Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fall and Halloween Pet Safety Recommendations for Cat and Dog Owners in Pittsburgh, PA

 As the air cools and the leaves change, take some time out of your day to think about (and plan ahead for) the various fall season and Halloween safety hazards your four-legged family member might encounter in the days or weeks ahead. One of the things we take pride in is being able to help pet owners in various ways, even if we can’t be there in person to offer guidance. Consult the fall and Halloween pet safety tips we’ve provided below so you, your pet(s), and the rest of your family can enjoy autumn and its holidays with peace of mind.

For more tips and advice from our team of professionals, call Always Compassionate Veterinary Care at (412) 882-3070.


Things that Make Fall a Little Bit Dangerous for Our Beloved Pets

While fall weather may not be as extreme as that of summer or winter, it can still put your pet at risk! Here’s how.

Rapid Weather Changes and Cold Temperatures

Autumn’s mild beginning eventually gives way to rain, cold, and wind. While some pets have coats that can protect them from these elements, many others do not, and can be at risk for hypothermia. We recommend that all dogs and cats, regardless of their thick coats, remain indoors as much as possible on days of inclement weather. If for any reason your pet needs to be kept outdoors for a time, be sure to get them a dry, comfortable shelter that protects against the elements, and make sure they have the food and water they need, too, and check in on them whenever you can.

Symptoms of Pet Hypothermia

Pay close attention to your pet’s appearance and behavior after you bring them inside and dry them off. Do they continue to shiver and shake? Do they seem confused, lethargic, and unresponsive? These could be signs of hypothermia. Make sure your pet is kept warm and contact your veterinarian or emergency vet immediately. Treating hypothermia in dogs and cats often requires more than just wrapping them in a blanket, and we want to make sure they are safely out of harm’s way.

Keep Antifreeze Out of Your Pet’s Reach

Antifreeze is a highly toxic substance that can make animals and humans extremely ill if ingested. Ethylene glycol is the compound that gives antifreeze its significant toxicity, and, together with antifreeze’s sweet smell and taste, is a recipe for danger. 

If or when you plan to add more antifreeze to your vehicle, do so cautiously and check for spills on the floor and/or ground so your curious pet won’t be tempted to get a taste. Seal your antifreeze container tightly and keep it stored in a place your pet won’t be able to reach. If you have any concerns or questions about antifreeze toxicity, you can call us or get in touch with the Pet Poison Helpline (a $59 consultation fee may apply) at (855) 764-7661.



Halloween Pet Safety

Halloween is usually all about wholesome, spooky fun, but some risks (particularly to your pet) are very real and should be prevented as much as possible. Read on!

Candy and Other Sweets

It just wouldn’t be Halloween without candy, caramel apples, and all kinds of other tasty sweets. But if your pet gets their paws on them, they could get very sick! Always keep candy and other treats stored well out of your pet’s reach, and don’t leave any loose pieces sitting around. Clean up wrappers and, if necessary, keep the trash in the garage so your pet won’t be able to rummage through it.

Here are some of the more common and hazardous treats for pets:

  • Hard candy - Hard candy is a choking hazard for pets, but it can also contain xylitol, which can be deadly if ingested.
  • Xylitol - Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in all kinds of sweets, including cookies, sugar-free gum, hard and soft candy, and more. Be very, very careful about where you store these goods and always keep an eye on your pet.
  • Chocolate - Any kind of chocolate is liable to make your pet sick, but the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Higher cocoa content and caffeine can cause heart arrhythmia, muscle tremors, and possibly seizures.
  • Grapes and raisins - They may be tasty snacks for humans, but grapes/raisins are not easily metabolized in dogs and cats, who can suffer from severe kidney issues (and possibly kidney failure) if they partake.
  • Candy wrappers/sticks - While these are not technically treats, these pesky leavings usually end up littered on the tables, chairs, and occasionally the floor after the kids have returned from a successful night of trick-or-treating. If swallowed, this detritus can cause choking and possibly bowel obstruction, which can have serious consequences for your pet. Never forget to clear away the trash!

Use Halloween Decorations Cautiously

Most pets generally leave the Halloween decorations alone, but whether or not they are prone to getting into trouble, some holiday staples can be more of a hassle--and a health risk. Be especially mindful about these items:

  • Candles - Keeping a candle (or several) when you have a pet is always a risk. Eliminate fire hazards by getting artificial candles and lanterns instead. They’ll give your home that same cozy fall feel, but with more peace of mind!
  • Electrical cords for lights - If you plan to decorate with strands of lights, hang them up high where your pet can’t reach, invest in electrical cord covers to discourage chewing, or forego them altogether just in case.
  • Essential oils and potpourri - Pumpkin, cinnamon, and wood smoke. The scents of fall give your home that extra layer of ambience, but certain scents (and their conduits) can be unsafe around dogs and cats if ingested or inhaled. Make sure the scents are not too strong, and keep the potpourri, oils, and/or incense sticks out of your pet’s reach.
  • Fake spiderweb - Fake spiderweb can be a pain to put up, and more of a pain to take down later. What’s more, it can be a choking hazard if your pet decides to eat some, and it can be harmful to wildlife such as bats and birds if it’s used outside.
  • Small plastic pieces - Plastic pieces of decorations and costumes are another choking or bowel obstruction risk. Window/mirror decals, those plastic spider rings, buttons, and other easy-to- swallow (but not so easy to digest) parts can be a big problem.

Protecting Escape Artist Pets

Some dogs and cats can’t resist the call of freedom. When they see a door ajar, they go for it. Other pets, however, may bolt due to anxiety. Whatever the reason, it’s common for pets to escape and get lost around or on Halloween, when front doors are frequently opened to greet trick-or-treaters. 

For pet-owning households, we recommend keeping your pet leashed or having a family member hold onto them when the trick-or-treaters come calling. If necessary, you can keep your pet in a closed off room with some toys and treats, or use baby gates to keep them away from the foyer. 

Additionally, it’s important to be prepared in case your pet does get lost. Make sure their ID tags are up to date, and we’d suggest getting them microchipped, too. 

Finally, both dogs and cats should be kept indoors if possible on Halloween night, especially if you live in a well-populated area. Some people like to target animals for pranks, especially black cats, and we want your fur babies to be safe. Let them stay inside with you, where we think they’d be much happier.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Importance of Wellness Care for Cats

We tend to view cats as fiercely independent creatures with little need for routine veterinary care. Plus, they seem perfectly healthy on the outside, so what’s the problem?

It is recommended that both dogs and cats visit their veterinarian at least once a year for a checkup. Yet, there’s a noticeable disparity between dogs and cats when it comes to seeing the vet annually. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in 2016 , “78.8 percent of dog owners said they brought their animals in for routine or preventive care at least once a year, compared with 47.2 percent of cat owners.”

Why such a large gap? Are cats really healthier in general than dogs? In truth, cats are just as prone as dogs (and humans) to disease, age-related health issues, and other problems. For them to enjoy the best quality of life and to live the maximum number of years, we strongly advise that they see their veterinarian annually so they can get the proper care for their needs. 

Why Do Cats See Their Vet so Infrequently?

There are multiple factors that likely contribute to cats not seeing their vets when they should, and
with regularity. Some of these include:
  • Fearfulness and putting up a fight when their owner attempts to transport them
  • The fact that they can effectively hide signs of pain, illness, and injury, making them seem healthier than they really are
  • A 100% indoor lifestyle, which leads many owners to believe their cats are fully protected from illnesses and parasites
  • Owners finding the cat or getting it for free and not receiving proper care instructions

What Every Cat Needs for a Long, Healthy Life

Cats are not more immune to disease or other health problems simply because they live their entire lives indoors, or show no outward signs of a problem. As with dogs, cats can harbor all kinds of underlying issues that, once they do start showing symptoms, are often much further advanced and harder to treat. It’s better for your cat’s health, and better for your wallet when you keep up with your pet’s treatments and help to keep illness at bay.

To maintain your cat’s health from their first year of life to their senior years, we recommend:
  • An annual physical exam, which includes assessing the mouth, eyes, ears, and whole body, and checking weight, temperature, heartbeat, and respiration
  • Annual blood work and fecal testing to screen for diseases, parasites, and abnormal organ function
  • Vaccinations to protect against rabies and upper respiratory infections
  • Administering flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives to your cat all year round to protect them not only from parasites, but parasite-transmitted diseases, too

Common Health Problems in Cats

So many cat-related health issues can be prevented, or at least more easily resolved, with routine wellness checks and testing. Health problems that most often plague our feline family members include:
  • Periodontal disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Lower urinary tract disease
  • Gastrointestinal disorders

How to Tell if Your Cat is Feeling Unwell

It’s not always easy to tell if your cat is feeling differently than they were yesterday, or the day before. Try to keep an eye out for these warning signs:
  • Eating less or not eating at all
  • Hiding and refusing to come out
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Going outside of the litter box
  • Struggling or unable to eliminate (empty or near-empty litter box)
  • Crying while trying to urinate
  • Grooming obsessively
  • Lethargic
  • Drinking large quantities of water and urinating more frequently
  • Weakness in back legs (reluctant or unable to jump)
  • Rapid weight loss or weight gain
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Discharge from eyes and nose
  • Bad breath (a sign of dental disease)

Every Cat Deserves Complete Care Throughout Their Life

Your cat is a member of your family and they deserve the protection that comes with it. Our goal is to help cat owners enjoy as much time as possible with their felines, and be the very best caregivers they can be for their companions. Routine checkups go a very long way toward preventing harmful, life-limiting diseases in cats, and giving them a better quality of life in general.

If your cat shows any signs of a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian--who will also be more than happy to advise on how to bring your cat in with minimal struggle! Their health, and life, are more than worth it.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Finding Solutions to Cat and Dog Allergies in Pittsburgh, PA

Many pet owners dread the fall season, due to the allergies in dogs and cats that become aggravated this time of year. Of course, allergies can happen any time of year, but we often see the greatest number of allergy cases in the fall. Does your pet become unnaturally itchy and scratchy when the days start growing shorter and the leaves start changing? They’re not alone! Many dogs and cats suffer from allergies, which cause severe itching of the skin. It’s important to seek medical attention for your itchy pet, because their condition will likely get worse.

How Can I Tell if My Pet is Itching?

Our canine and feline friends can be quite sneaky about their symptoms, and may not readily reveal their discomfort. If you don’t catch your pet scratching and licking themselves in a frenzy, you might be able to look for other signs, such as:
  • Baldness, especially between the toes, under the armpits, and on the sides and belly (but baldness can occur anywhere your pet is scratching and licking the most)
  • Areas of skin that appear raw and red (evidence of scratching and licking repeatedly)
  • Noticeable, unpleasant odor coming from the skin and/or ears
  • Red, swollen ears (could indicate an ear infection)
  • Dry, scaly patches on the skin

What Kinds of Things are Dogs and Cats Allergic To?

The allergens that tend to affect our pets most include:
  • Tree pollen
  • Grass
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Flea saliva
  • Proteins such as chicken, eggs, and pork
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Cleaning sprays
  • Lawn treatments

Can My Pet’s Allergies be Cured?

Cat and dog allergies are not permanently curable. However, this doesn’t mean your pet can’t live
more comfortably and experience fewer, less intense allergy symptoms. With the correct diagnosis
and the right treatment plan, we can make your pet’s allergies more manageable overall.

Diagnosing the Allergy

To make a proper diagnosis, we’ll need to see your pet for an examination and potentially run some
tests to get as much information as we can about their condition. This might include blood testing,
skin testing, or possibly referring your pet to a dermatologist for more specialized testing.

Treatment Options

At Always Compassionate Veterinary Care, we offer the following treatment options for cat and dog
allergies:
  • Cytopoint - An anti-itch injection
  • Apoquel - An oral anti-itch medication available in tablet and topical form
  • Sublingual immunotherapy - Involves dispensing drops made from allergenic extracts under the tongue (rather than injecting them into the body) to diagnose and treat allergies in pets
  • Steroids - To help reduce inflammation and itching
  • Temaril-P - An combination antihistamine and corticosteroid medication for itching
  • Hypoallergenic foods and treats - If your pet has an allergy to one or more ingredients in their current food, they could benefit from one of our specialized diets

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Tick-Borne Illnesses & Lyme Disease in Dogs & Cats in Pittsburgh, PA

Ticks are very prominent in and around Pittsburgh, PA, and the greater New England area.
They threaten not only the health of our pets, but our human family, too. Ticks carry a number of tick-borne illnesses, the most prominent of which is Lyme disease. At Always Compassionate Veterinary Care, we believe preventing illness is just as (if not more) important than treating it. Taking simple steps to prevent Lyme disease is far better for you and your pet than treating this debilitating disease.

Understanding Lyme Disease

In order to fully prevent Lyme disease in dogs and cats, it’s important to understand where it comes from. Lyme disease is most prevalent in the eastern and western black-legged tick, commonly referred to as the deer tick. These critters feed on rodents as larvae or nymphs, and pick up B. burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, from the small mammals. As adults, black-legged ticks generally feed on deer; however, deer are not known to transmit B. burgdorferi. It is usually at the adult stage that these ticks may feed on dogs, cats, or humans who come across their path, thereby potentially transmitting Lyme disease to their host. Lyme disease transmission does not happen immediately after the tick bites. Instead, it takes from 24-48 hours while the tick engorges itself for the disease to be transmitted.

Preventing Tick Encounters & Disease Transmission

Preventing Lyme disease requires some diligence and forethought, all of which is far easier than treating the disease. Here’s what you can do to prevent tick encounters and Lyme disease:
  • Remove tick-friendly debris from your yard such as leaf litter, wood piles, etc. and keep shrubbery and grass well-trimmed.
  • When hiking in tick-infested areas, stick to the middle of well-worn paths and regularly check your dog (and yourself!) for ticks.
  • Keep your dogs and cats on year-round tick prevention.
  • If your dog is at an increased risk of Lyme disease, it might be beneficial to administer the Lyme disease vaccine, which can offer them further protection.
  • Always check your dog for ticks after coming in from outdoors—even if they were just in the backyard.

Tick Removal Tips

If your pet does end up having a tick attached to them, it’s important to remove it as soon as
possible. Follow these tips for safe, quick removal:
  • Put on gloves or have a paper towel or other barrier between your hand and the tick.
  • Use thin tweezers and pinch the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull straight up in a firm motion to dislodge the tick. Do NOT twist the tick!
  • If you are concerned about Lyme disease infection, place the tick in a plastic baggie or
  • other sealed container to bring to your veterinarian’s office for identification and possible testing.
  • Clean the bite area on your pet and watch the area closely for the next few days to ensure an infection doesn’t develop.
For more tips about tick and Lyme disease prevention, please reach out to us, or ask us at your
next visit!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Summer Safety Tips for Pittsburgh Pets and Their Owners

Summer’s in the air (literally), which means it’s time to think about the dangers of heat stroke and other summer-related hazards to your pet. Dogs and (outdoor) cats will have more opportunities to get into trouble, whether it’s suffering from heat stroke or attracting parasites. Protecting your pet from these and other dangers will make your summer--and theirs--a lot more fun.

See our tips below for important information about summer safety, signs of heat stroke in dogs, and more. If you still have questions, give us a call at (412) 882-3070!

Protect Your Pet from Prolonged Heat Exposure

What pet doesn’t enjoy basking in the sun? Yet, too much sun and heat can spell trouble for your four-legged friend, especially if they have a thick coat, are overweight, and/or have a flattened muzzle. Dogs tend to struggle with heat because they can’t sweat to cool themselves off. They need to pant, and over time this becomes less effective. Dogs with flattened muzzles like Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and French Bulldogs are at a serious disadvantage because they can’t breathe as easily, which means panting takes a lot more work. These breeds are much more at risk for heat stroke.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heat stroke can be deadly for dogs, much like it can be for humans. If your dog has been out in the summer heat for far too long, they are likely to have these symptoms:
  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive, thick drool
  • Body temperature feels abnormally high
  • Struggling to urinate
  • Lethargic, listless
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Abnormally high heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Bright red tongue
Call our hospital immediately if your pet is showing any of these symptoms.

How to Minimize Your Pet’s Risk of Heat Stroke

To ensure that your pet doesn’t experience more heat and sunlight than they can endure, keep these tips in mind:
  • Never, EVER leave your pet in the car--even if the car is running. Cars left running in summer can easily overheat! Even if you think you’ll only be in the store for a couple of minutes, those minutes can be a long time for a dog or cat sitting in a car that’s getting hotter by the second. 
  • Don’t allow your dog (or cat) to walk on hot asphalt. Sun-baked sidewalks and streets can burn their paw pads, and the heat risking off the ground can raise your pet’s body temperature. 
  • Make sure your pet always has access to fresh water while they are outside. 
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of cool shade to shelter in.
  • Take your dog on walks either early in the morning or in the evening, when the sun is low and the ground has cooled. 
  • Keep exercise/playtime outside to a minimum.
  • When in doubt, keep your pet indoors on hot summer days as much as possible, and supervise them when you let them outside. 

Maintain Your Pet’s Parasite Protection

Fleas, ticks, and various kinds of worms are much more prevalent in summer, making them an even bigger risk than usual for dogs and cats. Make sure your pet never misses a dose of their heartworm and flea/tick prevention, as without it they could be at risk not only for an infestation, but an infection (or two) as well! Keeping your pet protected also protects the rest of your family, and your home.

Water Safety 

Why shouldn’t your pet get to enjoy some water playtime? After all, it keeps them cool. But before you let them take a dip, consult these tips and prepare accordingly.

Get Your Dog a Life Jacket

Whether you’re heading to the lake or taking a trip to the Atlantic, your pet should have a life vest at all times to help them stay afloat during swims. This is especially important for deep-chested breeds like Boxers and Bulldogs, who are not natural swimmers like Labradors. Regardless of breed, however, a life jacket that fits your pet correctly is a major must.

Don’t Let Them Drink the Water

Neither lake nor ocean water is good for your pet to drink. Bacteria and parasites abound, and these could make them very sick. Also, if your pet recently sustained a cut or scrape, it would probably be best to keep them out of the water entirely. Wounds are crucial entry points for bacteria and can increase your pet’s risk for infection. 





Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Why is Parasite Prevention So Important for My Dog and Cat?

Parasites including fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites are a serious concern to
our pets. They not only cause irritation; they can also cause dangerous diseases. At Always
Compassionate Veterinary Care, we highly recommend routine parasite testing as well as year-
round parasite prevention to keep your pet safe from these pesky critters!


Why We Recommend Routine Parasite Testing

At your pet’s annual exam, we often recommend parasite testing to ensure your pet is free of
pests and make sure their parasite preventatives are working. Since many parasite
preventatives are monthly, it can be easy to miss a dose, or even give it to your pet late, which
opens the door for an infestation.

At your pet’s annual exam, we’ll recommend three tests:

Fecal Testing
This test is valuable for all cats and dogs, not just puppies and kittens who are prone to getting
worms from their mother. Your pet can come in contact with a wide variety of intestinal parasites from tapeworms and hookworms to giardia and coccidia in their environment. These intestinal parasites cause little to no symptoms, but over time, they can damage your pet’s intestines and may cause conditions like anemia. Fecal testing is the only way to ensure your pet is free of these parasites and offer appropriate treatment if any are found.

Heartworm Testing
Heartworms are transmitted from the bite of an infected mosquito, and they travel through your
pet’s bloodstream to the blood vessels around the heart and lungs, where they lodge
themselves. Over time, they’ll mature and multiply, causing irreversible damage to your pet’s
heart and lungs. The symptoms of heartworm disease in its early stages are very mild and may
include lethargy, a cough after exercise, or reluctance to exercise. Yet, many pets have no
symptoms at all. By the time symptoms are noticeable, the disease has advanced to a
dangerous stage that is difficult and costly to treat. Since dogs are the typical hosts for
heartworms, we will often recommend testing them yearly. Yet, cats can be infected, too.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for a cat with heartworm disease, making prevention even more
essential.

Lyme Disease Testing
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can infect dogs, cats, and
humans alike. Ticks are usually found in wooded areas, but they can be as close to home as
your backyard! Dogs are more likely to be bitten by ticks, only because their skin is less
sensitive and they are often more likely to be outdoors in tick-infested areas with their owners.
Cats, on the other hand, have very sensitive skin and often remove the tick before it has a
chance to bite. Therefore, we only recommend routine Lyme testing for dogs who are often
outdoors with their owners. Lyme disease in dogs is often asymptomatic, meaning there are
very little or no symptoms. In some cases, dogs fight off the disease on their own, yet others
can get gravely ill. Testing helps us recognize Lyme disease in your pet so we can more closely
watch their symptoms and get them the care they need if they take a turn for the worst.

Preventative Options

At Always Compassionate Veterinary Care, we’ll talk to you about your pet’s needs and which
parasite preventatives will work best for them. Some, like Revolution Plus for cats, protects
against multiple parasites, all in one dose. Meanwhile, others like Heartgard, only protect
against one parasite (heartworms). Depending on your pet’s needs and your abilities, we’ll help
you find the safest, most effective parasite prevention option! Schedule an appointment today!

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!