Archive for the ‘General Pet Health’ Category

To Spay Or Not To Spay…..That Is The Question!

Friday, April 18th, 2014

To spay or not to spay. That is the question


Why spay or neuter?

Every year, millions of unwanted pets, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized. However, responsible pet owners can make a difference. By having your dog or cat sterilized, you will do your part in preventing the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens. Spaying and neutering prevents unwanted litters and may even reduce a lot of the behavioral problems associated with the mating instinct.


Spaying eliminates heat cycles and usually reduces habits and behaviors that pet owners so often complain about. Neutering male dogs and cats reduces the breeding instinct and can have a calming effect, making them less likely to roam and more content to stay home (and snuggle with you on the couch).


Early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Neutering of male pets can also lessen the risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and testicular cancer.


The procedure has absolutely no effect on a pets’ intellect or physical abilities. In fact, most pets tend to be better behaved following surgical removal of their ovaries or testes, making them more desirable pets to be around.


Risks of surgery

While both spaying and neutering are major surgical procedures, they are also the most common surgeries that veterinarians perform on dogs and cats. Like any surgical procedure, sterilization is associated with some anesthetic and surgical risk, but the overall incidence of complications is very low.


Although reproductive hormones cause mating behaviors that may be undesirable for many pet owners, these hormones also affect your pets overall health. Removing your pet’s ovaries or testes reduces these hormones and can result in increased risk of health problems such as incontinence. Talk to our veterinarians about the benefits and risks of the sterilization procedure so you can be well informed before making a decision.


Before the procedure is done, your pet will be given a pre-surgical examination to ensure that your pet is in good health. General anesthesia is administered to perform the surgery and medications are given to minimize pain (it is after all, like a hysterectomy for women. Ouch!)  You will be asked to keep your pet calm and quiet for a few days after surgery to give your pet and the incision time to properly heal.


When to spay or neuter

We at North Hills Veterinary Clinic recommend spaying and neutering at 4 months of age but you will want to consult your veterinarian to see what they recommend. Keep in mind, contrary to popular belief, it is best NOT to wait for your female dog or cat to go through their first heat cycle before your spay.



I Have a New Pet! Now What – Part 3, Exotic Pet Vaccines

Friday, February 7th, 2014

This is the third and last post in the vaccine series and it has to do with exotic pet vaccines. Unlike dogs and cats, most exotic pets don’t need vaccines.  One pet that does need vaccines are ferrets. The need to be treated against canine distemper and rabies.

Ferrets are very susceptible to the distemper virus of dogs and catch it the same way dogs do; by exposure to another animal that has the disease by sneeze or cough.

Ferrets that catch the disease will become depressed. They will also develop a rash on the skin, nasal and eye discharge and eventually nerve degeneration. It’s very important to vaccinate because there is no treatment for this disease in ferrets.

Ferrets should have the first vaccine at 6-8 weeks of age and another booster vaccine at 10-12 weeks. Some veterinarians also give a third vaccine at 14-16 weeks. After that, it should be updated every year.

Ferrets should and are required by law (depending on state regulations) every year to be vaccinated for rabies. They can be affected by the disease the same way a cat or dog can be.

Here is a list of exotic pets that one might have that do not need vaccinations in the US.

  • Rabbits
  • Any and all reptiles
  • Any and all amphibians
  • birds
  • guinea pigs/hamsters
  • pigs
  • hedgehogs

I have a new pet! Now What? Part 2 – Cat Vaccines

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

This is the second post in the 3 part series for animal vaccinations. In our last post we covered dog vaccines and the next post will be on exotic pet vaccines.

A lot of people might think that since their cat is “strictly an indoor cat” that there is no need for vaccinations. This is most certainly not the case. They, just like all of your other household (including strictly outdoor) pets need to be protected against diseases. Here are the most common feline vaccines that should be administered.

FVRCP protects again three different viruses; Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. They can be contracted by cats at any age. Rhinotracheitis is triggered by the common feline herpes virus. Sneezing, a runny nose, and drooling are among common symptoms. Eyes could become mucousy, they may sleep more and eat less than normal. If untreated, it can lead to dehydration, starvation and eventually death. Calcivirus has similar symptoms, affecting respiratory systems and also causing ulcers in the mouth. If left untreated, it can lead to pneumonia. Kitten and senior cats are especially susceptible. Panleukopenia is also known as distemper and is highly contagious between cats. Distemper is so common that nearly all cats –regardless of breed or living situations – will be exposed to it in their lifetime. It’s especially common in kittens who have not been vaccinated against it. Fever, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea are among the common symptoms. This disease progresses rapidly and requires immediate medical attention. Without medical attention from a veterinarian, a cat can die within 12 hours of contracting the disease.

Kittens should receive their first FVRCP vaccine in between 6-8 weeks of age, followed by three booster shots once a month. Adult cats should receive a boosters according to veterinarian recommendations.

FELV (Feline Leukemia) – a disease that only affects cats. FeLV is passed from one cat to another through saliva, blood, and to some extent, urine and feces. It can also be contracted to kittens in utero or through an infected mother’s milk. Exposure to infected cats raises your cat’s risk of contracting feline leukemia, especially for kittens and young adult cats. The FeLV vaccine should be administered when you give the last set of kitten shots (FVRCP) and boostered at veterinarian recommendation.

Rabies – not only is rabies required by law; but it’s very important  to protect both animals and humans from being exposed to rabies through a bite or saliva of a rabid animal. As with dogs, rabies is very dangerous and is non-treatable. Feline rabies vaccine should be given at 12-16 weeks of age and boostered a year later. After the year vaccine, it needs to be boostered every 3 years.   Please note that leaving the United States mainland may alter rabies vaccination needs due to import restrictions.



I have a new pet! Now what? Part 1 – Dog Vaccines

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Have you ever thought about adopting or attaining a new pet but weren’t sure what to do with him/her once you got them? There is some basic veterinarian care you should do once you get your new pet. I’ve broken down this post into 3 different posts: dog vaccines, cat vaccines, and vaccines for exotic pets. This first part is addressing dog vaccinations.

First and foremost, you should always try and get as much medical history you can from the previous owner or shelter where you got the pet. If possible, get a copy of their medical chart. It’s important to know what vaccines they’ve received and when they need an update. Once they are completely in your care, it’s always a good idea to schedule a general check up (whether they need vaccines or not) to make sure they’re completely healthy.

If they are in need of vaccines, be sure to stay on top of them so they’re always up to date and fully protected. Here’s a list of vaccines for dogs that are highly recommended by veterinarians.


DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus (canine hepatitis), Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) – Parvo (one of the things DAPP protects against) is a potentially deadly internal virus that is contracted most often by dogs between the ages of 0-2years and those that haven’t been vaccinated for the virus. It is highly contagious and can be passed through contact of feces (careful where you step!). It can live in the environment for years so it’s always a good idea to play it safe! Common signs are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, not eating or drinking. Call a vet immediately if you suspect parvo. Puppies should be vaccinated at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks and then boosted at a year.  Your veterinarian will help you determine vaccine needs after the 1 year booster.

RV (rabies) is a vaccine  required by law to have and is one of the most important, highly recommended vaccines. Rabies is a deadly zoonotic (can be passed from animals to humans) disease and is spread most often through bite wounds from infected animals.  They should be vaccinated for rabies at 12-16 weeks of age and boostered a year later.    Subsequent boosters are every 3 years.

           Bordetella – protects against kennel cough. If your dog is going to be boarded, go to the groomers, or if they’re around other dogs frequently, it’s always a good idea to have this vaccine. Bordetella is commenly given every six months to a year depending on  your lifestyle and contact with other dogs.

          Lepto (leptospirosis) – Pets can become infected by sniffing infected urine left by wild rodents such as raccoons, skunks, even mice.  More often, the leptospira are washed by rains into standing water. Then pets wading, swimming or drinking the contaminated water, develop the disease. Although this is the way that leptospira usually pass from animal to animal, they can also enter through a bite wound or through the pets eating infected materials. It’s more common in the late summer, early fall because that’s when wild creatures are encountered more.   It’s always a good idea to protect your pet against this virus if you like to go hiking, camping, etc. in a place where wild animals might be. Lepto is an annual vaccine. Best given right before the summer when there is more outdoor activities



Pet poisons in your purse! Who knew?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Have you ever been worried about things your pets can get into that would be harmful to them? According to Pet Poison Helpline in Minneapolis, MN recently released a list of the “top 5 pet poisons” are found right in your purse. Who knew!? Your handbag can be a death trap for those curious, wandering noses (and mouths).

  1. Sugarless chewing gum and breath mints (xylitol)

A lot of top brand chewing gums contain xylitol which is a sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Some sugarless mints, flavored multivitamins, toothpastes, and mouthwashes may also be made with xylitol. When ingested, even small amounts of xylitol can result in a life-threatening and rapid drop in blood sugar, large amounts of xylitol can also cause liver failure. Each product has various amounts of xylitol, so if consumed contact your veterinarian or pet poison helpline at 855-213-6680.

2. Human Medications

Most women tend to carry around some type of pain killer in their purse for those periodic headaches, right? A lot of pill bottles are easy for dogs to chew through, they rattle when shaken which resemble pet toys. Common drug poisonings include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and antidepressants. All of these are very harmful to dogs and cats when ingested. Of all medications, antidepressants account for the highest number of calls to Pet Poison Helpline, and can cause neurological problems like sedation, incoordination, agitation, tremors, and seizures.

  1. Asthma Inhalers (albuterol)

It’s common for asthma inhalers to be among the contents of a purse for emergency use. When accidentally chewed on and punctured by dogs, asthma inhalers can cause severe, even fatal, acute poisoning. Asthma inhalers often contain concentrated doses of beta-agonist drugs such as albuterol; each inhaler often contains 200 doses in one vial. When dogs chew through them, they are exposed to a large amount of the drugs all at once. This can lead to severe poisoning, resulting in life-threatening heart arrhythmias, agitation, vomiting, collapse, and death.

  1. Cigarettes (nicotine)

Not only are cigarettes bad for humans, but they are equally as bad for your pets! As few as three cigarettes can be fatal to a small dog, depending on the type of cigarette (“strength or lightness”). Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even smoking cessation gums contain nicotine which is toxic to dogs and cats. Clinic signs from nicotine poisoning happen very rapidly, as soon as 15 minutes, and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Signs of elevated heart and respiratory rates, neurological over stimulation, uncontrolled urination and/or defecation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death can be seen with accidental ingestion.

  1. Hand sanitizer (alcohol)

In today’s society where a lot of people are concerned about germs, most people carry around hand sanitizer in their purses (and for those mothers, their diaper bags). Many brands of hand sanitizers contain high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol) – nearly 100 percent alcohol! When a pet ingests a small bottle of hand sanitizer from having chewed through the bottle, it can have the same effect as a shot of hard liquor. Signs of alcohol poisoning include a severe drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), incoordination, a drop in body temperature, neurological depression, coma and death.


Be prepared!

Be smart about where you put your purse. Keep it out of reach of your pets just as you would your children. Always have an emergency animal facility’s contact information as well as Pet Poison Helpline that you can refer to for those unexpected mishaps.