The Impact New Pets Can Have on Home Dynamics

Daily we get questions about situations surrounding the introduction of new pets into homes where other pets currently exist. This seems to be something that is overlooked as a concern for potential disease and behavioral issues of current pets. The most important goal is to protect the pets already in your home. It cannot be underestimated how important it is to keep new pets isolated from existing pets in your home. The new pets can introduce many infections that will put your current pets at risk.

First to remember is that most cat diseases are not a concern for dogs and vice versa. External parasites can be shared amongst dogs and cats. The intestinal parasites of each species are mostly species specific but a few can be transmitted to one another like the tapeworm. Have your pets on flea and tick preventatives before introducing new pets. Take a stool sample in from the new pet to check for intestinal parasites. Have an exam done to reduce the opportunity of lice, skin mites, fungal infections, and other diseases from being introduced to your other pets and yourself.

Second it is important to keep new pets in separate areas away from your current pets until they can be seen by a veterinarian. This prevents potential for diseases to be introduced that would require you to treat the new and current pets in your household. A perfect example is a cute and helpless kitten is brought home and your indoor cat is curious and is allowed to interact with the kitten. A few days later your indoor cat starts sneezing and has mucus in its eyes. The new kitten still does not show any symptoms. Some pet owners do not keep immunizations up to date on indoor cats. That kitten can carry diseases that your indoor cat is susceptible to. Some infections are bacterial and others are viral. The symptoms often present the same but it is difficult to know what caused the disease. When humans show symptoms like sneezing, coughing, nasal drainage, watery eyes our physicians know it could be bacterial, viral, or allergies. Treatment options are varied and some can be difficult to treat.

Something more serious to consider when a new kitten or cat are brought home would be Feline Leukemia(FELV) or Feline Immunodeficiency(FIV) Viruses. These two viruses can be present and they will not show any symptoms. These viruses affect the immune system and are transmitted only through direct contact with body secretions. It can take up to 30 days post exposure for these infections to be detected in a blood test. This can be a challenge since most people want to introduce the new cat to the current cats immediately. This should not be done before testing the new cat for these infections. We have a vaccine for FELV but not one that is readily used for FIV. There are no cures for these infections at this time so once a cat has been infected they remain positive for the duration of their life. A cat can live a normal life with these viruses but they will always be contagious to other cats.

Behaviors can affect the introduction of a new pet into a home. These behaviors can be varied. Some of the behaviors pass quickly and others can become life long. I do not believe there is one way to make these introductions. The most important factor to consider is the safety of the pets and people in the home. If a problem develops it is important to not put yourself at risk by reaching in to separate the pets. Use a loud noise like a kettle being hit by a spoon or compressed air in a can directed at the body of the pets to scare them into scattering. Do not attempt to scold or punish one of the pets since we may do more harm in getting them to accept each other. Pets need to work out their differences without our interference. We are not good at understanding our pets body language and therefore we may punish or scold the wrong pet. Some younger smaller pets are great at instigating the confrontation only to be attacked by the other older or larger pet in the home and we then scold the wrong pet because the smaller younger one appears so helpless. Sounds like something my children would do to get their siblings in trouble. Sometimes it is best to just take a step back and observe the interactions between them. If your pets seem to get along great until you come home each day, then maybe you are interfering more than necessary.

Another frustrating behavior is inappropriate urination that can develop when new pets are introduced. This issue is one of the most common calls we take when dealing with pet behaviors. The first thing to consider is could this pet have a urinary tract infection or some other medical reason for the inappropriate urination. We want to immediately blame the new pet or new environment for the cause but it could be medical. If medical issues are not the cause then we need to quickly seek help to discover the stresses causing this unwanted behavior. The longer this continues the more difficult it can be to stop the problem. This can occur with both dogs and cats.

If you are considering the addition of another pet please make a plan on how to protect your current pets. Nothing is more heart breaking than introducing a new pet and then discovering they had some contagious condition that was passed to your current pets. This happens often within households that do not think through the addition of a new pet. Remember to spay and neuter your pets. Aggression between pets is escalated when intact males or intact females attempt to live together in a home. Pets of the same sex will get along great until both pets reach sexual maturity and then trouble can begin.   A pet that is intact is 3 times more likely to bite. This alone is a great reason to make certain to be a responsible pet owner and have your pets spayed or neutered.

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend and if you find any stray pets while out enjoying the great outdoors make certain to keep them separated from your furry friends until after they are examined by your veterinarian.

Milestone for the Nielsen’s

This month I am diverting from Veterinary advice and sharing a personal moment that our family experienced in July. Our daughter, Jaclyn, was married to Rich in Omaha. They met the summer after high school graduation. Their relationship survived the distance as Jaclyn attended UNI and Rich ISU. Rich is a medical sales rep and Jaclyn teaches in Omaha Public schools. This wedding was a first for our family of six. It was wonderful to have us all gathered for this event. A number of people had shared that a wedding is even more intense than a high school graduation. It is a whirlwind of emotions and activities. Those people knew what they were talking about.

Jaclyn spoiled us by handling the wedding plans with great efficiency and effectiveness. It was a magical few days celebrating with the family and friends that all gathered to wish this couple well as they began their life as husband and wife. A saying that I love is “The roots of a family tree begin with the love of two hearts.” I have been digging into my family tree in recent years and have discovered a new appreciation for my heritage. The challenges that my ancestors endured to come to America and the great losses they encountered are all a part of my legacy. I now see the continuation of that legacy with Rich and Jaclyn. Instead of a unity candle for their ceremony, Jaclyn asked me for a portion of the fern that was on the altar at our wedding 35 years ago. I repotted a portion of that plant and she then collected soil from Dan’s family Century farm, my family Heritage farm, Rich’s family farm, and our current farm in Madison County. During the ceremony, they added the soil to the fern and watered it, and now will watch it grow over the years. This representation of how we are all connected was very meaningful to me.

In 2017 my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. We honored them with a celebration at my country church that just celebrated its 150th anniversary this summer. We have had a family member sitting in the pews of that church for over 100 of those years. My grandmother was confirmed there and my mother and myself were baptized, confirmed, and married there. During this 60th wedding anniversary we had a program. My 3 daughters and my niece modeled wedding dresses from 4 generations. My great grandma was married in 1906, my grandmother in 1932, my mother in 1957, and myself in 1984. What is really exciting to me, is we now have a fifth generation wedding dress with my daughter’s dress. Love this quote, “The roots of our family tree run strong and deep, like our love they never end.”

If you have never dug into your family’s legacy, I would encourage you to find out whatever you can and write it down. The stories of the past connect us to one another in a way that enriches our lives. “Family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots keep us together.”

Was That a Seizure?

Pets can have seizures. They come in all varieties and it Is impossible to know how frequent or how long their duration may be. Years ago it was thought that all seizures were hereditary, poison related, or idiopathic. With the advancement of technology, machines that can measure brain activity and scan brain tissues have raised awareness to a large number of other causes. The challenges of diagnosing a cause are many. Difficult to determine when a seizure may occur so that brain activity can be monitored. The expense of brain scans are cost prohibitive for many clients. Most practices do not have the equipement to diagnose a cause. The results often indicate that surgery is not possible based on the location of the problem. The cost of surgery is not within a clients budget. These are only a few of the reasons seizures are a challenge.

Seizures are more likely to be seen in a dog than a cat. Seizures can begin at any age.  If seen early in life we assume it is congenital, poison, infection, or trauma related.  If beginning later in life, we consider recent trauma, poisons, or brain disease. If seizures develop after 6 months of age but before 5-6 years of age they may be classified as epilepsy. Epilepsy is a form of seizure activity where no underlying cause can be found.

When poisons are a factor we rely on owners to tell us what they were exposed to. Often a diagnosis will not be made in this category without an owners knowledge of the toxin. Simply put our patients cannot tell us what they ate or were exposed to. There are tests that can be done in a laboratory setting but we must tell them what to look for. If we did not see them consume the toxin it will be difficult to ask them to look for it. Occasionally the symptoms will give us a high suspicion of a toxic exposure and we will discover the offending product. If we do not have a clear idea of what the poison is we will treat the clinical symptoms and hope the body can clear the poison. Medications to control the seizures along with fluid therapy and activated charcoal are standard treatments for many suspected poisons that cause seizures. The need to start treatment immediately to reduce clinical symptoms is crucial. Yet if we did not see the pet consume the poison we do not know about its negative effects until the clinical symptoms begin to occur. Recently I discovered a common product used in humans called 5-fluorouracil is extremely toxic to dogs and cats if accidentally consumed. Within 30 minutes of chewing on the tube the dogs start to have seizures and die. If you know of anyone on this product please share this article with them to raise awareness of the risk this has to pets. Even licking this cream can cause toxicity in pets:

5-fluorouracil: Lifesaving for one species, deadly for othersveterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/5-fluorouracil-lifesaving-one-species-deadly-others

Congenital seizures can stem from Portosystemic shunts(PSS) in pets. These liver shunts direct the blood away from the liver. Surgeries are available to correct the shunt and stop the seizures caused by it. These seizures can be caused by hydrocephalus or more commonly called “water on the brain” in young pets. This condition has varying degrees of clinical symptoms but seizures can be seen in severe cases. Certain breeds are more prone to these conditions.

Traumatic injuries at anytime in a pets life can lead to seizure activity. Pets fall down stairs, then get hit in the head by large objects, they are hit by cars, they run into objects with their heads, etc. Any of these situations can potentially lead to seizures. Some will have their first seizure at the time of the injury. Others do not start them until later in life. I was hit in the forehead with a baseball and most likely had a concussion. That could lead to issues for me in the future. There is no way to know what may develop in the future when the brain has been injured.

Medical conditions of the of the brain and even some within the body can have seizures as possible side effects.  The list is endless but I feel as a whole the human and veterinary medical teams are learning more every day about the brain and how to treat some of these medical conditions.

After all of this information you may be asking yourself, “What can we do if a pet has a seizure?” First and most important, stay calm and move the pet carefully to a safe area. Do not stick your hand in the pets mouth or attempt to hold their tongue. They will not choke or swallow their tongue. The actual seizure is often short. The seizure can be mild and just be a pet staring off into the air and not responding to your voice. Maybe an ear will be twitching or an eyelid. They are still and unresponsive. The seizure could be a full blown grand mal like seizure where the animal is on its side rigid and paddling, having irregular breathing, drooling, unresponsive, it may pee or poop or both during the episode. After the seizure is over the pet has a stage called the postictal period where they are confused, uncoordinated in their movements, hungry, thirsty, exhausted, etc. This may last longer than the actual seizure but your pet will recover 100% if given time.

Please notify your veterinarian if you suspect your pet had a seizure. Treatment is not always begun at the first sign of a seizure. If the seizure was mild and they are infrequent then you may be encouraged to wait to start medications. It is important to let your veterinarian know if there are any concerns about poisons or infections that may have caused the seizure. If you have had a history of trauma with your pet you should share that information with your veterinarian. The recommendation on when to begin medication is varied between practices. It is best to speak with your veterinarian so you can discuss options available. Blood work is required to begin seizure medication and also annual exams.

Pets can live normal lives with seizures being controlled by medications for a number of years. Some activities seem to lead to seizures for some pets. Good record keeping can be helpful in determining the proper way to treat your pet. There are new diets and medications available to help maintain a good quality of life. If you have concerns about whether your pet is needing medication for seizures contact your veterinarian for more information.

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