Health care for your pet


Pet owners want the best in medical care for their animals, and new advances have made significant improvements in available care. Included is how to take care of pet dental problems, flea control, behavioural problems, arthritis, eye problems and several others.

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Pets aren’t just animals anymore. Increasingly, they are considered members of the family. In fact, according to a 1996 survey by the American Animal Hospital Association, 51 percent of pet owners give their pets human names. Many include news about their pets in correspondence-my own holiday cards mentioned Cappy, Winston, Fred and Jennifer, my family’s dogs and cats-and pamper their furry and feathered friends like children. So it’s no surprise that pet owners have come to expect the best in medical care for their animals too. Here are just a few ways veterinary medicine is striving to improve the quality of health care for your pet:


Does your pet have bad breath? Dogs and cats aren’t immune to dental problems or diseases and, just as in humans, prevention is the best medicine. More and more pets are receiving dental care to get rid of plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to periodontal or-gum disease. In extreme cases, bacteria originating in the mouth can cause kidney and heart-valve infections. To prevent-dental problems, veterinarians recommend annual dental checkups for pets. This includes teeth cleaning and examination under a safe, short-term anesthetic. The same instruments used in human dentistry are used for pets. Home care is also necessary. Your veterinarian can tell you how to brush your pet’s teeth.

Flea control

It wasn’t long ago that insecticidal dips, sprays, powders and collars were all we had to fight fleas. They were fairly effectire, but they sometimes had toxic effects on pets if they were used too frequently or in the wrong dilution. In addition, puppies and kittens were often sensitive to some of these older treatments. Technology has given today’s pet owners new choices. An oral flea treatment impacts the eggs laid by affected fleas. It works by preventing the flea from making chitin, which is necessary to form the “beak tooth” that allows it to break out of its egg. This cuts down on the population of new fleas and gives you time to “catch up” to the adult population. Another new flea treatment is delivered by applying a solution to the pet’s skin. It is not absorbed but rather travels across the lipid layer on the skin, forming an ultrathin protective barrier, affecting the nervous systems of adult fleas and eggs. Both are killed on contact.

These and other new flea-control technologies require only periodic usage (every one to three months) to control fleas. They are more convenient for pet owners and, because they are more readily used, more effective. Humans and pets alike benefit not only from the disappearance of fleas, but also from decreased exposure to the chemical residues associated with some of the older treatments.


Is your dog digging up your backyard? Is your kitten refusing to use her litter box? Pet owners have more questions about their pets’ behavior than almost anything else. It can be frustrating to try to teach your beloved puppy or kitten to obey your commands. In fact, problem behavior is often the reason why pet owners give up their animals, making it the number-one killer of dogs and cats in the United States. Shelters and humane organizations destroy millions of dogs and cats each year because of behavior problems that make them unsuitable for adoption. But there is hope. More and more veterinarians are becoming knowledgeable in behavior diagnosis and treatment. Behavior can be modified both through proper training and medication. Veterinarians and animal shelter professionals are now able to help resolve problems that in the past were unmanageable.


Reuniting lost or stolen pets with their owners can often be a difficult task. For example, when natural disasters hit, pets are often separated from their owners and many wear no identification tags.

Technology is helping to solve that problem with microchips, tiny computerized identification tags that can be safely inserted beneath your pet’s skin by a veterinarian. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is implanted with a device similar to a needle and syringe. As a supplement to traditional collar tags, microchips carry information about your pet that can be read with a special electronic scanner, now being used by many shelters. While microchips have not yet been universally accepted, many veterinarians, industry professionals and humane organizations are working to ensure that a standard system of chips and scanners and a central database of microchip information is adopted to help protect pets everywhere.


Many older dogs share a painful disease with their human counterparts-arthritis. The most common form, osteoarthritis, is a debilitating disease that causes stiffness, lameness and sometimes severe pain resulting from the degeneration of cartilage in the dog’s weight-bearing joints. While arthritis is often considered a geriatric disease, it can also be found in dogs with inherited joint problems or overworked joints. Arthritis can turn a once-playful dog into a companion who is too stiff and sore to jump and romp any longer. While there is still no cure for arthritis, there is new hope for dogs suffering from this condition. Inflammation due to arthritis kan be controlled with new drug therapies in combination with a diet and exercise program. In some severe cases, surgery may also be an option. With your veterinarian’s help, your arthritic dog may well be able to live a long and active life.


Just like aging humans, older dogs often lose their sight due to cataracts. Until recently, this condition went uncorrected, but today dogs with cataracts can receive treatment from veterinary ophthalmologists. Often, cataracts can be surgically removed and replaced with artificial, sight-restoring lenses. Now aging dogs can live better, brighter lives as they grow old with their human companions.

State-of-the-art diagnosis

Beyond standard X-rays, veterinarians can now use MRI and CT scans to see areas like the brain and spinal cord that would be impossible to study otherwise. In addition, new testing abilities at most veterinary hospital labs offer rapid, onsite results, allowing for the crucial early diagnosis of serious diseases such as feline leukemia, feline AIDS, canine parvo virus and heartworm. Rapid results are also available today for many standard medical tests. Quigker testing and diagnosis means a better prognosis for seriously in pets.

Vacci nations

Vaccinations have been developed against Several of the serious diseases our pets face. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t have a vaccine to prevent feline leukemia. Now the incidence of feline leukemia, as well as canine and feline .distemper, parvo virus, kennel cough and other diseases in animals, has decreased. thanks to new vaccines. The use of recombinant gene technology will allow the production of many more new vaccines i nan extremely. safe form in the near future. Your veterinarian can tell you which vaccinations are necessary in your region.

High-Tech equipment ….

Monitoring critical patients in intensive care involves equipment identical to that used on humans Pulse oximeters measure Oxygen in the blood, blood pressure monitors continuously check for changes during anesthesia, EKG monitors track heart rate and rhythm and respirators assist the lungs when necessary. There isn’t much in human medicine.that can’t be done for pets as well-including radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer-and veterinarians are constantly learning more about treatments that will help pets lead even longer, healthier lives in the future.

These are just a few of the areas in which your veterinarian can help you improve your pet’s health and well-being. With eight years of higher education and a lifetime of continued learning, veterinarians have committed a great deal of time to mastering their profession in order to provide your pets with healthier, happier, more comfortable lives.

Dr. Geasling is president of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and owner of Sheridan Animal Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y., where he has practiced companion animal medicine for 20 years. He is board certified in companion animal practice and practices with a board-certified surgeon, a board-certified ophthaltnologist and two other general practitioners like himself.

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