New puppies and kitties

I have been asked lately about caring for newborn animals.

Animals have very strong instincts when it comes to caring for their newborn offspring.

However, both mother and babies need nurturing environment in order to thrive. Unfortunately, in some cases, the mother either rejects the babies or dies, so the burden of caring for the newborns falls entirely on the owner.

Here is a very brief overview of the basic care for puppies and kittens.  

The most common reasons for newborn puppies/kittens loss are low body temperature and lack of energy.

Newborns can't regulate their body temperature. It is important to make sure the house temperature is warm enough, and that the area that the mother and litter are placed in is well padded, without exposure to the bare floor.

Most mothers do all the work of taking care of their offspring themselves. Sometimes, although rarely, the mother might ignore one or more of her offspring.

I find that this situation may arise from a cesarean section, in which the dog is put under anesthesia and wakes up to a new reality of being a mother. Not going through the process of delivery may delay bonding between the mother and her babies.  

In those cases, you may notice that one or more of the babies are not being fed properly.

First, encourage the baby to feed from the mother by placing it close to the nipple. If for any reason natural nursing is impossible or not sufficient for the baby’s demands, you can supplement the nutrition by special puppies and kittens milk replacement formulas carried in veterinarian clinics. 

A special bottle designed for puppies/kittens is also available and it it the best method to feed the babies efficiently (versus a syringe).

  • It is important to tip the bottle at an angle that will prevent air gulping.
  • When you feed, let the baby suck the milk from the bottle on its own.
  • Do not squeeze the milk into its mouth, which might lead to milk aspiration into the lungs.
  • Puppies and kittens eat frequently; newborns should be fed approximately every two hours.

Puppies and kittens are dependent on their mother for urination and defecation. The mother licks the back area, which stimulates urination and defecation.

  • In the absence of the mother, you should use a cotton ball, wet it with lukewarm water and rub the baby’s back area to mimic the mother’s action.
  • When the baby reaches three weeks of age, they normally able to function on their own.

When the babies are older and are able to control the elimination on their own, it's time for “house training."

Cats are easy; all you need is a litter box. You should place the kitten in the litter box and hold its front paws while mimicking the motion of digging in the litter. Usually once is enough and the kitten will know where to go when it's time to go.

With dogs, the situation is more complicated; dogs should be “house trained."

House training a dog can be challenging. I strongly recommend consulting an animal trainer about how to  train your dog to obey and follow basic orders, including house training if needed.

Other things owners should know:

  • Puppies and kittens are ready to be weaned and separated from their mother at eight weeks.
  • Puppies are recommended to receive a series of three vaccines, three to four weeks apart. The optimal timing for the first vaccine is eight weeks of age.
  • Kittens receive a series of two vaccines, four weeks apart. Like puppies, the optimal timing for the first vaccine is eight weeks of age.
  • Rabies vaccine can be given to puppies and kittens older than 12 weeks of age.
  • Puppies and kittens are prone to intestinal worm infestation, hence they should be dewormed more often than adults pets should. Deworming protocols differ, depending on the products used. Your veterinarian will tell you what protocol is recommended for your pet.

Similarly to raising human babies, raising puppies and kittens is very intense and might get confusing and stressful.

Please seek more information about this important topic with your regular veterinarian to ensure the optimal growth and thriving of these youngsters.

Ringworm in pets

Skin issues are one of the most common reasons for taking pets to the vet.

Skin problems is a wide subject and these cases can be complicated and challenging for the vet. Having a skin problem often suggests the existence of an underlying problem in the body, usually not even directly related to the skin itself. 

One of the more straightforward skin diseases is ringworm infection, which is not, as its name suggests, caused by a worm, but by a fungal infection.

The fungi responsible for the infection are known as dermatophytes. 

In animals, the classic ringworm lesions are patchy areas of hair loss and scaliness, usually with very little inflammation or redness. It is not usually itchy. The lesion can be solitary.

A case of of multiple lesions is considered systemic and is called generalized dermatophytosis. 

The disease is highly contagious. The disease transmission occurs through direct or indirect contact with an infected animal. Indirect contact means contracting the disease by touching objects that the infected animal has touched; such as bedding, brushes or grooming equipment, furniture, rugs, etc.

Human can also get infected with ringworm by getting in contact with an animal that carries the fungi.

All animal are susceptible to ringworm infection. Among household pets, the disease is most common in cats. Infected dogs generally have a skin lesion at the site of the infection.

Interestingly though, not all cats that carry the fungi will show signs of skin lesions. Cats can be “silent carriers” and spread the disease without suffering from it. Not every animal or human who touches infected animals or objects will become infected.

The disease development depends on one’s age, immune status, skin condition and grooming habits. All these influence the fungus' ability to grow and infect.

In both animals and humans, young, elderly and those with a compromised immune system for any reason, are most susceptible to the infection.

Despite the fact that the disease is transmissible from pets to humans, this is not a reason to get rid of your pet. Ringworm is a treatable condition in both animals and humans.

The diagnosis for ringworm in animals is fairly simple. In about 30 per cent of the cases, looking on the lesion with a special ultraviolet light (also called wood’s lamp) in a dark room, will show a typical green fluorescence. Ringworm confirmation is done by a culture.

The veterinarian collects a sample of hair and scales from the lesion and places it in a special, small jar known as the culture media. Placing the jar in a dark place and the culture media provide the optimal condition for the fungus to grow and thrive.

This test is very easy to perform. It is affordable, non invasive, and does not require anesthesia or sedation. The only disadvantage of this test is that the results are not given immediately.

It can take for the fungal colonies up to 21 days to develop, even though, from my personal experience, usually within 5-7 days we get a good idea if the result is positive. 

If the lesion is solitary, the infection may be self limiting and may eventually disappear without treatment.  Generalized cases (multiple lesions) require treatment.

The treatment can be done topically in a form of a medicated shampoo. Some cases require systemic treatment by oral medication.

Your veterinarian can guide you through which course of action is best recommended for your pet’s condition.

Gathering information about your pet, and the physical exam findings will also help your veterinarian in assessing whether the condition has developed due to other underlying problem that has weakened your pet’s immune system.

If you recognize in your pet a single or multiple areas of hair loss, with or without crusting and scaling that are usually not itchy, take it to be examined by your vet. 

If your pet was diagnosed with a ringworm infection, thorough cleaning of the house and the dog’s bedding and equipment is also necessary for the elimination and prevention of reinfection.

Also consult your GP about treating the human members of the family.  

Don't be sweet to your dog

Christmas holiday is upon us. In the season of giving, chocolate is a popular gift.

As a chocolate lover, I know how a chocolate can raise your spirit. As well as most people, dogs tend to have a “sweet tooth” too, but for our canine friends, chocolate in large amount is harmful, even fatal. 

Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which contain a toxic substance called theobromine.

Cacao beans also contain caffeine, but in much smaller amounts than theobromine. Both theobromine and caffeine are members of a drug class called methylxanines.

Theobromine is toxic for dogs because they process it much more slowly than humans. Seventeen hours after eating chocolate, half of the theobromine is still in the dog’s system.

Theobromine is also toxic to cats, however, cats are less likely to ingest chocolate than dogs. 

Theobromine and caffeine can adversely affect the nervous system, and the heart. They can also lead to increase of the blood pressure.

The early signs of chocolate intoxication are nausea (manifested by drooling and smacking the lips) vomiting, and excessive urination.

Truly toxic amounts can induce hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures and eventually respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

The more theobromine a cocoa product contains, the more poisonous it is to your dog. 

Researches showed that one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is potentially lethal.

Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are riskiest, milk and white chocolate pose a much less serious risk.

Twenty ounces of milk chocolate, 10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and just 2.25 ounces of baking chocolate could potentially kill a 22-pound dog. 

Small dogs are at greater risk of chocolate toxicity than large dogs because they can be poisoned by small quantities of chocolate.

In most instances, diagnosis is based upon physical exam findings in combination with a history of access to chocolate. There is no definitive test for chocolate ingestion.

Unfortunately, theobromine has no antidote. The treatment for chocolate toxicity is primarily supportive.

Treatment focuses on addressing symptoms and problems that develop until the toxins are excreted by the body.

In most cases, intoxication resolves within 24-36 hours.

If the dog was presented shortly after the ingestion, attempts to reduce the poison absorption can be made by inducing vomiting or feeding active charcoal. Intravenous fluids and anti seizure medication are also frequently required.

Symptoms of intoxication usually occur four to 24 hours after ingestion.
Prevention is the key. Keep all chocolate goodies in a non-accessible place for your pet. Don’t share any chocolate with your pet on any circumstances; not even on its birthday.

If you suspect that your dog got exposed to chocolate, contact your veterinarian.

The dog’s weight, the type and amount of the chocolate ingested are all important information for the vet, in order to assess the dog’s risk and condition.

The holiday season is a wonderful time for families to spend time together and connect.

Paying attention to your gluttonous pet’s eating is a one sure way of keeping you joyful and away from the vet’s office.  


Sleeping with your dog

Dogs are known as man’s best friends, but their place in the family has changed.

It used to be common to keep the dog outside, even it was a companion and not a guard dog.

Nowadays, it's much more common to keep the dog indoors.

In fact, many dog owners are welcoming their dog into their beds, and I get asked quite often whether this is recommended.

Whether dogs should sleep with their owners is a personal choice, but there are pros and cons.

The bond between a human and a dog can be potentially even stronger than the bond between human beings.

Your dog doesn't judge you. Your dog loves you unconditionally, and always will. It’s a bond you can trust and rely on.

Many people find the physical presence of their dog in their bed soothing and a source of security.

The problems that can arise from sleeping with a pet are divided — behavioral aspects, and medical aspects for both owner and dog.

When it comes to aggressive dogs, dominant dogs or young dogs still being trained, sleeping with their owner can blur the boundaries for the dog.

In a healthy relationship between a dog and its owner, it is clear that the owner is the alpha (the leader), that the owner is in charge and sets the tone.

If the dog is allowed into the owner’s bed, it may confuse it and send mixed messages. Having its own bed, and sometimes even sleeping in a crate, is required for some dogs in order to establish this hierarchy.

As for the medical aspect of the owners: clearly, the biggest issue is hygiene.

Dogs walking outside bare paws may step in urine, feces or any other contaminated surface.

If you let your dog into the bed, it's recommended to minimally clean the it’s paws before allowing it into the bed.

One should also be mindful for external parasites such as ticks, fleas, or lice, which can also infest humans. The parasites are not found only on the dog, they may also be present anywhere in its environment.

Letting your dog sleep in your bed increases your chance of getting exposed and the potential infestation by these parasites.

Dogs that are commonly taken on hikes, camping and have an abundant access to the outdoors, as well as dogs that spend time in doggy daycares, grooming facilities or any other place that they can come in contact with other pets, can get by these external parasites.

If your dog is infested by external parasite, it’s an easy fix when it comes to the dog.

There are a wide variety of recommended veterinary pest control products. One must know that a crucial part of the parasites extermination is by sterilizing the entire dog’s environment including all the house and bedding.

Some dogs are very sensitive and prone to allergies. The laundry detergent and softeners that people use can be a source of a severe contact dermatitis (allergy that causes severe skin inflammation).

A special hazard concerning small dogs can arise from the dog jumping off the bed, or falling off the bed. Especially if the mattress is very thick, which makes the bed very high.

I’ve witnessed dozens of leg fractures and knees ligament tearing because of a bad fall of the bed.

There is no one right answer to the question whether your dog should sleep in your bed.

It is a personal choice that depends on a few factors:

  • the type of dog 
  • its personality 
  • your family lifestyle and activities that can potentially expose the dog to some unwanted invitees
  • the type of bond you are choosing to have with your pet.

If you choose to welcome your dog into your bed, take some precautionary measures such as keeping your pet up to date on his pest control and deworming, and make sure the dog has a safe way of getting off the bed without risking an injury.

If you want your dog close, but not necessarily in your bed, place its bed near your bed, which may be the best compromise for all.    

More Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles

About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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