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FOOD FOR DOGS AND CATS: THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY

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Anyone who has a four-legged friend knows very well how important it is to take care of him: food for dogs and cats is today of fundamental importance to your pet’s health. The unconditional love we feel for our furry puppy pushes us to choose the best because his well-being goes hand in hand with ours. The attention we devote to choosing healthy and balanced food is one of the aspects that most influence the quality of life of domestic dogs and cats. Finding your way around the great cauldron of pet food is not easy, let’s see which are the golden rules to follow.

CAT AND DOG FOOD: HOMEMADE OR COMMERCIAL?

Regarding dogs, first of all, you need to evaluate their size, breed, age, and health conditions: based on these variants and thanks to the advice of your veterinarian, you can determine the daily intake of calories needed. For example, a small dog eats between 90 and 120 grams of food per day, while a large dog, such as the Doberman or Labrador, may need up to 800 grams of “food”.

Regardless of the individual cases, the general principle applies to every one according to which home-made food, the same one we eat to be clear, is not always healthy. Four-legged friends have nutritional needs that do not coincide with ours and the habit of offering them table scraps without discrimination can cause negative effects on their metabolism in the long run.

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Let’s not forget that dogs are omnivores, they need the right amount of animal proteins but also fruit and vegetables. Among the prohibited foods are chocolate, sausages, salt, garlic, onion, grapes, and yeast. Beware also of cooked bones because they tend to break easily and therefore to be dangerous. An exclusively “do-it-yourself” diet is however possible as long as you follow the instructions of an expert. The ideal is to alternate a home diet with industrial food, such as croquettes or canned meat, complete and balanced foods.

THE BENEFITS OF CANNED FOOD

Speaking of dog and cat food, it must be considered that dog treats, or dry food, have the advantage of being easy to dose and practical to dispense, especially when you are away from home. Furthermore, thanks to their abrasive action, the croquettes contribute to the dental hygiene of our furry friends by acting as a “toothbrush”.

Many hesitations about the use of commercial dog food relate to the idea that they may contain poor raw materials and chemical additives. In reality, you need to know how to make the appropriate distinctions between the infinite proposals on the shelf and choose quality products, that is, those that contain a wide range of proteins and are enriched with digestible elements such as rice. Whether it is complete croquettes (they replace a meal and must be integrated only with water) or complementary feeds to be associated with something else, it is good to put only the right amount in the bowl, avoiding excesses. On the packages, there are nutritional tables based on weight.

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However, many four-legged friends prefer wet food, canned meat bites with added vitamins and minerals: they contain more water, are tastier and more rewarding to eat but have the disadvantage of being eaten quickly and they do not play abrasive action on the teeth. A good idea is to mix the croquettes with some morsels of meat, perhaps chicken and rabbit

CAT AND DOG FOOD: WHAT TO PUT IN MICRO’S BOWL

While the dog is omnivorous, the cat has remained carnivorous: its diet must respond to a high requirement of proteins and fats of animal origin. As for Fido, even Micio’s diet cannot be a “duplicate” of ours but must be prepared by informing yourself correctly with the help of a veterinarian. The choice of products without dyes and preservatives, which prefer poultry and rabbit,   is undoubted to be preferred. Cats are fond of beef and offal and usually prefer wet food served in small morsels. In the summer, the choice of croquettes can prove to be a winner for the preservation of the product but it must be kept in mind that the croquettes are not a snack but replace a meal, therefore be careful not to exceed the doses indicated on the packaging.

 

 

 

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Choosing a Veterinary Hospital For Your Pet: 5 Basic Questions

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Every few weeks, my exotic pet hospital in New York receives a call from a desperate exotic pet owner somewhere far away seeking advice about their sick pet. Sometimes it’s about a reptile, sometimes about a bird or bunny. The caller might be from the Midwest, Canada, or even from another continent. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is little we can recommend over the phone, and we generally advise pet-owner to take their animals to an exotic pet-savvy veterinarian to be examined. While there are several great resources online directing people to terrific local vets who are comfortable treating exotic species, for some people in certain remote locations, exotic pet veterinarians can be hard to find. What are the most important things to look for when you are seeking out care for an exotic pet vet? Here are 5 essential considerations:

1. How many (snakes, birds, ferrets, rabbits, whatever species) has this vet ever treated?

While the practice may not always make perfect, it certainly makes better. The more of any given species a veterinarian sees, the more likely that he or she is to recognize the disease and be able to recommend the appropriate treatment. Most vets receive little to no training in school on exotic animal species, so if they really want to learn about how to care for these animals, they have to seek out information on their own. These vets who take the initiative to go the extra mile to learn about exotic pets are the vets you’d want to see.

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2. Is the veterinary hospital set up to accommodate exotic pets?

While many cat and dog hospitals will see exotic pets, they often do so because they are the only game in town. Many cat and dog hospitals will only treat an exotic pet when no one else will, and the pet is really sick. You can really tell whether a veterinary hospital is set up to treat exotic pets if they have some of the basic equipment and supplies needed to do so, such as a small scale that weighs in grams for weighing little exotic pets or a tank for safely enclosing a reptile. If they have no equipment specifically designed for treating and examining typically smaller exotic patients, it is likely they don’t treat many of them.

3. Are the veterinary technicians comfortable handling exotic patients?

Knowing how to safely handle exotic pets is truly an art that takes years to master. Most exotic animals are prey species that become stressed when restrained. No matter how good a veterinarian may be at the medical care of exotic species, without great technical staff to comfortably hold these animals, that vet cannot perform great medical care. By just watching how veterinary technicians restrain and manipulate your exotic pet, you can get an idea about how often they actually handle exotic pets. Technicians and veterinarians trained in exotic pet restraint should be relaxed and have a plan on how to pick up and hold your pet. If they are floundering around trying to figure out how to catch your pet, their experience is very likely limited.

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4. Are the veterinarians and/or the veterinary staff members of any exotic pet professional organizations?

There are several professional exotic animal groups, such as the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians, to which many veterinarians who are interested in exotic pet care belong. These organizations provide continuing education to veterinary professionals, and typically, individuals who want to remain knowledgeable in exotic pet care will join one or more of these groups to stay current. Veterinarians who belong to these groups typically display the organization’s logo on a decal in their hospitals’ window or printed on their hospitals’ client literature. Each of these organizations have websites, too, that list current members geographically. If a vet has taken the time and money to join any of these organizations, then he or she at least has a strong interest in exotic pets.

5. Does the veterinary hospital provide care for exotic pet emergencies?

This is something most exotic pet owners don’t think about until they are faced with their own pets’ emergency. While a few animal hospitals have veterinarians on call and technicians who remain in the hospital overnight to care for critical cases, the most veterinary hospitals are not open 24/7 but have arrangements with local 24-hour emergency clinics to care for their patients overnight and on emergency basis. However, while local emergency clinics are generally happy to take in dog and cat emergencies, they are not always equipped to handle exotic pet emergencies. When choosing an animal hospital to care for your unique exotic pet, be sure to ask the veterinary staff exactly how they handle exotic pet patients with emergencies after hours. If they have no contingency plan, they likely treat very few exotics. Just as your dog and cat vet should have a plan for after-hours emergencies, so should your exotic pet vet. This is perhaps the most important question to consider when choosing a doctor for your beloved pet. Don’t be afraid to ask it. The answer could be the difference between life and death.

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3 “Silent” Killers of Cats

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When it comes to caring for your cat, I have a few simple recommendations:

  • Maintain a safe environment (keep him indoors)
  • Feed a high-quality food (e.g., a meat-based protein)
  • Think about preventive care (e.g., an annual physical examination, laboratory tests, and the appropriate vaccines)
  • Provide lots of affection and exercise

By following these basic tips, you can help keep your four-legged, feline friends healthy–potentially for decades! But as cat guardians, you should also be aware of five “silent” killers in cats. By knowing what the most common silent killers are, you can know what clinical signs to look for. With most of these diseases, the sooner the clinical signs are recognized, the sooner we veterinarians can treat them.

1. Chronic kidney disease

One of the top silent killers of cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD) (This is sometimes called a chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury). These terms are all semantically the same, and basically mean that 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working. Clinical signs of CRD include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urinating
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath (due to toxins building up in the blood and causing ulcers in the mouth, oesophagus, and stomach)
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding

Thankfully, with appropriate management, cats can live with CKD for years (unlike dogs where CKD usually progresses more rapidly). Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake (e.g., with a water fountain or by feeding a gruelling canned food), medications and even fluids under the skin (which many pet guardians do at home, once properly trained).

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2. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disease where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is seen in middle-aged to geriatric cats and can result in very similar clinical signs to chronic kidney disease including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased water consumption/urination
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Weight loss

However, as hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism of cats, it causes one defining sign: a ravenous appetite despite weight loss. It can also result in:

  • A racing heart rate
  • Severe hypertension (resulting in acute blood loss, neurologic signs, or even a clot or stroke)
  • Secondary organ injury (e.g., a heart murmur or changes to the kidney)

Thankfully, treatment for hyperthyroidism is very effective and includes either a medication (called methimazole, surgical removal of the thyroid glands (less commonly done), a special prescription diet called y/d® Feline Thyroid Health) or I131 radioiodine therapy. With hyperthyroidism, the sooner you treat it, the fewer potential side effects or organ damage will occur in your cat.

3. Diabetes mellitus

Another costly, silent killer that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). As many of our cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a greater risk for DM. With diabetes, the pancreas fails to secrete adequate amounts of insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that drives sugar (i.e., blood glucose) into the cells. As a result of the cells starving for glucose, the body makes more and more glucose, causing hyperglycemia (i.e., high blood sugar) and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common clinical signs for DM are similar to those of Chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and include:

  • Excessive urination and thirst
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • An overweight or obese body condition with muscle wasting (especially over the spine or back) or weight loss
  • A decreased or ravenous appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal breath (e.g., acetone breath)
  • Walking abnormally (e.g., lower to the ground)
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Treatment for DM can be costly, as it requires twice-a-day insulin injections that you have to give under the skin. It also requires changes in diet (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and frequent veterinary visits. With supportive care and chronic management, cats can do reasonably well; however, once diabetic complications develop (e.g., diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar, hyperglycemic syndrome), DM can be life-threatening.

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Should my pet be tested for COVID-19?

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If your cat or dog is coughing, the good news is that it’s probably not due to COVID-19. Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) agree that COVID-19 is predominantly a human illness, and it’s unlikely for pets to be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. There are many types of viruses that can make cats or dogs sick. So, your veterinarian will check your pet to make sure that the symptoms aren’t being caused by a more common virus or other health problem.

Opinions about testing pets for COVID-19 are changing as we learn more about the virus and cases around the world. Public health authorities and veterinarians are working together to determine if an animal should be tested. Right now, there’s no evidence that dogs or cats can spread the virus to people. But there is growing evidence that in rare cases people may be able to infect animals. In the past month, two dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, a cat in Belgium, and a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City were found to have been infected. In each situation, there was exposure to a COVID-19 positive person.

If your cat or dog is sick, the best thing to do is speak with your veterinarian. Be sure to let them know if your pet has been exposed to anyone who has COVID-19. Your veterinarian will let you know what to do and will work with public health authorities to determine if a test is recommended.

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