As an ongoing part of Lavender’s Pet Issue, Lavender partners with a veterinarian for a Q&A. If you have a question you’d like answered by a veterinarian, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What are the signs of Lyme disease in dogs? My dog had a few deer ticks on him last year and I want to know what to watch for.
A. Lyme disease is commonly diagnosed in dogs in the Twin Cities area. It is very rare in cats. It is spread by the deer tick, though not all deer ticks carry the disease, and not all dogs will get sick even when exposed to it. The main symptoms are lameness, reluctance to move or stand, lethargy and fever. Dogs do not develop the “bulls-eye” commonly associated with human Lyme disease. The symptoms may resolve on their own after a few days, only to return days to weeks later. The lameness may recur in the same leg or in other legs. Chronic Lyme disease can have very serious effects on the kidneys and other organs.
It is important to have your dog examined by your veterinarian if you suspect Lyme disease. Treatment consists of antibiotics and pain medication, and is generally very effective when diagnosed early.
Prevention is the key to avoiding Lyme disease. Keep your dog out of areas known to be infested with deer ticks. Vaccinate your dog for Lyme disease if you think he is at risk. Use a monthly topical or oral tick repellent; you will also be helping to prevent other tick-transmitted diseases.
Finally, remember that Lyme disease also affects humans. You cannot catch it from your dog, but deer ticks will feed on humans, too. Using monthly tick repellents will decrease the number of ticks your dog may bring back into your house or car.
Q. Since February is National Pet Dental Health Month, what is the process of a teeth cleaning for my cat? What can I expect to happen?
A. The process is very similar for cats and dogs. The first step is to have your pet checked by your veterinarian. They can tell you if a dental cleaning is warranted, and give you an estimate of costs. Most dogs and cats need a dental cleaning by three years of age, sometimes sooner. General anesthesia is necessary for a thorough cleaning, so your pet will have to stay for the day. Your pet should also be fasted overnight. Your vet may recommend to perform blood tests prior to the anesthesia. After the cleaning is completed, your vet may recommend to take x-rays while still under anesthesia. If diseased teeth are present, he or she will offer treatment, which may be as simple as antibiotics, or may involve oral surgery such as extraction of the tooth or teeth. If extensive treatment is necessary, it may have to be scheduled at another visit.
You should be able to pick up your pet the same day as the procedure. She or he will be somewhat groggy from the anesthesia. When you take your pet home, allow them to become settled before offering any food. Normal food can be fed unless there were extractions performed, in which case, soft food should be offered. If extractions or surgery were performed, you may need to administer pain medications or antibiotics.
Q. How much should my dog sleep? How much is normal?
A. Dogs generally sleep much more than humans, and can vary greatly from dog to dog. 14 to 20 hours per day is considered normal depending on the age and size of your dog. Puppies and older dogs tend to sleep more. Large breed dogs also sleep more. If your dog has had a busy day, they will probably sleep more than usual the next day. There is no need to be concerned unless there has been a definite change in your dogs sleep pattern.
Q. What are the start-up costs for adopting a cat or dog? What schedule should I follow for vaccinations?
A. The costs will depend on whether you adopt an adult or a puppy/kitten. One of the great advantages of adopting from a reputable rescue organization is that many are already spayed/neutered, vaccinated, parasite tested/treated and therefore have a much smaller initial cost. Puppies and kittens will require a series of vaccinations including distemper and rabies, with visits at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Additional vaccines, such as Lyme and feline leukemia, may be advised depending on your living circumstances. Typical costs for the initial puppy or kitten visits will range from about $300 to $450.
If you adopt an unsterilized puppy or kitten, we recommended to have them spayed or neutered. This is typically done after four to six months of age. Costs are less for cats than for dogs, and also less for males to be neutered than for females to be spayed. These surgeries can range anywhere from $250 to $450 or more. Keep in mind, many animals adopted from shelters have already had these procedures done.
It is also recommended that dogs, and some cats be started on heartworm preventative. This will run around $70–$110. Monthly flea and tick preventative will add another $50–$110.
If your new pet becomes sick or has an accident, bills can run quite high. Pet insurance should be considered to help with unexpected costs. There are now a variety of companies offering pet insurance with monthly rates from around $30 and up, depending on the policy selected.
Obviously adopting a pet should not be taken lightly. Make sure that you not only have the financial resources, but also the time to train and enjoy your new pet. Most pet owners I know feel that the benefits of pet ownership far outweigh the costs!
Dr. Dan Anderson is a veterinarian and owner of Larpenteur Animal Hospital in St. Paul, MN. He graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. He lives in Minneapolis with his partner, Mike, and their two Chihuahuas, Edith and Olive.