It’s that time again. Time to field some questions from my Twitter friends. Here we go!
1) From @AJEbsary “Why is there no cure yet for rat mycoplasma?”
First, I have to admit I have not thought about rat medicine since vet school… so this will be reaching back into the files in my brain…
Mycoplasma is the most common and well-known cause of respiratory infections in rats. Most respiratory infections in rats are assumed to be related in some way to Mycoplasma infection. It is very common and it is suspected that most rats obtained from places such as pet stores have already been exposed and may already be carriers. Mycoplasma itself is a fairly fragile organism and there are antibiotics that are effective against it, though it is difficult to completely eliminate the organism from animals, so many may remain carriers for life even without symptoms of illness. Also, it is often not the only infectious organism involved in respiratory illness, and when symptoms are noted it is often because the animal is also infected with other organisms, many viral, at the same time. Since viruses can not be treated directly, the illnesses are often not eliminated by just treating with antibiotics for Mycoplasma. Also, many animals that are having severe signs may also have other medical or immune issues causing the mycoplasma organism to make them clinically ill. The organism does not tend to live long outside the host, so keeping the environment and bedding clean and the area well ventilated is very helpful. The buildup of ammonia from dirty bedding can irritate the respiratory tract and make illness more likely. Use materials for housing that are easy to clean and disinfect such as plastic as opposed to wood.
Although the author is not a vet, I have read good things about this website with info about rat health and care from veterinarians who specialize in their treatment.
I hope this helps!
2) From @tweet4animals: “From my mom… How long does a cat stay prego?”
First- I like your mom’s style. You can tell her I said that.
To answer her question, the normal gestation for a cat is 63-65 days, though Siamese cats may go a couple of days longer. A vet can often diagnose pregnancy by palpating the abdomen at around 3-4 weeks along. At 6 weeks and on, x-rays can be used to confirm as well as predict the number of kittens. Most, but not all, cats will seek seclusion when they are ready to give birth. Many become restless and may refuse food and water for 12-24 hours prior. Most cats do not require assistance, but it is important to make sure the membranes are removed from the kittens’ noses and mouths so that they can breathe. You may require veterinary assistance with the birth if you notice a kitten is stuck in the birth canal, the mother has strong contractions for 30 minutes without producing a kitten, there is a discharge with no births within a few hours, or there is mild labor for several hours with no kittens born. So… there you go!
3) From @mimismutts: “Dear Cranky Vet, what 2 use for ear mites in dog that won’t burn her, she has never had them before she’s 4yrs old and much loved”
Itchy dirty ears are a very common problem of dogs and cats. While there are many over the counter products for ear mites, contrary to popular belief, ear mites are relatively uncommon in adult dogs and cats except for stray and feral populations. If you notice your dog has red, itchy, dirty, or smelly ears, it is more likely a bacterial or yeast infection. Some breeds such as cocker spaniels and basset hounds are predisposed due to their heavy, floppy ears which do not allow good air flow and trap moisture. Ear infections are also a very common manifestation of food and seasonal allergies, so a multi-faceted treatment approach may be necessary. The most important thing to do first is identify what is causing the infection. This can easily be done at a veterinarian’s office with an otoscopic exam and a look at the organisms under the microscope. Mites, yeast, and bacteria all have a unique appearance and can be readily identified. Cultures can also be taken of the material in the ears to determine the exact identity of the organism and the most effective medication to treat it. Usually, a deep and thorough ear cleaning is needed to remove all of the debris to allow any topical medications that may be prescribed to work more effectively. I would advise that you have a veterinarian examine the ears first to make sure the ear drum is intact before applying any cleaner or medication into the ear. Depending on the severity, oral medications for inflammation, allergies, and infection may also be needed. Left untreated, chronic ear infections can cause many long-term problems, including neurological problems, hematoma of the ear flap, and calcification of the ear canal and permanent damage that can not be reversed. There are no effective medications to treat bacterial or yeast infections available over the counter. Here is a great link with reliable information about ear infections in dogs.
Thank you for your question!
4) From @sizah1: “Did you hear about the miracle chihuahua of Dublin, VA? http://tinyurl.com/3bgrldn”
I hadn’t heard about that. Lucky dog! Though, I don’t tend to do warm and fuzzy commentary…
This concludes another fascinating entry of Ask the Vet Q & A. Thanks for reading!
Q: From @courtarms:
Dear @crankyvet, my (spayed) cat sometimes acts like she’s in heat in the springtime. What’s up with that?
A: First, cats’ heat cycles are driven by light, so they are more “active” in the spring and summer time… It’s pretty freaky, really. In fact, if you or other readers are bored sometime, I suggest you read about it. Here’s a good link from my LSU- the place that is responsible for giving @crankyvet a diploma:
To answer your question, it is likely that when she was spayed a small ovarian remnant was left. It can revascularize and become functional, causing the behavior changes you see in your cat. She can not, of course, become pregnant because the majority of her reproductive tract has been removed. But the remnant fools her body into thinking she is in heat. There are surgical options to remove it, but it is not likely to cause any problems other than the strange annoying behavior cats exhibit when they are in heat.
Q: From @sizah1 on Twitter:
Could you give a rundown of Flea & Tick control products? Pills vs sprays, and why OTC products don’t work?
A: Yes, yes I can. There are SO many different products available now, I can understand how it would be confusing to know which ones to use. Many offer control of not only fleas and ticks, but also intestinal parasites and heartworms… Here is a good chart with some basics upon which I can comment and build:
The newer, often prescription, products are not only more effective because there has been less of a chance of development of resistance, but perhaps, more importantly, they are also safer for our pets than the older, often over the counter medications. Before the advent of many of the newest products, severe, sometimes life threatening reactions could occur to the older chemicals, often because of inappropriate application or sensitivities. The trick now is to assess the risks facing your pet based on your region and lifestyle (your vet can help with that). There is no single correct combination or plan for all pets. You must find the one that works best for you and your pet.
A sidenote about flea/tick products “not working”. If you are still seeing fleas on your pet, it is unlikely to be because the product is not working or the fleas are resistant. It is more likely that your pet is being reinfested on a daily basis and you need to consider a more complete approach to flea control, including treating your yard or your house. Again, see the previous link about the life cycle of the flea and proper flea control.
Q: from @aye_yo on Twitter:
EEK!! I just found a lone star tick on my brand new 7 week old Kitty, I pulled it off, what next??
A: As long as you were able to remove the tick within 24 hours, it is highly unlikely that any potential diseases that ticks carry could have been transmitted. A trick for tick removal that works for me is to use a cotton ball that has a big blob of hand soap on it. Place that on top of the tick for at least 60 seconds. This generally smothers the tick causing it to release so it is much easier to remove. Even if you accidentally leave the head when pulling the tick, the pet will likely have a small inflammatory reaction during which the head will be expelled. Make sure you use tweezers when removing a tick because the diseases that they carry can be passed to people through handling them as well. Here is a great article about ticks, their life cycle, and control:
Q: from @JanFlora49 on Twitter:
Okay @crankyvet – for a 10 y/o spayed fat kitty – kibble, canned food or a mix? And how to peel the weight?
A: There are many different opinions about canned food vs dry food and types of food. I personally think a 50:50 mixture is a good balance. The dry food helps control dental tartar, and the wet food increases the daily water intake, which is very helpful for cats with underlying illnesses such as kidney disease or urinary crystals or inflammation. As cats get older, they are more likely to have certain fairly common underlying conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and dental disease. A vet exam and some basic bloodwork can help determine if your cat is affected. A diet change may be indicated if any of these conditions is identified. It can be very difficult to get the weight off of overweight kitties, and often people find it necessary to use prescription diets such as Science Diet R/D or M/D to get the pounds off. Just like in people, increased exercise can also help shed the pounds, so using interactive toys to help keep your cat active can be very helpful. As they age, overweight cats will be more prone to developing diabetes, and any underlying heart disease or arthritis will be exacerbated. At the same time, you want to have your pet lose weight slowly, as crash diets are not healthy for cats which are prone to a type of fatty liver disease that can be fatal if too much weight is lost too rapidly.
Every pet is an individual, and the best person to help tailor a plan for you and your cat is your veterinarian. Now is a good time to mention your concerns and develop a good balanced diet for your kitty as she gets older.
Q: from @smary_ on Twitter:
My bro has 2 Cav King Charles Spaniels, both of their eyes tear a lot but Lorenzo is worse, his eyes are always running! Poor pup. Is it the breed? Allergies? Could it be something worse? Both are young, just want to prevent any problems down the road.
A: Good question! Excess tearing is more prevalent in some breeds, and daily cleaning with a damp cloth may be helpful. There are also products designed for the removal of tear stains in dogs. They have questionable efficacy. The most important thing is to make sure there is nothing wrong with the eyes themselves. If there is any squinting or redness, they should be examined. There could also be a complication with allergies that could be causing the tearing to be more excessive. If that is the case, sometimes antihistamines or topical eye products can be used during the times of year the pet has more symptoms. Here is a good link about tearing in dogs and the common causes:
Dear @crankyvet, Be real with me. Dog people vs Cat people. Who’s crazier? How about Mammal people vs Bird & Reptile people?
A: Bird and reptile people aren’t crazy… they’re just unusual. Cat people are crazy. You own cats, right?
Q: from @aye_yo on Twitter:
@crankyvet brand new female kitty, decided to STOP using her box for #2 and just leave her surprises behind doors?? UGH- any advice?
A: There are many reasons a cat can stop using the litter box for its bowel movements. Some medical reasons include anal sac problems and constipation. Behavioral reasons include an aversion to the box for different reasons including a stressful experience in the box, a change of litter or location, or a box that isn’t being scooped often enough for the cat’s tastes. Also, additions of pets to the house can cause behavior changes. A good rule of thumb is that there should be one litter box more than total number of cats in the house and these boxes should be in different locations. So, for instance, if there are 2 cats, there should be 3 litter boxes. Sometimes just adding a new litter box to the house can make a huge difference. Whatever the cause, if it is not identified early, the behavior can become a habit meaning even once the underlying cause is addressed, the behavior may continue. So, I recommend having a conversation with your vet early on to prevent this from happening.
Q: Again, from @sizah1 on Twitter:
The hardest part of owning a “really” smart dog seems to be consistency in my behavior. I can’t be on 24/7. How do I compensate?
A: Drink lots of coffee and take vivarin. That’s the most common problem when training dogs… consistency. Do your best and pick your battles. If you can’t participate in an important situation, then use time outs and the crate. If you aren’t going to be able to fully engage, don’t engage halfway. Use distractions and training commands to redirect undesired behaviors. And the most useful thing to remember is that most dogs that are using attention seeking behavior will stop that behavior when you simply walk away. You’ll be amazed.
I’ve been a vet for 14 years. I decided when I was 5 years old that I was going to be a vet when I grew up… mostly because I always liked animals more than people, honestly. Little did I know then that I’m treating people just as much, if not more, sometimes, than their pets.
People tend to piss me off. But I’ve learned to have a greater appreciation for my fellow man through our common love of our four legged furry friends.
I hope to provide some interesting links, ideas, thoughts, and information for all animal lovers out there. However, be warned that it is sarcasm that has kept me sane through these last 14 years, and I will continue to use it as needed. Otherwise, enjoy!