Proper Pet Hygiene

cute cat itchingLike humans, pets can experience skin conditions that may cause redness, itchiness, odor, and even wounds. Fortunately, many skin conditions can be prevented with routine bathing and grooming. Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained the importance of pet hygiene for both dogs and cats.

On one hand, most cats do not usually require a bath to maintain a healthy skin and coat, Diesel said. However, she added that older or obese cats may benefit from bathing to help keep their coat and skin healthy. On the other hand, dogs require regular bathing and grooming with a frequency that depends on their skin and coat health.

“Dogs without dermatological abnormalities benefit from a bath a couple of times a year or when they get dirty,” Diesel said. “However, dogs with skin problems often require more frequent bathing and sometimes benefit from specific kinds or medicated shampoos. If your dog has a skin problem, you should discuss bathing recommendations with your veterinarian.”

Though your veterinarian can examine your pet’s skin during a routine check-up, sometimes skin abnormalities can develop between appointments. If you notice any abnormalities while bathing or grooming your pet, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Some noticeable changes might be increased odor and dander and may result in discomfort or itching in the animal. In addition, animals with long hair coats are prone to matting. This can irritate the skin and result in wounds when removed or clipped out, Diesel said. Furthermore, pets with long hair coats are at higher risk for fly strike and acquisition of maggots hidden within the mats and under the hair coat. These creatures can further damage the skin, causing wounds, infections, sepsis and potentially death, Diesel explained. More severe or persistent skin conditions may benefit from examination by a boarded specialist in veterinary dermatology.

Another important part of proper pet hygiene is keeping your pet’s ears clean. Most pet owners regularly bathe their pet to maintain their coat, but clean ears are just as important and should be part of your pet’s normal hygiene routine. When cleaning your pet’s ears, Diesel recommended saturating a cotton ball with a veterinarian approved ear cleanser.

“Gently place this in the dog or cat’s ear canal and massage to help deliver the solution along the length of the canal,” Diesel said. “An additional cotton ball can be used to wipe out excess fluid after the animal shakes their head. Q-tips should never be used to clean a dog or cat’s ears as this can lead to potential damage of the ear canal.”

Diesel added that ear problems often manifest with scratching or rubbing at the ears, redness, discharge, and a foul odor. Some animals, such as dogs that swim a lot, are more prone to ear problems than others and should be monitored more closely. Additionally, Diesel said pet owners should discuss recommendations for appropriate ear cleaning with their veterinarian.

Poor hygiene in dogs and cats can result in severe consequences if not addressed appropriately, Diesel said.

Though it may seem like Fido hates his routine bath, proper hygiene for both dogs and cats is necessary to keep your furry friend healthy. If you have any concerns about your pet’s grooming and bathing routine, consult your veterinarian.

 

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu 

Common Canine Skin Conditions

bigstock-beagle-puppy-scratchingFamiliarizing yourself with common canine skin irritations and diseases is important to your pet’s health. Certain skin problems could be sign of a more serious underlying issue, such as physical pain, discomfort, or infection.

“There are many different types of skin conditions in dogs. As we try to figure out what type of condition may be affecting your pet, we have to answer one question first, ‘Is your dog itchy?’” said Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Itch in dogs can take on a number of different forms, including scratching, rubbing, rolling, licking, chewing, head shaking, or scooting. You may be bringing your dog in for hair loss or skin sores, but if those signs are present with itchy behaviors, we will be looking that direction first.”

Common reasons dogs have itchy skin include parasites, such as fleas, lice, or microscopic mites; infections, such as those caused by bacteria; and allergies.

“Fleas are extremely common in dogs, particularly in Texas where fleas are endemic year-round. Not only are fleas a nuisance and can carry disease, but they can also cause flea allergy dermatitis, an allergic reaction from the flea’s bite that occurs in some dogs,” Diesel explained. “Mites are another common reason for skin disease in dogs, particularly Demodex; these non-contagious mites may be found in young or older patients. Sarcoptes mites, also known as scabies, are also rather common; these mites are contagious and typically cause severe itch. Bacterial skin infections are also prevalent in dogs; however they are typically due to a secondary problem, such as parasites or allergies.”

Other skin conditions that occur in dogs include hormone imbalances, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease; cancer, which may be benign or malignant; and autoimmune skin diseases, such as pemphigus or lupus. All of these typically come without signs of itch unless secondary infections are present.

Sometimes dog owners may notice that their pets have a skin lesion or that a part of the skin has an abnormal growth or appearance compared to the skin around it. According to Diesel, lesions should be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the cause. “As there are numerous causes of skin lesions in dogs, it is important to determine the underlying cause to help guide treatment recommendations,” she said.

In addition to monitoring your pet’s skin conditions, you should also keep track of your dog’s shedding. Excessive shedding could potentially be a sign of another health condition. First, it is important to determine whether the hair is being scratched out, or if it is falling out on its own. “If the hair is falling out on its own and leaving obvious areas of baldness, this may be a sign of internal illness, such as hormone imbalances, metabolic changes, or even potentially cancer; it could also be a sign of skin disease, such as ringworm,” Diesel said. It is also important to remember that certain breeds may shed much more than others. If there is no baldness seen along with the excessive shedding, this may actually be normal for your dog. Seasonal variations may additionally occur, although this is less noticeable in Texas where seasonal variation is minimal compared to other regions of the country.

To keep your dog’s coat healthy and shiny and to minimize unwanted excessive shedding, routinely brush and groom your pet. Depending on the breed, some dogs may require periodic haircuts for coat care, while others may need only a bath and brush. Additionally, veterinarian-prescribed omega fatty acids such as fish oil can help keep the skin and hair coat healthy in dogs.

If you notice any excessive scratching or shedding, lesions, or any change in your dog’s normal hair coat appearance, you should have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian to help determine any underlying health conditions that may be a cause for the change.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Ear Infections in Dogs

Golden retriever dog scratching himself in the gardenMany dog owners have witnessed their pet excessively scratching their ears or rubbing their head on a hard surface. Some owners may even notice redness, swelling, or odor in their dog’s ear canal. Although we may do everything we can to keep our dogs clean, these common signs could be a result of a canine ear infection.

According to Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, canine ear infections are common and can be caused by multiple factors. “There are several contributing factors associated with the development of ear infections in dogs,” she said. “Some factors, such as excess hair in the ear canals, excess wax production, and increased moisture, can contribute to the development of ear infections; however, they do not solely cause the infection. There is generally an underlying cause, such as parasites, allergies, or foreign bodies. Other causes include hormone imbalances, benign or cancerous growths in the ear canal, or physical trauma.”

If you think your dog may have an ear infection, it is important to consult your veterinarian. Treatment for canine ear infections depends on the underlying cause of the infection as well as the specific type of infection involved. Ear cleaners or topical medications, such as ear drops or lotion, are common in soothing canine ear infections. Sometimes, additional medications may be necessary to decrease swelling in the ear canals or treat infections that have migrated into the deeper structures of the ear, such as the middle or even inner ear.

Although it may seem as simple as thoroughly cleaning your dog’s ears to relieve them of irritation, Diesel recommended avoiding home remedies for an ear infection. “Some medications can be harmful or painful when used in certain infections,” she explained. “For example, the use of a medication containing antibiotics may contribute to the development of bacterial resistance if used improperly. It is best to consult your pet’s veterinarian prior to treating the ear infection at home. If you have a cleaner your veterinarian has prescribed for ear infections in the past, this may be tried initially; however, a follow up examination should be pursued if clinical signs persist.”

You may bathe Fido regularly, but this does not protect him from developing an ear infection. To effectively prevent canine ear irritation, be sure to check your dog’s ears weekly for debris and wax build up. If your dog swims a lot or has a history of ear infections, you should talk with your dog’s veterinarian about using an ear cleaner periodically as maintenance.

“In some cases, long-term maintenance ear care, such as periodic ear cleaning, may be helpful to help prevent infections,” Diesel said. “To address this most effectively, it is important to have a conversation with your pet’s veterinarian to help develop a long-term plan. Discussing particular activities your pet likes and or concerns you have will help your veterinarian formulate a righteous preventative care plan. For example, if you frequently plan on taking your dog swimming, your veterinarian may recommend an ear cleaner that has some drying properties for use after swimming. A veterinary dermatologist can also be an additional helpful resource for long-term ear care in your dog.”

To prevent your dog from developing an ear infection, remember to clean their ears regularly. Ear infections are one of the most common health problems in dogs, but it is not a condition that should be treated at home without the guidance of a veterinarian. Be sure to seek professional help in treating your dog’s ear infection.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu .

Cold Weather Tips for your Pets

a puppy running on snowAs the temperatures begin to drop, many pet owners worry about their pets spending time outdoors. Here are some tips for keeping the four-legged members of your family warm and safe during the winter months.

For smaller pets, keeping them inside as much as possible during the colder weather can be the most beneficial. If your pet is primarily an indoor pet, this shouldn’t be much of a change. Nonetheless, short exposure to the outside cold can be fine and is usually not detrimental to the pet’s health.

“Dogs and cats shiver a lot like people. This action is used to help generate body heat in cold climates,” said Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “If your pet shivers while outside, shorten the length of your trips together to help reduce this trembling. Providing extra bedding like blankets and towels will also keep your pets warm and cozy.”

Signs that your pet is uncomfortably cold may include excessive whining, shivering, appearing anxious, slowing down or stopping, and looking for a warm place to burrow. If they begin to exhibit any of these behaviors, you should bring them inside (if outside), or wrap them in a blanket in a warm room.

For larger pets that cannot come inside, making sure they have an adequate outdoor shelter is important for their comfort and safety. Shelters such as doghouses and stables can be very helpful during cold winds, and should have extra bedding (such as blankets, towels, hay, etc.) added for additional warmth.

“An important thing to remember for outdoor pets is to make sure they always have a fresh supply of water,” said Diesel. “If it gets cold enough to freeze, this water source should be checked regularly to make sure the water doesn’t freeze over.  Moving water sources like fountains are less likely to do this.”

You should also be extra-cautious with your senior, arthritic, or frail pet during the winter. Cold weather can be especially difficult for senior pets and those with degenerative joint disease or another chronic, debilitating condition. Make sure that this pet has soft, warm bedding that they can rest in, and since arthritis worsens during cold and damp weather, take special care to handle them gently.

Finally, cats that are left outdoors during a cold night may seek warmth by crawling up under the hoods of cars or into the wheel wells. Starting or moving the vehicle can hurt or even kill a cat taking shelter inside you car. During the winter months, it’s a good idea to bang loudly on your car hood before starting the engine as a warning to a cat that might be in or around your vehicle.

Just like people, some pets do better with colder temperatures than others. It is important to take into consideration your pet’s size, as well as age and health condition, when preparing for the winter months ahead.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu .

The Itch That Keeps on Itching: Fleas and our Pets

Of all the joys spring offers us, one of the most troublesome things about this time of year is the increase of insects on our furry friends.  Of all these creepy pests, adult fleas cause the most problems for our pets.

In order to become adults, fleas need warm weather, between 70 and 80 degrees, and around 70 to 80 percent relative humidity.

“Those ideal conditions are usually what we are experience during this time of the year, which is why we generally see more fleas coming out in the spring,” said Dr. Alison Diesel, lecturer in dermatology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Unlike many geographical areas where seasonal differences occur, fleas can be present year-round in Texas because of our warmer winters.

While many people think fleas are relatively harmless except for making our pets itch, fleas can cause numerous other health problems in our pets.

For example, some animals may react to an allergen found in fleas’ saliva, causing the animal to have an allergic reaction.  This causes the animal to itch and ultimately scratch, which can lead to a secondary skin infection.

If there is a massive amount of fleas, anemia could even become a potential problem, especially with small animals that do not have large amounts of blood.  Fleas also carry diseases like tapeworms and Bartonella (which causes “cat scratch disease”) that can infect both pets and humans.

While there is no way to completely prevent fleas from reaching our pets, a key factor to controlling fleas is breaking their life cycle either by killing the adults and/or at least one of the juvenile stages.

“The flea life cycle has four phases: the adult fleas lay eggs, the eggs hatch into larvae, the larvae turns into pupae, which, eventually, turn into adults,” said Diesel. “Targeting several phases of the flea lifecycle is best, particularly when dealing with an infestation.  The easiest stage to target is the adult flea since they live on the pet.  The other stages, such as eggs, larvae, and pupae, are present in the environment.”

With regards to specific therapy for fleas and secondary problems, your pet’s veterinarian is a valuable resource for the best options and possible medications.

“Your pet’s veterinarian can help recommend the most appropriate product to help prevent fleas based on other factors (other skin conditions, food allergies, etc.) as well as discuss the appropriate way to administer the product,” said Diesel. “I suggest using a flea prevention that lasts the entire month and is still effective if the pet gets wet.”

Using flea prevention products once every 30 days provides the best protection for your pet from flea bites and can even prevent a flea infestation from being established in your pet’s environment. It is important to minimize an animal’s exposure to fleas by avoiding infested areas and pets.

“There are some things which can be done to minimize exposure to fleas: avoid known infested areas, do not allow your pet to come into contact with wild animals or burrows, and protect areas of the house where wild animals may enter to minimize wild animals from establishing residency in the first place,” said Diesel. “If fleas become a problem inside the house, try vacuuming once a week.”

If the flea presence grows larger, there are various in-house treatments and exterminators to aid in flea removal.

“Focus on places where the pets spends most of their time inside the house because that will contain the most concentrated area of fleas,” said Diesel. “Also, don’t forget under beds and furniture, behind curtains, and along hallways connecting rooms when treating the house for fleas. It may be best to contact a professional exterminator when there is a large flea burden present.”

In addition to treating animals and the inside of the home, it may also be essential to treat the outside environment around your home.  This can be done by treating areas of the surrounding property that have an unusually high populace of fleas.

“This includes shaded areas, under trees and bushes, in dog houses, under porches and decks.  As with indoor control, when the burden is high, a professional exterminator may be the most help,” said Diesel.

The best approach to managing fleas is to practice prevention continuously throughout the year by treating all pets with proper medication as well as treating the inside and outside of the home if there is a suspected infestation.

“It is much easier to prevent fleas than to treat fleas,” said Diesel.

About Pet Talk

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Mange and Your Dog

We love for our pets to play outdoors with their friends, but owners should be cautious about the dangers that lurk there.

You’ve probably heard the term “mangy mutt” referring to a poor dog with a ratty, patchy coat. That’s actually how dogs with sarcoptic mange really look. Mange is a condition caused by an infestation of a specific type of mite that is too tiny to be seen with the naked eye.

“In this country, primarily dogs get sarcoptic mange, or scabies,” said Dr. Alison Diesel, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “It can be transmitted and carried by other wild canids including coyotes and foxes.”

Sarcoptes mites are very contagious and can be spread by your pet coming into contact with an infected source.

“Sarcoptes mites are spread by direct contact with an infected animal or from an infected environment (e.g. coyote den or fox burrow, even dog parks or grooming facilities),” said Diesel. “It is important that all in-contact animals be treated for mites if one dog in the household is diagnosed with scabies.”

The most common sign associated with sarcoptic mange is severe itchiness.

“Dogs may also develop a rash, lose their hair, and have crusting lesions on various body regions,” said Diesel. “The most common areas include the ear margins, hocks, and elbows; however signs may become generalized very quickly.”

Veterinarians often use therapy or the pet’s history and clinical signs to diagnose mange.

“Sarcoptes mites can be VERY difficult to find as they live very superficially on the skin and are typically only present in very small numbers,” said Diesel. “Skin scrapings may help to identify the mites, however often we do not find the mites on our patients. A positive “pinnal-pedal response” (where the veterinarian folds the ear flap on itself, rubs the two surfaces together, and watches for the hind limb to exhibit the classic “Thumper” or scratching response) can be supportive of the suspected diagnosis.”

Your dog’s veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate therapy given your animal’s specific needs and preferences. Typically therapy lasts between 6-8 weeks.

“Thankfully, Sarcoptes mites are pretty wimpy, said Diesel. “Several topical, oral, and injectable treatments are available for treating them. Certain breeds (e.g. Collies, Shetland sheepdogs, Border collies) need to be specially considered as some of the therapeutic options can be toxic and cause severe side effects including seizures.”

Unfortunately, sarcoptic mange can also be spread from dogs to their owners.

“If a pet owner is concerned they may have contracted scabies from their pet, particularly if their veterinarian diagnoses scabies, they should contact their primary care physician for recommendations and let them know their dog is being treated for scabies,” said Diesel.

The best prevention from mange is to keep dogs away from known infested environments including coyote dens and fox burrows.

“If the owner knows their dog has scabies, they should also keep their pet away from other dogs (including staying away from dog parks, doggie day care and groomers) until the infestation is fully resolved,” said Diesel.

About Pet Talk

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Cold Weather and Your Pet

Many pet owners love spending time with their furry friend outside, but during the cold winter months pet owners need to take special precautions to ensure that their pet stays warm and healthy when the temperature drops.

“The good thing is that for most areas of Texas, even the ‘winter months’ do not get cold enough to cause serious problems in our pets or even most large animals,” said Alison Diesel, lecturer at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “The thick coats of most domestic animal species are sufficient to provide protection from the cold here in Texas, but on the rare occasion of a colder day some other things could be considered.”

One precaution pet owners must take is making sure dogs, cats, and other large animal species have an adequate defense from the cold when they are outside.

“Making sure blankets are available and dry can be extremely helpful for this purpose,” said Diesel. “Also, as with people, turning up the heat can help keep our pets warm as well.”

For smaller pets simply keeping them inside during the colder times can be the most beneficial. Nonetheless, short exposure to the outside cold can be fine and is usually not detrimental to the pet’s health.

“Dogs and cats shiver a lot like people. This action is used to help generate body heat in cold climates,” said Diesel. “If your pet shivers while outside, shorten the length of your trips together to help reduce this trembling. Providing extra bedding like blankets and towels will also keep your pets warm and cozy.”

For larger pets that cannot come inside, making sure they have an adequate outdoor shelter is important to their comfort and safety. Shelters such as dog houses and stables can be very helpful during cold winds, and should have extra bedding (blankets, towels, hay, etc.) added for additional warmth.

“An important thing to remember for outdoor pets is to make sure they always have a fresh supply of water,” said Diesel. “If it gets cold enough to freeze this should be checked regularly to make sure the water doesn’t freeze over.  Moving water sources like fountains are less likely to do this.”

Conditions like frostbite and hypothermia, while not typical in warmer climates like Texas, are severe conditions that are common in colder climates.

“Dehydration is a possibility as well if your pet’s water source freezes over,” said Diesel.

About Pet Talk

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Prevention of Fleas Important Year-Round

One of the worst things about this time of year is the increase of fleas on pets, outside, and, possibly, in homes. Adult fleas cause the most problems for pets. In order to become adult fleas, the blood-sucking creatures need warm weather, between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and about 70 to 80 percent humidity, said Dr. Alison Diesel, lecturer in dermatology at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

“Those ideal conditions are exactly what we are experiencing during this time of the year, which is why we generally see more fleas coming out in the spring,” Diesel said.

She added that fleas can be present year-round in Texas because there is not usually a “true winter.”

Fleas can cause various problems for pets.  Some animals, for example, are allergic to an allergen in the flea saliva causing the animal to have an allergic reaction.  This causes the animal to scratch, which could lead to a secondary bacterial skin infection.  If there is a large flea problem, anemia could be a potential problem, especially among small animals that do not have large amounts of blood.  Fleas can also carry diseases such as tapeworms or Bartonella, and infect both pets and humans.

Amanda Friedeck, a veterinary technician at the CVM, said there is no way to completely prevent fleas, but a key factor to controlling fleas is breaking the life cycle.

“The best way to control fleas is to break the cycle.  More fleas lay more eggs.  … The best treatment either kills the adults or kills one of the juvenile stages,” Friedeck said.

Diesel said the flea life cycle has four phases: the adult fleas lay eggs, the eggs hatch into larvae, the larvae turns into pupae, which, eventually, turn into adults.

“Ideally, targeting several phases of the flea lifecycle is best, particularly when dealing with an infestation.  The easiest stage to target is the adult flea since these lives on the pet.  The other stages (eggs, larvae, pupae) are present in the environment,” Diesel said.

Both Diesel and Friedeck said the best way to determine treatment of an animal’s flea problem is to take them to a veterinarian to discuss the best options and medications.

“Your pet’s veterinarian can help recommend the most appropriate product to help prevent fleas based on other factors (e.g. other skin conditions, food allergies, etc.) as well as discuss the appropriate way to administer the product (e.g. orally or topically),” Diesel said.

Diesel suggested using a flea prevention that lasts the entire month and is still effective if the pet gets wet.

“Using flea prevention every 30 days, or more frequently in some situations, can provide the best protection from fleas biting your pet, can kill adult fleas rapidly, and can prevent a flea infestation from being established in your pet’s environment,” Diesel said

Diesel and Friedeck agreed that it is important to minimize an animal’s exposure to fleas by avoiding infested areas and pets coming in contact with animals that have fleas such as wild animals.

“There are some things which can be done to minimize exposure to fleas: avoid known infested areas, do not allow your pet to come into contact with wild animals or burrows, and protect areas of the house where wild animals may enter to minimize wild animals from establishing residency in the first place,” Diesel said.

If fleas become a problem inside the house, Diesel and Friedeck suggested vacuuming once a week.

“Vacuuming is a very good way to rid of fleas in the house, but the bag must be thrown away and removed from the house,” Friedeck said.

She added that if there is a large flea presence, there are in-house treatments and exterminators.

“There are some in-house treatments and bombs, but they should only be used in heavily burdened environments,” Friedeck said.

Diesel suggested focusing on places where the pets spends most of their time inside the house when bombing because that will contain the most concentrated area of fleas.

“Don’t forget under beds and furniture, behind curtains, and along hallways connecting rooms when treating the house for fleas.  Again, it may be best to contact a professional exterminator when there is a large flea burden present,” she said.

In addition to treating animals and inside of homes, it may be necessary to treat the outside environment.  This can be done by spraying areas of the yard that are high in flea population.

“This includes shaded areas, under trees and bushes, in dog houses, under porches and decks.  As with indoor control, when the burden is high, a professional exterminator may be the most help,” Diesel said.

Diesel said the best strategy against fleas is to practice year-round prevention by treating all pets with flea medicine as well as treating inside and outside the home if an infestation is suspected.

“It is much easier to prevent fleas than to treat fleas,” she said.

 

ABOUT PET TALK

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at /pet-talk.

Suggestions for future topics may be directed to cvmtoday@cvm.tamu.edu.

Pet Burns

Accidents happen, and pets can get burned for one reason or another just like their owners can. When this happens, it is best to have a hands-off policy and leave the treatments to the professionals.

“The best thing an owner can do in the case of a burn is get the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible; burns are considered to be emergencies in just about all situations, and the sooner they are brought in, the better,” says Dr. Alison Diesel, lecturer specializing in dermatology, at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Sometimes pet owners will not notice the burned area for days or even weeks after the burn has occurred. One thing to keep in mind with burns is that sometimes what is seen initially is only the tip of the iceberg.

“What may look like only a red spot of skin on a pet’s side following a burn incident can quickly become devitalized, dead tissue, which is not only painful but also more at risk for infections over the next couple of days,” explains Diesel.

Infection in the animal is a big concern when dealing with burns, especially if the burn goes deeper into the lower layers of the skin.

“If the skin barrier is not intact and normal, bacteria can quickly enter the wound causing not only local infection but also potentially it can get into the blood stream.  This puts the animal at risk for serious illness and potentially death,” says Diesel.

Diesel explains that very serious burns require hospitalization and care for several days to weeks at a time to monitor and control for any side effects of the burn.

Cars are often one of the causes for accidents resulting in pet burns. On a hot day, the shade underneath a car or truck might seem very appealing to an animal outside.  Even on a cold day, the heat of a car engine can be comforting for a kitty out in the cold. If the animal comes in contact with a hot muffler or catalytic converter even for a split second, a serious burn can occur.

There are many other scenarios as well that could be the cause of pet burns, such as: barbeque grills, space heaters,  spilling hot liquids or food when cooking, objects laying in the yard that conduct heat such as hoses or tools, or puppies or cats chewing on plugged in electrical cords.

“Different types of burns require a bit different treatments,” explains Diesel,

“Chemical burns for example, might become much worse when water is applied to them, so the nature of the burn helps the veterinarian know how best to treat it.”

Sometimes owners do not witness the animal getting burned, so it is important to be able to try and distinguish if a mark that is found on a pet is actually a burn.

“Burns have a variable appearance based on the extent and severity on an animal,” says Diesel, “Initially, it may start as the skin itself just looks a little red or inflamed, while more severe burns can cause burning or singeing of the coat.”

Diesel explains that the pet’s hair may become dry, brittle, curled, or even lost completely.

“Severe burns may show up as large areas of exposed deeper skin; this would look like a scraped knee for example, which could be moist, oozing, and often very painful,” says Diesel.

Even what looks like only a mild burn can become much worse over time. This is particularly true for thermal burns, which may be caused by heat lamps, water blankets, or even hot water from a garden hose that was used for bathing.

“The skin may look red initially, but then may turn black, crusty, and become quite painful with these burns,” says Diesel.

It is natural for an owner who witnesses a pet getting burned to want to try to help the animal and ease their pain, but again, the best thing to do is to get the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

“If it is not a chemical burn, removing some of the burning material can be helpful,” explains Diesel, “For example, if the owner trips over a dog or cat and ends up spilling a hot casserole on the pet, or spills candle wax on the pet, then removing the hot material would be good in that case.”

This is the extent to which an owner should try to help a pet with a burn. A veterinarian will be best able to provide and recommend pain control given the pet’s other medical conditions and extent of injuries.

Owners can sometimes unintentionally burn a pet when drying them off with a hair dryer after a bath. Hair dryers can be helpful for drying off a pet, however owners need to be careful so as the hair dryer does not get too hot.

“If the owner wants to use a hair dryer, it should be done on a cool setting ONLY,” says Diesel.

Less harmful ways of drying off a pet would include thorough towel drying or allowing the animal to dry outside in the sun when the weather is not too warm.  Diesel recommends this as a good option to consider, especially during the milder seasons such as fall.  Long hours in the sun however can be too much for some animals, particularly when it is still rather hot outside.

Sometimes more serious situations can occur such as house or barn fires. In this case, the owner should closely monitor the pet not only for burns but also for signs of smoke inhalation.

“Smoke inhalation can be a big problem for dogs and cats, especially if that animal already has any sort of respiratory condition such as asthma,” says Diesel.

Signs of smoke inhalation can include coughing, sneezing, or even turning blue, gasping for air, or losing consciousness.

“Smoke inhalation is often treated with oxygen and possibly fluid supportive care,” says Diesel, “Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest may also be helpful to evaluate the lungs.”

When it comes to pet burns, time becomes crucial. The best thing an owner can do for their pet is to get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible to be evaluated and monitored. This is the best way to ensure getting fluffy friends back to their playful and loving selves!

 

ABOUT PET TALK

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Sun Exposure and Skin

Summer time generally means vacations, water, and a lot of fun in the sun. However, the same concerns that affect people can also cause problems for pets.

As the weather warms up, many people take to bathing their pets outside. It seems like a good idea, as pets may dry faster and cause less water mess. However, according to Dr. Alison Diesel, lecturer in small animal dermatology, at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, it is important to remember that water coming initially out of the hose may be very hot.

“One of the problems we see related to hot weather is thermal burns from hoses that have been sitting outside in the sun all day,” says Diesel. “Make sure to let the water run through the hose for several minutes before bathing your dog. If it is too hot on your own hand, it will be too hot for the dog’s skin.”

It is well known that staying out in the sun too long without any type of protection can cause sunburns in people. The same is true of animals, especially those that are lightly pigmented or have thinner coats. White animals, animals that like to spend time sunbathing, and even certain parts on every animal, such as the nose (especially pink noses), ears, or abdomen, are especially prone to becoming sunburned.

“In order to prevent their animals from becoming sunburned, one of the things that people can do is to apply sunscreen on lightly pigmented or thinly furred areas before the animal goes outside or lays in a sunbeam to bathe,” states Diesel. “As with people, the sunscreen will need to be applied once every couple of hours. Sunscreens that have high SPFs (50+) and that are safe for infants are safe for a dog or a cat.”

“Another thing an owner can do,” notes Diesel, “is prevent sunbathing during the peak times of the day, or when the sun is at its strongest. This is typically from the early afternoon until evening. Cats that sit in windowsills particularly need to be monitored.”

As with people, one of the main concerns with animals becoming sunburned, besides the initial burn itself, is the possibility of cancer developing from the sun exposure. If you notice a change in the appearance of your pet’s skin, including increased redness, raised skin legions, bumps or wounds, your pet needs to be evaluated by its veterinarian.

“Actinic keratosis, a condition that causes raised, red, flat-topped areas of skin that may have a dry appearance, is associated with increased sun exposure and may progress into cancer in the future if not addressed,” warns Diesel. “As the thinly furred parts of animals are the highest risk areas for becoming sunburned, these are the areas where this condition is often noted.”

An additional problem exacerbated by sun exposure is discoid lupus, an immune-mediated skin disease of the nose. Some dog breeds that are particularly affected by this are Huskies, Malamutes, and other northern breeds and shepherds.

Explains Diesel, “The normally dark colored nose loses its pigment and turns pink. It can also become crusted and ulcerate; this may be noted as bleeding by the owners. The decreased pigment puts the nose more at risk for sunburn. It is important that dogs diagnosed with this condition have infant-safe sunscreen applied several times daily to avoid intensifying the disease.”

While lighter-pigmented animals are more prone to developing burns, darker colored animals are not without their own concerns.

“According to studies in cattle that observed the effects of hide color and the risk of heat stress, darker pigmented animals were more at risk for heat stress since their coat did not reflect as much light as lighter colored animals,” explains Dr. Diesel. “This does not usually cause skin problems; however, darker animals are more at risk for developing the side effects of heat stress, which include over-heating and heat stroke. These are emergency situations that require immediate evaluation by a veterinarian.”

In spite of the many risks the rising temperatures bring with them, it is possible for you and your pets to enjoy the summer out of doors, provided the proper precautions are taken. Train yourself to reapply your pet’s sunscreen each time you reapply yours, and make sure your outdoor pets have access to fresh water and shady places to find some respite from the sun’s rays. Check the temperature of the water before bathing your pet out of doors. And remember to enjoy your vacations with your best friend!

 

ABOUT PET TALK

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.