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Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Many dog owners have heard of heartworm disease but may not fully understand how the disease develops. Some owners may even question if an annual test for heartworm disease is necessary. Dr. Sonya Wesselowski, clinical assistant professor of cardiology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said testing for heartworm disease and administering regular monthly heartworm medication is crucial. “All dogs should be tested for heartworm disease every year at their annual wellness visit,” Wesselowski said. “Additionally, patients that have not previously been on heartworm prevention or those that have had a lapse in their heartworm prevention should be tested immediately, then again in six months, and annually thereafter.” To help dog owners understand why preventing heartworm disease is so important, Wesselowski explained how the disease develops. “Heartworm disease is caused by a long, thin worm known as Di...

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Pet Health and Safety

Many of us consider pets a member of the family, but this does not always mean treating our pets like humans. For example, there are many habits humans choose to indulge in that can harm pets—including smoking, drinking, and a lack of regular exercise. Unlike people, animals are unable to make the conscious decision to participate in these habits. Although pets may be considered a furry family member, it is important to remember our pets’ special needs and how human behavior can impact their health. In the past, the consequences of smoking were not given much thought by those who smoked. However, doctors and researchers began identifying a strong association with smoking and certain cancers in humans, causing a wave of concern in recent generations. Despite the concern of smoking negatively impacting human health, smoking is still a common habit. In addition to harming humans, secondhand smoke can contribute to the development of many diseas...

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Pets with Disabilities: Blindness in Dogs

Some dogs are born blind while others develop blindness over time from age and disease. No matter the situation, blind dogs are just as loveable and playful as dogs with excellent eyesight. Dr. Lucien Vallone, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, cleared up some confusion about caring for blind dogs. “Blind dogs are certainly adoptable,” Vallone said. “In fact, most blind dogs’ owners actually report that their dog’s quality of life is excellent. In addition, many owners find that blind dogs become more attached to either the owner or other pets within the household, which is often viewed positively. After adapting to a new environment, which can take several months, most blind dogs lead lives that are almost identical to sighted dogs.” If you are considering adopting a blind dog or are currently caring for a dog whose eyesight is deteriorating, it is important to realize...

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My Dog was Sprayed by a Skunk—Now What?

The awful smell caused by a skunk spray is no joke. Every dog owner knows to keep their dog away from skunks at all costs—but sometimes Fido has other plans. With warmer weather approaching, skunks are becoming more active at dawn and dusk. Are you prepared for a potential skunk spray? Skunks are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetation and meat, and they are a part of the weasel family. They are more active in the warmer months, specifically in early morning and dusk and are generally non-aggressive animals. Although skunks typically prefer flight over fight, they are capable of spraying a substance degraded from their urine when they feel threatened. This foul-smelling spray can reach up to 16 feet. If you find your dog sprayed by a skunk, it is important to act fast. The longer the spray sits on your dog’s coat, the worse the odor becomes and the harder it is to wash out. First, situate your smelly pooch outside to prevent any of th...

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Pet Trade Troubles

Many people are fascinated with non-domestic animals—whether exotic or native species—and think these animals would make great pets. However, non-domestic animals, including certain species of snakes and tortoises, do not make great additions to households despite being included in the pet trade. In fact, it may cause more harm than good to bring a non-domestic animal home. Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, provided some insight on having non-domesticated animals as pets. “There are a number of species of non-domestic animals that are available for purchase in the pet trade, but a lot of times people don't consider the long-term consequences of housing these animals or if they are qualified to care for the animal,” Blue-McLendon said. “Therefore, a lot of non-domesticated animals should not be sold to the general public.” One example of a no...

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Dental Hygiene in Dogs and Cats

Most of us know oral hygiene can play a critical role in a person’s overall health; but did you know the same applies for your furry friends? Humans schedule regular dental cleanings to keep their gums and teeth healthy, but dental health in dogs and cats may be overlooked by pet owners. Dr. J.R. “Bert” Dodd, clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained some common dental hygiene issues in dogs and cats. “Poor oral hygiene in dogs and cats can lead to excess tartar, swellings in the mouth, and severe wear of the teeth (or broken teeth), from chewing on inappropriate objects,” he said. “In addition, periodontal—or gum—disease can arise from neglected oral health. If preventative dental health is not practiced and periodontal therapy—which includes the scaling, root planning, curettage, and extraction of teeth—is ignored, your pet may become more susceptible to other health compli...

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Choosing the Right Food for your Furry Friend

Many pet owners are becoming more conscious of the quality of food they are feeding their pets, but it is often difficult to determine what constitutes a healthy and nutritious meal. A dog or cat’s nutritional requirements vary based on age and health, which may leave some pet owners questioning how to provide the right kind of food. Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, provided some insight. “The ingredient list on pet food does not provide information on the quality of the ingredients or the nutritional adequacy of the overall diet,” she explained. “However, the ingredients are listed on the label in descending order of weight. Ingredients with higher water content are listed higher on the list. Because water is included in the weight of the ingredients, ingredients with higher water content will be higher on the list than similar amounts of dry ingredients, even though...

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Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Recognizing irregular behavior is one of the most common methods pet owners use to determine if their cat may be sick or in pain. One behavior that should be closely regulated is urinary behavior. Keeping track of urination habits helps prevent conditions such as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), an umbrella term that refers to disorders affecting the bladder and urethra of cats. FLUTD includes many disorders, including urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and feline interstitial cystitis (FIC), a complicated disorder that causes cats to show signs of bladder inflammation though they do not have a bladder infection. The cause of FIC is not completely understood, but signs of FIC are often precipitated by stressful events. Risk factors for FIC in cats include being overweight, being an indoor-only cat, and experiencing stress. Dr. Johanna Heseltine, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medi...

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Common Feline Skin Conditions

Being familiar with the signs of common skin irritations and diseases in your feline companion is important for your cat’s health. Certain skin problems could be sign of a more complicated underlying issue, such as physical pain, discomfort, or infection. According to Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the most common skin conditions that appear in cats include ringworm, fleas and flea allergy dermatitis, ear mites, and bacterial skin infections. In addition, cats can have allergic reactions to ingredients in their food, such as fish, chicken, and milk, or to things in the environment such as various pollens and dust. Both food and environmental allergies can manifest with itching and/or hair loss from over-grooming. Cats can also develop nodules on the skin of their abdomen from mycobacterial infections, which are caused by organisms commonly found ...

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Your Dog May Protect You from Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, there have been reported associations between pet ownership and cardiovascular health in the last decade. Owning pets—specifically dogs—may help reduce the risk of heart disease in pet owners in a number of ways. In addition to companionship, dogs can encourage laughter, physical activity, and other benefits effective in decreasing stress levels. Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences explained why owning dogs may be related to decreased stress levels. “The American Heart Association has said that owning pets can have a positive effect on how people react to stress,” she said. “Chronic stress has not been shown to directly increase risk factors associated with heart disease, but it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that are associated with high blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease.” High blood pressure, ano...

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