Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pet Health Tip #22- Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

As dogs age, they can develop symptoms similar to dementia in humans.  It is termed Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD.  Dogs with CCD can show a variety of symptoms.  Forgetting how to do simple tasks, such as how to climb stairs or how to back up, is a common symptom.  Your dog may stand at the bottom of the stairs as if he is confused, or he may get stuck in a corner.

Another common symptom is becoming fearful.  Because your dog is fearful, his personality can change causing him to growl or bite if suddenly startled.  When approaching your dog, it is very important to make sure he knows you are there in order to decrease the chance of startling him.

Many dogs will also develop a fear of the dark.  These dogs often pace restlessly at night.  Finally, many dogs with CCD will no longer be housebroken.  They will start to eliminate in the house.

There are medications available that will slow the progression of CCD, but similar to humans with dementia, there is no cure.  The best thing we can do is gain an understanding of these changes and do the best we can to accommodate our geriatric pets.  For instance, if your dog has grown fearful, try to minimize the amount of stress in his life.  One example would be allowing him a safe place to go if there are small children in the house.  If he has grown fearful of the dark, give him a nightlight.  Also, he may need to be constantly shown how to do simple tasks.  Finally, he may need to be placed into a crate when you are not home.  This can accomplish two things; one, it will give him a place where he feels safe when he is alone; and two, it will keep him from eliminating in the house.

Geriatric dogs can be a challenge.  Our dogs give us unconditional love and the least we can do is give them our patience and understanding as they age.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #21- Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is (unfortunately) a common problem during the hot summer months, especially when temperatures soar into the 100's.  Two of the most important things you can do to protect your dog from the heat are to make sure your dog has lots of shade and plenty of water.  It is easy to forget how fast water can evaporate in extreme heat, so make sure you re-fill the water dishes often.

Outdoor dogs with thick coats of fur, even if it is relatively short, should be shaved.  The thick fur is just like you wearing your winter coat out in the heat!  Another great idea is to add water misters to their pen to act as an air conditioner.  And lastly, do not leave your dog in a vehicle, even if the windows are cracked!

Symptoms of heat stroke include: Excessive panting; recumbency (lying on side); pale mucous membranes (gums and inside of cheeks); and unresponsiveness.

Emergency treatments: It imperative to get the dog's temperature down as quickly as possible.  Heat stroke dog temperatures can rise above 105 degrees.  The best thing you can do is get your dog to a veterinarian, so he can be started on IV fluids and the vet can work on lowering the dog's temperature.  However, if you are unable to get to a vet clinic, there are some treatments you can try.  First of all, you don't want to lower the temperature too quickly.  One of the best ways to lower a dog’s temperatures is to pour rubbing alcohol along his spine.  Rubbing alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, thus acting as a coolant.  Also, a room temperature water enema works well.  You don't want to use cold water as the dog's temperature is already well above room temperature and cold water would be too much of a shock to the dog's system.

Even with proper treatment, a heat stroke victim's chances of survival are minimal. So, the best treatment is prevention.  Please be aware of our four-legged friends during the warm summer months and do what you can to keep them safe and comfortable.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PET HEALTH #20-Cystitis

Cystitis refers to inflammation of the bladder wall.  Several underlying medical issues can cause cystitis.  The most common cause of cystitis is a bacterial infection.  This is especially true for female dogs and cats.  Bacterial infections in dogs and cats happen the same way they do in people, and pets will show similar symptoms.  These symptoms include: increased frequency of urination, straining to void the bladder, and blood in the urine.  Antibiotics are used to treat bladder infections.

Bladder stones (uroliths) can also cause cystitis.  Bladder stones are mineral deposits that form into rock-like substances.  These stones can be as large as golf balls!  The symptoms are exactly the same as with bladder infections.  Occasionally, a small stone may become trapped in a male dog’s or cat’s urethra causing a blockage.  This is a serious condition that requires emergency treatment.

During the early stages of stone development, the pet will have crystals in the urine.  Dogs may or may not develop symptoms of cystitis during the crystal phase.  Cats will typically start to show symptoms during this phase.  As I stated earlier, these crystals and stones are caused by mineral deposits.  These deposits are created by the urine either being too acidic or too alkaline.  The treatment is a change in diet, which will either raise or lower the pH of the urine.  Some bladder stones will dissolve in response to the diet change.  However, surgery is usually needed to remove the stones.

A less common cause of cystitis is a bladder tumor.  These usually develop in older female dogs. The tumors are typically benign.

There are other less common causes of cystitis.  All causes create the same symptoms.  Therefore, if your pet is showing symptoms if cystitis, you should take him or her to a veterinarian in order to get an accurate diagnosis.

Friday, April 15, 2016

PRICKED BY A ROSE is on Sale for $0.99!

For a limited time, my new contemporary romance "Pricked by a Rose" is on sale for $0.99!


After being abducted by a serial rapist, Rose McAllister is haunted by nightmares. Wanting a fresh start, she leaves her job in the city and moves three hundred miles away to a quaint college town. She begins to think that a normal life is possible as a budding relationship develops between her and her sexy new neighbor. 

Mason Sterling is fighting to move past painful memories of his own. As his attraction for Rose intensifies, the instinct to protect his heart becomes stronger. Can he overcome his trust issues enough to give their relationship a chance to grow into something beautiful? Is she worth risking another broken heart? 

click image to buy now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

NOW AVAILABLE!!! "Pricked by a Rose" a new contemporary romance



After being abducted by a serial rapist, Rose McAllister is haunted by nightmares. Wanting a fresh start, she leaves her job in the city and moves three hundred miles away to a quaint college
town. She begins to think that a normal life is possible as a budding relationship develops between her and her sexy new neighbor. 

Mason Sterling is fighting to move past painful memories of his

own. As his attraction for Rose intensifies, the instinct to protect his heart becomes stronger. Can he overcome his trust issues enough to give their relationship a chance to grow into something beautiful? Is she worth risking another broken heart? 

click image to buy now!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #19- Hairballs

Hairballs are caused by a cat swallowing hair when it grooms itself.  Most of the hair is passed through the intestinal tract.  However, some of the hair stays in the stomach and aggregates into a hairball.  Young kittens don’t typically have hairball issues for two reasons.  First, they don’t lose much hair when they groom, and therefore, they don’t swallow much hair.  Second, their digestive tract is more active and moves the hair through more easily.  As cats age, they tend to shed more hair; thus causing them to swallow more hair.  Also, they are unable to pass the hair through their digestive tract as efficiently.  As a consequence, the hair sits in the stomach and aggregates into a hairball.  The hairball irritates the stomach causing the cat to retch.  Typically, the cat is able to successfully rid itself of the hairball by vomiting it up.

Hairballs are a normal part of a cat’s life.  They don’t usually cause many problems, other than to the owner who has to clean up the mess.  However, on rare occasions, a hairball will sit in a cat’s stomach so long that it hardens.  This can cause blockage and can become life-threatening.  Again, this is a rare occurrence, but one to be aware of.

So, what can you do about hairballs?  There are some hairball remedy products available.  These products work by binding up the hair and increasing the digestive tract activity to aid in passing the hairball.  They work well and I recommend using them for geriatric cats who have reoccurring issues with hairballs.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #18- Feline Aids

"Feline Aids" is caused by a virus; specifically, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).  FIV causes symptoms in cats that are very similar to the symptoms that HIV causes in people.  It basically destroys the cat's immune system, causing them to be much more susceptible to infections.  Most of the time, the first indication a cat has FIV is that it has an infection that seems to be causing the cat to be more ill than it should.  An example would be a wound that won’t heal.  Another example would be an upper respiratory infection that just won’t go away.

FIV is transmitted from cat to cat through an exchange between the saliva of an infected cat and the bloodstream of a non-infected cat.  Most typically, this is through a bite wound.  The virus then hides in the cat for up to six years before emerging and attacking the immune system.  So, there are a lot of cats who have FIV, but are not showing any symptoms.  Because it is usually transmitted through bite wounds, FIV occurs most commonly in stray cats and the occasional indoor/outdoor cat.

The most full-proof way to protect the cat from contracting FIV is to keep the cat indoors.  That way they are never exposed to cats who have FIV.  Also, since it is transmitted through a bite, if your cat is only going into its own yard, then you don't really need to worry.  However, there are vaccines available for cats who do go outside and tend to wander.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) causes symptoms similar to FIV and is transmitted much more easily.  It can be transmitted from an infected cat's saliva to a non-infected cat through the mucus membranes (lining in the mouth, nose, and eyes).  Therefore, it can be transmitted by one cat simply hissing and spitting on another or through sharing a water dish, etc.  Therefore, if your cat is going to go outside, then I highly recommend that you have them vaccinated against FeLV.

A simple blood test is used to diagnose FIV and FeLV.  If you are going to bring a new cat into your home, I highly recommend you have her tested first.  That way you will know what you are dealing with.  Like I said, the cat can have the virus for years and not show any symptoms, so if they test positive, then you have to measure their expected life span and the risk to your other cats.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for either virus.  However, many FeLV or FIV positive cats live long, happy lives.  If you have a cat that is positive for either virus, then it is imperative they remain indoor cats to prevent them from exposing other cats to infection.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

COMING SOON! PRICKED BY A ROSE a new contemporary romance

I'm excited to announce the upcoming release of my latest contemporary romance novel, PRICKED BY A ROSE!!


After being abducted by a serial rapist, Rose McAllister is haunted by nightmares. Wanting a fresh start, she leaves her job in the city and moves three hundred miles away to a quaint college town. She begins to think that a normal life is possible as a budding relationship develops between her and her sexy new neighbor.

Mason Sterling is fighting to move past painful memories of his own. As his attraction for Rose intensifies, the instinct to protect his heart becomes stronger. Can he overcome his trust issues enough to give their relationship a chance to grow into something beautiful? Is she worth risking another broken heart?

PET HEALTH TIP #17- Litter Box Issues

One of the most common reasons people give away their cat is frustration with the cat’s refusal to use the litter box.  Instead of taking the cat to the veterinarian, they assume the cat has a behavioral problem and just get rid of it.  Most of these cats are wonderful animals.  They would have made great pets, if the owners had a better understanding of the underlying problems that caused the cat to refuse to use the litter box.  So, I thought I would share some tips in the hope of preventing a perfectly good cat from ending up in a shelter.

Reason #1-The most common reason a cat will refuse to use the litter box is that they have a medical issue.  This is especially true if the cat has been using the box and then suddenly stops.  There are two main underlying medical issues that will cause a cat to stop using the litter box:  

First, a bladder infection.  Cats are notorious for getting bladder infections.  Their bathroom (i.e. litter box) isn't always the cleanest place in the world.

Second, urinary crystals.  These are caused by mineral deposits that build up in the urine and then form crystals.

Both of these medical issues cause urination to be very painful for the cat.  The cat doesn't know why it hurts to urinate.  She then blames the litter box for the pain and starts trying to go other places.  To make matters worse, she feels like she has to urinate all the time, so she starts urinating everywhere.  That is the most common complaint from the owner, "She just started peeing all over the house." Please, if your cat starts doing this, take it to the vet!

Reason #2-Cats are very sensitive about where they go to the bathroom.  Think about it.  They are very vulnerable during this time.  They want to feel secure about where they are going.  A big mistake that owners make is to stick the litter box next to something that makes a loud noise (i.e. dryer or water heater).  The cat is just plain scared to urinate in those locations and will find somewhere they feel safe.

Reason #3- The number of boxes, type of box, or litter used in the box will play a big role in whether or not your cat feels comfortable using the litter box.  First, the rule of thumb for number of boxes is one for each cat plus one.  So, if you have three cats, then you should have four boxes.  This can become very inconvenient, but if you have cats that don't particularly care for each other, then the last thing they want is to smell each other’s scent while they use the litter box.

The next issue is the type of box.  Some cats like boxes with a lid and door to enter and some don't.  Finally, some cats prefer sand-like litter in their box, some prefer paper, and others like crystals.  If you want your cat to use the box, then you will have to get them the type of box they prefer and place it in an area where they can feel secure.  It's really not asking that much.  In the outdoors, they can go anywhere they choose.  You are asking them to use a particular box placed in a particular area. The least you can do is make it comfortable for them.

Reason #4- Clean the box regularly!  I can't tell you how many times I have asked the question, "How often do you clean the box?" and have been told something like, "Whenever it starts to smell bad."  Do you like to use the bathroom in a place that smells bad?  Remember, by the time it smells "bad" to you, it smells like something died in there to your cat!

Monday, February 15, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #16- Cat Declaw

One of the most difficult choices a cat owner faces is whether or not to have their cat declawed.  Here are some facts to help in making that decision:

1)  What does the surgery entail?

The claws are removed by removing the last bone in the digit.  Essentially, that would be like removing the ends of all your fingers.  So, it is not just the nail itself that is removed.  The bone has to be removed or the claw will re-grow.  Not only will the claw re-grow, but it will re-grow in an abnormal way and cause a lot of discomfort for the cat.

2)  How painful is the surgery?

This really depends on the age of the cat.  Young kittens who are declawed before they are six months old usually recover within just a few days.  After the first few days, they rarely show any signs of discomfort.  Cats who are declawed over six months of age often show signs of discomfort in their paws for several weeks.  However, there are some very good analgesics (pain medications) on the market that have significantly reduced the amount of post-surgical pain felt by these older cats.  But, if you are going to have the surgery done, the younger the cat the better.

3)  What are some alternatives?

There are several behavioral modification techniques that you can try if your kitten or cat is destroying your furniture.  First, cats do not like water or loud noises.  So, if you spray them with water or blow an air horn every time you catch them scratching something they aren't supposed to scratch, this will be a major deterrent for them.  They also tend to stay away from citrus smells.  So, you can try using lemon or orange scents on the furniture you don't want them to scratch.  Finally, they don't like the feel of plastic or aluminum foil on their paws.  So, you can put a barrier they would have to walk across to get to their favorite scratching area.

Next, you will need to give them an assortment of alternative places to scratch.  These need to be more attractive than the furniture.  Catnip works really well to attract cats to the post you want them to scratch.

Unlike most dogs, cats tend to take a toenail trims pretty well.  You can use human nail clippers to trim the cat’s nails.  Dog toenail trimmers are too big and bulky for the small cat claws.  To trim a cat's nails, press on the end of the toe and the nail pops out.  Then, you can trim off the tips.  By keeping the nails short, they will do significantly less damage when your cat does scratch.

Finally, there are products that can be glued onto your cat’s claws.  I have found these to be difficult to use.  They don't all pop off at once and so it seems to be a constant struggle to keep them on the cat’s claws.

I recommend trying all of the above alternatives before deciding to have your cat declawed; especially, if the cat is an adult.  However, I worked in an animal shelter for several years, and one of the things that caused me the biggest heartache was to see really nice cats given up for adoption because they were destroying the furniture in the house.  Many of the cats never got adopted.  So, I would definitely support having your cat declawed, if the only other alternatives are to turn her out or have her euthanized.  Most cats recover just fine from the surgery and go on to lead happy, healthy lives.

Monday, February 8, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #15- Intestinal Parasites

Several intestinal worms infest dogs.  The most common intestinal worms are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.  The one most commonly seen by the owner is the tapeworm.  It looks like a small grain of rice.  The dog is not actually passing the whole worm.  It is passing an immature worm that breaks off the mature worm.  The mature tapeworm can be several inches long and is flat.

Occasionally, if the worm burden is high enough, the owner may also see roundworms in the stool, or the dog may vomit up the roundworms.  These are long spaghetti-shaped worms.  However, most of the time the dog only passes the roundworm, hookworm, or whipworm eggs, which are microscopic.  Therefore, you will not see the worms themselves.

Symptoms of intestinal parasite infestation include: weight loss (or failure to gain weight) and loose stools.  Occasionally, in small puppies, high worm burdens can cause vomiting.  Hookworms can also cause bloody stools.

Another common intestinal parasite is Giardia.  This is not a worm, but is a protozoa.  Dogs with Giardia infections usually have very loose stools to runny diarrhea.

Puppies will often have multiple infestations.  It is common for them to have roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and Giardia all at the same time.  Therefore, it is very important to deworm puppies.  Typically, your veterinarian will deworm your puppy at the same time he receives his vaccinations.  Dog breeders will start deworming puppies as early as a couple of weeks of age.
Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and Giardia are all transmitted fecal-orally through the ingestion of the eggs.  The infested dog will pass the eggs in his stool and then the next dog usually picks the eggs up on his feet.  Then, when he groom himself, he ingests the eggs.  The eggs then mature into adult worms.

Tapeworms are transmitted by the flea.  Dogs typically get tapeworms from biting at the fleas that are biting them.  They accidentally ingest the flea, and the immature stages of the tapeworm are released and mature into adult tapeworms.  Cats often become infested with tapeworms by eating a rodent (rat or mouse) that has fleas.

Most heartworm medications also contain medication that will kill roundworms and hookworms.  So, you are giving them a monthly heartworm and intestinal worm treatment with each monthly dose.

Tapeworms are not killed by most heartworm medications.  Also, most over-the-counter medication do not kill tapeworms.  If you see evidence of your pet passing tapeworms, it is important to make sure you are using a deworming medication that kills them. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #14- Ear Mites

Dogs and cats are both susceptible to ear mite infestations.  However, the most common victims are kittens.  Ear mites are microscopic creatures.  Under the microscope, they resemble a tick.  These little creatures will set up residence inside the kitten’s ear canal.  The mites crawl around inside the ear causing the kitten constant irritation.  The most common symptom your kitten will demonstrate is constant scratching and digging at her ears.  She will also shake her head a lot.  Ear mites feed on dead skin, so they don’t cause damage to the ear.  However, the kitten’s constant scratching can cause damage to the sensitive skin inside the ear, which can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.  Another symptom associated with ear mites is a build-up of black debris that has a gritty quality.  It has a consistency similar to sand.  This build-up is essentially mite waste.

Ear mites do not infest humans.  However, as I said, they will infest both dogs and cats.  It is common to have more than one animal in the household affected.  The treatment is simple and involves thoroughly cleaning the ears and applying medication.  It is important to consult your veterinarian for treatment options.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

PET HEALTH TIP #13- Ringworm

I have had several people over the years ask me if ringworm is really caused by worms.  The answer is no.  Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection.  Only a few diseases can be spread from one species of animal to another or from animals to people (zoonotic).  Ringworm is one of the diseases that can be contagious between species.  Cats and dogs can give ringworm to each other, and both of them can give it to people.

In humans, ringworm causes a lesion on the skin that is usually circular and very itchy (pruritic).  In dogs, it causes patchy hair loss (alopecia) that can occur anywhere on the body.  The skin in the area of the alopecia is usually flaky. Unlike humans, dogs are usually not pruritic.

Cats are the tricky ones.  Some cats will have patchy hair loss.  Usually, the hair loss is localized around the mouth, eyes, and on the ears.  However, there are cats who are asymptomatic, which means they have the fungus on their fur, but don't have any lesions.  These cats are still contagious!  So, if you suddenly come down with a ringworm lesion and you recently had contact with a cat, the cat was probably the source, even if it appeared healthy.

The fungus that causes ringworm can also survive very well in the environment, including the dirt.  The fungal spores can also travel through the air and hide in places, like air conditioning ducts, for long periods.  It is extremely difficult to get rid of ringworm once it has entered an environment.  The fungus is very susceptible to household cleaners.  So, it is pretty easy to kill it on cleanable surfaces.  The problem areas are the places we don't usually clean or are difficult to clean, such as furniture or air ducts.

If your pet is diagnosed with ringworm, limit the areas he has access to and keep him isolated from other pets and children.  Ringworm is a treatable disease, but as I said, it is difficult to eliminate it from your environment once it’s there.