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Animal Illnesses

American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines
The AVMA suggests that you consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of the following signs:
  • Abnormal discharges from the nose, eyes, or other body openings.
  • Loss of appetite, marked weight losses or gains, or excessive water consumption.
  • Difficult, abnormal, or uncontrolled waste elimination.
  • Abnormal behavior, sudden viciousness, or lethargy.
  • Abnormal lumps, limping, or difficulty getting up or lying down.
  • Excessive head shaking, scratching, and licking or biting any part of the body.
  • Dandruff, loss of hair, open sores, and a ragged or dull coat.
  • Foul breath or excessive tarter deposits on teeth.
Learning to recognize illnesses in your pet is crucial to care. With that in mind, The Vet has published some guidelines for you to use here. This is just a thumbnail look at potential problems:
Common Signs Of Cancer In Small Animals:
  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease (LD) is an infectious disease syndrome spread primarily by a tick as small as the period at the end of this sentence and no larger than the head of a pin. In animals, the disease can mimic flu-like symptoms of chronic arthritis and can lead to joint damage, heart complications and kidney problems. Studies indicate dogs are 50% more susceptible to it than humans.

The greatest chance of becoming infected by the bite of the tick occurs during May through September, the period of greatest nymphal tick activity. There is a moderate risk in the fall months and low risk during winter. It is important to remember that not all ticks carry Lyme Disease. A tick bite does not necessarily mean that the disease will follow and prompt removal of a tick will lessen chances of disease transmission.

There are a variety of symptoms, but clinical signs may not appear for a long period after initial infection:

  • Animals seldom develop the rash found in people.
  • Fever (102.5 to 106F)
  • Inappetence
  • Acute onset of lameness with no history of trauma
  • Arthralgia
  • Cows and horses may have chronic weight loss, abortions, and laminitis-like signs
Diagnosis is based primarily on blood testing. Antibiotics - tetracycline, penicillin and erythromycin - have been shown to be effective in treating the disease in animals in the early stages. If detected early enough, there is almost complete relief of pain and lameness within 24 hours of initial treatment in animals.
Tick Removal
Ticks are most apt to bed down in the neck area, between the toes, in the ears, and in the folds between the legs and the body. To remove a tick, use small tweezers to firmly grip the tick's mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight outward. Apply an antiseptic to the bitten area. After removing, destroy the tick by immersing it in alcohol. Save the tick, marking the date it was found on the body, in the event that symptoms arise and identification of the tick becomes necessary.
Internal Parasites
Parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and heartworms can make a home inside your pet and rob your animal of vital nutrients, leading to poor appetite, loss of energy, serious anemia, and even death. Puppies and kittens are especially susceptible. Parasite infestation can be controlled and prevented. Your veterinarian can tell you about the extent of the parasite problem in your area. If you find your pet scratching frequently, or if you discover bald spots or inflammation of his skin, chances are your pet is playing host to parasites -- and it's high time for you to take him to the vet.
An acrobatic pest, a flea is adept at finding a warm place to live, jumping readily from dogs to cats or even human beings. The life cycle of the flea is about 30 days. Eggs are dormant in cool weather, but, with the advent of milder days, they hatch into worm-like larvae which eventually become fleas. The best way to rid your pet of fleas is to see a veterinarian for advice. They may recommend powders, sprays, dips, specially treated collars, or even tablets to be taken internally.

Ridding the pet's body of fleas is only a start. You must also simultaneously cleanse their sleeping quarters and home. Sprays can be used for this purpose with excellent results. Regular and thorough vacuum cleaning of the pet's living area also helps to remove eggs, larvae, and pupae. Getting rid of fleas not only makes your pet more comfortable, it also reduces their chances of acquiring tapeworms since many fleas harbor tapeworm eggs.

Lice Not Nice
Lice are a source of danger for your pet--especially to puppies. Often dogs with just a few lice are very itchy, while those harboring thousands of lice may not scratch themselves at all. So small they escape notice, some lice penetrate the pet's skin and suck the blood. The females will lay eggs which in just three weeks will hatch and develop into adult lice.

The constant blood-sucking, if extensive, can cause severe anemia in puppies and greatly weaken mature dogs, particularly females with nursing puppies. The pest can also be a source of irritation to cats and kittens.

Mites and Manges
Mange is caused by another type of external parasite--the mite. In dogs, two types of mange are the most common: DEMODECTIC mange or "red mange," and SARCOPTIC mange or "scabies."

Dogs suffering from demodectic mange usually do not scratch. This mange is most common in young short-haired animals and is marked in the early stages by small areas of hairlessness, accompanied by a red, irritated appearance. In sarcoptic mange, a severe itching is usually observed, with consequent skin irritation and loss of hair. This type of mange is contagious to people as well as to other dogs and therefore should be checked as soon as possible.

Mange is more serious than a simple skin irritation or abrasion or a source of discomfort to your dog. Both of these manges are serious skin diseases that can lead to complications such as severe skin infections. Veterinarians usually treat mange by clipping, medicated baths or sprays, as well as oral medication or injections.

Ear Mites
Ear mites are common in dogs and cats. These mites spend most of their life in the ears. Often an animal can be severely infested with the pests before there is any outward sign of their presence. It is a good idea to have your veterinarian regularly examine your pet's ears.

Ear mite infestations are almost always be followed by a bacterial infection because the bacteria find easy access to living tissue through the holes left by the mites.

Ear mites are very irritating. They often cause the animal to scratch to the point where it tears out all of the hair and creates bleeding sores around the ears. Scratching can result in reinfestation with mites from the paw or tail. Consult your veterinarian about methods for treating infested animals.

This is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasmosis has been found in virtually all warm-blooded animals including most pets, livestock, and human beings. Nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S. and in Europe have antibodies to Toxoplasma, which means they have been exposed to this parasite.

The most likely sources of toxoplasmosis in cats is from eating mice, birds, and other small animals that are infected with the parasite. For indoor cats, the most likely source is uncooked meat scraps. There is no vaccine. Women who are in frequent contact with cats should be serologically tested for Toxoplasma gondii before becoming pregnant, as the disease can cause loss of vision, mental retardation, loss of hearing, and death of infected children later in life in severe cases.

To help prevent Toxoplasma infection in cats, follow these steps:

  • Keep cats indoors and do not allow them to hunt rodents and birds
  • Feed cats only cooked meat or processed food from commercial sources
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is usually transmitted by a bite from a rabid animal. Not all rabid animals foam at the mouth and appear mad. Infected animals can be very calm and tame. In recent years, cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with rabies because many cats are not vaccinated and are exposed to rabid wildlife while outside. Rabies also occurs in dogs and cattle in significant numbers. The disease has been diagnosed in horses, goats, sheep, swine, and ferrets. The majority of recent human cases acquired in the United States have resulted from exposures to bats. Dogs are still a significant source of rabies in other countries. To help control rabies:
  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate your cats, dogs, ferrets, and selected livestock. Keep the vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Keep your animals on your property. Don't leave garbage or pet food outside because it may attract wild or stray animals.
  • Observe all wild animals from a distance, even if they seem friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to the city or county animal control department.
  • If your pet is bitten, immediately consult your veterinarian. Report the bite to the local animal control authorities.
Canine Parvovirus Infection
This is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the intestinal track, white blood cells, and in some cases the heart muscle. It's spread by dog-to-dog contact and has been diagnosed wherever dogs congregate, including dog shows, obedience trials, breeding and boarding kennels, pet shops, humane shelters, parks and playgrounds. The source of infection is fecal waste from infected dogs.

The first signs of CPV are depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. These signs will most often appear 5-7 days after the dog is exposed to the virus. Puppies between weaning and six months of age are at increased risk of acquiring the disease. There appears to be a higher risk of severe disease in certain breeds (e.g. Rottweiller and Doberman Pinscher). There are no specific drugs that kill the virus in infected dogs. Treatment consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections with antibiotics. Dogs of any age should be vaccinated to prevent CPV infection. Unless the actual immune status of a pup or litter is known, it is recommended that a series of vaccinations be given to provide adequate protection.

Canine Distemper
Canine distemper occurs wherever there are dogs. It is the greatest single disease threat to the world's dog population. Better than 50% of the adult dogs that contract the disease die from it. Among puppies, the death rate from distemper often reaches 80%. Cats are not susceptible to canine distemper. It's most often transmitted through contact with mucous and watery secretions discharged from eyes and noses of infected dogs. Contact with the urine and fecal material of infected dogs can also result in infection.

The many signs of distemper are not always typical. For this reason, treatment may be delayed or neglected. The disease frequently brings about something like a severe cold. Most infected dogs have a fever and stuffed up head. Exposed animals may develop bronchitis, pneumonia and severe inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The first signs of distemper are squinting, congestion of the eyes, and a discharge of pus from the eyes. Weight loss, coughing, vomiting, nasal discharge, and diarrhea are common. In later stages the virus attacks the nervous system, bringing about partial or complete paralysis as well as fits or twitching.

Distemper is so prevalent and the signs so varied that any sick young dog should be taken to a veterinarian for a definite diagnosis. Most veterinarians recommend annual vaccinations for your dog.

Heart Disease
Of the dogs in the United States examined annually by a veterinarian, approximately 3.2 million have some form of acquired heart disease and may be in heart failure. Dogs with mild to moderate heart failure typically experience heart enlargement, coughing, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Severe heart failure is characterized by difficulty breathing (even at rest), fainting, profound intolerance to exercise, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Signs of heart disease in dogs may be mild and difficult to notice at first, but can become more severe as the disease progresses:

  • lack of energy
  • labored breathing
  • lack of appetite and weight loss
  • frequent coughing
  • weakness
  • fainting
  • abdominal swelling
Heartworm Disease
The life cycle of the heartworm begins when an infected dog, carrying tiny immature heartworms (microfilariae) circulating in its blood, is bitten by a mosquito. The mosquito takes in microfilariae (larvae) when it feeds. During the next two-three weeks, the larvae develop within the mosquito into the infective stage. When the mosquito feeds again, it can transmit infective larvae to the healthy dog. The larvae penetrate the dog's skin and migrate through the tissues and develop over the next few months, eventually reaching the dog's heart.

Once in the dog's heart, the worms can grow to as long as 14 inches and cause significant damage to the heart, lungs and other vital organs. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in death. Every dog can be at risk, indoors or out. No dog, or breed of dog, is immune to heartworm disease. The first, most important step is to have your dog tested for heartworms.

Cases of heartworm disease in cats have been reported across the United States and many other countries, too. Heartworm disease is most common in areas where dogs are also at risk. The most common signs of heartworm disease in cats - coughing , vomiting, breathing difficulties, weight loss, and lethargy - are often mistaken for other conditions such as asthma, pneumonia and digestive problems. In fact, most common clinical signs of heartworm disease in cats resembles bronchial asthma. Treatment is very risky, because there's currently no approved product for treating adult cat heartworms, and the onset of clinical signs is impossible to predict in cats that are left untreated. Even if the disease is treated, your cat may experience severe complications or even death when the worms die. Prevention is the best medicine. Ask your veterinarian about heartworm disease prevention for your cat.

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