1. Vaccinations
  2. Spaying/Neutering
  3. Heartworm Disease
  4. Pet Toxins
  5. Bloat
  6. Arthritis
  7. Summer Heat Alert
  8. Pet Insurance
  9. Pet Etiquette

It is of utmost importance that you keep up with your pet's vaccinations. When you adopt a pet, carefully review its vaccination history. If very little information is available (especially for adult animals), the pet should be vaccinated just to cover all bases. Parvo, Distemper and Rabies are tragic and deadly diseases that can be completely avoided by vaccinating your pet. Remember that just one or two shots may not be effective; puppies need to be vaccinated several times before they reach 1 year of age and adults need to be vaccinated every 1-3 years, depending on where your pet lives. Talk with your veterinarian about the most effective vaccination schedule for your pet. Keeping your pet healthy is all up to you! Low-cost vaccinations are available at Austin's Wellness Clinic. Visit Animal Trustees Wellness follow the clinic links for information on vaccination schedules and pricing or call them at 512.451.9355.
As a new pet owner, make sure you do not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. Many of the dogs and cats that come into rescue are there because of unwanted breeding. Spaying or neutering your pet ensures that you do not repeat other pet owners' mistakes. Spaying or neutering can also protect your pet from reproduction related diseases and reduce unwanted behaviors such as marking, roaming, and even some aggressive behaviors. The statistics on pet overpopulation are staggering. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 6-8 MILLION dogs and cats end up in animal shelters each year and 3-4 MILLION dogs and cats are euthanized each year. In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats, and in six years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs. Please be responsible and spay or neuter your pet. In Austin, low-cost (and sometimes free) spay/neuters are available through Animal Trustees of Austin, follow the clinic links for spay neuter or call 512.450.0111 and Emancipet, 512.587.7729.
Heartworm Disease
Heartworm disease is a very dangerous, and sometimes fatal, illness transmitted by mosquitoes. A dog with heartworm disease can literally have hundreds of worms living in its heart which can slow or even block the flow of blood to the heart. Signs that your dog may have heartworms are coughing, decreased appetite, weight loss, listlessness and lack of endurance. Treatment for heartworms is usually expensive and requires that the dog be crated quietly at home for up to 6 weeks to prevent dead worms from blocking blood flow and causing an embolism. Prevention is simple, easy and effective. Puppies should be started on heartworm preventative as recommended by your veterinarian, usually around 2 or 3 months of age. Dogs over 6 months of age must first test negative for heartworms prior to beginning heartworm preventative. Heartworm preventative consists of either a chewable tablet given once monthly, or the new six-month heartworm injection. Feline heartworm pills are also now available. Please consult your veterinarian as to the best type of preventative for your particular pet. Low-cost heartworm tests and heartworm preventative are available in Austin at Animal Trustee's Wellness Clinic. Visit Animal Trustees Wellness Clinic for more information, or call them at 512.450.0111.
Pet Toxins
There are many toxins in our homes and yards that can harm our pets. It is important to make sure that these particular chemical, foods and plants are out of reach of children and pets. Below is a general list of poisonous substances: If you think that your dog may have been poisoned, the first thing to do is try to identify the poison. Most products containing chemicals are labeled for identification. Read the label then call the Poison Control Center.

If your dog digested and swollowed toxins, try to enduce vomiting by giving the dog a small amout of hydrogen paroxide (1-3 teaspoonfuls), then get the dog to your vet, so they could stop the absorption and provide necessary treatment.

If your dog has a poisonous substance on the skin or coat, wash it well with soap and water or give a complete bath in lukewarm (not cold) water. Even if the substance is not irritating to the skin, it should be removed. Otherwise, the dog may lick it off and swallow it. Wash with a mild detergent, such as Ivory soap.

As always, the best treatment is prevention.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) - Bloat
Canine bloat (stomach torsion) is a serious medical condition of dogs. It is more properly termed Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus complex (GDV). Almost every breed of dog has been affected by GVD, but the condition is seen more commonly in large, deep-chested breeds, such as the Great Dane. GDV is an extremely serious condition, and should be considered a life-threatening emergency when it occurs. Dogs can die of bloat within several hours. Even with treatment, as many as 25-33% of dogs with GDV die.

The gastric dilatation is one part of the condition and the volvulus (torsion) is the second part. In bloat the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. This makes it difficult for the dog to breathe, and compresses large veins in the abdomen, thus preventing blood from returning to the heart. Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, thus pinching off the blood supply. Once this rotation (volvulus) occurs and the blood supply is cut off, the stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted and the animal's condition begins to deteriorate very rapidly. Not all dogs that have a gas buildup and resultant dilatation develop the more serious and life threatening volvulus. However, almost all dogs that have a volvulus develop it as a result of a dilatation.

GDV is a very serious and life threatening condition. Understanding the signs, prevention, and need for prompt treatment will help reduce the risk of mortality if your dog develops this problem.

Symptoms of a Bloat:
This condition in the dog has a sudden onset, usually within one to two hours of eating a large meal. The dog is first breathless and, if examined closely, the abdomen is excessively large. The symptoms include restlessness, pacing, rapid onset of abdominal distension, rapid shallow breathing, and nonproductive vomiting and retching. Profuse salivation may indicate severe pain.

The dog will stand, lie still, or move only with caution. He will generally pass feces and gas so that eventually the entire gut with the exception of the stomach has been emptied. There are often attempts at vomiting although these attempts are rarely successful. In a period varying from one-half to three hours, the stomach becomes grossly distended, and there is severe dyspnea, or difficulty in breathing. The dog may live up to 36 hours but many will die within one to two hours. If the dog's condition continues to deteriorate, especially if volvulus has occurred, the dog may go into shock and become pale, have a weak pulse, and a rapid heart rate.

What should you do if your dog has a bloat?
Rush the dog to the vet!

All dogs with a bloat must be rushed to the vet. It will require an emergency surgery to save your pet. The sooner you get the dog to the vet, the better chances they have to save the dog. Usually the animal is in shock, or predisposed to it, so intravenous catheters are placed and fluids are administered. Antibiotics and pain relievers may be given. The stomach is decompressed either by passing a stomach tube or inserting a large needle into the stomach and releasing the gas. After the animal is stabilized, x-rays are taken to help determine whether or not a volvulus is present. Some dogs with GDV develop a bleeding disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which small clots start to develop within the dog's blood vessels. To prevent or treat this condition, heparin is given, if indicated.

Once the dog is stabilized, surgery is performed to suture the stomach in a way to prevent it from twisting again (a procedure called Gastropexy). If Gastropexy is not performed, 75-80% of dogs will develop GDV again. If areas of the stomach or spleen have been irreversibly damaged, they are removed. In such a case, the chances for recovery are very poor, and euthanasia may be an alternative.

It is never easy to see a beloved pet and friend in pain. Medical treatment of Degenerative Joint Disease (osteoarthritis) has greatly improved in the last several years thanks to the introduction and approval of several new drugs and supplements.

Weight management is the first thing that must be addressed. All surgical and medical procedures will work much better if the animal is not overweight.

Exercise is the next important step. Restrict the amount of exercising, yet still maintain adequate movement to increase or maintain muscle strength. Swimming is an excellent way for dogs to maintain muscle mass, but place minimal stress on the joints. Jumping in all forms is bad for dogs with arthritis. It is important to exercise daily; exercising once a week may cause more harm than good if the animal is sore for the rest of the week and becomes reluctant to move at all.

Keep your dog warm. Arthritis tends to worsen in cold, damp weather. A pet sweater will help keep joints warmer. Provide a firm, orthopedic foam bed. Beds with dome-shaped, orthopedic foam distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on joints. Place the bed in a warm spot away from drafts.

Your dog may benefit from massage. A soothing massage of the affected area helps relieve stiffness and soreness. Remember, your dog is in pain, so start slow and build trust. Start by petting the area and work up to gently kneading the muscles around the joint with your fingertips using a small, circular motion. Gradually work your way out to the surrounding muscles. Moist heat is also beneficial. A water bottle or soaked towel works best.

Going up and down stairs is often difficult for arthritic pets, and for dogs, it can make going outside to urinate and defecate very difficult. Many people build ramps, especially on stairs leading to the outside, to make it easier for the dogs to go outside

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two of the supplements that have recently become widely used in treating both animals and humans for osteoarthritis.

When a pet has degenerative joint disease, the joint wears abnormally and the protective cartilage on the surface of the joint gets worn away, and the resultant bone-to-bone contact creates pain. Glucosamine and Chondroitin give the cartilage-forming cells (Chondrocytes), the building blocks they need to synthesize new cartilage and to repair the existing damaged cartilage. These products are not painkillers; they work by actually healing the damage that has been done. These products generally take at least six weeks to begin to heal the cartilage and most animals will need to be maintained on these products the rest of their lives to prevent further cartilage breakdown.

Buffered aspirin is an excellent anti-inflammatory and painkiller for dogs. (Do NOT give your cat aspirin unless prescribed by your veterinarian.) It can be used along with Glucosamine/Chondroitin products and is safe for long-term use. With all aspirin products used in dogs, there is a risk of intestinal upset or in rare cases, Gastric ulceration. Because of these problems, it is recommended that if a dog develops signs of GI upset, the product be discontinued until a veterinary exam can be performed. (By giving aspirin with a meal, you may be able to reduce the possibility of side effects.) Regular aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen have many more potential side effects and are not recommended without veterinary guidance.

Carprofen (Rimadyl) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory developed for use in dogs with Osteoarthritis. Carprofen is a very strong and effective painkiller and anti-inflammatory agent. It is a prescription product and because of potential side effects, careful adherence to dosing quantity and frequency must be followed. This product is often used initially with Glucosamine therapy and then as the Glucosamine product begins to work, the Carprofen dose is reduced or eliminated.

Some forms of degenerative joint disease can be treated with surgery. For example, hip replacements in dogs with Hip Dysplasia are becoming more common. Other procedures can also be performed, but their success rests upon how many bony changes have occurred in and around the joint. Please see the article on the specific joint disease for extended discussion on the surgical treatment options for that disease.

Each dog with arthritis will need to have a management program specifically designed for his needs. What helps one dog with arthritis may not help another. Work with your veterinarian and watch your dog carefully so that between you, your dog, and your veterinarian you can determine what is best for your dog. Realize, too, the program may need to be changed as your pet ages, or if symptoms improve.
Summer Heat Alert
Every year near the start of summer, we begin to hear news stories about young children dying in hot cars. What we hear about less often, because they are rarely reported, are the cases in which companion dogs die similar, terrible deaths. These animals' deaths are tragedies that occur with alarming frequency, yet are entirely preventable.
As the summer heats up, its important that people be made aware of the dangers of leaving their companion animals inside hot cars. Every year, dogs die after being locked inside cars while their guardians work, visit, shop, or run errands. Warm weather can literally be a killer for a dog left inside a car. When it's 85 degrees out, the temperature inside a car, even with the windows left slightly open, can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes, and reach 120 in just half an hour. On hotter days, the temperature will climb even higher.
If you come across a dog already in heat-related distress, call the local police department and/or animal control. The dog should be drenched in cool water immediately, and taken to a veterinarian for emergency treatment.
Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive panting, drooling, a bright red tongue, weakness, staggering, seizures, and eventual loss of consciousness. Emergency care is a must. Prevention is very simple --

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(Thanks to the San Diego County Department of Animal Control for the above information.)