Inappropriate Elimination

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My cat is having accidents outside the litter box.  What does this mean?


Urinating in inappropriate locations has been reported as the number one behavior problem in cats.  In fact, a recent study found that when cats were relinquished to an animal shelter, owners listed inappropriate elimination as the top behavioral reason for giving up their pet.


First, it is important to distinguish spraying from other forms of urination.  Spraying involves urinating on a vertical surface, such as a wall, and is typically used to mark territory.  If spray pattern is seen near windows or glass doors, your cat may be responding to strange cats it sees outside.  Urination occurs on horizontal surfaces, such as in the litter pan or on the floor.


Inappropriate urination can be due to numerous medical problems.  Diseases that cause an increase in the amount of water a cat drinks can lead to increased urine production.  Diabetes, kidney failure, liver disease, and thyroid gland abnormalities can all result in excessive water intake and more frequent urination.  If a cat is painful, as happens with arthritis and other degenerative diseases, it may be too uncomfortable to climb into the litter pan.


There is another group of diseases, collectively known as feline lower urinary tract disease (or FLUTD), that is a common medical reason for urinary accidents.  FLUTD may be caused by inflammation in the urinary bladder, known as feline idiopathic cystitis.  No one knows the exact cause of this inflammation, but stress often is an important factor.


Other FLUTD disorders include urinary stones and urethral plugs, a potentially life-threatening condition more often seen in male cats.  If your cat is crying out when urinating, straining to urinate, has blood in the urine, or is urinating in small frequent amounts, an immediate veterinary evaluation is in order.


If a thorough work-up by your veterinarian rules out medical causes of inappropriate elimination, there are many behavioral reasons for those urinary accidents.  Some cats have litter substrate aversion and will only use specific types of litter.  One study found clumping, non-scented litter was the most preferred type, but not every cat agrees.  Experiment with different litter types to see which one is used most often by your cat.

Litter box type is also important for many cats, with most choosing non-hooded pans over those with a hood.


Be sure you have enough litter boxes for your cat family.  In multi-cat homes, one cat may “claim” a litter pan as his own, and confront other cats when they try to use it.  Placing litter boxes in various locations around the house can help ensure everyone has a peaceful place to eliminate.  There should be one more litter box than number of cats, so if you have three cats, you need to have four litter boxes.


The litter pans need to be cleaned regularly.  They should be scooped daily and washed with soapy water at least once every month.  A dirty litter pan is like a stinky port-a-potty!  If there is nowhere else to go, your cat may have no choice but to use the clean Persian rug.  And if conditions in the litter box are frequently found to be unacceptable, your cat may give up on litter boxes altogether.


Cats are the only domestic animals that have the instinct to routinely bury their waste – an instinct we can really appreciate.  So if your cat starts having accidents outside the litter box, carefully assess your home environment and have your veterinarian evaluate for an underlying medical cause.




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I have seen an increase in patients with parvovirus (or “Parvo”) in Beaumont over the past few weeks.  Canine parvoviral infection is one of the most common and severe infectious diseases of dogs.  It can cause life-threatening damage to your pet’s intestinal tract and immune system.


This virus is extremely contagious and strikes rapidly.  It is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and by contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments or people.  The virus is easily transmitted from one place to another on the feet or fur of dogs, or even on the shoes of people.


Not only can the parvovirus be readily transferred from place to place, it is also extremely hardy in the environment.  The virus can remain infectious on contaminated ground for seven months or more.  It is resistant to almost all common household disinfectants, with the exception of bleach.  As a result, your dog can contract parvovirus anywhere pets come together, such as parks, kennels and pet stores.


Once the virus enters the body, it attacks and multiples in the bone marrow, intestinal tract and immune system.  All dogs are at risk, but puppies are most susceptible due to their immature immune system.  Adult dogs who are not up to date on their parvovirus vaccination are also at increased risk.


Signs of “Parvo” include vomiting, diarrhea (severe and often bloody), lack of appetite, fever, and lethargy or listlessness.  Vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, with most deaths from parvovirus occurring within 48 to 72 hours after clinical signs begin.  Therefore, if you see any of these symptoms in your puppy or dog, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.


When a dog develops “Parvo”, treatment can be very expensive and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment.  Therefore, prevention is key!  Your puppy should receive a full series of vaccines, including a vaccination against parvovirus, starting at 6 weeks of age.  Booster shots should be given every 3-4 weeks until your puppy is 16-18 weeks old.  As an adult dog, boosters are given every 1-3 years to provide continued protection against this deadly disease.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

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My senior dog seems confused sometimes and has had some behavior changes such as peeing in the house, which never used to happen.  Can dogs get Alzheimer’s disease?


Just as the rest of a dog’s body is affected by aging, so is the brain.  There are similarities between Alzheimer’s disease in humans and what is known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs.


In Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs and Alzheimer’s disease in people, studies have shown that there is an abnormal deposition of amyloid (a protein) in the brain.  This neurotoxic protein is deposited in a similar pattern in both diseases and can result in many of the same behavioral changes.


It is always important to first rule out an underlying medical problem as a cause for changes in a senior pet.  For instance, new onset of urinary accidents in the house may be due to kidney disease, a urinary tract infection, or diabetes, just to name a few possible causes.


However, once physical and medical problems have been ruled out, there are some clues that your dog may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction:


  • Changes in the sleep-wake cycle – Pets that used to sleep normally through the night may now be waking up overnight or sleeping more hours during the day.  Night pacing or vocalization may occur.
  • Disorientation or confusion – Your pet may forgot where a door is that she has gone out of a thousand times before, get stuck in a corner of a previously familiar room or get lost in her own back yard.
  • Housesoiling – Dogs that have been perfectly housetrained for years may now start urinating in the house or may no longer signal to the owner when they have to eliminate.
  • Changes in activity levels – A pet may show a decrease in his activity level, but the opposite may also occur.  He may exhibit restlessness, pacing, or aimless wandering behaviors and seem to be unable to settle.  Excessive licking or other repetitive behaviors may occur.
  • Social interactions altered – A dog that was always super friendly may spend increasing amounts of time alone or become irritable when approached or petted.  She may no longer greet you at the door or be interested in playing.  Conversely, a previously aloof dog may become more attached or even clingy.
  • Difficulty learning or forgetting previously known commands – A dog may have great difficulty adapting to any changes in the household such as an altered schedule.  He may also be unable to perform tasks that he once knew.


It has been stated that 50% of dogs over 8 years old have some indications of brain aging.  Progression of signs is typically very gradual, so they often go unnoticed in the early stages of this disease.  Not until changes start to interfere with your dog’s everyday life are the signs typically noted.


There are some treatments that have been helpful in improving cognitive dysfunction.  Therapeutic diets with specifically balanced anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids have been developed and may result in improvements as early as 2 to 8 weeks after starting the food.  A medication called Anipryl has also been beneficial in cases of Cognitive Dysfunction.  There are also some nutritional supplements that can support brain health.


Environmental enrichment is very important in helping to keep your dog’s brain healthier.  So get out there and play with your pet daily, take him on regular walks, introduce new toys and even provide new training.  “Use it or lose it” applies to our furry friends, too!


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My cat has small white worms in his poop.  They look like wiggling grains of rice.  I tried some wormer medicine from the pet store, but the worms just came back.  Thanks for your help!

There are two types of intestinal worms found in a pet’s feces that can be readily seen with the naked eye.  The first is the roundworm, which is long, round and skinny like a spaghetti noodle.  What you are describing is typical of the tapeworm, most commonly the Dipylidium caninum species of tapeworm.

Tapeworms are actually long worms, as well –  growing up to 8 inches in length.  They live in the small intestine of dogs and cats and attach to the wall of the intestine with hook-like mouthparts.  Once the tapeworm has anchored itself, a long tail begins to grow.  The tail is made of small, individual segments that each contains a complete digestive and reproductive system.

As the tapeworm grows, the older tail segments get pushed farther away from the head and lose their digestive system, but retain their reproductive tract.  Eventually the end segment breaks off of the tail and is passed out through the pet’s rectum.   At this point, the segment is nothing more than a sack of tapeworm eggs.

These segments are small, like the grain of rice you describe.  There can also be multiple connected segments that are passed at one time, which can sometimes be mistaken for the roundworm.  But if you look closely, you should notice that the worm is flat and segmented, unlike the round, smooth roundworm.   When they dry, the tapeworm segments bear a resemblance to sesame seeds.

The passed tapeworm segments are typically found around a pet’s rear end or in their stool.  They may also be seen in the bedding or other places your cat frequently rests, since the worms can pass while your pet is asleep.

If your cat (or dog) happens to swallow these tapeworm segments, he will not become further infested with tapeworms.  Dipylidium caninum requires a flea to complete its life cycle.  In other words, a flea larva found on your pet or in his bedding must eat the egg inside of the passed tapeworm segment.  As the flea develops into an adult, the tapeworm is also growing inside of the flea.  A pet must then in turn ingest that flea to become infected with tapeworms.  Inadvertent swallowing of fleas when a cat or dog is licking and chewing its skin in response to a flea bite is not uncommon.

Although the tapeworm lifecycle may seem complicated, a simple conclusion can be made about your cat with tapeworms:  even if you do not see fleas on him, your cat must be grooming off and ingesting fleas in order to become infested with the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm.

Therefore, treatment of tapeworms is two-fold.  The first step is treatment of the tapeworms themselves.  There are several very effective medications that can be given to kill the tapeworms.  But without strict flea control, your pet is at high risk to develop additional tapeworm infestations.  In as little as three weeks after treatment, new tapeworm segments can appear if your cat keeps swallowing fleas.

So the second, crucial part of tapeworm treatment is flea control.Excellent, veterinary-recommended flea preventatives that are administered to your pet once every month (or every 3 months for some products) are available.  Successful flea control includes treating your ALL your pets year-round.  Even one untreated pet will serve as a constant food source and allow new fleas to develop.

There are several other species of tapeworms that can be found in cats that eat infected rabbits, rats, mice or other rodents.  Tapeworm medications are also effective against these different types of tapeworms.  However, if you cat continues to ingest these prey, reinfection can occur.  These types of tapeworms are less commonly seen than the flea-associated worms.

If your cat is not an avid hunter and you are having a problem with recurrent tapeworms, it is time to take a hard look at your flea prevention effectiveness.  Ask your veterinarian for help in selecting the best protocol to eliminate your cat’s tapeworm and flea infestations.  Remember that flea control is the mainstay of successful tapeworm treatment.



Hurricane Preparedness

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The 2017 hurricane season has officially started.  Forecasters are predicting an above average number of named storms this year.  If a hurricane does threaten Southeast Texas, it is important for your entire family, including your furry members, to be prepared.

If your family must evacuate, you need to take your pets with you.  Never leave your pets behind thinking they will be okay because you are only going to be gone for a day or two.  Damage to an area can prevent access for days or even weeks, leaving your pets without food, water or care.  Pets may be trapped, escape or become injured during a storm.  If it is not safe for you and your family, it is not safe for your pets.

Do not count on local veterinary clinics or boarding facilities to house your pets during a hurricane.  If an evacuation order is issued, it applies to everybody, including the staff that typically looks after your pets during more routine boarding.  Flooding, wind damage, or loss of power threatens these facilities, too; not just your homes are at risk.

Arrange accommodations for your pets in the region to where you are evacuating.  If staying with friends or family members, ensure they are willing to house your pets, too.  Locate kennel facilities and make reservations as early as possible.  Many hotels now accept pets.  Websites such as and can help you locate pet-friendly lodging.

Make sure your pets are up to date on all of their vaccines and keep a copy of the vaccination records, including rabies certificate and tag information.  To be even more thorough, ask your veterinarian to print out a copy of your pet’s medical records.  Some veterinary clinics also offer online access to medical records.  Our clients at Delaware Animal Clinic have the option to view medical records through our website as well as our mobile app.  These records are of particular importance for pets with any kind of medical problems or special needs.  If your pet is on any medication, be sure to have an adequate supply on hand to last two weeks.

All pets need to have some form of identification in the event they are separated from you.  The best identification is a microchip which is inserted under the skin.  Collars and tags can be lost, but a microchip provides reliable, permanent identification.  Make sure the information you provide to the microchip company is kept current.

You should also create an identification file for each pet.  This file should contain a detailed description of your pet that also includes any distinctive characteristics; for example, male, neutered, brown and tan Yorkshire terrier, 8 pounds, with white spot on chest.  A current photograph of your pet should be included.  Proof of ownership, such as adoption papers, proof of purchase or registration papers, can also be helpful.

Make a pet evacuation kit that is easy to carry and clearly labeled for every pet.  Provisions to place in this kit include:  two week supply of fresh water and food, can opener and spoon, pet bowls, leashes and collars, a carrier for every pet (labeled with your contact information), litter/litter pan/litter scoop, familiar comfort items such as blankets, toys and treats, trash bags and paper towels.

The evacuation kit should also contain your pet’s medical records, identification file, and medications, including heartworm and flea preventatives.  Other items may need to be considered, such as a flashlight, first aid kit, muzzles, radio, extra batteries and emergency contact information.

If an evacuation order is issued, leave as early as possible.  Evacuation routes will be less congested and you will have a better chance to find space available in a boarding facility or pet-friendly hotel.  Be sure that every pet has secure identification and don’t forget to pack your pet evacuation kit when you leave.  By leaving early you lessen your chances of becoming a victim of a disaster.  And remember it is NEVER okay to leave your pets behind.

Petting Induced Aggression

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My cat Gus is normally very friendly and loves attention.  Sometimes when I pet him, though, he turns around and bites me.  Any advice?    -Annie, Beaumont

Gus is exhibiting behavior known as petting-induced aggression.  The signals your cat gives can be quite confusing.  One minute Gus may be rubbing against your leg, jumping on your lap or even head butting your hand in what seems like a plea for affection.  Then the next minute he is biting you and running away.

Some cats want to be in your company but do not want to be petted.  Just because a cat sits in your lap or on the sofa next to you does not mean he wants your affection.  This situation represents a failure in communication between the cat and owner.  So the first thing to ask yourself is if Gus really wants to be petted at all.

If Gus truly seems to enjoy getting petted, but these sessions occasionally end in biting, then Gus is trying to tell you he no longer wants to be stroked.  Every cat has a different threshold of tolerance for human petting and physical affection.  Initially the interaction is pleasing to Gus, but there reaches a point where the sensations are no longer enjoyable.

There may be an underlying medication condition that is triggering Gus’ behavior.  Possible causes may include pain due to arthritis or discomfort from skin diseases.  In feline hyperesthesia syndrome, cats are overly sensitive to all touch which may result in episodes of skin rolling or twitching.  Any condition that increases irritability can also increase aggression, such as dental disease, anxiety or metabolic diseases.   A visit to your veterinarian to assess for such problems may be in order, especially if Gus’ biting behavior is new.

Your response to your cat’s aggression can exacerbate the problem.  When Gus bites you and you stop petting him, he learns that his aggressive behavior allows him to get what he wants.  This “reward” can result in more frequent or intense episodes.    So you need to take steps to handle this situation before it progresses further.

Cats usually signal when they are reaching the end of their petting tolerance, but these signs may be subtle and easily missed.  Postural changes for which to monitor include fidgeting, tail twitching, body tensing, dilated pupils or leaning away.  Your cat may also flatten his ears, pull his lips back, or possibly hiss or growl.  It is very important to pay attention to your cat’s cues that indicate his petting threshold is being reached.

Identify a special treat or favorite toy to use as a reward for your cat.  Only attempt retraining sessions when Gus is truly in the mood for affection.   Pet him for a short period of time.  Stop well before he shows any indication of nervousness or aggression.  Offer Gus his special reward for tolerating the petting session.  With each success, you can gradually increase the duration of the petting prior to giving the anticipated reward.

If your cat shows any beginning signs of agitation or aggression (tail twitch, ears back, etc.), immediately stop all interaction.  Leave the area and do not give any reward.  You may need to stand up slowly and allow your cat to jump off your lap on his own.  At your next session, decrease to a lower amount of stroking.

When cats groom each other, they typically focus on the other cat’s head and neck regions, not down the back.  So you can take cues from our feline friends and try light scratching around the neck and chin instead of full body petting.

Cat bites can be dangerous and lead to serious infections.  Don’t risk your safety trying to “retrain” Gus if he is not a willing participant.  In some circumstances it is best to accept and enjoy your cat’s company next to you or even on your lap, but with no other physical contact.  The key to a peaceful relationship is being aware of what Gus is trying to communicate to you.



Marking Territory

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My son has a very intelligent four year-old Pomeranian who is marking his territory.  My daughter-in-law says Nugget has to go.  Please advise!

Marking is normal behavior in dogs.  Despite the naturalness of this behavior, it is one of the more distasteful canine habits, especially if the marking occurs inside on household items.

Dogs urinate, typically on upright objects, to leave a scent mark which is a form of communication to other dogs.  Both male and female dogs may mark, but this behavior is most common in non-neutered males.

Dogs may be communicating a variety of messages with their marking behavior.  Nugget may be saying, “Hey, this territory is mine and I am ready to protect my beloved family no matter what!”  He may also be commenting on his sexual status and reproductive success.  Marking can also be used to aid in social interactions, especially if there is instability in the household social structure.

If this habit is new, it is important to first determine if there is an underlying medical problem that may be triggering inappropriate elimination.  Diseases of the urinary system, such as a urinary tract infection, kidney failure, or bladder stones can cause an increase in the frequency of urination.  Other diseases that cause an increase in water intake, such as diabetes mellitus and Cushing’s disease, may also result in frequent urination.

If medical issues have been ruled out, the next consideration is if the dog is neutered or not.  Neutering an intact male dog may reduce urine marking in up to 80% of dogs, and completely eliminate it in up to 40%.  The longer a male dog is left intact, the more the marking behavior becomes ingrained, and the less likely that neutering will result in total elimination of marking.  But it is a very important step in removing the hormonal influence on marking behavior.

Another question you need to ask is if your dog has ever been fully housetrained.  If Nugget has never been consistently reliable in the house, it is time to go back to square one with housetraining.  Select a site outdoors that you want to be used for elimination purposes.  It is important to focus on where you want your dog TO go, as opposed where he is not supposed to go.

When you take your dog to the chosen potty area, give him a short, encouraging command such as “Go potty” or “Get busy”.  As soon as elimination occurs, lavish him with praise and attention.  A small treat may also be given.  The timing of the reward is important – be sure it is immediately after elimination.

When Nugget is indoors, he must be strictly supervised so you can see when he has to go potty and then take him outside to the designated elimination area.  One of the best ways to keep your dog supervised is to tether train – attach a leash to your belt and to Nugget.  Then he will not be able to sneak away and urinate.

When not able to supervise your dog, a confinement area such as a crate should be used.  However, if soiling occurs in the crate, you need to find another way to confine your dog until housetraining is complete.  A dog that consistently eliminates in his crate loses his natural cleanliness instincts and may be more likely to develop separation anxiety.

Isolated marking episodes are often in response to a change in the house such as a visiting pet or new piece of furniture.  Consistent marking in the house may be in response to stress or anxiety.  Specific treatment depends on the underlying cause of the anxiety.

Supervise your dog if a new object is introduced, on a leash if necessary, as he explores.  If Nugget starts heading to an area in the home where he routinely marks, interrupt him with a verbal command or leash; then give him playtime or a training session to distract and reward him.

Finally, it is important to remove all evidence of previously marked sites, or Nugget will be drawn to continue marking these areas.  Complete removal means not just what you can see, but what your dog can smell.  A fresh accident can be deodorized with clear vinegar (undiluted or 50:50 water solution).  The room may stink until the vinegar dries, but the vinegar smell discourages future marking.  Older accidents require the use of a bacterial enzyme odor eliminator, such as Anti-Icky Poo, Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle.


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We have a 7 year old female Lab that is tormented with allergies. She has been treated with several different medications. The only thing that has a lasting effect is a steroid shot (lasts 3-4 weeks). We are afraid of the long term side effects. She has hair loss from scratching. We have enough hair to build another dog. Expensive allergy tests are not an option. We need a second opinion!

Allergy is a general term used to describe when the body’s immune system over-reacts to a certain substance. The role of the immune system is to protect the body against diseases and infection. With allergies the response is exaggerated and can be harmful, causing signs such as those experienced by your Lab.

There are a variety of ways to classify allergies, but I generally group them into three main categories – food, flea and environmental. You do not mention when your dog’s allergies started, if they are year- round or seasonal, or what particular areas are affected. It is important to make at least a mental note of the answers to such questions. Each type of allergy has some “classic” characteristics which can sometimes give us a clue to help narrow down the allergens.

In an allergic reaction to food, antibodies develop to a particular component of the food, usually a protein or complex carbohydrate. Although a food allergy can cause GI disturbances in pets, most often the allergy manifests as skin or ear problems. Food allergies are one of the itchiest conditions that pets can get. In dogs, signs classically include chewing on the feet or limbs, facial or belly itching and ear infections.

Since a dog eats year-round, food allergies are often a year-round problem. The “steroid shot” can temporarily mask the symptoms, but does nothing to address the underlying problem, so the itchiness returns as the injection wears off. Labrador retrievers are probably the number one breed diagnosed with food allergies. In fact, at a recent veterinary conference I attended, the lecturing dermatologist stated that all Labs with allergies have food allergies unless proven otherwise.

A food allergy can only be diagnosed by doing a test known as a food trial. During a food trial, your pet is exclusively fed a special hypoallergenic prescription diet for 8-12 weeks. This diet contains limited ingredients your pet has never been exposed to before. A food trial has a very strict, but simple, protocol. Your pet can have water and the special prescribed diet and nothing else. If the itchiness and other skin problems improve during the food trial, then recur when your pet’s old food is reintroduced, the test is positive for a food allergy.

The second general class of allergies is the flea allergy, known as flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD for short. In a non-allergic dog, a flea bite causes mild localized irritation. A dog with FAD reacts excessively to the saliva in a flea bite with extreme itchiness at the site of the bite. Since fleas often congregate over the tail-base region, the areas that are most often affected include the mid back to the tail base and may extend down the rear limbs. The biting and scratching can be so severe that large amounts of hair are removed.

Just because you do not see fleas on your dog does not mean that FAD is not possible. A single flea bite can trigger a reaction for days. Also, pets may scratch so violently that adult fleas are removed, making them difficult to find.

The best way to address FAD is strict flea control. Due to the mild weather in Southeast Texas, fleas are a year-long problem. Pets can acquire fleas any time they visit an area that has an infestation. Such places may include areas frequented by other dogs or even areas with wildlife, such as raccoons and opossums. In just 30 days, 10 fleas can become an infestation of up to 250,000 adult fleas. Therefore, every pet (dogs, cats, indoors, outdoors) must be on flea preventative all year-round to provide the most complete protection. There are many safe and effective preventatives available from your veterinarian.

The final main category of allergies in dogs is environmental airborne allergies, also known as atopy. Any airborne particle has the potential to cause an allergic response in a dog, but some of the most common outdoor allergens include pollens, grasses, trees, weeds and molds. In next month’s blog we will further explore environmental allergies, including some classic history and exam findings to use as clues, as well as possible therapies that do not involve “steroid shots”.


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My 12 year old Bichon started refusing to jump on or off the bed when I call her. She also is not jumping in and out of the car on days I take her with me. Sometimes it takes her awhile to stand up if she’s been resting. She seems fine otherwise. Do dogs get arthritis and become painful as they age? What can I do?

Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation inside of the joint or joints. Arthritis may result from a variety of different causes, but the most common type is osteoarthritis, also know as degenerative joint disease (DJD).

DJD is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs and has been estimated to affect one out of every five adult dogs. Joints contain cartilage which acts as a cushion. In DJD the cartilage becomes damaged and releases substances that cause inflammation in the joint. The inflammation results in pain and causes even further damage to the cartilage. Thus, a vicious cycle of inflammation, pain and destruction continues.

Some dogs are at an increased risk for developing DJD. Risk factors include inactivity, overweight or obese body condition, age over 5 years old and previous joint injury.

Certain breeds are predisposed to developmental bone disorders such as hip dysplasia or patellar luxation (“floating kneecap”). These congenital abnormalities also increase the risk of arthritis development. Hip dysplasia is commonly seen in Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Bulldogs, Pugs and Rottweilers. Top breeds for patellar luxation include Pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers, Cocker spaniels, Chow chows and Lhasa apsos.

Signs of arthritis in dogs may include any of the following: reluctance to go up or down stairs; stiffness, especially after resting; limping; tiring more quickly or falling behind on walks; difficulty jumping – such as on or off the bed or in or out of the car as your Bichon is experiencing; trouble rising; preferring to lie down instead of standing or sitting

Although osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that cannot be cured, there are options available to help increase your dog’s comfort and slow the progression of the disease. If your Bichon is overweight, it is very important that she lose weight. The excess weight not only adds stress to the already damaged joints, the fat cells themselves release inflammatory mediators that further damage the cartilage.

Even if you pet is a normal weight, there are other beneficial diets that need to be considered. Several veterinary pet food companies make prescription foods formulated to improve joint health. These foods are rich in certain nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids which interrupt cartilage destruction and L-carnitine to help maintain a healthy weight. There are even foods, such as Prescription Diet® Metabolic + Mobility, that help manage a dog’s weight and support joint health.

Analgesics are another mainstay of osteoarthritis management. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) target inflammatory enzymes that produce pain and worsen cartilage damage. There are other pain medications that can be used if additional pain control is needed or if your pet does not tolerate NSAIDs. Nutritional supplements such as Dasuquin Advanced, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can also be beneficial.

Remember that all medications have potential side effects, and many human medications, including pain relievers, can actually be dangerous or deadly to pets. Never give ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen to your pet. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian what is appropriate for your dog.

Taking a “multi-modal” approach to arthritis, including dietary changes, analgesics, proper exercise and dietary supplements, provides the best way to help your Bichon enjoy her senior years in comfort.

Thanksgiving with your pets

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The Thanksgiving holiday is nearly upon us, with its smells of turkey roasting and sounds of happy chatter as friends and family gather to celebrate. Uncle Bob looks at Rover’s begging puppy eyes and ca’t help but give him the turkey leg bone to chew.

Then cousin Sally decides she doesn’t like the sage stuffing, so she tosses some under the dining table to a grateful Miss Kitty. The dishes are cleaned, football is over, and company goes home. Everything seems peaceful until later that night when Rover’s belly starts hurting and Miss Kitty vomits on the rug.

Don’t let your Thanksgiving holiday get ruined by an emergency visit to your veterinarian! Taking a few precautions can keep your pet happy and healthy this turkey day.

Never feed bones to your pet. Bird bones are especially dangerous because they are brittle and easily splinter leaving sharp ends. The bone pieces can get stuck in the esophagus or GI tract and cause irritation and obstruction. The sharp points can pierce through the wall of the stomach or intestines and cause fatal internal bleeding. A punctured intestine can also result in peritonitis – a potentially deadly infection that occurs from spillage of GI contents and bacteria into the abdomen.

Giving table scraps to your pets is also a no-no. Foods that are rich or fatty can trigger inflammation of the pancreas, a disese called pancreatitis. The pancreas makes enzymes that are released into the intestine to aid in the digestion of food. In pancreatitis, these enzymes are activated early and begin to digest the pancreas itself. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, depression and decreased appetite. Pancreatitis requires aggressive treatment and can be fatal.

Sage and other herbs are frequently used in Thanksgiving recipes. These herbs contain essental oils and resins that can be toxic to pets, causing GI distress and depression of the central nervous system. Cats, in particular, can be especially sensitive to these essential oils.

Even foods that are no high in fat or richly seasoned can cause stomach upset, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. It is best to continue to feed your pets their regular diets during this holiday.

Watch the garbage. All sorts of tempting, but dangerous, treats are beckoning to your pet from the trash can and counter tops. Aluminum foil, plastic wraps, turkey bages, strings, and other items can cause choking or intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Emergency surgery may be required to remove these foreign objects – which is no one’s idea of a happy holiday tradition!

It is easy for all those extra feet in the house to accidentally kick over or spill your pet’s water bowl. Be sure to check it frequently to ensure there is always plently of fresh water available.

And finally, remember that not every pet is a social butterfly. The Thanksgiving festivities can be overwhelming to our furry friends. Make sure they have a quiet refuge to which they can retreat and observe them carefully for signs of stress.