“What is Leptospirosis, and should I vaccinate my dog for it?”

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that effects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans it causes a wide range of symptoms, and some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of Leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomitting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs.

Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. Leptospirosis is confirmed by laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample. Outbreaks of Leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Many different kinds of animals carry the bacterium; they become sick but sometimes have no symptoms. Leptospira organisms have been found in cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals. Humans become in contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from these infected animals. This may happen by swallowing contaminated food or water or through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose, or with broken skin.

Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin, which should be given early in the course of the disease. Intravenous antibiotics may be required for persons with more severe health care problems.

“Why is my cat urinating outside of the litter box?”

Unfortunately, this is a very common problem for cat owners. It is possible that your cat is exhibiting this behavior because of an underlying medical disorder, so the pet should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out disease as a cause of inapporopriate urination. Cats may urinate in inappropriate places because of urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and feline lower urinary tract disease. Tests such as urinalysis, bloodwork, and x-rays of the abdomen may identify the presence of such medical problems.

However, inappropriate urination is most often a behavioral problem. One of the most common reasons that cats stop using the litter box is that the box is not kept clean enough for their tastes. Boxes need to be scooped at least daily, and the litter should be changed frequently. Many cats are best accommodated with two seperate boxes: one for urination and one for defecation. Both boxes must be kept clean. If you have multiple cats, many veterinarians recommend that you provide at least one litter box per cat. You may want to provide litter box access on each floor of the house.

Also consider whether your cat has access to the litter box. Is there a closed door blocking your cat’s path to the litter box? In addition, a dog that stands guard or a dominant cat may not permit the affected cat to use the box. Other causes of aversion to the litter box include proximity to appliances that are noisy, such as televisions and washing machines, and those that turn on or off by use of a timer. Cats that are disturbed in the litter box by another cat, child, or dog may develop a litter box aversion as well.

It is possible that your cat is reacting to a change in the box location or type of litter. Some cats are very particular about where they go, and others are sensitive to the perfumes or dust in the litter. It may be necessary to try different types of litter — for example, a non-clumping clay litter versus a sand-like clumping one — until you find one that meets your pet’s needs. In addition, if you provide the cat with a covered litter box, you might try switching to an uncovered box to see if the pet prefers it.

There are other methods for controlling inappropriate urination. You may want to move the litter box to the area where your cat is urinating. Always clean the soiled areas of your home with a non-ammonia cleaner. Because cats are drawn to the scent of urine, they may continue to go in the same inappropriate site if they are stimulated by the smell of previous accidents. The best cleaning products contain enzymes that degrade the urine and prevent stains. These products should be available through your veterinarian or local pet store. Because your cat may have a preference for carpet, you can change the way the area feels by using plastic carpet protectors or aluminum foil This substrate change may make the litter box a preferred spot. In some cases, you may want to move your cat’s food bowl to the area that she had previously soiled. Because cats are fastidious they don’t like to eat and eliminate in the same place.

It is important to talk to your veterinarian about the inappropriate urination. He or she will have some additional suggestions tailored to the specific needs of your cat. In some cases, medication can be helpful in controlling the problem, but it is usually reserved for cases where other possibilities have been exhausted. Veterinary behavioral specialists may offer additional insights.

“Is a heartworm test necessary every year?”

A heartworm test is indicated yearly if your pet is not on monthly heartworm prevention, such as Interceptor, Sentinel, or Revolution. A heartworm blood test is required before administering the preventive the first time, about 6 months of age. Do NOT administer the preventive medication until a negative result is indicated! A heartworm test is required once a year for the safety of your pet. While heartworm medications are very efficacious, we must take into account sneaky pets who spit pills out, or may vomit after administration. This is required for the safety and health of your pet.

“Why does my dog have such bad breath?”

Bad breath, or halitosis, can be caused by many different medical and dental problems, some of which may be serious. Because a potentially serious problem may be the cause of your dog’s bad breath, you should make an appointment for an examination to determine the cause. Some smaller breeds of dogs, such as poodles and schnauzers, are well known for being predisposed to dental disease. Brachycephalic, or short-headed, dog breeds like pugs and bulldogs also have a higher risk of developing dental problems.

Bad breath in dogs may be due to dental disorders such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, and plaque buildup on the teeth, significant oral cavity disease such as abscesses, sores or ulcers, decaying tissue associated with cancer, and infections. Kidney and other organ system disease and diabetes and other metabolic problems may also cause halitosis.

Although some tartar control treats and brushing are helpful, if your dog’s foul odor is due to plaque buildup, a professional dental cleaning will be necessary. More extensive dental problems may require specialized veterinary dental care. If other problems exist, such as infection, abcess, tumors, or metabolic or other systemic diseases, they will require veterinary attention.

“Can you tell me more about spaying or neutering my pet?”

The best age for both dogs and cats is between 4-6 months. There are many medical and behavioral reasons why it is healthiest for females to be spayed before her first heat, and males neutered before they reach puberty. Puppies and kittens can be neutered even as young as 6 weeks of age, but we prefer to let them get their puppy and kitten immunizations, and that they be clear of parasites before a major surgery.


Ovariohysterectomy is the medical term for spaying a female dog or cat. The procedure consists of surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. If the ovaries are not removed, heat periods still occur even though pregnancy is impossible. Surgery is usually performed at 4-6 months of age.
Though it is routinely performed, ovariohysterectomy is a major abdominal surgery, requiring general anesthesia and sterile operating technique.
Prevention of pregnancy and heat periods are the main reasons for the surgery, but the procedure is often necessary to treating severe uterine infection, ovarian and/or uterine tumors, and some skin disorders.

CASTRATION (or Neuter)

Castration is the medical term for neutering a male dog or cat. The procedure consists of surgical removal of the testicles. Such surgery is performed to eliminate sexual activities and render the dog sterile. Castration usuallly (but not always) reduces a dog’s tendancy to roam and fight. The general level of aggression may also be reduced. However, castration is not a replacement for obedience training by the owner.
Castration at a young age significantly reduces the risks of prostatic diseases and certain types of cancer. In older dogs, castration may be necessary due to disease of the testicles or prostrate gland. When a cat is castrated just before sexual maturity at 4-6 months of age, the cat’s sexual instincts are reduced, and the cat becomes sterile. Fighting and night-prowling, common in intact male cats, are largely eliminated. (However, castrated cats may still want to go outdoors to hunt.) The objectionable urine odor of the male cat is also reduced.

“My pet is having surgery tomorrow. What do I need to do to prepare?”

Feed and water your pet as usual today, but take away any leftovers after midnight. Your pet will need to have an empty stomach for anesthesia; this minimizes the risk of certain complications. We will give them a small amount of water as soon as they are recovered enough to safely do so. If your pet has fleas or ticks, you can take care of that problem today, it would be a good thing. If not, we will apply a topical while at the office, so that other people’s pets don’t take home your fleas! If you need a pet carrier or leash to bring your pet, we have them at the office and can find what you need. Cats seem less stressed if they feel secure in a taxi.

“My pet has fleas. How do I get rid of them?”

Fleas continue to be an important problem of animal husbandry despite the advances in flea-control products. Using conventional insecticides, one must address fleas on the pet, in the house, and in the environment, a three-pronged approach.

Dips are not safe when used often enough to be effective. Flea collars are not generally useful, and sprays must be applied regularly to have maximum kill. The yard products, such as organophosphates, should help eliminate environmental fleas. You may wish to treat the shady areas of the yard, under bushes and trees, where ultraviolet light does not penetrate, especially if the pets lie there. All areas that your pet visits must be treated, even your house, car, and garage. The entire environment and the pets must be treated concurrently; the clean, flea-free animals must be housed in a flea-free area while the premises are treated. After vacuuming the area rugs, be sure to throw the vacuum bag away.

Despite the apparent expense of the new topical products such as Frontline or Revolution, these products have proved themselves highly effective in such situations. They should be safe for all members of the household. Please discuss their utility with your veterinarian. He will assess your situation and customize a flea-control plan for you as economically as possible.

“Why does my dog lick and chew at its paws?”

There are several possible reasons that dogs excessively lick or bite their paws and limbs. Allergies, arthritis pain, neoplasia (growths), and even boredom are some of the more common causes. These lesions can vary in their severity depending on the cause and how persistent the dog is about licking them.

An appointment should be made to have your veterinarian examine your dog to determine the underlying cause for the licking and to offer treatment options. Your veterinarian may perform some tests, including bloodwork and possibly radiographs (x-rays) to help diagnose the underlying condition.

It may be that your dog is itchy because of allergies. Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction in affected animals while it is possible that your pet is simply being fastidious when he comes in the house, the more likely explanation is that he is being exposed to allergens on his trips outside. Dogs, like people, may be affected by pollen and other airborne allergens. Unlike people, inhalant allergy symptoms in dogs more commonly include itching, hair loss, ear infections, dermatitis (skin inflammation or irritation) and other skin problems.

Inhalant allergies, or atopy, can sometimes be managed simply by reducing the exposure to the allergens and with the use of antihistamines or other allergy medication and medicated shampoos. In severe cases, it may be better to have your pet tested for specific allergies and treated, if necessary, with allergy shots, which are essentially vaccinations against the allergens. This approach can greatly reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medications that may produce unwanted side effects. Veterinary dermatologists are specially trained to conduct allergy testing to formulate on appropriate allergy serum.

Hypersensitivity or adverse reaction to food components is a possible cause of itchy feet and extremities that results in licking and chewing. Patients develop allergies to inhaled or ingested allergens over time, usually after months or years of continuous exposure. While atopy is often a seasonal problem, adverse reactions to food are usually year-round.

“Why is my pet so itchy?”

Persistent itching is a very common, nonspecific sign of an underlying problem in dogs. Itching is usually associated with dermatitis, which is inflammation or irritation of the skin. There are many conditions that cause dermatitis and prompt an affected dog to scratch or bite itself frequently. Causes of dermatitis include bacterial, fungal, yeast, or parasitic infection; seborrhea; food, flea bite, or inhalational allergies (atopy); behavioral problems; contact with an irritating substance; cancer; metabolic and endocrine disorders; drug reactions; exposure to toxins; breed specific predisposition, nutritional deficiencies, and even sunburn. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the signs.

You need to consult with your veterinarian. After giving your dog a physical examination, the doctor may decide that testing for the various causes of dermatitis is warranted. Some of the tests that your doctor may choose to do include scraping the skin to determine if mites (such as scabies) are present; plucking hairs and examining them under a microscope to search for evidence of fungal infection; cytologic examination of crust or exudate to look for any yeast overgrowth; and fungal cultures of the hairs to look for dermatophytosis (ring worm). Your veterinarian may find it necessary to perform a skin biopsy. He or she may also conduct some blood tests and urinalysis to determine thyroid disease or other systemic disorders are present.

The doctor may put your dog on a strict food trial for 10-13 weeks using a completely hypoallergenic diet with ingredients that your dog has never eaten before. This food trial helps determine if your dog has a food allergy or not.

These tests will help narrow the field of possible causes and allow your dog to be treated appropriately. Treatments include, but are not limited to, antibiotics, antifungals, shampoos and dips, dietary supplements and other oral medications, and allergy shots.

If your dog has fleas, he may be allergic to fleabites. The saliva of the flea is what causes the allergic skin condition. Fleabite allergy is very common and typically causes hair loss and scabbing on the back, abdomen and rear legs. You may want to talk to your veterinarian about putting your pet on a topical flea preventive that helps eliminate fleas and thus fleabites.

“My cat has lost a lot of weight, why?”

Unintended weight loss without loss of fluid may accompany serious illness. Veterinarians consider weight loss in animals to potentially signal illness when it exceeds 10 percent of previously stable body weight in normally hydrated animals. Thus weight loss is associated with a reduction in the fat stores and muscle mass of the animal’s body.

Weight loss occurs when the body’s metabolic requirements, measured in calories, exceed the usable calories derived from food. When an animal needs to lose weight, reducing the amount or changing the type of food eaten — so that the number of calories consumed is less than the body needs — will result in weight loss. Such weight-reduction diets are designed to reduce stored body fat only and not other tissues, especially muscle. This is controlled weight loss and is supervised by a clinician.

There are many diseases associated with uncontrolled or unintended weight loss. In some of these diseases starvation actually occurs even if the affected animal is eating normally or excessively. As fat stores are depleted, muscle begins to breakdown to provide protein for energy production and restorative processes.

Additionally, muscle also breaks down when the body’s protein requirements are not being met through the diet or digestive processes. In such situations, a negative nitrogen balance is said to exist, which is a sign of starvation and a very serious underlying disease.

Several physiologic mechanisms exist that produce disease-associated weight loss. Some feline diseases significantly increase energy (calorie) requirements. Without a compensatory increase in food, the affected cat loses weight. Metabolic, malignant (cancerous) and infectious diseases fit this category. Common examples include diabetes mellitus, kidney disease or failure, and hyperthyroidism; lymphoma and other cancers; feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus and other infectious diseases. Sustained exposure to a cold environment can also raise energy needs as the body shivers to produce heat. These processes can lead to weight loss in spite of a normal, or even, increased appetite.

Diets with insufficient calories or poor nutrient quality relative to the cat’s normal metabolic requirements will cause weight loss. Consulting with a veterinarian about proper diet and amounts to be fed and then following the doctor’s instructions will eliminate this cause of unintended weight loss in healthy cats.

Insufficient food intake, where the affected cat refuses to eat or cannot eat, has many causes. Anorexia (loss of appetite), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), regurgitation, nausea and vomitting may limit food intake and nutrient availability. Many diseases of cats produce theses nonspecific signs. Cats won’t eat if they cannot smell their food; so problems affecting the sense of smell, including respiratory diseases, infections, and allergies, among others may be associated with weight loss. Dental problems that make chewing difficult may also prevent normal food intake. Food with low “taste appeal”, especially to finicky cats, will contribute to weight loss as well.

Disorders where consumed food is not properly absorbed into the body or is not converted into energy will also cause the affected animal to lose weight. Intestinal parasites, inflammatory disorders of the intestines, and tumors can block the normal absorption of nutrients and fluids from the stomach and intestines. Pancreatic and liver diseases can disrupt production and secretion of enzymes and other substances needed to process nutrients.

Gastrointestinal ailments in which nutrients are eliminated from the body before they can be absorbed and converted into energy can result in profound weight loss. Severe persistent vomitting and diarrhea associated with various diseases can result in loss of nutrients necessary for energy production. Liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal diseases may result in loss of protein. Glucose is lost through urinary excretion in diabetes mellitus; protein is lost with certain diseases of the kidney’s glomerular apparatus.

When a cat or other animal with a history of unexplained weight loss is presented to a veterinarian, the doctor will take a history and perform a physical examination in order to develop a list of possible underlying diseases. Then appropriate laboratory tests and other studies will be undertaken to narrow the field of possible causes.

Tests typically include complete blood count, blood chemistry, and urinalysis. Tests for intestinal and other parasites, as well as for bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases may be needed. Radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound scans may be helpful in evaluating the status of the heart, liver, and other organs and may help reveal the presence of abnormal growths. In some cases biopsy or fine-needle-aspirate tissue sampling techniques may be needed to obtain tissue samples for microscopic evaluation. Endoscopy might be needed to visualize and sample various parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment is directed at the underlying cause of the weight loss. If recovery follows, restoration of weight is possible and likely. Debilitated animals may need supportive treatment to restore fluid loss, force feeding, or hyperalimentation therapy, where nutrients are given intravenously, to help maintain positive nitrogen balance.

“Why does my dog scoot?

Anal sac impaction is a common reason that dogs scoot. Full anal sacs cause irritation and pressure around the anus. Dogs scoot in an attempt to relieve the sensations. Your veterinarian can check your dog’s anal sacs and express them, hence eliminating this as a potential problem.

Your dog should be checked for tapeworms and other intestinal parasites, as these may also cause dogs to scoot. Tapeworms commonly appear as “white rice” segments around the dog’s anus or in the stool. If you have seen this, tell your veterinarian. Other potential causes of scooting can include sensitivity to diet, flea allergy, or skin infection.

“Why is chocolate bad for dogs?”

Chocolate contains methylxanthine alkaloids in the form of theobromine and caffeine, that cause constriction of arteries, increased heart rate, and central nervous system stimulation. These effects can lead to vomitting, diarrhea, restlessness, and increased urination. More advanced symptoms of toxicity include excitability, increased respirations and heartbeat, stiffness, seizures and exaggerated reflexes.

Certain types of chocolate contain higher amounts of methylxanthines, baking chocolate containing the highest and white chocolate containing the least. Dogs freely ingest toxic amounts of chocolate if it is left accessible. A potentially lethal dose in a 16 pound dog is only one pound of milk chocolate. People stop eating chocolate before ingesting toxic levels.

Cardiac failure, seizures, coma, and death can result if the chocolate ingestion is not found within four to six hours and treated appropriately. The length of action of the methylxanthines is usually 12-36 hours. In dogs that chocolate ingestion is detected early, the prognosis is good.

If your dog has gotten into chocolate, you should note the type, estimate the amount eaten, and then call your veterinarian for recommendations. You will probably need to take your dog in for examination and evaluation of heart rate. If your veterinarian is not available, you should seek emergency care. We recommend that you keep your chocolate in an unreachable location; an ounce of prevention is better than an ounce of ingestion.

“Is declawing my cat a good idea?

Cats by nature absolutely love to stretch and scratch certain surfaces. Scratching allows the cat not only to stretch, but to sharpen their claws and mark their territory. This is a very normal behavior for all cats, but sometimes the cat chooses scratching sites that are not particularly ideal – the new couch that was just delivered, you with your new pants on, or the expensive sheers hanging in the window. Obviously these are not ideal surfaces and the cat’s behavior must be curbed.

Most cats can be trained to use a scratching post instead of the alternatives. This is done by first purchasing a scratching post that has a wide base, is secure, at least two to three feet tall, and has a rough surface on it that is attractive to the cat – such as burlap or wound rope. It must have these features because the cat has to be able to stand up and pull down on the post to scratch and stretch, yet not pull it over. These posts can be made or purchased from many different stores.

Training begins with placing the scratching post where the cat sleeps or somewhere that it enjoys hanging out. Then, carry your cat to the scratching post, gently take its front feet, and rub them up and down on the post. If the cat struggles or is scared, don’t restrain it or continue to frighten it – remember this must be fun! The key is repetition, and gradually your cat will learn that the scratching post is an approved surface to destroy at any time.

It is also important that you realize cats can be trained, and you must teach the cat that scratching the curtains, couch, your new pants, or any place besides the scratching post is unacceptable. This may involve using a squirt gun, loud noise, or something else that alerts the cat while it’s scratching off-limit places. Never strike or hit the cat as this will cause more harm than good. Be patient and don’t give up. Repetition is important!

If you have tried unsuccessfully to train your cat and are considering giving it up, declawing is another option. This is only to be done on cats that are strictly indoors. Only the front feet should be declawed. The back feet are usually not a problem and are left alone so that if the cat were ever to get outside, it could still climb up a tree or partly defend itself.

Owners should be aware that several prominent animal welfare organizations are opposed to declawing cats. For example, the Humane Society will not adopt out a cat if an owner plans to declaw it.

Declawing is best done at the time of spaying or neutering – approximately five to six months of age. This procedure can be done very humanely with the use of pain medications. Pain management has the best results if it is started approximately 15 to 20 minutes before the surgery and continued for the next 24 to 48 hours. There are many different pain medications that can be used safely by veterinarians in cats, and they are relatively inexpensive and very effective. They ensure a pain-free experience and allow the cat to rest comfortably for the next 24 to 48 hours. This also helps the cat to not associate the veterinarian with a negative experience.

“Sometimes my dog makes a weird gagging, snorting noise. Why?”

This is known as a reverse sneeze. It is common in small-breed dogs, especially when they get excited or are drinking water. Owners become concerned when their pet makes these noises; some even fear that their pet cannot breath. In general, it does not cause the dog any harm and does not lead to any significant breathing problems. Reverse sneezing usually goes away within a few seconds to minutes. It may be helpful to massage the neck and try to calm the animal if it was previously excited. Some animals can have this condition for their entire lives, or it may develop as the animal ages.

Causes of reverse sneezing include allergies, viral infections, excessive soft palate tissue, and nasal mites. Some cases of reverse sneezing are idiopathic, which means there is no identifiable cause. A reverse sneeze results from irritation to the nasopharynx. This irritation causes the loud inspiratory and expiratory snorts that prompt the owner to take the dog to the veterinarian. The nasopharynx can be thought of as the part of the throat just above the soft palate. The soft palate is a soft, fleshy tissue extension off the hard palate, or roof of the mouth. If this problem continues, or appears to be severe, you should consult with your veterinarian. However, most of the time there is nothing to worry about.

“Is it okay to give my pet aspirin?”

As a general rule of thumb, no! Aspirin in animals, as well as humans, can cause bleeding problems, as well as stomach ulcers. Pets’ medications are not dosed in the same manner as humans. If you feel your pet is in pain, ask your veterinarian to prescribe a safe alternative to aspirin.

“How can I stop the shedding?”

Shedding is a natural occurence in dogs, but excessive shedding can be prevented through products, veterinary care, and proper grooming. Sometimes physical problems such as ringworm, skin infections, stress, or other more serious health problems may cause excessive shedding. Routine veterinary care and careful watch for things like bald spots will rule out abnormal shedding. So what can you do to reduce excessive shedding in a healthy dog? Grooming and brushing dogs regularly will greatly reduce unwanted hair around the house, on clothes, carpet, and furniture. Shedding blades, molting combs, brushes, and shedding stones are available at most local pet supply retailers. There are also supplements available that you can add to your pets’ food or water to reduce shedding. These product solutions are a blend of minerals, oils, herbs, antioxidants, and vitamins that reduce shedding, promote a beautiful coat, healthy skin, and reduce itching.

“Can I get worms from my pet, and if so, how?”

Anybody can get worms from their pets. Children and sick or elderly people are at a higher risk, but anybody in general can be susceptible. Internal parasites are transmitted to humans from pets when the eggs are ingested. Children that play with the dog or in the yard where the dog defecates may then place their hands in their mouths. For this reason, it is imperative that your dog have routine testing of stool samples and deworming when appropriate.

“How can I stop my dog from eating it’s poop?”

There are a few options to help the dog stay away from ingesting its feces. Most effective is to clean up the feces immediately! This way, the pet does not have the chance to go near it and ingest it. Otherwise, it is suggested to add cayenne pepper to the feces so that the dog doesn’t like the taste when he goes to eat it. There is a product called Forbid available through your veterinarian that can be put into the food of the pet, which gives the feces a foul taste the deter them from eating it.


Garden City Park
290 Denton Avenue
New Hyde Park, NY 11040

Phone: (516) 742-3377

Email: info@gcpah.com

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