Pets 2012: Ask The Vet


What can I do to help my dog get over his fear of thunder?
Dr. Lauren Prather, Winter Garden Animal Hospital: Thunderstorm phobia in dogs is very common. Signs can range from pacing, panting, trembling and excessive salivating to destructiveness, self-trauma and inappropriate elimination. Treatments vary and certain ones work on some dogs but not others. Easy things to try at home include DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) collars and diffusers, distracting the dog with a Kong toy filled with a high-value treat, a potent white noise machine, and body-hugging “thundershirts.’’ Classic treatment involves desensitization and counter-conditioning at home using an audio simulation of storm sounds. Your veterinarian can help formulate a plan involving desensitization and sometimes prescription medications, including antidepressants. However, drugs alone often fail because they do nothing to promote any kind of learning.  Your dog needs to try to “fix itself” by changing the fear response in its thoughts through behavior therapy.
Is declawing a cat advisable? Some say it’s cruel and leaves them defenseless.
Dr. Rey Suarez, Animal Medical Clinic of Orlando: When deciding whether or not to declaw your cat, the following should be considered. Scratching surfaces with their claws is a normal and healthy behavior seen in all cats. Indoor cats which are not declawed must be provided ample surfaces and materials to exercise this behavior. Claws can be more manageable with routine nail trimming and or the use of plastic nail caps or Soft Paws. Declawing cats is a very controversial issue. Some people have had bad experiences with an improperly declawed cat while others have had no personal experience with a cat but simply assume the procedure is cruel based on misinformation. Declawing a cat, if done with the correct surgical technique and proper pain management, is a minimally invasive procedure with no adverse long-term complications. It is very important to only declaw cats that will be strictly indoors. Declawed cats should not be allowed to go outside as they will be less likely to be able to defend themselves or get away from potential harm. Whatever decision is made, it should be carefully considered between you and your veterinarian.
How often should I bathe my dog? I was doing it weekly but was told that this is bad for her skin.
Dr. Christine McCully, Downtown Pet Hospital, Orlando: Bathing pets can be a very individual issue and really depends on factors such as breed, lifestyle, age and allergies. For many dogs, a bath every two to three weeks is sufficient and works very well for their coat.  Some dogs can get dry skin when bathed too frequently, while others that swim or go to the dog park can require a weekly bath.  As long as your pet’s coat is not becoming dry and flaky, then weekly baths can be appropriate.  Many dogs with allergies benefit from baths as frequent as once or twice a week with a medicated shampoo.  This not only provides relief from their itchy skin, but helps significantly to get the allergens off of their skin.
What is the ideal age to spay or neuter a cat or dog? Does it help prevent cancer?
Dr. Kara Fiore, Affiliated Veterinary Specialists, Maitland: Spaying/neutering is usually recommended around six to nine months of age.  Pet sterilization reduces pet overpopulation, minimizes unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying, and decreases the risk of numerous health conditions including some cancers.  For example, spaying female dogs and cats before their first heat cycle decreases their risk of mammary cancer to 0.5 percent incidence versus a 26 percent incidence if the spay is performed after the second heat cycle.  In male dogs, castration dramatically reduces the risk of prostate diseases such as infection or benign prostatic hypertrophy.  Timing of spay/neuter surgery should always be discussed with your veterinarian as some pets may have unique needs that result in a different recommendation.
My dog licks his feet constantly? Could this be an allergy or just a nervous habit?
Dr. Jacki Bert, 4 Paws House Calls: While the constant licking can develop into a habit, the underlying cause is typically medical. It could be due to trauma, a foreign body, arthritis or an allergy, just to name a few causes. Once these issues are identified and resolved, the licking may stop, although it has been shown that the licking can develop into an obsessive habit after a while. So it’s best to identify the underlying cause before this happens. Your veterinarian can help with this.
What is a blood feather?
Dr. Orlando Diaz-Figueroa, Lake Howell Animal Clinic: A growing feather is encased within a keratin sheath. The characteristic blue cast is caused by the presence of an axial artery and vein. Once the feather reaches full length, the vessels regress. If a blood feather breaks, the feather shaft acts via capillary action so bleeding lasts much longer than it would otherwise. If you determine that your bird has broken a blood feather, consult your avian veterinarian. If blood is dripping freely, apply pressure with a finger until it stops. If that doesn’t work, an agent such as styptic powder (or cornstarch, flour, baking soda) can be used sparingly with pressure to clot the blood but do not apply to the actual follicle from which the feather originates. You should pull the feather only as a last resort!
To read more about pets check out the latest issue of Orlando magazine or click here for a digital subscription.
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