Sharing your life with a pet can be very rewarding but often comes with questions. We have answered a few common questions below. If you can’t find your answer here, contact us and we will be glad to help.
Q: What will extend the life of my pet?
Annual physical examination is one of the best ways to keep your pet healthy. It is important to know what is normal for your pet. If something deviates from normal finding out why could help prevent disease or allow early diagnosis. Dr. Wright performs a nose to tail examination of your pet and makes detailed notes in the medical record so baselines are established.
Oral health is very important and a healthy mouth will extend your pets life. Periodontal disease is the most common disease diagnosed in pets over three years of age. The chronic inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease takes a toll on the body and can lead to heart, liver and kidney disease. Regular home care with frequent brushing along with regular professional cleanings is the only way to prevent periodontal disease. Once periodontal disease is present it cannot be stopped unless teeth are extracted. Dr. Wright recommends all pets have a professional dental cleaning with full mouth x-rays by age three. As long as pets are healthy enough for anesthesia, an annual cleaning and evaluation will help ensure periodontal disease is kept in check.
Annual blood screening will help to establish a metabolic baseline for your pet and allow for early detection of disease. Early detection of disease and prompt treatment allows for better outcomes. Once a disease has progressed to the later stages it is harder to manage.
Avoiding infectious disease is important for a long healthy life. Keeping your pet up to date on vaccinations will help them avoid serious infection. The type of vaccinations needed and the frequency they are needed may vary between individuals. Dr. Wright will determine the vaccinations your pet needs based on their age, breed, potential exposures, lifestyle and current health issues.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight will help them live longer. Pets that are over weight will live 2-3 years less than normal weight pets. Obese pets are more likely to have diabetes and suffer from arthritis than normal weight pets.
Regular and consistent use of preventative medications will help curb your pet’s exposure to disease carrying parasites. Heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks can make your pet sick and can even be fatal. Some of the diseases these parasites carry can even be transferred to people.
Q: What type of food is healthiest for pets?
There is not a perfect food and a dog or cat’s diet should be based on their lifestyle and healthcare needs. Pets with a specific health concern that can be managed or treated with diet should eat a special food made specifically for their health issues. In general terms, puppies and kittens should eat puppy/kitten food until they are done growing. Large breed puppies should eat large breed puppy food. Working dogs (i.e. hunting dog) that are expending a lot of calories can also be fed puppy food. Typical family dogs and cats that expend an average amount of energy each day can do very well on an adult maintenance diet. Older pets that are less active may do better on a senior type pet food.
There are many pet food manufactures these days so keeping up can be very difficult if not impossible. Some pet food companies do not make their own food and hire other companies to make it for them. If the food bag says made FOR rather than BY it means they did not make the food. If they do not own their own production facilities they have no control over the production process so contamination of the food is more likely. The larger manufacturers have better quality control measures and have fewer recalls of their products compared to smaller producers. Foods made from ingredients sourced in North America are generally safer as well. Doing a lot of research on their products is also important. If the company cannot show research backing up their health benefit claims I would have doubts about their product.
Hills Science Diet and Royal Canin products meet all of these requirements and are generally what I recommend owners feed their pets. We carry prescription diets from both of these manufacturers and if your pet has a specific health concern Dr. Wright can help you choose an appropriate diet.
Q: How much food does my pet need?
There should be a feeding guide on the package for the average dog or cat. More active pets may need more and less active pets may need less. The best way to know is watch your pet for weight gain or loss. Most pets weight will fluctuate a small amount and this is normal. A weight gain or loss of 10% of the pet’s body weight could indicate a health issue and should be investigated right away.
If you need help determining the amount of food to feed your pet Dr. Wright will help you determine the appropriate amount.
Q: Is my pet too plump?
Being overweight is one of the most common health concerns for companion animals. The best way to determine proper weight for a dog or cat is their body condition score (BCS). The BCS is based on the pet’s appearance. There can be some breed variations but in general terms the chest should be deeper than the abdomen and should slope up towards the tail. When looking from above, the chest should be wider than the abdomen. Being able to feel a small amount of ribs but not be able to see them is normal. If you have questions about your pets BCS let us know and we can help.
Q: What vaccinations should my pet receive?
We base our vaccination recommendations on guidelines published by the American Animal Hospital Association. However, every pet will have a different disease exposure risk so a thorough history is obtained from the pet owner to determine the risk for each individual pet. A customized vaccination schedule will be applied to each pet to help mitigate disease risk based on their individual lifestyle, age, breed and health conditions. Rabies vaccination is regulated by Texas state law.
If you have questions about vaccinations please let us know and Dr. Wright can discuss your concerns.
Q: When can my puppy go to the dog park?
Anyone can take their dog to the dog park even if they are not vaccinated, sick or not socialized. Infectious diseases are easily spread when large numbers of dogs are in the same area. Exposure to unknown dogs is not a good idea until a puppy is fully immunized. This is usually done by 16 weeks of age. Puppies go through a series of vaccinations every 3-4 weeks starting at 6-8 weeks of age. Until the series is complete, puppies should only have socialization/exposure with known dogs that are healthy and fully vaccinated.
Q: What’s the scoop on Flea, Tick, and Heartworm medication?
Prevention of disease through parasite control is very important. Fleas, ticks and mosquitos can transmit diseases that can make your pet sick or even die. Some of those diseases can also be spread to people. Regular use of preventive medications is the only way to mitigate your pet’s parasite exposure.
There are many forms of preventions available and not all are appropriate for every individual. Long acting heartworm prevention like ProHeart6 is the easiest way to guarantee long term compliance. One injection lasts 6 months so owners do not have to remember to administer a monthly tablet. Monthly heartworm preventatives work well but a single missed dose can leave your dog open to heartworm disease.
The gold standard for flea and tick control are the orally administered Isoxazaline class of drugs. There are a few different options available but Dr. Wright prefers Bravecto because one dose will prevent fleas and most ticks for 12 weeks.
If you have specific questions about your pets preventive medication needs let us know so we can help.
Q: How often should I bathe my pet?
The short answer is when they are dirty. Over-bathing can be an issue for some dogs as this can cause dry skin. Using a gentle shampoo (I like oatmeal based shampoos) according the package directions is the best option.
Q: Can my pet make me sick?
A disease that can be spread to a human from an animal is called a zoonotic disease. There are many zoonotic diseases that can be spread from dogs and cats to their owners. Many bacterial and fungal diseases are contagious as well as many parasites. Viruses are less likely to transmit between species but it can happen (i.e. swine flu, avian flu). Most of the time infants or elderly people are more at risk but an individual with a compromised immune system could also be at risk.
Using common sense precautions like hand washing, cleaning up feces promptly and thoroughly and limiting exposure of at risk individuals is the best practice. If you are concerned about health risks for you or your family you should discuss your concerns with your physician and Dr. Wright.
Q: What is considered adequate and appropriate exercise for my pet?
All pets need exercise on a regular basis. Some dog breeds may need more than others and younger dogs usually need more than older dogs. Exercise is an important factor for a healthy body and mind for dogs and cats. During the Texas summer heat, precautions should be taken to avoid heat related injury. Dogs that are acclimated to heat or cold can do more in temperature extremes than those that are not. Common sense dictates, if your dog spends most of the day in the AC they should not be taken for a walk or run in the heat. Brachycephalic breeds (boxers, pugs, bulldogs, etc.) should not be exercised at high temperatures as they cannot pant efficiently enough to avoid heat related illness. Caution should also be exercised when walking dogs on hot pavement as their feet can be burned.
Having plenty of toys and other enrichment available for your indoor cat to stalk and pounce will help keep them stay active and fit.
Q: Should I purchase pet insurance?
There are a wide variety of policies and companies who offer pet insurance. The policy coverage can vary between catastrophic care or regular healthcare needs (vaccinations, examinations, etc.). The type of policy needed will vary between owners and pets.
Most people ask about pet insurance when their pet is already sick. At that point it is too late, as insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. The insurance needs to be in place prior to the illness or injury.
Insurance becomes most important for dogs and cats that have a chronic disease or experience a trauma. The problem is, we do not know which pets will have chronic diseases or trauma. Insurance more than pays for itself if you use it and is peace of mind if you don’t.
Q: My dog’s ears smell, what should I do?
A healthy dog ear is clean of debris and has no odor. Waxy buildup and/or odor is a sign of disease and should be examined. Ear infections are more common in some breeds than others but can occur in any dog or cat.
Q: My dog chipped a tooth, should I worry?
Fractured teeth are a common problem for dogs and cats. Their teeth are tough but not indestructible. Chewing on something too hard is the most likely cause for a tooth fracture. If you cannot bend or squeeze an object (toy or treat) with your hands it can break a tooth. Broken teeth often become infected and can be very painful. If you notice a broken tooth it needs to be examined as soon as possible to help avoid pain and infection. If you are concerned about your pet’s oral health Dr. Wright can do a free oral examination to help determine your pet’s risks.
Q: Could my dogs' diet be a factor in whether they develop heart disease?
Yes, your dogs’ diet could be a factor in whether they develop heart disease, according to a new FDA report. The Food and Drug Administration announced that it is continuing to investigate a potential connection between certain diets and cases of dilated cardiomyopathy, known as DCM or canine heart disease, which can result in congestive heart failure. The agency first announced the investigation in July 2018. The announcement named 16 pet food brands most frequently identified in 524 reported cases, which included 515 dogs and nine cats.
“We know it can be devastating to suddenly learn that your previously healthy pet has a potentially life-threatening disease like DCM,” Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement. “That’s why the FDA is committed to continuing our collaborative scientific investigation into the possible link between DCM and certain pet foods.”
Here are the 16 brands most frequently identified in the report and how many cases were reported to the FDA for each:
- Acana: 67
- Zignature: 64
- Taste of the Wild: 53
- 4Health: 32
- Earthborn Holistic: 32
- Blue Buffalo: 31
- Nature’s Domain: 29
- Fromm: 24
- Merrick: 16
- California Natural: 15
- Natural Balance: 15
- Orijen: 12
- Nature’s Variety: 11
- NutriSource: 10
- Nutro: 10
- Rachael Ray Nutrish: 10
Grain free diets were based on clever marketing and not nutrition science. Dogs have been fed foods containing grains safely for decades. Canine food allergies are almost exclusively caused by the animal protein and are rarely grain-related. Hills Science Diet and Royal Canin make a wide range of foods to suit the needs of most dogs. I strongly recommend you look into transitioning away from a grain free food to a product made by one of these companies. Transitioning your dog's diet should be done gradually over 7-10 days.