are annual exams so important for companion animals?
should I spay/neuter my companion animal?
shouldnt I feed my companion animal table scraps?
should I brush my companion animals teeth?
is the best flea/tick preventative available?
is hyperthyroidism? Hypothyroidism?
are anal sacs/anal glands?
I consider "pet health insurance" for my companion
Alternative Medicine have any role in companion animal healthcare?
Doctor Adams' Pet Quiz by clicking here.
FAQs and the Facts
their species, companion animals are less able to care for
themselves than humans. They have a lesser mental capability,
cannot rationalize or learn on a level as humans, and therefore
cannot adequately understand many aspects of todays artificial
environment which surrounds them. They cannot read, write or otherwise
communicate in a word-based language as can humans, and therefore
cannot articulate physical/behavioral problems which they will
invariably develop sometime during their life-cycle. They age
much more rapidly than do humans, and in some cases have a life
expectancy that is only ten percent of humans. Because
of all these factors companion animals frequently accept the entire
spectrum of health, from excellent to poor, as just a normal part
of life. When this scenario is coupled with the fact that owners
are largely untrained to assess a companion animals physiological
and psychological condition, the real need for regular veterinary
medical exams to be conducted becomes readily apparent.
annual exam is the most cost-effective medicine available for
a companion animal. It is preventive medicine in its truest
form. It is one of the most meaningful proactive measures an owner
can undertake. Not only does it provide early detection of possible
serious illnesses, but it serves as an opportunity to immunize
the companion against certain diseases and eliminate parasites
which are known to compromise health.
exams prepare a companion animal for the future by furnishing
an owner with the knowledge and insight to ensure its health.
The attending veterinarian provides information specifically tailored
to the companions own physical and psychological condition.
Annual exams provide an owner with the opportunity to review important
healthcare elements diet, general hygiene, behavior,
breed propensities, environmental hazards, travel, and injury
prevention which are designed to make the lives of
the companion and his or her family more meaningful and enjoyable.
Annual exams are undoubtedly the best investment owners can make
for their companion animals.
you are a responsible owner and care about the long-term health
and welfare of your companion animal in particular and companion
animals in general. Only a select group of professional breeders
who are totally committed to fostering the genetic integrity of
their selected breed can, on a calculated basis, justify not spaying
or neutering certain companion animals in their kennels. All other
owners who are adverse to the procedure should reconsider their
objections. There is simply not a legitimate reason for the typical
owner to not spay or neuter their companion animal, but many ill-conceived,
perceptually myopic, or out-right false notions abound for not
Spay/neuter surgeries are complicated and painful to
Spay/neuter surgeries are just another expense for
an owner and more revenue for veterinarians.
Opting for a spay/neuter surgery can easily save
an owner five to ten times the amount actually expended
on the surgery through fewer medical costs associated
with their companion animals future healthcare.
Reduced incidences of accidents and injury due to roaming,
fighting, and cancer translate into savings. And,
veterinarians themselves believe so much in the value
of these surgeries to the animal itself that spay/neuter
procedures are always among the most economically priced
procedures a veterinarian performs.
A companion animal will be less of a male or female
if spayed or neutered.
If the procedure is performed at the optimal age
of 6 to 12 months, a companion animal will only
be different by not being able to reproduce. Period!
Spay/neuter procedures performed earlier than 6-12 months
of age have not been shown not to adversely affect certain
normal companion animal behaviors as they age as well
as possibly adversely contributing to certain physiological
Spay/neuter procedures will adversely affect a companion
They will not be influenced by a sex drive, but
that drive only serves the purpose of reproducing. In
all other respects their personalities will be little
changed. They may be somewhat less dominant or less aggressive,
but that is not a personality detriment.
Companion animals who are spayed or neutered have a
tendency to become obese.
Although there are a few physiological causes for
obesity, spay/neuters are not one of them. In healthy
animals, obesity is exclusively the result of caloric
consumption to the excess of that needed or used.
shouldnt I feed my companion animal table scraps?
it unbalances their diets. Second, it fosters a behavior called
table-side begging which is generally inappropriate for any esteemed
family member to undertake. Third, it encourages obesity.
animals like to eat as much as people do, but since their diet
usually consists of commercially manufactured dog or cat food
which is nutritionally balanced, no other food is needed for their
nutrition. Other food fed to them is almost exclusively done so
to satisfy the emotional needs of their owners. But when owners
feed table scraps, i.e., food they choose not eat themselves,
a companion animals diet becomes unbalanced. Food supplemented
to an already balanced diet leads to the #1 health problem in
companion animals obesity. Further, when
the supplemental food is foreign to their digestive systems and
contains many of the artificial elements required to make food
taste good to humans, the result to companion animals is often
gastrointestinal distress vomiting or diarrhea.
animals like their regular food on a regular basis. They are not
influenced by the advertising media. Their normal high-quality
commercial food is composed of various different ingredients which
companion animals have a keen sensory capability to appreciate.
If food rewards are desired to be awarded to them by their owners
at specific times or for specific reasons, withholding a certain
amount of their mealtime kibble for such times is as psychologically
rewarding to the companion as it is to the owner, and its
more healthy for the companion.
final benefit is that table-side beggars
they will not be!
should I brush my companion animals teeth?
the very same reason you brush your own teeth to have a
healthy mouth. Brushing a dogs or cats teeth greatly
reduces the amount of food debris and bacteria which can lodge
below the gum line to create periodontal (gum) disease and lead
to tooth loss. If left unchecked, this oral bacteria can further
contribute to the over stressing of other organs by dissemination
through the body and potentially causing injury or infection.
Poor oral hygiene is a leading cause of premature kidney failure
and heart disease in companion animals.
good news is that the mouths of most companion animals are less
prone to oral disease than those of people. Most breeds of dogs
and cats have teeth that are widely spaced between, and
they also lack a salivary enzyme in the mouth that starts the
digestion of starch and contributes to the tooth decay many people
experience. The bad news is that bacteria still flourishes and
plaque still forms and nothing short of regular brushing will
reduce its buildup and its attendant adversity to health. No hard
food products or dental-type toys can effectively rid the mouth
of bacteria below the gum line.
dogs and cats are conditioned early in their lives to regular
tooth brushing they easily come to accept, if not enjoy it. Many
owners, due to lack of companion animal healthcare education or
indifference, fail to assertively condition their young companions
to such preventative oral hygiene measures and become overwhelmed
when the adult companion objects to having a brush placed in its
mouth. Then it becomes a wrestling match which the companion
usually wins. But the companion and the owner both really lose
in the long run since the animals life-span will be reduced,
and the owner will encounter additional expenses that could have
been prevented. Expenses that may be avoided or reduced
include dentistry procedures requiring general anesthesia, tooth
extractions, antibiotics to treat oral infection, as well as special
diets and medication resulting from kidney and/or heart disease.
properly and frequently is the advice all veterinarians
should be giving their clients.
is the best flea/tick preventative available?
years past, fleas and ticks were just accepted as one of the given
factors of owning a dog or cat. In the more recent past, certain
products were developed to control these parasites through
sprays, dips, or chemically impregnated plastic collars. Today,
a variety of pharmaceutical manufacturers have not only come to
the conclusion that companion animals are big business, but that
the control/elimination of fleas and ticks on companions is highly
profitable to them. Thus, significant efforts have been undertaken
by pharmaceutical companies in research, development, testing,
evaluation and manufacturing resulting in the market being flooded
with several dozen flea/tick products of varying effectiveness.
order catalogues, pet superstores, and veterinarians all have
various products that have been developed to control or eradicate
these external parasites from dogs and cats. But as each new product
competes to entice an owner's purchase of it to the exclusion
of all other products, consumer/owners are at a loss for making
an informed decision. Even if an average owner collected all the
product and pricing information on the flea/tick products available,
there is little likelihood that an optimal decision could be made.
The only true way an owner is able to obtain a product that is
effective, safe, and of value is to rely upon the advice of a
competent veterinarian whose interests are in the long-term health
of the companion animal.
the most effective products available for flea/tick control include
those which prevent flea eggs from reaching maturity (insect growth
regulators -- IGRs), those that sterilize fleas so no fertile
eggs are produced, and topical products that kill adult fleas
and ticks (adulticides). One or a combination of these products
provide the most cost-effective, efficacious and safest protocol
for specified external parasites currently available to companion
animals and their owners.
term "mangy" is a descriptive colloquialism for an individual
whose external appearance is deplorable. The term conveys contempt
and scorn, and implies low self-esteem and poor personal hygiene.
"Mangy" is derived from the communicable skin disease
"mange," which indeed causes the skin of domestic animals
afflicted with it to appear ill-kept patchy hair loss,
crusty skin, epidermal sores. The disease is caused by various
types of minute tick-like parasites called mites which
burrow under the skin and cause irritation.
of the most serious types of mange is called sarcoptic mange
after the microscopic mite that causes it (genus Sarcoptes).
This type of mange is insidious because the mites live in the
hair follicles below the skin surface feeding on blood and reproducing
where they are difficult to detect. Because of the widespread
irritation caused by these rapidly multiplying mites and the attendant
intense scratching and biting reaction of the companion animals
who serve as their host, "hot spots," secondary infections,
and compromises to the immune system can result. Owners can easily
confuse mange with flea bite or allergic reactions, but veterinary
initiatives through skin scrapings and microscopic examination
can isolate the cause. It is important to note that sarcoptic
mange is transmissible to humans causing an equally irritating,
although generally short-lived disease called scabies.
is not normal for any companion animal to continually scratch
or bite itself. There is always a reason for such abnormal behavior.
Veterinarians can diagnose and prescribe treatment for most parasitic
and dermatologic conditions before severe damage is caused, but
only if a diligent owner monitors the behavioral signs of their
companion animal and understands that any abnormality is cause
for scheduling a professional consultation.
companion animal body contains hundreds of different types of
glands which are formed by specialized cells that secrete chemical
substances unrelated to their own normal metabolic needs. The
normal operation of these glands is critical to the function of
the body with malfunction causing dramatic changes to it. Dogs
and cats, like people, have two basic types of glands: exocrine
glands which secrete substances externally via ducts outside the
body or into cavities within the body such as sebaceous glands
to lubricate the skin or salivary glands to assist in processing
food; and, endocrine glands which secrete substances (hormones)
within the body and are ductless. Endocrine glands secrete hormones
directly into the circulatory system and exert a physiological
response from other cells. The thyroid gland is such a gland.
It weighs a fraction of an ounce, is divided into two parts, and
is located beside the trachea on the underside of a companion
animals neck. It is a major software element of the body
and provides critical instructions affecting all the physical
and chemical processes by which cells are maintained in the body.
The thyroid controls the bodys metabolism. Because
the body is essentially a metabolic "machine," the thyroid
plays a major role by influencing all other members of the glandular
system. But unlike mass produced computer software, the bodys
software can vary on an individual basis due to genetics and external
influences such as diet, disease, and injury.
occurs when an overactive thyroid gland produces too much hormone
and causes a cascading effect as other glands react similarly.
This causes the body to go into overdrive causing an acceleration
of almost all biological activities. Symptoms frequently include
weight loss even though accompanied by increased appetite, diarrhea,
faster heart rate, sleeplessness, anxiety, tremors, inability
to tolerate heat, difficulty in focusing the eyes and protruding
eyeballs. There are no general preventative measures for hyperthyroidism.
Diagnosis is through blood testing for hormone levels. Treatment
is through pharmaceuticals, radioactive iodine treatment, or surgery.
If left untreated heart failure will result. Hyperthyroidism
is prevalent in cats and rare in dogs.
occurs when an under-active thyroid gland produces too little
hormone. Biological activities slow. Dogs have
a greater tendency to develop an under-active thyroid condition
than an overactive condition. In many instances hypothyroidism
is genetically linked. In canines, members of specific breed groupings
have a high propensity for hypothyroidism sporting dogs,
working dogs, herding dogs, and terriers. Symptoms frequently
include excessive sleep accompanied by fatigue, lower body temperature,
slowed heart rate, weight gain, dry skin, swollen eyelids, loss
of hearing, premature graying of the hair and hair loss. Diagnosis
is through blood testing for hormone levels. Treatment is through
pharmaceuticals which may be necessary throughout life. If left
untreated, death will ensue.
disorders are as treatable in companion animals as they are in
people if diagnosed during their early stages. Annual veterinary
examinations form a basis of information to detect trends that
might be missed by most owners but which will lead a veterinarian
to early diagnosis and treatment.
are anal sacs/anal glands?
anal sacs house hundreds of tiny anal glands and serve as repositories
for the fluid the glands manufacture. They are small, hollow receptacles
located just under the skin on either side of the anus at the
eight and four oclock positions. A short hollow tube called
a duct from each anal sac acts as a conduit for the anal glands
secretion to be transported outside of the body at the anal ring.
Anal sacs are vestigial (obsolete) organs like a humans
appendix, and no longer serve a known, useful function for companion
animals who still retain them. In distant times past they were
probably used by wolves to scent-mark territories, and may have
served as a defensive repellent under conditions of fright to
ward off close contact from enemies in the manner similar to that
which skunks have perfected on a much larger scale.
anal sacs have little use given the modern environment in which
dogs and cats currently reside, they are not as fully developed
as they were several hundred thousand years ago. The glands do,
however, still produce small amounts of odiferous fluid which
is stored in their sac housing. Without the ability for a companion
animal to express their sacs voluntarily as their ancestors had
in the past, stored fluid can build up, sometimes becoming solidified,
with impaction, infection, or rupture possible. Some breeds of
dogs are more affected with anal sac problems than others. Cats
are inclined to have anal sac problems too, but with much less
frequency than dogs.
with anal sac problems may exhibit such symptoms as scooting or
dragging their anal areas across the floor, excessive licking
under the tail, accompanied by a foul smelling, sometimes swollen
anal area. Dogs prone to anal sac problems should have their anal
sacs periodically emptied (expressed) as necessary to avoid fluid
build-up complications. Few owners actually express their companions
sacs due to both lack of practical knowledge and the distasteful
aspects of this intimate health maintenance duty. Annual physical
exams are an excellent time to check the status of the anal sac
and to receive instruction concerning this procedure from the
veterinarian. If problems caused by the anal sacs are continual
and severe, they can be surgically removed. Gland removal is a
relatively simple procedure, but there remains a chance of future
fecal incontinence due to neurologic damage that can occur during
is a mechanism that provides for protection against financial
losses which may occur under a variety of situations. Pet health
insurance helps to pay medical bills through an insurance company's
pool of premiums received from insured pet owners and then
paid out in certain amounts under provisions prescribed in its
policy. Like all businesses, insurance companies are in business
to make money. They market their programs effectively and creatively.
They calculatedly "bet" that their pool of premiums
will always exceed their pay-outs.
some companion animal owners who do not have the financial means
to accept the high costs of certain catastrophic illnesses or
injuries, certain types of pet health insurance may provide a
level of comfort. For most owners it provides little value for
its cost. But for all owners it is important to know that pet
health insurance is seldom similar to human health insurance except
for the word "insurance." Most pet health insurance
policies severely limit their coverage. In many cases genetic
disorders are excluded. This means that
if any number of the medical problems known to exist within a
breed occur, they probably will not be covered. Owners should
not expect $3,000 hip replacement procedures to be covered for
most large breeds prone to hip dysplasia, or reimbursements for
medically necessary eye surgery in Shar Peis, diabetes treatment
for Miniature Schnauzers, cancer therapy for Great Danes
the list goes on and on. Even when an accidental injury is covered,
there may be severe limitations to procedures authorized, veterinarians
approved, or amounts reimbursable. Unlike human health insurance
which is significantly funded/subsidized by governmental and corporate
contributions, pet health insurance is entirely funded by premiums
of policy holders.
owner desiring health insurance for their companion animal is
advised to be aware of what they may receive for what they
will pay. Coverage and payments for injuries and illnesses
could be significantly less than what most owners believe are
acceptable. These are key reasons which account for the fact that
less than 1% of all companion animal owners have pet insurance
United States healthcare system for both humans and companion
animals is founded upon the practice of scientifically-based,
clinically-tested, conventional medicine, or more succinctly termed
"Western medicine." Western medicine is more
advanced, more proven, and more reliable for most aspects of animal
healthcare than alternative methods. It is the customary,
prevailing, normally accepted standard that is predominantly taught
at our medical schools, found in our hospitals, and covered under
our health insurance policies. Any other type of medical practice
that significantly diverges from that standard is viewed as unconventional,
unorthodox, or alternative. Unfortunately, many Western medical
practitioners disdain alternative practices of medicine due to
skepticism, ignorance, or fear of the unconventional.
practitioners all too easily forget that modern Western medicine
is actually an offshoot of yesteryears traditional medicine
and that its roots have tapped many aspects of alternative modalities
which are now actually incorporated into its own practice. But
regardless of how successful Western medicine is, its methods
and therapies are not always effective with all of its patients
all of the time. Certain branches of alternative medicine have
advanced and have clinically been proven to be safe and effective
for particular illnesses. While most veterinarians exclusively
practice Western medicine, those who are knowledgeable of the
broad-based nature of the discipline of medicine have little problem
with alternative modalities if or when a patients condition
is not responding to modern medical therapy, and the alternative
modality has legitimate merit which could be of benefit.
Owners will be well cautioned, though, to remember that dogs are
not simply "little people" and therefore practitioners
of veterinary alternative medicine should also be licensed veterinarians
in order to best serve the needs of their companion animal.
Colvin Run Road, Great Falls, VA