Rabies is Deadly and Preventable
The image many people have of rabies is that of a previously calm animal turning rabid and foaming at the mouth. It’s really no surprise that many people fear the disease because of this image and misinformation that continues to circulate about it. While you don’t want to subject your pet to needless risk, it’s also important to know what is true about rabies and what is a myth.
Myths You Might Have Heard About Rabies
Some people believe that an animal doesn’t truly have rabies until the disease affects the brain. However, your pet would have rabies from the first moment that an infected bat, racoon, or another type of wild animal bit him. You wouldn’t know it right away because it can take 10 days to two months for the rabies infection to travel to his nervous system. This is called the incubation period. The more severe the bite, the shorter the time until the infection starts to cause extensive damage.
Another common misconception is that a pet won’t contract rabies unless she receives a direct bite from an infected animal. Sadly, it only requires contact with the saliva of the animal with rabies for your pet to acquire it too. An example of how this can happen is when a rabies-positive animal scratches your pet with claws covered in its own saliva.
The foaming at the mouth that many people associate with rabies doesn’t happen until the late stages of the disease. Some of the earlier indications that your pet may have been infected with rabies include:
- Refusal to eat
- Paralysis of the hind legs
- Confusion and disorientation
- Unexplained seizures
- Extreme changes in behavior
How to Prevent Rabies in Companion Animals
A vaccine is the easiest way to prevent rabies and is also required by law. We give rabies vaccinations as part of your pet’s preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Hospital. After receiving the initial vaccination as a puppy or kitten, your pet should get a rabies booster every three years. Not allowing your pet to roam free is another important form of rabies prevention. This is especially important if you live close to a wooded area or know there are wild animals in your area.
The Importance of Preventive Care for Cats and Dogs
Both cats and dogs need a series of required vaccines and optional vaccines that you may wish to get depending on the age, breed, species, and lifestyle of your pet. Feline core vaccines include calicivirus, feline herpes, panleukopenia, rabies, and rhinotracheitis. For dogs, required vaccines include rabies, parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus. Our veterinarians will let you know our preferred vaccine schedule for these exams when you come in for an annual or bi-annual check-up. We do recommend that puppies and kittens under one year and senior pets over age seven visits us twice a year.
A veterinary technician will start the appointment by recording your pet’s current body temperature, weight, and vaccine status. You’re also welcome to discuss your concerns regarding your pet’s diet, behavior, or specific health issues. The technician will brief your pet’s veterinarian on your concerns so he or she can address them with you. Our veterinarian will also check the following:
- Teeth and mouth for any indication of oral tumors or dental decay
- Abnormal masses anywhere on the body
- Rashes or other types of skin infection
- Unusual discharge of the eyes, ears, and nose
- Response to light and sound
- Lungs and heart for murmurs and possible heartworm infestation
- Anal area for sac formation
- Reproductive organs
Battletown Animal Hospital is always here to attend to pets who are sick or injured. We also enjoy seeing pets when they’re well and helping them to stay that way. Please schedule an appointment with us if we haven’t seen your adult pet in more than a year or your pediatric or senior pet in more than six months.
Obesity is a Serious Threat to Your Pet's Health
Obesity in pets has reached a national epidemic, according to a recent report from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The organization states that more dogs and cats are overweight or obese than those who are a healthy weight. The exact numbers are 54 percent for dogs and 59 percent for cats. Obesity in pets means that the animal’s weight is at least 30 percent higher than desired for the age, breed, gender, and species.
Excess body weight can cause numerous health problems in dogs and cats, just as it can in people. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are among the most serious. Being overweight or obese also diminishes quality of life. Your pet may struggle with breathing or walking difficulty, low energy, chronic joint pain, depressed mood, and more due to the excess weight. As surprising as it seems, many pet owners don’t recognize when their dog or cat weighs too much.
To maintain a stable weight, women should aim for 2,000 calories per day and men 2,500 calories per day. However, the caloric needs for pets is significantly less. A 10-pound animal needs only 200 calories per day to remain healthy. For a 50-pound dog, 700 to 900 calories is usually enough. You can click here to learn more about caloric needs for your dog or cat.
How to Help Your Pet Lose Weight
The first step in helping your dog or cat slim down is knowing how many calories he consumes in a day. To do this, you need to know how much food you’re giving him. We recommend using a measuring cup when you feed your pet so there’s no question of how much he’s eating. A common mistake among pet parents is continually filling the food dish and allowing their dog or cat to graze off and on throughout the day. If you do give your pet treats, make sure they contain nutritious ingredients and have little to no sugar.
Don’t Change Your Pet’s Diet Before Consulting Us
Dogs and cats are sensitive to any change in their diet, even when you switch to a healthier or lower calorie food. Before making any changes, please schedule an appointment with your pet’s regular veterinarian at Battletown Animal Clinic for a check-up. We will review the ingredients in the food your pet currently eats and ask you questions about treats and how often she exercises. We may make a recommendation for a specific brand of pet food that you can order easily from our online store.
How to Plan a Successful Road Trip with Your Pet
Visit Us Before You Go
Dealing with a sick or hurt pet on the road can be extremely stressful. We encourage you to schedule a preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Clinic before you leave for vacation. We will ensure that your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and in good health to make the trip. Be sure to ask us for a proof of rabies vaccination and a health certificate if you plan to travel with your pet outside of Virginia.
What to Pack for Your Pet
Your family road trip will go a lot smoother if you remember to pack everything your pet needs before you leave. It’s especially important to pack the brand of food she normally eats since you might not be able to locate it while traveling. Try to stick to her feeding routine as closely as possible since stress or excitement can cause stomach upset. Other things to include in a travel bag for your pet include a first aid kit, supplies for grooming, food and water bowls, a leash, medications, and a litterbox and fresh litter for cats.
Best Practices for Traveling
Once you’re on the road, following these tips will make for a happier trip:
- Build frequent stops into your schedule. Dogs need to eliminate as well as release their pent-up energy. They should also drink water at every stop to avoid dehydration.
- If your pet is prone to motion sickness, avoid giving him food while your car is moving. You should also avoid giving him any food that you choose to eat while in the car.
- Cats and dogs should be in a carrier while the vehicle is in motion. If that’s not possible, purchase a safety harness to use like a seatbelt. Although your pet may protest the restricted movement, it’s not safe to allow her to roam free inside the car. It’s distracting to the driver and could be a disaster in case of collision.
- Don’t leave your pet alone in a parked car. He can become dangerously ill from the heat, not to mention highly anxious.
- If you’re traveling in a pick-up truck, your pet needs to be in the cab of the truck. Additionally, don’t allow your pet to hang his head out of a window because a piece of flying road debris could injure him.
How to Help Your Pet with Allergies or Asthma
Asthma in Dogs and Cats
- Car exhaust fumes
- Cat litter dust
- Chemical solutions and household sprays, including deodorant, flea spray, hair spray, and perfume
- Fireplace and tobacco smoke
- Mold and mildew
- Pollen from grass and trees
Allergies in companion animals typically fall into one of these categories:
- Contact: A contact allergy develops due to your pet making direct contact with the allergen, such as ingredients in grooming products.
- Flea Dermatitis: Some dogs and cats develop an allergy to flea saliva. This can cause severe irritation on the skin and intense scratching. Your pet may even scratch her skin raw.
- Food: Food ingredients, including wheat, soy, beef, and chicken, can cause allergy symptoms in some pets. We offer Royal Canin and other prescription diets for pets who can’t eat food that has been commercially prepared.
- Inhalant: This category of allergies included pollen, cigarette smoke, dust, or anything else that your pet breathes in and has a reaction to.
Excessive scratching, wheezing, and coughing are typically the first indication that a dog or cat has asthma or allergies. Please contact us at Battletown Animal Clinic for an immediate appointment if you notice these symptoms. Your pet’s veterinarian will ask questions about his home environment and behavior and run some tests to determine the triggers for his symptoms. Most pets with asthma or allergies respond well to environmental changes and prescription medication.