Make Sure Your Pets Are Safe If Something Happens With You

Many people do not think about how much their pets rely on them every day. If you think about it, they are completely reliant upon you to provide them with food, water, shelter and all of the aspects of life that happen on a daily basis. While this is never a concern for most pet parents who take great joy in caring for their animals, even the best and most concerned pet parent will many times forget to take precautions in case anything was to happen to them. Most people do not think about what would happen if they were injured or died, and even though you take great care to spell out instructions about family members in those cases, people forget about their pets.

If you were injured in an accident and were unconscious in the hospital, is there someone who would be notified that you have pets in your home that need food and water? This simple thought eludes many people, as they assume the police would take the time to figure it out. This is not the case, and if you live alone and do not have any close relatives who would know that you have pets, it could be days or weeks that your animal has no food or water before anyone figured it out. If you are hospitalized, the procedures are to figure out your best care, and there is nobody in place who has the job of coming to your home to find out if you have pets that need care. In cases where people cannot communicate or are unconscious, there is no way of conveying this information to someone. This is why it is always suggested to keep a card or note in your wallet or purse along with your identification and insurance information that states how many pets you have and where they are located. It is also a good idea to inform neighbors that you would be putting them onto the information card as a contact who can be called to care for the pets in the house, as neighbors are not on a contact list for people who are injured, and hospital staff can usually not be bothered to leave their duties to travel to your home. Specify a neighbor’s contact information and give them permission to be contacted and enter your home to care for your pets if you cannot.

In the unfortunate circumstance of you dying, who will care for your pets? Shelters are filled with animals whose owners have passed away and the next of kin does not want to care for the pet. It is always a good idea to specify in a will or other document where your pet is to go in the circumstance of your death. Contact your friends and relatives to ask them if they would be comfortable caring for your pet if you were to die, and if they are not then contact someone else. Precautions must be taken because there are no services in place to track down those who would want your pets if you do not specify. If you were to die without making arrangements, your pets will end up at the local shelter.

Some simple precautions on the parts of pet parents can make your pet’s lives more bearable if something was to happen to you, just like the case with human beings. Take a few minutes and create a contact card for your wallet or purse, and make a few phone calls to see if your friends or neighbors would take your pets if something happens to you. You can be a good pet parent even if you are not able to be with them directly, it only takes a few minutes.

Changing Weather In Las Vegas

little puppyAnyone who has lived in Las Vegas for more than a year realizes that the weather changes pretty dramatically and pretty quickly here, and with the first day of fall now officially over, we can expect the change to colder temperatures to be happening over the next few weeks. While this break from the heat of the Las Vegas summers is welcome for most residents, we must take into consideration how this change of weather affects our pets, and what we must do to keep them safe and healthy. In Las Vegas, it is never suggested to keep your pets outside for extended periods of time during any part of the year, but what we will observe many times is pet owners feeling that it is safe to keep their pets outside of the safety of their home for longer periods of time as the weather cools off. While the imminent threat of heat may not be as obvious as it once was a few months ago, it is important to remember that your pets are still exposed to the elements during the cooler months as well, and while we do not have much for snow in Las Vegas, we do get freezing temperatures that can be quite detrimental to your pet’s health.

Cooler weather in Las Vegas also brings about the additional concerns of predatory animals who find their food sources getting scarce as winter sets in. Combined with leaving pets outdoors for longer periods of time becomes problematic as you are exposing them to possible interactions with wolves, coyotes, and large birds who are venturing closer to your home as their regular food supplies begin to dwindle. Typically, predatory animals are opportunistic and will avoid residential areas unless they are forced to seek food closer to humans, but it is always a good idea to realize that these types of animals look at small pets as food sources, and will attack them if given the opportunity. In this regard, the best way to keep your pets safe is to keep them indoors when you are not supervising them.

Another concern is water when animals are left outside for longer periods. Although the water that is left outside for your pets may last longer without drying up in the cooler weather than during our summers, animals will still need access to freshwater every day even if it is not hot outside. When people find that they can leave their pets unattended for longer periods, many times they forget about the ongoing needs of the animals simply because it is not a constant reminder. When your pet is outside they are essentially on their own, yet confined into an area where they cannot seek water from any other source other than you.

Insects are another issue with leaving your dog outside in cooler weather. Your pet is curious, and will potentially be bitten, stung, or infected by any one of the hundreds of different types of insects in your yard. Just because you do not see them does not mean that your pet will not find them when exploring your yard. Take precautions and always be on the lookout for insect bites or stings on your pet. If they encounter an insect and are stung, get them to a veterinarian immediately.

The cooler weather in Las Vegas is a welcomed break that can allow you to spend more time with your pets outside walking, playing, and relaxing. Keep aware of your surroundings and remember that your pet needs you.

Pain Management In Pets

Pain management in pets is one of the more difficult aspects of veterinary science, due to the fact that animals will typically hid their pain as much as possible due to their natural instincts to appear healthy.  Due to the fact that they will show as few telltale signs that they are in pain as possible, we cannot know for certain that the drugs, treatments and therapies are working without noting the small behavioral changes that would show improvement when compared to the past.  In animals who are elderly are in a weakened condition already, it can be very difficult to notice the differences without careful observation.  In cases of chronic arthritis where the animal may have been struggling with pain for years and may be lethargic and slow moving naturally, the expectations of seeing the animal running and playing would probably never happen, so the determinations of if the pain management program is working or needing to be modified is reliant on far more subtle observations.  While there are many different approaches to pain management and hundreds of possible combinations of drugs, surgeries and therapies, coming the the correct mix for your particular animal is probably going to be a process of educated trial and error until the animal appears happier and healthier.  There are no x-rays that actually show pain, they only show the makeup of the bones, joints and internal organs that can cause the pain.

Most pain management programs in pets come about as a result of the pet parent noticing changes in their pet’s behavior.  Where they used to run and play, they are now beginning to lay still and sleep more.  Other potential signals that an animal is in pain is excessive panting, avoidance of touch,licking their feet or body parts, whining and limping.  If you are noticing changes in your pet that involve any of the symptoms that are discussed above, or potentially any other changes to your pet’s behavior, it is probably time to speak to your veterinarian about pain management.  The first step will be a thorough examination of your pet to see if the source of the potential pain can be pinpointed.  In many cases, x-rays can show areas where bones may be rubbing together, nerves may be pinched and arthritis is progressing.  Once these kinds of determining factors are explored, the next step is to begin to consider the options to see if the pain might be able to be relieved surgically or through therapy, or if there is no alternative except ongoing managing of the pain.  When the options of eliminating the sources of pain are exhausted, the next logical step is to attempt to reduce the amount of pain that is being endured.  This is where pain management in pets becomes a series of decisions based upon how severe the pain is, the quality of life of the animal, and the ability of the pet parent to bear the financial responsibility of the drugs and therapies.

The most common form of pain management in pets is treating older animals who suffer from arthritis.  Just like human beings, over time the body does not function as well as it did when younger, and the lack of adequate padding between bones causes them to rub together and cause damage.  In other cases, arthritis or degenerative joint disease causes inflammation of the joints which leads to ongoing, localized pain.  In cases like these, the treatments are much the same in pets as in humans, combining a diet that assists in keeping bones and joints healthy and supplemental drugs which will reduce inflammation and pain.  In cases of arthritis in pets, many times the pain management process will involve a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs like Rimadyl and pain reducers like Tramadol, which is the generic name for analgesic drugs like Ultram, Tramal and Zydol.  Rimadyl must not be used in larger portions than are prescribed by your veterinarian due to potential complications like liver damage that can result from over-use.  Narcotic-like drugs that reduce moderate to severe pain can be used in larger percentages to body weight (generally .45 to 1.8 milligrams per pound of body weight every 8 to 12 hours for Tramadol,) which is why in many cases pet owners will find that they quickly hit the limits that Rimadyl can be safely used within, and the next step in attempting to relieve pain is the increasing of the dosages of the drugs like Tramadol.  The veterinarian will usually experiment with dosages over time, asking the pet owner to watch for signs of improvement and adjusting the medications dosages until the correct balance is achieved that keeps the animal as pain-free as possible.  It can be expected that this process will take a few visits discussing the animal’s demeanor with the veterinarian.  Side effects of narcotic drugs like Tramadol can include tiredness, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting.  Overdosing on any drug should result in an immediate visit to an emergency veterinary center, as it can cause the pet’s lungs and heart to stop functioning.

The last option must be considered if the animal cannot find relief from the options that are available.  If the quality of life of the pet is compromised and there are no options left that effectively manage the pain, euthanasia is a consideration.  While no pet parent wants to consider this option, in many cases there are no other options that can assist the animal and the pet suffers needlessly.  This decision is an extremely difficult one that must be made with careful consideration from both the pet owner and veterinarian.

Keeping your pet as happy and pain free in their senior years is a challenge, and the options for pain management that are at the disposal of pet parents have a very large range, many times now extending into treatments that were once only considered for humans.  Acupuncture, massage and alternative medicine has become popular in the past decade for animals, as have therapy centers where  everything from physical rehabilitation to water therapy programs can potentially provide results that were not possible before. Pain relieving surgeries that were once thought of as “only for humans” are also available through specialized centers.  All in all, there are many potential pain relieving options at your disposal, and either your veterinarian or a specialist recommended by your veterinarian can help your pet to live out their older age comfortably.

What Happens During My Pet’s Exam?

What Happens During My Pet's Exam?When a veterinarian examines your pet for a routine checkup, they are looking at your animal’s vital signs, possibly taking blood samples for testing against known potential health risks, looking for signs of disease or infection, and generally taking into account any changes that can be noticed since the last time they were seen.  Weight loss and attitude changes in the pet are some of the telltale signs that something might be wrong, and at the visit, the veterinarian is looking for signals that there may be something wrong that can be treated.  Many times, the pet itself will not give any physical signs of illness, and not yelp, or cry during their daily activities.  This is due to the fact that animals will hide their illnesses or injuries through instinct, as in the wild an animal that is sick or injured is easy prey for predators.  Your pet is a patient that is not willing to give many signs of illness, so it is the job of the veterinarian to use the knowledge of physical signals to diagnose illnesses or injuries even if you or I would not see them.

During the examination, the veterinarian may do additional procedures to get a better understanding of what is happening inside of the pet’s body.  This is usually the case if the veterinarian finds some area of concern and wants to get a better look.  This will generally involve x-rays or bloodwork.  An x-ray will allow the doctor to see inside the pet’s body, giving them the ability to see the shape, size, and position of bones and internal organs.  The doctor will be able to get a sense as far as things like enlarged organs or arthritis inside of your pet that could need treatment.  In addition to x-rays, bloodwork will allow the veterinarian to get a sense of the chemistry of your pet’s body, and look for specific deficiencies or diseases that can be seen through elevations or low counts of specific chemical bodies in the blood.  Things like diabetes and cancer can help to be diagnosed through bloodwork.

In addition to typical veterinary exams, Pet Health Hospital also utilizes a system of “pet wellness” tests, which compare your pet’s health status, breed, and age to other known cases.  What this does is gives the veterinarian a baseline of known characteristics of good health in a pet like yours, and also pinpoints specific potential health issues that are known to exist in pets like yours.  Each breed and type of pet has specific issues that we have learned affect them, and by looking for the specific signs that we know exist for that type of issue we can potentially identify it earlier and provide more effective treatments.  Combining preemptive analysis of the pet’s health with vaccinations and regular maintenance procedures, we find that we can help pets live longer and healthier lives by avoiding known conditions that lead to expensive surgeries and treatments.  This is what makes Pet Health Hospital so special, and why we hope that you choose us for your veterinary services.

What Happens During A Veterinary Dental Cleaning?

veterinary dental cleaning

As a responsible pet owner, you always have the best interest of your pet in mind, and you want them to remain as happy and healthy as possible.  Even though it is not necessary for animals to brush their teeth the way that humans do, a periodic dental exam and cleaning can assist your pet in avoiding very serious complications that can make them quite unhealthy.  Additionally, your pet may have cracked or broken teeth that are causing them pain and discomfort.  This is quite common due to animal’s tendencies to chew on hard toys like hooves, bones, and hard rubber playthings.  A comprehensive dental examination and cleaning for your pet can provide long-term benefits to their health.

What to expect from the veterinary cleaning.

The initial exam is generally an awake examination of the dog or cat’s mouth and teeth.  Sometimes this is quite difficult due to the desire of the dog or cat to avoid anything going into their mouth, so some pets will provide a better awake exam than others.  This exam allows the veterinarian to get a general idea of the condition of the pet’s mouth, teeth and gums, and tongue.  At this time, the pet will probably need to have blood drawn to identify any potential issues that could complicate the process, and will determine if the pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia.

After this point, the pet will be anesthetized.  This is a troublesome time for many pet owners, who experience anxiety knowing that their pet is asleep.  The best advice for pet owners is to learn as much as possible about the anesthesia process before their pet is anesthetized so that they know what to expect and in what time frames.  Anesthesia performed by a professional veterinarian under the necessary protocol is generally very safe.  There will also be a local anesthetic administered into the pet’s mouth so that the animal will experience less pain and improve the safety of the procedure by allowing a quicker recovery time.  While the pet is under anesthesia and the dental cleaning is going on, they are not experiencing any pain.  Any pain that is encountered by the pet will be as a result of procedures that were necessary during the cleaning and can last several hours after the pet is awake.

During the dental procedure, radiographs (x-rays) will be taken so as to identify any issues below the gum lines.  These images help identify issues that are not visually apparent, like broken teeth or dead roots, periodontal disease, or infections.  A full cleaning much like the ones that people get is next.  The veterinary dentist will clean the pet’s teeth both above the gum line and below the gum line using special dental instruments that will remove tartar and plaque.  The dentist then professionally scales and polishes any part of the pet’s teeth that is visible and repairs any damaged teeth that need repair.  There may also need to be the removal of teeth that are damaged beyond the point of repair.

After the animal has recovered and is awake, they can generally go home after a short observation period.  In most cases, they can eat and drink as normal upon release, but the veterinary dentist will provide a full report of recommendations that are specific for your pet.  Follow these instructions carefully so as to reduce any pain or discomfort that your pet might feel, and prepare to keep an eye on your pet for upwards of a full day as they will possibly be very disoriented after the anesthesia.  They may whimper, cry and act in a way that is strange as they are unsure of what is going on, and are confused.  This is normal, and resting in a comfortable environment should return your pet to normal within a short period.


What To Do If Your Dog Is In A Fight, The Wheelbarrow Technique

wheelbarrow techniqueAll dog owners who frequent areas where there are other dogs present will observe a dog fight or have their dog in a fight sooner or later.  Even the most passive dogs will be attacked from time to time by other dogs, either while they are being walked or while they are loose in a dog park or another area.  Additionally, your dog coming into contact with other dogs that are not leashed, are running loose, or are not friendly can pose serious threats to your dog, who might be completely innocent of instigating a fight but finds themselves being attacked and is attempting to defend themselves.  No matter what the reason, a dogfight is a very traumatic and scary situation for human beings, as the chaos of the situation or the horrible vision of seeing your pet fighting will generally be very upsetting.  In addition to the emotional trauma of seeing your pet in a fight, dogs that are engaged are in defense or attack mode, and will usually not be able to differentiate between their owners and the attacker.  This means that when you try to break up a dogfight you may be bitten by the other dog, or potentially even be bitten by your own dog.

The best advice if you find yourself witnessing a dogfight is to not get directly involved, has the potential to be bitten is far too great.  However, if one of the fighting dogs is your pet, most people’s natural reaction is to attempt to intervene in order to save their dog.  While this does put you in danger, having an understanding of how to effectively break up the fight while minimizing your potential to be bitten is crucial.  The following steps should be memorized by dog owners so that they are automatic and will be second-nature if your dog gets into a fight:

  1. Stay calm.  Do not attempt to grab the attacking dog’s mouth to stop them from biting your dog.  If you do, chances are quite high that you will be bitten yourself.  Additionally, if you panic and attempt to grab at your own dog, you may be bitten by your own pet.
  2. Douse the dogs with water.  If there is a water bucket or a hose nearby, spray the dogs with water.  This will sometimes break up the fight while keeping you at a safe distance.
  3. Do not try to pick your dog up.  If you pick up your dog when they are being attacked by another dog, the chances are the attacker will begin jumping on you to attempt to bite your dog.  You will find yourself being attacked by the dog that was attacking yours.  If you do find yourself in this situation and the attacker is attempting to jump onto you or bite you, sharply thrust your knee into the attacker’s chest or face.  Do not attempt to push the attacking dog away with your hands or you will probably be bitten.
  4. Apply the “wheelbarrow technique.” This is a technique of disrupting the dog’s balance by grabbing them just in front of their hind legs and lifting them up.  By placing all of the dog’s weight onto their front legs, their balance will be disrupted and they will stop attacking.  The problem is that if you are alone and another person is not present to lift up the other dog in a wheelbarrow technique, you only disable the defense of your own dog.  If you are able to enlist the help of another human, instruct them to lift up the hind-quarters of the other dog to separate them.  If there are no other humans, use the leash from your own pet to loop around the attacker’s hindquarters and lift the dog using it.

Dogfights happen very quickly, and without much that can be recognized by humans as a “signal” that will prepare you for a fight.  The best bet is to be as prepared as possible in the event that a fight could happen at any time, and understand what to do if it does.  To reiterate, the safest strategy is to not get involved as you run a very great risk of being bitten, but if you must get involved, use the “wheelbarrow technique” to diffuse the situation as much as possible.

Help! My pet got stung by a scorpion!

ScorpionLiving in Las Vegas, we have a great number of insects that are only found in desert climates, and unfortunately, many of these insects have bites and stings that can be quite painful, if not deadly to pets and humans alike.  Without going into a list of insects that are common to the Las Vegas valley that will frequently sting or bite pets who interrupt them, we will discuss a few of the most common.   As an expansion to areas of Las Vegas that have remained as an un-inhabited desert for many years happens, we find many insect populations coming into close contact with us every day, even though many people can claim to have never even seen one of these types of insects previous to moving to a specific area of Las Vegas.  We will be discussing scorpion stings, and what to do if your pet is stung by a scorpion.

Animal Reactions to Scorpion Stings

In states such as Arizona, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, scorpions are quite common and are often seen by humans either hiding in shadows or sometimes right out in the open.  All types of scorpions have venom in their sting, but the severity of the reaction that the pet will have to the sting has to do with the concentration of the venom, and the amount delivered by the sting.  One of the most poisonous types of scorpions is the Arizona bark scorpion, the DeathStalker scorpion, and the fat-tailed scorpion.  There are known cases where scorpion stings can kill a human being within minutes, so it cannot be stressed enough that if either you, a family member, or your pet encounters a scorpion to avoid it.  If you or your pet is stung, it is crucial to get to a hospital or animal hospital as soon as possible in order to be examined by a doctor familiar with scorpion stings.  Some can kill an average-sized human being in just a few minutes. So what should you do if your dog or cat is stung by a scorpion that is common in Las Vegas, which is also one of the most poisonous (the Arizona Bark scorpion?)

If your pet gets stung by a bark scorpion, and you have found the insect which stung the pet (so that you can know for sure that it is a bark scorpion) you should act quickly to get your pet to the veterinarian, but do not panic as the typical reaction to the scorpion bite on an animal is comparable to the sting of a bee.  They will generally be exhibiting a great deal of pain, potentially yelping and crying, and possibly holding their injured paw in the air.  Generally, within a 24 hour period, the animal will fully recover from the sting and no longer be feeling pain, however, if the sting occurs in the mouth of the animal (actually very common as pets are curious of insects crawling on the ground and will attempt to eat them or bite them) the venom can have a more serious effect.  Deaths have occurred within animals being stung by bark scorpions in the mouth or nose, so we cannot reiterate that if you believe your pet has been stung to get them to an animal hospital immediately.

When to Bring Your Pet to the Vet

If your pet is exhibiting paralysis, difficulty breathing, swelling or skin, drooling, or collapse,  get them to a veterinarian immediately.  Since bark scorpions are typically nocturnal, many stings that occur on animals happen at night after your veterinarian is closed.  For this reason, we suggest that you always know the route to the nearest 24-hour animal hospital, along with their phone number.  Because the bark scorpion packs so much venom into its stings, they are a serious concern even in cases where the animal is only showing symptoms of pain or discomfort.  Allergic reaction is also a potential complication that can have very serious consequences.   You will usually notice your pet acting unusual within 10 to 15 minutes after the stinging incident, so the venom is already inside of your pet and time should not be wasted. Without medical intervention, there is a chance that your pet will die.

First Aid for Scorpion Stings

For stings by not-so-venomous scorpions, there are first aid measures that you can take to alleviate pain and swelling and to promote healing and recovery. Here are a few tips.

1. Apply a thick paste made from baking soda and water.

This blend is a popular home remedy for scorpion stings which also work well when applied onto affected animals. Make sure to apply the paste on the skin to increase effectiveness. Part the fur to get the mixture onto the affected site.

2. Restrict your dog’s or cat’s movements.

Any form of movement can increase the heart rate and circulation, which then further spreads the injected venom into the body more quickly. Therefore, encourage your pet to stay put. Put it in a container, such as a carrier, so that it won’t be able to move around a lot.

3. Place a cone collar on your pet.

Animals like to nip or lick their injuries. But this will only encourage the venom to spread faster. In addition, gnawing on an injured site could result in infection.

Animals frequently bite or lick an area that is injured.  This is an action that will cause the venom to spread more quickly and possibly cause an infection of the area.  Do not allow your pet to bite or lick the sting by placing a cone collar on their neck.  It is a good idea to have a cone collar in your home if you live in an area that has scorpions or other venomous insects.