Important Health Issues for Cats and Dogs
Obesity in dogs and cats has become an increasingly important issue in the United States. Studies by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention show that more than half of all U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese.
Common problems associated with obesity include:
- Lower life expectancy
- High blood pressure
- Heart, respiratory, and kidney disease
Many owners overfeed and under-exercise their cats and dogs, unaware that they are doing harm to the long-term health of their pet. To prevent obesity, control your pet’s food portion sizes, and provide the opportunity for regular exercise with walks and toys. Keep an eye on calories of food and treats that you give your pet as well. Determining the proper serving size depends on the breed, size, and age of your dog or cat. Consult an Animal Medical Care veterinarian for professional guidance.
If your dog or cat is already overweight, you will have to put them on a weight loss regimen. This must be planned and executed with care. With a veterinarian’s guidance, decide on the best combination of exercise and food reduction that will help your pet lose weight in a healthy way.
In the heat of summer, pets are at risk for heatstroke, which can lead to permanent organ damage or death. Cats and dogs are not able to sweat and can have difficulty cooling off during the hotter months, so be sure to take a number of steps to keep them cool:
- Provide cool water
- Ensure access to rooms that do not get much sunlight
- Exercise pets during the morning or afternoon, when it is cooler
- Provide outdoor shelter from the sun
- Do not leave pets in a car
If your pet appears to be overheating, bring it indoors, provide cool water, and apply cool, moist towels to his or her fur. Do not use ice water, as extremely cold water can cause blood vessels to constrict and hinder cooling.
Wind, snow, and ice during winter months also pose a danger to dogs and cats. The easiest way to protect them is to keep them indoors as much as possible. Staying warm consumes energy, so make sure that your pets have a little extra food and water.
Keep outdoor exercise brief, and do it during the warmest part of the afternoon. Outdoor cats may seek warmth in the underbellies of cars. Before you start your engine, bang loudly on your hood and peek underneath the vehicle to make sure it’s all clear.
Be sure to keep a watchful eye on your pets during the extreme temperatures of the year. If you see strange behavior and cannot remedy it with the strategies listed above, bring your pet into Animal Medical Care.
While heartworms are more common in dogs, cats are also potential hosts for the parasites. Heartworms can cause fatal heart and lung damage in both animals and should be taken very seriously. Heartworms are transmitted primarily through mosquitos, which absorb blood infected with the microscopic eggs of heartworm, then bite another animal and transmit the parasite.
Signs and Treatment
Signs of heartworm often do not manifest until the situation is in a very dangerous stage. Symptoms include persistent coughing, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Because symptoms usually appear late in the process, it is essential that you take steps to prevent heartworm before it develops, in addition to bringing your pet into Animal Medical Care for regular check-ups.
If your pet does have heartworm, one of our Animal Medical Care veterinarians can take a number of steps to stabilize and administer a treatment that will kill the parasite. If caught early enough, there is a high success rate in removing the parasite from dogs and cats. The treatment options are different for dogs because they are the ideal host for heartworms, while cats’ systems often do not support the worms for long.
Testing and Prevention
You should give your pet monthly or biannual preventative medicine in pill or topical form. These preventative treatments kill larval tapeworms before they can develop into dangerous adults in your pet. In addition to regular medicine, you should bring your pet into our offices for an annual check-up to ensure that tapeworm is not developing in their system.
Regular exercise is essential for the physical and mental well-being of your pets. The need for movement and play is innately bred into dogs and cats. Their ancestors were natural roamers and hunters, and that drive is still present in our pets.
If this need for exercise is not satisfied, a number of issues can develop. You can give your pets exercise by taking them on walks, playing fetch, providing toys, and many other methods. Giving your dogs and cats outlets for daily exercise will improve their behavior and physical health.
Be sure to manage their body temperature during the summer and winter and match the amount of food and water they consume with the amount of exercise they are receiving. To learn more about keeping your pets healthy or to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian, contact us today.