Category Archives: Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

Free Feeding vs. Scheduled Feeding for Your Pet

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Feeding your pet at set times, rather than free-feeding, is healthier.

One of the more common questions presented by animal guardians is whether it is best to free feed their pets, rather than feeding at set times during a day. It is the strong opinion and feelings of this veterinarian that it is much healthier and preferable to feed their animal companions at set times during the day, usually at most twice to three times daily in most healthy adult pets. Free feeding in both dogs and cats has been linked with obesity, digestive tract problems, diabetes, as well as urinary problems in cats.

In the wild, dogs and cats are hunters, sometimes going days without eating. That is why in my practice I will even fast pets periodically to mimic the natural feeding conditions in the wild. In general, I find that pets who eat at set times a day and then have any remaining food picked up, in much better health with better functioning digestive tracts, as well as healthier coats and immune systems. Weights are maintained at a more optimal level and the best chance at longevity is achieved.

How to Clean Your Pet’s Ears

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An ear solution containing a drying agent is especially useful for floppy eared dogs

I find the best way to clean a pet’s ears is to obtain a water-soluble solution that contains drying agents such as salicylic acid. I find that these agents are often most effective in breaking and drying  up the wax and discharge that may develop especially in floppy eared dogs, and which is often is responsible for the development of secondary bacterial and yeast infections.

One of my favorite ear solutions is Epi-Otic, which has been around for many years. I find that flushing the ears liberally with this solution for several minutes is often the best way at cleaning such often waxy ears. The pet will often shake his head of the excess moisture which can then be wiped safely away with dry gauze or cotton balls. While I will often use Q-tips in the exam room in deeply cleaning out the ear canals, I usually don’t instruct clients to do this at home because of my concern about perforating the ear drum if they go too far down. I will usually recommend flushing the ears out with a good drying solution at least a few times a week, and sometimes more frequently if a pet has an active current infection.

For those pets who like to swim or bathe a lot, I will recommend flushing the ears out after bathing or swimming. Another of my favorite products, Zymox Otic HC is great to use in those pets prone to yeast or bacterial infections, as not only does this solution kill these microbes, but they will naturally and enzymatically keep the ears clean, without the need for using additional cleaners or medications in many cases.

Reducing Your Pet’s Anxiety When Traveling

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Try natural remedies to help your dog's travel anxiety

There is nothing more disturbing to an animal guardian than dealing with a nervous pet when traveling. What I will often recommend to clients is to take pets on short car trips for 10-15 minutes at a time in order for their pets to get used to trips away from home.  Most pets that exhibit anxiety usually manifest symptoms within a few minutes of beginning travel. While some pets may become restless and pant, others will drool and even vomit when commencing travel.

While there are certain pharmaceuticals that may help lessen anxiety and stress, I usually prefer increasing time in the car, as well as some natural remedies first before resorting to drugs. One of the best products I have found to help naturally take the edge off of many pets is the flower essence Be Serene. When used before trips and periodically as needed during travel, this natural remedy may often work to resolve many anxiety symptoms. The homeopathic remedy cocculus when used in 30c potency shortly before and during travel may help decrease travel-induced nausea. Other common over-the-counter medications including Benadryl and/or Dramamine may also help on certain occasions.  In more serious cases of anxiety and/or car sickness, prescription drugs such as Acepromazine or Cerenia may help resolve unwanted reactions in more serious cases.

Megaesophagus in Pets

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There are many possible causes of megaesophagus, from genetic in young puppies, to acquired cases in adult pets.

Megaesophagus is a fairly common developmental, as well as acquired, abnormality of the esophagus, where the striated muscle of the esophagus fails to contract and function adequately leading to varying symptoms of regurgitation and reflux. Most commonly, this regurgitation occurs within a short period of eating and/or drinking. It is important to differentiate active retching and vomiting from the more passive process of regurgitation due to esophageal disease.

There are many possible causes of this disease from genetic in young puppies, to acquired cases in adult pets. Some conditions such as hypothyroidism, Myasthenia gravis, and Addison’s disease may cause megaesophagus secondarily. In other cases, trauma or viral infections may be involved. In the vast majority of acquired cases of megaesophagus, however, we do not determine any underlying causes.

Diagnosis of megaesophagus is usually made by x-rays, with sometimes barium studies being helpful in confirming the diagnosis. Treatment may consist of feeding pets from elevated surfaces, as well as symptomatic medications to help promote the forward flow of food including drugs like Metoclopromide, Famotidine, and Prilosec. Prognosis for this disease will be determined by whether an underlying disease process can be identified and treated. However, given that most cases have no underlying causes found, prognosis for a healthy life is often guarded. Many pets will suffer from serious complications such as aspiration pneumonia, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in seriously affected pets.

Feline Herpes Virus

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Feline herpes virus is most common in young cats and kittens

Feline herpes virus is one of the more common causes of upper respiratory symptoms in cats of all ages. It is especially common in young cats and kittens in cattery or shelter situations, as well as in those outdoor and often stressed stray cats. Symptoms of feline herpes virus include varying degrees of eye discharge, sneezing and coughing. In severe cases, inflammation of the cornea may occur with sometimes severe ulceration of the cornea with eye spasms and pain being very prominent. In many cases, other viruses including feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus may also occur at the same time, as well as the common development of secondary bacterial infections.

Many veterinarians will often treat with oral or injectable antibiotics to prevent these secondary bacterial infections, as well as topical antibiotics. However, because of the viral nature of this disease, topical antiviral eye drops such as Idoxuridine drops are often indicated, as well as oral viral immune stimulants such as Vetri-DMG liquid and Transfer Factor, which I have found helpful in many cases. Other immune boosting herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal may also be helpful in some cases as well.

In my experience and opinion, I have not found the vaccination for feline herpes viral infection helpful in preventing disease. At best, it may help lessen the severity, but even then I have not found this vaccination that helpful in clinical practice. While most cats will overcome this infection on their own with supportive care, other cats may remain chronic carriers for life, and may be at risk for relapsing or persistent infections of the eyes or airways, particularly under periods of immune or emotional stress.

Malabsorption Syndrome in Pets

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Malabsorption syndrome can cause varying degrees of digestive upset

Malabsorption syndrome is a general term which applies to a chronic condition of the digestive tract where the absorption of critical nutrients and proteins is impaired. This results in varying degrees of digestive upset, which can range from diarrhea of often mucousy or fatty character, as well as sometimes vomiting if the upper digestive tract is involved as well. Changes in appetite, as well as weight loss may occur in chronic cases.

There are many chronic diseases that may cause malabsorption syndrome in pets including diseases such as food allergy/hypersensitivity, lymphangectasia, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer.  When presented with a pet with chronic diarrhea, it is important during a workup to differentiate malabsorption syndromes from maldigestion syndromes caused by diseases of the pancreas.

While a basic CBC/chemistry blood workup and stool check for parasites are often important baseline workups in these pets, in more chronic cases special dietary trials with hypoallergenic diets are often tried, as well as even intestinal biopsies for definitive disease diagnosis. This is important so that the best long-term treatment plan can be implemented.  In many immune mediated diseases of the digestive tract, trials with antibiotics like Metronidazole, tylan powder, as well as immune suppressive medications such as Prednisone may be needed for long-term management and control of clinical signs. Prognosis will be determined by the primary disease process involved, as well as early and aggressive diagnostic and therapeutic treatments.

Does My Pet Need a Multivitamin?

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A multivitamin is especially beneficial for growing puppies and kittens

One of the more common questions I get in the veterinary clinic is whether or not a pet should be given a multivitamin. In most cases, and especially in growing puppies and kittens, I will often recommend a multivitamin. This is because many key nutrients are lost in the cooking and processing of commercial pet foods, which form the basis of many pets’ diets. Many animal guardians feed the same foods day in and day out. With time, nutrient deficiencies may often develop, if these deficient diets are not supplemented, in my opinion. That is why I always recommend a minimally processed natural diet, such as PetGuard, Wysong or Nature’s Variety.

Ideally, pets should be given complete and balanced raw meat diets, which often do not have to be supplemented. However, even in those cases, it is usually safe to add a complete multivitamin such as Vitachews, or the wonderful multivitamins known as Canine Plus or Nu-Cat from the company Vetriscience. In addition to a good multivitamin, I will also recommend supplementing with a good probiotic/enzyme product such as NaturVet Digestive Enzymes, as well as a good Omega 3 fatty acid supplement such as ones made by Nordic Naturals. I find that by supplementing most processed commercial foods with these supplements, that pet health and wellness are indeed enhanced.

Should My Pet Eat a Senior Diet?

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It is more important for your senior pet to eat a healthy, minimally processed food than to eat a "senior" diet.

One of the more common questions presented in the clinic is when should an animal guardian consider changing their pets’ diet to a specific senior formula. This is one of the most misunderstood areas of animal nutrition. As a holistically oriented veterinarian, the most important aspects to healthy feeding include a minimally-processed, preferably raw pet food diet if possible, that mimics what pets evolved to eat in the wild.  If this is not possible, a minimally-processed diet such as PetGuard or Wysong are indeed acceptable alternatives. Such foods have been hallmarks in holistic veterinary medicine for decades, and will almost certainly never be found on a pet food recall list.

I find it even more important to maintain most healthy adult or senior pets on diets such as those mentioned here, in order to maintain optimal health and aging organ function. The only time I will consider feeding a senior pet food or possibly a low-protein food is when a pet has advanced pathology of its liver or kidneys, as determined by blood work, so that workload can be reduced on these vital organs. However, in most healthy senior pets, I find it counterproductive to change formulas and/or reduce protein, because I find that in many cases these senior diets are nutritionally inferior, and by feeding them, we may lead to increased health problems in our beloved senior pets.

Campylobacteriosis in Dogs

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Up to 50% of healthy dogs may carry this bacteria in their digestive tract

Campylobacteriosis in dogs is a bacterial infection of the digestive tract most commonly affecting puppies under 6 months of age. In fact, up to 50% of healthy dogs may carry this bacteria in their digestive tract shedding it in the feces when under immune or emotional stress. Campylobacter is most commonly transmitted by ingesting contaminated feces, food or water, and is most often seen in a kennel or crowded situation.

Symptoms of the disease include vomiting, fever, straining to have a bowel movement, as well as loss of appetite. Definitive diagnosis is only possible by special stool cultures done at an outside laboratory. Treatment of Campylobacter involves either IV or oral fluid therapy, as well as appropriate antibiotic therapy to treat the bacterial overgrowth in affected animals. With early diagnosis and treatment prognosis is usually excellent.

Asthma in Pets

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Asthma is more frequently seen in cats than in dogs

As in people, asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease also frequently diagnosed in dogs and, more commonly, in cats. The symptoms of asthma can be varied and may include wheezing and difficulty breathing, often with an increased rate of respiration, as well as coughing, exercise intolerance, and restlessness or lethargy. In severe cases, some pets may need to breathe through an open mouth, because of the difficulty in oxygenating the blood. Environmental factors, including second hand cigarette smoke and dusty or moldy homes may also trigger asthma episodes in certain susceptible pets.

While veterinarians will always take a thorough history on any pet presenting with asthma-like symptoms, in many cases underlying causes or factors are often not found.  Most pets presenting with chronic respiratory symptoms should have a complete medical workup, including testing for heartworms and intestinal parasites that may cause coughing, as well as complete chest x-rays to rule out other underlying respiratory conditions.

Treatment of asthmatic pets will usually involve correcting any contributing environmental factors, as well as symptomatic medications to relieve symptoms. The most common medications used include medicines to dilate the airways such as Theophylline, as well as corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and sometimes antibiotics to treat or prevent any secondary bacterial infections. In severe cases, oxygen therapy at the veterinary hospital may be needed to stabilize many pets. Many veterinarians are now using special inhalers like the one made by Aerocat as an alternative or supplement to drug therapy when treating asthmatic cats long-term.   Prognosis for managing asthma long-term is excellent, provided diagnostic workups and medical therapy is quickly instituted.