408 First Street
Nutter Fort, WV 26301
(304) 624-5311
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Common Sense Pet Care

by Gary McCutcheon, DVM

In my many years in the field of veterinary medicine, I have seen a tremendous number of dogs and cats presented for medical care. As one could imagine, the cases range from the simple and benign to the serious and life threatening. Throughout all of this, I've realized that certain problems seem to repeat themselves over and over again, and to be truthful, most are preventable with a little forethought, common sense, and knowledge in the proper areas. Thus, I have compiled a Top Ten list, if you will, of some of the more ''usual'' facts and fallacies that we face on a daily basis. These really are not in any particular order, and I truly hope that you can benefit from them and therefore allow your pet to be just a little happier and healthier from this day forward!

1. Pets are overweight because they eat too much----that's all! We may see the occasional one dog out of one hundred that has an underactive thyroid gland, but simple overeating (and lack of exercise) leads to the number one health problem in pets today: obesity! Obesity can cause numerous conditions that can rob your pet of both quantity and quality of life, such as heart and liver disease or musculoskeletal problems. You should be able to easily feel and count the ribs of your dog or cat. If you can't, skip the denial and admit the problem. Enlist the help of your veterinarian to get the problem under control as soon as possible. Your furry friend really will love you for it.

2. If your pet runs loose outside, be prepared for an expensive medical emergency or the possible tragic loss of your pet. You wouldn't turn your three year-old child loose on the street; why do you expect your pet to know any better? Automobiles, stray animals, wild animals and poisons are just a few of the many ways your friend's life could be cut short. Use common sense and keep your pet in the house, on a leash or chain, or inside the safety of a fence.

3. If your pet has foul breath, it's probably from dental disease; animals don't brush and floss on a regular basis like humans. Infections of the teeth and gums can lead to very serious problems such as kidney failure, heart disease, or anorexia due to pain when chewing. If you note odor or problems, please see your veterinarian to schedule a professional cleaning and polishing to help your pet maintain their healthy smile.

4. All puppies and kittens should be started on their routine vaccinations no later than nine weeks of age, no matter what your friends and neighbors may have told you. Rabies vaccines can be given as early as 12-14 weeks of age, not six months as is sometimes rumored. Follow the advice of your veterinarian to assure that your pet has a healthy and sufficient immune response.

5. Spaying and neutering your pet will prolong its life. All males not intended for breeding should be neutered at the age of five to eight months. All females not intended for breeding should be spayed at the age of five to eight months, before her first heat cycle. The benefits are indisputable and include the prevention of infections and numerous forms of cancer, as well as the obvious birth control effects.

*In addition, spaying and neutering do not make your pet fat (for causes of obesity, see # 1), and females do not need to have a litter to "calm them down!"

6. Just because you don't see worms in your pet's stool does not mean that there are no worms. Two of the most dangerous parasites, hookworms and whipworms, can only be detected in the egg stage under the microscope. Ideally your pet should be tested for intestinal parasites twice yearly. This is especially important if your pets are outside.

7. Most of your pet's scratching is due to fleas and irritation from fleabites. We certainly see quite a number of patients that have allergies to certain foods, plants, and mold spores, but the overwhelming winner when it comes to skin problems is the flea! The compound that makes fleas such a nuisance is actually the saliva they inject under the skin when they partake of a blood meal. Many folks are in disbelief when we tell them their pet has a flea allergy, but it's certainly nothing personal; as many as 70% of dogs and 40% of cats have this affliction. Consult your veterinarian as to how you can best deal with this very common but controllable problem.

8. Dog food is for dogs, cat food is for cats and people food is for people. We see cases every single day of gastrointestinal disturbances caused by the ingestion of food not normally found in the animal's diet. The consequences range from simple diarrhea and vomiting to life threatening pancreatitis. Please use common sense and make table food a no-no. If your pet is a beggar, make him leave the room when you are eating. If your pet is a scavenger, make sure all trash cans are secure and the lids are locked. If your pet is dragging home deer body parts during hunting season, please refer to item #2.

9. If your dog or cat develops diarrhea and / or vomiting for whatever reason, but is still playful and active, the first thing you want to do as a pet owner is take away the food and water. This should be done for at least 12 hours, and for vomiting, 24 hours. Ice cubes can be given to be licked on in lieu of water. The last thing a vomiting animal needs is a belly full of water; it will come back up and worsen the animal's dehydration. After you've removed the food and water, please contact your veterinarian for further assistance.

10. When you have any questions about pet care or pet care products, contact your veterinarian. Don't depend on the advice of friends, the pet store attendant, or the internet.

As stated in the beginning, this is by no means an all-inclusive list, but by following these ten common sense guidelines, your pet may live a happier and healthier life. As we like to say at All Pets Animal Clinic: The best clients are educated clients. Good luck and enjoy the rest of the web site!