Does My Dog Need Glasses?

Ever wonder if your dog sees the world the same way you do? Do they see in color? Are they near sighted? Do they see as well as humans do?

Smart puppy

The anatomy of the eye in dogs is pretty much the same as in people. The most important structure for vision in both people and dogs is the retina, which is a membrane located at the back of the eye. The retina consists of hundreds of thousands of cells that are responsible for generating the images that we see.

Low-Resolution Vision- Objects Not As Clear

Dogs have “low-resolution vision” when compared to humans. This means that when they see an image, it will appear less sharp. This is because dogs have fewer number of cone cells (cells in the retina that help make images sharp) than people do.

Night Vision

What dogs do not see clearly, they make up for in other ways. Dogs are superior to people in night vision and motion detection in just about any light. This advantage exists because dogs have a higher proportion of rods (specialized cells responsible for night vision, motion detection and peripheral vision in the retina).

Do Dogs Have 20/20 Eyesight?

We haven’t as of yet, convinced our patients to read an eye chart, but at one time it was assumed that all dogs were nearsighted (distant objects appear blurred). But, judging from new information, not all dogs are nearsighted.

Some breeds appear to have a higher risk for nearsightedness including Schnauzers, Collies, Toy Poodles, English Springer Spaniels and Rottweilers. One study found that nearsightedness increases with age in all breeds.

This explains training frustrations when your dog is a good distance away, and looks rather confused when you give the command to come. When a dog stops and stares, it generally means they’ve lost their focal point, in this case, you.
Conversely, some breeds such as Australian Shepherds and Bouvier des Flandres tend to be more farsighted (objects up close are blurred). This doesn’t mean you should be worried that your dog may need eyeglasses. Dogs’ ability to see clearly is dependent upon a lot of factors.

Do Dogs See The World In Color?

Yes, dogs do see in color, but their range of colors is more limited. This is because humans have three types of color-detecting cells called cones- which allow us to see all colors. Instead of three types of cones, dogs’ eyes have two different types of cones in their retina that allow for color vision. These allow dogs to see colors but they will have trouble differentiating red and green – similar to people with color blindness.

Wide-angle Vision

Dog’s eyes are placed more to the side of the head than humans giving them the ability to see a broader view, wider angle of vision, but less field of depth. Because there is minimal visual overlap your dog will easily catch a ball moving sideways, but may miss the ball tossed right at his nose.

Blindness

Dogs are extremely adaptable to any type of vision impairment including blindness. Often clients are not even aware that blindness exists until the furniture is rearranged- and Fido has to learn the new arrangement.
Just because your pet is blind, don’t assume it can’t be corrected. Cataracts, once diagnosed can be surgically treated. Other problems, such as inflammatory conditions and high blood pressure, once identified, can be treated, possibly restoring vision.

Best bet is to have your dog’s eyes checked with their annual examination.

A Dog’s World

While the dog doesn’t see the world as clear or as colorfully as we do, dogs rely far less on their vision than humans. Compared to us, the canine nose and ears provide far more sensory input than we have. Dogs perceive smells long before we do- often smells we are not even aware exist. Dogs perceive a tremendous range of sounds that we can only imagine.

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Top 10 Human Medications That Poison Pets

Dogs and Cats are not like humans when it comes to drug metabolism. Although some human medications are used in veterinary medicine, the dosages are vastly different (especially in cats). When pet poisonings from human medications happen, they can be life threatening. Here are the top 10 human medications that are the most commonly seen:

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NSAIDS (Ibuprofen, Naproxen)

One of the most common problems seen is toxicity from the common household medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which include common names such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and types of Motrin) and naproxen (e.g., Aleve). While these drugs are safe in people, just one tablet can be toxic for pets. Dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, gerbils and hamsters may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.

Acetaminophen

Although safe for human children, Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) should not be given to pets, especially cats. One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen can affect red blood cells, damaging them so that they cannot carry oxygen. Acetaminophen can lead to liver failure in dogs, and with large doses can cause red blood cell damage.

Antidepressants (Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro, etc.)

Although these drugs are occasionally used in pets in low doses, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Pets, especially cats, seem to like the taste of Effexor and may eat the entire pill or pills. Just one pill can cause serious poisoning.

ADD and ADHD Medications (e.g., Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)

These and other medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in people contain methylphenidate and amphetamines which are potent stimulants These drugs can cause serious side effects including seizures, elevated body temperature, heart problems and life threatening tremors.

Benzodiazepines and Sleep Aids (e.g., Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)

Although these drugs are intended to reduce anxiety and help people sleep better, they often have the opposite effect in pets. About half of the dogs that ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedate. The other half show symptoms of severe lethargy, incoordination and respiratory depression (slowed breathing) in pets. Benzodiazepines can cause liver failure in cats when ingested.

Birth Control (e.g., Estrogen, Estradiol, Progesterone)

These appear to be a popular item with dogs that apparently like how birth control pills are packaged. Fortunately, small amounts of the medications ingested do not typically cause problems. However, the ingestion of large amounts of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression, especially in birds. Dogs and cats that have not been spayed are at an increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.

ACE Inhibitors (e.g., Zestril, Altace)

These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure in people, and occasionally pets. Overdoses usually cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness. Low doses, when ingested, may only cause mild symptoms. But, depending upon the dosage and if there is a history of kidney failure or heart disease your pet may need to be hospitalized for observation and monitoring.

Beta-Blockers (e.g., Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)

Beta-Blockers are also used in people to treat high blood pressure but unlike ACE Inhibitors, ingestion of this drug (even small amounts) may cause serious poisoning in pets. Symptoms of ingestion include life-threatening drop in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.

Thyroid Hormones (e.g., Armour Desiccated Thyroid, Synthroid)

Dogs, like people, can have low thyroid levels and require supplementation. Surprisingly, the amount of thyroid medication needed in dogs is higher than in people. Therefore, accidental ingestion of small amounts of thyroid medication usually will not cause problems. However, large amounts of thyroid medication ingested in dogs and cats can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, aggression and a rapid heart rate.

Cholesterol Lowering Agents (e.g., Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)

Cholesterol lowering medications, often called statins, are commonly used. Most statin ingestions cause mild vomiting and diarrhea. Any serious side effect seen in pets would come from long term ingestion, not a one-time ingestion.

My Pet Just Ate My Medication

If your pet eats one or more pills don’t wait for symptoms to appear- early initiation of treatment is important to prevent toxicity. Remember to bring the bottle or package with you when you seek emergency care so that the medication strength and type is easily identified.


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Allergy Relief May Be In Your Reach

Just like humans many dogs suffer from allergies. The major difference is how allergies affect dogs. Painful red and itchy skin can drive dogs and pet parents to near madness. cartoon dog scratching As a pet parent you may be suffering right along with your furry friend listening to nonstop scratching, whining and panting. Those who have lost sleep due to these impossible symptoms may have relief on the horizon with a new drug developed and just on veterinarian’s shelves.

Does Your Dog Keep You Awake At Night Scratching?

itchy_dog
Allergy symptoms include:

 •    Chewing and scratching 
 •    Licking  paws, rear, thighs and groin  
 •    Thin hair coat
 •    Scabs, skin infection, and bald spots  
 •    Overall misery for dogs and pet parents

It is still unknown why dogs or humans develop allergies. There isn’t a simple cure for allergy sufferers, just endless allergy medications to control the symptoms.

Allergy Treatments

Veterinarians encounter frustrating problems treating allergies in pets as well. Treatments to help with infection and control itching but do not eliminate the allergy itself. Treatments may include medicated baths, antibiotics, antihistamines, specialized diets, allergy injections and steroids.

Steroids dramatically decrease itchiness when used but long term usage can result in serious side effects. The best solution for allergy management (other than inventing the miracle drug that cures allergies) consists of a medication that has anti-inflammatory effects similar to steroids without the side-effects that long term steroids may cause.

Apoquel- The New Allergy Drug Choice

Apoquel is an effective new addition to allergy treatments.

A recent introduction of Apoquel now gives veterinarians an innovative drug choice to reduce itchiness and pain without the side effects associated with steroid use.

This is not intended to be a special advertizing format promoting this drug. But, if you have had the awful experience of dealing with chronic allergies in your pet, you understand the difficulty of keeping this condition under control and your pet comfortable.

Benefits include:

 -  Safety with long- term usage 
 -  Safety with other drugs (if needed) such as antibiotics 
 -  Safety with NSAIDS (which is contraindicated with steroid use)  
 -  May be used in conjunction with allergy injections.  
 -  Apoquel is effective at controlling itching in dogs with flea allergies, food allergies, contact allergies and atopic dermatitis (inhalant allergies)  
 -  Apoquel may be the new alternative for clients who pets that have suffered with allergies without success with other treatments

Apoquel- The Good News And The Bad News

The bad news- supplies have been limited since it was launched more than a year ago due to the drug’s popularity and high demand.

The good news is that supplies are finally catching up to the demand. Since the drugs introduction, clinical results have been excellent in both Europe and the United States.

If your dog suffers from chronic allergies that are difficult to control, ask your veterinarian about using Apoquel. It may make the difference in controlling the allergy symptoms your dog is experiencing.

Common Allergy Problems In Dogs Include:

 *  Hives from an allergic reaction, triggers can include insect bites, stings, drugs, vaccine 
 *  Food hypersensitivity
 *  Contact hypersensitivity;  fairly rare since haircoats protect the skin
 *  Flea bite hypersensitivity; the most common allergic skin disease of dogs and cats. Classic signs include hair loss, sometimes scabs, crusty patches. 

Allergic reactions to the flea saliva may cause major response even with the presence of a few fleas.

 *  Tick, mosquito and insect bite hypersensitivity
 *  Ear mite hypersensitivity
 *  Bacterial and malassezia (yeast) hypersensitivity
 *  Atopic dermatitis: reaction to inhaled or absorption through the skin of environmental allergens such as mold, dust, etc. 

Certain breeds are predisposed to atopic dermatitis (Cocker spanial, English bulldog, Labrador retriever, Lhasa apso, Miniature schnauzer, West Highland terrier, Boxer- to name a few).

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I-20 Animal Medical Center is a Certified Cat Friendly Practice

I-20 Animal Medical Center is certified as a Cat Friendly Practice by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). Certification requires completing a comprehensive checklist of performance criteria to verify that staff members are especially qualified and dedicated to making every visit as pleasant as possible and beneficial for you and your cat.

What is a Cat Friendly Practice?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recognize that there are unique challenges in bringing your cat to a veterinary practice, such as:

-  Cats often do not travel well
-  Cats do not feel safe when they are outside their home environment
-  Cats are highly sensitive to unusual smells, sights and sounds
-  Most cats prefer quiet and solitude
-  Most cats are susceptible to stress 
-  Most cats are stressed by dogs and other cats present in a practice setting
-  Cats need to be handled gently and with care
-  Cats have unique medical requirements that Cat Friendly Practices are capable of providing.

What is the Cat Friendly Practice Certification?

The AAFP created the Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) program and certification to assist veterinary hospitals meet the unique needs of cats that require veterinary care. An extensive checklist was designed to demonstrate that our practice:

-  Understands the unique needs of cats making veterinary visits more cat-friendly 
-  Understands how to approach and handle cats in a gentle and caring manner
-  Has appropriate medical and diagnostic equipment needed to diagnose and treat feline diseases
-  Has facilities which meet a standard of care for hospitalized cats

What Does the CFP Status Mean to You?

A trip to the veterinarian may be a stressful situation for some cats, so one of the goals of the Cat Friendly Practice program is to create a more calming environment. Staff members have been trained in how to approach and handle cats in a gentle, empathetic and caring manner.

The Cat Friendly Practice certificate has to be earned. Certified veterinary hospitals must meet a comprehensive checklist of performance criteria to verify that staff members are especially qualified and dedicated to making every visit as pleasant as possible and beneficial for you and your cat.

A veterinary practice that has earned a CFP designation shows that it has demonstrated higher levels of commitment and excellence in feline medicine. You can be confident your cat will be given exceptional care and attention through all phases of the visit including examinations, procedures and hospitalization.

What to Expect from a Cat Friendly Practice

Striped Small kitten
Each Cat Friendly Practice has at least one designated “Cat Advocate” on staff- a knowledgeable professional who ensures that your cat’s care is guided by feline-focused standards. Cat Advocates are chosen for their experience, understanding, empathetic manner and willingness to help answer any of your questions. Dr. Cindi Welch and Dr. Lindsay Robinson are both “Cat Advocate” veterinarians at I-20 Animal Medical Center.

Our goal is to help provide you with various ways to enhance your cat’s health and well-being. We are here to advise you on unique feline needs in areas such as nutrition, routine checkups, environmental enrichment, behavior and other essential issues. Our skilled CFP team can help your cat be healthy and happy.

What is the Association of Feline Practitioners?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) is a professional organization representing feline practitioners who are passionate about the care of cats. The AAFP is dedicated to advancing the field of feline medicine and surgery by setting the standards of feline care through the publication of practice guidelines, position statements, and by providing continuing education.

Through publications, education, and thriving relationships with other organizations, the AAFP engages the veterinary community and its members by facilitating the exchange of scientific data and ideas.

I-20 Animal Medical Center is proud to accept recognition and certification as a Cat Friendly Practice.

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Guinea Pig Husbandry by Dr. Lindsay Robinson

Guinea pigs make great pets! They are friendly, engaging and are fun to be around. Guinea pigs are rodents, and are closely related to chinchillas. Guinea pigs come in several main coat types, the most common being the American/European short hair (the most common kind of cavy with smooth hair) and the Abyssinian (think lion with cowlicks!). Guinea pigs can also have silky, long hair (Silkies and Peruvians) and they can be hairless! Adult guinea pigs are usually about 1-2 lbs and can live 5-7 years.

Getting to Know Your Cavy

Mother Guinea Pig and her two babies against white background
Guinea pigs are very vocal and will let you know how they are feeling. A happy pig will coo and purr when happy, and will make high pitched squealing noises when upset or scared. Guinea pigs also say hi by bumping noses! Guinea pigs are typically friendly and with gentle, slow handling will easily get used to being picked up by their people. To pick up your guinea pig, support him under the belly and hind limbs and cup him gently. Never pick up your guinea pig by the scruff, or flip him upside down.

Housing

Cages for guinea pigs should be made of stainless steel, plastic or glass, should be well ventilated, easy to clean, and offer ample space (18”x24” minimum per pig). The tops of the cages should be open, and the height should be at least 10-12” to prevent escape. Flooring should be solid and not made of wire mesh because cavies are prone to getting foot pad disease as well as toes getting caught and broken in the mesh squares.

Hide boxes or “pigloos” are essential to give your pig a sense of safety and a place of retreat. At least one hide box per guinea pig should be offered. Pick wooden or edible pigloos and avoid plastic ones as these can get chewed and ingested, which cause intestinal problems. Food bowls should be heavy to prevent tipping (ceramic are best) and water should be offered through bottles that hang on the cage. Fresh food and water should be offered daily, and bowls and bottles should be thoroughly cleaned daily to prevent bacterial buildup.

Substrate

Guinea pigs should be kept on a shredded paper, recycled newpaper, or similar product like Carefresh bedding. Corn cob, aspen, pine and cedar beddings as well as wood shavings or chips are NOT recommended due to the risk of dust and respiratory irritation. They also increase the risk of bacterial and fungal pneumonia, as these organisms can grow quite rapidly, even in bedding that is being changed frequently. Substrates should be changed and cleaned every few days to avoid ammonia buildup in the cage.

Nutrition

Guinea pigs are herbivores, and the majority of their diet should be high fiber hay. Timothy hay is best for adult guinea pigs, and should be offered free choice at all times. The hay is not only nutritious; it helps the guinea pigs keep their teeth ground down and prevents dental disease. Hay should be about 70-80% of a guinea pig’s diet. Commercial guinea pig pellets should also be offered daily (ideal brands are Oxbow, Mazuri and Kaytee). Fresh vegetables can be offered daily (see link to Vitamin C rich foods) as well as carrots as treats. Avoid broccoli and cabbage as these can cause gas and intestinal upset. Very small amounts of fruit (strawberry tops with leaves for example) can be offered rarely as treats, but too much fruit in the diet will cause intestinal disease.

Guinea pigs are special in that they need daily Vitamin C supplementation in their diet, or they develop scurvy (see below for details on scurvy). Though commercial water drops and chews are available for purchase, these are not usually recommended as they do not provide adequate Vitamin C. Vitamin C is also found in pellets, but is only viable for about 90 days once the food is made, so this is also not a reliable source of Vitamin C. The best way to give your guinea pig Vitamin C supplementation is by feeding appropriate fresh vegetables daily. See the link below for a PDF handout of recommended vegetables. Take note of the starred foods on this list; these are higher in oxalates, and should be fed only sparingly to avoid increasing the risk of developing bladder stones.

Note – avoid rapid changes in diet, as this can cause your guinea pig to stop eating and drinking, which can lead to gastrointestinal disease and stasis. Guinea pigs need to eat consistently to keep their intestinal bacteria happy, so when they don’t eat for over 12 hours, this is a problem as their normal, beneficial bacteria begin to die.

 

Medical Care

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New pet guinea pigs should be examined within the first week to look for any signs of illness and intestinal parasites. Bring your guinea pig in a carrier or travel cage for safety. Exams should then be performed once a year to make sure your cavy is healthy. Preventative spaying and neutering is helpful to not only prevent certain diseases but also increase lifespan.

Knowing the common diseases in guinea pigs and what signs to look for will help you know if you need to bring your cavy in for an exam. With exotic pets, they tend to hide signs of illness until they can no longer possibly maintain the appearance of being normal. This is because they are prey animals, and their instincts tell them that to survive they must look happy and healthy or they will be targeted by predators. Unfortunately for us, this means that usually when we first notice our pet guinea pigs are sick, they have actually been sick for days if not weeks. You usually don’t have the luxury of a “wait and see” approach to see if your cavy is going to get better without treatment. Early medical care is vital to helping your guinea pig! Below are some common diseases in guinea pigs and what signs to watch for in your pets:

Dental disease/malocclusion

Seen in older guinea pigs and younger guinea pigs fed a diet low in hay, dental disease can be a frustrating disease to treat. Because guinea pigs have continuously growing teeth, if the teeth are not ground down by chewing on food and other objects like wooden toys, the teeth can overgrow. Sharp points on the teeth can cause oral pain, infections, and even grow to entrap the tongue if left untreated long enough. Signs of dental disease include slobbering or excessive drooling, decreased appetite, preference for soft foods, pawing at or rubbing at the mouth, and intestinal upset. Treatment includes addressing the current teeth overgrowth and adjusting husbandry to prevent it in the future. Treatment is usually needed for life once malocclusion happens.

Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy)

Guinea pigs with a diet deficient in Vitamin C will develop scurvy. Signs include dental disease (with loose teeth and gingivitis that causes bleeding gums), decreased appetite, painful joints, decreased mobility due to pain, and even bowing of the long bones with fractures possible.

Dystocia (difficulty giving birth)

Female guinea pigs must have their first litter of pups prior to 7 months of age, or their pelvis bones will fuse and prevent a normal birth. Dystocia is common and treatment involves a C-section and spaying of the guinea pig at the same time if possible.

Respiratory disease/pneumonia

Guinea pigs are prone to respiratory issues, especially those housed on natural beddings and not on Carefresh. Signs include discharge or crusting around the eyes and nose, increased respiratory rate, clicks or crackles heard when breathing, and a decreased appetite. Early intervention is important so upper respiratory infections do not turn into pneumonia.

Lice

Newly acquired guinea pigs, especially those housed with a lot of other guinea pigs, can come with lice. Lice can be seen moving through the coat, and diagnosis is fairly simple because these guinea pigs are itchy! Be aware that not all over-the-counter medications designed for dogs and cats to get rid of lice are safe for guinea pigs. CONSULT WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN prior to administering anything to your guinea pig, as some medications can be deadly.

Ringworm

Just like dogs and cats (and people!), guinea pigs can get ringworm. This is a skin fungus that causes hair loss, crusting, and itching. Don’t let the name fool you – there isn’t always a circular appearance to the hair loss.

Ovarian cancer

Older female guinea pigs that aren’t spayed are at risk of developing ovarian cysts and cancer. Signs can range from decreased appetite to bloody discharge in the urine or from the vulva. Surgical removal is ideal.

Enteritis

Guinea pigs on poor diets, those with sudden diet changes, and those with underlying illnesses or stress can be prone to intestinal disease. Signs include loose fecal pellets or diarrhea, decreased frequency of fecal pellets, decreased appetite, lethargy, and with worsening dehydration, sunken eyeballs and wrinkly skin. Because guinea pigs need to eat often to keep their beneficial intestinal bacteria healthy, intestinal inflammation causing appetite loss can be deadly if not treated early. If your guinea pig has gone 12 or more hours without eating, this indicates a problem that needs veterinary attention.

A minimum of a 30 day quarantine period is recommended for any new pet being brought into a home with existing exotic pets. This is to protect the owner’s previous pets from any new diseases or parasites a new pet could be carrying. Most infectious diseases will have symptoms show up within that 30 day period. Quarantined pets should be kept in a separate room if possible, and have separate food and water bowls throughout the quarantine period. Handle your previous pets first, then handle your new pet last. After the quarantine period is over, and your new pet has shown no signs of illness and has seen a veterinarian, your previous pets should be safe from most communicable diseases.

 

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What is the Association of Feline Practitioners?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) is a professional organization representing feline practitioners who are passionate about the care of cats. The AAFP is dedicated to advancing the field of feline medicine and surgery by setting the standards of feline care through the publication of practice guidelines, position statements, and by providing continuing education.

Through publications, education, and thriving relationships with other organizations, the AAFP engages the veterinary community and its members by facilitating the exchange of scientific data and ideas.

I-20 Animal Medical Center is proud to accept recognition and certification as a Cat Friendly Practice.

Read More

What Does the Certified Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) Status Mean to You?

A trip to the veterinarian may be a stressful situation for some cats, so one of the goals of the Cat Friendly Practice program is to create a more calming environment. Staff members have been trained in how to approach and handle cats in a gentle, empathetic and caring manner.

The Cat Friendly Practice certificate has to be earned. Certified veterinary hospitals must meet a comprehensive checklist of performance criteria to verify that staff members are especially qualified and dedicated to making every visit as pleasant as possible and beneficial for you and your cat.

A veterinary practice that has earned a CFP designation shows that it has demonstrated higher levels of commitment and excellence in feline medicine. You can be confident your cat will be given exceptional care and attention through all phases of the visit including examinations, procedures and hospitalization.

Read More

What to expect from a Cat Friendly Practice

Each Certified Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) has at least one designated “Cat Advocate” on staff- a knowledgeable professional who ensures that your cat’s care is guided by feline-focused standards. Cat Advocates are chosen for their experience, understanding, empathetic manner and willingness to help answer any of your questions. Dr. Cindi Welch and Dr. Lindsay Robinson are both “Cat Advocate” veterinarians at I-20 Animal Medical Center.
medium
Our goal is to help provide you with various ways to enhance your cat’s health and well-being. We are here to advise you on unique feline needs in areas such as nutrition, routine checkups, environmental enrichment, behavior and other essential issues. Our skilled CFP team can help your cat be healthy and happy.

Read More

Rat Husbandry Information

Rats make excellent pets. They are friendly, clean, and easy to handle once they get used to an owner. Rats are extremely intelligent, and through positive reward-based training, can learn vocal cues just like dogs can! Rats enjoy living in small groups, with same-sex groupings being best. Neutering males will help them live more peacefully with other males as well.

funny rat  isolated on white background

funny rat isolated on white background


Rats tend to be more active in the evenings because they are nocturnal. Rats love to chew, and because they have teeth that continuously grow, chewing is both an enrichment activity and a necessity for them. Commercial wood chew toys, cardboard, and untreated hardwood branches (fruit tree branches are best) make great chew toys for rats. Rats range in size from 250-600 grams, and live on average 2-3 years.

Getting to Know Your New Rat

When you first get a new rat as a pet, gentle handling is necessary and you need to move at a pace that your rat finds comfortable. Too much handling too soon (before your rat gets to know you) can cause stress. Luckily, rats are typically curious and friendly creatures, and should get used to being handled fairly quickly. NEVER pick a rat up by the tail! This can hurt your rat.

The best way to pick up your rat is to gently scoop them up in your hands, or pick them up gently with your hand placed over their back. Save your rat’s treats for handling and training times – by giving your rat his favorite foods you are teaching him that it is always fun to be with you! This is called positive reinforcement training, and is the best way to teach your rat new things.

Housing

A safe, well ventilated cage is necessary for your rat’s health. Cages should be a minimum of 12” high and 24” long, but the bigger the better. If housing multiple rats together, larger commercial cages are ideal to avoid overcrowding. Cages with multiple levels allow rats to explore and exercise. Flooring should be solid to avoid trapped toes and foot-pad injuries. We do not recommend aquarium or terrarium glass enclosures because these will trap ammonia and other odors within the cage. If the cage sides are wire mesh, it is important to make sure the mesh is small enough that toes and legs cannot get stuck in the mesh squares.

Rats should have multiple places to hide in the cage; hide boxes and nest hammocks are great options for rats. Rats also enjoy a running wheel. Just make sure the wheel has a solid running surface, not open squares, because toes can get caught in the squares and cause injuries.

Substrate

We only recommend using recycled newspaper or paper products, such as Carefresh bedding, in your rat’s cage. Natural beddings (cedar, pine, aspen, and wood chips or shavings) have a tendency to grow microorganisms like bacteria and fungi, even when cleaned appropriately and often. They also can create dust that can cause allergies in both the rats and their people. Respiratory diseases are common in rats, and those that are housed on natural beddings are at an increased risk for problems.

Nutrition

Rats should be fed a commercially available pelleted diet. Ideal brands of food include Oxbow, Mazuri or Kaytee pellets. The pellets can be offered free choice (usually a ceramic dish is preferred because it is heavier and won’t spill over as easily, or a feeding hopper is also a great choice), unless your rat is getting overweight, which is a common problem in pet rats. Obesity can lead to arthritis, increased risk of mammary tumors, and breathing problems. Rats that are becoming overweight should have a diet plan made by a veterinarian and frequent weight re-checks.

Good treats for rats include fresh vegetables and fruits, and limited sweet treats like commercially available yogurt treats. Water should always be available to your rats and should be offered from a cage sipper bottle. Fresh water should be given each day. Make sure to thoroughly clean the water bottle and food dishes regularly to avoid bacterial buildup. Hot water and dish soap can be used to clean the dishes; just make sure and rinse them thoroughly.

Medical Care

New pet rats should be examined within the first week to look for any signs of illness and intestinal parasites. Bring your rat in a carrier or travel cage for safety. Exams should then be performed twice a year to make sure your rat is healthy. Preventative spaying and neutering is helpful to not only prevent certain diseases but also increase lifespan. Knowing the common diseases in rats and what signs to look for will help you know if you need to bring your rat in for an exam.

Exotic pets tend to hide signs of illness until they can no longer possibly maintain the appearance of being normal. This is because they are prey animals, and their instincts tell them that to survive they must look happy and healthy or they will be targeted by predators. Unfortunately for us, this means that usually when we first notice our pet rats are sick, they have actually been sick for days if not weeks. You usually don’t have the luxury of a “wait and see” approach to see if your rat is going to get better without treatment. Early medical care is vital to helping your rat!

Common Diseases In Rats:

Appearance of Bleeding From The Eyes Or Nose

This scares owners that see this syndrome for the first time, because it actually does look like your rat is bleeding from the eyes! This is actually called porphyrin staining. Porphyrin is a pigment that is secreted from a gland behind the eyes, and it occurs during periods of stress or illness. If you see this, it is a sign that something is wrong with your rat and he needs to see a doctor ASAP

Respiratory Disease

Most rats are exposed to a bacteria called Mycoplasma before you ever get them into your home. This bacteria causes some rats to get chronic respiratory issues like sneezing, which can then progress into a chronic pneumonia. Signs to watch for include sneezing, fast breathing, clicking noises when breathing, lethargy, and appetite loss. Antibiotics can manage this disease, but it can never be cured and lifelong management is usually necessary.

Mammary Tumors

Both female and male rats can form mammary tumors. These are benign growths under the skin that feel squishy. These tumors start out small but can get very large, very quickly. Though they are typically benign, they can grow so big that they ulcerate and cause pain. Removing these tumors with surgery early on minimizes the risk of bleeding as well as prevents them from getting so big that surgery is no longer an option. When removing the mammary tumors in females, it is also best to go ahead and spay them at the same time so that we can hopefully reduce the number of mammary tumors that develop in the future. Keeping your rat from becoming overweight will also decrease the risk of mammary tumors.

Head tilt

We sometimes see rats come in for tilting their head to one side. They can also be off balance. Causes of a head tilt can include an inner ear infection, a brain infection (usually a result of long-term Mycoplasma infection), or a brain tumor.

A minimum of a 30 day quarantine period is recommended for any new pet being brought into a home with existing exotic pets. This is to protect the owner’s previous pets from any new diseases or parasites a new pet could be carrying. Most infectious diseases will have symptoms show up within that 30 day period. Quarantined pets should be kept in a separate room if possible, and have separate food and water bowls throughout the quarantine period. Handle your previous pets first, then handle your new pet last. After the quarantine period is over, and your new pet has shown no signs of illness and has seen a veterinarian, your previous pets should be safe from most communicable diseases.

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Snake Bite Safety & Prevention For Your Dog

Now is the time of year that we see a spike in copperhead and rattlesnakes striking dogs. I-20 Animal ER has seen and treated 5 snake bite victims in the past 2 weeks. Dogs are the most common victims of snake bites although one cat we treated was unlucky enough to have been bitten.
An aggressive snake  American Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix
Snakes are commonly seen in the spring because warm weather encourages snakes to emerge from winter dormancy. Atypical cool temperatures and record rainfall in North Texas this year are influencing greater snake activity because we have seen more snake bites in dogs this spring than in previous years.

Hiking

Hiking with dogs is an activity where pets can be exposed to poisonous snake bites. Last year, a Cedar Hill couple had set out on a trail in an area they have hiked for years. Their dog, Diamond, accompanied them on their trip. When the wife was confronted by a rattlesnake two feet away coiled to strike, Diamond rushed in front of his owner, taking the full force of the poisonous snake’s bite. Realizing that Diamond was bitten the owners rushed him to our hospital. Diamond was immediately hospitalized and treated for snake bite, which included administering anti-venom. After two days of hospitalization in ICU, he luckily recovered and is doing well.

Should I Be Worried If I Live In The Suburbs?

The odds are if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex you will find a snake if you look in the right places- even if you live in the suburbs. Clients often say that the snake bite occurred when their dog was playing in the back yard. Copperhead snakes love to hide out in leaves, brush or rocks. Even small, baby copperheads are capable of inflicting painful bites. Copperhead snakes are credited with the majority of the bites in the estimated 55,000 snake bites that occur annually.

Keeping Your Home Safe

Both spring and fall weather can bring out snakes when normally you might not see them around your house. During winter snakes burrow into rock crevices or under logs to conserve heat. Once cold weather passes snakes come out to bask in the sun.

Garden mulch, stone walls, wooded areas, logs, rocks, around patios and decks – all are favorite hiding places for snakes. Keep your yard clean by removing leaves, mulch, brush or garden debris. Use caution when walking in wooded areas.

What If My Dog Is Bitten By A Snake?

Keep your dog calm. Do not try to treat the bite wound. The best advice is to bring your pet to our hospital immediately. Time is of the essence when treating snake bite. Our hospital keeps anti-venom in stock for emergency situations. Administering anti-venom as quickly as possible is the gold standard for treating venomous snake bites and can make the difference between life and death. Not all animal clinics stock anti-venom so best to call ahead of time to determine the availability of anti-venom before you choose which hospital to go for treatment.

Prevention

Consider giving rattlesnake vaccine. The vaccine lessens the effects for both rattlesnake and copperhead snake bites, but is NOT a substitute for treatment. Always seek treatment with snake bites.
Clients with hunting dogs or if you live in areas that have copperhead or rattlesnakes may want to consider Rattlesnake Vaccination.

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