Bringing a new dog or cat into your home is a time of discovery and joy; that is unless the discovery centers on pet illness.
In the past, most pets were obtained from local sources (i.e. nearby shelters or breeders) and therefore tended to only have diseases that were common to the area. These days, however, some breeders will send their puppies or kittens hundreds or thousands of miles to their new owners or to pet shops. Animals in shelters may also have traveled great distances. This is especially true in parts of the country, like the Northeast, that have managed to gain better control of the animal over-population problem. Animals are now often transported from facilities that are overflowing to those that have available space in another part of the country.
While this is obviously beneficial for the animals that would otherwise have been euthanized, it can occasionally present some problems for their new owners. If your new pet becomes sick, it is now quite possible that the illness may be something that your local veterinarian does not see on a regular basis.
So, what can owners do to protect their new pets? Try to find out your pet’s travel history and pass it along to your veterinarian. This information can be a life-saver by helping your vet determine whether any screening tests should be run. Background info is also extremely helpful in producing a quick diagnosis so that the appropriate treatment and pet medications can be administered in the unfortunate event that your pet does fall ill.
Most healthy pets that eat a high quality, nutritionally complete commercially prepared food do not need to receive a daily vitamin and mineral supplement. Reputable pet food manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure that their diets provide the correct amount of vitamins and minerals. Adding more can actually be harmful if excesses build up to toxic levels or interfere with the absorption of other vitamins and minerals.
This does not mean that vitamin and mineral pet supplements are always a bad idea. Here are some instances when they can be life-savers:
- Some diseases can be treated with vitamins and/or minerals (e.g., vitamin K for dogs to combat poisonings with certain types of rodenticides). Your veterinarian will prescribe the correct supplement or combination of supplements to treat your pet’s condition.
- Animals that eat home-prepared foods should receive broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplements. It is almost impossible to create a balanced diet without them. A veterinary nutritionist should always be involved in designing recipes for home-cooked pet foods.
- Some pets are so finicky that they will only eat extremely small amounts or will only accept diets that are of questionable quality. A multivitamin/mineral supplement can help prevent nutritional deficiencies in these cases.
Talk to your veterinarian to determine whether your pet should receive feline or canine supplements.
Ideally, puppies and kittens should stay with their mother and littermates until they are at least eight weeks of age. This gives them the time needed to learn valuable lessons about how to be a well-socialized member of a group.
Unfortunately, circumstances do not always cooperate. Puppies and kittens may be orphaned or otherwise separated from their mothers at a very young age. In some cases, individuals can be introduced into another litter, and assuming that their new mother accepts them, they can continue almost as if nothing happened. It is more common, however, for people to have to intervene.
Bottle raising puppies and kittens is not difficult, but it does take dedication and a lot of time. Orphaned youngsters generally need to be fed by bottle until they are about four weeks old. To do this properly, purchase several kitten or puppy nursing bottles as well as puppy or kitten milk replacer and plan to feed them every two to three hours from the time you wake until you go to sleep. If they eat this frequently during the day, overnight feedings should not be necessary.
Young puppies and kittens also need stimulation in order to urinate and defecate. Do this after each feeding by wiping their urogenital region and anus several times with a warm washcloth. Then use the washcloth clean them up well.
Once they begin chewing on the nipple of the bottle (usually around 3-4 weeks of age), you can start offering pâté-style kitten food mixed with a little milk replacer. Once they are eating well and drinking water from a bowl, you can discontinue bottle feeding. Keep track of the animal’s weight to make sure they are thriving. Any weight loss should immediately be reported to your veterinarian.
Part of being able to determine when an animal is sick or injured is knowing what is normal for that pet. Owners should monitor their pet’s behavior daily and perform brief physical examinations monthly so they can recognize when something has changed.
- Run your hands over your pet’s body to feel for any new lumps or bumps that should be checked out by the veterinarian. Also, ruffle your pet’s fur and look at the skin for fleas and ticks, redness, scaling, etc.
- Look at the color of your pet’s gums. Keep an eye out for dental disease or any masses in the mouth.
- Examine ears, eyes, nose, nails, feet and the anogenital region for anything unusual that may have developed since your last exam.
- Weigh your pet monthly and record the information so you can pick up any unexpected weight gain or loss as early as possible.
If you find anything out of the ordinary during your examination, contact your pet’s veterinarian with any questions or concerns.
Cats are physiologically different than dogs. Because of this, they are more prone to developing potentially life threatening side-effects from the most common class of pain relievers used in dogs –NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories). This makes keeping cats comfortable in the face of both acute (i.e. post-surgical or traumatic injury) and chronic (i.e. osteoarthritis) pain challenging.
When cats are hospitalized, veterinarians have a wide range of options to choose from regarding pain medication. But once a cat is scheduled to go home, the choices become more limited. Below are a few of the more commonly used pain relievers for cats commonly available from retailers like http://www.vetdepot.com. Many are also good options for dogs.
- Buprenorphine – good for acute and chronic pain but can get expensive with long-term use
- Tramadol – good for acute and chronic pain
- gabapentin – good for chronic pain
- amantadine – good for chronic pain
- Joint Supplements – good for chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis and possibly some other conditions
- Metacam (meloxicam) – this is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that has been used in cats, but repeated use increases the risk of side effects. It may still be an option for some individuals.
If you think your pet is in pain, talk to your veterinarian and ask if any of the aforementioned pet medications might be appropriate.