Monday, October 3, 2011

Vitamins & Supplements- Pet Care Tips During Tough Economic Times

In this next installment of Pet Care Tips During Tough Economic Times I discuss the use of vitamins and supplements.

Of course you want your pets to be in the best health possible, but with these tough times where you have to pick and choose what is absolutely necessary, you may be wondering if all those expensive vitamins and supplements you purchase monthly are necessary? Well, this depends on many factors.

The first step, as always, is making sure your pet is healthy by scheduling an exam with your veterinarian. Based on this evaluation, your vet will determine whether or not it is worthwhile to purchase any of these "extra" supplements. If your pet is deemed healthy and is eating a good quality appropriately balanced diet, they are already getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to be in top health. A healthy pet does not need any extra supplements. If you do give extra supplements, your pet will just get rid of all the extras in the urine or feces and all the money you spend on these supplements is literally going to waste. This is likely the case for most young to middle aged pets.

Now, for those of you that have self diagnosed your pet with a disease based on the signs you see at home and what you read online and think you are saving money by not going to the vet, think again. Self treating with what you can find in the pet care aisle is likely not saving you any money in the long run and most importantly you may be jeopardizing the health of your pet. The longer you wait before going to the vet, the more your pets disease worsens and the less chance there is for an easy fix or recovery.

Finally, many of these products do not contain the quality or quantity of the nutraceutical they claim to have. This has been proven before when these products have been randomly tested. Your veterinarian can provide guidance as to what products you should trust. They may be a little more costly but this is because they actually contain the quality product you expect to give your pet and have extensive quality controls to make sure it is consistent.

So the next time you are walking down the pet store aisle or looking at pet products online and something catches your eye, write down the name and ask your veterinarian whether it is worthwhile to give to your pet. You wouldn't spend your hard earned cash on something that is not needed, may not even work or even worse, may be harmful to your pet, right?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Diet- Pet Care Tips During Tough Economic Times

In part two of the series I will discuss the importance of pet foods / diets & helping you make a choice during these tough economic times.

Now a day you can go to almost any store and find pet food, whether it is a convenience store, a drug store, super market or pet store. More often than not, there will be many choices of foods from dry to can, store brand or premium brand, regular, all natural or holistic, for specific breeds, good for specific things such as a nice coat, the teeth, sensitive for the stomach or for hairballs and the list keeps going.

So how do you choose between all of these? Now that times are tough you might find yourself wondering if the $5 bag is just as good as the $50 bag and whether or not you will place your pet at risk by feeding a cheaper diet. With all the pet food scares that have occurred what brand do you trust?

Honestly, I have my own dog on a basic diet from one of the major brands, nothing fancy, yet it is from a company that has been around for a long time making dog food.

So what is my recommendation? Well, for starters routine veterinary exams are recommended to make sure your pet is healthy and that there is no reason for your pet to be on one diet versus another. I tell my clients with a healthy pet to pick from any one of the major brands that are out there (usually I throw out a few names in no particular order) as they are all complete and balanced (AAFCO approved). I also ask them to name a few of the brands/types they were thinking about and see if there is any reason to give or not to give that particular product. If there is one you had used in the past or one your family or friends use for their pets without a problem you may think about trying that type.

Having your pet on the right diet will ensure that they are healthy, poor quality diets may cause health problems down the line that may harm your pet and end up costing you a lot more to treat. Also, feeding your pet table scraps is not the best idea. Not only can they develop severe gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea) or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) that requires hospital stay, they are also not completely balanced and missing many of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a pet needs. If you plan on cooking for your pet make sure you have consulted with your veterinarian before hand to make sure you are supplementing what is necessary to make sure your pet is receiving a healthy meal.

So next time you are contemplating switching foods (for whatever reason), speak with your veterinarian first to make sure it is OK and also to get instructions about slowly changing over to the new diet. Start by purchasing a small bag or a few cans to see if your pet likes it, even if it is more expensive initially. You wont save any money if your pet hates the new giant bag or case of food you purchased. Remember the most important rule, no matter how healthy or nutritious a food may be, it wont work if your pets aren’t eating it!

Next time I will discuss supplements, are they really needed?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pet Care Tips During Tough Economic Times

During tough economic times it may be difficult to make a decision on what to cut back on such as that weekly movie or weekly dinner. It can become especially tough when those decisions involve your pet. The best thing you can do is make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss what is important and what isn't. This will also be a great time to make sure all is well with your pet.

Periodically I will post a tip that will help you make sure your pet stays healthy when you have to make some cuts.

Topic #1: Vaccinations

Make sure that you do not skip on schedules vaccines! This is especially important in puppies that need a complete vaccine series or newly adopted pets that need a follow-up booster. Although it may sound like a good idea to get a vaccine at a vaccine clinic, usually this does not come with an exam.

One tip is to get the first vaccine at the veterinary clinic so that you can speak with the veterinarian about any concerns you have regarding your pet, get tips on everything from which vaccines are needed and when they are due, other necessary treatments (deworm) or preventative medications (flea, ticks, heartworm), best diet as well as training tips. All this information in one visit!

If you really do find a vaccine clinic that is much cheaper and nothing has changed with your pets health since the veterinary visit, it may be ok to head there. Before doing this, you may want to ask your veterinarian if there is a follow-up visit charge or if you will only be charged for the booster vaccine. Even if the vaccine is a little bit more, again, you get the chance to ask questions which could end up saving you more money down the road!

Remember, puppies are very susceptible to infectious diseases that can be deadly or very costly to treat. It is best to keep puppies away from public areas and from interaction with dogs of unknown vaccine history to avoid ending up with a sick puppy, an expensive bill or having to make a tough choice of humane euthanasia if your pet is very sick and you cant afford its care.

One good way to save costs is to make sure that you are not getting unnecessary vaccines. Vaccine protocols have changed and core vaccines (DA2PP for dogs or FVRCP for cats) may be given every 3 years instead of yearly if your pets received an appropriate vaccine series and this was followed 1 year later by a booster. Also, some rabies vaccines are good for 3 years, check with your veterinarian about this. But just because you dont have to vaccinate yearly, this DOES NOT mean that you should skip on that yearly exam though, it just means one less charge at that visit. The yearly exam is still the most important thing you can do for your pets health!

There are other vaccines that may or may not be recommended by your veterinarian. These will depend on what part of the country you live in and your dogs exposure risk to that disease. Again, your veterinarian will speak with you regarding this and make a decision on which vaccines are necessary. Some of these vaccines need a booster every 6-12 months. One vaccine which is given for kennel cough may not be necessary if your dog is indoors all the time, is in your back yard (or purse!) and never interacts with other dogs.

Finally there are two vaccines which are not recommended except in certain specific situations. This includes the Giardia vaccine for dogs and the FIV vaccine for cats.

Again, all of this will depend on your pets situation and your veterinarian will help guide you with your pets vaccine plan.

Next time I will cover what is the best diet for your pet!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Importance of the Recheck Exam

You are on the couch with your pet when you wonder if its necessary to follow-up with your veterinarian after the previous weeks visit. After all, it seems like everything is back to normal, so maybe there’s no need to go back. What you may not realize is that the decision you are making not to follow through could end up being a huge mistake, one that may jeopardize your pet’s health.

Sure your pet might be eating normal again or have their usual energy back but a recheck exam helps ensure that whatever caused the initial problem is truly not an issue anymore. There is also important information to discuss during the visit including medications that were prescribed, the lifting of any dietary or activity restrictions, precautions to prevent reoccurrence and when your pet should be examined next. This is especially important if the problem involves a chronic disease, you will want to make sure all is well now, discuss what to look for as early signs that there might be a problem and have a plan ready for the future.

If your pet is still not 100%, a recheck exam becomes that much more important. It is easy to think that because the problem is still occurring your vet missed the cause or if there was not a definitive diagnosis the first time around why go back to find nothing again. Many times the follow-up exam may reveal further clues that were not present on the initial examination and may be what is needed to figure out your pet’s problem. As a vigilant pet owner, you may spot changes in your pet that no one else would notice, not even your veterinarian. These changes may occur before any specific exam abnormalities can be detected, an indication that the situation is mild and will pass with some time or that it is just the beginning and as the disease progresses further signs to identify the cause will manifest. If your pet was showing non-specific signs before and continues to show them or is now showing new or worse signs, it is imperative that you follow-up. Don’t let the problem drag on to a point where it may become more costly, more complicated or too advanced to intervene.

So the next time you are thinking of skipping the all-important follow-up visit, do what’s best, call and make the follow-up appointment and let the professionals give your pet a clean bill of health.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Leaving your pets behind on your next trip? Make sure to follow these 5 tips!

Whether you are going on a quick weekend getaway or taking a few weeks off its important to make sure you have planned properly for any pets that are staying behind.

1) Veterinary Exam- When was the last time your pet was examined? If your pet is less than 5 years old they should have a yearly exam. Once they turn 6, an exam should occur every 6 months. Your veterinarian may catch changes you may not have noticed before they become an emergency. Call and schedule an exam 1 month before your trip so that if abnormalities are found you have time to deal with them. Also, any pets with chronic diseases (heart failure, kidney failure, diabetes etc) who are due for check-ups should be seen ASAP to make sure all is as stable as can be before you head out.

2) Pet sitter or boarding? Whether you decide to leave your pets at home or take them to a boarding facility make sure you book early. During busy holidays many places & sitters may be full. Also, make sure you get booster vaccines and copies of vaccine records early to make sure your pet is all set to board.

3) Medications- Leave detailed instructions for any medications. Having a spread sheet or log may help the pet sitter keep track of which medications to give, when to give them and how much to give. Make sure the medications will not run out while you are away; get them refilled before you head out.

4) Food- Make sure you have plenty of food, especially if your pet is on a special diet.

5) Emergency Plan- When my clients mention they are heading away I have them leave their contact information, hotel/family information, e-mail address, credit card authorization and names of authorized people in case an emergency occurs. Leave the pet sitter with the phone number and address of your regular veterinarian as well as the emergency facility.

By planning early you can leave for your trip with a little more peace of mind that your pets will be ok. Now you can truly relax and enjoy the vacation!

Friday, July 22, 2011

What is an emergency?

Frequently my office fields calls from pet owners describing a problem their pet is having and whether they should come in or if they will be ok to watch and wait. Unfortunately, it is difficult to judge the severity of most situations via a phone call. Just think, sometimes it is difficult to tell exactly what is going on when the pet is actually in front of us for an exam, so imagine how much harder it is when we haven't performed an exam. Below are a few situations that warrant a trip to the veterinary office, although this by no means is an exhaustive list of emergency situations.

1. Vomiting more than 2-3 times in 24 hours or attempting to vomit but nothing comes up.

Vomiting can be caused by many diseases and does not necessarily mean something is wrong with the stomach or intestines. There are many metabolic problems such as kidney failure, diabetes with complications and liver diseases that can cause vomiting. In larger breed dogs, non-productive retching and a large "bloated" belly are very concerning and could be a bloated/twisted stomach that requires an emergency visit. At the very least, if your vet thinks the problem is not severe and will pass with a little time, your pet can be made more comfortable with anti-vomiting medications.

2. Persistent watery diarrhea in a pet that is quiet and not drinking water or vomiting.

Just like vomiting, diarrhea can occur for multiple reasons. It becomes a problem when your pet is not able to drink enough water to supplement for all the fluids it is losing. When dehydration sets in it can make your pet very sick.

3. Collapse

Although most pets with collapse will get up right away as if nothing ever happened, this does not mean you should ignore the problem. A dangerous heart problem or many other concerning diseases can cause collapse/fainting.

4. More than one seizure in 24 hours or a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes.

Luckily most seizures stop on their own in less than a minute (although that minute can feel like an eternity). The best thing to do if your pet has a seizure is move anything they can bump into or prevent them from falling down the stairs. The next best thing is to look at your watch and time it. If it is taking more than 3 minutes start getting ready to safely carry your pet to the car and head to the vet. Stay away from the mouth to avoid having a severe bite injury!

5. Cat or Dog unable to urinate or urinating very small amounts while straining.

This can be caused by urinary blockage which will be deadly if it is not corrected. Toxins from the body are cleared by the kidneys in the urine and if your pet cant urinate those toxins build up in the body. Some cats will act as if they are blocked but the best news from the vet is that the bladder is empty or is not blocked and they can go home on some medications.

6. After ingestion of a possible toxin or other item.

Dont wait a few hours to see if your pet will be sick. By that time the toxin has been absorbed and there might not be anything we can do to stop the damage. If you take your pet in soon after ingestion, depending on the toxin, your veterinarian may be able to make your pet vomit before large amounts of the toxin are absorbed.

7. Red, runny or squinty eye.

Eye problems are scary because they can lead to permanent vision loss in a short period of time! See your vet sooner rather than later.

8. Coughing or heavy breathing.

Respiratory problems are always an emergency. Again, they can be caused by problems in the lungs or heart failure among other things. If you wait too long it may be too late to intervene.

9. Swelling or bumps on the body suggestive of an allergic reaction.

Allergic reactions can become complicated and lead to shock and death. A few injections from your vet should help stop the reaction from progressing.

10. If you are concerned enough to call, it is best to come in.
This is what I always tell pet owners! The worst (or actually best!) thing that can happen is that I tell you all is OK and you can go back home with your beloved pet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

LA Zoo Elephants of Asia Exhibit

It was back in January that I first had the chance to see part of the new LA Zoo Elephants of Asia exhibit from the Cambodian Pavilion during the Zoobiquity Conference evening reception. This time around I was able to get a closer look from the inside, specifically the elephants living quarters, the massive elephant barn.

Dr. Curtis Eng, the chief veterinarian at the LA Zoo, met us at the entrance and led us up to the 3.8 acre exhibit of mixed terrain consisting of two feet of soft river sand, grassy hills, pools and a waterfall. The day started with Tina & Jewel, the two female elephants, who went through a demonstration with Don and Vicky, the elephant managers. The demonstration went through different moves that the elephants are trained to do to make it easier for the staff and veterinarians to examine them. This included lifting up each foot, opening their mouths and touching different areas where they may receive an injection or have blood drawn from so that they can get used to it. Of course, after each move they received treats.

We then moved into the elephant barn and Jennie Becker, the Curator of Mammals at the LA Zoo, walked us through the highlights of this massive complex. The exhibit was designed not only for the comfort of the elephants, but also to make it easier for them to be cared for by the staff and veterinarians. The elephant barn is equipped with elephant sized bedrooms and heated floors.

A special area of the barn is a very thin room, where the elephants walk into and on each side staff can stand behind gates and open small gates in different areas in order to closely and safely examine the elephants, this is termed protected contact.

During the tour we could hear Tina and Jewel rattling the gates as they wanted to come in for the night. We went up to the second story of the barn and watched them walk into their "bed rooms." Eventually Billy, the male elephant, also walked into his "bed room." As we left they were all having their dinner.

If you haven't gone to the LA Zoo lately, you should plan on going as this exhibit, and many others have been nicely re-done. There are more improvements on the way to better the animals living areas, make it easier and safer to care for them and to better educate the public on the lives of these majestic animals and conservation efforts as many of these species battle with habitat loss and poaching in the wild.

Although I am not able to post any photos from the inside the elephant barn, I have posted some photos of what you will see when you visit.