Learn About Your Pets and Their Health

Click on any of the resource categories below to learn more about every facet of your pet’s health! Trust the veterinary services offered by Rosswell to address any of these potential issues.


I was unaware that dogs have dental problems. Is it common?
Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. Over 68% of all pets over the age of three have some form of periodontal or dental disease. Most pets will show few signs of dental disease. It is up to the pet’s family and veterinarian to uncover this hidden and often painful condition. 

Are dental problems the same in pets and people?
No. In humans, the most common problem is tooth decay, which, due to the loss of calcium from the enamel, results in painful and infected cavities. In dogs, tooth decay represents less than 10% of all dental problems. The most common dental problems seen in dogs are caused by periodontal disease.

What are the clinical signs of dental disease?
There are a number of signs that should alert you to dental disease or other mouth problems in your dog or cat. Your pet may show a decreased interest in food or approach the food bowl and then show a reluctance to eat. It may chew with obvious caution and discomfort, drop food from the mouth, or may swallow with difficulty. Dribbling may be seen, possibly with blood, and there may be a marked unpleasant odour to the breath. In some cases, pets may be seen pawing at their mouths or shaking their heads. A reluctance to eat may lead to weight loss, which can become very serious. Many cats will refuse dry food and demonstrate a preference for moist or canned foods. Dental disease and oral pain may account for the “finicky appetites” that many cats display.

Is gingivitis always associated with dental disease?
A slight degree of redness seen as a thin line just below the edge of the gum may be considered normal in some puppies and kittens and adult dogs and cats with no evidence of dental disease.

Some dogs and cats develop severe gingivitis with minimal signs of accompanying dental disease. The affected areas may extend beyond the gums to other areas of the mouth, such as the throat or tongue. The cause of this condition is not fully understood but it is likely to be multi-factorial and may differ between individual cases. This condition is often very difficult to control and may require repeated or constant treatment, and its accurate diagnosis can involve extensive investigative procedures.

What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of teeth tartar and dental calculus on the teeth contributes to gum recession around the base of the tooth. Infection soon follows and the gums recede, exposing sensitive unprotected tooth surfaces. Untreated infection then spreads into the tooth socket and ultimately the tooth loosens and is lost.

Is periodontal disease very common?
It is estimated that more than 68% of dogs over three years old suffer from some degree of periodontitis, making it by far the most common canine disease.

How can I prevent tartar accumulation after the procedure?
Plaque and tartar begin forming in as little as six hours after your pet’s dental cleaning, making a home dental care program a must for all pets. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions on how to brush or rinse your pet’s teeth.

Can I use human toothpaste?
Human dentifrice or toothpaste should not be used in dogs. These are foaming products and are not meant to be swallowed. Additionally, many types of human toothpaste contain sodium, which may cause problems in some pets.

What is dietary sensitivity?
This is a general term for any adverse reaction to food. There are two types of dietary sensitivity:

Food allergies: An immune reaction to a particular ingredient, which is usually a protein. Allergies may last a lifetime so the ingredient must be permanently removed from your pet’s diet.

Food intolerance: Not all reactions to food are allergies. Some pets simply cannot tolerate certain foods. Pets may be able to build up a tolerance, but it is best to avoid the ingredient altogether.

What causes dietary sensitivity?

Food: The most common cause of food allergies in dogs are beef, milk products and wheat. In cats, the most common are beef, milk products and fish.

Damage: Inflammation, infection, surgery and some medications can lead to the damage of the digestive system and may lead to a dietary sensitivity.

Age: Dietary sensitivity can occur at any age. However, a food intolerance is more common in younger pets and food allergies are more common in adult pets.

Breed: Some breeds are more likely to develop dietary sensitivity including Siamese cats, West Highland Terriers, Cocker Spaniels and Irish Setters.

What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom is digestive upset or skin irritation. Other symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Frequent scratching and hair loss
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Chronic ear problems
  • Poor growth in young pets
  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing

What can be done to treat my pet?
Changing their diet to one with a single protein and carbohydrate source will generally help to clear up any symptoms your pet may be having. It can be trial and error for a little while until you figure out what is working for your pet. It is recommended to stay on one particular food for at least 10 weeks to notice if the change is making a difference for your pet. Allergy testing is also available for pets to determine exactly what is causing the allergy.

What are ear mites?
The ear mite Otodectes cynotis is a surface mite that lives on cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets. It is usually found in the ear canal, but it can also live on the skin surface. The entire ear mite life cycle takes place on animals. Cats become infested by direct contact with another infested animal. The mite is just visible to the naked eye and can be seen as a white speck moving against a dark background.

What are the clinical signs of ear mites?
Ear mites are the most common cause of feline ear disease and infection. They are the second most common ectoparasite found on cats; the most common being the flea. Infestations are more common in kittens and young cats although cats of any age can be affected. Clinical signs of infestation vary in severity from one cat to another and include combinations of:

  1. Ear irritation causing scratching at the ears or head shaking
  2. A dark waxy or crusty discharge from the ear
  3. Areas of hair loss resulting from self-trauma – scratching or excessive grooming
  4. A crusted rash around/in the ear
  5. An aural hematoma – a large blood blister cause by rupture of small blood vessels between the skin and cartilage of the ear usually on the inner aspect – caused by scratching at the ears
  6. Skin lesions most frequently affect the ear and surrounding skin but occasionally other areas of the body may be affected.

How are ear mites treated?
Three steps are required to successfully treat ear mites:

  1. Treat the ears of all affected and susceptible pets
  2. Treat the skin of all affected and susceptible pets
  3. Treat the indoor environment; the mite is capable of limited survival off of pets

Your veterinarian will advise you about which insecticidal products are suitable. There are several ear medications licensed for the treatment of ear mites. There are no products licensed for use on the house or on an animal’s skin, but many products licensed for flea control are effective.

Your veterinarian may ask you to continue the treatment regime for at least 21 days after which your veterinarian may re-examine the cat to ensure that the mites have been eliminated. 

Do ear mites affect people? 
Ear mites may cause a temporary itchy rash on susceptible people if there are infested pets in the household. Eradication of the mites from the pets will cure the problem.


How common are ear infections in cats?
Infections of the external ear canal or outer ear caused by bacteria and yeast are common in dogs but not as common in cats. Outer ear infections are called otitis externa. The most common cause of feline otitis externa is ear mite infestation.

What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
Ear infections cause pain and discomfort and the ear canals are sensitive. Many cats will shake their head and scratch their ears attempting to remove the debris and fluid from the ear canal. The ears often become red and inflamed and develop an offensive odour. A black or yellow discharge is commonly observed.

Don’t these symptoms usually suggest ear mites?
Ear mites can cause several of these symptoms including a black discharge, scratching and head shaking. However, ear mite infections generally occur in kittens and outdoor cats. 
Ear mites in adult cats occur most frequently after a kitten carrying mites is introduced into the household or if they have encountered another cat with ear mites. Sometimes ear mites will create an environment within the ear canal which leads to a secondary infection with bacteria or yeast. By the time the cat is presented to the veterinarian the mites may be gone but a significant ear infection remains.

Since these symptoms are similar can I just buy some ear drops?
No, careful diagnosis of the exact cause of the problem is necessary to enable selection of appropriate treatment. There are several kinds of bacteria and fungi that may also cause an ear infection. Without knowing the kind of infection present, we do not know which drug to use. In some cases the ear infection may be caused by a foreign body, tumour or polyp in the ear canal. Treatment with medication alone will not resolve these problems. It is important that the cat be examined to be sure that the eardrum is intact. Administration of certain medications can result in loss of hearing if the eardrum is ruptured.

How should I apply medication to my cat’s ear?
It is important to get the medication into the horizontal ear canal or lower part of the ear canal. The cat’s ear canal is shaped like an “L” and careful attention must be given that you apply the medication into the entire ear canal. This is best done by following these steps:

  • Gently pull the ear flap straight up and hold it with one hand.
  • Apply a small amount of medication in the vertical canal or upper part of the ear canal while continuing to keep the ear flap elevated. Hold this position long enough for the medication to run down to the turn between the vertical and horizontal ear canal.
  • Put one finger in front of and at the base of the ear flap and put your thumb behind at the base.
  • Massage the ear canal between your fingers and thumb. A squishing sound tells you that the medication has gone into the horizontal canal.
  • Release the ear and let your cat shake its head. If the medication contains a wax solvent debris will be dissolved so it can be shaken out.

If another medication is to be used, apply it in the same manner.

When all medications have been applied, clean the outer part of the ear canal and the inside of the ear flap with a cotton ball. Do not use cotton tipped applicators, as they tend to push debris back into the vertical ear canal.

My dog always seems to have fleas. What can I do?
Successful flea control involves:

  1. Eliminating fleas from your dog
  2. Controlling fleas in the environment

Dogs and cats share the same fleas. It is important that all pets in your home are on a flea preventive. Treating your pet for fleas has never been easier with the many choices we have today. As a result, we can provide you with the safest and most effective flea preventive for your pet’s needs.

Apart from irritation, are fleas particularly harmful?
Fleas can cause anemia in heavy infestations, especially in young or debilitated dogs. A single female flea can take up to 15 times her body weight in blood over the several weeks of her adult life. In addition, fleas can carry several diseases, including plague, and also act as vectors to spread one of the most common tapeworms of the dog and cat, Diplylidium caninum.

How do I prevent fleas on my dog?
Successful flea control includes treating both the environment as well as your pet.

What flea products should I put on my dog?
Shampoos, sprays, powders and topical preparations are all available. Be sure to consult your veterinarian to choose the most effective and safe flea products for your home and pet.

What about the environment?
Environmental preparations are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Remember that most products are only effective against the adult flea. Your veterinarian can provide you with flea products that contain Insect Growth Regulators (IGR) that will help destroy the flea eggs and larvae. Before applying any environmental product, we recommend vacuuming your carpet to stimulate the pre-adult fleas to emerge from their protective cocoons. Be sure to discard the vacuum cleaner bag after use.

My dog lives most of his life outside. What should I do?
Concentrate on dark, shaded areas. Spray a product containing an IGR and repeat every 14 to 21 days for three to five applications. Newer topical and oral flea preventives will greatly assist you in solving your flea problem. With persistence and patience, you and your pet will be flea-free in no time!


What are ticks?
Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids similar to scorpions, spiders and mites. All ticks have four pairs of legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects by comparison have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable amount of time while feeding. Ticks can take several days to complete feeding.

How can my dog pick up ticks?
Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks are not commonly found in trees. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl, they cannot fly or jump. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days if the ground temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius).

What are the different types of ticks? 
There are two groups of ticks, sometimes called the “hard” ticks (Ixodidae) and “soft” ticks (Argasidae). Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”); unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are seldom encountered by dogs or cats.

Although there are at least 15 species of ticks in North America, only a few of these species are likely to be encountered. They include:

  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick
  • Deer or Blacklegged tick
  • Brown dog tick

Other tick species may be encountered in various regions.

How can ticks be prevented?
There are many different types of tick preventatives available in the marketplace. Some require less effort on the part of the owner than others. Some products are available over the counter, while others are only available through your veterinarian. There are effective monthly preventatives available that are applied to the skin at the back of the neck and represent a convenient method of control for these ectoparasites. Your veterinarian will make specific recommendations to keep your pet parasite-free.

What should I do if I find a tick on me or my dog?
Use blunt tweezers or disposable gloves to handle the tick. If your fingers must be used, shield them with a tissue or paper towel. Infectious agents may be contracted through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin simply by handling infected ticks.
Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. This reduces the possibility of the head detaching from the body upon removal.

Pull the tick out straight out with a steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the chances of infection.

Continue applying steady pressure even if the tick does not release immediately. It may take a minute or two of constant, slow pulling to cause the tick to release.

After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap and water. After removing the tick, you may wish to preserve it in rubbing alcohol.

Be sure to label the container with information about the time and place where the tick bite occurred. This activity will help you to remember details of the incident if the rash or other symptoms associated with Lyme disease appear later.

This information will also be of help to a veterinarian or physician diagnosing an illness.

What causes heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease or dirofilariasis is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworms are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. The female worm is 6 to 14 inches long (15 to 36 cm) and 1/8 inch wide (5 mm). The male is about half the size of the female. One dog may have as many as 300 worms.

How do heartworms get into the heart?
Adult heartworms live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of infected dogs. They have been found in other areas of the body, but this is unusual. They live up to five years and, during this time, the female produces millions of offspring called microfilaria. These microfilariae live mainly in the small vessels of the bloodstream. The immature heartworms cannot complete their life cycle in the dog. The mosquito is required for some stages of the heartworm life cycle. The microfilaria are not infective (cannot grow to adulthood) in the dog − although they do cause problems.

As many as 30 species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworms. The female mosquito bites the infected dog and ingests the microfilariae during a blood meal. The microfilariae develop further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito and then enter the mouthparts of the mosquito. The microfilariae are now called infective larvae because at this stage of development, they will grow to adulthood when they enter a dog. The mosquito usually bites the dog where the hair coat is thinnest. However, having long hair does not prevent a dog from getting heartworms.

When fully developed, the infective larvae enter the bloodstream and move to the heart and adjacent vessels where they grow to maturity in two to three months and start reproducing, thereby completing the full life cycle. 

How is heartworm infection diagnosed?
In most cases, diagnosis of heartworm disease can be made by a blood test that can be run in the veterinary hospital or by a veterinary laboratory. Further diagnostic procedures are essential to determine if the dog can tolerate heartworm treatment. Depending on the case, we will recommend some or all of the following procedures before treatment is started.

How are dogs treated for heartworms?
There is some risk involved in treating dogs with heartworms, although fatalities are rare. In the past, the drug used to treat heartworms contained arsenic so toxic effects and reactions occurred more frequently. A newer drug is now available that does not have the toxic side effects, allowing successful treatment of more than 95% of dogs with heartworms. 

Some dogs are diagnosed with advanced heartworm disease. This means that the heartworms have been present long enough to cause substantial damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and liver. A few of these cases will be so advanced that it will be safer to treat the organ damage rather than risk treatment to kill the heartworms. Dogs in this condition are not likely to live more than a few weeks or months.

How can I prevent this from happening again?
When a dog has been successfully treated for heartworms, it is essential to begin a heartworm prevention program to prevent future recurrence. With the safe and affordable heart preventives available today, no pet should ever have to endure this dreaded disease.

Are there different sorts of internal parasites or worms?
There are several types of internal parasites that cause problems in dogs. These include nematodes or roundworms, of which Toxocara canis (intestinal roundworm) and Dirofilaria immitis (heartworm) are the main examples and cestodes, or tapeworms of which Dipylidium caninum, Taenia species and Echinococcus species are important examples. Ancylostoma species (hookworms) are also common internal parasites in many parts of the United States.

Are these infections serious in the dog?
Intestinal parasites are only occasionally life-threatening in adult dogs and are usually seen in debilitated animals or those that are immunosuppressed.

Heartworm disease is a major life-threatening problem and is considered to be one of the most serious conditions seen in small animal practice. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. 

Intestinal worms can be a serious problem in young puppies. 

Hookworms can cause anemia and roundworms can lead to poor growth and development. 

Roundworms do not require an intermediate host to spread from dog to dog. Nematodes (roundworms) are free-living in the bowel. If a growing puppy is infected with a large number of roundworms, they can stunt growth, cause serious digestive upsets and result in excessive gas formation. These puppies have a characteristic ‘pot bellied’ appearance. Roundworms can be transmitted from dog to dog via infective eggs shed in the faeces.

An intermediate host, the flea or some species of small rodents, is required. Dipylidium caninum, the common tapeworm in dogs, causes few problems in the adult host but can result in digestive upsets and stunting of growth in puppies. The typical intermediate host of Dipylidium is the flea.

Echinococcus, another type of tapeworm, is important because it is zoonotic, meaning humans can be infected. Sheep and sometimes humans can act as the intermediate hosts in which the immature forms of Echinococcus develop inside hydatid cysts in various organs. In humans, these cysts can involve the lungs or brain. 

Cestode tapeworms are usually found in adult dogs and cause few problems. Puppies are occasionally infected and, depending on the type of worm involved, a large number of worms can cause intestinal blockage.

Hookworms, particularly Ancylostoma, are one of the most pathogenic parasites of the dog. The hookworm is approximately 1/2 to 1” (1 to 2 cm) long and attaches to the lining of the bowel. As a result of blood sucking, hookworms can cause severe anemia. In addition, the infective larvae can enter the host either by mouth or through the skin, particularly the feet. Eczema and secondary bacterial infection can result due to irritation as they burrow through the skin.

What are mobility problems?
This is a general term for changes in the joint, which can be caused by abnormal wear and tear. This occurs when the cartilage is worn away faster than it can be replaced. The cartilage in our joints acts like a cushion to protect the bones and when it becomes worn, the joint will become stiff, mobility is thus decreased and pain and disability are prone to develop.
Mobility problems are not curable, but it is possible to manage it and prevent it from becoming worse. Early detection and management are very important.

What are the signs of a pet with mobility problems?
Mobility problems can have a very serious effect on your pet’s health. In dogs, you’ll notice that they struggling to get up easily and they are stiff and reluctant to run or walk. Cats generally hide their discomfort for much longer and only become inactive, resting more frequently or only jump from reduced heights.

Signs seen in cats: 

  • Shows decreased activity
  • Becomes reclusive
  • Is reluctant to jump on or off surfaces
  • Uses the litter box less frequently
  • Walks stiffly and may limp

Signs seen in dogs: 

  • Shows stiffness, especially after resting
  • Hesitates to go up and/or down stairs
  • Lags behind or tires easily during exercise
  • Prefers to lie down rather than sit or stand
  • Whimpers, growls or snaps when touched in the affected area

What can cause mobility problems? 

Contributing Factors

Age: as pets get older, joint cartilage progressively wears away. Mobility problems are much more common in older dogs and cats, but it is possible for young pets to suffer from it as well.

Breed: certain breeds are more prone to developing mobility problems. Some “at-risk” dog breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers. For cats, Himalayans, Persians and Siamese are considered “at-risk” breeds.

Excess Weight: this causes stress on the joints and cartilage, which increases the risk of joint problems.

Possible Causes 

Congenital or hereditary defects: some breeds may have congenital or hereditary conditions that make them more prone to developing mobility problems later in life.

Accidents or trauma: trauma to the cartilage may lead to mobility problems later in life and adversely affect your pet’s mobility.

What can be done to manage this? 
Making sure your pet gets enough EPA and Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet helps to strengthen their joints. Feeding a diet high in Omega-3s, or supplementing them, will help to prevent the joints from becoming worse. However, in severe cases, surgery may be needed.

What is Kennel Cough?
Kennel Cough is a broad term covering any infectious or contagious condition of dogs where coughing is one of the major clinical signs. The term tracheobronchitis describes the location of the infection in the “windpipe” or trachea and bronchial tubes. Several viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough, often at the same time. These include adenovirus type-2 (distinct from the adenovirus type 1 which causes infectious hepatitis), parainfluenza virus, and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Because the infection spreads when dogs are housed together, it is often seen soon after dogs have been in kennels, hence the name “kennel cough”. 

What are the clinical signs of Kennel Cough other than coughing? 
Clinical signs may be variable. It is often a mild disease, but the cough may be chronic, in some cases lasting for several weeks. Common clinical signs include: a loud cough often describe as a “goose honk”, runny eyes and nose, swollen tonsils, wheezing, lack of appetite and depressed behaviour. Most cases of infectious tracheobronchitis have a demonstrable or drawn out cough that occurs when the throat is rubbed or palpated. 

What is the treatment for infectious tracheobronchitis?
There is no specific treatment for the viral infections, but many of the more severe signs are due to bacterial involvement, particularly Bordetella bronchiseptica. Antibiotics are useful against this bacterium, although some antibiotic resistance has been reported. Some cases require prolonged treatment, but most infections resolve within one to three weeks. Mild clinical signs may linger even when the bacteria have been eliminated.

How can I prevent my dog from contracting Kennel Cough?
Most vaccination programs your veterinarian will recommend contain adenovirus and parainfluenza. Bordetella vaccination is also highly recommended for dogs that are boarded, groomed or interact with other dogs in areas such as dog parks. 

How effective are these vaccines?
Immunity, even if the dog has experienced a natural infection, is neither solid nor long-lasting. We cannot expect vaccines to do much better. Since immunity varies with the circumstances, consultation with your veterinarian regarding specific vaccination recommendations for your pet is key. Some kennel facilities require a booster vaccination shortly before boarding and some veterinarians recommend a booster vaccine every six months to ensure maximum protection against this troublesome infection.

How are the Bordetella vaccines administered?
Bordetella vaccination is given either by intra-oral or intra-nasal route. Intra-nasal refers to the liquid vaccine administered as nose drops. This allows local immunity to develop on the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and windpipe where the infectious agents first attack.

What type of play behaviour should I expect from a healthy puppy/kitten?
It is very important that you provide stimulating play for your puppy/kitten, especially during the first week in its new home. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviours in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development. Your puppy/kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities if you provide adequate pet-safe toys. The best toys are lightweight and movable. These include wads of paper and rubber balls. Kittens should always be supervised when playing with string or ribbons because these items can cause serious intestinal problems if they are swallowed. Any other toy that is small enough to be swallowed should also be avoided. We can help you choose the safest toys for your beloved pet.

How should I introduce my new kitten to my other cat?
Most kittens receive a hostile reception from other household pets, especially from another cat. The other cat usually sees no need for a kitten in the household and these feelings are reinforced if it perceives special favouritism is being shown to the kitten. The existing cat must not feel that it is necessary to compete for food or attention. The new kitten should have its own food bowl and it should not be permitted to eat from the other cat’s bowl. Although it is natural to spend time holding and cuddling the kitten, the existing cat will quickly sense that it is being neglected. The new kitten needs lots of love and attention, but the existing cat should not be slighted. In fact, the transition will be smoother if the existing cat is given more attention than normal.

When should my kitten/puppy be vaccinated?
There are many diseases that are fatal to cats and dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6 to 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors. 

The routine vaccination schedule will protect your kitten from five diseases: feline distemper, three respiratory organisms and rabies. The first four are included in a combination vaccine that is given at 6 to 8, 12, and 16 weeks old. 

The core vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from several common diseases: distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus and rabies. The rabies vaccine is usually given at 12 to 16 weeks of age.

In addition, Feline Leukemia Vaccine (FeLV) is strongly recommended if your cat does or will go outside or if you have another cat that goes in and out. Many veterinarians will advise its use in all cats since this disease is deadly. It is usually transmitted by direct contact with other cats, especially when fighting occurs. 

A vaccine is also available for protection against Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), an uncommon disease that is most likely to occur in groups of cats. There are two other optional vaccinations that are appropriate in certain situations. 

Your puppy should receive a Kennel Cough vaccine if a trip to a boarding kennel or groomer is likely or if it will be placed in a puppy training class. Lyme vaccine is given to dogs that are likely to be exposed to ticks because Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks.

 Your veterinarian will discuss the available vaccinations and what is best for your cat or dog based on lifestyle needs.

Do all puppies/kittens have worms?
Intestinal parasites are very common in puppies/kittens. Puppies/kittens can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies/kittens. Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of a deworming product that is safe and effective against several of the common worms of the dog/cat. We do this because our deworming medication has no side effects and because your puppy/kitten does not pass worm eggs every day, so the stool sample may not detect worms that are present.

Additionally, some of these internal parasites can be transmitted to humans. Deworming is done immediately and repeated in about three weeks. It is important that it be repeated because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms. Within three to four weeks, the larval stages will become adults and need to be treated. 

Dogs/cats remain susceptible to re-infection with hookworms and roundworms. Periodic deworming throughout your pet’s life may be recommended for outdoor dogs/cats.

How do I insure that my puppy/kitten is well socialized?
The prime socialization period for cats/dogs occurs between two and twelve weeks of age. During that time, the kitten/puppy is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, dogs, other cats, etc. then it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your kitten/puppy to as many types of social situations and influences as possible.

My puppy seems to be constantly chewing. Why does this occur?
Chewing is a normal puppy behaviour. Almost all of a puppy’s 28 baby teeth are present by about four weeks of age. They begin to fall out at four months of age and are replaced by the 42 adult (permanent) teeth by about six months of age. Therefore, chewing is a puppy characteristic that you can expect until about six to seven months of age. It is important that you do what you can to direct your puppy’s chewing toward acceptable objects. You should provide puppy-safe items such as nylon chew bones and other chew toys so other objects are spared.

Can I trim my puppy’s/kitten’s sharp toenails?
Puppies/kittens have very sharp toenails. They can be trimmed with your regular fingernail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will cut into the “quick” and bleeding and pain will occur. If this happens, neither you nor your dog will want to do this again. Therefore, a few points are helpful:

If your dog has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail. Avoid the pink area, and you should be out of the quick. 

If your dog has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1 mm) of the nail at a time until the dog begins to get sensitive. The sensitivity will usually occur before you are into the blood vessel. With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail. 

If your dog has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones. 

If you look closely at your cat’s nails, you will be able to see the quick, or nail bed, which is a pinkish area at the base of the nail. As long as you stay at least 1/32” (1 mm) in front of the quick, you will be okay. 

When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick. 

You should always have styptic powder available. This is sold in pet stores under several trade names, but it will be labeled for use in trimming nails.

What is obesity?
Obesity is defined as weighing 30% more than the ideal weight. With humans, this is fairly straightforward and can be determined by consulting weight and height charts. Dogs and cats are often diagnosed as obese by a combination of weight charts and body scoring.

Is feline obesity a problem?
YES – obesity, defined as an excess of body weight of 30% or more, is the most common nutritional disease of domestic cats. Although the frequency varies from one country to the next, on average up to 40% of all adult cats are obese! Despite these alarming figures, very little is known about the detrimental effects of obesity on feline health. Obesity in cats is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, osteoarthritis, certain forms of cancer and lower urinary tract disease. In humans, obesity causes an increase in morbidity and mortality at all ages and is associated with diabetes mellitus, certain types of cancer, impaired mobility and arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other illnesses. Recent studies suggest that heart disease also develops in obese cats! More research is needed to evaluate this and to determine what other detrimental effects obesity has on cats. 

Obesity in cats is associated with Hepatic Lipidosis. This is a severe form of liver failure in cats. It typically occurs in cats that are obese and have undergone a brief period of “stress” which causes anorexia. The “stress” may be as simple as a change of house or a change in diet. When it first became recognized, Hepatic Lipidosis was an almost universally fatal disease in cats. Fortunately, with improved, aggressive and prolonged therapy about 80% of affected cats can now be successfully treated. However, because of the risk for this potentially fatal disease, weight loss programs for obese cats need to be done cautiously and always under the care of a veterinarian. 

I had my dog neutered. Do you think this caused the problem?
It is very unlikely that neutering caused your pet’s weight problem. There is no scientific research that concludes that neutering causes obesity in dogs.

My dog can’t be obese because he only eats a small amount of food every day.
Obesity often develops insidiously. We think we are feeding our dogs only small quantities of food but tend to forget the treats and table foods. These treats add calories and result in weight gain. Even a few calories can add up over time. 

What causes obesity in cats and how should it be treated?
Many factors contribute to obesity in cats, and not all of them are clearly understood. Some are probably genetic, while others are related to diet and environment. It is important for the cat owner and veterinarian to keep these factors in mind when treating the obese feline patient. Prevention is better than treatment, but this is not always easy. Indoor cats are more prone to obesity, perhaps because they eat more out of boredom, but also because they have less opportunity to stay trim through exercise. Remember that everybody should run and play, including cats! 

Once a cat becomes obese, the challenge for owner and veterinarian alike is to safely promote weight loss to reach optimum weight. In the long run, it is better to set realistic goals for weight reduction rather than attempting to force the cat down to a “normal” weight. Usually a 15 to 20% reduction in weight is a good target that can easily be achieved! Rapid weight loss should be avoided, since it puts the cat at risk for development of severe liver disease. Weight that is lost slowly is more likely to stay lost! 

There are no drugs or magic pills that can be used safely or effectively. Commercial “restricted-calorie” and weight loss diets are available from veterinarians and provide the basis for a successful weight loss program. However, they are more effective when combined with additional exercise. This also has the advantage of providing more time for interaction between the cat and the family, which we know provides enjoyment and is beneficial for the health of both. With some patience and extra care, obese cats can be treated safely and effectively, with the ultimate goal of prolonging a healthy happy life! 

What can I do for my dog?
With today’s advances in nutrition, weight loss has never been easier. Your veterinarian will design a safe and effective weight loss program to meet your dog’s lifestyle. Encourage brisk, thirty-minute walks twice daily. Discontinue feeding table foods and treats. Instead, offer carrots, broccoli or veterinary-approved low calorie treats. Most pets can lose weight if you adhere to these recommendations. Weight loss in pets and humans is made up of an interaction between reduced caloric intake (eating less) and increasing caloric expenditures (more physical activity). The great news is that weight reduction is about 60% diet and 40% exercise. As a result, weight loss is often a matter of diligence and persistence. Remember that the reason you are doing this is to help your pet live as long and healthy a life as possible.

Weight Loss

My dog is losing weight and I don’t understand why? 
Weight loss in dogs may be associated with many normal and abnormal conditions. Weight loss is considered to be clinically significant when it exceeds ten per cent of the normal body weight and when it is not associated with fluid loss or dehydration. For example, a healthy Golden Retriever weighing a breed-normal seventy pounds would have to lose over seven pounds before the weight loss would be considered clinically significant. Changes in diet, environment or stress levels, including the addition of new pets, may lead to weight loss that is rarely permanent or significant.

What causes my dog to lose weight?
Weight loss is the result of insufficient caloric intake relative to the body’s requirement. This may be caused by:

  • High energy demand associated with excessive physical activity or a hypermetabolic state
  • Inadequate or poor quality diet
  • Insufficient quantity of food intake associated with anorexia, swallowing disorders or regurgitation
  • Malabsorption and/or maldigestion disorders
  • Excessive loss of nutrients or fluid from vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination

What other signs should I look for?
Weight loss can affect any of the body’s organ systems. Questions that may provide insight into the cause of your dog’s weight loss include:

  • Is your dog’s appetite normal, increased or decreased?
  • Does your dog have a fever?
  • What, when, where and how much dog food are you feeding your dog?
  • How and where do you store your dog food?
  • How often do you administer your dog’s heartworm preventive and what type of preventative do you use?
  • Have you observed any regurgitation or vomiting, diarrhea or loose stools, or changes in water consumption or urination?
  • What colour and consistency are your dog’s stools?
  • Has your dog been spayed or neutered?
  • Have you noticed your dog having any trouble swallowing?

What are some of the common diseases that cause weight loss?
There are many diseases that can cause weight loss. In fact, most chronic diseases will result in weight loss at some time during the course of the disease. However, some of the more common conditions associated with weight loss include:

  • Anorexia due to a behavioural condition or disease
  • Pseudoanorexia caused by loss of smell, inability to grasp or chew food, swallowing disorders, vomiting or regurgitation
  • Malabsorptive disorders that inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the intestinal tract such as infiltrative and inflammatory bowel disease, lymphangiectasia, or severe intestinal parasitism.
  • Maldigestive disorders that interfere with the body’s ability to break down food into usable nutrients. The most common condition is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease), hyperthyroidism (rare in dogs, common in cats), and cancer.
  • Diseases involving the major organs (heart, liver or kidney)
  • Neuromuscular disease resulting in weakness or paralysis
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Central nervous system disease causing depression, anorexia or pseudoanorexia
  • Increased caloric demand associated with excessive physical activity, prolonged exposure to cold, hyperthyroidism, pregnancy or lactation, fever, infection, inflammation and cancer

What can be done to diagnose the cause of my dog’s weight loss?
A thorough medical history and physical examination will help your veterinarian determine the most useful diagnostic tests to perform. Blood and urine tests and radiographs are the most commonly recommended diagnostic tests. 

What can be done to treat my dog’s weight loss?
Treatment will be determined by the specific cause of your dog’s weight loss. Once a specific diagnosis is made, treatment to improve your dog’s quality of life will be immediately initiated. 

What is the prognosis for my dog’s weight loss?
The prognosis ranges from grave to excellent depending on your dog’s specific diagnosis. A thorough medical history, complete physical examination and appropriate diagnostic testing will assist your veterinarian in determining the best course of treatment for your pet. 

Why should we treat old cats differently to young cats?
As cats age, all of their body systems are affected. Reduction in exercise may result in reduced muscle tone, which may further reduce the cat’s ability to jump, climb or exercise. This may also lead to a stiffening of the joints and arthritis. 

When coupled with reduced activity, common in older individuals, this lack of exercise can result in a fall in energy requirements of up to 40%. If a cat maintains a good appetite, its daily food intake must be reduced to prevent excessive weight gain.

Inappetence or lack of desire to eat may develop in some senior cats since the senses of smell and taste become dull with age and periodontal disease is common. Gut function and the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients are reduced in many older pets.

Thirst is also decreased, causing an increased risk of dehydration, especially when combined with concurrent renal insufficiency, a type of kidney disease common in older cats.

Does my senior cat still need to have regular booster vaccinations?
Although little is known about the feline immune system, it is generally assumed that with age immune function may deteriorate. This may in turn result in a reduced ability to fight infection or destroy neoplastic (cancer) cells. Most cats that have a low risk of contracting many of the common preventable diseases are vaccinated on a three-year rotating schedule. Our veterinarians will determine the appropriate vaccination program for your cat based on its physical condition and lifestyle.

What diseases do senior cats commonly get?
The major health risks seen in older cats are:

  • Obesity
  • Hormonal disorders such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Neoplasia or cancer
  • Infections such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis

It is important to remember that while young cats usually have only one disorder at a time, this is often not the case in older cats, where diagnosis and treatment may be complicated by the concurrence of multiple interacting disease processes.

What can I do to make my senior cat as happy as possible?
Most cats age gracefully and require few changes to their general regimen. Since older cats do not generally respond well to change, it is important that any changes are introduced slowly.

Elderly cats should have easy access to a warm bed, situated where the cat can sleep safely without fear of disturbance. It is strongly recommended that you feed your older cat a premium brand senior diet. They should always have easy access to fresh drinking water. As cats age, some will experience a reduced ability to control urination and defecation. To reduce the risk of “accidents”, it may be necessary to allow access to multiple litter boxes. 

Tips for senior dogs

  • Keep vaccinations current. Your veterinarian will determine the proper vaccine schedule for your senior pet’s lifestyle. Most senior pets will receive vaccines every two to three years. Some vaccines with shorter duration of immunity such as the Kennel Cough vaccine, may be given more frequently.
  • Brush your pet frequently to prevent matting. This can contribute to skin infections and may hide skin tumours.
  • Clip toenails as needed to prevent overgrowth. Long toenails may cause the dog to stand and walk abnormally and result in pain or accelerate and exacerbate arthritic changes.
  • Keep plenty of fresh water available and monitor its consumption. Increases in water consumption or urination are often associated with conditions such as diabetes, kidney and liver disease.
  • Keep other pets from preventing your senior pet access to food and water.
  • Keep your senior pet indoors most of the time, especially in inclement weather.
  • Weigh on the same scale and record results at least every two months. Changes in weight can be an early indicator of disease.

How often should I take my senior dog to the veterinarian?
You should take your senior dog to the veterinarian at least once a year for an annual check-up. Have your veterinarian examine your dog if you notice for any of the following:

  1. Sustained significant increase in water consumption. (Abnormal is intake greater than 100 ml/kg/day or approximately 1 ½ cups [1 to 2 ounces]/day for a 10 pound dog)
  2. Sustained significant increase in urination.
  3. Weight loss.
  4. Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than two consecutive days.
  5. Significant increase in appetite.
  6. Repeated vomiting.
  7. Diarrhea that lasts over three days.
  8. Difficulty in passing stool or urine.
  9. Sudden loss of housetraining.
  10. Lameness that lasts more than three days, or lameness in more than one leg.
  11. Noticeable decrease in vision, especially if sudden in onset or pupils that do not constrict in bright light.
  12. Masses, ulcerations (open sores) or multiple scabs on the skin that persist more than one week.
  13. Foul mouth odour or drooling that lasts over two days.
  14. Increasing size of the abdomen.
  15. Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping.
  16. Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas (as opposed to generalized).
  17. Persistent coughing or gagging.
  18. Excessive panting.
  19. Sudden collapse or bout of weakness.
  20. Inability to chew dry food.
  21. A seizure (convulsion or “fit”).