How to Tell if Your Pet Has Fleas
It’s almost Summer. Spring, Summer and Fall mean insects. If you have a furry pet, then you know fleas can be a big problem. You know what they look like, don’t you? 3-4 mm long, narrow, jumping, running, brown-black bugs on your pets and maybe on you, too. You know they spread disease, like the Plague. I mean, literally, Yersinia pestis, the agent that caused the Plague and killed 1 out of every 3 people on earth in the Middle Ages. (Yes, it still exists, especially in the American South West.)
You probably also know to look for flea excrement, also called “flea dirt.” Fleas eat blood, and their excrement is digested blood. It looks like clusters of black dirt by your pet’s skin, usually under the fur. It accumulates mostly by the base of the tail or behind the ears. If you comb out some flea dirt and you put it on white paper, it will run brown-red when water is added. You can even write your name with it!
We’re here to talk about hidden fleas – fleas you have not seen. Read more…
Atopic Disease in Dogs
Dogs have allergies, too! About half of American dogs have atopy (a-toe-pee). (In humans, the most common manifestation of atopy is eczema.) Dogs become intensely itchy. They succumb to secondary bacterial skin and ear infections, especially staph aureus (staff or-ee-us). The dogs often have yeast infections at the same time! The allergies become worse with each passing year and may become year-round. Atopy is such an uncomfortable, terrible condition with which to live. Read more…
Tartar on the Buccal Side
Harold shivered in his mom’s arms. The nine-year-old tan Pomeranian looked like he wanted to run back to the car. The tip of his tail started to wag with uncertainty as Doc Truli explained how to brush his teeth.
“You brush the outsides, facing the lips, not the insides facing the tongue” said the Doc.
Strictly speaking, dogs do not have lips. The sides of the teeth facing the outside of the mouth are called the buccal (pronounced like ‘buckle’) sides of the teeth. The insides facing the tongue and called the lingual sides. Most often, clients tell Doc Truli they cannot brush their dogs’ teeth because their dogs will not open up.
Where Does Your Tartar Grow?
Rarely does tartar grow on the lingual side of the teeth:
You can see in this picture of diseased teeth removed from Harold’s mouth that the one side shows thick, brown crud and the other side of the teeth looks mostly pearly white. Harold shows us a good example of how the tartar grows on the buccal side of the teeth. The tartar grows so well that the resulting periodontal disease loosens the teeth, even though the inner, lingual side of the teeth is still clean.
So, once your dog’s teeth are clean and comfortable, or, if your dog is under 2 years old and still has fairly good-looking teeth, you can start gently brushing with a soft toothbrush of a comfortable size and shape for you and your dog and doggy toothpaste that is not poisonous.
If your dog already has loose teeth or thick tartar or red, sore gum lines, please see your veterinarian for care. Brushing when there is periodontal disease is painful and can cause more oral pathology.
Also, do not use toothpaste made for human babies and children, even if it is ‘all natural’ or ‘organic’ because almost all of then contain the sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is considered safe for humans, but it is poison to dogs. The amount of Xylitol in one stick of sugar-free gum can kill a small dog.
After Harold’s surgery, his gums healed in 7 days. He was back to eating is kibble and he was playing with a ball for the first time in years.
Lemur with a Paw Problem
“Doc, you gotta help my little guy, Tricky. I don’t know what happened. He just came running down the hall this morning holding his paw up, ” Tricky’s mom started to cry. “He’s supposed to live at least 35 years, and he’s only a year and a half. He can’t lose his leg!”
The little, muscular, light-weight lemur perched on his mom’s shoulder. His dark brown eyes darted around the examination room. He seemed undecided whether to stay with his person or leap to a high spot of safety. He stayed on his human.
Doc Truli reached out the back of a hand to approach him slowly, so he wouldn’t startle and leap around. He allowed her to stroke his side, but he guarded the left front paw and jumped to his mom’s other shoulder when Doc managed to touch the paw even lightly.
Each time he tried to jump off mom, she held onto his harness. Lemurs born and raised in captivity live with a light-weight nylon strap harness around their waist to help their humans get a grip on them. Healthy lemurs are impossible to hold still without some ingenuity.
After Tricky settled in, he allowed Doc Truli to touch and check his paw. (We became friends, as you can see from the picture of Tricky lounging on my shoulder. That was a pleasant surprise!) The equivalent of what would be our pointer finger was obviously fractured. Tricky needed surgery.
“Why is my Kitten Hacking Like She has a Hairball?”
Mrs. Lynch bustled into the examination room with purpose and efficiency. The 4 pound ball of Ragdoll fluff peered out of a brand-new, fully labelled cat carrier. A soft cotton baby blanket, 2 brightly colored, handmade cat toys, and exactly 5 morsels of untouched cat treats rested under and around Matilda’s fat, fuzzy Ragdoll paws. Doc Truli could tell Mrs. Lynch was conscientious, precise, and thorough in providing everything her kitten could ever want. A sick kitten felt like a condemnation of her kitten mothering skills. Read more…
What Can Be Expected From a First Check Up for a Himalayan Kitten?
Doc Truli loves kittens. Especially Himalayan kittens. After all, VirtuaCat was one such kitten 17 years ago! When your little bundle of joy and claws sees the veterinarian, you can expect a thorough physical examination, fecal parasite test, and feline leukemia blood test (if it’s available in your country). If you bring a fresh, less than 12-hours-old feces sample to the visit, you will save your little one the discomfort of a rectal probe.
If you have questions about food, toys, supplements,grooming tools, etc, bring them along to the visit so your veterinarian can see exactly what you have set up for your new kitten’s life.
Doc Truli says, ” You would be amazed how many people cannot remember the brand name of the pet food they chose. Furthermore, there are at least 500 kinds of shampoo and ear cleaner, so telling your vet you use the one in the ‘blue bottle’ is a stretch of anyone’s imagination. Just bring your supplies or pictures of supplies you wish to purchase in order to ask your vet’s advice.”
The Physical Examination
- Teeth and occlusion
- Ears and earmite check
- Skin and flea check
- Orthopedic exam, especially knees and joint alignment
- Cardiac auscultation (listening to the heart with a stethoscope)
- Eye check
- Abdominal palpation (feeling for the kidneys, etc)
Face and Teeth
The brachycephalic facial structure (pronounced brake-eee-sef-fal-lick) of the show Himalayan can come with problems. While a little kitten with big heartfelt eyes and a short nose and a cute little mouth grabs your heart, it does not always help the kitten be healthy
Himalayans can have facial defects like cleft palette. They can be born with a full or partial cleft or crevasse in the roof of the mouth. Some kittens born with this problem will die shortly after birth because they will not be able to suckle properly to drink mother’s milk. If you are lucky enough to have new-born kittens under your care, take them to the veterinarian as soon after they are born as is practical (within a day) to get them checked for defects like cleft palette or anal atresia (when there’s a membrane over the anal opening and they cannot poop.) Many kittens can live a normal life is your vet identifies these problems right away before the kitten becomes sick.
Exophthalmic Himalayan Eyes
Exophthalmic refers to those cute bulgy eyes. Like Persians and Himmis have. Like Burmese and Scottish Folds. Himalayan cats can also be born with eyes that tear excessively. Sometimes they have defective tear ducts that do not work. Sometimes they have soft eyelashes that rub on the corneas and cause tearing and pain. Depending on the exact problem, there are surgeries to help or cure the uncomfortable conditions.
Parasites and Skin
Mom cats often have earmites and fleas that they share with their kittens. Fleas can kill kittens by drinking their blood and making them dangerously anemic. If you see fleas on your kitten, comb them off daily with a flea comb and treat the direct environment to eliminate fleas. Many products are not safe for kittens, so follow your veterinarian’s advice if you are having trouble finding products that say in writing that they are safe for young kittens.
Himalayans are also prone to ringworm fungus. They seem to have a genetic difference from average cats that makes ringworm grow easily on them and sometimes makes it stay. If your kitten has bald spots, sores, red skin, or crusts, have the veterinarian check them. Ringworm is zoonotic, which means kittens can give it to humans. Always follow your physician’s advice regarding human illness.
The orthopedic exam checks that your kitten is made right. Some kittens have knees that bend backward. Some Himalayan kittens are chondrodysplastic, which means they are somewhat dwarfed and have crooked legs. The crooked elbows and knees can hurt as they exercise and sometimes not line up properly. Your veterinarian can identify these problems and possible spinal problems like scoliosis, flail chest, or kyphosis (pronounced key-fo-sis). While scoliosis is a bend in the spine from right to left (or side to side), kyphosis is a bend from top to bottom (up and down). Most cats can live happy lives with their unique situations, especially if you know about the problem from kitten hood so you can help your cat as much as possible.
A cardiac check is important. Himalayan kittens can be born with heart murmurs. A murmur is an abnormal wooshing or squeaking heart sound. Technically, it means there is turbulent blood flow in the heart or the great vessels. It can mean that they heart developed wrong. An echocardiogram may be prescribed in order to see if the murmur is a benign murmur that does not indicate a heart problem versus a heart condition. Sometimes you will need a specialist for a diagnosis or peace of mind.
Doc Truli says, “Years ago, I met a flame-point Himalayan kitten with a heart rate of 300. The breeder worried he had a cardiac disease. The cardiology specialist at the University of Pennsylvania pointed out to me that there were no normal kitten heart rates in the published scientific literature in 1998. The kitten went on to live a full, happy life.”
Kidneys and Abdominal Organs
Finally, your Himalayan kitten’s examination includes abdominal palpation. Cats can be born with only one kidney. Your veterinarian feels and counts the kidneys during the exam. Furthermore, Himalayans are a breed of cat prone to polycystic kidney disease (PKD). It is a genetic disorder in which they kidneys form cysts that crowd out the normal function of the kidneys until the cat eventually looses his or her life. PKD usually lies silent until middle age and then slowly progresses for years. If your kitten has only one kidney, then a disease like PKD would be especially devastating and you would want to establish a frequent check-up schedule with your veterinarian in order to detect any dysfunction well before your precious Himalayan feels sick.
Congrats on your new Himalayan kitten! VirtuaCat has brought happiness to everyone he meets (except the groomer) for 17 years. If you are researching breeds and you like lazy, affectionate, furry, beautiful companions, then the Himalayan cat is for you.
“Freddy grinds his teeth when he eats, hisses, or yawns”
Betsy was beside herself. The 46-year-old teacher held a grey plastic cat carrier, the kind you can buy in any big box store in America with the clips around the middle holding the top and bottom together and the plastic grid door on the front that looks like a children’s toy prison for cats.
A natural cream-colored faux-sheepskin bed, 4 cat toy mousies, and 6 pieces of cat treats littered the bottom of the carrier. Freddy mushed himself into the back of the barrier with his nose pointing toward the back roof corner. He thought, or hoped, that Doc Truli couldn’t see him, or at least, wouldn’t try to extract him from his carrier. Completely uncooperative and unappreciative, Freddy started to drool in silent nervous panic.
“Doc, Freddy has been grinding his teeth for a few years now, and recently he started drooling when he eats,” said Betsy. “I thought he was angry with me because we moved to a new house. But then he started drooling and I thought maybe he’s sick.”
Doc Truli started unclipping the plastic attachments around the midriff of the carrier. With a practiced flourish, she lifted the carrier top while supporting the door so it would not crash onto the petrified ginger cat.
An oral examination revealed urgent problems.