We’ve listed the answers to a number of frequently-asked medical questions on this page; we hope these will assist you in determining whether or not you need to bring your pet into the clinic. If however, after reading these, you are in any doubt at all, please feel free to call us during business hours at 505-265-4939.
- Why do dogs eat grass?
- When do dogs/cats come into heat?
- What can I do about my dog eating poop?
- Can I give my cat Tylenol?
- I forgot to give my dog his heartworm preventative pill on time; what should I do?
- It’s going to be extremely cold out tonight, and my dog stays outside. Is there anything special I should do for him?
- Why is my dog scooting?
- Why does my dog/cat have bad breath?
- Do I need to worry about a skin lump?
- Why does my dog/cat have runny eyes?
- Why can’t I vaccinate my own dog/cat for rabies?
- Why is a series of puppy/kitten shots necessary? Will my pet need to have the series every year?
- What is a dog’s or cat’s normal temperature?
- How do I remove a tick from my pet?
Truthfully, this is a question with no known answer. Even veterinary nutritional experts do not know the answer. There are many theories, however, including dietary mineral deficiency, inadequate fiber, nausea, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. Many people report that when their dog seems sick, he goes to the backyard to eat grass, and then vomits. But which comes first…the stomach upset or the eating grass? Certainly, a stomach full of grass will lead to nausea, but this doesn’t mean that a dog intentionally meant to induce vomiting. It’s actually quite unlikely that a dog can make that many intuitive leaps in logic (hmm…I feel bad…I should vomit…Grass makes me nauseous…I’ll eat grass to make me vomit!). The most likely reason a dog (or sometimes a cat) eats grass is that there is something about the taste that is appealing; perhaps the grass is bitter and tangy.
Female dogs usually come in heat (estrus) twice a year; on average the heat cycle takes about three weeks to complete. Female cats are different; they come into heat seasonally. Cats cycle at approximately 21-day intervals during the spring, summer, and fall.
The ingestion of fecal material, termed coprophagia, can be a frustrating problem for dog owners. There are a few documented medical reasons for coprophagia: pancreatic disorders, intestinal malabsorption disorders, diabetes mellitus, and others. In many dogs, it is unclear why they like to eat stools, but it may just be one of those weird dog taste preferences (see Why do dogs eat grass?). Treatment depends on whether the coprophagia is purely a behavioral problem or is a symptom of an underlying medical problem. For those dogs displaying feces ingestion for what appears to be behavioral reasons, your veterinarian may prescribe a product that changes the taste of stools, making it unpalatable.
No! Cats should never receive Tylenol (acetaminophen) for any reason. In cats acetaminophen is very toxic; just one tablet can cause anemia, bloody urination, and liver disease, resulting in death. In the case of ingestion, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
Both Heartgard Plus and Sentinel, the most common oral heartworm preventative products, should be given on a monthly interval. If the dosing interval exceeds one month (30 days), the efficacy of the products can be reduced. For optimal performance, the medication should be given once a month on or about the same day each month. If treatment is delayed, whether by a few days or many, immediate treatment with Heartgard Plus or Interceptor and resumption of the regular monthly dosing regimen minimizes the opportunity for the development of adult heartworms.
Dogs need protection from extremely cold nights. Shorter-haired dogs need more protection than double-coated or long-haired dogs. Light bulbs can be hung in the doghouse for heat, or you may want to bring your dog into the garage, basement or laundry room for the night.
Scooting can be a sign of anal gland impaction. The anal glands are located on each side of the rectum. They fill with fluid that is normally expressed or eliminated during a bowel movement. Anything that interferes with this normal draining process can cause the glands to become full, or “impacted,” and will make the dog uncomfortable. Sometimes the impaction is bad enough to form an abscess. To treat this problem, the doctor drains the glands, either manually or surgically. Scooting can also be a sign of tapeworms. Tapeworm segments pass out of the dog’s rectum, and often catch in the fur on the legs and tail.
Bad breath or “halitosis” is often caused by chronic periodontal disease with bacteria, living under the gumline. A normal healthy mouth has 750 million bacteria per ml of saliva. In dogs and cats, as in people, most oral odors are a result of the by-products of oral bacteria located above and below the gumline. Low-grade gingival disease usually exhibits minimal disagreeable odor. As gingivitis progresses, the bacterial population changes from the typical aerobic, gram-positive bacteria to anaerobic, gram-negative rods like Bacteroides, Fusobacterium, and Actinomyces species. These anaerobic bacteria produce more volatile sulfur compound by-products which result in more significant mouth odor. As a general rule, the stronger the bad breath, the worse the mouth disease.
Oral malodor can also be due to other reasons including oral tumors, immune-mediated oral disease, upper respiratory infections, sinusitis, tonsillitis, lipfold pyoderma, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, diabetes, and others.
To learn more, read Dr. McGuire’s article about the prevention of dental disease in the Pet Care Library.
Some lumps are cancerous, or malignant, and the doctor may want to remove these surgically before they get too large. In general, small lumps are easier to remove than large ones. The first step is for the doctor to examine the cells that make up the lump. This is done by gently extracting a few cells with a needle (a procedure called a needle aspirate) and examining them under a microscope. Some lumps — lipomas — are made of harmless fatty cells, but some are cancerous. Just as with humans, the sooner a tumor is removed, the better the chance for recovery.
Runny eyes may have many causes, and pets should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Causes include infection, allergies, foreign bodies in the eye, corneal ulcers, and others. Treatment depends on the specific cause of the problem, and could involve antibiotics for infection, antihistamines for allergies, or others. The wrong medicine can often make the problem worse, so a patient should always see a veterinarian first before eye ointment or drops are prescribed.
State law requires that a licensed veterinarian administer the rabies vaccine to ensure it has been given properly and for accurate record-keeping purposes. Rabies is still a serious public health problem, and rabies-control officers keep accurate records of the number of rabies vaccines given and the type of vaccine used. If your pet should ever bite someone, the doctor will be able to officially confirm his/her vaccine status.
The early series of vaccinations ensures a good level of protective immunity in young puppy or kitten. This is the age when they are most susceptible to many of the contagious diseases. Adult pets will need yearly vaccine boosters, but will not need to repeat the series.
Cats and dogs have higher body temperatures than people, so they sometimes feel “hot” to the touch. A normal dog or cat body temperature is 100º-102.8º F (37.7º-39.3º C). The best way to see if your pet is running a fever is to take his/her temperature with a rectal thermometer.