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When your pet should see a vet.

WHEN YOUR PET SHOULD SEE A VET

Only by knowing the appearance, habits, and behavior of your pet in good health can you recognize when it may be "sick as a dog."

Mary's dog, Barney, didn't greet her at the door as usual, and when she fed him supper he only picked at his favorite food. Evidently, Barney wasn't feeling well. But Mary didn't know whether she should call her veterinarian right away or wait until the next day. Pet owners are often confused about when they should bring their pets to the veterinarian.

Some problems can be handled at home, but others require prompt professional attention. It's always best to catch little problems early before they become big ones. Pets, like people, differ in their responses when they are sick. Some are more stoic than others. Cats, for example, hide their illnesses well. A cat that appears sick should be rushed to see the veterinarian as soon as possible.

You and your veterinarian are a team. Your familiarity with your pet is important to your veterinarian because your pet cannot speak for itself. The best thing you can do is know the appearance, habits, and behavior of your pet in good health. Only by knowing what is usual can you be alert to something amiss. Keep a written record of vaccination dates, treatments and illnesses, and observations of any abnormal signs. This will be invaluable to your veterinarian. It could also save you money by eliminating the need for extensive diagnostic testing.

Working with Your Vet

Choose a veterinarian you like and trust. Your friends, neighbors, and relatives are good sources for referral. Your pet should make regular visits to the vet for physical examinations and booster vaccinations. Your veterinarian can do his job best when he knows you and your pet well. Don't wait for a midnight emergency to let your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages looking for a vet. When calling your veterinarian for a phone consultation, be sure to have such vital information at hand as your pet's body temperature (ask your vet to show you how to take it), appetite, and any abnormal signs you may have observed. Be very specific when you describe your pet's condition. Your veterinarian can then help you decide whether an office visit or a home treatment is needed.

Skin Problems

Diseases of the skin can be minor irritations or indications of serious health problems. Flea allergies are the most common skin problems in dogs. Progressive hair loss, excessive scratching, bumps or lumps, raw places that refuse to heal, or large deep cuts should send you with your pet to the vet. Minor irritations, mild burns, insect bites, or small cuts can be treated at home by cleaning with a mild hand soap. Antibiotic ointments, burn ointments, or calamine lotions may then be used. (Such irritating compounds as strong iodine, "blue lotion," or hydrogen peroxide can retard healing.) Applying a clean bandage to protect the area from dirt, licking, and scratching can keep a small problem from turning into a big one. Don't bandage unless you know how to do so properly. Let your veterinarian show you how.

Digestive Upsets

Diarrhea and vomiting can be caused by several conditions, including table foods, foreign bodies, bones, poisonings, or serious vital or metabolic disease. Home treatment is usually O.K. for an active, alert pet with no appetite loss or fever. Withhold food (but not water) for 24 hours, and then begin feeding small amounts of a bland diet. Commercial diets for this purpose are available from your vet, or you can make one at home from boiled chicken (without the skin) or lamb mixed with equal parts of cooked white rice. Pepto-Bismol liquid can be given to dogs (not to cats): one teaspoon per five to ten pounds of body weight. Any animal with digestive upset lasting more than 24 hours or vomiting or diarrhea that has blood in it should be seen promptly by a vet. Giving cats a hairball preventive regularly can head off digestive problems caused by excessive ingestion of hair.

Heart and Respiratory Disease

Heartworm disease is now common in dogs all over the country. A simple test and preventive is available. Signs of heart disease include persistent coughing (especially at night or with exercise), easy fatiguability and exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, fainting, and distention of the abdomen. Obvious signs don't often appear until the disease is well-advanced. A pet owner may first notice the cough, as well as the pet's sluggishness.

Pets don't get simple colds or flu like people. Most respiratory diseases are caused by viruses; they can get worse without treatment. Sneezing, runny eyes or nose, or coughing that lasts more than a few days means a veterinary visit is due. In the meantime, simple tender, loving care, such as warm comfortable housing, rest, good food, and lots of love, will help.

Urinary Diseases

Feline urinary syndrome (FUS) is a very common diet-related problem, especially in male cats. A build-up of crystals and "sand" in the urinary tract can slow or completely stop the normal flow of urine in male cats. This becomes a life-threatening situation as toxic body wastes build up in the pet's bloodstream. Male cats that urinate outside the litter box, that have blood in the urine, or that strain to urinate should be seen by a veterinarian immediately (even if it is the middle of the night). This is a true emergency. Cat owners may mistakenly believe the cat is constipated because it spends so much time in the litter box. FUS can also cause your cat to lose its appetite, appear sluggish, or begin vomiting.

Dogs also have urinary troubles. Any bleeding or discharge from the urinary or genital tract should get prompt attention.

Ears and Eyes

Eye injuries--especially common in Persian cats or snub-nosed dogs whose eyes are prominent and large--or diseases are indicated by pain, squinting, redness, pus, swelling, avoidance of light, or cloudiness of the cornea (clear part of the front of the eye). Eye problems can worsen rapidly within 12 to 24 hours and therefore should always be examined by a vet as soon as possible. Always apply a bland eye ointment before bathing your pet to prevent soap irritation of the eyes.

Ear mites and bacterial infections are common in dogs and cats. Ears can be gently cleaned with rubbing alcohol and cotton on the end of your finger. Head shaking, foul odors, ear scratching, and "dirty" ears are signs of ear problems that should be seen by your vet. A proper diagnosis is essential before any treatment.

Neurological and Musculoskeletal Disease

Seizures, uncontrolled spasms, or abnormal gaits or posture may stem from infections (rabies, meningitis), trauma, poisons, or epileptic-type seizures. Any pet that shows such neurological symptoms as changes in disposition, posture, or attitude should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. The condition probably isn't rabies, but you shouldn't take a chance.

Limping or abnormal gait may be a sign of muscle, joint, tendon, or bone pain caused by metabolic-nutritional disease, such infections as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tumors, injuries, or a slipped disc. Evidence of mild pain would not necessitate a veterinary visit right away. Enforced rest, hot packs (except for fresh injuries, which require cold packs), or aspirin (dogs only--cats cannot have aspirin or any other aspirin substitute) can be used. If using aspirin for dogs, give buffered aspirin tablets at a dose of one-half adult five-grain tablet for each 25 pounds of body weight once or twice a day. Do not use aspirin if the dog is on estrogen therapy or has a known bleeding disorder.

Always ask your veterinarian which health problems can be handled at home and which conditions need the attention of a professional. Some pet owners are able to deliver quite a lot of home medical care. And some problems are "red alerts" that require very prompt professional help. Remember these keys to good pet care:

1. Be alert to and observant of behavior changes.

2. Practice good nutrition and such preventive medicine as vaccinations and parasite control.

3. Seek prompt professional attention for problems.

PHOTO : Some pet problems can be handled at home, but serious "red alerts" require immediate

PHOTO : veterinary care.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles on disease symptoms
Author:Hoeppner, Gabrielle
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Words:1383
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