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Pet Ownership Challenges: Ask the Veterinarian

Veterinarian Will Draper, DVM answers your questions about the challenges of living with and caring for your pets.

Question:
My boxer has seemed kind of sick lately. He looks underweight, vomits occasionally, and has diarrhea. He had worms a while ago and we had him dewormed. Is it possible that he could have another infestation?
Answer:

It is certainly possible. However, it could also be something more serious, like a foreign body or a mass in his intestines, or a toxic issue. I strongly recommend making a visit to your vet as soon as possible.

Question:
Can a dog take ciprofloxacin for a urinary tract infection? The vet prescribed it, but I would like to double check.
Answer:

Yes, they can. It is not unusual for ciprofloxacin to be used for urinary tract infections in dogs.

Question:
Is it worth the money to have pet insurance? Do most veterinarians accept it? How does it work, exactly?
Answer:

Pet insurance works very much like human medical insurance. You pay a premium, and in turn, the insurance company pays for a percentage of your veterinary pet care. One difference is that you usually have to pay your vet first. Then you send in a claim to your insurer so they can reimburse you. Most vets will accept pet insurance because they don’t really have to do much more than fill out or sign the claim for you to send in.

In my opinion, pet insurance is only worth having if you have three or more pets.

Question:
My 16-year-old male tabby cat has lost weight. He used to be a little chunky, but now he's quite thin. The vet checked him out and didn't see any reason for concern. But I'm trying to fatten him up. Do you have any advice?
Answer:

If it hasn't been done already, talk to your vet about doing some blood work. Older cats will lose weight for a number of reasons, including hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or diabetes. These and any other underlying medical conditions can be ruled out with pretty standard lab tests.

Question:
Is there something that can be given to a puppy for car sickness?
Answer:

There is an injectable medication called Cerenia that has been approved by the FDA to prevent vomiting in dogs due to motion sickness. Also, there are tranquilizers that can be given to pets for their car sickness. The tranquilizer most commonly used is called Acepromazine.

A lot depends on how old your puppy is. What's OK for a 10-month-old puppy may not be for a 3-month-old. Talk to your vet about the best options.

Question:
What kinds of house plants should I avoid buying with cats in my home?
Answer:

With cats in the home, avoid buying aloe plants, azaleas, baby's breath, and Easter lilies to name a few. Go to aspca.org and hit the Animal Poison Control Center link for a complete list. There are a lot of them, actually.

Question:
Suddenly my cat can't seem to shut her mouth and her tongue is hanging out. Could she have had a stroke? What could be wrong?
Answer:

It could be caused by a stroke. But it could also be severe dental disease, a fractured jawbone, or an oral mass. I strongly recommend that you have your vet check her out ASAP.

Question:
Are there any dry dog foods I can feed my dogs to help reduce the tartar buildup on their teeth?
Answer:

Yes. There are commercial and prescription diets that help break down calculus and reduce tartar build-up on dogs' (and cats’) teeth. Ask your vet about what brands he/she would recommend.

Question:
My 5-year-old lab, Drake, was diagnosed with stage 1 heartworms on 3/24. The vet says we should not start treatment until October, due to the hot North Carolina summers. Drake is an outside dog and loves to hunt. Is waiting until October a good idea?
Answer:

Without seeing Drake's lab work (blood work and X-rays), I cannot say for sure if it's a good idea. However, if your vet has determined that he is stage 1 (out of 3), then waiting until October, as he/she has recommended, is acceptable in most cases.

Question:
How soon after a kitten is born can it be handled and moved?
Answer:

After it is weaned from the mother -- usually around 3 to 4 weeks of age. Handling it any sooner may lead the mother to reject the kitten and not allow it to nurse.

Question:
I think my dog sprained her paw. She is going to the vet tomorrow, but she is in pain right now. What can I do for her tonight?
Answer:

Restrict her activity and keep her off of the paw. Call your vet and see if he/she will approve of you giving her an OTC medication to help with the discomfort, such as buffered aspirin. I would NOT recommend doing so without talking to your vet first, though.

Question:
My cat recently had three kittens. One of the kittens strayed away, and then returned 9 days later. Although they all seemed sad while he was gone, my cat and the other two kittens hissed at him and refused to accept him. Presently, the kittens have all made up. But the mother does not come home. We tried bringing her back, but she hisses ferociously and becomes aggressive. What can we do? I miss my cat.
Answer:

In this case, I'd guess the best option would be to find homes for the three kittens. Now that they are older, she doesn't look at them as her children anymore, but more so as a threat to her territory. Once they are gone, hopefully she'll return.

Question:
When is it a wise decision to put your pet to sleep?
Answer:

It's a good time to consider it when your pet is having more bad days than good. Talk with your vet.

Question:
My pet rat has a bump on her back, on her upper right shoulder. I noticed it yesterday and it's gotten bigger overnight. What could it be?
Answer:

It sounds like it could be an abscess since it's growing so quickly. It could also potentially be some sort of tumor. Regardless, I recommend making a visit to your vet as soon as possible.

Question:
My cat is 16 years old. She had a thorough check-up a month ago and the vet said that she is very healthy. However, she shakes her head frequently, especially when I pet her on the top of her head. Can you tell me what the problem might be?
Answer:

She could have an ear infection, or even a bad tooth infection. It could also simply be her way of letting you know that she doesn't like being petted on her head. Your vet should probably check her out again.

Question:
When I got home today my cat was lying so still that I thought he was dead. I could tell he was breathing when I lifted him up, but he was completely limp like a ragdoll. I rushed him to the emergency pet hospital, which took about 10 minutes to get to. And by the time we arrived, he was just fine. They told me to bring him back if it happened again. What could that have been about?
Answer:

That's a difficult one to answer without examining your cat. Possibly the cat had a seizure, and you found him just after it had ended. Usually a few moments after a seizure, the patient is fine.

Question:
Is there another way to spay or neuter a pet besides having it undergo an operation?
Answer:

Unfortunately, at this time, there is no commercially available chemical alternative to surgical spaying or neutering of domestic pets.

Question:
Can having dog or cat urine in your carpet be harmful to humans or other pets?
Answer:

The ammonia fumes from the urine can be potentially harmful to human nasal passages. Other than that, there is no real danger.

Question:
I'm about to get a kitten and I'm not sure whether or not I should let her in my bedroom, or in the upstairs area at all. I know the smell and the hair can be a problem for some people. But I know many people who let their pets sleep in their beds. What is your opinion on the matter?
Answer:

There is really no right answer here. It's your preference. My family and I let our pets -- both dogs and cats -- sleep in our bedrooms and on our beds. Some people find this to be very undesirable. If you have a partner who is allergic to cats, it may not be the best idea for you. But if it's just you and your kitty, I'd say if you want to, go for it. I bet your kitten will love it!

Question:
My 10-week-old puppy has pneumonia. What can I do for him at home while we're waiting for the antibiotics to start working?
Answer:

Make sure he's breathing OK and eating well. If either is not the case, get him back to your vet immediately.

Question:
Can I give kitten deworming medications to my 10-month-old puppy?
Answer:

It shouldn't hurt your puppy. We use the same medications to deworm kittens and puppies in my practice. However, make sure that you are giving the right de-wormer for the right type of worms. There are differences.

Question:
My Maltipoo puppy refuses to use the restroom outside when we take him for walks. He will only relieve himself at home on my carpet. How can I correct this?
Answer:

Try putting a piece of the carpet outside in the yard, put it on top of the surface (I assume grass) that you would prefer he relieve himself on. Take him to that area instead of on the actual grass. After a week or so, cut the carpet in half and leave a smaller piece there. Continue this over 3 to 4 weeks, making the carpet piece smaller and smaller until it’s gone completely. Then continue to take him to that same area. That will hopefully help him learn the more desired behavior.

Question:
At what age should I switch my cat from kitten food to cat food?
Answer:

One year of age is the norm. At that point, most cats are considered adults.

Question:
I heard that giving fish to male cats can cause them to get urinary infections. Is this true?
Answer:

I have never heard of this, so I'd have to say it is not true. Fish oil contains omega fatty acids, which are actually beneficial to a cat's (and dog's) skin and coat.

Question:
I've stopped giving commercial dog food to my dog. I've been feeding her a mixture of brown rice, or quinoa, with carrots or broccoli. I also add some cooked ground turkey, beef, or fish to her bowl, along with a tablespoon of flax seed oil once a day. Is she getting the nutrition she needs? She has lost weight and her coat is so soft and pretty. She seems good, but I want to make sure.
Answer:

Your dogs should probably do fine on this diet. However, I would recommend she get regular checkups and have blood work done at the vet's office to make sure she's healthy inside and out.

Thank you for joining us for WebMD Ask the Veterinarian.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by William Draper, DVM on April 15, 2012

The opinions expressed in this section are of the Specialist and the Specialist alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. 

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