Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter Weather Tips

Winter may have taken a while to arrive, but we couldn't avoid it forever. Now that it's here, there are a few things we should do to keep our pets safe during the colder months. Here are some tips that may help:

1. Flea and Tick Medication. A lot of people do not apply flea and tick medication in the winter in order to control costs. Unfortunately, it takes a deep freeze for three to four days in a row in order to kill off all the fleas and ticks. Since we live in an area with relatively mild winters, it's rare for us to have these conditions; therefore it is rare that fleas and ticks are ever fully killed off.

2. Thin Ice! Cape Cod has a lot of temperature fluctuations in the winter, lakes, ponds, and cranberry bogs may appear more frozen than they are.

3. Rock Salt. Most stores sell pet friendly ice melt now, but you can't guarantee that everywhere your pet goes it will be used. Not only can rock salt be irritating to your dog or cat's paws, but they may lick the rock salt off their paws, causing them to ingest it and become sick.

4. Keep your Cat Indoors. At VACC, we recommend keeping your cat indoors year round, but especially during the winter months. It is easier for them to become lost in the snow, and they may be left outside overnight.

5. Check Under the Hood. Before you start your car, tap on the hood to make sure no animals have crawled up there overnight. Cats will often climb inside the hood of a car seeking to get warm.

6. Keep your Dog on a Leash. More dogs are lost during the winter than any other time of year. Dogs can easily get lost and lose their scent in a snowstorm. Also, your dog or cat may not be visible to snow plows or other vehicles in the snow.

7. Frostbite. Despite their warm furry coats, dogs and cats are still susceptible to frostbite. Frostbite usually affects the tail, toes, tips of ears, and the scrotum. Frostbitten tissue may initially appear pale or gray, as well as hard and cold; as the area thaws it may turn red. Thawing is extremely painful, and if the tissue is too damaged it may slough off.

8. Antifreeze. Most people are aware of the dangers of antifreeze, but sometimes it can be difficult to prevent our pets from ingesting it by accident. You may be able to make sure your garage or driveway is free of antifreeze, but you can't guarantee that anyone else's will. Also, any car driving up and down your road may have a leak as well. It is important to be vigilant in the areas you can not control.

9. Dress Warmly. It may seem silly, but short haired dogs, older dogs, and immune compromised dogs often get cold in the wintertime. Dressing them in a coat or sweater will help keep them warm.

10. Wear Reflective Gear. Winter also means shorter hours of daylight along with snowstorms and lower visibility.

We hope these tips are helpful, and we hope you have a safe, comfortable, and easy winter season. Hang in there, only six weeks until spring!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chuck Norris Doesn't Feel Pain, Neither Should Your Pet

All joking aside, pain management is something all veterinarians should take seriously. In recent years, veterinary medicine has made great strides in understanding how dogs and cats feel pain as well as the best ways to manage that pain.

Dogs, and especially cats, have a tendency to hide their pain. This is a natural instinct to protect them from predators so they don't appear vulnerable. Because they won't always "show" their pain, and they obviously can't tell us they feel pain, we have to look for other signs that our pet may be painful. A good rule of thumb is that if it would hurt you, it most likely hurts them.
Some signs of pain in dogs include:

  • They may be violent or vocalize, or be quiet, withdrawn, and inactive.

  • They may be aggressive when approached as they try to protect themselves.

  • They may lick the affected area.

  • They may have decreased activity, such as reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump or play.

  • They may appear stiff and have difficulty rising from a resting position.

  • They may limp or lag behind on walks.

  • They may yelp or whimper in pain, or exhibit other personality changes.
Cats will have similar signs when they are painful, but they may exhibit these signs as well:

  • Hiding.

  • Sitting immobilized or hunched.

  • Poor or absent self grooming.

  • Excessive self grooming of the painful area.

  • Reduced social interactions with people or other pets.

  • House soiling.

  • Aggression.

  • Vocalizing.

  • Agitation or restlessness.

Pain is very subjective and difficult to measure, that's why it is important to know what to look for. We have learned that, when possible, preventing pain is much more affective than trying to treat pain once it has gotten rolling. For example, when your pet is undergoing a surgical procedure, he or she will be given what we call a "pre-med." This is a drug or combination of drugs that will help to stabilize and prevent pain as well as maintain your pet on a good plane of anesthesia once they undergo the surgery. Pets will receive post operative pain management as well, and are continually assessed by the nursing staff throughout the day.

There are three main types of pain medication used in veterinary medicine: Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory-Drugs (NSAIDs), Opioid, and Corticosteroids. NSAIDs are most commonly used for moderate pain and discomfort related to inflammation. Opioids are used for surgical procedures, or in advanced cases of cancer or severe arthritic pain where quality of life must be maintained. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatories that may be used to treat a number of conditions, including pain control. Corticosteroids tend to have a lot of negative side-effects so they are often used as a last resort.

It is important to keep in mind that all of these drugs should be used with the appropriate dose and moderation. Cats are especially sensitive to NSAIDs and Opioids. You must follow the guidelines provided by your veterinarian for your pet's pain or you may inadvertently cause a bigger problem. For example, NSAIDs may cause stomach and intestinal problems as well as prolonged blood clotting time. Rimadyl, a popular NSAID used in dogs, may cause liver issues with long term use or overdosing. You veterinarian may want to do regular bloodwork to monitor your pet's health while on pain medication. All medications have side-effects, it's just a matter of finding that right balance where the pros outweigh the cons.

We all want our pets to be happy and pain free, but it's not always easy to know what they're feeling. Knowing the subtle signs can potentially make a big difference in your pet's quality of life. If you have further questions about pain control and your pet, talk to your veterinarian, or come see us here at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod!