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PET HEALTH

Feeding

As a general rule once a puppy or kitten has been weaned it no longer needs to have milk in its diet. The mother's milk is made up differently from the milk that we as humans use. Milk and cheese products are rich in protein, fat and minerals, and some cats and dogs cannot digest the lactose. This leads to diarrhoea and occasionally some vomiting. These symptoms can usually be cleared up by removing the milk from the diet.

When you go to collect your puppy or kitten you will probably be given a diet sheet, and even some food, which means that you can keep your pet on the same dietary regime that it has been used to. It is a big step for your new pet leaving its surroundings, so the fewer upsets it has to deal with the better. All meals should be given at room temperature, not straight from the fridge. If the food is from the fridge it might be a good idea to take it out an hour or so before feeding.

If you want to change your new pet onto another diet this should be done over a period of a week or so. You can do this by mixing a little of the new food with the one the animal is used to, increasing the amount until you are entirely using the new food.

Dogs and cats should not be fed bones unless they are of the rawhide type for dogs. Bones can cause constipation, obstruction and/or perforation of the digestive tract. These problems can become quite serious with the animal possibly requiring surgery.

Cats require different food to dogs. They require more protein and have higher specific requirements for a variety of nutrients. One of these is taurine.

A cat must have taurine in its diet. This is an essential nutrient which helps to avoid certain deficiency conditions. As cats cannot make sufficient taurine for their requirements it is is supplied directly in the diet. Dogs do not need taurine in their diet, so for a balanced diet dogs and cats must stick to their own specific diets. Cats are carnivores and cannot live healthy lives on a vegetarian or low protein diet. The protein they need must be given in the form of meat, fish and fat. Virtually no taurine is found in plants or cereals. Dogs on the other hand can survive on a vegetarian diet, but this is not ideal.

Obesity

Obesity in animals is sometimes not noticed until you visit the vet, normally at booster time. Most veterinary surgeries have scales for weighing pets on. At the yearly booster the vet will sometimes take your pet's weight and record it, even writing it on the vaccination certificate. This is a good way of picking up any irregularities in your pet's weight, increase or decrease, since the last visit.

If your pet is overweight your vet will be able to advise you of what to feed, how much and how often, you will also be given an ideal weight for your pet. The vet may then put you in the capable hands of a nurse, who may even run obesity clinics. You will be given an appointment to take your pet along for regular weight checks, and advice.

There are specially formulated slimming diets available. They contain all the minerals and vitamins your pet needs and they provide bulk without the calories, so they feel full. Always get advice from your veterinary surgeon before starting your pet on a diet. The vet may want to check your pet to make sure there is no underlying problem that is affecting your pet's weight.

Being overweight causes many problems in pets. These can range from flatulence to reduction in life expectancy. Some of the other problems are heart and circulatory disorders, arthritis, diabetes, increase in surgical and anaesthetic risks, heat intolerance and skin disease.

The cause of obesity is that the animal is eating more than it requires, the excess is stored as fat, and the animal becomes overweight. Overfeeding of an improper diet containing too much fat and too many carbohydrates, too many snacks or scraps and not enough exercise are all factors in the cause of obesity. Many older pets need their diet adjusted, as they get older they sleep more and require less exercise, your vet will be able to advise you on feeding the older pet.

You may not notice that your pet is putting on weight on a day to day basis, but over a period of time this can add up. If you have a photograph of your pet when it was younger, have a look at it, you may be surprised. You may also like to see if you can feel your pet's ribs. They should be easy to feel, if not see, by applying slight pressure on either side of the rib cage with your fingertips. If you cannot feel them easily then you may need to think about your pets' diet. Stand over your pet when it is standing up, if you cannot see a waistline then your pet is needing to have its food intake reduced.

Sometimes cutting out all the treats may be enough, depending on how overweight your pet is. The other areas where excess fat may accumulate are around the shoulders, along the spine and at the base of the tail. You can also look at the animals silhouette, the abdomen should not hang down excessively but should be flat or concave, following the line of the animal.

Some animals are more susceptible to gaining weight than others, this includes pets that have been neutered, older pets and pets belonging to older people.


Fleas

The flea goes through four stages, egg, larva, pupa then adult flea. The adults live on the pet and the females lay their eggs here too. The eggs fall off the pets coat into the environment, carpet, furniture, anywhere the pet goes. These eggs then hatch which results in the larva stage. The larvae feed on small particles of debris, too small for the naked eye to see, things like flea dirt and tapeworm eggs. The larvae then pupate, spin a cocoon, and the adult flea starts to develop within. The pupae can survive until the conditions are favourable for them, even if this takes many months.
The fleas inside the cocoon are stimulated into hatching by warmth and vibration, which can be from the pet itself or the people in that environment, even moving furniture can be enough. Once the flea emerges it jumps back onto the pet and the cycle starts again. In the right conditions this whole process from egg to flea can take as little as 2 weeks. The adult flea does not survive for long on the pet, usually only 7 to 10 days.
Fleas can cause a lot of irritation to cats and dogs, making them itch and they also transmit tapeworms. They are also the cause of some skin problems. Cat fleas are the most common, then hedgehog fleas, with rabbit fleas next and finally dog fleas. Dog fleas are thought to account for only 1% of the flea population. The most frequently encountered flea on both cats and dogs is the cat flea. If your pet has fleas then it is best to treat both the pet and the environment. The flea is just as at home in a dirty home as a clean one, they make no distinction. They are happy to be in a centrally heated home with fitted carpets where they can breed all year round.

The most popular methods of flea control are (from left to right) flea collars, flea powders, flea shampoos, household flea sprays and powders, and flea sprays both in aerosol and pump-spray versions. Flea drops, which are generally applied to the nape of the neck instead of a collar, are also widely used.
Fleas can become quite a problem if they are left untreated. For every flea that you find on your pet there will be lots more developing in the environment. Fleas are very small and they move very quickly which makes them hard to detect. However they do seem to favour certain places on the pet, base of the tail, around the ears, neck and abdomen. You can tell if your pet has fleas by a simple method. Using a comb, gently comb through the pet's coat, and if any small pieces of foreign material shaken from the comb onto a piece of white, moist paper or tissue start to dissolve and produce a red stain then your pet has fleas. The reason the paper goes red is because the particles are flea faeces which contain a lot of ingested blood. This is a good way of finding out if you pet has fleas and you will be grooming your pet regularly anyway.

When the fleas move through the pet's coat they cause the pet to scratch or bite at the point of irritation. Pets can show various degrees of irritation to fleas, some show little or no irritation and others can develop skin problems. Some pets are allergic to flea bites and their saliva. If fleas are left untreated they can cause some severe diseases, one of which being anaemia. In untreated kittens and puppies a severe infestation of fleas can cause anaemia and even death.

Fleas will bite humans but, in general, they will move on quickly, they much prefer our pets' blood. Some people when bitten develop small red spots, these are usually found on ankles and sometimes on arms as well.

Treatment to expel fleas from your home and pet come in many various forms and your veterinary surgeon will give you the best advice for your particular situation.


Worming

It isn't always easy to tell if your cat has worms, unless the cat has a heavy infestation thus making the symptoms more obvious. It has been estimated that "6 out of 10 cats in the UK have worms at any one time". A good way to remember which type of worm is which is that roundworms look like spaghetti and tapeworms resemble grains of rice. Both of these can be picked up from the cat's prey, rodents and birds for example. Roundworms are passed from cat to cat via eggs and larvae in their faeces. These eggs and larvae can live in the soil for months or even years. The cat picks them up on it's coat and paws and then ingests them while grooming - thus infecting the cat, and so the cycle goes on. Worming treatments for your cat must be carried out on a regular basis to prevent reinfestation.

The symptoms will range from none to vomiting, diarrhoea, pot-bellied appearance, dehydration, weight loss and loss of condition.

Toxocara cati is a white roundworm which most frequently infects young kittens, being passed via the mother's milk. Pregnant cats should be treated for worms while pregnant and while feeding her kittens, also the kittens should be treated every few weeks in their own right. The adult roundworms live in the small intestine where they lay eggs which are then shed into the environment via the cat's faeces. Cats can also become infected from their prey which have ingested these eggs. There is a slight risk to humans from toxocara cati, acquired by accidental ingestion of these roundworms, mainly from dogs and possibly from cats. This disease is called visceral larval migrans, the roundworm larvae travel around the body and may settle in the eye and, in some cases, cause impairment of vision.

Toxascaris leonina is also a white roundworm, very similar to Toxocara cati, but much less common. Infection of this roundworm occurs when cats ingest the eggs, which then hatch in the intestine, and develop into the adult worms. Cats can ingest these eggs from their prey. This type of roundworm is not passed from the mother to her kittens from her milk, it is unlikely to be seen in cats under 6 months of age.

Diplidium caninum is a segmented tapeworm which lives in the cats small intestine. Each segment of the worm contains maturing eggs. These segments, when passed from the cat, resemble grains of rice, you may even notice them around the cats anus, on the cats coat or bedding. These segments can cause anal irritation and excessive licking of this area.

Tapeworms are spread by the ingestion of fleas. The flea larvae swallows the eggs from the tapeworm segment, these eggs mature as the flea matures, making the adult flea infectious to the cat. When the cat ingests the flea, the tapeworm larvae are released into the small intestine and so the cycle goes on again. To treat this tapeworm you will also need to carry out flea treatment to help prevent reinfestation. The symptoms of this type of tapeworm infection can be, in severe cases, abdominal pain and an increase in food. Tapeworms can infect humans so cats should be wormed regularly and a flea control programme carried out.

Taenia taeniaeformis is also a segmented tapeworm, it is larger and less common than Dipylidium caninum. They have nothing to do with fleas, they are transmitted from infected rats, mice and voles to the cat. The adult tapeworm lives in the cats intestine, and the segments containing the maturing eggs are passed in the faeces. The same worming treatment can be used as for dipylidium caninum. These types of tapeworms do not transmit to humans.

Aelurostrongylus abstrusus is a small worm that lives in the air passages of the lungs. There would be no outward sign that your cat had this worm unless it was heavily infested, then the cat would be coughing. Again this worm does not transmit to humans.

Toxoplasma gondii is a small parasite of cats that lives in the cells lining the intestines. It uses other mammals as hosts, for example humans and dogs. This parasite invades the muscle tissue and forms cysts in host animals. Cats can get this parasite if they eat infected meat which is raw or undercooked or by eating the infected muscles, containing these cysts, of their prey. Once infected the eggs from this parasite are passed out in the cats faeces. These eggs become infectious and other animals can become infected if they eat them. The cat will show no signs that it has this parasite unless it has a severe infection. The signs of a severe infection are high temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea, pneumonia and heart and liver disease. This infection can be transmitted to humans, it can be very serious in pregnant women, the baby can be affected. To minimise the risk of this infection to humans gloves should be used when cleaning out cat litter trays, these trays should be cleaned out on a daily basis, and be cautious when handling raw meat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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