Keeping Fido Safe in the Summer Heat

A dog (puppy Jack Russel) drinking water flowing from a bottle to a man's handMany people take advantage of May’s warm weather by making resolutions to get themselves and their pets in shape for summer. However, when participating in outdoor activities like walking or running during these high temperatures, extra precautions need to be taken to ensure your pet’s safety.

Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that humans are not the only ones who need to be cautious when exercising during higher than average temperatures.

“Animals do things they normally wouldn’t do to stay cool, which is an important thing to remember when outside,” Stickney said. “If they are all riled up and having a good time, they may forget how hot it is, so it is important to always monitor them.”

Anytime you are outdoors or doing something active during the summer, it is important for you and your pets to take plenty of breaks. Although you may be used to handling the heat and are aware when you need to stop and rest, your pet, especially if they have a thick coat, may not fare as well in the summer months.

“Keep in mind that if you’re thirsty, your pet is most likely thirsty,” Stickney said. “Animals need plenty of access to fresh water. You can even try putting ice cubes in it to make it colder and more refreshing.”

However, the warm summer temperatures don’t mean you shouldn’t participate in outdoor activities with your pets. If you and Fido enjoy long walks to the neighborhood park, for example, just be sure that he has access to plenty of water throughout your trip. Bringing along a water bottle and bowl for him to drink from is always a good idea.

“Also keep in mind that pavement can get very hot in the summer,” Stickney said. “If your dogs don’t have thick foot pads, they could develop burns on their feet. Letting them walk on the grass instead of the concrete can help keep their foot pads from blistering.”

Any summertime activity that involves the water is good to partake in with your pet. Getting adequate exercise, while also being able to cool off in the water, is a perfect outdoor activity for Fido. However, keep in mind that they will still need to have clean drinking water available, as well as a shady place to rest once out of the water. Swimming for a long time can be draining on a dog not used to that type of physical exertion.

“If your pet does accidentally overdo it in the sun, there are signs you can watch out for,” Stickney said. “Panting, unresponsiveness, red whites of their eyes, and bright reddish gums can mean that your dog is overheated and needs a break.”

If you notice that your dog is beginning to exhibit any of these symptoms, stop activity immediately and allow them to get a drink and cool off indoors or in the shade.

Overall, be smart and safe when going on outings with your pets during the warm summer months. Monitor your pets closely, and be prepared to step in at the first sign of heat stress. They may be enjoying your time together so much that they don’t realize how hot and tired they really are!

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Breast Cancer in Cats

A cat having a check-up at a small animal vet clinicBreast cancer is unfortunately prevalent not only among humans, but also in our feline friends. Just like with people, mammary cancer is very aggressive in cats, and they have the best chance of survival if caught early.

“Eighty-five percent of mammary tumors found in cats are malignant, and more that 80 percent will eventually spread to other locations in the body,such as the lymph nodes, lungs, bone, and internal organs,” said Dr. Jacqueline Bloch, medical oncology resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

It is found that Siamese and domestic short hair cats are more at risk for mammary tumors. “Siamese are especially prone to developing them at a relatively young age,” Bloch said. “The average age is 10 years in other cats.”

However, it is a risk for any cat to develop a mammary tumor, and like with other cancers, it is important to get a proper diagnosis.

“Mammary tumors in cats are best diagnosed by a biopsy; this helps us to give prognostic information to the owners as well as diagnosis,” Bloch said. “Sometimes we can obtain diagnosis by a relatively non-invasive needle biopsy.”

Similar to dealing with other tumors, the best treatment option is to surgically remove them. Because the feline form of mammary cancer is so aggressive, veterinarians generally recommend a staged bilateral mastectomy, or the removal of all the mammary glands in a staged manner.

“Cats have four pairs of mammary glands, and they are intimately associated and share lymphatic drainage, which is why we recommend removing them all,” Bloch said. “There should be one surgery on one side to remove the glands, then after waiting for two-four weeks to let them heal, we surgically remove the other side.”

Before executing such an extreme surgery, Bloch explains that they will perform what is called staging tests to look for evidence of cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

“This normally means an abdominal ultrasound to look for spread to regional lymph nodes or liver and spleen, and chest radio-graphs to look for evidence of spread to the lungs,” Bloch said. “If these show no evidence of disease, we recommend going forward with the surgery.”

Depending on the case, chemotherapy may be recommend following surgery if the tumor is very aggressive and the patient proves to be a good candidate.

Although it is impossible to completely prevent mammary cancer, the early spaying of cats is very protective against developing these tumors. “Spaying a kitten before six months of age can ultimately reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 91 percent.” Bloch said.

Like with humans, cats have the best chance of survival if the mammary tumors are discovered early. Regularly examining your cat by rubbing their belly and gently squeezing the mammary glands, as well as taking them in for regular check-ups at the veterinarian, is effective for early detection and catching the cancer in time, for the best possible outcome.

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Pets like Camping, too!

Boys and dog roasting marshmallows at campfireFor those who enjoy the great outdoors, camping during the springtime can be a perfect weekend getaway.  However, if you don’t want to leave your four-legged friends behind while setting out on your adventure, try bringing them along.

“Many campgrounds allow pets, with certain rules and regulations,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Often, the rules regarding pets can be seen posted on their website, and if not, questions can be easily answered over the phone. However, it is not advised that you show up with your pet without prior research and consent.

“Most rules will include things such as having your pet on a leash, making sure they are supervised at all times, and requiring proof of vaccinations,” Stickney said. “Even if they don’t require health records or vaccination certificates, it’s a good idea to bring them along just in case.”

Just as you need to pack food and other essentials for yourself, don’t forget to pack necessities for your pets as well. Some items you’ll need to bring are plenty of food, a pet first-aid kit, a harness, and a leash. Even if the campsite has natural water resources, such as streams or lakes, you must still bring plenty of water for your pet to drink throughout your stay.

“Your pets will want to drink out of any pond and lake in sight, but there are many different diseases they can catch by doing that,” Stickney said. “So you don’t want that to be their primary source of water.”

Coming into contact with wild animals is a definite risk when you are out in a national forest or grassland. Although most of the wildlife you run into wants to keep away from you as well, you should have a way of containing your pet just in case.

“If your pet does get into a tussle with a wild animal, you do not want to get into the middle of it,” Stickney said. “There is a very good chance you will be bitten or harmed.” Your best method of action is calling off your pet or to try scaring away the wild animal.

In order to prevent such situations in the first place, it is a good idea to keep your pets close to you throughout your camping expedition and to have a leash or harness available at all times.

Before setting off on your camping adventure, make sure your pets are up-to-date on all of their vaccinations, especially rabies. Depending on the campsite’s location, you may consult with your veterinarian about any other vaccinations that your pet may need, as well as discuss appropriate flea and tick control.

To make camping with your pet an exciting experience for the both of you, be sure to research the campsite ahead of time, take note of any restrictions or regulations, and bring the essentials along with you. Following these guidelines will guarantee a good time for everyone.

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Rats as Pets

Feeding of a domestic rat from a handAlthough cats and dogs may be the most common types of pets, for many other pet owners, animal companionship doesn’t stop there. In honor of World Rat Day on April 2nd, here are the ins and outs of caring for a rat as a pet.

“Rats are probably the most social and interactive of the small rodents,” said Dr. Sharman Hoppes, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “They are quite gentle and seldom bite.”

Though these rodents are fairly docile, they aren’t typically recommended for small children without adult supervision. If you’re taking home a pet rat for your child, be sure to keep in mind that you will end up being its primary caretaker.

“Small rodents should not be pets for very small children,” Hoppes said. “Children less than 10 years old should be supervised closely when handling them; therefore, the care and monitoring of a rat is ultimately the parent’s responsibility.”

While these rodents still require adequate care and supervision, they are somewhat easier than gerbils or hamsters, which have a tendency to nip and are much more active at night.

“Rats are active during the day, which make them fairly easy to take care of,” Hoppes said. “They also don’t have special dietary needs or sensitive stomachs.”

Therefore, compared to other rodents, rats are fairly easy pets, but this doesn’t exempt you from the typical pet-owner duties. Rodents are still animals, and therefore require your constant love and care.

“All pet rodents need a large enough cage, chew toys, ladders, plastic or PVC pipe, and daily interaction,” Hoppes said. “As with any rodent, the cage should be cleaned one to two times a week to keep ammonia levels down. Keeping the cage clean will also help decrease the incidence of respiratory disease.”

Even though you cannot take them on walks or let them run around in the backyard, ensuring that your pet rat gets enough exercise throughout the day should still be a priority.

“Rats may get obese in captivity, so you should have exercise wheels, exercise balls, or a safe rodent-proof room for them to play in and get enough exercise,” Hoppes said.

Rats are very social, intelligent animals and need companionship. Dr. Hoppes recommends getting two rats at a time so they have company while their owners work or go to school, and to select an active, social rodent with clean eyes, clean nose, and normal teeth. You should also take note that the skin should is well groomed, and that there are no visible lumps or bumps.

Keeping these factors in mind, a pet rat can be a great addition to your home.

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Fostering Pets

kids kissing dog on cheeksAs an animal lover, you know just how hard it is to pass up that sweet puppy dogface while walking through your local shelter or rescue group. If adoption isn’t possible for you at the moment, fostering can be an amazing opportunity to provide a homeless pet with a nurturing, temporary home until they are able to find a permanent family.

“It’s not as hard to find pets to foster as some might think,” said Susan Lobit, a veterinary technician at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and experienced fosterer. “Checking with rescue organizations is a always good place to start.”

Before deciding to foster a pet, there are important aspects of the job you should be aware of that many people overlook.

“You need to understand that you are in the middle,” Lobit said. “You help the pet get healthy, rehabilitated with any social or physical problems, and teach them about life in a loving home, but then have to be ready to send them on to a forever home.”

Lobit explains that while letting go can be difficult to do, knowing that you’ve helped make such a huge difference in an animal’s life makes the separation worthwhile.

If you’re up for the challenge, it is possible to foster more then one pet at a time, but you can’t forget that each individual pet’s needs and safety are still a top priority.

“When considering taking on additional foster pets, it’s important to ask yourself, ‘Is everyone getting along? Is everyone eating properly and staying healthy?’” Lobit said. “You also need to make sure that when you foster, you don’t forget about your own pets, if you have any; they need you too.”

As a foster, you have many responsibilities aside from just providing an animal with a temporary home, proper food, and care. “You are responsible for getting that animal to the veterinarian and taking them various places to help find homes, such as adoption fairs and pet clinics,” Lobit said. “You are there to help prepare them to leave you and find their own happiness.”

Fostering a pet can be a very time-consuming job, but one that is rewarding in the end, once you’ve helped unite a deserving animal with its forever family.

“Of course, you will also have those that we call ‘foster failures,’ and that’s where they end up living with us because we just can’t let them go,” Lobit said. “I have fostered many animals and had a few of those failures along the way.”

The decision to foster a pet should take thoughtful consideration, as well as a careful evaluation of how much time and care that you’ll be able to devote to the animal. This, in addition to remembering that you’ll eventually have to give them away, are the two most important aspects to keep in mind.

“Before fostering, you need to make sure that you will be able let go; this can be hard when you put in that much time and love,” Lobit said. “But you also know that you’ve helped give both human and animal the chance to have that special relationship. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch the progress of a challenged pet turn into a healthy, beautiful family member.”

Fostering a pet will not only make a difference in a deserving animal’s life, but in yours as well. As long as you are aware of the responsibilities it entails, fostering can be a rewarding experience unlike any other.

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Horse Enclosures

horses in a fieldWith the numerous stall designs and materials available today, making a decision on which will be the safest and most effective for your equine may seem difficult. When it comes to making this informed decision, the best fencing to use is dependent on several factors, including size of the horses, size of the property, number of horses, and whether they are enclosed as a group or separately.

“For example, minis could be housed safely in a much shorter fence than Warmbloods,” said Dr. Leslie Easterwood, assistant clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “The safest fence is one that keeps the horses from being able to stick their feet or heads through the fence, is tall enough to discourage jumping over, and does not have other horses directly across the fence.” Wood or synthetic materials are safe to use for plank fences but may become dangerous if they splinter or impale the horse when dislodged.

“Electric wires and tapes can be utilized in an attempt to keep horses away from the fences, but are not always effective if they ‘ground out’ or the charger is not operational,” said Dr. Easterwood. These can be quite effective, but as with any fence, they require regular maintenance to ensure that they are operational.

Many owners choose either a mesh or slick wire fence, while others prefer barbed wire. This decision must be based on numerous factors, such as the number of horses within the enclosure, or if kept separated, the proximity they are to each other.

“For example, it would not be a good idea to choose a three-strand barbed wire fence if your horses will be housed across the fence from each other,” said Dr. Easterwood. “They will generally approach each other across the fence, strike at each other with their front feet and cause a heel bulb laceration that can be quite serious and even fatal in some cases.”

But on the other hand, barbed-wire fences for very large pastures with no horses across the fences to encourage engagement near the fence could be quite safe.

“Some factors to always consider are the type of horses, number of horses on the property, number that will be housed together, finances (as some fencing options are cheaper or more expensive than others), and safety of materials,” said Dr. Easterwood.

While you’re deciding which fencing will be the safest and most effective for your horses, keep in mind that any material can be made safe if designed and built properly to prevent injury in your specific situation. There is no clear answer as to what enclosure type is best or safe for every environment; it is entirely dependent on these many different factors.

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

One of the most important decisions that a pet owner must make is whether to spay and neuter their pets. With World Spay Day coming up on February 24th, there is no better time to learn the in’s and out’s of spaying and neutering. Though many are deterred by cost or medical concerns, this procedure can provide many long-term benefits for your pet’s health and happiness, all while saving the lives of other homeless animals and reducing the widespread epidemic of animal overpopulation in our world today.

“Behaviorally, spaying or neutering your pet can keep them from roaming, spraying, and marking their territory; medically, it can prevent disease or illness later in life,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “For example, if a female dog is spayed before her first heat cycle, the chance of the dog developing mammary cancer is less than 0.05%.”

Severe uterine infections are also common in unspayed females and can become life threatening surgical emergencies, as can prostatic infections or cysts in un-neutered males. These procedures can eliminate many health problems that may arise throughout your pet’s lifetime and can also reduce unwanted behavioral problems associated with sex hormones.

If high costs are major a deterrent of spaying or neutering your pet, there are numerous low-cost services found in various regions of the United States, and even many assistance programs that help subsidize the cost of spaying/neutering at local clinics. However, it is important to remember that like many other “discount” programs, you might not always be receiving the best possible care and should thoroughly research them beforehand. By choosing to spay or neuter your pet, you can save a tremendous amount of money in the long-term when factoring in costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet.

Another common disparagement of spaying and neutering is the belief that the procedure will be painful for your pet or that it will have adverse side effects. Generally speaking, this is not the case. Most pets even go home the same night as the procedure, and there is a very brief recovery period.  “Just as every anesthetic/surgical event carries a risk, this does as well, but proper examination and testing prior to the procedure can mitigate many of these risks,” Dr. Eckman said.

It is safest and most beneficial to spay or neuter your pet at around six months of age, although it can be performed earlier if needed.  “There is a wealth of information emerging about the link that hormones play on bone growth and development, which is really important in large and giant breed dogs,” said Dr. Eckman. “Therefore, it is acceptable in these breeds to prolong the procedure until they have grown into their frame.”

Remember that while a litter of puppies and kittens are undeniably adorable, there are many cute pets at a nearby animal shelter in need of loving forever homes. Whether their previous owners lacked the time or the funds to care for them, most animals brought into shelters are compassionate, kind, and no less deserving of a home. By spaying or neutering your pet, you will be acting in the best interest of the animal’s health, saving money in the long run, and potentially providing a deserving, homeless animal with a loving home.

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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Farrier Service for Horses

a man providing farrier service to a horseInternational Hoof Care Month is celebrated throughout the month of February. During this time, it is important that we recognize the significant contributions farriers make to the equine community.

“Farriers perform duties such as trimming horse’s feet and often applying shoes for protection,” said Jason Wilson-Maki, farrier for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. “How complex the shoe(s) will need to be depend on the horse’s individual needs, what activities he undertakes, and what may be needed to address any hoof issues.”

Due to the fact that no minimum education is required to become a farrier, a large diversity exists within the farrier community in regards to skill sets and knowledge. However, organizations such as The American Farriers Association offer a series of voluntary examinations by which individuals can earn credentials.

“Within the United States, there is no minimum education or skill set requirement to trim or shoe horses’ feet; any person at any point may technically do farrier work,” said Wilson-Maki. “With that being said, many horseshoeing schools, both public and private, exist and attempt to impart to their students a good basic skill set.”

Though they differ in job titles, both the veterinarian and the farrier have important roles in the long and short term care of the horse’s foot. “A farrier works on the hoof capsule and corrects distortions that are evident by observation,” said Wilson-Maki.  “However, a farrier cannot diagnose nor treat lameness, and are not required within the United States to have any formal education.”

In contrast, veterinarians have different tools, such as regional anesthesia, radiographs, ultra sound, and MRIs to diagnose lameness, as well as a specified education and specific practice laws under which they work. “They may also treat the diagnosed lameness by means of medical treatment. Often, shoeing and trimming protocols are an integral portion of the overall approach,” said Wilson-Maki.

As far as farrier service pricing goes, it is known to vary greatly within the region and county. “What would be considered usury in rural Texas may well below average in New Jersey,” said Wilson-Maki. “An owner could ask about the pricing ahead of time and get a feel for what is normal within a given region.”

Each horse owner and horse will have different needs and expectations of a farrier.  “A salient point that must be highlighted is that the owner must be able to communicate clearly and well with the farrier,” said Wilson-Maki. “An owner should seek out a farrier that can meet the needs of their animal and with whom they can communicate.”

Whether your horse is a champion barrel racer or merely a leisure-riding companion, farriers are vital to your horse’s health and well being, and finding one that meets their specific needs takes clear communication between horse owner and farrier.

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 Seeing Eye Guide Dog Birthday

service dog and a ladyThe first school for Seeing Eye Dogs was opened on January 29, 1929 in Nashville, Tennessee. Following a short-lived program in Germany after World War I, this guide school trained dogs to assist those in need, and since then has influenced programs all over the world, including the Texas A&M’s Aggie Guide Dogs and Service Dogs (AGS).

Today, service dogs are exposed to very thorough and extensive training, and their duties can extend much farther than assisting only the blind.

“When people see a service dog in a vest, they automatically think it’s a guide dog. When in reality, a huge percentage of service dogs assist people with all sorts of other medical, physical and emotional things,” said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, faculty advisor for AGS and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Some examples include mobile assistance dogs, which help people who have trouble getting around due to cerebral palsy, severe arthritis, or other conditions, and hearing dogs, which help the hearing impaired by responding to sound with a certain behavior. For instance, when they hear a knock at the front door, they might be taught to go sit in front of the person to alert them.

“Mobility assistance dogs can even be trained to do things such as push an elevator button, open and close doors, and even pick up car keys and credit cards off of the ground,” said Dr. Blue-McLendon.

Another type of service dogs that have recently become popular are PTSD dogs, or “emotional support.” These animals are taught a wide variety of skills to assist people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders, and are often aids to veterans.

As you can imagine, these service dogs must go through vigorous training in order to learn and perfect the necessary skills to help their owner. For AGS, Dr. Blue-McLendon explains that there are two stages of training the dogs must complete.

“They usually don’t start formal training, or ‘Stage 2’ training, until they’re about a year and a half years old, “ said Dr. Blue-McLendon. “During formal training, they’re matched with a partner that’s a good fit for the dog’s ability and personality. This stage can take anywhere from 3-6 months, and they will still need continual training and skill reminders for the remainder of their lives.”

Before they enter stage 2, the puppies must earn “jacket privileges,” which are achieved through the different stages in their training.  “Some of the first jacket privileges are going to classes and retail stores, and the last one they achieve is going to restaurants,” said Dr. Blue-McLendon.

As animal lovers, it is very tempting to go up and pet a service dog when they are nearby. However, it’s important to remember that service dogs are not pets, and approaching them may distract from performing their important tasks. If you want to learn more about the dog, politely approach its owner, who can then give you further direction.

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 .

Probiotics for your Pets

Beautiful purebred dog walking towards the camera.Probiotics, or “good bacteria,” can be defined as living microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, can offer multiple health benefits to the host. Though they have been gaining popularity amongst humans in the past decade, the possibility of similar probiotic supplements for your pets’ health is on the rise.

“Essentially, we are trying to give live bacteria in supplement form that have beneficial properties to an animal in order to improve their digestive health,” said Dr. Jan Suchodolski, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “It is imperative that bacteria are alive once they reach the gut and that they are also delivered in high amounts. That’s why a high-quality product is needed.”

In order to fully understand how probiotics work, it’s important to know that the beneficial effects of probiotics are bacterial strain specific, meaning every bacterial strain has a potentially different effect. Some probiotic strains, for instance, stimulate the immune system, while other strains produce anti-inflammatory biomolecules or antimicrobial molecules to combat pathogens.

“This is an area of active ongoing research, as all probiotic strains have to be evaluated for their mechanism, and only once the mechanism is identified can we identify which probiotic strain should be given in which disease,” said Dr. Suchodolski.

There are several studies proving that specific probiotic strands are useful for specific diseases, and Dr. Suchodolski explains that the strongest of this data is available for preventing stress diarrhea in pets. However, a few selected products have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may be useful in chronic Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases.

“Dogs or cats that receive probiotics have a lower incidence of diarrhea compared to animals not receiving it,” Dr. Suchodolski said. “The best effects are observed when probiotics are given in advance in anticipation of stressful events, for example boarding flights, long car rides, etc.”

With any new supplemental discoveries come the fear of negative complications. Generally, the possible risk of side effects in probiotics is very low. “Only very few reports have been described in literature,” Dr. Suchodolski said. “However, very sick patients who are immunocompromised are at some risk, and probiotic products should be avoided in those situations.”

The most important thing to remember when considering the possibility of probiotics is that they are not all created equally, and results from one product cannot be extrapolated to other products

“There is much excitement about the potential of using bacteria as therapeutics, but this area is very complex and more research is needed to understand the complexities of this combined bacterial and host ecosystem,” said Dr. Suchodolski. “There are many products on the market that were produced initially without fully understanding the mechanism behind bacterial-host interactions, and it is currently recommended to only use products that have shown results in clinical studies.”

The possibility of using probiotics as disease prevention and health aides in both humans and our pets is not far off. Though further research is still being conducted in order to reap their full benefits, having a healthier, happier pet is something to look forward to.

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 .