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cat on scaleWhen you think of pets in the United States, do you think of malnutrition? Probably not! But an estimated 59% of pet cats and 53% of pet dogs in the United States suffer from malnutrition in the form of OBESITY. Personally where I practice, I’d estimate that 70% of cats and 60% of dogs are overweight to obese.

Pets with excess weight live an average of 2 to 2.5 years less than their lean counterparts. That’s a sizeable portion of a pet’s life. Overweight to obese pets have a higher risk for various kinds of cancer, now the #1 cause of euthanasia in senior dogs and #2 in senior cats.

Heavy dogs and cats have an increased risk for orthopedic injury especially rupture of a cranial cruciate ligament. (It’s called an “ACL injury” in a person.) Arthritis is worse and begins to show outwardly in pets an average of 2 years earlier if they are overweight or obese.

Perhaps the greatest risk for cats carrying excessive body weight is the development of type 2 diabetes. I see this disease commonly in practice and rarely in lean cats. If you can’t stand the idea of giving your pet cat insulin injections twice per day, please keep her lean.

In honor of World Rabies Day on September 28, we wanted to spread awareness about this fatal, but preventable disease. Rabies affects mammals, including humans and pets, and is one of the deadliest diseases. As a pet owner, the best thing you can do is know the facts to keep this disease away from yourself and your loved ones.

world rabies day logoPeople

The US typically sees 2-3 cases of human rabies per year. World-wide, there are around 55,000 cases per year, mostly in developing countries and mostly from dog sources. We are lucky to live in a country with excellent rabies control.

Since 2003, the rabies virus has been positively diagnosed in 37 people in the US. Seventy percent of these individuals acquired the virus inside the United States or Puerto Rico. The bat rabies virus variants were genetically identified to be implicated in 65% of these cases.

There are many subtypes of rabies virus (bat types, raccoon types, etc.), but any mammal is able to be infected by any variant of the rabies virus.

deer-tick-lyme-diseaseLyme disease affects both dogs and people, and is often of interest to dog owners. The disease in humans and dogs varies quite a bit, but the cause is the same - it is caused by a bacterial infection passed by ticks.

In the United States, two species of black-legged ticks, the deer tick, and the Western black-legged tick, transmit the species of bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, during feeding.

Transmission of the infection occurs at 24-48 hours of feeding. Immature deer ticks become infected with the bacteria by feeding on rodents. When these young ticks molt into adult ticks, they feed mainly on deer. Up to 50% of deer ticks carry Borellia burgdorferi bacteria in heavily infected areas.

Only 5-10% of dogs infected with Borellia burgdorferi will go on to develop clinical disease. Symptoms are expected to develop 2-5 months after infection. Classic acute canine Lyme disease manifests as fever, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, loss of appetite, lameness or joint pain so severe that the dog refuses to walk. Chronic infection also is associated with lameness. Occasionally, chronically infected dogs develop a type of kidney failure.

It’s estimated that cats receive the benefit of an annual check-up and routine preventive care at only ~50% the rate of dogs. Part of the reason for this is the difficulty and stress many owners experience in physically getting their cats to a veterinary clinic. Since cats are masters at hiding chronic illness and pain, a yearly exam is needed to find some common but easily missed signs that a problem has begun.

Cat in Pet CarrierThere are some easy things people with cats can do in preparation for a planned visit to a vet clinic to lessen the overall unpleasantness.

  1. Set out a sturdy clean carrier at least 3 days in advance and leave the door open. Consider putting a small blanket or towel inside and sprinkling the floor with catnip or a few favorite treats to make it a nice place. A very treat-motivated cat could even be trained to go into the carrier to get a treat. If your cat voluntarily sits inside the carrier, consider briefly closing the door and immediately leaving it open again, just for practice.

  2. On the day of the appointment, get the cat into the carrier with treats or as gentle a handling technique as possible. Some cats will benefit from pretreating the carrier with a pheromone spray such as Feliway. Some cats are best at being put into a carrier backwards. Do NOT put on your coat, grab your purse or keys, or do anything else first that signals that you are leaving before accomplishing this.