Pet Related Articles | Veterinarian Articles

Please read some interesting pet health & tips articles by Dr. Stephen R. Thimmig D.V.M. – Veterinarian - Owner - Pet Health Center
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Cat Eats Toy Cat’s Toy

Try saying this five times fast "Somebody's cat ate their doll's, toy cat's, toy". And what was the result? The toy cat's toy caused a GI tract obstruction!

Here goes. Kiwi was presented for severe dehydration, not eating for the past few days and was reluctant to play. I completed a Comprehensive Physical Examination that, aside from the dehydration, revealed nothing significant. Next I ran a CBC and a Chemistry Profile. The only abnormal finding was an elevated liver enzyme. I gave her some fluids under her skin to re-hydrate her over the next few hours and hospitalized her for observation. We fed her with a high energy gruel.

Kiwi started vomiting almost immediately after we began feeding her. The next step in the diagnostic process was to take an abdominal X-ray. Voila, we had a diagnosis. Readily apparent on the x-ray was a foreign body obstructing the outflow from her stomach. It was about the size of a thimble. Our only option was to surgically remove the object. I know that many of you are wondering what on earth could this foreign body be? OK, here goes: It was their child's, toy doll's, toy cat's, toy. Say what? It is actually a ball shaped cloth covered magnet.

During surgery, in order to maintain Kiwi's hydration, we started her on a balanced electrolyte solution given via an IV pump. Geoff prepped her for the procedure. She was maintained on an inhalation anesthetic and kept warm with a heated water blanket. Minutes after the incision was made in her abdomen the offending object was located. I moved it from the first part of the small intestine back into the stomach. A small incision was made in the wall of the stomach so that the foreign body could be removed. Why incise the stomach rather than the intestine? Because the inflammation and scar tissue, that naturally form during the healing process, are far less likely to cause an obstruction in the stomach than they are in the narrow lumen of the intestine.

Post operatively we made certain Kiwi was comfortable with pain relief medications. She was maintained on IV fluids and the following day, started on Eukanuba Maximum Calorie canned food. I rechecked her liver enzyme a few days later. It remained slightly elevated, but was coming down. Some of you may be wondering about the significance of the elevation. In hindsight, I think that the location of the obstruction, within the GI tract, was also causing collateral damage to the liver.

What's the lesson to be learned? No matter whether it's a cat, dog or young child, if it can go in their mouth, it will.

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Anal Gland Rupture

"Glands" are a REAL Pain in the Butt!  Why did a big, otherwise playful, year old Rottweiler lose all interest in his day-to-day physical activities? Whew! Could that horrific odor be originating from his tail region? Why won't he eat? The answer was obvious; an anal gland infection was at the root of the problem. The abscessed gland broke through the skin and was draining along side his anus.

What are anal glands? Where are they located? What do they do? These glands are lay between two muscle layers that surround the anus. Each time a dog or cat has a B.M. the foul smelling material they produce is forced out tiny ducts at the 5:00 and 7:00 positions on the rim of the anus. No one knows their exact purpose. Some think the material helps lubricate the anus. Others suspect the odoriferous pasty fluid marks territory. My take; they're nothing more than a pain in the butt. Should the duct become blocked, the pet tries to remove the obstruction by scooting on the carpet and licking their rectal area.

Although any infection can be life threatening anal gland issues pose a couple of problems of another sort. Left untreated, the infection may damage the nerves that go to the anus. Without proper nerve impulse conduction from the rectum (I'm ready to empty) to the brain (better find an appropriate place to lay this load) appropriate elimination may not take place. As a result stool may be dropped wherever. Another possible concern is the formation of scar tissue causing a stricture. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the stool to exit the rectum. Needles to say, either consequence is not desirable.

What did I do? The problem needed to be addressed through a variety of remedies. So as to get a significant dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic in to the pet's system ASAP, I gave him an injection. This was followed with the owner being instructed to administer an oral form of the same antibiotic three times a day for ten days. Additionally, I wanted to reduce the pain and swelling. Another injection was given of a medication that would have an immediate effect lasting nearly two days. This was followed with an oral medication that specifically treated the symptoms seen with an infection of this type.

Last but not least, I instruct caregivers to place a warm, moist compress on the ruptured anal gland site for ten minutes four times a day. This takes a little time on the owner's part but significantly benefits the patient. Notice, I did not say at six-hour intervals. Even if there is but an hour separating applications, the area will heal faster and with less pain if all four compresses are applied. I admit, it will take a little time (forty minutes to be exact) but the increased blood flow to the area due to the heat and the removal of any drainage from the moisture decreases the pain and accelerates the healing process! The final step in the treatment process is to apply a small amount of an antibiotic ointment to the site after each warm compress.

I am happy to report that a call back the following day found the pooch doing quite well. There was considerably less swelling in the infected area and he was back to his old self.

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Cat in your Bed – “Just let me Sleep!”

Just Let Me Sleep!  Bandit, our fit as a fiddle, eleven pound, eight year-old, social butterfly of a kitty, wants attention 24-7! What's wrong with that? Typically nothing but at 6:00 in the morning when I'm trying to sleep - everything. Many of you will immediately identify with the tenacity this feline exudes in an effort to simply get what he wants in the pre-dawn hours of the morning - BREAKFAST!

What is his first course of action? Promptly, at six a.m. he paws, nonstop, at his master's forehead and nose. My response? I simply roll over. I go from laying on my left side to the same position, this time on my right side. My thought process (in a sleep-deprived state) was to deny him access to my head. Without hesitation Bandit circles the pillow and again begins to invade my personal space. In response, I roll back over to my left side. Now the "pest" begins to paw at my lips. Finally, I move ever so close to the edge of the bed that I darn near fall off. So what does the little fur ball do? Places his paws, one at a time, on the back of my head and starts to slowly but surely pound on my scalp.

You may have experienced a similar scenario. Does your furry friend, cat or dog, occupy, on a nightly basis your space (bed). Under these circumstances isn't it a good idea to keep them free of fleas? The veterinary prescribed monthly flea control products make prevention and treatment simple.

Let's not forget to have your pet undergo an Annual Comprehensive Physical Examination. This is an excellent way to identify many medical problems before they become unmanageable.

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Many Pets HATE the "BANG!"

Does "Barney" climb the walls when a firecracker explodes? With every explosion does "Dora" crawl deeper into the closet! Is your furry friend one of the many who totally freak out when they hear a "BANG"?

In an effort to save my patients from being terrified during the Fourth of July's celebratory events, thunderstorms, the opening day of hunting season, and for some who travel I dispense a vast number of sedatives. The following is a brief explanation of the pros and cons of using "Ace", Acepromazine, a tranquilizer to reduce a pet's anxiety.

The pro - it works for 6-12 hours! The cons - acepromazine potentiates seizures, must be given at least forty five minutes prior to an event, and it reduces the recipients ability to maintain their body temperature. Wow! These are some pretty serious side effects.

Let me briefly address the cons. First, we do not use this drug if the recipient has ever had a seizure. It does not cause seizures; rather it lowers the threshold of brain activity at which a seizure will occur. So for all of you with epileptic pets, ace is not a drug for your pet!

Second, It takes about forty-five minutes for the drug to have its full effect. During the "induction period" the pet MUST not in any way be stimulated i.e. leave them alone! Ideally you give them a dose then put them in a quiet place where they will not be disturbed. If you stimulate them, they will override the medication until the environment is quiet. At this point they will sleep for hours. We see this commonly when the inexperienced owner gives their pet ace to help with thunderstorms. It works well if it is given an hour in advance of the storm. However if medicated once the storm is in the area the pet freaks out until the storm passes then they sleep like a baby.

Finally, this medication causes the blood vessels in the legs and paws to slightly dilate. Consequently the patient loses their ability to maintain their body temperature. This is the same effect alcohol has on people. This is not a problem during the warmer months however it can be quite an issue when Ace is used to minimize the stress of traveling during the winter months.

Bottom line: Consult your veterinarian. Ask them what can be done to keep your pet from freaking out during "explosive" celebratory events, thunderstorms, the opening day of hunting season, or while traveling. They may have a solution that will put all at ease.

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Get a Smaller Bowl – Controlling your pet’s food intake

Get a Smaller Bowl!  You know how I love my Beemer! This dainty, 100 plus pound all black, five year old, spayed Newfoundland just loves to walk with me. Why she'll go virtually any time of the day or night (so that you can see her, at night she wears a blinking "Pet Strobe"). You also know how I have complained that she is FAT. Miss Mary says it is because I don't walk her enough. There may be some truth to that point, however I know that she also gets too many calories.

I suggested to Mary that we remedy this problem by giving her less food to eat, "I don't think so." was Mary's response. We reached a compromise by doing two things. First, I started Beemer on R/D. This is a prescription food that is severely restricted in calories (low fat and very high fiber). The idea here is that she will be able to maintain a fairly large volume to eat yet have far fewer calories.

Maintaining the same volume, and reducing her calories wasn't going to be enough. We had to also decrease the total amount of food she was getting. Well putting 2 cups in the large food bowl clearly wasn't going to be enough to even cover the bottom of the bowl. In Mary's mind, as I'm certain it is with many other pet owners, this was just plain WRONG! But, you see I'm not as dumb as you think. I knew how to remedy this problem. I proceeded to get Beemer a smaller bowl. Now, it looked like Beemer was actually getting more to eat! I'll have you know that this was more for Mary's benefit than it was for Beemer's.

You see Mary, like many pet owners, feels that there MUST be enough food to at least cover the bottom of the bowl. If you subscribe to this line of thinking and your critter is overweight, try feeding R/D and by all means use a smaller bowl.

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Grooming - "Frugality can be COSTLY!”

For a good many years I've had the opportunity to see patients, after hours, for owner inflicted lacerations. You ask, "Owner inflicted", what gives?

In an effort to save some scratch (pardon the pun) many pet owners are becoming part time groomers. A bath, brush and nails are fine but PLEASE, as you tell your children, stay away from sharp objects. Those tight to the skin mats can be a real problem. Couple this with a bouncy or reluctant to cooperate pet and you have a recipe for disaster.

This was the case about a month ago when a bouncy "Golden-doodle" ended up with a laceration just below his ear. The biggest problem for the owner was how to stop the bleeding. Any cut on the face tends to be very good at producing an overabundance of blood.

As is always the case, he came to the office after-hours having eaten just six hours earlier. What's the significance? A laceration of this size requires a surgical repair. I know some of you are thinking this poor dog must be looking a bit like Frankenstein - NOT. I simply had to cut off the flap of tissue and close the defect. For you cat owners that say that couldn't happen to my kitty, I see just as many lacerations caused by owners of felines as I do canines.

For those of you who want to have your pet groomed, know that the pet stylist is going to earn every penny you part with. Responsible groomers will want you to have your pet current on their immunizations. Why? To protect themselves and the other pets they see at their facility. For cats, diseases like Distemper and the other upper respiratory complex illnesses are quite contagious. Canines are prone to a number of infections some through direct contact others are airborne. They should be current on their Distemper - Parvo complex as well as Kennel Cough. Both species need to be current for Rabies vaccination.

Go ahead and ask my wife, she'll tell you that I'm frugal. I try hard to save wherever I can but, in this case, the frugality practiced by the golden's owner did not pay. If you insist on going beyond a simple bath and brush and actually groom your pet please do it Monday - Friday between 8 a.m. and noon. Oh by the way, do not feed them until you are done with the scissors!

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Heartworms – “Indoor ONLY Cats Aren't Safe!”

Cat lovers, did you know heartworm disease is NOT restricted to dogs? Heartworms affect cats differently nonetheless the problems they cause are just as serious! In the dog, adult worms damage both the heart and lungs. Felines react to the migrating larva in the lung field. They show symptoms often mistaken for asthma and respiratory ailments. An acute onset of vomiting is the only symptom some cats have. Why just vomiting? No one really knows. Bottom line: Don't worry. Applying a topical heartworm preventive monthly will keep your feline safe!

If you think, your kitty is not at risk because it remains indoors, you're WRONG! Researchers have demonstrated cats that stay indoors are no less susceptible than those who remain outdoors. A study done in North Carolina showed that nearly one third of cats diagnosed with heartworm disease were indoor-only cats! Know this, it takes just one mosquito bite to infect your kitty. Therefore we recommend ALL cats receive heartworm preventive medication.

Exactly what happens when a mosquito, caring heartworm larva, bites a cat? Over the next five months the larvae migrate from the bite site to the victim's lungs. As larvae enter the lung field the cat's immune system has a severe response. The blood vessels and tissue in the lungs become congested and very inflamed. It is at this point that many cats die!

If a larva should mature into an adult heartworm it may live two years. Upon its death an intense inflammatory reaction occurs damaging the lungs. It is extremely rare for heartworms to mate as they do in the dog. If they do mate the cat's immune system immediately destroys any offspring.

In dogs we use a simple blood test to diagnose heartworm disease. It's not that easy in cats. A negative blood test does not exclude heartworm disease. However a positive test result is significant.

So what can be done to keep your kitty healthy? As I stated at the onset, the newer topical monthly heartworm preventive products make it easy. No more trying to get your cat to eat that delicious chunk of beef. Now all you need do is apply the contents of a tiny tube to the nap of your cat's neck and viola, they are protected! In Michigan this should be done through the first of December. It doesn't get any easier.

As there are a number of flea preventive products that can be applied topically, don't be fooled into thinking just because you are using a topical medication that your kitty is automatically protected from getting heartworm disease. Let me be clear, there are quite a few topical medications that treat fleas yet have NO affect on heartworms! Be certain to ask your veterinarian if the product you use protects your kitty from deadly heartworm disease!

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Fleas – “Hot & Humid Means Fleas Galore!”

If your pet's been on prescription flea preventive since spring, you can stop reading now. For the rest of you with itchy pets, or if YOU are being bitten by fleas read on, relief is on the way!

Here is some flea biology. Hatching requires temperatures above seventy degrees and humidity over seventy percent. The past few weeks have met those criteria. Carbon dioxide and vibration are also a must. Why? Once they hatch within forty-eight hours they must have a blood meal or they die! Vibration means its going by and carbon dioxide spells blood.

After fleas feed they mate and make eggs. How many? Twenty to fifty eggs per day with a maximum of two thousand! Under optimal conditions they go from egg to egg-laying adult in just fifteen days!

You ask: What can be done to stop these blood sucking parasites? As veterinarians, we have a number of safe and effective products to choose from. The days of flea collars that only treated the front half of larger pets are long gone. Monthly products now prevail!

For cats we use a product killing fleas (before they bite), heartworms, ear mites and some intestinal worms. You apply a tiny tube of liquid to the nape of the neck! As our homes rarely go below seventy degrees, flea control may require year round applications. For heartworms, use it into December. Detergent shampoos will wash it off. This is generally a mute point as rarely do I find cat owners giving their furry companions a bath. Above all, this product is incredibly safe!

Canines have more options. Hunters or those who are exposed to ticks should be protected with a topical medication killing; fleas, ticks, flies and mosquitoes. Note: The tick part of this product kills CATS! Don't get anxious. Toxicity in cats occurs only through contact while the product is wet (apply in the evening, it's dry by morning). These dogs will also require heartworm prevention and may need to be treated for intestinal worms. There is another topical that includes prevention for fleas, heartworms, intestinal worms, ear mites but no tick control.

Yet another option for dogs is a "birth control" pill for fleas. No, you don't have to get the flea to swallow a pill. It works like this. The dog is given a chewable tablet containing; heartworm preventive, worm medication and the flea B.C. stuff (Lufenuron). The Lufenuron goes into their body, is stored in fat and is slowly released over a month in to their blood stream. As a result, each time the flea gets a blood meal it gets a dose of Lufenuron that impairs eggshell formation yet it has no effect on the pet.

See your veterinarian to determine the best product for your pet and home. Flea control that made your house a "toxic war zone" is gone.

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Puppies and Kittens – “Get a Load of that Puppy Breath”

Go ahead ask my Health Care Team: What's better than a whiff of "Puppy Breath"? Enthusiastically they'll tell you point blank, nothing! As new puppies arrive daily, our nasal passages are regularly stimulated. We are completely fulfilled. Putting aside the fact that their breath smells wonderful, what's so neat about a new furry addition? Clearly, puppies and kittens bring all of us shear delight and their owners a ton of work!

Let's start with the potty training. Generally this is not a big deal for kittens. Simply keep the litter box clean and smelling good and voila they use it. Here's a good rule of thumb "scoop daily, thoroughly clean weekly". Might I suggest you provide your feline friend(s) one more litter box than there are kitties?

When it comes to potty training, puppies generally present more of a challenge! Initially, they go when you put them out and they go when you don't. Just when you think they finally have a clue, you find another "wet spot" or worse, you step in a "deposit". Unfortunately, some puppies take longer for it to "click" than others. Would you believe Miss Mary has brought home a couple of late clickers? When they do finally get the notion, "go to the door when you need to go out", they have YOU trained.

You may want to initiate a wonderful training program using a "Piddle Pad" or the much less expensive human equivalent, "Underpad". It's quite easy to train a pet to use the pad. And, if you want them to "Go" outdoors simply move the pad to the desired location. Either way, the pad should be replaced after each use.

For your new addition's health and welfare, and to complete the breeder's buy sell agreement, soon after the purchase they need a Comprehensive Physical Examination. This should be done BEFORE you take them home. Most kittens and puppies come with a money back guarantee so long as they are returned within 48 hours. Here's the kicker. Once they have graced your door you're stuck. Not because the breeder refuses to take them back. Rather you won't be able too bring yourself to return the little bundle of joy. You may be the exception, but I have found that most new pet owners find it nearly impossible, no matter what the physical problem may be, to return the little bundle of joy to the breeder.

Your first visit will provide you with an excellent base from which to work. You'll learn all kinds of things. For example, what immunizations your pet needs, why they should have a stool checked every six to twelve months, how to prevent heartworm disease, what constitutes a proper diet, how to control fleas and ticks, the proper time for the spay or neuter surgery, and basic behavior information. All of this will help you provide optimal care for your new pet.

With today's modern medicine, preventive care, and an annual comprehensive physical examination your buddy will be around for a good long time. Large breed dogs are living twelve to eighteen years. Smaller breeds and cats frequently see eighteen to twenty years of good quality life.

Let me leave you with this. What's better than "puppy breath", and the purrrrr of a new kitten? My TEAM will quickly tell you, nothing!

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Tapeworms – “Good Buddies Share”

Best friends are great at sharing. What do I mean? The other day a client brought in one of her two furry feline friends. The kitty she presented was svelte, a fine representative of her species. She was known to her human friends as "Hunter". The other kitty, that shared her domicile, was plump to say the least, and had little interest in doing anything other than laying around looking "Cute". "What's the problem?", I asked. She proceeded to tell me that "Cute" had little tiny worms exiting her rectum. "Not to worry. She has tapeworms", I said. The next thing out of her mouth was "How on earth could she get tapeworms?"

Please pay attention; the following is the story of the tapeworm lifecycle. The segment that is passed in the stool or that crawls out of the rectum (Oh yes, segments are mobile when they break off from the main worm!) is actually a uterus full of tapeworm eggs. The intermediate host a flea, mouse or rabbit eats the eggs from the segment. The eggs hatch into larvae and go through a mandatory growth stage in the intermediate host. Note: If the pet eats the segment directly nothing happens. The only way for these worms to be transmitted is to go through the flea, mouse or rabbit!

So, tapeworms are transmitted from one critter to another (or back to the same pet) by the "end host" eating the "intermediate host" i.e. in this case Hunter brought Cute a mouse to eat that was infected with tapeworm larva. And Hunter, who did just that - hunted, was not infected because she never ate her prey.

Not to worry. Of the common intestinal parasites, tapeworms are the least injurious to their end host. They cause little damage to the gut but are hideous looking as they crawl out of the rectum. Tapeworms are at the top of the order when it comes to worms as they have a "Blood - Brain" barrier. What does this mean? The traditional over the counter de-wormers have no effect on tapeworms. It takes a special medication to clear this type of intestinal parasite.

This medication works very well to remove all adult tapeworms. Once cleared, if the pet eats another flea, mouse or rabbit harboring the infective stage of the tapeworms, the pet can begin to shed segments in as few as two weeks!

The take home message is: If your pet never eats a flea, mouse or rabbit they will never get tapeworms. On the other hand if they have a steady diet of any one of the intermediate hosts, sooner or later you will see tapeworm segments.

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Interns – “They Got Their Start at Pet Health Center!”

I am exceedingly proud of the fact that three Health Care Team Members at Zeeb Pet Health Center will start formal training, this fall, at Michigan State University 's College of Veterinary Medicine ! I can only wish them the best as they pursue their life's dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Rashelle, Keith, and Leslie have been working closely with and learning from the doctors, veterinary technicians, receptionists, veterinary assistants, animal caretakers, our pet stylist, and interns. They have gained valuable experience in how to prevent, diagnose, and treat various diseases, behavioral issues, and nutritional problems affecting companion animals. The pets in our community have truly benefited from their hard work and dedication.

Leslie will be leaving us soon after she completes her final exams. Keith and Rashelle will stay on until classes resume in the fall. At that time, due the rigors of their curriculum, they will be forced to keep their heads buried in their books. Likely they will spend some time with us during their breaks. It is at that point that I look forward to picking their brains for any of the new and exciting treatments and surgical techniques that will help me better care for the pets that frequent our office.

Once again, BRAVO! Rashelle, Keith, and Leslie, you have made this old vet proud to know you.

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Veterinarians MUST use "Politically Correct" terms!

A client, accompanied by a physician friend, brought an ill kitty to my office. "Sophie" had been frequently urinating small amounts everywhere. She knew her feline friend had a urinary tract infection.

After I finished a comprehensive physical examination, to confirm the diagnosis, I recommended a complete urinalysis. I also addressed changes occurring in her cat's eyes. At this point the ophthalmologist became quite concerned. I told the owner that the eye changes were consistent with advancing age. I said, "She has Senile Nuclear Sclerosis or Old Cat Eyes". It was then that the physician, who specializes in eye diseases, gave me the politically correct term "Age Related Nuclear Sclerosis". He said when he told his patients they had "Senile" anything they flat out denied being "Senile"! You see "Senile" conjures up bad scenarios.

I have always been selective when choosing the words and terms I use while speaking with clients. On more than one occasion I have used the "B" word to describe a female dog. However fitting it may be, I let everyone know that I am not using this word to describe the owner. The same is true for the donkeys I saw so many years ago. I would ask my veterinary assistant to setup a de-wormer for Jack's "A", not Jack the "A".

There are many "special" words we use in medicine to specify gender, disease, condition, species, breed, etc. Please understand pets really don't care if you are "PC". They just want to get well.

For any of you who know me, you must admit from time to time it's been a challenge for Dr. "T" to retain his professional demeanor. Bottom line: Your companion's health is my first concern and "Political Correctness" is not necessarily a component in the formula for best medicine. "It's tough to please everyone", is truly an understatement! Let me be clear, I've never once heard a pet complain that I failed to use politically correct terms.

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