Rabbit/Guinea Pigs – Bedding and Mites

QUESTION:

I have rabbits and guinea pigs.  What is the best bedding to use in their cages? Can mites be transmitted through the bedding?

ANSWER:

My preference for substrate (bedding) is newspaper pellets such as Yesterday’s News®.  These pelleted beddings are made from recycled newspaper so they are environmentally friendly.  They are the least reactive material to the pet and the most absorbent.  As with any bedding, newspaper pellets still need to be replaced regularly to avoid ammonia build-up from urine waste.  Add a little tissue paper or fluffy bedding for species that like to build a nest or burrow. Add a little tissue paper or fluffy bedding for species that like to build a nest or burrow.

Substrates to avoid include cedar, redwood, and some pines as they are aromatic and irritating to your pet’s airways.  Also avoid corn cob hulls, rabbit pellets, and wood shavings which all pose a higher risk for fugal and bacterial growth.   Straw and other hays are minimally absorbent and tend to be less hygienic, especially of concern when ingested.  Wood shavings, such as aspen pine, are safer but they are also minimally absorbent.

Most mites are species specific, meaning a rabbit mite will only infect rabbits and a guinea pig mite will only infect guinea pigs, etc.  I suppose it is possible for a pet to get mites from bedding if the bedding was previously in contact with a member of the same species.  Otherwise, any free-ranging mites found in beddings are not parasitic, and therefore will not remain on your pet for any prolonged period of time.  Free-ranging mites are much less common in pelleted newspaper products.  If you do suspect free-ranging mites from the substrate, change to a new substrate and see if the problem persists.  If it does, it is best to seek the advice of an exotics veterinarian.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Rabbit – Change in Behavior/Aggression

QUESTION:

My rabbit is acting aggressive towards her cage-mate and I’ve noticed that her urine is very cloudy and occasionally has an orange to reddish color to it.  Is this anything I need to be worried about? 

ANSWER:

Stomping, biting, and fighting between two rabbits does sometimes occur.  Possible solutions to this problem include pairing her with a different mate (she may just not bond with her current mate), housing her alone, and/or getting her (and her mate) spayed if she is not already.  Intact rabbits tend to be more predisposed to fight, urine mark and generally are more aggressive than their spayed counterparts.  Not to mention how quickly they can multiply if they are of opposite sex.  Additionally, spaying is a huge health benefit to adult females who have a very high rate of reproductive-associated disease after the age of five.  The best time to spay is at four months, but it is never too late to gain some of the health and behavior benefits.  Ask your vet or local rabbit organization (www.rabbit.org) for additional bonding ideas to help with inter-rabbit relations.

In a rabbit, cloudy urine can be a normal finding.  It is caused by dietary calcium that is excreted in the urine.  Even orange, pink, or reddish tinged urine may be normal due to certain plant pigments (from food) that are ingested.  In addition to these physiological explanations for the color change, there are also several medical reasons for urine discoloration, much like is seen in dogs and cats.  Causes include bladder infection, bladder stones or sludge, bladder or kidney tumors, reproductive infections, and uterine/ovarian cancer.  It is best to consult with a veterinarian to help determine whether the discoloration is normal or not (an exam and urine analysis are recommended to be safe).  If your rabbit has a normal physical exam, urine test, and is eating the correct food items (grass and grass hay, portion-fed timothy-based pellets, and dark green leafy veggies) you likely have nothing to worry about from a health stand-point

For more rabbit general care information please visit www.catandexoticcare.com and search under the references tab for the downloadable rabbit care sheet.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Annual Exams – Are They Necessary?

QUESTION:

I have two hamsters that seem to be in good health and are about six and a half months old. Should I take them to the vet for check-ups and, if so, how frequently? They tend to fight fairly often and though I examine them to make sure I don’t see any injuries, does this change how often I need to bring them to a vet?

ANSWER:

An annual exam by a qualified veterinarian is always a good idea for several reasons.  Perhaps the most important aspect of a yearly exam is a comprehensive review of your pet hamsters’ care (“husbandry”).  Your vet can give you many recommendations to improve your hamsters’ living environment, which will dramatically improve the overall health of your pets. During a typical office visit, I usually find one or more areas that need improvement to optimize health. For example, is the ground cover (substrate) you are using is a good choice?   The key to a good substrate is keeping the cage clean since ammonia from the urine will lead to disease.  Aromatic litters such as cedar and redwood and those with chlorophyll should be avoided.  My preference is recycled newspaper litters which are more absorbent and less irritating to the pet.  Additionally, hamsters should never be kept in a cage together.  Hamsters are not social animals and, as you have experienced, they will generally fight.

At the annual exam you should also discuss your hamsters’ diet with your vet.  Most people also do not realize that a pelleted diet is typically superior to the seed, nuts and fruit mixes that are sold and touted as “premium.”  A pelleted diet is preferable because all of the necessary nutrition is blended into a pellet that the pet cannot pick through.  You wouldn’t expect a small child to select healthy food out of a bowl of food that had candy mixed in it. Similarly, a pet will typically choose high fat and high sugar items before the healthy choices.  If there is an abundance of food offered, the healthy items may never be consumed.

During a yearly exam, your vet will also ask questions and perform a physical exam which may lead to early discovery of medical concerns that you may not have noticed.  This is very important because often by the time a sick hamster is brought to the vet it has a very advanced illness and the chance of cure is much lower.  However, early detection and treatment can save your pet’s life.

Hamsters generally only live for 2-3 years.  Therefore, each year of life they age roughly 20 human years.  Many vets are now recommending exams at least twice a year for this reason.  A lot can happen in 20 human years!

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Feline Dental Sensitivity (FORL)

Question:

My cat is reluctant to chew hard food and I noticed that some of her teeth are partly pink in color.  She seems uncomfortable.  What can I do to help her?

Answer:

What you are describing is likely a condition called feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions or FORL’s.  This occurs when the softer middle layer of the tooth (dentin) gets eaten away and the hard enamel cover flakes off exposing the sensitive inner root.  Affected teeth can have lesions that are below the gum-line, at the gum-line, and above the gum-line.  In your cat’s case, it sounds like the lesions are advanced and above the gum-line because the “pink” areas on the teeth are actually exposed tooth roots.  When touched they are very painful, similar to pain we would feel if we needed a root canal.  Even with this severe pain, many affected cats show minimal outward signs; however, owners will often note that their cats become more spry and friendly once the dental disease is treated.

Some studies report that up to 75% of all cats are affected with FORL’s.  Once the disease has led to root exposure, it is necessary to extract the tooth to allow the gums to heal and take away the source of pain.  Over the years, I have seen cats with only a few lesions and other cats that had almost all of their teeth affected.  Currently, there is no prevention for this condition.  Regular dental inspections and dental x-rays are needed to detect newly affected teeth and determine when extractions are necessary to keep the cat happy and pain-free.  Dental exams should ideally be performed on an annual or semi annual basis to ensure that your cat is not living in pain.  Many clinics, including my own, offer free dental exams and discounted dentistry in the month of February in recognition of “Pet Dental Month.”

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Canine Poison Control

QUESTION:

My dog ate some of my ibuprofen.  Do I need to worry about it?

ANSWER:

This is a loaded question.  I would need to know the weight of the dog and exactly how much he ate to determine whether the dose was in the toxic range.  A large labrador can safely consume much more that a toy poodle simply because it is so much bigger.  In general, ibuprofen is not a good drug to give to a dog (or any pet for that matter) in any quantity.  Common side effects at normal or slightly high doses include stomach upset or ulceration with vomiting, anorexia, or diarrhea.  At higher doses you could see increased thirst, bloody stool, depression, staggering, increased frequency of urination, or even seizures.  It is a good idea to get your vet involved right away and call a poison control hotline.  There is a small fee for the hotlines listed below:

  •  ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at (888) 426-4435
  • Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680

In the event that the dog consumed a toxic dose and the ingestion occurred within a few hours, your vet will advise induction of vomiting (usually performed in the vet hospital).  In addition, doses of activated charcoal will be given to help neutralize the toxins and tests may be performed to better assess the damage and help guide further treatments.

The prognosis with ibuprofen overdose depends on how much was consumed, the size of the dog (or other pet), and how quickly treatment was started.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Feline Dewormer Treatments

QUESTION:

My cat has worms.  Can I use an over-the-counter dewormer to treat it? How can I prevent them?

ANSWER:

There are several types of worms with which cats can become infected, but the tapeworm is the most common in an adult cat.  It is likely that your cat has tapeworms.  When a cat is infected, the tapeworm latches onto the wall of the small intestine.  As the worm grows and matures the end segments fill with eggs, which, once filled, will detach and exit the cat’s intestinal tract via the anus.  These are the “worm segments” that people typically see near the cat’s rear-end or in the stools.  The segments are capable of movement, and may crawl around until they dry up to the size of a sesame seed.  Eventually these “egg packets” are consumed by a flea or rodent in which the next part of the life cycle occurs.  A cat is only infected by the tapeworm by consuming an infected rodent or infected flea and can’t become infected by direct consumption of the tapeworm segments.

There are some over-the-counter broad spectrum dewormers that can be used to treat this parasite; however, because an accurate dose calculation is necessary, you should contact your veterinarian for the proper medication.  The newer generation topical treatments for this parasite have become much easier to administer and are better tolerated by most cats, but are prescription only.

The key to prevention of tapeworms is through prevention of the carriers: fleas and rodents.  A high quality and effective flea control regimen (I prefer Vectra or Revolution once a month) is necessary to stop the most common tapeworm species.  In order to avoid the other, less common tapeworm, you will have to stop your cat from hunting rodents.  Fortunately, tapeworms are usually not terribly harmful and most cats are symptom-free when infected (they don’t even usually get the weight loss symptoms that most people expect).

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Canine Teeth Cleaning

QUESTION:

Will feeding my dog dry food help keep her teeth clean?  My vet recommended a dental cleaning for my dog.  Is there a cheaper natural alternative?

ANSWER:

I see clients on a daily basis who are surprised to learn that their pet has dental disease.  “How could this be, doctor, my pet has always only eaten dry food?”  Well, can you imagine your dentist telling you that if you only eat crunchy food you can stop coming in for dental check-ups and throw away your toothbrush?  Sounds like a bad idea, right?!?

We know that plaque (the sticky biofilm that coats teeth between brushings) builds up in less than 24 hours and eventually leads to formation of a much harder barnacle-like substance called tarter.  Tarter occurs above and below the gums.  While crunchy food may actually dislodge some tarter that occurs above the gum-line, it is ineffective in removing the more damaging tarter that occurs under the gum-line.  This tarter causes pocketing between the teeth and gums and leads to eventual tooth decay and root exposure.  Like people, certain pets will have a predisposition toward dental disease while others will be genetically luckier.  The only scientifically proven way to prevent and remove all of your pet’s plaque and tarter is to do the same as you would for yourself—brush the teeth twice a day and visit the dentist (in this case a veterinarian) annually for a professional cleaning.  There are a lot of other pet products on the market that may slow the accumulation of dental tarter (enzyme impregnated chews, specially formulated dental kibbles and treats, oral rinses, and even water additives) but none will be as beneficial as brushing with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste.

Anesthesia is required in order for a pet dental cleaning to be done properly.  Anesthesia is necessary so that the teeth can be scaled with an ultrasonic scaler both above and below the gum-line, polished to remove the invisible scratches that are made during the cleaning process, and fluoride treated.  Currently there is a movement for non-veterinary licensed individuals to provide anesthesia-free dental options.  I would advise against the temptation to pursue this option for the same reasons that the American Veterinary Dental Society warns against it, which include:

1. Patient motion prevents adequate view of all of the teeth.
2. Teeth or dental surfaces you cannot see will not be cleaned adequately.
3. Inadequate cleaning will allow plaque bacteria to cause periodontal disease.
4. Patient motion can cause oral injury during teeth scaling procedures.
5. Patient motion will not allow for dental radiographs to be taken adequately.
6. Patient motion may cause patient pain if periodontal probing is performed.
7. Inability to see may cause misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose any problems.
8. Dental calculus (tartar) may fall into the respiratory tract and cause severe disease or even death.
9. Owners may be led to believe their pet is healthy while severe disease may be present.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Tips for Air Travel with Cats and Dogs

QUESTION:

I need to fly with my pets (a dog and 2 cats).  What should I do to prepare?

ANSWER:

Over the years it has become progressively more difficult and expensive to fly with pets.  Charges usually vary depending on whether the pet flies under your seat or as checked baggage/cargo.  Major airlines typically charge $250 round trip for pets in the cabin and as much as $250-$500 round trip to fly as checked baggage.

Many owners are also concerned about their pet’s safety while traveling.  The incidence of lost pets, pet injury and even death has recently risen.  In 2010 there were 39 animal incidents reported while flying domestic commercial flights versus 22 in 2009.  Of these, 13 were injured and five were lost.   While these are only a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of pets travelling each year, they represent a reality that needs to be considered before flying with your pet.

To reduce these risks, airlines generally will not transport pets when temperatures are expected to be above 85 F or below 20 F on any part of the route.  Additionally, many bracheocephalic breeds (such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Persian cats, etc) are not allowed as cargo since they are more prone to heat exhaustion and other breathing issues.

Here are some tip for preparing to fly with your pet:

Check your equipment.  Requirements vary by airline, so research the specific pet carrier criteria for your flight.  Usually the kennel must provide for the ability of the pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down in a natural position.  Maximum dimensions must not be exceeded.

Get your ticket early.  There are usually limitations of the number of pets permitted per flight, so get your ticket as early as possible to make sure you can book space.   Also, verify that there is no breed or weight restriction that will affect your pet’s travel.  You will also need to check on what papers are needed for your pet.  Most domestic airlines minimally require a veterinarian signed health certificate.  Many international and certain domestic destinations require additional criteria that may take months of planning to complete (with the help of your veterinarian).   Some airlines may offer pet frequent flyer miles and certain flights may even offer climate controlled pet-friendly cargo areas.  There is even an airline that caters to pets (Pet Airways) that offers flights from a limited number of airports.

Prepare your pet.  Get your pet acclimated for what is in store.  One way to do this is to get your pet used to in-kennel travel in your car.  This process should be gradual, starting with short drives around the block and working up to a longer drives that include the highway to acclimate your pet to the extra road noise.  Additionally, place the kennel on the floor of your car so your pet gets used to the vibrations (similar to what is experienced in a plane).  Your veterinarian may recommend a sedative or anti-anxiety medication in certain situations and for certain pets, although this could increase the health risk.  Immediately prior to the trip, try to give your pet plenty of exercise, the opportunity for urination and defecation, and a chance to eat and drink.

Check in with your pet while on the trip.   Checking on your pet is easy if it is flying with you in the cabin, but may be difficult if your pet is in cargo.  During layovers or any plane stoppage don’t hesitate to ask the attendant to check on your pet.  This is particularly important if your pet is not in a climate controlled environment.  Sometimes the airline personnel can offer water to your pet during plane stoppage.

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Bloody Stool – Feline

QUESTION:

Every once in a while my cat has fresh blood in his stools.  Is this normal?  What do you recommend?  He is otherwise active, eats well, and seems healthy.

ANSWER:

Blood in the stools is never normal.  When the blood is fresh (as opposed to dark and tarry digested blood) it suggests that there is inflammation in the last part of the digestive tract, the colon (large intestine).  The colon is very vascular, so it doesn’t take much to cause these signs.

The bleeding could be due to a number of causes including parasites, infection, a mass or polyp, foreign body, a clotting disorder, or inflammatory disease.  If the cat is otherwise normal and the blood loss is minimal, danger is not imminent, so some simple tests and trials can be performed initially to rule out some of the causes.  A thorough physical exam is also needed and may give your vet some clues as to the cause of the signs.

In some cases a simple diet change may solve the problem (for example if the cause is related to a food allergy), and your veterinarian can assist you with diet recommendations.  An analysis of the stool is another simple initial step that may provide valuable information, such as detection of intestinal parasites.  It is best to collect a fresh sample in a plastic container or zip-lock bag and bring it with you when you go to the pet hospital.  This step will save you time, as a sample may not be attainable from your pet at the time he/she is examined.  Even if the stool analysis is negative, a general dewomer is recommended as a part of the work-up because parasites are shed intermittently and can be missed on a single fecal test.  If the cause is not evident on initial testing and examination and your pet does not respond to initial diet or medical therapy, further evaluation may include blood screening, imaging (x-ray, ultrasound), and colonoscopy.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Puppy Vaccinations

QUESTION:

I just got a new miniature schnauzer puppy that is 10 weeks old.  The breeder said that he is at risk for infectious diseases until his next vaccines in July.  It was recommended that I not take him to public places until then.  Is this correct?  Is there anything else I need to do before July?

ANSWER:

I think a misunderstanding on this subject has developed over time.  If your puppy is only 10 weeks old, he will need additional vaccines before July.  In puppies (and similar for kittens) the core vaccines are typically started around 6-8 weeks of age and given every 3-4 weeks thereafter, until roughly 16-18 weeks of age.  This may mean 3 or 4 trips to the vet for boosters depending on when you start and whether you go 3 or 4 weeks between visits.  Additionally, your vet will recommend regular fecal screening for parasites or automatic deworming at each visit.  Flea control options, heartworm prevention, diet recommendations, and other puppy or kitten-hood advice will likely also be given.  Finally, neutering or spaying is recommended for medical, behavioral, and reproductive reasons at 4-6 months of age.

As for infectious diseases, my advice is to avoid public areas where other dogs or cats (of unknown vaccination status) have passed through until fully vaccinated.  These areas could be contaminated with infectious agents that could lead to serious consequences in your puppy or kitten.  Most often within a few weeks after the final booster (roughly 18-20 weeks of age in dogs, sooner in kittens) your pet has the protection it needs to defend against these life threatening infectious diseases.

Remember, vaccines do not protect your pet against everything.  Even after the vaccine series is complete it is wise to use common sense when your dog is in close proximity to “dog strangers” and the areas they have come in contact with.  Fortunately, though, your dog should be covered for the most life threatening viruses.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.