At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, our veterinarians provide world-class care to each one of our patients. But there is another group of clinical staff members whose day-to-day work is crucial to the well-being of each pet being treated—veterinary technicians, commonly known as “vet techs.” Although each patient that comes to the ASPCA Animal hospital is special and unique, it is also true that our vet techs repeatedly see the same— sometimes preventable—medical conditions. Since ASPCA vet techs are the front line of our clinical team, we asked a group of them, “What would you like pet parents to know and do to keep their pets in tip-top shape?”
Here’s some pet care advice from ASPCA vet techs:
Geniene: When a cat is having trouble urinating, it is a medical emergency. Urinary obstructions can be fatal. If you see your cat going in and out of the litter box, posturing or only producing a small amount of urine—possibly while crying—bring your cat to the vet right away! Feeding your cat a diet that consists primarily of wet food will reduce the risk of urinary obstructions.
Mary: Spaying your pet is not just about preventing unwanted litters. Animals that have not been spayed are at risk of developing pyometra, an infected uterus. Pyometra is potentially life-threatening, but the risk of developing pyometra is zero when an animal has been spayed. Additionally, the cost of treating a pyometra is many times the cost of spaying an animal. There are many benefits to spaying or neutering your pet.
Temetrias: Cat’s don’t normally cough— if your cat is coughing, you should take her to the vet. A coughing cat may have developed asthma or fluid on its lungs and needs medical attention. A common misconception is that cats cough up hairballs, but when a cat “coughs” up a hairball it is actually vomiting.
Erica: Many people believe that cats are agile, and therefore won’t fall out of windows. Cats can lose their balance, get spooked or react to birds with a strong prey drive. Cats don’t always land on their feet, and a serious fall can be devastating. Cat owners should always have screens on their windows.
Rena: All dogs should be vaccinated against parvovirus. The virus is common, life-threatening and expensive to treat. Puppies and young dogs are at particularly high risk. Have your dog vaccinated, and don’t let puppies’ paws touch the ground outside their homes until they have completed their parvo vaccine series. Dogs can contract parvo from walking in the grass, then licking their paws; from nose-to-nose or nose-to-rear contact; or from smelling feces or drinking out of puddles.
Manny: It’s very important that pet parents walk their dogs on a leash. The majority of cases where dogs are brought to our hospital after having been hit by cars results from dogs being allowed to walk off leash. Having your dog on a leash also helps protect it from aggressive animals. Dogs off leash cannot be kept safe in the way that leashed dogs can.
While the holidays are a time for baked goods galore, it’s often unsafe for our four-legged friends to join in on the sugar-filled fun. Just before Christmas, Tinkerbell, a two-year-old, five-pound Chihuahua, wolfed down eight macadamia nut cookies that she found in her pet parent’s backpack. When her pet parent, Joseph C., saw that Tinkerbell was vomiting and lethargic, he brought her to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH).
ASPCA veterinarian Dr. Michael Dugan assessed Tinkerbell, and submitted lab work. Her symptoms and test results were consistent with possible macadamia nut toxicity. AAH staff consulted with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and confirmed that this was a strong possibility.
Tinkerbell was admitted to AAH where she received supportive care in the Intensive Care Unit. Luckily, she responded well to treatment. She went home the next day with antibiotics and antacids, and Joseph reports that she has made a full recovery. He says from now on, he’ll keep sweet treats out of Tinkerbell’s reach. We’re so glad this tiny pup is happy and healthy!
Every new year brings a new chance to start fresh. But while you’re resolving to get slimmer, smarter, and more successful, don’t forget about your four-legged friends! To help you keep your pets happy and healthy in 2014, we’ve put together our Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions.
10. Brush & Groom: Nobody wants a stinky pet! Resolve to brush your pet every day and check their teeth, nails and ears at least once a week. Routine care is important for your pet’s health and hygiene, and it has the added bonus of making them feel happy, pretty, and loved.
9. Get Moving: You’re not the only one who wants to get healthy in the New Year, so why not include your pet in your fitness routine? Adult dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise twice a day—jogging, playing fetch, and swimming are all great options. Keep kitties in shape with rousing play sessions and fun furry toys.
8. Schedule a Check-Up: You go to the doctor regularly, and your pet should, too. Yearly veterinary exams will help ensure that your pet is up-to-date on the latest vaccinations and flea/heartworm medications. It will also help avoid preventable health problems like diabetes and arthritis. If it’s been a year or more since your pet has seen the vet, make an appointment today!
7. Battle the Bulge: Pets depend on us to regulate their nutrition and activity levels. When kept at their ideal body weight, they can live longer and avoid complications like heart disease and joint problems. So while it’s tempting to share table scraps, try your best to stick to healthy treats and a strict feeding schedule.
6. Try Something New: From hiking to doga (yes, doga), there are tons of things you can do to have fun with Fido. Getting out of the house will give your pet new experiences, and it’ll give you both a chance to bond. There’s just no substitute for quality time with your four-legged friend.
5. IDs, Please: All pets—even the ones who live indoors—should have an ID tag. January is a good time to make sure that all their information is up-to-date, or to invest in tags if you haven’t already. Implanted microchips are also a smart option.
4. Spay and Neuter: Did you know that in addition to keeping pet populations in check, spaying and neutering can also benefit your pet’s health? Benefits range from behavioral issues (decreased aggression and urine-marking) to a decreased risk of certain kinds of cancer. If your pet is more than 8 weeks old, now is the time to get them spayed or neutered.
3. Socialize: No, you don’t have to sign them up for Facebook. But you should take time to socialize your pets. Regular interaction with other animals can help release energy, curb anxiety, and improve communication skills. So whether it’s through training classes or regular trips to the dog park, socialization can help keep your pet at their mental and physical best.
2. Love, love, love! We know it’s obvious, but New Year’s is a great time to remind everyone that animals need lots of love and attention! Life can get hectic, but it only takes a second to stop and hug your pet. They show us unconditional love, shouldn’t we do the same?
1. Give Back: Sadly, not all animals are as fortunate as yours. If you’re ready to spread the love and help homeless animals in 2014, resolve to become an ASPCA Guardian. For just a few cents a day, you can make a huge impact on countless lives.
As you break out your woolly socks and warm boots today, don’t forget to protect your pet’s feet, too! Cold weather poses several unique dangers to your pet’s paws and skin.
There are several precautions you can take to keep your pet’s paws and skin safe and comfortable. First, keep your pet’s paws clean and dry after walks and time spent outside in the cold. Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes. Massaging petroleum jelly into your pet’s paw pads before and after going outside will help moisturize and protect them.
Just as dressing your pet in a sweater or coat can keep them warm on the coldest days, booties can be very effective as they help minimize contact with painful salt crystals, poisonous anti-freeze and chemical ice-melting agents. They can also help prevent irritating sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes.
You should also pay special attention to your pet’s fur. Trim long-haired dogs to minimize the clinging of ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry on the skin. Brushing your pet regularly helps get rid of dead hair, stimulates blood circulation and improves the skin’s overall condition.
Please keep in mind that if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Move playtime indoors as much as possible to keep your pets happy and healthy. Read our cold weather pet care tips for more helpful hints, and stay warm!
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Many pet parents don't realize that pets can also suffer from breast cancer. In veterinary medicine, these tumors are referred to as mammary gland tumors, and are unfortunately one of the most common kinds of cancer in pets.
Cats generally have eight mammary glands, arranged in four pairs. Dogs usually have 10 glands arranged in five pairs, though the number varies with the size of the dog. Mammary gland tumors in dogs and cats can be benign or malignant. In cats, around 90% of mammary gland tumors are malignant. In dogs, approximately 50% are malignant.
How can mammary gland tumors be prevented in dogs and cats?
The most effective way to prevent mammary gland tumors is to have your pet spayed before she ever goes into heat. There is a myth that animals should have one heat cycle (or give birth to one litter) before they are spayed. In fact, dogs who are spayed before their first heat cycle are 2,000 times less likely to develop breast cancer! Cats spayed before their first heat are 91% less likely to develop breast cancer than unspayed cats. After just one heat cycle, the risk rises in both dogs and cats.
Detecting mammary gland tumors
Just like in people, performing mammary exams in dogs and cats is very important. Early detection is key. If your dog or cat allows, perform a mammary exam on her once a month. Gently feel the tissue under and around each nipple, "rolling" the tissue between your fingers. Very small mammary tumors often feel like a little BB pellet under the skin. If you feel even a tiny lump or firm area, bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
There is evidence that canine mammary tumors can become malignant over time, so prompt removal is essential.
Treatment of mammary gland tumors in pets
The main treatment at this time is surgical removal. Depending on the situation, your pet may need to have the affected mammary gland, several mammary glands, or all the glands on that side of her body removed. The tumor that is removed will be sent to the lab for a biopsy to tell you if it is benign or malignant. If the tumor is malignant, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary oncologist for consultation.