Pets Prescribed for Healthier Living

By Casey J. Clark, DVM

Pets are prescribed to keep us healthy, so what should we do for them?

I am dedicating this article to Cairo, my great dane who passed earlier this year. She was big, clumsy, goofy, yet so gentle and had a sweet presence. She made me happy, she made me laugh, and ultimately she made me cry. Pets are members of the family, often our best friends, and are an integral part of our lives. “Pets are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole”.

The American Veterinary Medical Association defines the human-animal bond as follows: It is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.

As time goes on, research and data continues to demonstrate how pets improve our lives and make us healthier. Not only does this bond improve us as individuals, newer research is showing how it improves communities as a whole.

The following list from Zoetis shows a few of the health benefits we receive from having a cat or dog in our lives.

• Lowered blood pressure
• Decreased risk of heart disease
• Allergy prevention in children
• Reduced stress levels
• Decreased anxiety and depression
• Strengthened immune system
• Increased social interaction
• Accelerated heart attack recovery

Not only are pets keeping us healthier, some doctors are actually prescribing animal contact for patients who already have an illness or are recovering from a condition. Here are the percentage of doctors who report a moderate to significant improvement when an animal is part of a patient’s therapy (courtesy of Zoetis): 76% report improved patient relationships with staff members; 88% report improved physical condition; 97% report improved mental health condition; 98% report improved mood or outlook.

So pets are not only sweet, caring, loyal, cute and fun, they help us physically and emotionally. They rely on us to show them love, keep them safe, healthy and happy. This relationship, like other relationships, takes work. It is not easy caring for a pet and it is a great responsibility.

It is our role as veterinarians to help foster this relationship. If you do not have a vet, please start scheduling annual visits for your pets. Here is a bare bones list of essentials that I recommend for all cats and dogs to keep your furry loved ones as healthy as possible.

• Annual physical exams to identify health problems early so treatment can begin before it’s too late.
• Routine blood panels to evaluate internal organs, immune function, screen for diabetes and check heartworm status.
• Annual intestinal parasite screening. Intestinal parasites can be life-threatening and some parasites can be zoonotic (spread to people).
• Appropriate vaccinations based on your pet’s unique lifestyle. Vaccinations, or “shots”, protect against a wide variety of disease.
• Continued, year round heartworm prevention. This deadly disease is spread by mosquitoes. There is no cure for cats, and treatment in dogs is costly, challenging and not free of possible complications.
• Continued, year round flea and tick control. Fleas and ticks can cause skin problems, spread disease (some of which affect people) and infest the home.

In addition to these items, please keep your pet from becoming overweight as it has been shown to decrease life expectancy. Talk to your veterinary healthcare team regarding appropriate diets and routine dental care. By three years of age, most pets have evidence of periodontal disease and this progressive condition ultimately impacts not only the mouth but the internal organs as well.

I strongly recommend being proactive in regard to your pet’s care, please don’t wait for problems and then be reactive. This is the importance of preventative medicine. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If you have a “Cairo” in your life, please honor this pet and give her the same level of love that she gives you. I challenge everyone who reads this article to the following: 1.) Educate at least three people regarding the health benefits pets give people. 2.) Do your best to cover all of the essentials listed above to keep your pet healthy.

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Chronic Rhinitis in Cats

By Elizabeth Eilers, DVM

Does your cat have chronic snuffles?
If your cat suffers from recurrent or persistent congestion with sneezing and nasal discharge, your cat may likely have chronic rhinitis. These cats are also referred to as “Chronic Snorkelers” or “Chronic Snufflers”.

Will my cat ever stop sneezing?
This can depend on the cause of the rhinitis, the age of exposure and the amount of virus your cat was exposed to. It is estimated that over 85% of all cats have been exposed to the viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. Most of them respond to initial treatment and can clear the disease but many go on to develop chronic changes that can affect them throughout their lives.

What are the causes of chronic congestion?
The disease itself stems from exposure to viruses such as Feline Herpes Virus (FHV} and Calicivirus (FCV), which damage the nasal turbinates, thus keeping the nose from being able to function as it should in clearing normal environmental contaminants. While much of the congestion is due to inflammation, secondary bacterial infections are common sequelae and many times, antibiotics are needed to help. Other factors that can play a role in chronic congestion include polyps, neoplasia, foreign bodies such as grass or plant material, fungal infection, allergies, and dental disease.

What diagnostics are recommended for chronic rhinitis kitties?
Viral rhinitis is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that we must rule out other causes of congestion before assuming that viral disease is the sole reason for the congestion. Labwork (including feline leukemia and FIV testing), blood pressure, and imaging such as rhinoscopy and CT/MRI may be indicated. Biopsy and cultures may be obtained during rhinoscopy.

What are the treatment options?
Antibiotics and I-Lysine are usually first-line treatment options. Antivirals (such as famciclovir or interferon), antihistamines, and anti-inflammatories may be used. Probiotics and other supplements that support the immune system can be helpful as well. Environmental control of allergens and irritants, use of humidifiers, and using cat litter that produces less dust can help to alleviate secondary inflammation.

Use of intranasal vaccines of FVRC has shown promise in helping some of the more chronic cases. An initial dose is given directly in the nostrils and repeated in 3-4 weeks. The vaccine can be repeated 3 times a year if initial response is positive. If congestion is severe, pretreatment with antibiotics first to help reduce congestion is recommended.

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to treat this condition and recurrent issues can be frustrating for pet owners. Most cats, however, seem to manage happy lives despite dealing with recurrent congestion.


Ask the Vet columns can be downloaded by clicking on any of the links below:

February 2017 - Nutrition and Your Pet

February 2017 - Lyme Disease

January 2017 - Anxiety in Dogs

January 2017 - Lumps, Masses and Bumps, Oh My!

December 2016 - Pet Insurance Myths Debunked!

November 2016 - The Litterbox

November 2016 - The Coughing Dog

October 2016 - Puppy Love, Kitten Love

October 2016 - What's the Itch?

September 2016 - The Urban Chicken

September 2016 - Feline Heartworm

August 2016 - Obesity in Dogs

August 2016 - Benefits of Surgical CO2 Laser in Veterinary Dermatology

July 2016 - Ferret Adrenal Gland Disease

July 2016 - Help for the Healers

June 2016 - SENIOR PETS

June 2016 - Top 5 Things You Don't Want to Tell Your Vet (but Should!)

May 2016 - PHYSICAL REHABILITATION: Let's Keep Your Pet Moving

May 2016 - Summer! What a Wonderful Time of Year, But Be Aware of the Hazards

April 2016 - Spring Brings "Tick Season"!

April 2016 - VETERINARY HOSPICE: Caring Beyond a Cure

March 2016 - What Does the Term 'Regenerative Medicine' mean?

March 2016 - Dental Disease: The good, the bad and the preventable...

February 2016 - Chronic Inflammation

February 2016 - Canine GI Upset

January 2016 - Feline Inappropriate Urination

January 2016 - Arthritis in Veterinary Medicine

December 2015 - Make the Holidays Happy, Not Hazardous!

December 2015 - Ear Health: What's Going on in There?

November 2015 - Hip Dysplasia, PennHip Testing and the Eradication of Hip Dysplasia

November 2015 - Feline Cardiac Disease

October 2015 - What's Up With My Pet's Bottom?

October 2015 - Why Every Pet Needs a Veterinarian

September 2015 - Even Our House Pets Can Pick Up Intestinal Parasites

September 2015 - "MY CAT ATE WHAT?!?!?

August 2015 - Heat Stroke

August 2015 - Bite Wounds - Dogs, Cats & Snakes. . .Oh My!

July 2015 - Therapeutic Laser for Your Pet

July 2015 - Would You Like an All Natural Way to Manage Your Pet's Allergies?

June 2015 - The Skin-ny on Your Pet's Skin

June 2015 - Complementary & Alternative Therapy for Pets

May 2015 - The Importance of Blood Work!

May 2015 - Ticks and Your Pet

April 2015 - Benefits of "At Home" Veterinary Care
March 2015 - The Newest Techniques for Managing Musculoskeletal Diseases

March 2015 - Anticipatory Grief

February 2015 - Canine GI Upset - When to Seek Medical Attention

February 2015 - The Shocking Truth. . .Normal, Healthy Cats Do Not Vomit

January 2015 - Preventive Care: Changing Roles and Setting Goals

January 2015 - Laparoscopic Surgery in Veterinary Medicine

December 2014 - Obesity in Dogs

December 2014 - Dental Do's & Dont's for the Holidays

November 2014 - Correcting Your Cat's Litterbox Habits

November 2014 - PARVO: A Deadly Disease Everyone Needs to Know About

October 2014 - Old Age is Not a Disease

October 2014 - Osteoarthritis

September 2014 - Reparing CCL Tears with Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
September 2014 - Feline Asthma
August 2014 - Ticks! You, Your Pet and Ticks - What You Need to Know
August 2014 - Rabbit Nutrition
July 2014 - Nutrition Basics: What Does a Pet Food Label Mean?
July 2014 - Pet Insurance Myths Debunked!
June 2014 Summertime. . .let's help make the living easy
June 2014 - Investigating Wet Floors
May 2014 - Is It 'Just" Old Age?
May 2014 - Benefits of "At Home" Veterinary Care
April 2014 - The Newest Techniques for Managing Musculoskeletal Diseases

April 2014 - Why Does My Dog or Cat Lick, Chew, Scratch or Pull Hair Out???

March 2014 - Have fun outside. . .the safe way

March 2014 - The Value of Loving Your Pet Through Preventative Care

February 2014 - Laser Therapy for Your Pet
February 2014 - Management of Aging Companion Animals

January 2014 - Evaluating Your Pet's Quality of Life: How will I know it's the right time to say goodbye?

December 2013 - Diarrhea in Cats Needs Early Treatment

November 2013 - Heartworm Disease:  Prevention is the Key!

October 2013 - Planning for a New Puppy

September 2013 - Hypertension in Cats

August 2013 - Your Aging Pet and the Importance of Geriatric Screening

July 2013 - Hot Topics Discussed By Pet Owners in the Veterinary ER

June 2013 - Leptospirosis

May 2013 - Heat Stroke in Dogs

April 2013 - Keeping Pets Healthy AND Saving Money

March 2013 - Caring for Nontraditional Pets

February 2013 - Ultrasound and Its Use in Veterinary Medicine

January 2013 - Feline Dental Health

December 2012 - Animal Hospice

November 2012 - Relieving Feline Stress

October 2012 - What are Some Common Products That can Poison Your Dog or Cat?

September 2012 - Attack of the FLEAS!!!

August 2012 - Chronic Kidney Disease

June 2012 - How Important is Good Dental Health?

May 2012 - Wildlife in Trouble

April 2012 - Why All the Fuss About Bloodwork?

March 2012 - Itchy Pets - Diagnosing & Treating

February 2012 - Food Allergies in Dogs & Cats

January 2012 - Adult Stem Cell & PRP Therapy - the Newest Treatments for Arthritis

December 2011 - Holiday Hazards & Travel Tips

November 2011 - Feline Arthritis Pain

October 2011 - Feline Obesity

September 2011 - What is the Proper Vaccination Protocol for My Pet?

August 2011 - Fleas & Ticks

July 2011 - Pet Insurance

June 2011 - Caring for Exotic Pets

May 2011 - Animal Chiropractic Care

April 2011 - Veterinary Acupuncture

March 2011 - Seizures in Dogs

February 2011 - February is National Pet Dental Month

January 2011 - What Should I Watch for as My Cat Gets Older?

December 2010 - Diabetes in Cats

November 2010 - Canine Influenza

October 2010 - Bringing Home a New Cat

September 2010 - Your questions answered by Dr. Brooke Schwabenton, DVM

August 2010 - Caring for your pet's teeth