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What is a Veterinarian?

Doctors of Veterinary Medicine are medical professionals whose primary responsibility is protecting the health and welfare of both animals and people. Veterinarians diagnose and control animal diseases, treat sick and injured animals, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people, and advise owners on proper care of pets and livestock. They ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of food animals. Veterinarians are also involved in wildlife preservation and conservation, and public health of the human with puppies

Today's Veterinarians are members of an important health profession. In taking the Veterinarian's Oath, a doctor solemnly swears to use his or her scientific knowledge and skills "for the benefit of society, through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge."

Today more than 67,000 Veterinarians are professionally active in the United States. They provide a wide range of services in private practice, teaching, research, government service, public health, military service, private industry, and other areas.


What Does A Veterinarian Do?

vet injecting cowVeterinarians work in a lot of different sectors. In the United States, approximately 75% of all Veterinarians are in private practice. Of those, about 58% are engaged in exclusively small animal practice, where they treat only household animals. 19% are involved in general, or mixed, animal practice. Their patients include all types of pets, horses, and livestock. 18% limit their practice to the care of farm animals or horses.

Veterinarians in private practice work to prevent disease and other health problems in their patients. They examine animal patients, vaccinate against diseases, prevent the transmission of animal disease to people, and advise owners about ways to keep pets and livestock well nourished and healthy.

When health problems arise, Veterinarians must diagnose the problem and treat the animal. Accurate diagnosis frequently requires laboratory tests, radiography, and specialized equipment. Treatments may involve a number of procedures including emergency lifesaving measures, prescribing medication, setting a fracture, delivering a calf, performing surgery, or advising an owner on feeding and care of the inspecting calf

Veterinarians also work in regulatory medicine, and they have two major responsibilities: the control or elimination of certain diseases, and protection of the public from animal diseases that can affect people.

Working for the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and for state and municipal food inspection services, a Veterinarian’s job is to protect the public from diseased livestock and unsafe meat and poultry. They ensure that food products are safe and wholesome.

To prevent the introduction of foreign diseases, Veterinarians employed by state and federal regulatory agencies quarantine and inspect animals brought into the United States from other countries. They supervise interstate shipments of animals, test for the presence of diseases, and manage campaigns to prevent and eradicate many diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and rabies, which threaten animal and human health. Department of Agriculture Veterinarians in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service monitor the development and testing of new vaccines to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Veterinarians in research seek better ways to prevent and solve animal and human health problems. Many problems, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, are studied through the use of laboratory animals, which are carefully bred, raised, and maintained under the supervision of Veterinarians. Laboratory animal Veterinarians help select the best animal models for particular research projects and ensure that the animals receive proper care.

vet checking dogs ribsMore than 3,500 Veterinarians are professors, teaching at schools and colleges of Veterinary medicine. In addition to teaching, Veterinary school faculty members conduct basic and clinical research, provide various services to the public, contribute to scientific publications, and develop continuing education programs to help graduate Veterinarians acquire new knowledge and skills.

Veterinarians also work in the area of public health for city, county, state, and federal agencies. They help to prevent and control animal and human diseases and promote good health. As epidemiologists they investigate animal and human disease outbreaks such as food-borne illness, influenza, plague, rabies, AIDS, and encephalitis. They evaluate the safety of food processing plants, restaurants, and water supplies. Veterinarians in environmental health programs study and evaluate the effects of various pesticides, industrial pollutants, and other contaminants on people as well as animals.


Choosing a Veterinarian

Choosing a Veterinarian is an important decision. Thus, our goal is to assist you in making that decision.
First of all, when selecting a Veterinarian, you may want to begin your search several different ways: 
Ask someone that was satisfied with the treatment and care they received for their pet. Ask family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and other animal lovers. 
Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau for reputable Veterinarians in your area.

There are different types of Veterinary practices. You will need to determine which type of practice best suits your animal's needs: 

Small animal practice: Primarily for dogs, cats, ferrets, birds and reptiles

Mixed animal practice: Primarily for horses, cattle and various farm animals

Exotic animal practice: Specializing in animals other than dogs and cats such as ferrets, mice, hamsters, reptiles, and birds

Avian practice: Specializing exclusively in birds

We recommend you interview the Veterinarian and ask thevet checking white cat with tools following:

Is your staff friendly and accommodating?

What are your regular office hours?

How are emergencies handled during and after normal business hours? What about holidays?

How long is the wait to get an appointment?

Is there an associate that covers for you when you are not available?

Do you have more than one office, and if so, how is your time divided between offices?

What kind of continuing education do you utilize?

Do you accept phone calls during office hours?

What types of insurance coverage do you accept?

How do you handle billing? Do you require payment at time of visit? Do you accept credit cards?vet with horse and stethescope

How are questions over the phone handled?

Is your staff knowledgeable and courteous?

Can a specific doctor be requested in a multi-doctor office?

Discuss your animal's medical history and particular problems you are concerned with.

When you are checking out each facility you should be sure it is well- kept and clean and that there are no unpleasant odors.

Communication and being able to talk freely with your potential Veterinarian is of paramount importance. The Veterinarian should listen to your needs and concerns and create a tailor-made program for your animal's particular condition. After you have consulted with a few Veterinarians you should have a good idea about which ones you felt most comfortable with and best answered your questions.


How Veterinarians Were Selected

Consumers’ Research Council of America has compiled a list of Top Veterinarians throughout the United States by utilizing a point value system. This method uses a point value for criteria that we deemed valuable in determining top Veterinary care professionals.

The criteria that was used and assessed a point value is as follows: 


Each year the Veterinarian has been in practice


Education, specialty training and continuing education

Professional Organizations:

Membership in Veterinary organizations/affiliations

Simply put, Veterinarians that have accumulated a certain amount of points qualified for the list. This does not mean that Veterinarians that did not accumulate enough points are not skilled at administering Veterinary care, but merely did not qualify for this list because of the points needed for qualification.

Similar studies have been conducted with other professions using a survey system. This type of study would ask fellow professionals whom they would recommend; we found this method to be more of a popularity contest. For instance, professionals who work in a large office have a much better chance of being mentioned than a professional who has a small private practice. In addition, many professionals have a financial arrangement for back-and-forth referrals. For these reasons, we developed the point value system.

Since this is a subjective call, there is no guarantee that this study that is 100% accurate. As with any profession, there will be some degree of variance in opinion: If you survey 100 patients from a particular physician on their level of satisfaction, you will undoubtedly hear that some are very satisfied, some moderately satisfied and some dissatisfied. This is really quite normal.

We feel that a point value system takes out the personal and emotional factor and deals with factual criteria. We  have made certain assumptions. For example, we feel that the more years in practice is better than less years in practice; more education is better than less education, etc.

The top Veterinarian list that we have compiled is current as of a certain date and other Veterinarians may have qualified since that date. Nonetheless, we feel that the list of top Veterinarians is a good starting point for you to find a qualified animal healthcare specialist.

No fees, donations, sponsorships or advertising are accepted from any individuals, professionals, Veterinarians, clinics, animal healthcare facilities, corporations or associations. This policy is strictly adhered to, ensuring an unbiased selection.


Board Certification and Education

Following graduation, Veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. State licensing boards set eligibility requirements; candidates must apply for NAVLE certification through their state boards. Graduates may continue clinical training through an internship or residency and must obtain state board approval before opening a clinical practice.

An extended period of formal study is required for board certification in a specialty, such aslittle girl with pony and vet surgery, ophthalmology, pathology, radiology and medicine. Medical subspecialties include cardiology, oncology, and neurology.

Though each specialty has its own specific requirements, board  certification in general requires a Veterinarian to spend at least two to three years (sometimes more) immersed in that specialty field under the supervision of a current expert. Following the practical experience, the candidate must pass a stringent examination. Some specialties also require the veterinarian to pass a practical examination or to publish a paper on that specialty. Only after a candidate has successfully completed all the requirements can that individual become board certified in their chosen field.

AVMA Board Specialties:

                American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP)
American Board of Veterinary Toxicology (ABVT)
American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM)
American College of Poultry Veterinarians (ACPV)
American College of Theriogenologists (ACT)
American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists (ACVA)
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)
American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology (ACVCP)
American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD)
American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC)
American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM)
Subspecialty of Cardiology (ACVIM - Cardiology)
Subspecialty of Neurology (ACVIM - Neurology)
Subspecialty of Oncology (ACVIM - Oncology)
American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM)
American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN)
American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO)
American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP)
American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine
American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR)
Subspecialty - Radiation Oncology (ACVRO)
American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS)
American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM)
American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC)


vet with dalmation Experience working with animals prior to applying for a Veterinary program is desirable.
Completion of undergraduate prerequisite courses. Requirements vary, but on average, 2-3 years of undergraduate study is required for admission. Most Veterinary students have a Baccalaureate degree and some earn advanced degrees prior to enrolling in a Veterinary program.
Completion of a 4-year program leading to a doctor of Veterinary medicine (DVM or VMD) degree.
Preveterinary coursework can be completed at many colleges and universities, including those at which the Veterinary medical schools are located. They should also be certain that credits from the preveterinary courses they take at the school of their choice are acceptable to the Veterinary colleges.
Completion of a preveterinary program does not guarantee admission to a college of Veterinary medicine. Admission to Veterinary school is highly competitive. Applicants usually have grades of "B" or better, especially in the sciences. Applicants must take the Veterinary Aptitude Test, Medical College Admission Test, or the Graduate Record Examination. Most colleges give preference to candidates with animal or Veterinary related experience. The number of qualified applicants who are admitted to Veterinary colleges nationwide varies from year to year, but the average acceptance rate is approximately 43%.

There are 27 accredited Veterinary colleges or universities in the United States. The Veterinary curriculum focuses on biomedical science, including anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, virology, medicine, and surgery. Programs also include coursework in topics such as professional development, practice management, and client relations.

In most colleges of Veterinary medicine, the professional program comprises two phases. During the first phase, preclinical sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and microbiology are emphasized. Most of the students' time is spent in classroom and laboratory study.

The second phase of professional study is principally clinical. Students learn the principles of medicine and surgery in the classroom and through hands-on clinical experience. Students learn to apply their knowledge in a clinical setting under the supervision of graduate Veterinarians on the faculty. In the clinics, students treat animals, perform surgery, and deal with owners who use the school's clinical services.


Feline Pregnancy

Pregnancy in cats should be determined as early as possible following mating. Early diagnosis helps ensure proper care. Feline pregnancy diagnosis can be accomplished by the following methods:

             Abdominal palpation of the uterus, individual fetuses, and fetal membranes from 20 to 30 days
X-ray of the abdomen from about 40 days
Ultrasonic Doppler detection of placenta 1 circulation and fetal heartbeat from about the 4th week
Enlargement and pink color of the teats and mammary glands from about day 18
Ultrasound from day 18

The pregnant cat needs a well-balanced diet to promote fetal growth. Overfeeding and excessive weight gain should be avoided. Feeding recommendations of commercial cat food suppliers for pregnant and nursing queens should be followed. Advice and discretion should be followed before supplementation of vitamins, minerals, high proteins, or fats are used. Taurine deficient diets may result in poor fertility, fetal resorption, and small litter size.

Nonstrenuous daily exercise to maintain muscle tone is necessary for easy queening. Obesity and poor muscle tone can result in low conception rates and difficult queening. Medication, vaccination, and worming should be avoided during pregnancy. A clean, warm, dry, secluded area with a large nesting box should be provided at least 10 days before queening.


Nesting may be exhibited 12 to 24 hours before queening and rectal temperature falls in the first stage of labor. Normal presentation of the fetuses can be forward or backward as they enter the birth canal. Thirty- to 60-minute intervals are frequently seen between the deliveries of 1 or 2 kittens. During this time, the queen removes the placenta and cord from the kitten and cleans and stimulates the kitten to breath and move. The queen ingests the placentas and cleanses the vulvar area. The kittens may be nursed before delivery of the next. Occasionally, there may be a 12- to 24-hour delay following the delivery of 2 or 3 kittens before the rest are born.

The first litter of a queen with one or two large kittens may be difficult and assistance may be needed. Healthy queens seldom have difficulty with delivery. Queens that are inbred, have nutritional deficiencies, or a disease may have poor uterine contractions (inertia) and require assistance. Trauma or a nutritional deficiency may result in a pelvic deformity causing difficult delivery. Surgical intervention or medication may be needed for difficult births.

The queen usually eats stillborn kittens and placentas. Cannibalism is seen usually in the highly nervous, first-time queens.

The queen usually remains continuously with her kittens for 24 to 48 hours. The kittens take about 2 mL to 3 mL of milk 3 times an hour. Kittens double their weight and open their eyes in 7 days. They are able to take 5 mL to 7 mL of milk at a feeding during the second week. At this time, the queen leaves the nest for several hours. In her absence, normal kittens sleep quietly. After feeding, the queen washes each kitten and consumes the urine and feces voided in response to grooming. The kittens explore and play at 3 weeks of age and the queen teaches them to urinate and defecate away from the nest. Lactation is supplemented by solid food beginning the 4th week and weaning is completed by the 7th or 8th week.

Animal Glaucoma

Animal Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, leading to vision loss or even blindness. Although raised intraocular pressure is a significant risk factor for developing glaucoma, there is no set threshold for intraocular pressure that causes glaucoma. One animal may develop nerve damage at a relatively low pressure, while another person may have high eye pressures for years and yet never develop damage. Untreated glaucoma leads to permanent damage of the optic nerve and resultant visual field loss, which can progress to blindness.

There are two main types of glaucoma – primary and secondary. In primary glaucoma, the cause of the increase in pressure is due to decreased outflow from the drainage angle. It is frequently an inherited problem. Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Cocker Spaniels are especially prone to this type of glaucoma. In secondary glaucoma the pressure is too high because something else is wrong in the eye, such as a lens luxation, bleeding, inflammation, or tumor.

Signs of Glaucoma:

             1. A red (bloodshot) eye
2. A painful eye
3. Lids may be held shut
4. Excessive tearing
5. Eye may appear cloudy or blue
6. Sudden blindness
7. A dilated pupil that does not respond normally to light
8. Depression
9. Appetite loss
10. Enlargement of the eye

The treatment chosen, either surgery or medical treatment, will be influenced by what the goal of therapy is (to stop pain in a blind eye or to preserve vision). Medical treatment consists of a number of different drugs used in combination. Some are given by mouth and effect the whole body, while others are put directly into the eye and have a local effect. The drugs that work when the problem is first diagnosed may not work forever. Therefore, the intraocular pressure needs to be monitored on a regular basis so that the medication regimen can be altered to fit the needs of the patient. Unfortunately glaucoma cannot be cured, only controlled. When medical treatment fails, surgical therapy can help prolong vision, or eliminate pain.

Surgical procedures are available that may help to provide long-term control. One of these procedures uses a laser to destroy the part of the eye that produces fluid and thereby reduces the pressure. Another surgery inserts a tube into the eye that shunts the fluid under the conjunctiva (pink tissue) deep in the eye socket. Neither surgery is 100% effective nor multiple surgeries over several years may be required to preserve vision.


Introducing a New Baby to a Pet

A new baby in the home can upset pets. An animal should never be left alone with an infant at any time. An infant is incapable of pushing the animal away if it cuddles up to them for love or heat.

Schedule 5 to 10 minutes daily to pet, groom, and play with the pet. Maintain this schedule when the baby comes to convey to the pet that it is still important. When there is more than one pet, each one needs at least 5 minutes of undivided attention daily. If pets get along well with each other, play and talk to them together.

Before the baby comes, begin adjusting your pet to the new feeding and walking schedule that will be necessary after the baby is born. It is best not to subject your pet to too many changes all at once. If you can take the dog with you on most outings, it reduces the chance that your pet will feel displaced in the family and resort to attention-seeking behavior.

Before the baby is brought home, expose your pet to articles of clothing that the baby has used. Allow the pet to smell these items and leave them around the house.

When the baby comes home, another person should hold the baby while you greet your pet. Your pets have missed you and it is important to pay attention to them. If you have a dog that jumps, it should be put in another room until things are calm and you can greet it.

Pets should be restrained or confined in the presence of the infant when there is only one person at home with the infant. The key is to avoid aggression and any circumstance in which the pet is unsure of appropriate behavior. An aggressive dog may lunge at the baby when your guard is lowered.

If the pet does not exhibit aggressive behavior, it can be unleashed after 3 weeks or so, but it still must be closely supervised. Sharing and trading off attention for the dog and the baby provides a warm, loving environment. A muzzle does not protect an infant or a young child from crush injuries and fractures caused by large dogs.

Pets should not sleep in a room with an unattended infant or young child. The pet may inadvertently smother the child. Use a baby monitor, an intercom, or a room monitor, and close the door.

Young children should be taught to treat pets gently. A pet that is in pain may bite in defense.

Common Animal Health Problems

Bite Wounds and Abscesses

vet petting white catCats have sharp teeth, equally effective for catching prey or inflicting deep puncture wounds. Their bite carries bacteria deep into the wound and the hole closes immediately, providing the bacteria an excellent place to grow and multiply.  Under the hair, these bite wounds are almost invisible, so the first sign of trouble will probably be when you notice lameness, pain and swelling, which means the wound has become infected. The next stage, development of an abscess, happens quickly. White blood cells, the body's natural defense against bacteria, move into the area and start killing bacteria.  Pretty soon we have dead bacteria, dead white blood cells, and dead little bits of cat all combined into a gooey mess.  The rest of the body protects itself from spreading infection by making a protective barrier around this dead, gooey mess.  This is an abscess.

If close to the surface, the abscess will eventually drain on its own.  The central area of skin, deprived of its blood supply, slowly dies and falls off, allowing pus to escape.  The animal feels better right away and the wound heals.   Unfortunately, the abscess usually comes back, because the wound heals with some of the pus still inside.

To prevent the long period of illness before an abscess drains on its own, and to keep the abscess from coming back afterwards, your Veterinarian will drain it surgically.  Veterinarians usually open the abscess at the bottom and top, flush it with an antibacterial solution, and insert a Penrose drain tube.  This device keeps the hole open, allowing pus to drain for a day or two, and the abscess begins to heal.  After removal of the drain tube, the surgical openings will heal and all the infection will be gone.

Bite wound abscesses can usually be prevented if antibiotics are given within the first twenty-four hours.  If your pet is a regular patient at your Veterinarian's office, has a history of bite wound infections, and was in a fight recently, call them right away.  In such cases, your Veterinarian will generally be willing to dispense antibiotics without an examination.


Adult heartworms are about six inches long, and live in the heart and large blood vessels of the host animal, usually a dog.  Adult male and female worms produce thousands of microscopic baby worms, which live within blood vessels throughout the host's body. These baby heartworms do not mature in the animal where they were born. (If they did, the animal would quickly die, and that would be the end of the heartworms.)

little girl with puppy and vetA mosquito bites the infected animal, sucking up baby heartworms- this is what the worms have been waiting for. During the next month, the heartworm babies within the mosquito grow into heartworm adolescents, a stage partway between baby and adult.

Next, the mosquito bites another animal, infecting the new host with adolescent heartworms, ready to develop into adults.  After six or seven more months, the life cycle is complete. New adult male and female heartworms are producing thousands more baby heartworms.

There are no symptoms of heartworm infection at all until the disease is very advanced. At this stage, the symptoms are those of congestive heart failure – dull coat, lack of energy, coughing, difficulty breathing, perhaps fainting spells and an enlarged abdomen.

Your Veterinarian can prescribe one of three different drugs used for once-a-month heartworm prevention.  In cold climates, wintertime prevention medication is not usually necessary. Although heartworms can be fatal and treatment for the disease involves risk, the condition is nearly always curable. Treatment requires careful medical care and complete rest at home afterwards.

The first thing your Veterinarian will do is evaluate your pet's condition, performing a physical examination, laboratory tests and chest x-rays to evaluate the condition of the heart and lungs. Your Veterinarian might find other health problems that need attention first, but if the heartworm infestation is very severe, they may want to modify their treatment plan.

Each stage of heartworm infestation must be treated separately. First the adult worms are eliminated by giving a series of injections spaced out over a two day period. When your Veterinarian finishes treatment, the heartworms will be dead or dying. Although that is what is desired, the heart at this point is still full of worms. The worms gradually break into smaller and smaller pieces until the fragments are tiny enough for the body to eliminate them. The critical period of heartworm treatment is when worm fragments are small enough to disperse into the body but still large enough to plug small arteries in the lungs. Vigorous activity must be avoided at this stage since it makes the heart pump faster, pushing bits of dead heartworm out into areas where they can cause trouble.

Intestinal Parasites

vet with large catIntestinal parasites are common problems of pet health in cats. Fortunately with good petcare they can easily be treated and prevented. Kittens can become infected with parasites almost as soon as they are born. For example, the most prevalent source of roundworm infection in kittens is the mother's milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. Even without a stool sample, your Veterinarian may recommend the use of a broad spectrum deworming product that is safe and effective against almost all of the common worms of the cat. It is given immediately and repeated in about 3-4 weeks, because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms. Within 3-4 weeks the larval stages will have become adults and will also need to be treated. Cats remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms. Periodic deworming throughout the cat's life may be recommended for cats that go outdoors.

Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of cats. Kittens become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. When the cat chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed. The flea is digested within the cat's intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining. Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks.

Cats infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They are about 1/8 inch long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in color.

Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. Your Veterinarian may examine a stool sample and not find tapeworms, and then you may find them the next day.

The key to tapeworm prevention is by controlling fleas on your cat. If you have a tapeworm problem, you probably have a flea problem. Regular use one of the safe over-the-counter flea preventives such as Advantage® is recommended.

Feline Immunodeficiency Disease (FIV)

vet with dark tabbyFeline Immunodeficiency Virus was first discovered in 1986 in a California cattery where some cats appeared to have an illness similar to AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) in people. It appears likely that FIV has been present in cats for many years. The rate of infection varies from about 1% in healthy cats to as high as 14% in ill cats. FIV is often found in cats that test positive for the Feline Leukemia Virus.

FIV belongs to the same family of viruses as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and immunodeficiency viruses in other species. This family of viruses (Lentiviruses) is known for being species-specific, for life-long infection, and for slowly progressive diseases. FIV is not transmissible from cats to people, and HIV is not transmissible to from people to cats.

Risk factors for FIV include:

Time spent outdoors

Older cats are more likely to be infected; the average age of cats with FIV is 5 years at the time of diagnosis. Aggressive male cats that roam and fight with other cats are more likely to be infected than females and nonaggressive males. Sick cats are much more likely to have FIV. Free-roaming cats are more likely to be infected than indoor cats.

When a cat becomes infected with FIV, there may be no clinical signs for many years. However, 4 to 6 weeks after infection the white blood cell count declines and at this point some cats will have swollen lymph nodes. Also, some cats have a fever, anemia, or diarrhea at this early stage. FIV is toxic to a type of white blood cell, the T helper cell, which is critical to a healthy immune system. This virus slowly depresses the function of the cat's immune system, leading to chronic health problems and opportunistic infections. Many FIV-positive cats have chronic inflammatory conditions of the teeth and mouth. Other chronic problems, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, skin disease, sinus infections and some eye diseases as well as neurological problems have been seen in FIV-positive cats.

vet petting tabbyFIV is transmitted primarily through deep, penetrating bite wounds. A mother cat may transmit the virus to her newborn kittens during gestation, passage through the birth canal, or nursing. FIV can also be transmitted through the transfusion of contaminated blood.

FIV affects only felines. Some of the pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites that cause opportunistic infections in FIV-positive cats may be transmitted from animals to humans and can cause illness in people with compromised immune systems.


Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that can affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of any kind of mammal, including humans.

Animals that are infected with rabies can spread the disease through their saliva or brain matter. People may be exposed to rabies when bitten by an infected wild or domestic animal. Because of widespread animal vaccination programs, people in North America rarely get rabies; it is more common in developing nations.

vet with miniature horseRabies is caused by a virus that is usually spread through contact with an infected animal's saliva. In the United States, the rabies virus is found almost exclusively in wildlife. Bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes |are the most common hosts of rabies. The animals most likely to be affected can vary by region, although bats are becoming a primary source of infection among humans in many areas of the United States.

Report all animal bites, especially those from wildlife, to your local health department. They can tell you which species pose a threat for rabies in your area, and this will help determine the need for preventive treatment.

Occasionally, the rabies virus can spread to pets, such as dogs, cats, and domestic ferrets. However, household pets rarely get rabies due to successful vaccination programs. A pet that always stays indoors is highly unlikely to be exposed to the virus.

In extremely rare situations, a person can get rabies without being bitten by a rabid animal (nonbite exposure). Humans have acquired rabies by handling a rabid animal or by inhaling airborne virus in places where it exists in high quantities, such as caves filled with bats.

Rabies virus is in the Rhabdoviridae family. The virus cannot live outside its host's body for more than a couple of seconds, but live virus has been found in animals that have been dead as long as 48 hours.

cat and vet in clinic Signs of rabies in animals may include having excessive saliva or sometimes, foaming at the mouth, paralysis, or behavioral changes (such as shyness when the pet was friendly) or absence of fear of humans in a wild animal.

Rabies infection in humans begins with vague symptoms such as fever, cough, or sore throat followed in several days by more serious and rapidly progressing symptoms such as restlessness, hallucinations, and seizures. The final stages are coma and death.

The incubation period—the time from exposure to the rabies virus until symptoms appear—is usually 4 to 6 weeks. In rare cases, the incubation period can last from several days to more than a year after exposure to the virus.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to the rabies virus, it is important to seek medical attention before symptoms develop. Rabies is nearly always fatal if not treated before the appearance of symptoms.

Fleas and Ticks

mean catFleas and ticks are ectoparasites – parasites that live on or burrow into their hosts' skin. Parasites live at least part of their life cycles at the expense of host organisms. They can cause blood loss, skin irritation, allergies, and disease. 

Some parasites live continuously on a single host, and others live intermittently on their host. Many parasites spend as little as 10% of their life actually feeding on a host. Some live on different host species at different stages of their life cycle – ticks that carry Lyme disease live on white-footed mice as larvae, and on deer or other mammals as adults. Some can live on various host species, and others are restricted to a specific host species, often to a single area of the host's body. For example, Demodectic Mange is caused by a hair follicle mite and is usually found only on the head or legs. 

Hosts provide a number of essential resources for parasites, such as:

         Food (sweat, blood, tears)
A warm, moist, protected environment
Transportation and transmission to another host (some parasites life cycles require several hosts)

Flea infestations on small or weak pets can cause life-threatening anemia (iron-deficiency anemia, decreased red blood cells circulating through the blood, which means a decreased oxygen level in the blood). While grooming themselves, cats ingest about 50% of the fleas on their body. If the fleas carry pathogens, the cat may become diseased. Fleas have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult, but only adults live on pets. The eggs, larvae, and pupae live in carpets and on blankets, so it is important to treat the pet's environment in cases of infestation.happy cat

Compared to fleas, ticks are relatively large, with soft rounded bodies. Most ticks attach to their host and feed for as long as 12 to 24 hours before they fall off. Young ticks (nymphs) may feed on one host, drop off, and then feed on a different host as adults. Most ticks spend about 10% of their lifetime attached to their hosts. Individual tick bites can cause local reactions, including skin damage, irritation, inflammation, and hypersensitivity. A large number of tick bites can cause anemia. Some ticks secrete toxic saliva that can cause paralysis. All ticks can carry and transmit disease.

Bird Wing Clipping

Bird owners are often advised to clip the wings of their birds. A common first reaction is that clipping is a cruel thing to do, but there are good reasons for it. First and foremost is the bird's safety, but there are other reasons as well:

Unclipped birds can easily panic and fly into windows, glass doors or mirrors, injuring themselves. They can fly into kitchens and land on hot stoves, burners, and pans. They can fly into overhead ceiling fans or dangerous electrical appliances. Small birds, able to get into smaller spaces, have flown into open cupboards and drawers and been locked in or have gotten trapped behind refrigerators, while others have drowned in open toilet bowls. There are many things around our homes that are toxic or dangerous to birds – lead paint, household cleaners, etc. A bird that can fly can reach such items more easily. There is no end to the number of dangerous and lethal items that your bird may find attractive or edible.

parakeetFor most of us, losing a bird would be a very painful thing, especially if we are very close to the pet; it would be even worse if the loss could have been prevented. An open door or window is an invitation to an unclipped bird. No matter how tame, birds will fly out and may be lost forever. Some of us take our birds out in the sun, transport them to the Vet, or take them with us on a trip. In all these situations, no matter how careful we are, an opportunity to fly away may present itself. Clipping a bird's wings is an easy way to reduce the possibility of such a loss.

Baby birds should not be clipped until they have learned to fly, which gives birds confidence, enables them to properly develop their chest muscles, teaches them balance and enables them to learn how to maneuver and land safely. Birds have very light, fragile bones which can easily be injured by a clumsy landing or a fall.

Birds should be re-clipped when their feathers have grown back enough so that they can fly more than a few feet. This is usually after a molt, and for most birds, about once a year. If clipping is done during a molt, then some of the clipped feathers may still continue to grow out, and new feathers may grow in as well. If you wait until the molt is complete there should be a need for only one clipping. However, if your bird is flying, you may not be able to wait and will have to do multiple clippings.

The only feathers that should be clipped are the primary flight feathers, which are the ten long feathers on the outermost part of the wing. After the clipping, your bird will still be able to fly a couple of feet. This enables him to protect himself from a fall by giving him enough lift to land safely. If clipped too drastically, he won't be able to maneuver to avoid hitting something dangerous, or to break his fall. As a result he may injure his beak, breastbone or wings or even break a leg as he plummets to the ground.



Neutering, also known as altering, castrating, fixing, or medical orchidectomy, is the surgical removal of a male animal's testicles. Neutering is a routine Veterinary procedure performed while the pet is anesthetized. Depending on the circumstances, the procedure may require a night of hospitalization. Most Veterinarians recommend neutering a pet at about 6 months of age.

There are several reasons to neuter a pet. One significant reason is to prevent pet overpopulation. There are far more cats and dogs in the United States than there are available homes and stray cats and dogs overburden animal shelters. Other reasons for neutering include the following:

Preventing unplanned and costly litters
Decreasing aggressive pet behavior
Reducing the risk of testicular tumors
Reducing the risk for prostate disease (relatively common in dogs)

When to neuter a pet

Cats and dogs must be in good health, be at the right age for neutering, and must be up-to-date on all vaccinations. Cats should be tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus before the procedure.

In most cases, the procedure is performed when the animal is about 6 months of age. Animal behaviorists generally agree that neutering pets prior to sexual maturity is the best way to decrease undesirable behavior.

There is currently a move in the Veterinary community toward early age neutering. Scientific studies suggest that early age neutering is no more of a risk than performing the surgery at 6 months, provided the animal is healthy.

Neutering can also be performed on older pets. Depending on the pet's age, the Veterinarian may perform presurgical tests to make sure that the pet can be safely anesthetized. Many anesthetic drugs are metabolized in the liver and kidneys, so it is essential that the liver and kidneys be functioning normally. Female pets should be spayed for all the same reasons listed above.



vet holding paws of fox terrierEuthanasia is a method of humane killing which is sometimes employed when animals have a terminal illness or severe injury and are not expected to recover, especially if the animal is in pain or its quality of life is seriously compromised. This procedure is also known as having an animal “put to sleep.” In rare cases, euthanasia may be necessary if an animal is vicious and dangerous, despite the efforts of the owners and professionals to modify its behavior.

Pet and livestock owners might decide to euthanize when an animal is suffering significantly due to injury or terminal illness, is overly aggressive, or when the owner is no longer able to keep or care for the animal and is unable or unwilling to find a new home for it. Additionally, many stray animals, in particular, cats, are euthanized due to overpopulation and the lack of adoptive homes.

For most pet owners, the decision to euthanize a pet is extremely difficult. For this reason, it's important to choose a veterinarian you trust and who shows understanding and compassion. If you have young children, it's best to include them in the decision. Having a pet euthanized without telling children the truth about it can make the animal's death even harder for them. The euthanasia procedure itself is almost always carried out by injecting a painless, death-inducing drug.

Before the fatal injection, many veterinarians will give the animal a tranquilizer. During this time, you may wish to hold your pet until the doctor is ready to proceed. After your pet is gone, it's natural to experience grief and loss. There are many books, organizations, and support groups dedicated to consoling those who've lost a pet. Don't hesitate to seek help if you need it.

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