7 Routine Pet Health Issues: What You Need to Know
Our pets are faithful companions, protective security, and fun playmates. And they depend on us to take care of them. So what’s the best way to ensure your furry friends live long, healthy lives?
The more you understand about potential health issues, the easier it is to give the right care.
Like people, pets are not immune to common health conditions that may pop up. Most of the conditions we’ll cover today are easy to remedy with early intervention.
Let’s take a closer look at these 7 common pet health issues:
- Ear Infections
- Hot Spots
- Bladder Infections
- Skin Allergies
One of the most common issues found in both cats and dogs are ear infections. Typically, they’re not serious. But it can be difficult to watch your fur-baby shaking her head and pawing at her ears.
If Fido or Fluffy is experiencing pain or discomfort due to an ear infection, you’ll likely be able to spot the signs.
Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Head shaking
- Unpleasant odour
- Excessive scratching
- Lack of balance
- Redness or swelling
- Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
Ear infections can be caused by all kinds of things, like:
- Ear mites
- Excessive hair growth
Don’t be too hard on yourself—your pet’s ear ache probably wasn’t caused by anything you did (or didn’t do).
Still, ear infections can be painful. If you think your little guy might be suffering, best to call your vet and get him in for a quick once over.
In most cases, cleaning and medicating the ear canal will clear up an infection. Your vet may also prescribe an antibiotic to fight a bacterial infection.
To fight yeast infections of the outer ear canal, your vet might prescribe a topical antifungal ointment or cream, like miconazole or ketoconazole.
If ear mites are to blame, your vet will thoroughly clean the ears and prescribe a parasiticide medication you can apply to the inside of your pet’s ear, or directly on their skin to kill and remove the mites.
Some pets are prone to chronic ear infections, which means they keep coming back. In those cases, surgery might be the only way to prevent future issues.
To prevent ear infections from recurring:
- Keep ears well-groomed
- Keep ears dry and clean
- Supplement your pet's diet with Essentials Canine or Feline for an immune system boost
Health Conditions A-Z: Ear Infections
The thought of slithery, slimy worms writhing around inside your pet is enough to give anyone the heebie jeebies. Sadly, intestinal worms are common. Fortunately, when caught quickly, they’re easy to treat.
Worms are parasites that live inside your pet’s organs, and they’re unpleasant to say the least.
They typically get inside when a pet ingests them by eating contaminated feces or wild prey. Some types of worms are ingested by drinking stagnant water. Others burrow in through the skin. Sometimes worms transfer to unborn puppies through the mother’s placenta or by nursing after they’re born.
Warning: Worms can be fatal to puppies.
If you suspect your pet might have worms, look for these common symptoms:
- Diarrhea or bloody stool
- Weight loss
- A rough, dry coat
- Scooting on his bottom
- An overall poor appearance
Do not try to treat worms by yourself. Each one is different and will need a different medicine. Talk to your vet about treatment options.
In addition to supplementing your pet’s diet with healthy digestive enzymes, ask what you can do to help prevent worms in the future.
Health Conditions A-Z: Worms
It takes just three weeks for one flea to turn into an infestation of a thousand biting bugs.
A common problem among cats and dogs, fleas are a nuisance, but they're relatively easy to treat.
Signs your dog may have fleas include:
- Excessive scratching, licking or biting at the skin
- Hair loss
- Hot spots
- Allergic dermatitis
- Tapeworms (which are carried by fleas)
- Flea dirt (droppings look like small black dots)
When left untreated, fleas not only make your pet super itchy and scratchy, they can also cause allergic reaction, infection and can even lead to anemia.
Talk to your vet about which flea medicine is right for your dog. It may be a collar, oral medicine, shampoos, sprays or topical liquids.
No, we're not talking about WiFi.
Hot spots are those hairless, inflamed spots you sometimes see on dogs and cats. Hot spots are scientifically known as acute moist dermatitis—a bacterial skin infection.
A hot spot's location can help your vet diagnose its cause. Fleas, for example, may be the source of a hot spot on the hip, while a hot spot around the ear might point to an ear infection or mites.
Treating hot spots may involve a fancy hair cut (more like a buzz cut!), a thorough cleaning of the irritated area, antibiotics, and sometimes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Steroids or topical medications may also help, depending on the severity of the hot spot.
Health Conditions A-Z: Hot Spots
Bladder infections (aka urinary tract infections, or UTIs) can make it painful, and sometimes impossible, for your pet to urinate. The condition can become serious—fast.
In fact, severe urinary tract infections can cause an obstruction, which can then lead to worsening health problems. In some cases it can even be fatal if left untreated.
The most common reasons for bladder infections are bacteria and urinary stones. Infections occur when bacteria, such as E. coli, is present in lingering traces of feces or debris. The bacteria then enters through the urethra.
RELATED READING: Health Conditions A-Z: Bladder & Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Bacteria also thrives when your pet lacks the proper nutrients needed to support a healthy immune system.
Urinary stones form when your pet is unable to fully empty his bladder. Minerals in the concentrated urine crystalize and eventually form hard masses—or stones. Urinary stones are very painful, which is why it’s so important to treat the bladder infection early, before stones have a chance to form.
Bladder infections are more common in older pets, and occur more often in females than in males. That’s because the male urethra is longer than the female’s, so bacteria has to travel further upward.
If you think your pet may have a bladder infection, look for these symptoms:
- Bloody urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Excessive licking near the genitals
- Drinking more water
- Loss of appetite
Book an appointment with your vet right away if you suspect a bladder infection. The sooner you diagnose the problem, the easier it is to treat.
It happens to the best of us as we age … even to our furry friends. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and is primarily found in older pets. The most common type of arthritis is degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, 20% of all dogs will experience arthritis at some point in their life. In a 2002 study, a whopping 90% of cats over the age of 12 showed evidence of degenerative joint disease.
Diagnosing arthritis in cats is trickier because symptoms are more difficult to identify.
Changes to your cat’s range of motion tend to be subtle. Plus, cats are more likely to put up a fight during an examination. That makes it tough for your vet to know if the cat is experiencing stiffness and pain, or if he’s just “being a cat.”
If you see your pet displaying any of the following symptoms, it may be due to arthritis:
- Difficulty standing up after lying down
- Difficulty going up stairs
- Difficulty jumping onto furniture
- Taking a narrow stance in the rear limbs
- Muscle deterioration of the rear limbs
Health Conditions A-Z: Arthritis
Diet and nutritional supplements are the most effective ways to treat arthritis.
Weight management is also critical. Less weight on weakening joints can reduce pain and slow deterioration.
Low-impact exercise can help to maintain muscle and help to support the joints.
Feed your pet foods that contain natural anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants and Omega fatty acids:
- Blueberries, strawberries
- Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- Spinach, kale
- Sweet potatoes
If you’re feeding a processed food (not a raw diet), consider adding a supplement. That way, you can be sure your pet is fully absorbing all the nutrients he needs to stay healthy and comfortable well into his golden years.
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Allergies are an immune system response to a foreign substance. For example, when you breathe in dust, you sneeze. That's your body's immune system getting rid of the foreign substance ... dust.
Not all allergies are inhalants, though. Some are topical, meaning something foreign is irritating the skin.
For the most part, allergic reactions are harmless.
If you suspect your pet is dealing with skin allergies, be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Redness or yellow discharge in the eyes
- Excessive licking, scratching or chewing
- Unpleasant odour
- Dry, flakey skin
First thing’s first—identify the cause of the allergy and attempt to eliminate it. If that’s not possible, treat the symptoms.
Skin allergies are a nuisance, but you can usually treat them with the help of diet and supplements. Sometimes you need a little extra help from your vet by way of topical creams, sprays and shampoos.
Health Conditions A-Z: Skin Allergies
Do you have questions about your pet's health? Leave us a comment below or give us a buzz anytime, we're here to help!
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