Featured Care Guides

Adopting Instead of Buying a Pet

While the estimates vary, approximately three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized (“put to sleep”) each year in the United States because too few people spay or neuter the pets they have, too few adopt their new pets, and too many give up their pets. Because space at shelters is limited, staff members must make the difficult decision to euthanize healthy animals that aren’t adopted within a certain amount of time.

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 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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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 and Tick Prevention

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

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.

Gastric Dilatation'Volvulus

Gastric dilation–volvulus (GDV), or “bloat,” is a life-threatening condition in which a dog’s stomach fills with air and becomes twisted. Gas builds up in the twisted stomach and stretches it. This stretching, also called distention, is extremely painful and limits the amount of blood that can reach other parts of the body. When blood can’t reach body tissues to supply oxygen, those tissues can die. GDV is an emergency situation, and if not treated immediately, it can be fatal. While any size or breed of dog can develop this condition, it is more common in larger-breed dogs with deep chests, like German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Great Danes.

Grooming Your Dog

Grooming does more than make your dog look good. Regular brushing, bathing, and—if necessary—trimming can help keep your dog’s skin and haircoat healthy, and if you can teach your dog to enjoy these activities, grooming can be another way to strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

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.

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.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a potentially serious disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It affects dogs but can also infect a wide variety of domestic and wild animals and humans. The bacteria can survive for long periods of time in water and are frequently found in swamps, streams, lakes, and standing water. The bacteria also survive well in mud and moist soil, and localized outbreaks can occur after flooding. Infected animals can continue to shed the bacteria in their urine for months or even years after recovery. Carriers of the bacteria include raccoons, opossums, rodents, skunks, and dogs. The disease is transmitted to dogs when they have contact with urine or contaminated water or soil.

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.

Physical Examination and Feline Distemper Combination Vaccine

During your pet’s examination, your veterinarian will ask you many questions about your pet’s behavior, lifestyle, and health history since your last visit. The answers to these questions will help your veterinarian determine what preventive care recommendations he or she should make to help keep your pet healthy. Based on your pet’s age, lifestyle, and disease risk, your veterinarian will recommend vaccinations for your pet.

Physical Examination and Feline Infectious Peritonitis Vaccine

A thorough physical examination is an important part of routine wellness care for all cats. Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses, so a physical examination may be the only way to determine if your cat is as healthy as he or she seems to be. Even if your cat seems fine and has no evidence of problems, routine physical examinations are important for establishing “normal” values for you cat. For example, subtle changes in weight may only be noticed by comparing your cat’s current weight with readings recorded during previous examinations.

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.

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.

The Wellness Examination

A wellness examination is a complete physical examination along with diagnostic testingthat may include bloodwork, urinalysis, and checking a stool sample for parasites. In many cases, a wellness examination can help detect the early stages of disease. Often, your veterinarian will schedule this exam when your pet is due for vaccinations.

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.

Traveling With Your Dog

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.

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.

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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