Monday, March 16, 2020

The Importance of Cat & Dog Vaccinations

Vaccinations play a vital role in your pet’s preventive care. They protect cats and dogs from highly prevalent and dangerous diseases. At Always Compassionate Veterinary Care, we take a proactive approach to your pet’s healthcare and will develop a unique vaccinations protocol for your cat or dog. Vaccinations can prolong your pet’s life and give you more good years with your best friend!

Which Vaccinations Does My Pet Need?

Some vaccinations are considered core and are recommended for all cats and dogs, while others are only recommended based on your pet’s lifestyle. When you bring your pet in for their annual exam, we’ll discuss their lifestyle to get an idea for which vaccines they’ll need to stay healthy. 

Factors we’ll consider include:
  • Age
  • If your pet travels with you, and where
  • Whether your pet is indoors or outdoors
  • What other pets are in the household
  • If you take your pet hiking with you
  • And more

Based on our discussion, we’ll determine an effective vaccination protocol that includes the core vaccines as well as the appropriate lifestyle vaccines. 

What Are Core and Lifestyle Cat & Dog Vaccinations?

Core vaccines are highly recommended (or even required by law in many states) for every cat and dog regardless of their lifestyle. These vaccines protect our pets from diseases that are easily contracted, dangerous, and even potentially fatal. Some, such as rabies, can also be contracted by your human family, making the rabies vaccine for dogs and cats even more important. Lifestyle vaccines, on the other hand, are only recommended for pets at risk. 

Here’s a look at the core vaccines we recommend for every pet:
  • Rabies – Highly contagious and almost always fatal, rabies is as dangerous a disease as you can get. The common carriers of this disease are raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. Your pet can come in contact with these animals in the backyard or even inside your home if a bat gets in! For this reason, the rabies vaccine for dogs and cats is required by law in the state of Pennsylvania. 
  • DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza) – This combination vaccine protects dogs against four diseases. These diseases can be deadly to puppies and compromised pets, while taking a serious toll on healthy adult pets. 
  • FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia) – This combination vaccine protects cats against three diseases. These diseases are highly contagious and can cause serious illness and even death in cats. 

Lifestyle vaccines include:
  • Lyme disease – We recommend this vaccine for dogs who frequently hike in wooded areas with their owner.
  • Leptospirosis – This vaccine is recommended for dogs who frequent areas where wildlife is present. 
  • Bordetella – Also known as “kennel cough” this vaccine is often required for boarding, grooming, and training facilities. 
  • Canine influenza – We recommend this vaccine for social dogs who often visit dog parks, are boarded often, participate in dog shows, or are in other social situations. 
  • Feline leukemia – This cat vaccine is recommended for outdoor cats. 

Have any questions or concerns about cat and dog vaccinations? Contact us today at (412)-882-3070!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Pet Poison Control and Safety

Poison Control and Emergency Prevention for Dogs and Cats in Pittsburgh

Do you have a poison control plan for your pet? It can be hard to admit, but our homes are often full of objects and substances that can be highly poisonous to our pets. With March being Pet Poison Prevention month, we thought we’d reiterate the importance of poison control, and also share with you some ideas for a helpful cat/dog first aid kit that you can keep on hand in case of an emergency. Our veterinarians are always available to answer any questions you have, so don’t hesitate to contact our animal hospital for more information!

What Household Items are Hazardous to Pets?

Here are some of the most common health hazards to dogs and cats. If you think your pet has ingested any of these, seek medical attention immediately. It’s ALWAYS better to be safe and make sure your pet is out of harm’s way, than to wait and see how they are in a few hours or the next day.

• Grapes and raisins – This popular snack for humans can be deadly for pets if ingested. One of the main effects of eating grapes/raisins is kidney failure, so be careful about where and how you store (and dispose of) your grapes and raisins. You just never know when your pet might get curious and try to sample a bite!
• Chocolate – Dark chocolate, pure cocoa, and baking chocolate are the most toxic varieties for pets, due to their high caffeine and theobromine content. Consuming sufficient quantities of this kind of chocolate can result in heart arrhythmia, muscle tremors, and possibly seizures. That being said, we encourage you to keep ALL chocolate away from your pet, regardless of how light or dark it is.
        • Xylitol, regularly found in sugar free gum, candy, and mints – Xylitol is extremely dangerous for dogs. While humans can metabolize Xylitol without any trouble, dogs absorb this sugar alcohol very quickly, which leads to abnormally low blood sugar levels (and an increase in their insulin levels). Without timely treatment, this can be fatal. Breath mints (including Tic Tacs), toothpaste, mouthwash, vitamins, and even some peanut butters can also contain Xylitol, so be sure to check labels and be extra careful about where you store and dispose of these items.
• Antifreeze – One of the most dangerous household poisons, antifreeze has a sweet scent and flavor that many pets find attractive. Whether it’s a full bottle or a puddle in the driveway, clean up any spilled antifreeze and store the container in a secure, high-up place where your pet can’t reach.
        • Rodenticides (rat poison) – Ingesting rat poison can be deadly for your pet. Allowing them to wander outside your property can increase their chances of coming across these poison pellets, so check the perimeter of your property (if rodents are an existing problem) and keep a very close eye on your pet.
• Over-the-counter medications – If you and/or your family members have over-the-counter (OTC) medications in the house, keep them shut away and out of reach of your pet at all times. If you take your pills in the bathroom, shut the door just in case you drop one. Dogs are extremely quick when they want to grab something! Among the most dangerous OTC drugs are ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ingesting these can cause damage to the kidneys and possibly be fatal, so always keep your pill bottles in a secure place.
• Fabric softener sheets – Believe it or not, these inconspicuous sheets, while full of chemicals, can be attractive to pets thanks to their pleasant odor. Ingesting one or more can cause poisoning and even choking.
• Batteries – Always dispose of used batteries properly. Batteries contain highly toxic fluid and even simply biting the TV remote or chewing on a battery-powered children’s toy can put your pet at risk for poisoning.

What to Include in Your Dog or Cat First Aid Kit for Poison Emergencies

A first aid kit can prove life-saving for your pet. Here are some of the most important and practical things to include:

• Your veterinarian’s phone number, and the numbers to nearby emergency vet clinics (plus directions)
• The number for the Pet Poison Helpline: 1-855-764-7661
• Hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration, non-expired) to induce vomiting – DO NOT administer to your pet without consulting a licensed veterinarian first!
• A set of tablespoons and/or teaspoons for measuring the proper amount of hydrogen peroxide to give to your pet in case you need to induce vomiting
• A turkey baster, bulb syringe, or oral dosing syringe for quicker and easier administration of hydrogen peroxide
• Corn or maple syrup
• A sweet beverage rich in electrolytes (such a Gatorade)
• A can of tuna (packed in water), chicken, or some other canned pet food
• Rubber gloves
• Triple antibiotic ointment
• Dawn (or other liquid dishwashing detergent)
        • Diphenhydramine tablets (25mg) or liquid – do not give in combination with other ingredients or pain relievers

When NOT to Induce Vomiting

Depending on what kind of substance your pet ingests, inducing vomiting can sometimes be as harmful as the poison they consumed. ALWAYS contact your veterinarian before attempting to induce vomiting in your pet.

• If your pet has ingested any fast-absorbing OTC medications. Inducing vomiting won’t be of much help to your pet, as the medication has already dissolved.
• If your pet consumed battery fluid or some other, highly acidic substance, inducing vomiting can do serious damage to their esophagus.
• Oily substances can potentially become a choking hazard or even cause pneumonia in your pet if vomiting is induced.
• If your cat has ingested a poison, do not try to induce vomiting at all. Hydrogen peroxide can irritate or even cause ulcers in the stomach, and this can be life-threatening to your feline. Don’t risk it!
        • Brachycephalic (smush-faced) dogs can also be at risk of aspirating if they are given hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.

Common Choking Hazards for Dogs and Cats

Some household items aren’t necessarily poisonous, but they can cause choking, which is just as dangerous. This includes batteries, strings, plastic bags, small children’s toys, plastic packaging, bottle caps, and more. Dogs are especially notorious for swallowing all manner of objects, but cats are certainly capable of this, too. Regard your pet as you would a toddler and take pains to remove any possible choking hazards from their environment. If necessary, child-proof your cabinets and drawers or keep certain rooms closed off to prevent your pet from entering.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Why is Pet Dental Care so Important?

Pet dental care is one of the most overlooked areas of veterinary medicine. More dogs and cats experience dental disease than those that don’t, and while awareness of dental disease has increased significantly, the condition itself remains as prevalent as ever. While we can’t easily explain the disparity, we can shed light on what proper dental care is all about and how you can improve your pet’s oral hygiene. For a more in-depth discussion about their dental needs, you can contact our animal hospital and set up a consultation with your veterinarian.

When to Start Your Pet’s Dental Care Routine
The moment your new puppy or kitten enters your home, you should start thinking about getting them a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. The sooner you and your pet get accustomed to brushing their teeth, the sooner it will become a (healthy) habit. You can also get in touch with your veterinarian if you’re having trouble getting your pet comfortable with the practice. This can take time, so patience is key!

While it’s never too late to start a habit of brushing, older pets may be more difficult to train. If brushing their teeth ends up being too stressful and time-consuming, there are other options. Some other effective dental solutions include:
- Finger brushes
- Dental chews
- Dental toys
- Water additives
- Prescription dental diets

When You Need Professional Dental Care
Unfortunately, brushing alone will not prevent dental disease. Just like your own dental regime, your pet will need routine visits to the vet in order to maintain their oral health. Annual wellness visits are essential in preventing dental disease because pets are masters at hiding their symptoms. With a close eye, though, you may be able to detect these subtle signs:
- Bad breath
- Difficulty eating or grabbing toys
- Discolored teeth
- Chewing only on one side
- Traces of blood in food or water bowls
- Loose teeth

At annual wellness exams, we always include a dental evaluation and look for these, and other signs of disease. If we find any, we will recommend a professional dental cleaning. A professional cleaning involves an in-depth assessment of your pet’s oral health as well as the treatment to prevent or reverse disease. A full dental cleaning will include:
- Digital dental X-rays
- Ultrasonic and hand scaling to remove tartar
- Polishing of each tooth to smooth enamel and reduce future tartar buildup
- Extractions, as needed, of damaged teeth*
*Our goal is to prevent dental disease from ever causing the need for extractions. Yet, in the event your pet does need it, we provide pain medication so they wake with minimal discomfort.

Why You Should Prevent Rather than Treat Disease
Preventing dental disease not only saves you money, it spares your pet the painful and dangerous experience of dental disease. Disease not only takes a toll on your pet’s mouth, it can also spread to other areas of the body and damage their heart, liver, and kidneys. By the time if gets that far, your pet will not only need dental care and extractions, but also treatment for their damaged organs. This is far more costly that routine dental cleanings! Additionally, with preventative care, you can help your pet live a healthier and longer life with you.

Schedule your pet’s dental appointment today to keep disease at bay!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Importance of Pet Wellness Care

Pet wellness care is an integral part of every companion animal’s health program. The best thing you can do for your four-legged family member is commit to bringing them in to see their veterinarian annually or semiannually for an exam. At our animal hospital in Pittsburgh, we provide every pet with a personalized, complete wellness plan that focuses on preventing the onset of disease and raising their quality of life.

Ensuring a Healthy Start for Puppies and Kittens
Puppies and kittens are tougher than we give them credit for, but they can also be at a much higher risk for illness and infection than adult dogs and cats. Their immune systems are still developing, and if they are 6-8 weeks old, they have likely lost the antibodies they obtained from their mother’s milk.
Additionally, puppies and kittens are often born with intestinal parasites such as roundworms, which can be passed from the mother to her litter either while they are in the womb or nursing. Intestinal parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other issues in young pets. With blood and fecal testing, we can screen for these pests and offer various safe treatments to eradicate the intruders.

Setting a Health Baseline and Maintaining Your Pet’s Health
Another important benefit of annual/semiannual wellness exams is being able to establish a baseline of health. This allows us to compare your pet’s “normal” health status with proceeding exams, which can make it easier for us to detect unusual health changes sooner. Furthermore, our goal when your pet reaches adulthood is to maximize and maintain their health for as long as possible. Seeing them annually means we can monitor their condition and offer advice to improve it.

Detecting Disease, Parasites, and Congenital Issues
Routine wellness exams are the best opportunity we have for screening your pet. This includes blood, fecal, and urine testing, which can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside. Thanks to our capabilities, we can screen dogs and cats for heartworm disease, Lyme disease, intestinal parasites, bladder infections, diabetes, thyroid problems, and much more. 

Keeping Senior Pets in a State of Comfort
Like us, dogs and cats also experience the effects of aging, including arthritis, muscle weakness, vision and hearing loss, diabetes, heart disease, and more. We hope to prepare every pet for this stage of life with consistent wellness care and an eye toward the future. Weight loss, pain management, joint health, and immune system support are just a few important aspects of senior pet wellness care.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Winter Pet Safety in Pittsburgh

Is winter pet safety on your agenda this season? Make it a priority to ensure that your four-legged family member stays healthy (and cozy) in the midst of freezing temperatures. Pittsburgh winters can be tough, not just for humans but for our furry friends, too. Our animal hospital recommends that you take precaution and consider all the possible risks before letting your pet outside.
If you still have questions for your veterinarian, please contact us right away.

Prevent the Risk of Frostbite

Dogs and cats are just as vulnerable to frostbite as humans are. While a fur coat can offer some protection, it can’t fight off the cold indefinitely or prevent frostbite on the tips of the ears, the nose, and even on the paw pads. If you can’t handle the cold, then your pet can’t, either! Let them stay indoors with you—provide extra cushioning for their bed (if they have one) and consider getting a pet-friendly heating pad to soothe their achy joints (if they’re advanced in age).

If you do take your pet outside for a bathroom break, keep an eye on them and let them in as soon as they’ve done their business. For walks, get a sturdy coat that suits their size and shape so they can stay warm. Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes can tolerate the cold extremely well, but an extra layer of protection doesn’t hurt.

Snow and Ice are Dangerous for Pets, Too

Pets can sustain leg injuries from slipping on ice and melting snow (kind of like us). De-ice your driveway, patio, and any pathways around your house, and sweep away puddles wherever you can. It might be a good idea to keep your pet on a leash when you take them outside for a bathroom break, to ensure they don’t take off running.

When walking with your pet, lead them around ice and snow puddles. Rubber booties are also a helpful way to keep your pet from slipping on sheets of ice, thanks to the additional traction they provide.

Antifreeze and Sidewalk Salt

Antifreeze is known to be fatal for animals if ingested. It has a very sweet, syrupy smell and taste that curious pets can’t help but investigate. If you spill any antifreeze while readying your car for winter, clean it up immediately. Make sure your antifreeze container is tightly sealed and stored high on a shelf or in a closet where your pet can’t get to it. You can never be too careful with antifreeze.
In addition to being painful for pets to step on, it can irritate your pet’s paw pads and stick in their fur. Licking this salt can also burn their mouth or cause minor stomach upset. Check your pet’s belly and feet for pieces of salt and wipe them away before letting your pet inside. If you have a cat or two, clean salt residue from your shoes/boots so they don’t try to lick it off.

Your Car Could be a Temporary Home for Strays

Before you start your car in the morning, be sure to knock on the hood a few times and honk the horn just in case a cat has decided to shelter next to the engine. In harsh weather, strays will find any shelter they can against the elements, and under the hood of your car is as good a place as any to them. Keep this in mind and try to give these animals a chance at survival before turning the engine.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Thanksgiving Pet Safety in Pittsburgh

Thanksgiving has arrived once more, and it’s time for us to review our most important Thanksgiving pet safety tips. You don’t need to dread the holidays, but we do want you to be fully aware of the health hazards that could pop up when you’re not looking. Pets can be sneaky, especially during semi-chaotic holiday events. See our tips below and be sure to contact our animal hospital if you have any questions or concerns! Our veterinarians are always happy to help.

If you and your pet are traveling for the holidays, make sure they’re wearing a collar with updated ID tags and have a microchip in case they get lost. Also, carry a copy of their medical records with you just in case.

Is your pet an escape artist? Even if you’re not sure, there’s always a first time, especially when the front door keeps opening and closing as friends and family file into the house. Watch the door (and your pet), or, to be extra safe, keep them in a room with the door closed until the guest traffic has quieted down.

Meat bones, chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and pumpkin pie filling are just a few foods that are dangerous for pets to eat. The easiest way to protect your pet? Don’t share any of your food with them! Their food and treats will do just fine.

If you need to leave your pet at home while you head out of town, consider boarding them so all their essential needs will be met and they won’t be left alone.

Does having lots of people around make your pet anxious? Distract them from the chaos of having guests over with the help of treats and toys, and give them a quiet place they can have all to themselves. If your pet is crate trained, they might prefer the comfort and security their crate or carrier provides. Check in on your pet regularly to make sure they’re okay.

If you have kids over, be sure to supervise all their interactions with your pet. If your pet recently had surgery, is recovering from illness, or doesn’t like being around large noisy groups of people, keep them in a quiet room by themselves.

Be sure to remind your guests not to feed your pet any table scraps. They might feed your pet something dangerous without knowing, and giving your pet handouts can foster bad eating habits.

Discourage your guests from leaving their alcoholic beverages sitting where your pet can reach them (chair, floor, edge of table).

Avoid decorating the tables with candles; flames are always a fire hazard in the home, especially when you have a pet or two prowling around. There are battery-powered options available!

Tidy up; don’t leave food, bones, or plasticware sitting around where your pet can reach it; throw it away immediately.

Guard the trash or put it where your pet can’t reach it (like out in the garage). Gobbling up food scraps and garbage can quickly upset your pet’s stomach, causing choking, or block their gastrointestinal tract.

Keep your pet out of the kitchen if you’re cooking—you never know when you might drop something that could be harmful to their health.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Pet Breast Cancer Awareness

Like humans, female dogs and cats can also develop mammary tumors, especially if they have not been spayed at the proper time, or were spayed after reaching 2 years of age. Spaying and neutering have many benefits for the pet population, and preventing the onset of cancer is just one of them.

Our Pittsburgh animal hospital is dedicated to promoting spays and neuters as proactive treatments that help prevent various diseases and other issues in pets. Take a moment to learn more about pet breast cancer and how to lower your pet’s risks.

How At-Risk is My Pet?

Your pet’s risk of developing breast cancer varies depending on how soon they are spayed. If your pet is:

· Spayed before their first heat cycle (about 6 months old), their risk of developing a tumor is about 0.5%

· Spayed after their first heat cycle, the risk is 8%

· Spayed after their second heat cycle, their risk is 26%

As you can see, the longer a pet goes without being spayed, the more rapidly their risk for breast cancer increases. Having your pet spayed at about 6 months of age (or whenever your veterinarian recommends it with regard for your pet’s health) should drastically lower their breast cancer risks.

Is Pet Breast Cancer Life-Threatening?

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, more than 25% of unspayed female dogs will end up developing a mammary tumor in their lifetime, and about 50% of these are benign, while the other 50% are malignant. Luckily, few of the malignant mammary tumors found in dogs are fatal.

Unfortunately in cats, more than 85% of mammary tumors are malignant and likely to spread aggressively throughout the body.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Pets?

The most common signs of breast cancer in dogs and cats include:

· A noticeable mass felt under the skin of the abdomen is a sure sign of a mammary tumor

· Discharge from the mammary gland

· Broken skin (ulceration) over the mammary gland

· Breasts that are painful and swollen

· Loss of appetite

· Weight loss

· Lethargy and weakness

Can Breast Cancer Be Treated?

Pet breast cancer may be treatable, depending on when it is detected and whether your pet is a dog or cat. Treatment options include:

· Careful removal of the mammary tumor(s)

· Removal of the tumor(s) and the affected mammary gland(s)

· In cats, it is generally recommended to remove one or both sets of mammary glands and the local lymph node

· Chemotherapy is a possible option if it is recommended that you consult with a veterinary oncologist after your pet has had surgery