Archive for the ‘Pet Health Issues’ Category

The Importance of Cat Dental Care

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Dental care for your cat is pretty important. A lot of people don’t realize this, but they should be checking the teeth of their cats regularly because issues can mean a sign of bigger problems, or can lead to them eventually, just as the case is with humans.

Brushing a cat’s teeth is important. It should be done fairly often, with the right kind of toothpaste made specifically for cats.  Introducing a toothbrush can be a slow process as your cat may resist, so it’s best to start by rubbing the gums with your finger,  then trying it with a piece of gauze and massaging the gums and teeth. Slowly, they may become more used to the process and you can try a toothbrush.

Without dental care, cats can deal with things like tooth decay, gum inflammation which can be potentially dangerous,  gingivitis an even cysts.  These issues can cause tooth loss,  difficulty eating and can potentially be a sign for an even greater infection that can be a serious issue for your pet’s health.

Taking care of your kitty is important and Rescue Pet Supply Cat Dental Section has all the items you’ll need to keep on top of their dental care.

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The Cat Series

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

It was noted that most of the posts provided have more information on dogs and so I have devoted a section below on more cat specific problems: osteoarthritis, urinary problems and a warning about anorexia in cats.

Osteoarthritis in cats

Cats get arthritis but it is often found in different places than dogs typically have arthritis and cats show symptoms in different ways.  Cats may have arthritis of the elbow joints and wrist, hips and knees as well as the back.  Even if the locations are the same, cats manifest this in ways that dogs do not.  Typically cats are less vocal and more aloof than dogs.  When cats are experiencing pain from osteoarthritis, they often self limit their activities.  Because most owners do not take their cats on walks frequently, this pain or exercise decrease may not be apparent.  If behavioral changes are noticed, they may be written off as less activity due to aging or laziness.  Older cats may become less active over time, but the activity changes can often be related to a disease process if the owner and veterinarian look for it.

Signs of osteoarthritis: Mainly, painful cats will begin by decreasing their jumping activities – either onto or off of objects.  This decreased activity is not as overt as not moving around (which some cats begin to reside in only one room) and so as an owner, you have to note that “Fluffy” is not jumping on the table or couch to eat or be petted anymore.  If you notice this, you should mention it to your veterinarian and schedule a checkup or mention it at the next physical, assuming that is not many months away.  Some cats will become more aloof – spending more time alone, away from people and other cats in the household.  This can be indicative of other problems, but when combined with lack of jumping, may be a good sign of arthritis.  Other changes may include increased or decreased grooming and appetite decreases (most often).  If you take your cat in for a visit, be sure to ask your veterinarian to do an orthopedic workup or exam which may involve radiographs (x-rays) to locate and document arthritic changes to bones.  Please be aware that some cats do not have defects that can be seen on films but this does not mean that treatment should be withheld, especially if pain was detected on the exam.  These radiographs can help document changes over time.

Treating arthritis with cats: Various medications can be used to treat pain and discomfort but many of these CANNOT be purchased without a veterinarian writing a prescription.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin are often prescribed to people to control pain from osteoarthritis (OA).  These medications can be used in cats, but please be aware that over the counter versions of the medications are for people – ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) CANNOT be given safely to your cat.  Aspirin should be used only after discussing with your veterinarian as other, safer medications are available for use in cats, by prescription only.

Narcotic pain relievers are generally frowned upon by human physicians to control OA due to potential addiction concerns.  Some medications of this type can be used in cats especially in severe cases of OA, but please be aware that they are not the first line of treatment.

Steroids may occasionally be used to decrease severe inflammation.  Joint injections can also be done to help with pain.  These are not often performed by your local veterinarian and an orthopedic or pain specialist may be more likely to do this.  There are many side effects to steroids, so they are generally avoided for chronic problems like OA.

Supplements are frequently used to preserve and/or slow further deterioration of joints that are affected.  These products include glucosamine, chondrotin, MSM, omega 3 fatty acids and glucosaminoglycan injections that may help repair or decrease inflammation in damaged joints.  Some of these products will be prescribed by veterinarians to help with the pain and inflammation of arthritis.  You can choose to use oral products prescribed by your veterinarian or try to find them at a pet retail outlet.  However, be aware that most of these products are not approved by FDA and therefore you should show discretion if you choose a product that your veterinarian has not recommended as Consumer Reports and other organizations have shown that human/animal supplements often contain significantly less of a supplement than what is claimed on the product label.  The better products will often be more expensive and have the label “processed in an FDA approved facility” which means quality control mechanisms are in place at those facilities.  At the clinic where I work, we use a few different products but these companies are willing to share test data to show that their products contain what they claim to contain. I have found with supplements you often get what you pay for.

Alternative Therapies.   Cold laser, chiropractic and acupunture have variable success rates in alleviating pain and resolving some conditions in animals.  In the last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) denounced the use of acupuncture to help with pain relief and treating some medical conditions.  These therapies are not indicated for all cases of OA or all patients.  However, the proof is always based on the outcome that you see in your pet.  Cold laser therapy is showing success with some cases of OA and especially with soft tissue injuries.  Chiropractic has been used successfully to alleviate pain and help in joint pain.  You should discuss alternative treatment options with your veterinarian and get a referral to a veterinarian who performs these procedures.  As a note, in most states the only people who are licensed to practice on your animal are veterinarians who have received training in acupuncture, chiropractic, or cold laser therapy.  Please ask for proof of certification/training if you are not sure about who is providing you with these alternative services.

Exercise In most osteoarthritis, keeping your pet moving and using the joints that are affected is very important.  Exercise can reduce chronic pain, maintain the joint structure and function as well as help prevent decreased range of motion that can result in stiffness and lack of mobility.  You should discuss possible exercise regimens or activities to help your cat stay mobile.

Other treatments may be available in your area to help your cat experience decreased pain from osteoarthritis, but first you have to recognize the signs of arthritis and take your pet to be seen by someone who will help.  In the treatment of arthritis, earlier diagnosis and treatment is often better because it can extend the quality of life of your pet.

Urinary tract conditions in cats

Cats can experience a variety of urinary tract problems.  I will just list a few of the potential ones that can occur.  Please note that this is not exhaustive and just addresses a few of the top problems that are most often seen in cats.

Is there blood in the litter box?  Have you seen your cat straining or heard him vocalizing while urinating?  Does your cat have accidents on the floor outside of the litter box or somewhere else in the house?  If you have seen any of these symptoms, you can may have one of the problems below.

Urinary tract infections (UTI). When we think of urinary problems, we often think of infections of the bladder with bacteria that cause frequent urination and blood in the urine.  UTIs can occur in cats but occur more often in older cats than in younger cats.  Urinary tract infections are typically more common in female than male cats and may be associated with bladder stones.  Therefore, if you have a cat with recurrent urinary tract infections, bladder stones may be a problem that should be considered.  This means that radiographs (x-rays) of the pelvis will need to be taken to see if some of the most common stones are present.  In addition to antibiotics, a special food may be prescribed for your cat.  If bladder stones are really large or blocking urine flow, surgery to remove stones may be considered.

Sterile Cystitis.  Cystitis refers to inflammation of the bladder.  Sterile cystitis affects young cats more than older cats and looks like a UTI (see signs above).  The reason it is considered different from urinary tract infections is because no bacteria or other agent is found in the urine.  This condition is often recurrent.  No cause is known but it is typically associated with cats who get stressed easily, have a previous history of this condition and do not drink a lot of water or eat wet food.  It is possible that the bladder becomes sensitized to concentrated urine and encouraging water consumption will decrease its occurrence.  Feeding wet food to cats also decreases the risk of sterile cystitis.  Without a culture, many veterinarians will still prescribe antibiotics to prevent any infection.  Unfortunately, decreasing stress, increasing water availability and offering wet foods are the easiest and most likely things you as an owner can do to prevent recurrent sterile cystitis.

Urethral plugs and obstructive urinary disease.  Urethral plugs are made up of white blood cells, mucous and other debris that blocks exit of urine from the body.  Plugs are typically found in male cats, while female cats can experience small bladder stones or large plugs that block the urethra, the canal that allows urine to exit the body.  In either of these cases, you will typically see your cat straining with no or very little urine coming out.  This is an emergency that should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.  Cats can only go about a half a day without potentially causing harm by not being able to urinate.   Therefore you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately or call the emergency clinic if you notice straining.  If you have time before the appointment, monitor how much urine is coming out – none, a little bit (few drops), intermittent amounts (large amount one time, a small amount the next).  Be careful of your cat’s lower body (abdomen) when you load him into the carrier. because the bladder may be very full.  If your cat suddenly stops straining but no urine is seen, do not assume that the condition has resolved; this is a life-threatening emergency because the bladder may have ruptured inside the body.  At first this will relieve pain, but without treatment your pet will die.

Inappropriate urination or elimination is the last topic I will mention.  This is a very frustrating situation for many cat owners.  This condition is defined by a cat urinating outside of the litter box, but I will put a caveat on this definition, with no definitive physical reason (see above concerns for a few) to cause him/her to do so.  For example, if you close the door to the room(s) with the litter box(es), and the cat pees on your carpet, that is not inappropriate urination because the cat could not get to the litter box.  However, if the cat walks by the litter box and pees in front of you that would be inappropriate urination.  In this case, the cat should be evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out other physiologic problems but a few things can be done at home to help alleviate the problem.  Other medical treatments may be necessary in addition to these things you can do on your own.

If the inappropriate elimination just started, before having a health checkup, check the following list to determine if your pet is eliminating outside the litter box due to cleanliness or dislike of the box.

First, make sure that you have at least 1 litter box per cat in the household.  Also, place one extra litter box somewhere else in the house if you have at least one per cat.  Therefore, if you have 3 cats, you need 3-4 litter boxes based on this recommendation.

Secondly, choose a litter and litter box that your cat actually likes.  You can buy covered and uncovered litter boxes as well as different types of litter.  Buying small bags of several litter types such as beads, clumping litter and clay litter provides variety in texture to your cat.  Rotate in the various litter types into different boxes, but keep one box with a litter type your cat has previously used.  Be aware that some cats do not like scented litters and will not use scented litter even if he likes the texture – so when in doubt get unscented litter.  A small amount of baking soda can be mixed in to mask smells if you do not like unscented litter.

Third, clean the litter box daily or at least a few times a week.  When cleaning the box, if your eyes water or over ½ the litter is hard or stuck to the box, your cat may be avoiding this litter box due to high ammonia levels or the box not being clean.  Clean this box immediately and add new litter.

Fourth, clean the sites/clothing etc. where your cat has eliminated with an enzymatic cleaner from a pet store.  Sometimes animals will continue to use or mark a spot if a smell is present.  Your cat will likely have a keener sense of smell and may be marking the soiled site.

Fifth, if all of the above items are done, check that your cat is not vocalizing during elimination and   blood is not in the urine or stool.  A medical visit should be scheduled immediately if blood is seen or vocalizations are heard.

Finally, you can purchase products containing feline pheromones from a pet store.  Using this product in the house may decrease the stress that your cat is experiencing and reduce inappropriate elimination.

Start with the first 3 items on this recommendation list if they are not currently being done and

clean the site(s) of soiling really well (#4).  Your cat’s behavior should change quickly if the litter box numbers and cleanliness were the problem.  If the behavior still does not change in a few days, you should definitely check item #5 – for discomfort or pain from your pet.  Pheromone products can be tried but often do not work without other behavioral techniques or acceptable litter boxes, therefore, recommendations (1-4) should be attempted before using pheromones.  Often pheromones are used in combination with medications prescribed during a clinical evaluation from your veterinarian.

Inappropriate elimination  should be dealt with very quickly to avoid habitual soiling.  I have found that pets who engage in this behavior for longer periods of time prior to intervention are harder to break from the habit of eliminating outside of the litter box, even when all physical problems have resolved.

Anorexia in cats and why it should not be dismissed

Cats are prone to certain diseases that many other animals are not.  One of these diseases, hepatic lipidosis, came to mind in the last few weeks.  Hepatic lipidosis is a condition that can result from a cat not eating at all or not eating enough food for as few as two days to several weeks.  This starvation results in excess fat from the body clogging the liver and requires meticulous care to resolve successfully.

In addition to the anorexia for even a short period of time, cats show a continual decreased appetite, lethargy and/or drastically decreased interaction with you and other animals in the household.  If you are very observant, you may be able to tell that your cat is jaundiced or yellowing of skin and eyes.  Often cats with hepatic lipidosis will not seem like themselves and they may have lost a significant amount of weight.  If you notice that your cat is not eating or has not been eating for several days, you should take him or her to your veterinarian to be evaluated.  You may need to have blood tests run to determine if hepatic lipidosis is present.  This condition is life threatening and the longer you wait the more severe the condition could become.  Dogs and many other animals can go many days without eating enough without developing hepatic lipidosis.  However, any decrease in appetite in a cat that lasts more than a day or two should be taken very seriously.

This concludes our cat series.

SMason, DVM

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Nutramax for Horse Health

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

You love your horse; that much is true. And no doubt you want your horse to be as healthy as possible. While it’s true too that simply feeding and exercising your horse are great ways to stay on top of that, there are in fact other things that you can do as well. Supplements, for example, are a great way to buttress an already great regimen of health for your horse.

Nutramax Laboratories has proprietary veterinary researched specifications that are unique in their ability to bolster health in animals. Cosequin Equine Powder, for example, a product created under such standards, is the number one veterinarian recommended brand for horse supplements. Why is that?

Because it’s created to help and maintain a horse’s joints. It simultaneously supports the structure of cartilage and stops the enzymes that try to diminish cartilage. And that’s great, because you want your horse moving freely, comfortably, and without pain. Helping a horse maintain healthy joints is an important piece in ensuring that remains a possibility.

So, because you love your horse, take a look into some health supplements. Start with the number one recommended brand powered by Nutramax proprietary specifications while you’re at it. Your horse, and its joints, will thank you.

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Dog Boots: Necessity, Not Accessory

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Like most rational minded people, I scoffed when dog boots first made it onto my radar. In my mind, this seemed on the same level as painting your dog’s toenails or decking Fido out in a Hermes scar: a mindless activity of the rich and fabulous.  Clearly, this is a frivolous, superficial, and totally unnecessary purchase. Or is it?

It’s a given that these booties will seem silly at first glance, but upon closer inspection a set of legitimate rationales for outfitting your furry friend in some dog boots appear. It’s come to my attention that just because dogs are born with “shoes” built into their paws, some canines need a little extra protection from the elements. Dog boots are particularly important for canines living under certain conditions such as extreme heat or cold or rough terrain. These pups should be donning boots for sure. For those living in run of the middle average temps and solid terrain, it is less important – but still not completely without reason.

Still unsure? Here are some warning signs to watch for. If your dog is exhibiting any of these, it might be time for boots.

  1. Blisters, burns or swelling on the paws.
  2. Cracks or cuts
  3. Redness
  4. Seeds and burrs stuck between the paws.
  5. Any sign of discomfort when handling your pup’s paws.

 

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Dog Boots Protect Them From Dirt and Infection

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

When you walk your dog, you probably don’t think too much about where they are walking or what surfaces are beneath their paws. But it is important that you do because these things can really affect their health. It is one thing if you are walking them on a regular concrete surface, but if you are heading out into a wooded area or somewhere wet and muddy or swampy, there’s a lot of bacteria that can breed in those areas. Not to mention, tons of bugs like ticks, spiders, and other insects that can bite.

Getting dog boots can be a way to protect their paws from a lot of things. Whether it means keeping them from getting bit, or from taking a wrong step and getting cut and an infection, boots will be comfortable enough for them to walk in, but provide a layer between them and anything that could be harmful.

Dog boots come in a variety of sizes to accommodate your pooch, from the smaller pups to larger dogs.  And they will be comfortable for them so they won’t have any issues walking.  You can find all you need in terms of dog boots and other accessories at Rescue Pet Supply.

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Horse Care and Hoof Health

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Hoof health is of the utmost importance when it comes to horses.  It is where infections and injuries tend to occur the most and they can cause further health complications. It is important that you often pick out the feet of your horse. In the process, you should look for a variety of things.

Thrush is one of the biggest bacterial infections that horses get. It is fairly common but can be treated quickly. The first sign is a foul smell and dark ooze coming from the cleft. You’ll want to have it treated right away. If left to continue, it can cause lameness and hoof damage. A vet can recommend you the perfect over the counter treatment.

You should also be keeping a lookout for any punctures.  If it turns out that an object is still in the foot, don’t pull it out. Let it be checked by a professional first.  Cracks are also another thing to check for. some are superficial, but some can be deeper and more serious.

For hoof care in general, Rescue Pet Supply carries a good deal of over the counter treatments that can help restore your horse’s health to as good as new.

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Dental Care for Your Cats

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Cats, and dogs, often suffer from the same diseases that humans do. Nearly 85% of adult pets have periodontal disease. If left untreated, the bacteria can actually spread through the pet’s bloodstream and infect major organs. But other dental issues can occur too, such as gum disease and tooth decay –resulting in a loss of teeth. Obviously your veterinarian will check your cat’s teeth during examinations, but you should be keeping an eye on his mouth at home too.

There are plenty of dental care products to keep your kitty’s mouth happy and healthy. Try to brush your cat’s teeth at least two time a week. There are special toothbrushes available, as well as ones that slip over your index finger. Start by doing just a few teeth at a time if your cat is uncomfortable. Many chewable treats and other products are on the market that have an abrasive texture to help remove food debris and plaque from the teeth. It’s best to start these practice when your cat is still a kitten instead of waiting until you notice a problem

Look for cat dental products at Rescue Pet Supply. And when you’re in need of carriers, healthcare products, and other great supplies, shop trusted brands like  Pet Gear, Nutramax, and much more at our store.

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Treating Ringworm and Fungal Infections

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Ringworm is a common fungal infection among pets, especially dogs, cats, and even horses. The infection invades the hair and hair follicles. It is transmitted by spores in the soil that come into contact with the hair. But dogs and cats do not just get it, humans can too. Actually, humans can transmit the infection to their pets and vice versa. Children are actually very susceptible. Either way, it needs to be treated right away.

Warning signs include a spreading circle of hair loss with scaly skin at the center and a red ring on the periphery. The infection itself isn’t itchy, but a secondary bacterial infection with scabs can cause your pet to lick and scratch the area. The infection can also infect the nails which will be dry, cracked, and brittle.

The solution? Topical agents like shampoo. Malaseb and Ketochlor shampoo both fight the fungi and yeast. They can reduce the risk of transmission to other animals and humans and stop the spread of skin problems, reducing skin irritation and reactions. Read the labels of these shampoos though to make sure they are safe to use on your animal. Rescue Pet Supply carries both these brands, which can be very pricey through the vet, but much more affordable if purchased online.

Shop Rescue Pet Supply to find top brands like Pet Gear, Nutramax, Halo, and more.

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Vomiting in domestic pets

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Vomiting in domestic pets

Vomiting is a problem that can vary in severity from no big deal to life threatening emergency. Occasional vomiting in dogs and cats is often mentioned by owners because it is not viewed as a problem but they want reassurance that it is okay. Most of the time, just like with us, it is no big deal to have occasional GI upset.

Occasional vomiting in pets may be from “dietary indiscretion” from eating something outside of the normal diet or just the occasional gastrointestinal upset from having eaten too much or too fast. One common cause of vomiting, most often in dogs, is from being fed once a day. The typical signs are of this problem are often found an hour or two before eating. The vomit is often yellow to foamy vomit. In pets fed once a day, they may experience hunger before the next meal and vomit from lack of food. Often, feeding twice a day resolves vomiting from this cause.

With vomiting that is occasional, talking to your veterinarian about practical solutions to decrease the incidence of vomiting is a good solution. In pets who vomit undigested food shortly after eating, most often it is from eating too much, too fast or both. Sometimes after eating too fast or too much, the pet suffers from discomfort much the same way we do when we eat too much, and vomits because of it. Finally, hairballs are a common occurrence in cats who groom regularly or excessively. Hairballs can occur even with hairball control food, although the amount and size of them tends to be smaller than without the food. There are many products that can decrease the size and severity of hairballs. Feeding cats wet food often helps with this problem.

The typical presentations mentioned above are often not associated with any medical problems, but these symptoms should be mentioned to your veterinarian. However, when vomiting occurs more frequently than occasionally, the pet needs to be evaluated. One cause of frequent vomiting is a potentially a food intolerance. Food intolerance is not normally considered, but can be investigated by you. If your pet vomits after a specific type of food only, it may be due to not tolerating the food well. This is not a food allergy where the immune system reacts to the food; it a condition where the food irritates the stomach and causes vomiting. Food allergy can also occur but the symptoms for it are not generally associated with vomiting. With vomiting, the above possible causes can be addressed by you with the help of your veterinarian. Other causes of vomiting are often more concerning and should be addressed by your veterinarian.

The most concerning signs with vomiting are continual vomiting, frequent vomiting, vomiting that is dark, has blood in it or appears odd to you should be investigated. Projectile vomiting, vomiting that occurs with no notice, or anything else that concerns you should be looked at as soon as possible by your veterinarian. If you know or even suspect that your pet has ingested a foreign object – such as clothing, string, metal, glass or anything else- the situation should be considered an emergency and your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Unfortunately, vomiting may be associated with many problems including metabolic, endocrine or immunologic conditions. One other final and very important cause of vomiting is a reaction to vaccines. Dogs who experience a vaccine reaction from a “distemper” or rabies vaccine may vomit, have diarrhea and collapse. The above reasons may be life threatening causes of vomiting.

When vomiting is being investigated, your veterinarian will assess the situation by performing a physical exam including looking at your pet’s appearance, especially to check for dehydration. He or she may want to run blood tests to check internal organ functions, check immune function and possibly run specific enzyme tests associated with certain causes of vomiting. Depending on what your veterinarian suspects, x-rays, ultrasound and/or other tests may be requested.

Vomiting can be a very vague symptom in our pets. Unfortunately, vomiting is often associated with various problems from eating too much or too fast to cancers and foreign bodies. Therefore, if your pet vomits and you are concerned, discussing these concerns with your veterinarian and providing as much information as you can possibly remember is very important to help with a diagnosis. If you notice that a trend is starting, write down when the vomiting started, its frequency, color and texture. This information will be invaluable to your veterinarian in quickly assessing the situation and determining the best way to address it.

S. Mason, DVM

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Medication administration: Doing it right

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Medication administration: Doing it right


We often get prescriptions from our physicians or our veterinarian with directions for use. However, a big problem with both human and veterinary medicine is medication compliance. What is compliance?
It is the use of the medication as it was directed. This refers to using the right amount of the medication at the right time intervals. This article will focus on veterinary medication compliance, but some of the same questions can be asked of your physician when getting prescriptions filled.

Why is your pet being prescribed the drug?
One of the major reasons that medications are prescribed is to treat a disease or prevent disease by giving that medication. The biggest concern with compliance is correct prevention or treatment of that disease. One medication that if given correctly prevents disease by 99.9% is heartworm preventative. However, heartworm disease is very common in most states due to lack of compliance with medication. You may even want to ask what would happen if you did not use the medication and find out the cost of treatment if the disease is not prevented.

Before you buy or accept a medication, you should understand as best you are able, why your pet is on that specific medication. Get the veterinarian or a technical person in the office to explain to you why you are using this medication and how it relates to your pet’s condition. This may help you be motivated to make sure that your pet receives the medication as prescribed.

Dose the right amount and in the right way.
Carefully read the label and make sure that you understand the amount of the medication to give in number of pills or amount of fluid. If you need a measured amount for liquids, ask for a syringe for dosing oral liquid medications if the veterinarian does not give you one.

Before you take the prescription, make sure you understand the type of dosing: by mouth, in the eye or ear, or on the skin. Most oral medications (by mouth) will be given with food. This helps to prevent may of the side effects that may be seen. Vomiting is one of the most common.

Why do I need to give the medication every 8, 12 or 24 hours instead of when it is more convenient to give it when I normally feed my pet?
The most common problems with treating a disease is making sure that the dose of medication is given at the right time. Without the right dosing schedule, most medications will not work appropriately. This means that the medication may not treat the disease or that it may actually cause the pet to get ill if not dosed properly. If you cannot dose the medication as the veterinarian has prescribed, you should ask if another medication can be used.

Unfortunately, the best and most economical medication will be often prescribed for your pet at the time of diagnosis or the visit. It is better receive a slightly less effective medication or one that is more expensive than a medication that you will not be able to dose properly and consistently. This may result in a prescription for a more expensive medication. However, the cost of the medication (even if it is 2 or 3 times the cost of the original) is less than 2 or 3 additional office visits with diagnostic testing because of relapse due lack of compliance; i.e. not dosing the medication as directed.

When medications are not given as they are directed, treatment failure or lack of control of symptoms are common. If you cannot give the medication, hospitalization may also be another option to get things started and decrease the risk of relapse. If dosing is necessary very frequently (6 to 10 times a day), with a dangerous medication to humans or intravenously (I.V.), most veterinarians will hospitalize the patient to provide the best care. You can always ask about this option for the start of treatment if you cannot treat your pet easily at home.

My mantra with medication: the best medication is the one the patient will take!
Now that the medication and treatment has been set, what else can happen?

My cat or dog will not take pills or cannot take a liquid formulation.
If you know that your cat or dog cannot take a certain formulation or that sides effects were bad after a previous medication, then tell the veterinarian or a staff member during the visit. Often many drugs come in pill, capsule and/or liquid forms. If these are not available at the veterinary office, the veterinarian can call in a prescription for the pet at a pharmacy in the area where you can pick up the medication in a form that your pet can take. Although this is inconvenient to have to drive to the pharmacy, you normally have to do this for your own prescriptions.

Secondly, if a pet has had a previous reaction (vomiting, diarrhea or an allergic reaction) to a medication, that reaction may reoccur if the pet is put back on the medication. Tell the staff or veterinarian about the symptoms that have occurred before. If you are very concerned request a different medication.

My pet is having side effects such as vomiting and cannot take the rest of the medication. We are midway through a prescription. What do I do?
If you find out part of the way through a course of antibiotics or other medication that you cannot treat your pet, call your veterinarian immediately and tell him/her. The veterinarian can likely prescribe an alternate medication that will help you treat the condition. If the symptoms do not improve, another medical condition may be causing the problem.

One thing I have noted is that clients often stop treatment when a side effect occurs. This is not a problem. The major problem is that they never call the veterinarian office to let us know. If you just stop treatment, the condition may reoccur or a more difficult treatment regimen may be necessary in the future. Let your veterinarian know as soon as possible when a problem arises. I have seen pets require hospitalization when the medication was stopped for a few days. This will cost a lot more than a new prescription or a quick office visit to chart the recovery process. If you notice illness, you should go ahead and schedule the appointment because the longer you wait the more expensive the treatment tends to be.

What is the big deal about stopping the treatment a few days early? My pet took half or more of the medication.
The problem with stopping the treatment early is dependent upon what the initial problem was.

If it is a small skin laceration, there is usually less risk than with an eye or ear infection that needs topical medication. With systemic medications (given by mouth), follow up visits are very important.

One common side effect of antibiotic treatment ended early is development of resistance to the antibiotic. This is a huge problem in medicine in general. Therefore, if an antibiotic is prescribed, give it until it is gone or until the follow up visit to make sure that the condition is improving. If a recurrence is seen, call back immediately, as an extension on the antibiotic or a switch of medication may be necessary.

If this is chronic condition, such as heart disease, stopping the treatment may result in the relapse of symptoms or fast progression of the disease. With chronic conditions, this is often a problem and can cause the full disease process to result more quickly. Many medications are used to both prevent and treat development of symptoms and slow the disease progression. Without the medications, the disease process will often occur much more quickly.

Why do I need a follow up visit?
Finally, there is often a follow up visit scheduled around the time that the medication runs out for simple treatments or after a few weeks for chronic problems to check on progress. This visit is important to make sure that things are going well with your pet. Other reasons for follow up visits are to monitor the medication levels or to check enzyme levels in the blood.

For chronic problems, this is a key visit as it is used to correct anything before the disease process has time to get out of hand from your initial visit. This follow up is essential for the following conditions that we see commonly: urinary tract infections, ear or eye infections, thyroid disease, whole body skin infections, and medications given for seizure disorders.

Finally some miscellaneous concerns on called in prescriptions and costs.
Unfortunately, veterinary costs are often based on disposable income and many problems seem to crop up when we can least afford them.

Use your best judgment, but here are my suggestions.

1. Be upfront about money.
I can tell you that I am not always happy with the limits, but I can better choose how to proceed and stay within the constraints placed upon the care. This also lets me decide what tests have to be run today and what can wait until later. It is better to know that I have only $200 to work with upfront than to spend $200 on diagnostics and the owner cannot purchase any medications that are needed.

2. If you cannot afford all of the medications at one time, tell the veterinarian and only get the most important one(s).
I believe that clients should be as educated about what is going on with their pets as possible. If your veterinarian educates you about medications and why, it is often easier to determine what to purchase and he/she should be upfront about this.

3. If prescriptions are called into a pharmacy, pick them up.
Sometimes medications are not available in the veterinary hospital. If the doctor bothers to prescribe the medication, you should try to get all of the medications. However, you should understand which medications are the most important because the one that was called in may be more important than any that you can purchase from the clinic.

4. If the pharmacy prescriptions are cheaper, have them called into the pharmacy.
If money is tight and we can call in a generic prescription to a pharmacy, assuming they carry the right size, most clinics are okay doing this. However, veterinarians do worry that you may not pick up the medication if you do not get it at the clinic.

S. Mason, DVM

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