipping and mouthing. Therefore, these behaviors should be discouraged starting in puppyhood.

Non-recognition Aggression in Cats

Aggression refers to threats or attacks. Aggressive acts in cats include hissing, growling, swatting, chasing, and biting. Cats can have various kinds of aggressive behaviors. Non-recognition aggression occurs when one cat is uncharacteristically aggressive toward a companion cat after a period of separation. For example, after one cat returns home from a veterinary visit, the cat that stayed home is aggressive toward the returning cat, who may flee, freeze (hold still), or fight back.

Obesity in Pets: Tipping the Scale in Your Favor

Currently, studies estimate that approximately half of the pets in the United States are either overweight or obese. The health consequences of obesity in pets include increased risk for joint disease, heart and respiratory problems, and diabetes. Some researchers also have redefined obesity as a chronic inflammatory condition that can have other harmful effects in the body. Being overweight is not cute and it is not just a nuisance; it is now being recognized as a medical problem that should be managed long-term to reduce associated health risks.

OraVet' Dental Sealant

Most dental disease starts with the accumulation of plaque and tartar on a pet’s teeth. These substances contain bacteria, which can get under the gums and weaken the supporting tissue around the teeth. As a result, abscesses (pus-filled swellings) can form, and teeth may loosen, become painful, or fall out. Bacteria may also enter the bloodstream and infect the heart, kidneys, and liver. A professional veterinary dental cleaning is required to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and beneath the gum line.

Patellar Luxation

Normally, the patella (kneecap) sits in a groove at the bottom of the femur (the major bone of the upper leg), where the femur and tibia (the major bone of the lower leg) meet at the knee. The patella is held in place by tendons and ligaments that keep it relatively stable against the femur. Patellar luxation occurs when your pet’s patella luxates from (slips out of) its normal position. The kneecap can slip to either the inside (medial patellar luxation) or the outside (lateral patellar luxation) of the femur.

Periodontal Disease in Cats

More than 85% of cats over 4 years of age have evidence of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a progressive inflammation of the supporting structures surrounding the teeth and is the main cause of early tooth loss.

Pet Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Cardiac arrest means that the heart is not beating and breathing has stopped, resulting in a lack of oxygen and blood throughout the body. If your pet has a cardiac arrest, you may be able to help save his or her life by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is sometimes called cardiopulmonary–cerebral resuscitation (CPCR), until help arrives or you can get your pet to your veterinarian. By distributing much-needed oxygen and blood throughout a pet’s body, CPR can help do the work that the lungs and heart have stopped doing.

Pet Health Insurance: What's Right for Your Pet?

Pet insurance can help you budget for unforeseen medical expenses for your pet. Generally, the premium cost for a good policy is low compared with the relative peace of mind and financial help it can offer. Sorting through the various plan choices and options, however, can be daunting. Here are some tips to help you make sense of the process.

Pneumonia in Cats

Most lung tissue is made up of tiny clusters of air “balloons” (called alveoli). Each balloon is lined by a thin layer of cells and surrounded by a network of very small blood vessels. When you breathe in, air fills the balloons. The cells in the lining and the small blood vessels exchange oxygen from the air for carbon dioxide, which you then breathe out. The main pathway from the lungs to the outside of the body consists of the trachea (the large airway that begins at the back of the throat and continues down into the lungs) and the nostrils.

Pregnancy in Cats

Pregnancy is the time before birth when kittens develop inside the mother’s uterus. Unlike canine fertility, feline fertility is influenced by the amount of time that the female is exposed to sunlight. As a result, pregnancy in cats tends to be seasonal, with most births occurring from spring through early fall.

Puppy Training

Like children, puppies need to learn the appropriate behavior for living in a household and interacting with others. Puppies also seek positive reinforcement and are willing and able to learn. 

Pyoderma

Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin. It can occur when the skin’s natural defenses break down, allowing common skin bacteria to multiply out of control (called overgrowth). Bacteria from another source may also take hold when given the opportunity. Other organisms, such as yeast and fungal organisms, can take advantage of the skin changes that occur with pyoderma and establish their own infections. Dogs and cats of any age can be affected by pyoderma.

Pyometra

Pyometra is a severe bacterial infection of the uterus that can be potentially life threatening. The condition is most common in older, unspayed female dogs that have never had a litter, but it can occur in any female dog or cat that has not been spayed. In dogs, pyometra is most likely to happen in the first few weeks to months after a heat cycle.

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. All warm-blooded animals, including wild animals, dogs, cats, and humans, are susceptible to it. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is generally fatal. However, the disease is also generally preventable through vaccination.

Rodenticide Poisoning

Rodenticide poisoning occurs when dogs and cats accidentally eat mouse or rat poison. These products contain a wide range of ingredients that differ in potency and effect. In general, most rodent poisons cause one of three effects in animals:   

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a behavior problem in which a dog panics after (and sometimes before) being left alone. Dogs with this problem may vocalize, pace, urinate, defecate, and/or engage in destructive behavior before and/or after their owner leaves. Escape attempts by affected dogs can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around windows and doors.

Spay Surgery

A spay, also known as an ovariohysterectomy (ovario – hyster – ectomy) is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on female dogs and cats. This surgery removes the entire uterus and both ovaries. The primary reason for performing a spay is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, the procedure has other uses, including treatment for uterine cancer and uterine infection.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures used to remove the reproductive organs of dogs and cats. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female dog or cat. Neutering is the removal of a male dog’s or cat’s testicles. These procedures are also sometimes referred to as “sterilizing” or “fixing” pets.

Submissive Urination in Dogs

Dogs may urinate inappropriately in response to a perceived threat, which may be intentional (for example, when an owner scolds the dog) or unintentional (for example, when an owner displays a dominant behavior, such as looking directly into the dog’s eyes). Submissive urination is the dog’s way of communicating that he or she is not a threat and is submitting to the person’s dominance.

Summer Hazards and Your Cat

Cats that don’t go outside are protected from many warm weather hazards, but only if the temperature inside the home remains within a healthy range. In an effort to reduce energy usage and costs, some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave the house in the morning and turn them on when they return later in the day. However, when temperatures outside reach dangerous levels, temperatures inside the house can, too. Being shut inside a hot house can be dangerous for your cat. Like dogs, cats can rely on panting to cool themselves off. When the temperature in the environment increases, panting becomes less effective. This means that your cat could be locked inside with minimal options for cooling down. 

Summer Hazards and Your Dog

Dogs that spend most of their summer days inside are protected from many warm weather hazards, but only if the temperature inside the home remains within a healthy range. In an effort to reduce energy usage and costs, some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave the house in the morning and turn them on when they return later in the day. However, when temperatures outside reach dangerous levels, temperatures inside the house can, too. Being shut inside a hot house can be deadly for your dog. Dogs can’t sweat; they rely heavily on panting to cool themselves off. When the temperature in the environment increases, panting becomes less effective. This means that your dog could be locked inside with minimal options for cooling down.

Thyroid Level Test/Thyroid Profile Tests/Canine Hypothyroidism

Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common glandular disorder of cats older than 8 years. The disorder is usually caused by a benign tumor in one or both of the thyroid glands, which are located on either side of the neck. These tumors cause the thyroid glands to over-produce thyroid hormones. In rare cases (1% to 2%), the tumors may be cancerous.

Thyroid Level Test/Thyroid Profile Tests/Feline Hyperthyroidism

Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common glandular disorder of cats older than 8 years. The disorder is usually caused by a benign tumor in one or both of the thyroid glands, which are located on either side of the neck. These tumors cause the thyroid glands to over-produce thyroid hormones. In rare cases (1% to 2%), the tumors may be cancerous.

Ticks and Your Cat

Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts, including cats, birds, dogs, and people.

Ticks and Your Dog

Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts including birds, dogs, cats, and people.

Traveling With Your Cat

Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.

Trimming Your Cat's Nails

Nail trimming should be calm and stress-free for you and your cat. Teaching your cat to accept having his or her feet touched can help make nail trimming easier. Ideally, cats should be introduced to nail trimming when they are kittens. Most cats require nail trimming every 10 days to 2 weeks. Contact your veterinarian if you are unsure of how to cut your cat’s nails or if you experience difficulties. 

Trimming Your Dog's Nails

Nail trimming is an important aspect of grooming your dog. Your dog’s nails should be trimmed when they grow long enough to touch the ground when the dog walks. Dogs that aren’t very active might require weekly nail trimming. Dogs that are regularly walked on sidewalks might never need their nails trimmed. Dewclaw nails need to be trimmed because they don’t wear down from walking. Ask your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to teach you the safest way to trim your dog’s nails.

Ultrasonography

Ultrasonography is a type of diagnostic technique known as an imaging study. This means that when a doctor performs ultrasonography  (sometimes called an ultrasound study) he or she can see pictures, or “images,” of parts of the patient’s body. Other examples of imaging studies include x-rays (radiography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Understanding Pet Food Labels

Pet owners can be passionate about choosing the best food for their pets, but with thousands of pet food products on the market, how do pet owners make the best choice? Pet food labels are a good place to start. Understanding the label information can help pet owners make informed decisions about the food they feed their pets.

Urinalysis and Early Kidney Disease Detection

Kidney disease is a broad term meaning that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Acute kidney disease occurs quickly, often over the course of a few days, and is caused by a lack of oxygen to the kidneys or exposure to toxins such as antifreeze, pesticides, and some medications. If treated promptly, acute kidney disease may be reversible. Chronic kidney disease occurs over the course of months to years and is usually progressive, meaning that it worsens over time. Early detection and treatment of chronic renal disease can slow the progression of the disease and help keep your pet more comfortable.

Urinary Tract Disease in Cats

The urinary tract consists of four parts:

  1. Two kidneys, which produce urine
  2. The ureters, tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  3. The urinary bladder, where urine is stored
  4. The urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the outside

Any part of the urinary tract can be affected by disease.

Urine Culture Test

Urinary tract infections are common in dogs and, to a lesser degree, in cats. Signs of a urinary tract infection include increased drinking, increased or more frequent urination, urinary accidents, bloody urine, or urinating small amounts at a time.

Urine Specific Gravity Test

The kidneys have several important functions in the body, including eliminating waste products through the urine and regulating the body’s fluid balance. The urine specific gravity (SG) test tells your veterinarian how concentrated your pet’s urine is (how much water it contains). If the SG is too high, it can mean inadequate amounts of water are being eliminated through the urine. If the SG is too low, it can mean the body is losing too much water through the urine. There is a relatively wide range of normal readings for a urine SG test, but there are also several medical conditions that can affect the result.

Vaccine Titer Testing

Vaccine titer testing is a way of measuring a pet’s immune system response when the pet is vaccinated against a specific disease. Titer tests detect antibodies, which are proteins produced by the body when the immune system detects a disease-causing organism (e.g., virus, bacteria) or another “foreign” substance, like a vaccine. Antibody-stimulating substances are called antigens. Titer test results tell your veterinarian not only whether your pet has antibodies to a specific antigen, but also the level of these specific antibodies.

When to Consider Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the painless, humane termination of life. There are times when medical science has exhausted all of its capabilities and euthanasia is the only way to prevent an animal from suffering needlessly. However, the decision regarding when to euthanize is fraught with medical, financial, ethical, religious, moral, and sometimes legal considerations. Euthanasia is therefore a medical procedure that needs to be discussed (however painful that discussion may be) and considered fully before a final decision is made.

Why Do I Need To Vaccinate My Pet?

Companion animals today have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives than ever before, in part due to the availability of vaccines that can protect pets from deadly infectious diseases. Over the past several decades, the widespread use of vaccines against diseases like rabies has saved the lives of millions of pets and driven some diseases into relative obscurity. Unfortunately, infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to dogs and cats that are unvaccinated; therefore, although vaccine programs have been highly successful, pet owners and veterinarians cannot afford to be complacent about the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Winter Hazards and Your Cat

Cats that spend time outdoors are exposed to various environmental and physical dangers. In the winter, cats are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia (low body temperature), just like humans. Cats should not be left outside for long periods of time in the winter and should always have the option of coming inside. It’s important to be aware of these risks, so you can keep your cat safe and healthy.

Xylitol Toxicosis

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is commonly used in sugar-free gum and candy, nicotine gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and chewable vitamins. Xylitol has been used safely in these human products for many years, but it is toxic (poisonous) when eaten by dogs. Xylitol toxicosis occurs when a dog eats enough of the product to cause damaging effects in the body. Currently, xylitol is not known to be toxic in cats. Other artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are not known to be toxic in pets.

Your Pet's Prescribed Diet

If your pet is on a prescribed diet, keeping him or her on that diet is essential for the best possible health and quality of life. Your veterinarian has carefully selected your pet’s prescribed diet based on his or her specific needs, so this food should not be changed.

All Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

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10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

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A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

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ACTH Stimulation Test

Glucocorticoids (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoids are two important types of hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids help regulate numerous complex processes in the body and participate in critically important functions.

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Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

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