Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Corneal ulcers are common causes of eye redness in dogs and cats. A corneal ulcer is an area of damage to the surface of the cornea, the clear structure at the front of the eye. These ulcers are painful but usually heal readily with treatment. Sometimes corneal ulcers develop complications that require surgery or other interventions.
Anything that scratches, hits, or irritates the surface of the eye can cause a corneal ulcer. Animals with low tear production are at increased risk for corneal ulcers because they have a low volume of tears to wash away irritants. These are some of the things that cause corneal ulcers:
Some animals have a defect of the corneal epithelium—the surface layer of corneal cells—that increases the risk of ulcers and keeps ulcers from healing. These slow-healing ulcers are called indolent ulcers. Corneal ulcers can become infected, threatening the animal’s vision. Deep corneal ulcers and wounds can penetrate all the way through the cornea and rupture the eye.
Eye medications that contain steroids (commonly used to treat conjunctivitis and other inflammatory eye conditions) prevent corneal ulcers from healing properly. Steroid-containing eye medications can also increase the risk of corneal infection.
The signs of eye discomfort are the same whether they are caused by a corneal ulcer or by another eye disorder. Typical signs are squinting, redness of the white part of the eye, and clear or cloudy eye drainage. The animal might rub the eye, and the cornea might look cloudy. Deep ulcers are sometimes visible without an ophthalmoscope and look like a dent or divot in the cornea. Superficial ulcers are usually not visible to the naked eye.
An animal with any of these signs should see a veterinarian right away. Although uncomplicated corneal ulcers are relatively minor, they are painful. Some of the conditions that cause the same signs are medical emergencies that require immediate treatment to save the eye.
Corneal ulcers are diagnosed with fluorescein dye applied to the eye. This green dye shows areas where the normal corneal epithelium is disrupted or missing. The eye is also examined under magnification to assess the depth and size of the ulcer, detect complications, and find the cause.
An uncomplicated ulcer is treated with eye medication to prevent infection and relieve pain. The animal might be fitted with a protective collar (the lampshade type) to prevent eye rubbing. The cause of the ulcer is also treated, if possible. The eye is rechecked with fluorescein dye after a few days to be sure the ulcer has fully healed.
Complicated ulcers are treated according to their cause and severity. Indolent ulcers are treated with a procedure to remove loose corneal epithelium. This procedure can often be performed in an awake animal with drops to numb the eye. Some indolent ulcers need a more extensive procedure with the animal under general anesthesia. Deep ulcers and wounds that might rupture the eye need surgical treatment by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Image source: https://pixy.org/6427021/
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
An outbreak of a highly infectious cough has recently been affecting dogs in the Charlotte area. The disease spreads quickly wherever dogs gather: boarding kennels, dog day cares, dog parks, and so forth. Dogs with no symptoms can spread the infection to other dogs.
Most dogs have mild illness and recover at home, but some dogs develop pneumonia and need to be hospitalized. Dogs with pneumonia are at risk of dying.
These are some of the signs of mild illness:
Call your veterinarian if your dog has any of the following signs:
Take your dog to an emergency clinic right away if your dog has signs of trouble breathing:
Many viruses and bacteria cause canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC), sometimes called kennel cough. Dogs are often infected with more than 1 agent at the same time.
These are some of the agents that cause CIRDC:
Core vaccines (standard for all dogs) give protection against some but not all of the viral agents. Noncore vaccines (optional lifestyle vaccines) are available for canine influenza virus and Bordetella. Vaccines don’t completely prevent CIRDC, but fully vaccinated dogs tend to have shorter and less severe illness. Vaccines also help limit spread of the disease.
Transmission and Risk Factors
The infectious agents spread through respiratory droplets and secretions. Some of the agents stay in the environment and continue to infect dogs for weeks. Dogs are infected by direct contact with an infected dog, by inhaling respiratory droplets, or by licking contaminated objects like bowls, bedding, toys, floors, walls, or people’s hands or clothes.
Because CIRDC can spread silently (by dogs with no symptoms) and some of the agents persist in the environment for a long time, outbreaks can be hard to control.
Any dog that has contact with other dogs or spends time in areas where dogs gather can be infected. Most dogs develop only mild illness and recover within a couple of weeks. Puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with impaired immune function are at higher risk of pneumonia.
Some of the agents that cause CIRDC can also infect cats. The only CIRDC agent known to infect humans is Bordetella, but transmission to people is very rare. Canine influenza is not contagious to people.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The decision to pursue diagnostic tests depends on the individual dog. Dogs with mild illness need physical examination but often don’t undergo other tests if they have symptoms that suggest CIRDC, have been around other dogs (especially in an area with an outbreak of respiratory disease), and are feeling well otherwise. Additional diagnostic tests can include chest radiographs, bloodwork, tests for specific infectious agents, and tests to rule out other causes of coughing.
Treatment can range from just resting at home to being hospitalized for intensive care, depending on the severity of illness. Antibiotics don’t kill viruses, but because CIRDC often involves a combination of organisms, dogs suspected to have a viral respiratory disease (like influenza) might receive an antibiotic as a precaution against bacterial infection.
These are some tips to help keep your dog safe from infectious respiratory disease:
For more information
Image source: https://pixy.org/4653483/
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Dogs and cats can’t have pumpkin spice lattes or Halloween candy, but not all foods that we associate with fall are off the menu for our pets.
If you’d like to give treats to your pets, keep these precautions in mind:
Homemade and store-bought pet treats
Many recipes for homemade dog and cat treats are available. Making your own pet treats can be a fun family project and a great outlet for creativity. Kids might be surprised that their dog is so enthusiastic about a baked dog biscuit that tastes like cardboard to them. It’s a good reminder that pets don’t need the sugar, salt, and flavorings that humans prefer.
Pet food manufacturers know a marketing opportunity when they see one, so you can also find themed seasonal treats for sale. Store-bought pet treats are fine as long as they don’t contain a problem ingredient (always check labels).
Plain cooked or canned pumpkin is safe, and dogs and cats tend to like it. If you use canned pumpkin, be sure to get plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. The sugar and spices in pie filling can cause problems. Likewise, don’t give a pet a piece of pumpkin pie—and especially not sugar-free pie, which might contain xylitol.
White potatoes and sweet potatoes
Most dogs love potatoes of any type. Skip the butter, salt, and toppings, though: no loaded baked potatoes or sweet potato casserole for pets.
Other vegetables and fruits
Many vegetables and fruits (not grapes!) are safe, tasty, low-calorie treats for pets. As always, stick with plain, unseasoned items for animals. Avoid casseroles, which might contain problem ingredients like onion and fat. To avoid a choking risk, cut raw vegetables and fruits into small pieces and remove seeds, cores, and thick peels. These are some good options:
A bite of cooked lean poultry meat is safe for dogs and cats. Avoid giving pets skin, fat, bones, pan drippings, raw meat, or meat seasoned with onion.
Is popcorn a fall food? I think it depends on which Thanksgiving cartoons you watch. As with other foods, don’t add butter, salt, or seasonings to popcorn pieces you toss to your pets. Air-popped popcorn doesn’t have added fat, so it’s safer than oil-popped or microwaved popcorn for animals like schnauzers that have an increased risk for pancreatitis.
Photo by Amy Starr on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Osteoarthritis is very common in cats but often goes undetected. In most cats, joint pain doesn’t cause obvious signs like limping. Instead, it causes changes in mobility and behavior that can be misinterpreted as normal aging. Cat owners’ recognition of these changes is the first step in diagnosing and relieving joint pain.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease in which the protective cartilage in a joint wears down. Eventually the bones and other structures in the joint deteriorate, causing pain that worsens over time. Degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis can be caused by trauma or by problems with the structure of a joint, but often the cause is not known.
Senior cats are by far the most likely to develop osteoarthritis. Younger cats can be affected too. Osteoarthritis in cats most often involves the hips, elbows, knees, and hocks. Cats can also develop degenerative joint disease in the spine. Various studies have shown that between about 60% and 90% of cats have evidence of degenerative joint disease on radiographs (x-ray images).[1-3] Not all of these cats have pain, though, at least not at first.
In cats, signs of joint pain are subtle. Cats tend to hide signs of pain. Osteoarthritis often affects joints on both sides of cats’ bodies, so they don’t develop lameness—it’s hard to limp with both front legs or both rear legs at the same time. Signs of osteoarthritis in cats reflect their limited mobility, reduced activities of daily living, and general grumpiness caused by chronic pain:
The most important diagnostic tool is cat owners’ observations of signs of joint pain at home. Treatment is often started just on the basis of behavior changes consistent with pain. Cat owners can use questionnaires like the Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index (https://painfreecats.org/) to record and score their cats’ signs of pain. These assessment tools help veterinarians diagnose joint pain and are also very useful to track changes over time and monitor response to treatment.
Cats with signs of pain should receive a physical examination to be sure the signs are caused by joint or back pain and not by something else. A full orthopedic examination of a cat is challenging (sort of like examining an uncooperative bowl of jello that doesn’t tell you when it hurts and won’t trot on leash), but sometimes an examination reveals joint thickening or other physical changes of osteoarthritis. Radiographs can show evidence of degenerative joint disease but aren’t always needed. The decision to use imaging depends on the individual cat.
Never give a cat pain medication, including nonprescription over-the-counter remedies, without consulting a veterinarian. Some medications that are safe for people and dogs are very dangerous for cats.
In cats, joint pain is managed with a combination of nondrug and drug treatments. A multimodal approach (using several strategies) tailored to each cat’s pain level and living conditions is the best way to help relieve chronic pain in cats.
Nondrug treatments include weight management, adjunctive therapies like acupuncture, dietary supplements such as glucosamine, and environmental modifications like ramps, steps, soft bedding, and litter boxes with low sides. Drug options are more limited for cats than they are for dogs, but a number of drugs are available. A new injectable treatment for osteoarthritis pain avoids the need to give a cat a pill by mouth.
1. Lascelles BD, Henry JB 3rd, Brown J, et al. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence of radiographic degenerative joint disease in domesticated cats. Vet Surg. 2010;39(5):535-544. doi:10.1111/j.1532-950X.2010.00708.x
2. Slingerland LI, Hazewinkel HA, Meij BP, Picavet P, Voorhout G. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence and clinical features of osteoarthritis in 100 cats. Vet J. 2011;187(3):304-309. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2009.12.014
3. Gruen ME, Myers JAE, Lascelles BDX. Efficacy and safety of an anti-nerve growth factor antibody (frunevetmab) for the treatment of degenerative joint disease-associated chronic pain in cats: a multisite pilot field study. Front Vet Sci. 2021;8:610028. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.610028
4. Bennett D, Zainal Ariffin SM, Johnston P. Osteoarthritis in the cat: 1. How common is it and how easy to recognise? J Feline Med Surg. 2012;14(1):65-75. doi:10.1177/1098612X11432828
Image source: https://pixy.org/6310117
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), also referred to as slipped disk, ruptured disk, or herniated disk, is a relatively common cause of neck and back pain in dogs. Some dogs with IVDD also develop neurologic deficits like toes knuckled under, a wobbly gait, or the inability to walk. The prognosis depends on the severity of the injury and length of time before treatment. A sudden inability to walk is a medical emergency. Affected dogs might need urgent surgery.
The spine is a row of individual bones called vertebrae. The spinal cord runs along a bony canal through the vertebrae. Intervertebral disks sit between the vertebrae just below the spinal cord and provide cushioning and support for the spine.
Intervertebral disks are sort of like jelly doughnuts: they have a squishy interior (the nucleus pulposus) and a firmer, protective exterior (the annulus fibrosus). With IVDD, part of a disk herniates; it leaks or bulges beyond its normal location and presses on the spinal cord or on the surrounding nerves.
Types of IVDD
IVDD is classified according to the type of disk herniation. Type 1 IVDD has a genetic link: it’s most common in dog breeds with chondrodystrophy, which usually means dogs with short legs and a long back. In type 1 IVDD, the nucleus pulposus becomes mineralized (hardens) over time and eventually breaks through the annulus fibrosus into the spinal canal, bruising the spinal cord. This type of herniation can happen quickly, causing sudden symptoms. Affected dogs are often young adults.
Type 2 IVDD is caused by age-related breakdown of the annulus fibrosus. Weakening of the annulus fibrosus allows the disk to bulge upward against the spinal cord. Type 2 IVDD is more gradual than type 1 and is more common in older dogs. Intervertebral disk herniation can also be caused by trauma or strenuous exercise.
Dogs at Risk
Any dog can develop IVDD. These are the breeds at highest risk for type 1 IVDD:
Type 2 IVDD is more common in larger dogs like these:
The symptoms of IVDD range from pain to paralysis, depending on the severity of herniation, the force with which the herniated disk material hits the spinal cord, and the duration of the injury. The mildest form of IVDD is neck or back pain with ability to walk and no neurologic deficits. Neck pain can cause limping, so the symptoms of a herniated disk in the neck can be mistaken for an orthopedic problem.
More severe spinal injuries progress through stages that worsen with time: limb weakness, neurologic deficits, inability to walk, inability to stand, inability to move the limbs, and finally inability to feel pain in the limbs. Dogs with spine injuries might lose their normal bladder and bowel function.
These are some of the symptoms of IVDD:
A physical examination shows whether the patient has neurologic deficits and often reveals the approximate location of the injury in the spine. Advanced imaging techniques like computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging are required to make a definite diagnosis and locate all of the affected disks. Radiographs (x-ray images) are less helpful for diagnosing IVDD but might be obtained to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, like fractures, dislocations, bone infection, and cancer.
Dogs with milder symptoms—pain, ability to walk, and no or mild neurologic deficits—are usually treated medically at first. A crucial part of medical management is restricting the dog’s activity to allow the annulus fibrosus to heal, similar to treating a sprain. Some dogs need strict crate confinement. Medical management also includes medication to relieve pain. Dogs that begin to feel better with pain medication can reinjure themselves if they resume normal activity too soon, so they usually need to continue strict activity restriction for weeks.
Dogs with neurologic deficits or pain that doesn’t improve with medical management often need surgery to remove herniated disk material and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. Time is of the essence; the longer the injury to the spinal cord is present, the worse the neurologic deficits and the worse the prognosis for recovery.
For dogs that can’t walk but can still feel sensation in their feet, surgery performed as soon as possible after symptoms begin typically gives the best chance of being able to walk again. Once pain sensation in the feet is lost, the odds of recovery are much lower even with surgery. Spine surgery is expensive and dogs need extensive physical rehabilitation afterward, so the decision to proceed with surgery depends partly on the dog owner’s financial situation and ability to provide long-term care.
Olby NJ, Moore SA, Brisson B, et al. ACVIM consensus statement on diagnosis and management of acute canine thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion. J Vet Intern Med. 2022. doi:10.1111/jvim.16480
Spinella G, Bettella P, Riccio B, Okonji S. Overview of the current literature on the most common neurological diseases in dogs with a particular focus on rehabilitation. Vet Sci. 2022;9(8):429. doi:10.3390/vetsci9080429
Photo by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Canine parvovirus is highly contagious among dogs. Infection causes severe illness and is often fatal in dogs that do not receive intensive treatment.
Parvovirus infection is most common in puppies that have not yet completed their initial vaccination series and in adult dogs that are not fully vaccinated against parvovirus. A recent outbreak of parvovirus in Michigan highlighted how quickly the virus can spread, especially in dogs in group housing like animal shelters. All dogs are at risk of infection, but whether a dog becomes ill depends on the dog’s level of immunity to the virus.
Canine parvovirus type 2 (the version responsible for illness) infects domestic dogs and some wild animals, such as foxes, coyotes, wolves, and raccoons. The virus is shed in feces and resists drying, heat, and cold, so it stays in the environment for a long time.
Dogs are infected by ingesting even a tiny amount of feces that contains parvovirus. Dogs can be infected by contact with an infected dog or with contaminated feces, surfaces, or objects. People who have handled infected dogs or contaminated objects can carry the virus on their hands or clothes and infect other dogs. Wild animals might be a source of environmental spread of parvovirus. Animals that have no symptoms can be carriers.
Effects on the Body and Signs of Infection
Canine parvovirus targets the lining of the small intestine, bone marrow, heart, and other organs. Destruction of the intestinal lining causes vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, loss of barrier protection against bacteria, and inability to absorb nutrients. Some infected animals develop intussusception, a potentially life-threatening condition in which a section of intestine folds into itself like a telescope. White blood cells (part of the immune system) are produced in the bone marrow, so infected animals have low white blood cell counts and impaired immune function. Because of decreased intestinal barrier protection and immune function, infected animals are at risk of septic shock caused by bacterial infection. Young puppies sometimes develop myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.
These are some of the signs of parvovirus infection:
Death can occur within 3 days after symptoms begin.
Parvovirus infection is often suspected on the basis of the patient’s symptoms, age, and vaccination history. Tests of fecal samples confirm the infection. A rapid test at a veterinary clinic is convenient but sometimes returns a false result, which can delay the diagnosis (this was the case with the outbreak in Michigan). A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at a diagnostic laboratory is accurate but takes longer. A blood test showing a low white blood cell count supports a diagnosis of parvovirus, especially in a sick puppy still awaiting a PCR test result.
Dogs with parvovirus infection usually also receive other tests, such as x-ray imaging or ultrasound of the belly.
For most dogs with parvovirus infection, the best chance for recovery is hospitalization for intensive care very soon after symptoms start. No antiviral drug that kills parvovirus is currently available, so treatment consists of measures to reverse dehydration, minimize vomiting and diarrhea, prevent bacterial infection, reduce pain, and restore nutrition. Intensive care for parvovirus infection can be expensive.
Most dogs that receive prompt intensive treatment in the hospital survive. Most dogs that are not treated die. For dogs whose owners can’t afford hospitalization, the success of outpatient treatment depends on the individual dog (illness severity and immune status), type of treatment, and ability of the owners to provide care at home.
The parvovirus vaccine is effective and is one of the core vaccines recommended for all dogs. This vaccine is part of the initial series of puppy vaccines. Puppies need to receive the entire initial vaccine series to have the best chance of being protected. The current recommendation is for puppies to be vaccinated every 2 to 4 weeks from the ages of about 6 weeks to at least 16 weeks. The vaccine is given again 1 year later and then every 3 years throughout the dog’s life. Some dogs never mount an immune response to vaccination (this is not common). Vaccinating all dogs helps keep puppies and vulnerable adult dogs safe.
Limiting a puppy’s exposure to other dogs and to places where other dogs gather reduces the risk of infection. However, this approach can hinder a puppy’s social and emotional development. In general, puppy classes and establishments that have protocols to reduce disease transmission (like requiring vaccines, proper disinfection and hygiene, and isolation of sick dogs) are relatively safe, especially when weighed against the risk of behavior problems in puppies that are not socialized. Exposure to dogs of unknown vaccination and health status, as in dog parks, is riskier. Ask your veterinarian about safe activities for your puppy, and keep your puppy away from sick dogs and other dogs’ feces.
For More Information
Public domain photo by C. E. Price
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease; it spreads between animals and humans. In the United States, the chance that a person will catch monkeypox from a pet or give monkeypox to a pet is very low. Transmission between people and pets is possible, though, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed monkeypox guidance for pet owners.
This article summarizes information from the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and is current as of August 24, 2022. See these links for updates:
How Monkeypox Spreads
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in monkeys and since then has been found in many animal species. Rodents and other small mammals (not monkeys) are thought to be the reservoir species that maintain the virus.
Human infection was first reported in 1970 in Africa, and monkeypox has occasionally appeared in other parts of the world. The United States had an outbreak in 2003 after pet prairie dogs were housed with infected animals from Ghana. The 2022 global monkeypox outbreak has involved at least 75 countries.
The monkeypox virus is related to the virus that causes smallpox. The virus infects the host through the respiratory tract, mouth, eyes, or broken skin. These are some of the ways people and animals are infected:
Most transmission during the 2022 outbreak has been through close, direct contact with an infected person.
Animals at Risk
One pet dog has contracted monkeypox, most likely from direct contact with its owners (this was the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission). Chinchillas, prairie dogs, and some types of rabbits, mice, and rats can be infected with the monkeypox virus. Many wild mammals are also susceptible to infection. Cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and cows can be infected with other viruses in the same genus as monkeypox, but whether they can also be infected with the monkeypox virus is not yet known. The CDC says that it’s best to assume that any mammal can be infected. There have been no reports of infection in animals that are not mammals.
Signs of Monkeypox in Animals
These are some of the signs that infected animals have developed:
These symptoms are nonspecific. Many conditions that are much more common than monkeypox cause the same symptoms in animals. Diagnosing monkeypox requires laboratory tests.
Precautions for Pet Owners: CDC Guidance
If You Think Your Pet Has Monkeypox: CDC Guidance
Monkeypox. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/one-health/veterinarians-and-public-health/monkeypox
Monkeypox in animals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated August 17, 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/veterinarian/monkeypox-in-animals.html
Monkeypox: pets in the home. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated August 17, 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/specific-settings/pets-in-homes.html
Seang S, Burrel S, Todesco E, et al. Evidence of human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox virus. Lancet. 2022:S0140-6736(22)01487-8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01487-8
Image source: CDC
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Urinalysis is part of the diagnostic workup for many medical conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and urinary tract infection. Pets that are urinating in unfortunate locations need urinalysis because inappropriate urination can be a symptom of a medical problem. Routine wellness checks, especially for senior animals, often include urinalysis. Urine is also collected for bacterial culture and other tests.
Urinalysis includes measurement of urine concentration, chemical analysis, and examination under a microscope. The results are affected by the age of the urine and the way the sample is collected. Urine begins to change soon after it’s voided, so urine samples need to be very fresh, ideally delivered to the veterinary clinic within an hour. The collection container needs to be completely clean, with no residue from food or cleaning solutions that can affect the chemical test results. Debris in a urine sample interferes with the chemical analysis and microscopic examination.
Urine can be collected either at home or at the veterinary clinic, depending on the reason the sample is needed and individual pet and household factors (such as the animal’s temperament and medical conditions, owner’s ability to collect urine, and distance to the clinic). Home urine collection is fine for most routine urinalysis, but check with your veterinarian to be sure it’s appropriate for your pet. Sometimes urine needs to be collected in a sterile manner at the veterinary clinic. In these cases, urine is usually collected by cystocentesis, a technique using a needle inserted directly into the bladder.
General Urine Collection Tips
Collecting Urine From Dogs
Collecting Urine From Cats
Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Pets need stool tests to screen for parasites or help find the cause of diarrhea and other digestive system problems. Collecting a stool sample at home is the least stressful option for the pet. The alternative is for someone at the veterinary clinic to use a loop to remove a little bit of stool from the rectum. This option yields a much smaller sample and can be unpleasant for the animal.
A fecal test for parasites involves mixing the stool sample in a flotation solution and either spinning it in a centrifuge or leaving it to sit in a vial for a certain amount of time. The material at the top of the solution is then removed to a microscope slide to look for parasite eggs that have floated to the surface. Sometimes a tiny bit of stool is smeared directly onto a microscope slide for examination. Fecal analysis can also include chemical tests. For all of these tests, the stool needs to be fresh and squishy enough to mix or smear.
The age and condition of a stool sample affect the results. Parasite eggs can dry out or hatch in old stool. Hard, dry feces is very difficult or impossible to prepare for testing. Stool that has been sitting outdoors for a while can contain fly eggs or larvae (maggots). Liquid diarrhea that’s soaked into paper or cloth can’t be mixed in solution to test for parasites.
Here’s how to collect a stool sample to get the most accurate results:
Photo by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Socializing young kittens and puppies means giving them positive experiences with things they’ll encounter throughout their lives. Building positive associations early in life helps animals feel comfortable with new people and new situations. Animals that are well socialized when they’re young are less likely to develop fear-based behavior problems (like aggression) that could put them at risk of being sent to a shelter or euthanized later on.
Sensitive Period for Socialization
For kittens, the window of opportunity for socialization is very early: from 3 weeks to about 7 to 9 weeks of age.[1,2] The sensitive period is the time when a young kitten’s brain is most receptive to socialization. During these early weeks, a kitten is exploring and learning, developing neurological pathways that will help the kitten learn in the future. After the sensitive period, brain development shifts; kittens don’t make positive associations as quickly or easily and they’re more likely to be afraid of new things. This is why it’s so difficult, if not impossible, to convert a semi-feral adult cat into a cat that can be happy living as a house pet.
You will have noticed that the sensitive socialization period for kittens is nearly closed by the time they’re typically adopted or purchased. Socialization needs to start with the person caring for the mother cat and newborns. When you adopt or buy a kitten, continue providing socialization (at the kitten’s comfort level and pace) to reinforce what the kitten has already learned.
The socialization process should always be positive. Don’t force kittens to interact with strangers or other animals if they’re shy, and don’t push them to be near things that scare them. Let them choose whether to interact. Give them room to walk away and let them hide if they want to. Use positive reinforcement (food or play) to encourage them to interact and build their confidence.
The following suggestions are adapted from the American Veterinary Medical Association. For more tips, check out the First Year of Life page on the Cat Friendly Homes website: https://catfriendly.com/life-stages/first-year-life/
Socializing Kittens Before Weaning
Socializing Kittens 8 to 12 Weeks Old
Older Kittens and Newly Adopted Adult Cats
1. Welfare implications of socialization of puppies and kittens. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 9, 2015. Accessed July 8, 2022. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/literature-reviews/welfare-implications-socialization-puppies-and-kittens
2. Todd Z. The sensitive period for socialization in puppies and kittens. Companion Animal Psychology. July 26, 2017. Accessed July 8, 2022. https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2017/07/the-sensitive-period-for-socialization.html
Photo by Haley Owens on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.