Dr. Turner Bell, Please explain heartworm disease and how dogs can contract the disease?

Answer:  Heartworm disease is actually caused by a parasite called microfilaria.  These parasites are transmitted to dogs, and even cats, through mosquito bites.  Heartworms can be a devastating and even deadly disease.  So it is very important for pets that live in regions with mosquitoes, like the South, Southeast, and Midwest, to be tested first for heartworms then placed on a heartworm preventative medicine.  This is a completely preventable disease!

My Maltese is 14 years old, last year we lost his companion of 14 years. Ever since my other dog passed, my Maltese licks himself incessantly, his appetite has increased, and he seems not to want to go outside anymore. Is this normal?

It is totally normal for a dog to grieve over the loss of a companion, whether that companion is another animal or human. However, the symptoms you described could be something else going physiologically. So take him to the vet to for a good physical exam, just in case.

My shih tzu is coughing – is it allergies? 

Coughing is not a usual sign of allergies in dogs.  We generally see skin problems with allergies in dogs.  But there are a whole host of other potentially serious reasons for your dog’s cough. Some possibilities are a collapsing trachea (the windpipe), heart disease, lung disease, or a foreign body. Take your pooch to the vet as soon as possible.

Is it OK to give your dog ice to eat during the day?

This is an excellent way to keep our dog cool in the summer.  Even putting a few cubes of ice in their water bowl after a walk is quite refreshing to them.  Just make sure the cubes are not too big – you don’t want to create a choking hazard.

Is it a good idea to shave a cat on the summer?

An animal’s fur is not only good for keeping them warm but serves as a natural sunscreen.  For cats with really thick, long hair, shaving it down a little will help with ventilating the skin and preventing matting. But be careful, because pets can get sunburn just like people. So don’t shave them completely to the skin.

Can dogs take nausea medicine?

The short answer is probably, but you should know why the dog is vomiting before giving them any medicine.  And the medicine should only be given with the advice of your veterinarian.

My dog constantly rubs her chin on the carpet. Is there anything over the counter i can give her? Or should we take her to vet?

It sounds like a bit of dermatitis, but the big question is what is the cause?  Allergies and fleas are common culprits. It is possible to give an over-the-counter medicine to help, but you should give it with the advice of your veterinarian to get the dose and frequency right. Also, it’s important to determine the cause of the itching.

How long is it going to take for a 14 month old boxer to stop chewing things and acting buck wild?

Well, that depends on the dog. LOL!  First, make sure your boxer has plenty of appropriate chew toys, like Kongs, to keep him busy. The ones that you can put a treat inside are great because it keeps them busy for hours. Also, is your dog spayed or neutered? If not, do that immediately. Neutering a male dog will decrease some of the aggressive, roaming behavior. And it’s always important to obedience train your dog.

 I bought my mom a puppy for Mother’s Day. He was the runt of the litter. After receiving a parvo shot he began to have seizure like activity. I spoke with the vet and he said it is not uncommon to see this in this breed and because he was less than 2 pounds. He also said that we need to be careful about the soft spot in his head. These episodes occur about 3 to 4 times a day – not sure if it happens that night.
The vet initially told us to give him Karo syrup, but it didn’t seem to help. When he went back yesterday he indicated that he may have hydrocephalus. He mentioned that we can send him to a vet hospital and they can do MRIs and other things like that but it would be very expensive. Do you have any other cheaper recommendations?  

This poor pup needs advanced medical care.  If you have the resources, you should absolutely take him to a referral clinic or vet hospital. You can usually speak with the billing department about a payment plan.  Or ask if they have grants or funding assistance. Karo syrup is definitely not going to help this dog.

I have a doberman that gets urinary tract infections often. Is this normal? I got antibiotics from the vet each time. 

UTI’s (urinary tract infections) are not uncommon in pets, but it should not happen recurrently. Find a veterinarian that is willing to conduct some tests to determine the cause of the infections. Your dog may have bladder stones or other abnormalities. If the infections keep  coming back again and again, then antibiotics are not enough.

My 14-year-old dog has had soft diarrhea-like stools for the past 3 days and has been passing smelly gas. There’s been no change in her food and he is eating, drinking and playing as normal. She is currently on prednisone, can this be the cause? I concerned because she was on this medication before but did not have this reaction. 

There are a whole host of reason for soft stools in a dog. It could be the medicine she is taking, but if she did not have a similar reaction the last time she took it, then it’s probably not the medicine.  She could have gotten into the trash (vets call that garbage can gastritis) or eaten something offensive while out on a walk. As long as she is eating and drinking normally, wait a couple more days. If it does not resolve by then, it’s time to go see the vet.

My small dog likes to eat the cat’s food more than his own food. Is that OK? Should I just buy cat food for both of them?

Dogs and cats have very different nutritional needs.  It is definitely not okay to give a dog cat food as his sole source of nutrition. A little here or there as a treat is not harmful. But please feed your dog dog food!

My dogs snack on grapes during car rides to keep them hydrated. Is that OK? 

PLEASE don’t give your dogs grapes or raisins. They can be toxic to them!!  Try carrots, cucumbers, even apples (but make sure you remove the apple seeds, they are toxic too!)

I have two cats, male and female. Often one or both cats are throwing up. What can I do to stop this? When I get new furniture, I don’t want them to be throwing up on my furniture. Help!

It’s first important to determine the cause of the vomiting. Vomiting can be caused by kidney disease, intestinal upset, hairballs, and the list goes on and on. Take them to the vet and get them checked out. There may a problem that needs to be addressed.

Thank you, Tom for having Dr Turner Bell on. I have an aging pet (14 years old) diagnosed with Cushing syndrome. She doesn’t tolerate heat well. Are cooling pads beneficial?

Be careful with the cooling pads. You don’t want to cause frost injuries to the skin. A towel soaked with cool (not freezing cold) water is great.  Put it around her neck or on the belly. But generally, keeping the pet in a well ventilated or air-conditioned environment should be just fine. Also make sure she has access to plenty of fresh, cool water to drink.

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