Austin’s population is exploding, and so is our pet population. As we approach Austin’s sixth year as the largest No-Kill City in the nation, we are thankful for everyone that works tirelessly to help our animal friends. We also realize that without support from the community, organizations like Austin Pets Alive and Austin Animal Center would be tasked with the impossible.
You’ve probably noticed that ZippiVet is a proud supporter of Austin Pets Alive, but did you know that in 2017 ZippiVet decided to help Austin Animal Center out by donating $5,000 worth of veterinary dental services per month? This means that a dog or cat that might never get adopted because of severe dental disease now has a chance at a happy, healthy, and pain-free life.
Our most recent patient success story is Sheena. Sheena’s owner passed away and Sheena was found on her owner’s lap. Terrified and heartbroken, she was taken to Austin Animal Center for her chance to find a forever family.
Sheena had quite the time making a positive impression on prospective parents due to her shy and apprehensive nature. An exceptional AAC Volunteer swooped in and decided to foster Sheena until a permanent home could be found. After working with Sheena to bolster her confidence around strangers, there was only one thing holding Sheena back: horrific dental disease.
AAC reached out to us and mentioned Sheena would be a good candidate for our donation program. We fell in love with her at first sight, and after an extensive dental procedure with multiple extractions, we’re happy to report that Sheena has made a complete recovery and found her forever home last week.
At ZippiVet, we get asked the same questions by dog owners every day. You wouldn’t believe how many times we hear, “Why does my dog…” As dog behavior experts, we’re always glad to help!
Why does my dog have whiskers?
Whiskers, the long, coarse hairs protruding from a dog’s muzzle, jaw and above its eyes are filled with nerves that send sensory messages to a dog’s brain. A dog’s whiskers serve as receptors for important information about the size, shape and speed of nearby objects. This helps dogs “see” objects more clearly, even in the dark. Being able to feel vibrations in the air also helps dogs sense approaching dangers.
Why does my dog howl?
Howling is another way dogs communicate, along with barking and shrieking. Dogs howl for a few key reasons:
1) For attention
2) To alert their owner to danger
3) To make contact and acknowledge other dogs
4) In response to high pitched noises or sounds.
Why does my dog eat grass?
There are several theories for why dogs eat grass. Dogs don’t actually have the means to digest grass. They lack the enzymes needed to break down the fibers and it has little to no nutritional value. One reason for eating grass may be due to a feeling of nausea. It is possible that dogs learn this is a temporary solution for stomach irritation. Grass eating is a common behavior of normal, healthy dogs. If your dog seems sick or vomits more than occasionally (whether associated with grass eating or not), you should see a veterinarian.
Why does my dog lick?
Dogs lick their owners, other dogs, and themselves for a variety of reasons ranging from love and submission to a possible medical condition. Some of the more common reasons your dog might be offering up canine kisses include:
1) You taste delicious. As gross as it sounds, sweaty, salty skin can be intriguing to dogs, who often explore the world with their mouths and are comforted by the scent of their owners.
2) You inadvertently reward the behavior. Once licked consider your own behavior – Did you reach down and pet or scratch your dog? Offer the dog food? Say something to them, even like “Stop licking me, would you.” These are all forms of positive reinforcement.
3) When a dog licks, it releases endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which adds to the reward.
4) Your dog might be licking to show submission, especially while licking another dog’s muzzle.
5) Dog’s skin allergies or some anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder come out in licking. If you notice your dog obsessively licking themselves, a person, or an object (i.e. bed sheets), see a veterinarian, who may recommend medical treatment or a consultation with a behavior specialist.
Why does my dog pant?
With our many hot days in Austin, local dogs are typically panting to try to cool down. Pugs or Bulldogs with short snouts naturally pant more than other breeds, There may be other causes for panting in dogs, including:
1) When dogs are excited or are engaging in heavy exercise (like running or playing fetch) they will pant, much like a human can become out of breath after a vigorous run.
2) Dogs do not sweat like humans do so they pant to keep themselves cool. If it’s very hot outside or if the dog is dehydrated, it can be much harder for them to breathe, thus they will pant heavily to cool down. Read more about heatstroke in our blog.
3) When a dog is in pain they may pant excessively, especially if what they have just experienced is traumatizing.
4) In older dogs in particular, panting is a sign of other ailments. Signs of heart failure, lung tumors, and even choking in a dog will include heavy panting, breathing difficulty, and coughing. Read more about caring for senior dogs in our blog.
5) A dog that has eaten something poisonous may pant, as well as drool, vomit, or become lethargic. See your vet immediately to treat poisoning.
Why does my dog eat poop?
Coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh) is the scientific name for this nasty habit. There are both behavioral and physiologic reasons why some dogs view dung as a delicacy. Mostly it is about exploring their world and common among puppies, who typically drop the habit at about nine months of age. It is, however, a normal, natural behavior at some canine life stages. Mother dogs will lick their puppies to urge them to eliminate, and clean their feces for about the first three weeks. Dogs’ eating their own poop is harmless, but consuming that of other animals may cause health problems if the stool is contaminated with parasites, viruses, or toxins. We discuss parasites, including those that spread to people and how to treat them in-depth in a recent blog.
At ZippiVet, no questions are considered silly. Helping you to care for your dog is our top priority. Our Pet Wellness Exams offer plenty of time to get all of your nagging questions answered too. ZippiVet makes it easy to schedule an appointment in North Austin or our new location in South Austin.
Your pet’s illness doesn’t observe normal business hours, and neither do we. Whether your pet needs vaccines boostered or life-saving treatment, ZippiVet is open late on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.
What is Considered an Emergency for Dogs and Cats?
The following conditions warrant an immediate visit. Severely injured pets may act aggressively toward their pet parents, so exercise caution when handling injured pets.
- bite wounds, lacerations, punctures
- hit by car
- blunt object trauma
- Bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth, or blood present in urine or feces.
- Signs of extreme pain, such as whining, shaking, hiding, panting, and circling.
- You suspect broken bones.
- Your pet collapses or is unable to stand
- Your pet has had or is having a seizure
- Disorientation, bumping into things
- Eye injuries or sudden blindness
- Loss of conciousness
- Breathing difficulties or hacking and gagging
- Vomiting or diarrhea that persists more than 12 hours
- Swollen and distended abdomen, with vomiting and/or retching
- Straining to urinate or unable to urinate (particularly in male animals)
- More than three to four hours between delivering puppies or kittens.
- Toxin ingestion
- rat poison
- any kind of medication that wasn’t prescribed for your pet
- household cleansers
- Sugar free food, candy, or gum (xylitol)
- Symptoms of heatstroke.
Be Prepared for an Emergency
Your first step is to call your veterinarian. Keep your veterinarian’s name and number as a “favorite” on your mobile phone and in an easily accessible area of your home.
If you and your pet are in an unfamiliar city, use a hospital locator tool to find a vet hospital near you.
What Illnesses and Accidents Can ZippiVet Treat?
Our veterinarians can handle all of the emergencies mentioned above during our operating hours. If you’re concerned about your pet, you should never feel embarrassed about calling us. Our passion is keeping your pet healthy and happy.
ZippiVet is open for walk-ins, drop-offs, and appointments Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., except for a few major holidays. You can always reach us by phone at 512.904.0218 (North) or 512.514.1118 (South) or book an appointment online.
Summer may be over on the calendar, but we’ve got plenty of high mercury days remaining in Austin. As Austin temperatures remain high until well into the school year, remember to keep your dog safe from common seasonal issues. Here are four to watch out for.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer heat stroke with exposure to high temperatures – something we’re familiar with in Austin. Dogs with a dark or dense hair coat and those with with flat faces (or short muzzles) cannot pant as effectively. Other risk factors include age, obesity and heart and/or lung disease. Remember that your dog has very few sweat glands and can’t naturally cool itself down as easily as you can.
When a dog has a spike in body temperature the extreme heat stress can both impair breathing and injure organs. The condition can be fatal if left untreated.
There are many signs that can point to heat exhaustion or heat stroke in dogs, including excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit, along with an elevated body temperature of over 104°F. If you see these more severe symptoms, especially the high temperature, see your veterinarian right away. If signs of heatstroke are present, your dog should be immediately cooled to a rectal temperature of 103.5°F.
Like many other dangerous pet parasites, heartworm is carried by mosquitos. A single mosquito bite can infect your dog, which makes Austin’s hot, wet climate particularly dangerous for dogs. When a mosquito carrying heartworm bites a pet, miniscule larvae can be deposited into the bloodstream. After six months, these larvae mature into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches long and usually lodge themselves into your pet’s heart, lungs and blood vessels.
Early heartworm can have no symptoms but as the disease progresses, mild symptoms such as a persistent cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss and a swollen belly from excess fluid can occur. Because the symptoms can be difficult to detect it is important that you take your dog into your vet for heartworm detection regularly and take the preventative treatment that they recommend.
Fleas and Ticks
Austin’s warm and humid climate also makes it the perfect breeding ground for fleas and ticks, outdoor parasites which can cause a host of problems for our pets, and for us. Ticks can transmit a host of diseases to your dog, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonella, and Lyme Disease. Likewise, fleas can cause painful itching and flea-allergy dermatitis. Fleas have also been known to carry tapeworm.
As with most pet health issues, prevention as a part of overall wellness care is far easier and more cost effective than treatment. The best proactive measure you can take to protect your dog from these parasites is keeping them on a year-round parasite preventative that your vet recommends.
Dog Park Hazards
Lawn sprinklers and periods of heavy rain like we had in Austin this past spring can leave lots of puddles and standing water which can be dangerous for thirsty dogs. Street water can mix with dog feces, so when your dog bends down to get a big gulp of water, they may be unknowingly ingesting pathogens like Giardia. If your dog suddenly has a bad case of diarrhea after a rainy day out at the park, they may have contracted Giardia, an intestinal parasite caused by a common protozoan parasite. Dogs become infected with Giardia when they come in contact with infected feces, directly or indirectly. The most common symptoms of Giardia are diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. While Giardia can be temporary, if the symptoms are ongoing, call your veterinarian since they can cause dehydration, deteriorating health and potentially death.
Another disease that they should be protected from when they play with other dogs is Canine Distemper, which is caused by a very contagious virus. Puppies and dogs usually become infected through virus particles in the air or in the respiratory secretions of infected dogs. Infected dogs typically develop runny eyes, fever, snotty nose, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. It is often fatal. See your veterinarian if symptoms persist and get your dog the canine distemper vaccine. It is considered a core vaccine that is recommended for every puppy and as a booster for adult dogs.
Unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk for Canine Parvovirus-2 or parvo. Parvo is typically spread directly from dog to dog, but contact with contaminated stool, environments, or people can also spread the disease. The virus most often affects the lymph nodes, blood stream and small intestines of dogs. Some also see an affected heart. It can be fatal if not noticed or treated quickly. Once a dog or puppy is infected, there is an incubation period of three to seven days before the onset of first symptoms. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for parvo and it is administered to puppies and adult dogs as as a booster.
No matter the weather, the staff at ZippiVet can keep your dog happy, healthy and ready to play. Book an appointment today at either our north or new south location.
We love our dogs, from whether they are roly-poly puppies or distinguished seniors with gray coats. As your dog gets older, they need special care and it’s extra important that you make regular veterinary visits. Here’s what you need to know to care for your senior dog.
What risks do senior dogs face?
As your dog ages, health issues may arise, including the deterioration of their skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, more frequent intestinal problems, arthritis, limited mobility, obesity, dental problems and/or a decreased ability to fight off infection. As your dog heads into their senior years, they may not be able to run as fast, jump as high or have the stamina they once had.
Stressful situations and abrupt changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made to an older pet’s routine, try to minimize the stress by introducing the change in a gradual manner.
What qualifies as a senior dog?
Dogs may begin to experience physical changes between seven and 12 years of age. Like people, each dog ages at different rates, so yours may stay spry well into double digits. Mixed breeds and many smaller dogs tend to live longer. A small dog of less than 20 pounds might not show any signs of aging until they are age 12 or so. A 50-pound dog won’t “seem” old until approximately 10. Larger dogs begin to show their age at age eight or nine.
How do you exercise senior dogs?
Older dogs tend to be less active than they were in their younger days. Degeneration of joints due to long-term wear and tear happens naturally, but can be exacerbated by obesity. Certain breeds are more prone to congenital issues like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and rheumatoid arthritis as they age. When your dog is experiencing limited mobility as a result of age or obesity, you may need to adapt your playtime routine.
While indoors, provide your senior dog with an environment full of both physical and mental stimulation to help them feel more youthful and active. Provide their treat toys (like a Kong) to dispense meals in smaller doses to improve both physical and mental function (by making them work for their snack) and to promote weight loss in heavier dogs. If you have stairs, ramps can help an older dog keep moving around the house without causing them too much pain.
Keep your dog healthy with regular outdoor walks throughout the week. Several shorter walks might be a better fit for a senior dog. Find a comfortable distance for them to walk each day.
Swimming is another option to help exercise older dogs without hurting their joints as they age.
Though dogs with physical limitations may want to keep playing, chasing balls and jumping like they did in their youth, senior dogs may not have the stamina anymore and they may also be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Limit exercise and keep older dogs well hydrated and in the shade on our 90°F days. Avoiding heat stroke in the Austin climate is important.
Before starting your senior dog on any exercise routine, check in with your veterinarian on how to safely be physically active and discuss how to work with any health issues they may have.
What do you feed senior dogs?
As dogs age there are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes that follow. Some of these changes may be managed with their diet. Special senior dog foods help them maintain their health and optimum body weight, slow development of chronic disease and minimize current diseases.
- Importantly, studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age. Feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein in order to help maintain a good level of muscle mass.
- Older dogs may be prone to put on body fat, even if they eat less, due to reduced energy expenditure or a change in their metabolic rate. Feed your senior dog a diet with a lower calories to avoid weight gain.
- We may recommend increasing a senior Dog’s Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) intake through food or supplements. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in the maintenance their healthy skin and coat.
- Aging can affect a dog’s intestinal bacteria, which can result in symptoms of gastrointestinal disease. Senior dog diets should contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- Antioxidants, including vitamin E and beta-carotene may help eliminate free radicals, the particles that may damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. A senior dog’s diet should contain higher levels of these antioxidants.
- A dog’s breed, size and health help your vet determine when it’s time to start buying senior dog food.
Keep your dog healthy with routine care and veterinary exams to assess the presence or progress of any chronic disease. If you’re unsure about what to food or supplements to feed your senior dog or how to give them exercise and care at home, ZippiVet is ready to help you seven days a week. Schedule an appointment online and keep your old dog happy and healthy!
Old friends are the best friends, so the saying goes. Senior cats are wonderful pets and there are many things you can do to keep them healthy and happy later in life. We recommend following these guidelines to keep your senior cat feeling like a kitten.
What qualifies as a senior cat?
Many cats begin to encounter age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age, and most do so by the time they are 12. Your cat’s species, breed, and the health of their organs will dictate when they start acting “old.”
Each pet is unique and cats that are up there in years may still be healthy or just beginning to show signs of aging.
What risks do senior cats face?
Arthritis is common in senior cats and some may find it difficult to climb into litter box or reach their food and water bowls.
Thick, overgrown claws that are brittle are more common in senior cats that are sedentary, requiring more frequent nail trimming.
Decreased appetite may be common as senior cats can lose their sense of smell and experience discomfort from dental disease. It is common for their appetite to decrease and for older cats to lose weight.
Changes in hearing and vision can appear as cats age. Their eyes may develop a slight haziness and several diseases can impair their ability to see, sometimes high-blood pressure is the underlying cause. Age also brings hearing loss, particularly in elderly cats over age 10.
Geriatric or elderly cats over age 10 may develop behavior changes associated with memory loss. Symptoms may include wandering, excessive meowing, disorientation and avoiding social interaction.
Compared to younger cats, an older cat’s immune system is less able to fend off foreign invaders. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease can impair their immune function even further. Impaired kidney function and failure is common in senior cats, and its symptoms are extremely varied.
Hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer are all conditions that are more prevalent in cats as they age.
As a pet owners you may not be able to stop the age-related health changes from happening to your cat, but you can often manage them with exercise and diet changes.
What do you feed senior cats?
We recommend that pet owners start their cats on a senior diet at about seven years of age, which is when cats’ metabolism may start to slow and they may become less active. Senior cat food should include high quality protein, digestible carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, magnesium, fiber, antioxidants, and fatty acids. Senior cats may find it hard to digest and absorb fats so they need fats that are easier for their bodies to process.
Food for older cats is widely available to maintain their health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and to minimize or improve any signs of diseases that may already be present in your cat.
- Select a senior cat food that will help ensure they still get the same amount of energy as younger, adult cats as they age.
- Vitamin, mineral, and electrolyte-levels may be lower in older cats if they absorb less of them through the intestinal tract or lose more of them through the kidneys and urinary tract. Some senior cats eat less cat food, including those with oral disease, so that may not receive their daily needs of vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants such as vitamins A (beta-carotene), E, and C may play a role in protecting your cat against the aging processes.
- Monitor the weight and condition of your cat.
Consult with your veterinarian to determine which specific food and supplements will be helpful for your cat as they age from adult to senior to geriatric age.
How do you exercise senior cats?
Many senior cats retain their a built-in predatory drive and still enjoy hiding in boxes or chasing a wad of paper on the floor. Since your cat won’t be pouncing, sprinting or leaping like a kitten, keep some “teaser” toys like a laser pointer, crinkle balls and catnip mice handy instead.
Get your cat vertical stretching with scratcher or cat tree to stretch his muscles.
If your senior cat still has all its senses, move their food bowl around and make him hunt and work for it. Do this with healthy, dry treats too, leaving them in unique spots away from where you normally serve their food.
Limit senior cats to five-minute play periods three times per day if they are experiencing any discomfort. During times of exercise, be on the lookout for labored breathing, rapid tiring, difficulty moving, and tender or sore areas.
Before starting your senior cat on any exercise routine, check in with your veterinarian. Make sure that your pet is able to safely be physically active, and discuss how to work with any issues they may have, like arthritis or vision loss.
What special treatment do senior cats require?
Keep your senior cat healthy with close observation and a quick check of their health at home as often as once per week. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do it and what to look for. Essentially, interact with your cat like you normally would and add in some observation.
- When rubbing your cat’s head or scratching its chin, gently raise the upper lips with your thumb or forefinger so you can examine their teeth and gums.
- Playfully lift the ear flaps and examine the ear canals.
- While stroking your cat’s fur, take a quick check for abnormal lumps or bumps, and evaluate the health of their skin and coat.
- Daily brushing can remove loose hairs, preventing them from being swallowed and forming hairballs. Brushing also has the benefit of stimulating blood circulation and sebaceous gland secretions, which gives them a healthier skin and coat.
Reduce your senior cat’s environmental stress whenever possible, as they may be less adaptable to change. Introducing a new pet may be a challenging experience for senior cats, and should be avoided whenever possible. Moving to a new home or even boarding your cat during a family vacation may cause them some stress. Pet sitting by a relative or friend is a good alternative for a senior cat. If you must board them, having a familiar object such as a blanket or toy may prevent the cat from becoming too distraught in a strange environment. Some stress can be alleviated by giving your senior cat more affection and attention during times of emotional upheaval.
Cats are known for hiding illness and senior cats are no exception. It is common for a cat to have a serious medical problem, yet not show any sign of it until the condition has advanced. Since most diseases can be managed more successfully when detected and treated early, it is important for owners of senior cats to carefully monitor their behavior and health.
Our pet hospital is here to keep your cat well in their ninth life. If you’re unsure as to what to feed your senior cat or how to give them exercise and care at home, we at ZippiVet are here to help. We make it easy to schedule an appointment and are open seven days a week.
Cats can be anxious and nervous pets. Separation or changes to daily routines and family life can put a lot of stress on your cat, and this stress can manifest in some destructive, annoying behaviors. Eliminating the cause of the stress and helping your cat handle the situation are the keys to relieving their anxiety. We’ve got some veterinarian approved tips for alleviating your cat’s anxiety (and, hopefully, your own).
What is cat anxiety?
Like humans, cats can become stressed and anxious, often due to a psychological struggle. Similar to human anxiety, without any intervention for anxiety, your cat’s immune system can become compromised, he or she may become depressed or develop “bad-kitty” behavioral problems.
The most common situations that can cause your cat to become anxious include separation from you or the addition of a new family member into the household such as a child, pet or a new partner/spouse.
What are the symptoms of cat anxiety?
Cats show signs of anxiety in a number of ways.
Potential signs of anxiety to observe in your cat may include the following:
- Health changes
- Changes in their appetite or weight
- Excessive vocalizing (meowing or crying at inappropriate times of the night or day)
- Urinating outside of their litter box
- New compulsive behaviors (i.e. excessive grooming)
- New destructive behaviors (i.e. furniture scratching)
If you notice your cat exhibiting these behaviors, consider if any recent changes could be contributing to stress and anxiety.
Why do cats get anxiety?
Cats experience anxiety because of psychological, physical and environmental stressors. Without your intervention, their stress can have detrimental affects on your home, your family, and your cat’s overall health. Determining the root cause of your cat’s anxiety can be challenging, so begin by evaluating their environment and daily life. Some things to consider:
- In your household has there been a loss or addition of family member or pet?
- Has there been recent separation from a family member?
- Recently, have they had minimal play or exercise? Is your cat experiencing boredom?
- Are there any new causes of fear that could have sparked their anxiety, such as loud noises, other pets or humans?
- How have they been eating? Might your cat be having less-than-adequate nutrition?
- Is your cat otherwise healthy or are they experiencing any pain or discomfort?
How can I make my cat less anxious?
Focus your efforts on minimizing the stress and anxiety in your cat’s life. Consider their entertainment and adding enriching activities. We’ve got plenty of free cat enrichment ideas! Exercise your cat with lots of playtime and give your cat more emotional support with cuddling and petting. Providing high-quality, nutritious cat food, fresh water, and a comfortable bed for your cat gives them security in a time of stress.
Like humans, some cats are naturally prone to stress and some may have serious struggles with past traumas. These cats may need the assistance of a veterinarian with training in behavioral issues and/or anti-anxiety medications prescribed by a veterinarian.
Is there cat anxiety medication?
If your cat is showing one or more signs of stress and anxiety, see your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems. If your cat is physically healthy, they will help you with ways to treat the stress specifically. The doctor may diagnose the particular type of disorder that your cat suffers from and come up with a behavior-modification plan best suited for your cat. In some cases, the vet may prescribe pet medications:
- Amitriptyline, Clomicalm (clomipramine), or fluoxetine is used to increase the effectiveness of behavior modification that your vet prescribes.
- If a cat’s anxiety is limited to particular events (like travel by car or fireworks displays), a short term sedative such as Alprazolam, prescribed by your vet, should be given a few hours before the next event.
Cat Friendly Practices๏ Can Help Reduce Stress
A trip to the veterinarian can be stressful for both you and your cat, including the just getting them into the pet carrier for the car ride to the the pet hospital. Cat Friendly Practices try to alleviate some of that burden.
Cat Friendly Practices are veterinary hospitals like ZippiVet that consistently take extra steps to care for cats’ unique needs, having implemented feline-friendly standards. We understand the needs of cats, seek to decrease their stress and provide a more calming environment. Our veterinary staff have also been trained in feline-friendly handling and understanding cat behavior in order to increase the quality of care for your cat. We make it easy to schedule an appointment and provide a calm visit to reduce stress in you and your cat.
Dogs and cats may become infected with an internal or external parasite at some point in their lifetime. These parasites can cause everything from simple irritation to life-threatening conditions if they are left untreated. What’s more, some pet parasites can be transferred to you or your children. At ZippiVet, we’re often asked about the diseases parasites carry and whether they may be easily transmitted to the rest of the family. These diseases are called Zoonoses, or zoonotic diseases, and there are more of them than you’d think!
Common Infections That Spread From Pets to People
The Toxoplasma gondii parasite causes Toxoplasmosis, one of the most common pet to people infections. Cats are often the primary host and the parasite may complete its life cycle in the cat’s intestinal tract, passing back into the environment through feces. Cats are more commonly seen with clinical symptoms than dogs though dogs get infected too. At increased risk are young dogs with developing immune systems, and dogs that have impaired immunity. The top five symptoms in pets are neurological symptoms, seizures, tremors, depression and lethargy.
- Toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms in some humans, but most never develop symptoms.
- For infants born to infected mothers and for people with weakened immune systems, toxoplasmosis can cause extremely serious complications.
Giardia is a parasite that is transmitted to dogs, cats and people through food or water contaminated with stool. We’ve written about Giardia before and it’s one Austin pet owners in particular should know about.
- Symptoms for animals and people include diarrhea, greasy stools, and dehydration.
- People can also have abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can last one to two weeks.
Cat-scratch disease is a bacterial disease that people may get after being bitten or scratched by a cat. About 40% of cats carry the bacteria at some time in their lives, and kittens younger than one year of age are more likely to have it. Most cats with this infection show no signs of illness.
- People who are bitten or scratched by an affected cat may develop a mild infection three to 14 days later at the site of the wound.
- The infection may cause symptoms such as fever, headache, exhaustion and/or a poor appetite. A person’s lymph nodes closest to the original scratch or bite can become swollen, tender, or painful.
Plague (yes, that’s the name) is a bacterial disease in animals, primarily cats and spread to people that can lead to serious illness or death if left untreated. Cats that hunt wild rodents and rabbits in the western, particularly the southwestern, U.S. are at greatest risk of becoming infected.
Cats are highly susceptible to plague and the symptoms are similar to those experienced by humans. Cats infected with plague can infect people through bites, scratches, coughs, or sneezes.
- Bubonic plague is the most common form with common symptoms of high fever, chills, headache and swollen lymph nodes.
- The other two forms of plague, septicemic and pneumonic, cause more severe disease.
Bacterial infections with scary names: campylobacter and salmonella are also commonly transmitted from dogs and cats to the rest of the family. They also spread through contaminated food, such as meat and eggs, water, or contact with feces of infected animals. Dogs and cats that are infected with the bacteria might show no signs of illness at all or might have a slight fever and/or diarrhea.
- People who become sick by the bacteria will have diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after their exposure.
- Campylobacter can cause serious life-threatening infections in those with weakened immune systems, including infants, older persons.
How do Ticks on My Pet Pose a Health Risk to My Family?
Ticks are gross and they can make you sick. Vector-borne diseases are transmitted by fleas, ticks and other parasites that infest dogs and cats.
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that is transmitted by deer ticks to the animal or human directly while sucking its blood over a 48 hour period. In dogs the most common signs of Lyme disease include lameness, fever, lack of energy, reluctance to eat and enlarged lymph nodes, sometimes with swollen, painful joints. Often cats with Lyme disease don’t show any symptoms, but those who do may have recurrent lameness of the limbs due to inflammation of the joints or “shifting-leg lameness.”
- Infected people will typically have a red bull’s eye-shaped rash at the site of the tick’s bite that appears after about seven days. Flu-like symptoms often quickly follow the rash. If not treated, Lyme disease can spread to other parts of the body and cause symptoms such as arthritis and loss of facial muscle tone (called Bell’s palsy). Lyme disease can be fatal.
Other diseases carried by ticks that attach to pets include ehrlichiosis relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
Can Humans Get Worms from Dogs and Cats?
There are a number of intestinal parasites or worms that can infect dogs and cats, including roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. One worm can produce up to 100,000 eggs per day, which are then passed in the pet’s feces and spread throughout the area where the pet roams. Once in your home, some of these eggs can remain infective and present a health risk for your pet and humans for years. The best way to prevent infection in pets is to control the flea population in the environment.
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite in pets and the most likely to be spread to humans. Dogs and people can become infected by accidentally swallowing roundworm eggs from the environment. In addition, worms can cross through the placenta, milk, or colostrum of a mother dog, passing the infection to her puppies. Infected puppies usually do not develop well and may have a pot-bellied appearance.
- Roundworm eggs, once ingested can hatch inside the human intestinal tract and the immature worms can travel to tissues in the body, including the eyes liver, lung brain and/or central nervous system, potentially causing serious infections. In people, children are most often affected with roundworm.
Dogs can become infected with hookworms through accidentally ingesting the parasite from the environment or through their mother’s milk or colostrum. Puppies are most often affected and might have anemia and dark, bloody stool. Severe infections in some puppies can lead to death.
- Walking barefoot, kneeling, or sitting on ground contaminated with stool of infected animals may lead to the spread of hookworms in people. Hookworm eggs enter the top layers of skin and cause an itchy reaction and a red squiggly line might appear. Symptoms usually clear up without medical treatment in six weeks or less.
Tapeworm is a parasite spread to dogs, cats, and people through the ingestion of infected fleas. This parasite is common but fortunately rarely causes illness in pets or people. Infections with tapeworm can sometimes be detected by finding rice-like segments of the tapeworm crawling near the anus or in fresh bowel movements. In severe infections, pets can lose weight and have mild diarrhea.
- In people, children are more commonly infected but don’t usually show signs of disease.
Parasites can infect your pet at any time of year. External parasites, such as fleas and ticks may be less common outside during certain times of the year (i.e. winter), but they can survive in a home in any season. Always wash your hands and the hands of children with running water and soap after contact with pets, their stool, and their food.
At ZippiVet, we’re here to help you with a year-round parasite control program, including a preventative flea and tick treatment. At your pet’s check-up we test for common parasites and perform a physical examination.
We know how to accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites and other health problems that not only affect your dog or cat, but also the safety of you and your family. If you see any of the warning signs in your family pet, you can quickly and easily schedule an appointment online or walk in to our clinic for a check-up. ZippiVet is open seven days a week. Book Now.
Why spay and neuter pets?
Spaying or neutering your pet is the right thing to do. There are both medical and behavioral benefits to spaying (female pets) and neutering (male pets).
Spaying and neutering has a number of benefits for your pet and our city:
Having a large litter can lead a pet owner to need to give away puppies and kittens. Unaltered pets have an increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting struck by cars and other accidents. They can easily end up hurt or in an animal shelter. 13,337 stray pets ended up in Austin’s shelters in 2015.
Though Austin’s shelters do not euthanize pets (our city earned the title of the “largest no-kill city in America”), we all share the goal of reducing the number of homeless pets, which can cause overcrowding and strains the shelters’ resources.
Spaying and neutering curbs bad pet behavior early:
An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate, including finding creative ways escape from the house. Male dogs who have been neutered may be less likely to roam away from home.
Unneutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to urine-marking (lifting his leg and peeing all over the place) than neutered dogs. Although it is most often associated with male dogs, females may do it, too.
Your spayed female pet won’t go into heat. While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season starting at about six months of age. In an effort to advertise for mates, they yowl and urinate more frequently (and everywhere).
Spaying/neutering solves an estimated 90 percent of all marking issues, even in pets that have been doing it for a while. It can also minimize howling, the urge to roam and males fighting with other males. In both cats and dogs, the longer you wait, the greater the risk you may run of the surgery not doing the trick because the behavior is so ingrained.
Spaying and neutering improves your pet’s health and longevity:
Altered pets have reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Unspayed female cats and dogs have a greater chance of developing pyometra, a fatal uterine infection, uterine cancer, and other cancers of the reproductive system and mammary glands. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases. Neutering your male pet prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems. Spaying/neutering keeps your pet healthier and saves on the cost of pet care.
Myths about spaying or neutering and pet behavior:
Like with humans, a lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to gain weight, not neutering.
Neutering is not as a “quick fix” for all behavior problems. Although neutering your pet often reduces undesirable behaviors caused by a higher level of testosterone, there’s no guarantee that your male dog’s behavior will change once he’s neutered. The effects of neutering are largely dependent on your dog’s individual personality, physiology and history.
When should you spay or neuter your pet?
- Healthy puppies as young as eight weeks old can be neutered. Prior to age six months is commonly recommended.
- Dogs can be neutered as adults as well, although there’s a slightly higher risk of postoperative complications in older dogs, dogs that are overweight or dogs that have health problems.
- Kittens as young as eight weeks old are often spayed or neutered. (In some animal shelters, this surgery is often performed at this time so that kittens can be sterilized prior to adoption.) In an effort to avoid the start of urine spraying and eliminate the chance for pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your cat reaches five months of age. It’s possible to spay a female cat while she’s in heat.
Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best time to spay or neuter your pet. Your vet team will provide pre-surgical advice that you should follow, including feeding schedules. They also provide post-operative instructions for you to follow. Although your pet may experience some discomfort after surgery, your veterinarian can take various measures to control pain.
ZippiVet provides affordable spay/neuter services and microchipping to identify your pet in case they stray from home. We are open seven days a week. Book an appointment for your kitten or puppy today.
Like little humans, puppies are vulnerable to a number of contagious diseases and viruses since their immune systems are not yet fully developed. If you’ve got a new pup or even an older dog from an animal shelter or a friend, you need to protect your new pet from the potentially deadly canine parvovirus.
What is Parvo?
The deadly canine parvovirus is commonly referred to as parvo or “CPV-2” by veterinarians. Once it is contracted, parvo is a very contagious virus that can affect all dogs. Unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk for Parvo. The virus most often affects the lymph nodes, blood stream and small intestines of dogs. Some also see an affected heart. It can be fatal if not noticed or treated quickly.
How Does a Dog Get Parvo?
The virus enters the body through the mouth as a puppy or dog cleans itself or eats food off the ground or floor. A minuscule amount of infected feces (stool) is all it takes.
Parvo is typically spread directly from dog to dog, but contact with contaminated stool, environments, or people can also spread the disease. Once infected, a dog with parvo may contaminate food, water bowls, collars, and leashes – as well as a dog’s bedding or crate. Once a dog or puppy is infected, there is an incubation period of three to seven days before the onset of first symptoms.
Pet owners can get parvo infections through their hands, clothing and shoes if they touch infected dogs and their stools. The parvovirus is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying and can survive in the environment for long periods of time.
Signs that Your Dog May Have Parvo
Dogs that develop parvo will show symptoms three to 10 days after being exposed. Symptoms include: vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea (usually bloody) and fever. The gastrointestinal tract is where the heaviest damage occurs.
Parvoviral infections are characterized by a drop in white blood cell count due to a bone marrow infection. The dog’s diarrhea may become bloody and bacteria can enter the body, causing widespread infection, as the virus destroys the bone marrow’s ability to create infection-fighting white blood cells.
“Early recognition of the signs of parvo by pet owners, followed by a quick diagnosis and an aggressive treatment plan at the vet can boost survival rates to 90%,” Dr. Audrey Wystrach said.
If your puppy or dog shows any signs of parvo, see your veterinarian immediately.
A parvovirus infection is diagnosed based on a dog’s history, a physical examination, and laboratory tests. Common lab tests include the ELISA, PCR and complete blood count evaluation. Each test provides slightly different information, and sometimes more than one type of test may be done by your vet.
What Types of Dogs are Vulnerable to Parvo?
Parvo most often strikes in pups between six and 20 weeks old, but older dogs are sometimes also affected if they have not been vaccinated. (A rare variant of the disease may be seen in very young (neonatal) puppies is myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle).
Parvo first emerged among dogs in Europe around 1976. By 1978 the virus had spread unchecked, causing a worldwide epidemic of myocarditis and inflammation in the intestines.
We now know that the virus is not limited to companion dogs, but is capable of causing infections in wild canines such as coyotes and wolves.
How Do I Prevent Parvo in My Dog?
Until a puppy has received its complete series of shots, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. parks, puppy classes, doggy daycare, boarding kennels, and groomers).
Vaccination against CPV-2 and good hygiene are how best to prevent the disease. Young puppies, (like human babies) are most susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mother’s milk may wear off before the puppy’s own immune system is mature enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus during this gap in protection, they may become ill.
To provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered by your vet:
- Veterinarians typically administer the parvo shot as part of a combination vaccine, which often includes the distemper, canine adenovirus, and parainfluenza vaccines. These shots are given every three to four weeks from the time a puppy is six weeks old until they are at least 16 weeks of age.
- If you do not have an early shot record for your pet, bring in your puppy to receive a dose of canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age to develop adequate virus protection.
- Booster vaccinations are recommended one year later, and then again at three year intervals for the life of your dog.
- To protect all adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog’s parvovirus vaccination is always up-to-date.
What is the Treatment for Parvo?
Intensive care treatment is given by a veterinarian to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte, protein and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. Sick dogs are kept warm and receive nursing care at the vet hospital or clinic. Since parvovirus is highly contagious, any infected dog is isolated to minimize the spread of infection.
Proper cleaning and disinfection of contaminated bedding, crate, kennel and other areas where infected dogs are housed is essential to control the spread of parvo. Your veterinarian will provide specific guidance on cleaning and disinfecting agents for your home.
Have a new puppy or a dog who is new to you? Now is a perfect time to come in for a checkup and vaccines, including for canine parvovirus. We make it easy to schedule an appointment to be sure your dog is healthy and happy this summer!