Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thinking about getting a dog?

With the new year, I see a lot of families with new dogs.  I think it is great to add a pet to the household, but I do find that a lot of people don't prepare themselves for what is involved with a new dog.  Most people decide on getting a dog, but may not think about all the work that goes into a dog.  So, I am going to go over a few questions you might want to ask yourself before going to the humane society, breeder, or store to purchase a pet.

1.) What breed of dog do I want?  It seems a simple question, but it is a good one to ask.  Are you a single person who is looking for a pet to keep you company.  Do you have a family where there are a lot of people available to help with the dog's care.  I wouldn't typically recommend to an owner to get an energetic, young, Labrador if he/she doesn't have the time to walk the dog twice daily for an extended period of time.  We will just run into problems with that dog destroying furniture or "misbehaving" because they have so much energy they need to get out.  Same thing for a person looking to have a pet to play with, or run with, etc; don't look into getting a Shih Tzu as the pet might not be able to keep up with you.  So, ask yourself what breed you might be interested in before getting a pet.

2.) Do I want a puppy versus an adult dog?  There are advantages and disadvantages to both young and old dogs.  Advantages to young dogs are the ability to help shape their personality, high energy level, and of course overall cuteness; however, you typically have to devote more time, lose sleep, and deal with potty training for these pets.  With older dogs you typically get a pet that is already potty trained or may not require as much supervision, but you might not be able to change behavioral issues, might run into medial issues sooner, and the pets life span won't be as long.

3.) Am I going to be able to take care of this pet?  The bill for purchasing the pet isn't the end of spending on this pet.  Once home, you are going to have expenditures for food, toys, veterinary care, damaged furniture  etc.  Remember that veterinarians will recommend being on heartworm and flea preventatives and they will need their shots, etc.  Also, if your pet gets sick, you may have to bring them in for unexpected charges.  It is always a good idea to set aside some money for the care of your pet and also consider pet insurance as this can help if they become really sick.

4.) Am I mature enough for a pet?  Most dogs require constant care and some people may not be ready for a pet.  Although they are cute, pets can be a lot of work and you have to be around to care for them.  If you are used to going away for weekends or overnight, you need to consider where you might keep your pet if they can't come with you.  Some people just don't have time for pets, which is fine, but make sure you realize this before you get your pet.

There are many other questions to ask yourself before looking for a pet.  If you don't think you are ready or have other questions, don't hesitate to call your local veterinarian to ask other questions that you may have about pet ownership.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Urinary Problems

Now that I have talked about behavioral issues and the litter box, let's talk a little more about some medical issues that can lead to problems urinating outside the box.  When trying to determine what the medical issue may be when cats are having problems with the litter box, we first want to determine whether this is a lower urinary tract (bladder) issue or more a problem in the kidneys or elsewhere.

We can usually narrow down the problem just by getting a thorough history.  There will be a few questions asked about how the accidents are occurring:

1. Have you noticed any increased amount of urination or drinking?
2. Is there an increase in frequency of urination?
3. Does there seem to be any discomfort when going to the bathroom?
4. Have you seen any discoloration in the urine or change in smell of the urine?
5. Is it a small amount or large amount of urine when your pet is having accidents?
6. Have you noticed anything else like weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, etc?

When you notice that your pet is drinking more or urinating more and is leaving large puddles outside the box and may or may not be losing weight or having other problems (inappetence or large appetite, etc), then we typically look at either the kidney or other metabolic or endocrine problems.  Your cat is probably having accidents because they are urinating more and might not be able to make it to the box or the box is dirty because they are using it more and then they have an aversion.  Some common medical issues that we see that can lead to this are diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, liver disease, electrolyte imbalances, etc.  We can evaluate for a lot of these problems with some simple testing, which usually includes a complete blood count, serum chemistry profile, urinalysis (+/- urine culture), and thyroid profile.  Occasionally, imaging of the kidney with radiographs or an ultrasound may be recommended.  Once a diagnosis is made, then that particular condition can be treated (insulin for diabetes; change of diet for kidney disease, etc).

If the history includes problems like discomfort when urinating, small, frequent accidents, and blood in the urine, then we are more likely to pursue a problem with the lower urinary system (in particular, the bladder).  When we have histories like this we like to get similar blood work as described above, but the urinalysis, urine culture, and bladder imaging becomes much more useful in diagnosing the underlying problem. The breakdown of common medical problems in the lower urinary tract varies greatly depending on the age of your pet.

When approaching cats younger than ten years old, we typically think that more than half will have a condition called idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder of unknown cause), a quarter will have bladder stones, and the remainder will have conditions like urinary tract infections, bladder masses, or trauma.  The classic cat with idiopathic cystitis is a young (4-5 year old), male cat who is on an exclusively dry diet.  We usually treat these cats by re-hydrating them (intravenous fluids or subcutaneous fluids), treating their pain, and then giving them time to recover on their own (2-4 days).  In the long term, we try to increase hydration by switching them to an exclusively wet or mostly wet diet along with promoting drinking with a continuous water fountain.  There are also many medications that are used; however, many of these medications don't have definitive evidence that they work.  I find that increasing these cats hydration level works the most to help prevent future problems.  For more more information, visit this site.

When cats are older than ten years, then the distribution of problems shifts and a majority of these patients will have a urinary tract infection, with fewer having bladder stones, and a minority having a bladder mass or other issue.  The treatment will again depend on the underlying problem, but with older pets we also want to look for primary issues that can lead to the infection (chronic kidney disease, diabetes, etc) and treat these underlying conditions.

As you can see, the simple act of urinating outside the box opens up a lot of questions about your cat.  Although it can be difficult to determine the cause, a majority of cases can be solved and it is just a matter of being patient while we are trying to figure out the cause and best treatment for your cat.