Featured Care Guides

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth

Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most cats before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your cat’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.

CBC and Chemistry Profile

Blood testing is commonly used to help diagnose disease or pinpoint injury in animals. It can also help determine the state of your pet’s health during regular physical exam visits. Although a CBC or a chemistry profile can be performed separately, these tests are frequently done at the same time; when the results are interpreted together, they provide a good overview of many of the body’s functions. As with any other diagnostic test, results of a CBC and chemistry profile are not interpreted in a vacuum. Your veterinarian will combine this information with physical exam findings, medical history, and other information to assess your pet’s health status and determine if additional testing should be recommended.

Canine Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. According to estimates, 40% to 50% of dogs are overweight and 25% of dogs are obese. Obesity is more common in older, less active pets. Dogs that are fed homemade meals, table scraps, and snacks are more likely to be overweight than dogs that are fed only a commercial pet food.

Caring for Bearded Dragons

A bearded dragon can be a good choice for a pet reptile. These charismatic lizards from Australia are friendly and relatively easy to care for. They grow up to two feet in length and can live up to 10 years. If they are fed and housed properly, they can provide many years of companionship.

Caring for Chinchillas

A chinchilla can be a delightful pet for the right owner. Chinchillas have delicate skeletons and love to chew on things like electrical cords, so a safe environment is essential. Keep your chinchilla’s health on the right track with a healthy diet, lots of safe exercise, and regular veterinary care.

Caring for Cockatiels

A cockatiel is a small Australian parrot. If you prefer a small bird that may be more affectionate than a larger parrot, does not vocalize loudly, and requires less space, a cockatiel is an excellent choice. Cockatiels are prized throughout the world because of their loveable companionship qualities. They are gentle and easy to breed and enjoy interacting with humans. Cockatiels make soft chirping sounds, whistle (especially the males), and are generally less noisy than most other parrots. Cockatiels are easy to tame as well as inexpensive and simple to maintain; therefore, they are an excellent choice for first-time bird owners.

Caring for Guinea Pigs

Mild-mannered and cute, guinea pigs can be great pets. They're fairly easy to care for, but they do require some special care as well as regular veterinary checkups, comfortable housing, and attention from their owners.

Caring for Hamsters

Hamsters are the most common pet rodent for several reasons. These curious, attractive, and clean little companions are interesting to observe. Hamsters can be a good first pet for children, are easy to care for, and are usually friendly. However, hamsters are nocturnal (most active at night) and have delicate bones that can break easily due to mishandling or falls.

Caring for Rabbits

A clean, roomy cage and a nutritious diet are important to keeping your rabbit healthy and happy. Also important is the time you spend interacting with your rabbit: a bored and lonely rabbit can become destructive and even aggressive. Providing the interesting surroundings and companionship that your rabbit needs can help him or her be well adjusted and affectionate.

Chocolate Toxicosis

Toxicosis is disease due to poisoning. Chocolate contains two ingredients that can be toxic to pets—caffeine, and a chemical called theobromine. While dogs and cats are both very sensitive to the effects of caffeine and theobromine, cats are usually not attracted to chocolate, so chocolate toxicosis tends to be less common in cats.

Dental Care

Bad breath in pets may be a sign of periodontal disease that could lead to other health problems. Periodontal disease starts when plaque (a bacterial film) coats the tooth. Plaque hardens (calcifies) into tartar, a thick yellow or brown layer on the teeth. Tartar can irritate the gums, creating an environment where bacteria thrive. As the disease progresses, the gums become tender, red, and swollen and the bacteria continue to multiply. Eventually, the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that trap more bacteria and food particles. The gums bleed, the roots of the teeth may become exposed, teeth may become loose, and your pet may feel pain when eating. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can create problems for organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

First Aid and Your Pet

Dealing with an injured pet can be scary and frustrating. In many cases, you don’t know how bad the injury is, and your pet may not be acting normally. If your pet is injured, the first thing you need to do is try to remain calm. If possible, try to determine how severe the injury is, but remember that caution is extremely important when approaching an injured animal. Any pet, no matter how calm or friendly he or she may usually be, can bite or scratch when in pain.

Grief in Dogs and Cats

Whether animals feel emotions in the same way people do is a mystery. However, their behaviors are commonly interpreted as reliable expressions of mood—for example, relaxed, fearful, or aggressive. Based on observed changes in behavior, it is thought that some dogs and cats grieve after losing a close human or animal companion. In 1996, the ASPCA conducted a study of mourning in companion animals and found that more than half of dogs and cats had at least four behavioral changes after losing an animal companion. Many of these changes, such as eating less and changes in sleep patterns, were similar to behaviors exhibited by grieving people.

Kenneling Your Dog

Even being in the best kennel is stressful for many dogs. If your dog does not tolerate boarding well, consider using a pet sitter or arranging for your dog to stay with a friend or relative while you are traveling. If kenneling your dog is your only option, the following guidelines can help improve your dog’s stay at a kennel.

Kidney Disease in Pets

Kidney disease is a very general term used to describe any one of several conditions that can affect the kidneys or damage kidney cells. If kidney disease progresses, it can eventually lead to kidney failure and death.

Litterbox Training Your Cat

Cats are usually easy to litterbox train because they are naturally clean and prefer to bury their waste. First, make sure that your cat knows where the litterbox is. Confine your cat to a small area or room with clean water, fresh food, and a clean litterbox until he or she is successfully using the litterbox and seems comfortable. Do not use a covered litterbox during the training period because it might complicate the process. If your cat urinates or defecates outside the litterbox, place the waste in the litterbox; the smell should help your cat find and use the litterbox in the future. If your cat isn’t using the litterbox after a day or two, do the following: After your cat eats, place him or her in the litterbox, and briefly scratch the litter with your finger. However, don’t force your cat to stay in the litterbox; you don’t want your cat to have a negative experience in the litterbox.

Skin Problems and Your Pet

A wide variety of skin and coat conditions can cause your pet to itch and scratch, but pinpointing the problem can sometimes be difficult because many skin disorders have similar outward signs. Below are four major categories of skin conditions seen in cats and dogs.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures used to remove the reproductive organs of dogs and cats. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female dog or cat. Neutering is the removal of a male dog’s or cat’s testicles. These procedures are also sometimes referred to as “sterilizing” or “fixing” pets.

Summer Hazards and Your Dog

Dogs that spend most of their summer days inside are protected from many warm weather hazards, but only if the temperature inside the home remains within a healthy range. In an effort to reduce energy usage and costs, some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave the house in the morning and turn them on when they return later in the day. However, when temperatures outside reach dangerous levels, temperatures inside the house can, too. Being shut inside a hot house can be deadly for your dog. Dogs can’t sweat; they rely heavily on panting to cool themselves off. When the temperature in the environment increases, panting becomes less effective. This means that your dog could be locked inside with minimal options for cooling down.

All Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

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10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

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A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

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ACTH Stimulation Test

Glucocorticoids (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoids are two important types of hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids help regulate numerous complex processes in the body and participate in critically important functions.

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Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

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