Featured Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

Administering Medications to Your Dog

The first part of successfully administering medication to your dog is making sure that you understand the instructions for giving the medication. These instructions include route of administration (for example, by mouth, into the ears, or into the eyes), dosing frequency (such as once daily, every 12 hours, or every 8 hours), duration of treatment (for example, 7 days, until gone), and other special considerations (for example, give with food, follow with water).

Administering Subcutaneous Fluids to Your Dog

Fluid administration is a regular part of veterinary medical care. Any time that a patient is dehydrated or needs fluids, your veterinarian determines the best way to provide them. Fluids can be given by mouth, injection into a vein (known as intravenous fluids or IV fluids), or injection directly under the skin – a procedure known as subcutaneous fluid administration.

Aggression in Dogs

The most common and serious behavior problems of dogs are associated with aggression. Canine aggression includes any behavior associated with a threat or attack (e.g., growling, biting).

Allergy Testing

The most common types of allergies in pets are flea allergy, food allergy, and a condition called atopy. Atopy is sometimes called atopic dermatitis or allergic inhalant dermatitis, and it occurs when allergens that are inhaled or that contact the skin cause an allergic reaction in the body. In dogs (and, less commonly, cats), this allergic reaction is focused largely in the skin. Animals with atopy become very itchy; the resultant scratching can lead to skin injuries and subsequent skin infections. Atopy is usually first noticed in dogs younger than 3 years of age, although older pets can also be affected. Unfortunately, some pets that develop atopy continue to have problems throughout their lives.  

Anal Sac Disease

Anal sacs are a set of glands that are just under the skin near your pet’s anus. The two glands arelocated at the 4:00 and 8:00 o’clock positions from the anus. The anal sacs fill with a foul-smelling fluid that is normally expressed through a tiny duct when animals defecate. Animals may use their anal glands to mark territory or repell aggressors, although a nervous dog or cat may accidentally express these glands when frightened.

Barking

Barking is one of several types of vocal communication by dogs. You may appreciate your dog’s barking when it signals that someone is at your door or that your dog needs something. However, dogs sometimes bark excessively or at inappropriate times. Because barking serves many purposes, determine why your dog is doing it before attempting to address a barking problem. Does your dog use barking to get what he or she wants? For example, dogs that get attention for barking often learn to bark for food, play, and walks as well. Therefore, training your dog to be quiet on command is important so that you can teach your dog a different behavior (such as “sit” or “down”) for getting what he or she wants. Dogs of certain breeds and dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered may bark more than other dogs; therefore, it can be more difficult to reduce barking in these dogs.

Bladder Stones and Kidney Stones

Bladder and kidney stones are hardened accumulations of minerals found in urine. Common minerals involved include struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate. Dogs and cats can develop stones anywhere in the urinary tract. Stones can form in many different shapes and sizes.

Breeding Your Dog

Most shelters and rescue organizations are overflowing with mixed breed and purebred dogs that are perfectly friendly and adoptable, but there simply aren’t enough homes for them. As a result, approximately three to four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Producing more puppies, for any other reason than to improve the breed, just exacerbates the problem.

Bringing a New Kitten Home

Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. These guidelines will help you and your kitten adjust to this big change in your lives.

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most dogs before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.

Canine Anesthesia

Anesthesia is defined as the loss of ability to feel pain. However, the term anesthesia is more commonly used to refer to a state of deep sedation or unconsciousness during which a patient is unable to feel pain.

Canine Arthritis

Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and cause pain. Often seen in older dogs, arthritis can by caused by injury, infection, the body’s own immune system, or developmental problems. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (osteo = bone; arthr = joint; itis = disease) or degenerative joint disease. Normally, joints form smooth connections between bones. Osteoarthritis involves thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this can lead to reduced joint mobility as well as pain. Osteoarthritis affects one of every five dogs.

Canine Bladder Infections

The bladder is an expandable sac, like a balloon, that lies toward the back of the abdomen and is part of the system that removes waste from the body. Urine flows from the kidneys through the tube-shaped ureters and into the bladder, where it is stored before being eliminated from the body through a tube called the urethra.

Canine Chronic Otitis

Canine chronic otitis is recurrent or persistent inflammation of the ear. One or both ears may be affected. Inflammation of the ear often leads to secondary infection caused by yeast or bacterial overgrowth. This condition can be quite painful. 

Canine Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is an illness caused by the body’s inability to either make or use insulin, which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin permits the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for their metabolism and other functions. Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or when the body’s cells are unable to use available insulin to take glucose from the blood.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a serious contagious disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV), which attacks the respiratory, stomach/intestinal, and brain/nervous systems of dogs. It can also infect ferrets and many wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, minks, weasels, foxes, and coyotes. The death rate can reach 50%, and animals that do recover are often left with permanent disabilities. There is no effective treatment, but virus-associated disease is largely preventable through vaccination.

Canine Heartworm Testing

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is a painful disease that affects millions of dogs each year. It is an inherited developmental disorder of the hip joint and can lead to debilitating arthritis. Its progression can be influenced by environmental factors, such as weight gain, nutrition, and exercise. Certain breeds, especially larger ones, are particularly prone to hip dysplasia, but the disease can affect dogs of any size and breed.

Canine Nutrition

A high-quality, complete and balanced diet is important for the health and longevity of your dog. Among other benefits, a proper diet helps build strong bones, promotes healthy gums and teeth, protects immune function, and results in a lustrous haircoat. Unlike cats, which are carnivores (meaning that they must eat meat), dogs are omnivores, meaning that they can eat meat and plants as their primary food sources.

Canine Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. According to estimates, 40% to 50% of dogs are overweight and 25% of dogs are obese. Obesity is more common in older, less active pets. Dogs that are fed homemade meals, table scraps, and snacks are more likely to be overweight than dogs that are fed only a commercial pet food.

Canine Pancreatitis

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is involved in helping the body digest food. The pancreas releases enzymes (proteins that are involved in chemical reactions in the body) into the digestive tract to help break down fats and promote digestion. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as pancreatitis.  

Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a deadly disease that is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) virus. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system of puppies and dogs. It can also attack the heart of very young puppies.

Canine Senior Wellness

With many dogs living well into their teens, many owners wonder: When is a dog truly senior? The answer is that there is no specific age at which a dog becomes senior. Individual pets age at different rates. However, most dogs become senior at 7 to 10 years of age, and most large- and giant-breed dogs become seniors earlier than small-breed dogs.

Canine Urine Marking

Canine urine marking is a natural, instinctive behavior in dogs, but it is not appropriate inside the house. Dogs, especially sexually intact male dogs, urinate on objects to mark their territory or to leave a message for other dogs. Urine marking behavior usually begins when the dog reaches sexual maturity.

Caring for Ferrets

Ferrets are quiet, friendly, curious, and playful. They can be trained to come to an owner’s call or a specific sound, such as the squeak of a toy.

Caring for Your New Puppy

During the first 7 to 8 weeks of life, puppies have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a very general term used to describe several conditions that can affect the kidneys or damage kidney cells. If kidney disease progresses, it can eventually lead to kidney failure and death.

Common Household Poisons

Your home can hold a lot of unrecognized dangers for your pet. Many common food items or household products can sicken or even kill animals. However, a few simple precautions can help keep your pet safe.

Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Congestive heart failure is a broad medical term that means that a dog’s heart cannot deliver sufficient blood to its body. This condition can be caused by a failure of the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is the medical term used to describe inflammation of the conjunctiva—the soft tissues lining the inside of the eyelids and the white portion of the eye.  

Coping With Cancer

Cancer is extremely common in pets. While a diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet can be devastating, it is important for owners to realize that many forms of cancer can be successfully treated or managed to provide the pet with an excellent quality of life. It is also important to realize that in pets, just as in people, some types of cancer are now viewed as a chronic, rather than a terminal, disease. The best way to fight cancer is to detect it early and begin treatment promptly.

Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a pet. Regardless of whether the pet is old or young, or whether the loss is expected or sudden, family members and other people who were close to the pet will experience similar feelings when a beloved pet dies. These feelings, commonly called the five stages of grief, are the same as those experienced when a person passes away.

Crate Training Your Puppy

Many veterinarians recommend crate training as a good way to housebreak puppies, and in some cases, adult dogs. This training method is based on the principle that dogs prefer not to soil where they sleep. A comfortable crate not only provides a puppy with a secure, den-like atmosphere but also prevents destructive behaviors (such as chewing inappropriate items) and protects against household dangers (such as electrical wires) when a puppy isn’t being supervised.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange is an inflammatory skin condition caused by microscopic mites of the genus Demodex. These mites are transmitted from mother dogs and cats to their puppies or kittens during nursing and become normal inhabitants of the hair follicles. In small numbers, the mites usually don’t cause problems. However, in animals with certain genetic factors, metabolic disease, or a compromised immune system, the number of mites can increase, causing skin inflammation.

Dental Care

Bad breath in pets may be a sign of periodontal disease that could lead to other health problems. Periodontal disease starts when plaque (a bacterial film) coats the tooth. Plaque hardens (calcifies) into tartar, a thick yellow or brown layer on the teeth. Tartar can irritate the gums, creating an environment where bacteria thrive. As the disease progresses, the gums become tender, red, and swollen and the bacteria continue to multiply. Eventually, the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that trap more bacteria and food particles. The gums bleed, the roots of the teeth may become exposed, teeth may become loose, and your pet may feel pain when eating. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can create problems for organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Dental Cleaning

It’s estimated that 85% of all pets have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age. Periodontal disease is a progressive disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth and the main cause of early tooth loss.

Deworming and Prevention of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Dogs and Cats

Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites include any parasites that live in the stomach or intestines of a host. A variety of GI parasites affect dogs and cats. They range from roundworms and tapeworms, which are visible with the naked eye, to microscopic organisms like coccidia and Giardia. Regardless of their size, GI parasites can cause serious illness and sometimes even death in pets. Some parasites are  zoonotic, which means humans can become infected.

Diarrhea

A pet with diarrhea has looser or more watery feces than normal and sometimes more frequent stools as well.

Ear Cleaning

Ear cleaning can help treat or prevent ear problems. Some pets are prone to ear problems and may need regular ear cleanings between veterinary visits. Ear cleaning can help remove dirt and wax that can prevent medications from reaching inflamed areas. It can also get rid of allergens and microbes that may contribute to inflammation or infection.

Ear Hematoma

An ear hematoma is a pocket of blood that forms within the exterior portion of a pet’s ear. Although both dogs and cats can have ear hematomas, the condition is more common in dogs.

Ear Infections and Your Pet

Ear infections generally begin as inflammation of the skin inside the outer ear canal. Once the inflammation is present, discharge, redness, and other characteristics of an ear infection become established.

Ear Mites in Dogs and Cats

Ear mites are small parasites that live on an animal’s body, particularly in the ears of dogs and cats. Ear mites sustain themselves by eating skin cells, blood, and earwax. They deposit their waste (a dark, crusty debris) in the ear of the host animal. They also mate and produce eggs in the ear of the host. The mite’s entire life cycle is only about 3 weeks, and the mite spends its whole life on the animal. Ear mites are contagious to some other animals (for example, cats, dogs, and ferrets), but they are not contagious to humans.

Exercising Your Dog

Exercise can have many health benefits for your dog. Regular exercise burns calories, reduces appetite, improves muscle tone, increases metabolism, and improves temperature regulation. It can be a valuable contributor to weight loss and maintenance. Exercise can also help stimulate your dog’s mind, thereby preventing boredom and destructive behaviors.

Explaining Pet Loss to Children

Our companion animals are often treasured members of the family, and we mourn for them when they die or are euthanized. It is important to recognize your feelings of loss and grief and to express them in your own way. In addition, when your child is attached to a pet that dies or is euthanized, it is important to recognize his or her feelings of loss and help your child express those feelings.

Eye Discharge

Eye discharge can refer to any type of fluid that comes from the eye. Most healthy pets have eyes that are clear, bright, and have minimal discharge. However, some types of eye discharge are completely normal. Each time your pet blinks, tears are released from tear ducts and bathe the surface of the eye to provide moisture and deliver oxygen and nutrients. Some pets produce more tears than others, so increased wetness of the eye is not always a medical problem. Some pets can also have crusty material at the corners of their eyes when they wake up. This is usually easy to clean with a damp tissue and is not considered a problem in most cases.

Fecal Analysis

A fecal analysis is a test that examines your pet’s stool to detect intestinal parasites, including worms (hookworms, roundworms, whipworms) and other organisms (coccidia, Giardia). It can also detect other abnormalities, such as increased numbers of bacteria in the stool. If your pet develops diarrhea, vomiting, or weight loss (clinical signs frequently associated with parasites), your veterinarian may want to perform a fecal analysis to help determine if parasites are part of the problem. However, some pets have intestinal parasites without any obvious clinical signs, so your veterinarian may recommend performing a fecal analysis during your pet’s regular wellness examination visits.

Feeding Your New Puppy

When deciding what to feed your new puppy, make sure you get reliable, professional veterinary advice.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a severe allergic reaction to a flea bite. Both dogs and cats can develop FAD. Affected pets have an extreme allergic reaction to certain proteins in the flea’s saliva, which the flea injects into the pet’s skin during biting and feeding. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a reaction.

Flea and Tick Prevention

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort for your pet and can also cause serious diseases.

Grooming Your Dog

Grooming does more than make your dog look good. Regular brushing, bathing, and—if necessary—trimming can help keep your dog’s skin and haircoat healthy, and if you can teach your dog to enjoy these activities, grooming can be another way to strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Heatstroke

The word stroke comes from “strike,” and heatstroke means “to be struck down by heat.” Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition suffered when a pet is unable to lower its body temperature. Cells in the body become damaged when the core body temperature is between 106°F and 109°F.

Helping Your Itchy Pet

Itching can make pets absolutely miserable, but it is actually a sign of an underlying problem.

Hookworms

Hookworms are internal parasites that generally live in the small intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. These worms attach to the intestinal tissue and suck blood and other nutrients from their hosts.

How to Administer Ear Medication to Your Dog

Many eye conditions in dogs require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your dog becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your dog, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer Eye Medication to Your Dog

Many eye conditions in dogs require medicine to be put directly into the eye. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your dog becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your dog, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Administer a Topical Medication to Your Dog

Many conditions in dogs require medicine to be applied to the skin. This procedure can be relatively easy, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. The most important guideline is to always put health and safety first. If, for any reason, your pet becomes so agitated that you feel you are at risk of being bitten, stop. If the procedure seems excessively painful for your pet, stop and get your veterinarian’s advice.

How to Give Your Cat Liquid Medicine

Liquid medications are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid for easier administration. If you have trouble giving your cat pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible for specific medicines.

How to Give Your Dog a Pill

Medicines in pill or capsule form are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, but many dogs dislike taking pills. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid or a powder for easier administration. Some medicines for dogs come in a chewable “treat” form. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible or a treat form is available for specific medicines.

Human Foods That Are Dangerous for Dogs and Cats

A number of human foods are dangerous to pets. Many of these foods may seem tasty to our pets but can prove deadly if eaten. It can be very tempting to offer pets food from the table, but pets should not be given human food unless recommended by your veterinarian.

Intervertebral Disk Disease

In dogs and cats, the vertebrae (bones of the spine) are cushioned on either end by disks of soft cartilage. Occasionally, these disks can rupture, or herniate, into the vertebral canal, causing compression of the spinal cord. This condition is known as intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). Spinal cord compression is painful and can affect nerve supply to the legs and other areas of the body.

Keeping Your Pet at a Healthy Weight

Pet obesity has become a very common problem. Studies indicate that nearly 50% of adult dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and that percentage increases among older pets. Obesity increases the risk for other serious health problems, including osteoarthritis, diabetes (in cats), heart and respiratory diseases, and many types of cancers. Overweight pets are also at increased risk for complications during anesthesia if they need to undergo surgery or other procedures. And if a pet already has a health condition, obesity makes the problem that much harder to manage. Being overweight can also lower your pet’s energy level and hamper his or her ability to enjoy an active lifestyle with you and your family.

Kenneling Your Dog

Even being in the best kennel is stressful for many dogs. If your dog does not tolerate boarding well, consider using a pet sitter or arranging for your dog to stay with a friend or relative while you are traveling. If kenneling your dog is your only option, the following guidelines can help improve your dog’s stay at a kennel.

Lick Granuloma

A lick granuloma is thickened, raised area of skin that is often hairless, inflamed, infected, or ulcerated, resulting from excessive, repetitive licking or chewing. These lesions are typically found on the lower legs, and may occur alone or on more than one limb.

Lipoma

A lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) mass that is made of fat cells. Owners often notice these lumps on the chest, abdomen, and limbs of their pets, but lipomas can also occur inside the chest and abdomen.

Lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma)

Lymphocytes are white blood cells that normally work to protect the body as part of the immune system. Occasionally, a change occurs within the cells that causes them to become destructive and reproduce uncontrollably. This is a type of malignancy, or cancer, called lymphoma or lymphosarcoma. Dogs and cats may be diagnosed with lymphoma. Boxers, golden retrievers, and basset hounds are dog breeds that are at a higher risk for developing this type of cancer.

Medical Causes of Weight Loss

Weight loss can result from decreased intake of calories, malnutrition (inappropriate diet), inadequate absorption or digestion of food (leading to malnutrition), or alterations in metabolism that make the body burn more calories than it is taking in. However, weight loss is not always an immediate cause for concern—it can be normal for pets to lose or gain small amounts of weight from time to time. For example, dogs may gain a little weight in the winter due to decreased activity and then lose those extra pounds when the weather warms up and activity increases. In fact, many pets fluctuate within a range of a few pounds on a regular basis.   

Microchipping Your Pet

It is recommended that you identify your pet even if you don’t plan to let him or her go outside. Even “indoor” pets can get out by accident, and many lost pets are never returned to their owners because they have no identification. Collars and tags are popular, effective methods of identification, but they can come off. Microchips, which are implanted just under the pet’s skin, are one way to permanently identify pets.

Motion Sickness in Dogs

Just like people, dogs can have motion sickness, which can make even short car rides stressful for dogs and their owners. Fortunately, there are ways to ease or eliminate your dog’s motion sickness, including conditioning your dog to car rides and using medications recommended by your veterinarian.

Neutering

Neutering, also known as castration, is a surgical procedure that involves removal of the testicles. It is a common surgical procedure performed on male dogs and cats to eliminate the ability to impregnate females. Neutering is also used to treat certain medical conditions, such as testicular cancer, anal tumors, and some forms of prostate disease.

Patellar Luxation

Normally, the patella (kneecap) sits in a groove at the bottom of the femur (the major bone of the upper leg), where the femur and tibia (the major bone of the lower leg) meet at the knee. The patella is held in place by tendons and ligaments that keep it relatively stable against the femur. Patellar luxation occurs when your pet’s patella luxates from (slips out of) its normal position. The kneecap can slip to either the inside (medial patellar luxation) or the outside (lateral patellar luxation) of the femur.

Pet Health Insurance: What's Right for Your Pet?

Pet insurance can help you budget for unforeseen medical expenses for your pet. Generally, the premium cost for a good policy is low compared with the relative peace of mind and financial help it can offer. Sorting through the various plan choices and options, however, can be daunting. Here are some tips to help you make sense of the process.

Pet Sitter Instructions

The best way to develop a good relationship with your pet sitter is through open, honest communication. To help ensure that your pet is properly cared for, give your pet sitter detailed written instructions, and discuss them with the sitter. Ask the sitter whether he or she has any questions regarding the instructions. Give the sitter the written instructions before your trip and leave a copy in plain view in your house.

Pregnancy in Dogs

Pregnancy is the time between conception and birth when puppies develop and grow inside the mother’s uterus. By day 40, the fetus has eyelids, claws, and hair, and the gender is apparent. While toy breeds tend to have smaller litters of one to four puppies, larger breeds may carry as many as eight to 12 puppies. After 56 and 70 days, or about 2 months, puppies are ready to be born.

Puppy Socialization

Socialization is the learning process through which a puppy becomes accustomed to being near various people, animals, and environments. By exposing puppies to different stimuli in a positive or neutral way, before they can develop a fear of these things, owners can reduce the likelihood of behavior problems in the future and help build a stronger bond between pets and the rest of the family. The critical time to socialize a puppy is during the first 3 to 4 months of its life.

Puppy Training

Like children, puppies need to learn the appropriate behavior for living in a household and interacting with others. Puppies also seek positive reinforcement and are willing and able to learn. 

Pyometra

Pyometra is a severe bacterial infection of the uterus that can be potentially life threatening. The condition is most common in older, unspayed female dogs that have never had a litter, but it can occur in any female dog or cat that has not been spayed. In dogs, pyometra is most likely to happen in the first few weeks to months after a heat cycle.

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. All warm-blooded animals, including wild animals, dogs, cats, and humans, are susceptible to it. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is generally fatal. However, the disease is also generally preventable through vaccination.

Ringworm

Despite the name, ringworm is not caused by worms, but by a fungus. Most infections in pets are caused by one of three types of fungi, the most common being Microsporum canis. The fungi invade the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and/or nails. Because fungi thrive in moist environments, these organisms are especially persistent in humid climates and damp surroundings.

Roundworms

Roundworms are extremely common parasites that spend their adult lives in the intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. There are several species of roundworms. Some can grow to about seven inches in length and cause severe illness, especially in younger pets.

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange (scabies) is an intensely itchy skin condition of dogs that is caused by microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei.

Seizures and Epilepsy

A seizure (convulsion) is the sudden transmission of nerve impulses from the brain that causes involuntary muscle activity. The seizure may affect just one part of the body, such as the face, or the entire body. When the whole body is affected, it is called a grand mal seizure. A seizure may be a one-time event, but if seizures occur repeatedly over the course of weeks or months, they are categorized as epilepsy. Epilepsy is common in dogs but relatively rare in cats.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a behavior problem in which a dog panics after (and sometimes before) being left alone. Dogs with this problem may vocalize, pace, urinate, defecate, and/or engage in destructive behavior before and/or after their owner leaves. Escape attempts by affected dogs can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around windows and doors.

Skin Problems and Your Pet

A wide variety of skin and coat conditions can cause your pet to itch and scratch, but pinpointing the problem can sometimes be difficult because many skin disorders have similar outward signs. Below are four major categories of skin conditions seen in cats and dogs.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures used to remove the reproductive organs of dogs and cats. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female dog or cat. Neutering is the removal of a male dog’s or cat’s testicles. These procedures are also sometimes referred to as “sterilizing” or “fixing” pets.

Submissive Urination in Dogs

Dogs may urinate inappropriately in response to a perceived threat, which may be intentional (for example, when an owner scolds the dog) or unintentional (for example, when an owner displays a dominant behavior, such as looking directly into the dog’s eyes). Submissive urination is the dog’s way of communicating that he or she is not a threat and is submitting to the person’s dominance.

Summer Hazards and Your Dog

Dogs that spend most of their summer days inside are protected from many warm weather hazards, but only if the temperature inside the home remains within a healthy range. In an effort to reduce energy usage and costs, some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave the house in the morning and turn them on when they return later in the day. However, when temperatures outside reach dangerous levels, temperatures inside the house can, too. Being shut inside a hot house can be deadly for your dog. Dogs can’t sweat; they rely heavily on panting to cool themselves off. When the temperature in the environment increases, panting becomes less effective. This means that your dog could be locked inside with minimal options for cooling down.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are long, flat, parasitic worms that live in the intestines of dogs and cats. Several species of tapeworms can infect pets. Most have a head that attaches to the intestinal wall and a series of segments, called proglottids, that make up the worm’s body. An adult tapeworm can reach 6 inches or more in length and has the appearance of a white piece of tape or ribbon.

The Wellness Examination

A wellness examination is a complete physical examination along with diagnostic testingthat may include bloodwork, urinalysis, and checking a stool sample for parasites. In many cases, a wellness examination can help detect the early stages of disease. Often, your veterinarian will schedule this exam when your pet is due for vaccinations.

Thyroid Level Test/Thyroid Profile Tests/Canine Hypothyroidism

Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common glandular disorder of cats older than 8 years. The disorder is usually caused by a benign tumor in one or both of the thyroid glands, which are located on either side of the neck. These tumors cause the thyroid glands to over-produce thyroid hormones. In rare cases (1% to 2%), the tumors may be cancerous.

Ticks and Your Dog

Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts including birds, dogs, cats, and people.

Traveling With Your Dog

Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.

Trimming Your Dog's Nails

Nail trimming is an important aspect of grooming your dog. Your dog’s nails should be trimmed when they grow long enough to touch the ground when the dog walks. Dogs that aren’t very active might require weekly nail trimming. Dogs that are regularly walked on sidewalks might never need their nails trimmed. Dewclaw nails need to be trimmed because they don’t wear down from walking. Ask your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to teach you the safest way to trim your dog’s nails.

Vomiting

Vomiting is defined as the forceful emptying of the stomach’s contents. It is caused by a signal from the brain to the stomach that originates in a part of the brain known as the vomiting center. Vomiting initially developed because it helps save animals from poisoning. Nerves in the abdomen or certain substances in the bloodstream indicate to the brain that the animal may have eaten something toxic, and vomiting can help to rid the body of the toxic substance. Although this does occur now, the actual ingestion of toxins has become less of a threat to our pets than to their wild ancestors; over time, many more triggers began to induce the brain to signal vomiting. Prolonged vomiting can be dangerous because it can lead to life-threatening dehydration.

When to Consider Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the painless, humane termination of life. There are times when medical science has exhausted all of its capabilities and euthanasia is the only way to prevent an animal from suffering needlessly. However, the decision regarding when to euthanize is fraught with medical, financial, ethical, religious, moral, and sometimes legal considerations. Euthanasia is therefore a medical procedure that needs to be discussed (however painful that discussion may be) and considered fully before a final decision is made.

Whipworms

Whipworms are one of several internal parasites that can live in the large intestines of dogs and, rarely, in cats. This type of worm is named for the whip-like appearance of its body, which has a thicker head that tapers into a thinner tail.

Why Do I Need To Vaccinate My Pet?

Companion animals today have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives than ever before, in part due to the availability of vaccines that can protect pets from deadly infectious diseases. Over the past several decades, the widespread use of vaccines against diseases like rabies has saved the lives of millions of pets and driven some diseases into relative obscurity. Unfortunately, infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to dogs and cats that are unvaccinated; therefore, although vaccine programs have been highly successful, pet owners and veterinarians cannot afford to be complacent about the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Winter Hazards and Your Dog

As the temperatures outside start to get lower and you prepare for colder weather, it is important to also prepare your dog for the winter. Whether your dog lives indoors or outdoors, there are dangers in colder conditions. Your dog’s health, food, and environment all need to be taken into consideration when “Old Man Winter” approaches.

All Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

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10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

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A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

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Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

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Acetaminophen Toxicity

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other related medications that are used to treat pain and fever in people. Unfortunately, this drug can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body.

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