No Meowing Part 2, When to Give Heartworm Meds

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This question comes from Sharon. “My cat, Trevor, does not meow. He is a year old. Is that normal?”

It’s probably normal for him. Some cats aren’t as vocal as others. He’s probably able to meow but for whatever reason he chooses not to so I wouldn’t worry about it.

The next one comes from Donna. “Because we spend so much time outdoors in the spring and summer, I started administering flea and tick preventatives to my dogs last month. I discontinued the flea and tick preventatives after the first frost. However, I give them heartworm medication all year long. Is this necessary in the cool of fall and winter months?”

This is a great question. It really depends on where you live. Most veterinarians and manufacturers of heartworm medications believe that heartworm medication should probably be given all year-round. Because heartworm disease is so difficult to treat, we really aim our medicine on preventing it. If you travel or if you live in certain areas where there might be the possibility of mosquitoes, it’s better to just stay on the preventative all year-round.

In terms of fleas and ticks, ticks especially are really a summertime thing, but again, depending on where you live, this could be an all year-round thing. If you’ve got specific questions about your region and your area, I would contact your veterinarian.

The Rusty puppy

A Dachshund puppy without dog insurance fights for his life.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Rusty is just the color you’d expect a dachshund named “Rusty” to be, a handsome shiny red. He was normally a happy 8-month-old puppy, full of energy and bouncing off the walls. However, in the last few days he’d been mopey and refused to eat. Although Rusty’s owners didn’t have dog insurance for Rusty, they were worried and decided to make an appointment at the veterinary clinic.

When Rusty was seen by the vet, it was very obvious that something was wrong. He was so weak that he could barely lift his head and his gums were white instead of a nice healthy pink color. This is very serious and indicated something was terribly wrong.

Blood work was recommended for Rusty to better understand why he was so weak and pale. The owners didn’t have a lot of money were worried about the cost because they didn’t have pet insurance. Rusty’s owners were convinced that there was a good possibility they might lose him if a diagnosis wasn’t made quickly.

A normal canine Complete Blood Count, or CBC has about 40% red blood cells, and the rest is serum or plasma. Rusty had just 11% cells, indicating he was severely and life-threateningly anemic. In an animal with anemia, or low numbers of red blood cells, there are only three ways this occurs: the animal’s bone marrow isn’t producing the blood cells, the blood cells are being destroyed by something, like the immune system, or the animal is bleeding somewhere.

After additional questioning, the owners mentioned they had a rodent problem and last week had put rat poison down. In fact, they were pretty sure they had seen Rusty eat some. It was then I determined Rusty was suffering from rodenticide toxicity, a fatal disease if left untreated. Rusty’s red blood cells numbers were low because he was bleeding internally.

Rodenticides are chemicals used to kill mice, rats, moles, gophers and other vermin. They have been available in the US for decades and are available in several formulations with blue or green pellets or paraffin blocks being the most common. While many contain bittering agents to prevent accidental ingestion by children, these agents have limited effectiveness in animals.

The reason rat poison works is that it is an anti-coagulant; it inhibits the blood’s ability to clot. Clotting is important for everyday life and prevents you for bleeding when bumped, or with normal cell turnover.

Anticoagulant rodenticides stop the liver’s ability to produce vitamin K, which is crucial to the production of several coagulation factors. This takes several days to deplete; therefore clinical signs of toxicity, such as bleeding can take days to happen. When clinical signs do occur, everyday things that would normally result in a bruise or other small insignificant problem can turn into life-threatening bleeding situation.

Patients may present bleeding almost anywhere, from the nose, in the lungs, into the eyes, GI tract, heart sac or bladder, to name a few. Because Rusty’s owners hadn’t actually seen any bleeding, it was thought that his bleeding was likely internal. After they were told the gravity of the situation, Rusty’s owners agreed to having him hospitalized for treatment.

If he had been brought immediately to the clinic after ingesting the rat poison, treatment would generally be straight forward and consist of inducing vomit, administering activated charcoal to ‘soak up’ any left over toxins to prevent absorption, and supplementing vitamin K for three weeks until any toxin is officially out of the body.

Rusty required 2 costly blood transfusions and was hospitalized for almost a week before he was strong enough to go home. His bill was hefty– even after using some of our clinics’ ‘needy pet funds’ the invoice was still over $1,500. Rusty was a sweetie though and worth every penny! If his owners had pet insurance Rusty’s condition would have been covered by most pet health insurance companies.

No Meowing, No Litter Box Use – Help!

Hello. I’m Dr Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple of questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

The first question is from Sharon. She writes, “Why does a cat not meow and it is normal? Do many cats have that problem? I have a one-year-old cat that I adopted that does not meow.”

That definitely is very unusual for kitty-cats. I’m a little bit unclear as to whether he is meowing but nothing is coming out or if he’s just not even bothering to try to meow. If he’s meowing and nothing’s coming out, on rare occasions a cat could be born with an abnormality of his vocal cords or elsewhere in the throat area, so he may not be physically able to meow even though he’s opening his mouth and trying to.

Certainly, on rare occasions there are cats that just don’t meow. Sometimes some of the breeds, like the Persians, tend to be on the quieter side, but even they will make noises now and again. You just might have a very unique cat who doesn’t feel the need to voice his opinion, and it’s nothing that I would worry about

The second question is from Hope. She has a very common question. She writes, “What makes a healthy neutered cat refuse to use a clean litter box? He will go all over the house but not in the box, no matter how clean it is. The vet says he has no health problems.”

This can be a very common problem that we see in kitty-cats and unfortunately also a very common reason why many of the kitties end up in the Humane Societies. The first thing to check out is whether he is truly healthy. It seems like your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions, so then we tend to think it’s a behavioral issue. We want to take a close look at the setup of your litter boxes in the home situation.

The litter boxes that we provide in the homes are not at all like what the kitties would choose if they were outside in the natural environment. The goal is to make sure that his litter box is as attractive as possible so that he doesn’t choose other areas to go. Attractiveness to the cat includes cleanliness, convenience, and safety. There are some general rules that we can apply to try to make sure that the cat is using the box and finding it an attractive place to go.

You definitely want to have a minimum of one litter box per kitty-cat and you also want to have at least one box on each level of the house. You want to places these boxes in different areas around the house so that he has options. You definitely want to pay close attention to the type of litter that you’re using. Most cats like the scoop-able litter because it feels softer to their paws. I would choose one that’s unscented and preferably low in dust.

You want to make sure that you’re not placing the litter boxes near any loud appliances or air ducts because that might frighten the kitties away. Cleanliness is extremely important. It sounds like you are doing a good job already, but there’s usually room for some improvement. You want to scoop the box at least once a day but perhaps even more than that. Occasionally I’ll see a cat that will not use a box even if there’s just one soiled area already in it, so you may need to scoop out the box two or three times a day. You also want to dump out the entire contents of the box at least once a month, sometimes maybe more, and then wash out the box with good old soap and water. Don’t use any disinfectants as they may leave a smell that the kitty doesn’t like.

Covers or hoods on the boxes and plastic liners cause a lot of problems. The kitties don’t necessarily like the feeling of the liners, and hoods can trap in ammonia odors and also make the kitties feel like they’re being trapped. I do not recommend any of those. Make sure you remove them. You also want to offer the largest litter box possible. Oftentimes they don’t even use litter boxes, per se, but I especially like the see-through plastic storage containers. They can work very well for kitty-cats.

What we’re trying to do is set up a situation so the cat can actually try to tell us what his preferences are and what he likes. I will often recommend that we set up kind of a cafeteria style type of littler box situation in the home. Make sure there are a lot of different litter box types, different litters, and different locations, and let him choose which he likes. Once you’ve figured out what his preferences are you’re more likely to be able to provide that for the kitty and then he’ll use those boxes.

Something else you definitely want to do is make sure you are properly cleaning the areas where the kitty soiled. An enzymatic cleaner is going to do the best job of actually breaking down the odor rather than just covering it up with a fragrant scent. If you’re having trouble finding exactly where the kitty eliminated, especially with urine, a black light can make the spot stand out so that you know where to do the proper cleaning.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips and advice, definitely talk to your veterinarian. The longer these types of problems go on, the more likely they will actually become more of a habit and more difficult to correct.

Five tips for you and your beach baby

A dog with pet insurance runs on the beach.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Landlocked in lovely Boise, Idaho, we’re a full day’s drive to the Pacific Ocean and not exactly pros when it comes to beach living. So we asked our more sea-savvy Facebook friends how they keep their pets safe on the beach (aside from having pet insurance of course) and we got some great advice we hope you can use on your next beach getaway.

Bring Fresh Water
Gulping salt water can cause diarrhea and vomiting in your dog, so make sure you discourage him from drinking ocean water and provide plenty of fresh water. Keep it covered and in the shade so it’s clean and cool when he needs to rehydrate. Any digestive discomfort caused by sea water should pass within 24 hours. If not, seek veterinary care.

Protect Their Paws and Skin
Hot sand can abrade and crack paw pads, and those cracks can become infected. To keep pads soft and healthy, one friend swears by Musher’s Secret, a natural wax product that you can rub onto your dog’s paw pads before hitting the sand. Other options include a variety of water-proof booties and socks available online and at pet stores – just make sure they fit well and won’t come off when wet.

Dogs with short coats and lighter skin especially need extra protection from the sun. Talk to your vet about a pet-safe sunscreen and be sure to give your dog a good bath when you get home.

Test the Waters with Other Dogs
Especially in off-leash areas, make sure other dogs are friendly before letting yours run free. This is especially true if your dog will be fetching a toy – how will he react if another dog tries to sneak in and grab it? If your dog is possessive of toys, leave them in the car till the other dogs are gone.

Scout the Land
Most dogs love seeing vast expanses of open space – they’ll tear off running as fast as they can. Before you let your pup off leash, check the beach for anything potentially dangerous like broken glass, garbage and jellyfish. Investing in dog insurance can help ensure your pup will be protected if any injuries occur while on the beach.

Take Frequent Breaks
Some dogs will fetch and swim themselves right into exhaustion. Even if your dog wants to keep playing, give him breaks in the shade throughout the day. Some signs that indicate he might be overdoing it include vigorous panting, dark red gums and thick saliva. If you observe any of these signs or your dog seems weak or dizzy, get into a cool place right away and call your veterinarian. Pet insurance can help diminish costs associated with emergency vet visits for heat stroke or exhaustion.

Kitten questions! Are you ready?

A kitten with pet insurance plays in a cat bed.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

We’re in the middle of kitten season with the majority of kittens being born between spring and fall. Who can resist these cute little balls of fur? It’s easy to fall in love with these adorable, cuddly creatures, but before you bring a new kitten into your home there are a few things to consider, aside from which food, toys and cat insurance to purchase.

First and foremost is whether you’re ready and able to make the commitment that comes with pet ownership. As a cat owner, you are responsible for providing proper food, shelter and health care for your cat’s entire life, not just when it is small and cute. Cats are not disposable. I hear way too many sad stories about cats being left behind to fend for themselves when the owners move away, cats being dumped out in the countryside when they’re no longer wanted, and cats being surrendered to local shelters as adults because they’ve lost that kitten cuteness factor.

Three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. Please be a responsible pet owner and be part of the solution to pet overpopulation, not a part of the problem.

Kittens are also an expense, especially during the first year of their lives. Work their general costs into your monthly budget, and be sure that you have a small fund set aside for routine or wellness care, particularly if your kitten will be going outdoors when it’s older. You can also look for a pet insurance company that offers wellness care coverage.

Improvements in both dog and cat insurance over the past ten years have made it more worthwhile than ever. There are more policy options available, and you have a much better chance of finding a policy that covers what’s important to you and your cat at a price you can afford.

It’s also important to consider your current home situation. Do you have a dog? Many dogs and cats that live together learn to be friends, but some breeds are “cat chasers”, and some kittens may be too playful and interactive for some dogs. Your veterinarian can help guide you as to what might be the best fit for your unique situation if you decide to open your heart and home to a kitten.

Do you already have any cats? If so, how many and what are their ages and genders? You would not want to bring a new kitten into a household that has a single geriatric cat. Senior pets do not always appreciate the rambunctious antics of a crazy kitten! In these cases, if possible, it would be better to get two kittens that would be more likely to bond to each other and not bother the older cat.

Cats that have lived alone for a long time are also less likely to accept a new pet quickly. It’s necessary to be able to provide a separate room for each cat with separate food and water dishes and separate litter boxes, especially during the introduction period. Sometimes it’s helpful to add a kitten of a different gender to help maintain peace in the household.

If you’re starting with an empty nest, also consider getting two kittens. If you work long hours or are away from home a lot, the kittens will provide each other with plenty of activity and companionship. Some cat insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance even offer multiple pet discounts!

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