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Are Pet Vaccinations Required?

photo of a veterinarian holding and examining a Maltese Westie cross puppy with a stethoscopeMost people consider their pet to be an important part of their family. Like any other family member, you want your pet to remain healthy and full of life. Getting the necessary pet vaccinations should be a top priority. Here are some important facts that you should know about pet vaccinations.

Which Vaccinations Are Required by Law?

North Alabama necessitates pets to receive certain vaccinations. A rabies shot is certainly on the state’s list of requirements. Both one-year and three-year vaccines are available. Charles D. Whitworth, D.V.M. will counsel you on the best route to take.

What Are Some of the Other Recommended Vaccines?

Whitworth Animal Clinic provides a number of other important vaccines. If your pet tends to be outdoors a lot, it is certainly a good idea to get a Lyme disease shot. Ticks can easily spread this bacterial infection to your pet. Distemper vaccinations are equally as important. Known for attacking a dog’s nervous system, canine distemper is extremely contagious. You must also protect your pet from serious respiratory ailments such as Bordetella.

Why Should Your Pet Get Vaccinated

The world around us has many dangerous diseases. Although most pets have very strong immune systems, they are not invulnerable to getting sick. The best approach is to always take the necessary precautions. Getting the suggested vaccinations will surely bolster your pet’s defense mechanisms. Nothing beats being able to give your beloved friend an additional degree of protection.

There is no overlooking the consequences of not getting your pet vaccinated. In most instances, their life will be severely shortened. According to American Humane, most rabid animals will live no longer than five days after catching the disease. Furthermore, rabies is something that puts the rest of your family at risk. This is a sad situation that no one looks forward to experiencing.

Don’t Over-Vaccinate

For good reason, animal experts consider pet vaccinations to be vital for long-term health. However, don’t make the mistake of over-vaccinating your pet. Dr. Charles Whitworth urges you to stick to the recommended vaccination schedules. An extra dose will not provide any extra protection. Keep in mind that some vaccinations last for more than a year. You don’t want to jeopardize your pet by over doing it.

As you can see, the importance of getting the proper vaccinations cannot be stressed enough. Whitworth Animal Clinic will be more than happy to take care of your pet. From veterinary surgeries to pet grooming, the facility provides a number of important services. We proudly serve Madison and the surrounding areas in North Alabama.

Remember, this article does not take the place of professional veterinarian advice. Please call Whitworth Animal Clinic if you have questions or need help finding a vet practice in your area.

© 2017 Whitwoth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Pain, pain, go away: arthritis robs active dogs of mobility

photo of a Golden Retriever playing in the park with a stickOne of the most common conditions affecting older dogs is arthritis or degenerative joint disease. As in humans, arthritis can be very painful for your dog. It can also rob your pet’s mobility and active lifestyle.

Generally, arthritis happens when an unstable joint causes the bones to move unnaturally within the joint. As a general rule, cartilage acts as a barrier between bones by lining the joints. However, over time the abnormal movements cause the cartilage and bone to rub against the bone. In turn, the rubbing creates chronic inflammation and pain.

What Causes Joint Problems in Dogs?

According to WebMD, the two main kinds of joint problems in dogs are degenerative and developmental issues. Degenerative problems are comprised of a wide array of issues like cruciate ligament problems and secondary osteoarthritis. Developmental problems include elbow or hip dysplasia where the joint does not develop properly.

Conferring to PetMD, there is no known cause for primary degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis.

On the other hand, there are numerous causes for secondary DJD like abnormal wear on the joints, trauma or congenital defect at birth like an improper shaped hip (hip dysplasia). Other causes include abnormal development of cartilage and bone, dislocation of the shoulder or kneecap and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).

Signs of Arthritis

In general, the most common sign of arthritis is that your dog does less physical activity or has difficulty doing common activities. Sometimes even getting up on a chair or going up the stairs is very difficult. With more active dogs, the physical activity is quite reduced such as not wanting to play as long as normal or not being able to run as far as their normal distance.
After the initial warning signs, a dog’s condition generally gets worse. Because of the increasing pain, your dog may hold their limb up or hold it awkwardly. As a rule, dogs generally do not show their pain in the beginning of the stages. The pain is typically a slower process.

Breeds Prone to Joint Injury

Rendering to WebMD, there are certain breeds more prone to joint injury. For the most part, it is the larger dogs that are more susceptible to cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injuries such as Newfoundland’s, Rottweiler’s, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and German shepherds. In addition, dogs that are obese and only get occasional exercise are more apt to develop CCL injuries. Certain breeds also have genetic conditions:

  • Rottweilers have more ankle and knee issues
  • Bernese Mountain dogs often get elbow dysplasia
  • Newfoundlands have the highest occurrence of cruciate ligament disease of all breeds

Prevention

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to prevent arthritis from developing in your dog. One of the best preventative methods is to keep your dog at a healthy weight so that the joints are not so stressed. As well, there are certain diets designed specifically for animals that have arthritis. Some of the recommendations include pet foods high in Omega 3 and 6. However, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian before you place your dog on a certain diet. As well, if you suspect that your dog has arthritis, it is highly recommended that you get a diagnosis from a specialist as soon as possible.

Whitworth Animal Clinic

At Whitworth Animal Clinic, Charles Whitworth, DVM offers premium care for your dog. Dr. Whitworth is renowned for his exceptional care, having over thirty years as a veterinarian in Madison. Moreover, Charles Whitworth, DVM is very passionate about his work and has loved animals and the veterinarian life since he was in the third grade.

If you suspect that your pet has arthritis or your pet is in pain, contact Whitworth Animal Clinic is as soon as possible. The clinic is conveniently located in Madison and serves the surrounding areas including north Alabama and the communities of Madison like Decatur and Huntsville.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

ACL mishaps create agony for dogs and their owners

photo of German Shepherd dog lying on white background“Cute” is what dogs do best. It’s adorable the way they jump, run, twirl, wrestle, lunge, chase, dig, wiggle, and pull. All those delightful maneuvers can be tough on canine knees. For dogs, that means a sprain or tear of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) which stabilizes the knee (stifle) joint. When it comes to veterinary orthopedics, CCL injuries are the most common. A rupture of the CCL can cause dogs and their owners discomfort and distress.

The CCL in dogs, known as the ACL in humans, is vitally important to knee stability. Inside the knee joint, two ligaments cross and support the upper femur and lower tibia and cartilage cushions the joint. The CCL keeps the tibia in place and the knee steady and secure. Antics, aerobics, accidents and more can cause everything from a mild strain to a severe injury to these important ligaments.

It’s not surprising that bigger dogs such as Bernese Mountain dogs, Bullmastiffs, Chows, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Labs, American Staffordshire terriers, and Saint Bernards rack up more CCL problems because of their activity levels and their builds, but there are other risk factors:

  • “Fixed” female dogs lack some hormones that might protect the knee joints.
  • Overweight dogs, male and female: the extra pounds mean extra stress on joints.
  • Inactive dogs, like people, can suffer injury because of lack of muscle tone.
  • Aged dogs’ joints degenerate and leave them vulnerable.


There really is no way to predict knee problems or to protect your dog from them. All dogs, large and small, can have accidents; a simple trip or fall can cause CCL issues. The bad news is animals that have ruptured one CCL are more inclined to rupture the opposite side in 1 to 3 years.

If you suspect your dog (or cat) has a CCL problem, look for these symptoms:

  • A hint of lameness in a hind leg that continues for days
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Weakness or instability in a hind leg
  • Sudden lameness and pain in a hind leg


If you observe these symptoms, it’s time to take your pet to Whitworth Animal Clinic for a thorough examination and diagnosis. X-rays cannot show ligament damage, but they can tell if other parts of the knee joint are damaged or if there is another cause for the lameness. Dr. Whitworth is known throughout Alabama as an empathetic and knowledgeable veterinarian who can be trusted to give your pet excellent care.

Untreated, CCL injuries will lead to permanent damage and degeneration of the joint. When the CCL is torn, the entire leg is unstable, and the bones rub and cause inflammation. Minor sprains may be able to heal with rest, therapy and anti-inflammatories. However, surgery is required in many cases. It’s important to diagnose and treat the problem as early as possible to avoid putting extra strain on the opposite knee and to make sure recovery is as quick and complete as possible. Procrastinating treatment can have dire consequences on your dog’s mobility.

There are several types of surgery to treat CCL tears or ruptures. Dr. Whitworth will discuss your options in detail and guide you depending on the size of your dog and the type and extent of the injury.

The recovery period after surgery can be as hard on the owner as it is on the pet. Activity must be severely limited; the only place your pooch can run is in his dreams. Doggy therapy either at home or in a professional setting is critical. Long walks—on the beach or otherwise—are forbidden for months and the patient will need to be carried up and down stairs. The good news is that with surgery and several months of tender, loving care, your pet will be ready to resume his role as your companion and protector.

If your dog or cat is in pain, it may be a torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL). Dr. Charles D. Whitworth in Madison, Alabama, will carefully examine your cat or dog and get the treatment he or she needs to regain health and vitality. Call the office today to make an appointment.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

How to identify and avoid doggone ear infections

photo of a vet checking the ears of a German Shepherd dogA common doggy ailment is the ear infection. They are tricky to diagnose since they can be caused by yeast infections, ear mites, allergies, hypothyroidism, wax, foreign objects, or excessive hair. The ear canal in humans is horizontal, but the canine ear canal is vertical; therefore, moisture or any kind of debris that gets in the ear is usually trapped. This skeletal glitch causes all sorts of disruption when it comes to the ears of man’s best friend.

As a pet owner, be on the lookout for these symptoms if you think your dog has an ear problem:

Unusual behaviors

  • Scratching the ear
  • Rubbing the ear on carpet/furniture
  • Head shaking/tilt
  • Loss of balance/walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

A look inside the ear reveals symptoms

  • A discharge or odor
  • Redness or swelling
  • Crusts or scabs

Candidates for ear infection

Dogs with allergies are far more likely to develop ear infections. If your dog has ears that stand up, he’s less likely to have problems. Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers and Springer Spaniels are more susceptible to canine ear infections. Some breeds with very hairy ears tend to have ear issues. Any dog can be a victim, however.

Right Diagnosis is critical

Because untreated infections can be very harmful, it’s important to make an appointment with Dr. Whitworth if you think your pet has an ear infection. He will use a special magnifying ear scope for the examination and collect samples to help confirm his diagnosis.

Without an accurate diagnosis, your dog cannot be treated effectively. Don’t let your dog suffer. There are so many possible causes for this condition, it’s important for him to be seen by an experienced professional like Dr. Whitworth.

How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed?

A veterinarian can usually diagnose an ear infection by examining the ear canal and ear drum with a magnifying ear cone similar to devices used on people. This may require sedation, especially if the dog is very painful. A sample of ear discharge may be examined to look for bacteria, yeast, and parasites. If a bacterial infection is suspected your veterinarian may send a sample of the ear discharge to a laboratory to see what bacteria is causing the infection. Other diagnostics may be done (such as checking for an underactive thyroid) if your veterinarian feels they are indicated.

Because there are multiple causes and contributing factors that cause ear infections in dogs, it is important that an accurate diagnosis is obtained by your veterinarian.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Healthy teeth: clean choppers will keep your pet chipper

photo of a hand brushing dog’s tooth for dental care | Whitworth Animal ClinicLike their humans, pets need regular dental examinations and teeth cleanings. Yearly pet exams at Whitworth Animal Clinic include a thorough inspection of teeth and gums because Dr. Whitworth knows good dental health is vitally important to the overall well-being of our canine and feline friends.

We often neglect our pet’s teeth. The most common symptom of a pet in need of dental care is bad breath, which is mostly ignored by pet owners. From there the symptoms only worsen when chewing becomes painful and teeth are loose or gone. By that time it is too late to save teeth and cleaning is not beneficial. Unfortunately, diseases of the mouth can affect other parts of the pet’s body; the kidney, liver, and heart are also weakened. When these organs are damaged, the pet’s life span is shortened.

If you have a puppy or kitten, make sure vet visits include a discussion about your pet’s teeth and your role in keeping them healthy. Many pet breeds are particularly prone to dental problems. According to the I Love Dogs website, the top 10 dog breeds prone to dental disease are

  • Pugs
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Sheltie
  • Chihuahua
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Greyhound
  • Dachshund
  • Maltese
  • Chinese Crested
  • Poodle


Ask Dr. Whitworth about products that may help your dog maintain better dental health in between professional cleanings.

Periodontal disease is the most common condition that shows up in adult dogs and cats, and it can be prevented. Even at 3 years, pets show signs of periodontal disease, which progresses as they age. It damages the gums and tissue around the teeth and throughout the mouth.

Periodontal issues begin when bacteria and food particles form plaque, a soft, sticky, whitish mat-like film attached to tooth surfaces. Within days, plaque and saliva combine to form tartar, a hard, crusty deposit on the teeth, consisting of food, cellular debris, and mineral salts. Tartar looks like a brownish-gold buildup on the teeth at the gum line. Then the bacteria works its way under the gums and causes inflammation. This condition is known as gingivitis. Redness or bleeding along the gum line may indicate gingivitis. From there the disease progresses and the bacteria under the gums breaks down the tissue around the teeth. Eventually periodontitis sets in and the pet’s teeth become loose and fall out. Together, gingivitis and periodontitis are known as periodontal disease. Tooth loss can be painful for the pet and unhealthy since it interferes with eating.

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria combine with food particles to form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with the plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis — inflammation of the gums. Once under the gums, bacteria destroys the supporting tissue around the tooth, leading to tooth loss. This condition is known as periodontitis. Gingivitis and periodontitis make up the changes that are referred to as periodontal disease. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver. This can be a real health hazard, especially for senior pets.

Doctor Whitworth recommends pet owners adopt a dental-care routine at home to keep plaque at bay between professional cleanings. You can talk with Dr. Whitworth or any of the members of his team about dental hygiene products on the market. Your pet’s teeth will definitely benefit from regular brushing. There are all types of brushes and even flavored pastes on the market to make this chore a little more pleasant for you and your pet. Treats that help with dental hygiene abound. Discuss which ones are best for your pet when you visit Whitworth Animal Clinic.

There is no substitute for a professional dental cleaning, however. It’s the only way to remove tartar from your pet’s teeth and gum tissue. Gingivitis is reversible, but periodontal disease is not. Regular professional cleanings and home care will slow the progress of the disease.

To conduct a cleaning, Dr. Whitworth places your pet under general anesthesia. Your pet remains pain-free during the procedure while the vet examines his/her mouth and removes all the plaque and tarter from the teeth and under the gums. The benefits of teeth cleaning far outweigh any risks posed by anesthesia.

A thorough dental cleaning allows the vet to inspect, treat, and chart important information about your pet’s dental health. Besides removing plaque and tartar, the procedure includes

  • Polishing the teeth to smooth enamel scratches that may attract bacteria
  • X-rays to evaluate problems below the gum line
  • Application of fluoride or a dental sealer
  • Removing or repairing fractured or infected teeth
  • Dental charting for monitoring purposes
  • Inspection of the lips, tongue, and entire mouth for growths, wounds, or other problems


If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or behaviors that include drooling, pawing at the mouth, or other discomfort, it’s time to schedule a visit with Dr. Whitworth. There are many reasons to be vigilant about your pet’s dental health. Like humans, pets need dental care to sustain good health and vitality.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Cat scan: check your cat’s eyes to avoid problems

Keep checking

up close photo of cat with larger green eyes | Whitworth Animal ClinicIt’s second nature for most cat owners to inspect and scrutinize their pet’s physical condition while grooming or snuggling. It’s always a good idea to do a routine home exam to make sure there’s nothing amiss; follow these tips to make sure your kitty is in tip-top shape.

The eyes can be a window into your pet’s overall health, so check them frequently. Problems with eyes can indicate everything from a virus to a head injury.

The third eyelid: nature’s way of protecting

First-time cat owners may not be aware that felines have a third eyelid which serves as a protection for the eye. The third eyelid is normally hidden in the corner of the eye near the nose. The healthy third eyelid is white to light pink. It is quite sophisticated and even has cartilage and a tear-producing gland. Normally, the third eyelid is not visible. However, if the cat senses danger, it uses a muscle to pull the eyeball back a bit, and the third eyelid slips out to protect the eye. If you would like to know more about the third eyelid, ask Dr. Whitworth to show it to you and explain its functions at your pet’s next check-up.

Visible third eyelid

If the third eyelid is exposed in one of your cat’s eyes, it’s possible there’s an injury. Eye injuries are painful and can lead to infection, so it’s best to visit to Dr. Whitworth at Whitworth Animal Clinic to make sure the problem does not escalate. If your kitty has had dental or ear surgery, one of the third eyelids might become visible if the nerve control center of the third eyelid was disturbed during surgery. Call for a post-surgery check-up if you are concerned.

Both third eyelids visible

There are a variety of reasons both third eyelids could become visible. Schedule an appointment and let the experts at Whitworth Animal get to the root cause of the issue and suggest treatment.

Routine home checkups

Normally, cats’ eyes are clear and shiny. The area around the eyeball should be white and both pupils the same size. The lining of the eyelids should be perfectly pink—not red or white. Take some time each day to do a routine home checkup and observe your kitty. If he rubs his eyes, squints, or otherwise demonstrates discomfort, make an appointment to get professional diagnosis and treatment.

Here is a list of symptoms to look for when examining your cat’s eyes:

  • Discharge
  • Watering/tear-stained fur
  • Red or white eyelid linings/change in eye color
  • Crusty gunk in the corners of the eye
  • Closed eye(s)
  • Cloudiness
  • Visible third eyelid
  • Pupils unequal in size


Be aware that Persians and some other cat breeds are prone to eye discharge. Use a dampened cotton ball to wipe away from the corner of the eye to clean debris and be sure to use a clean cotton ball for each eye. This may need to be done daily to make sure the crust does not harden and block tear ducts. Clip long, stray hairs out of the cat’s eyes to avoid problems. If the discharge looks abnormal, consult Dr. Whitworth.

Cats can be illusive and independent, so cat owners must be vigilant:

  • Conduct home-health examinations on a regular basis to make sure your cat’s eyes are clear and bright.
  • Remember to schedule regular annual physical exams for young felines and bi-annual visits for mature cats at Whitworth Animal Clinic.


©2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Hiking with your dog: precautions you must take

photo of couple crossing a creek with their dogDale Evans and Roy Rogers said it best, “Some trails are happy ones, Others are blue”. In order to make sure all your trails are happy, make sure to get prepared for hiking with your dog.

Fitness first

Just like humans, puppies and adult dogs need training to prepare for day hikes. Start with short walks to begin conditioning and toughen the paw pads. Add additional mileage to increase endurance.

  • Don’t take puppies hiking until they have had all their shots.
  • Check with Whitworth about your pup’s readiness for hiking.


During the conditioning period, do some research and purchase special equipment needed for hiking with your dog.

Gear up

Pack harnesses are available for all dog sizes. Some harnesses have handy built-in water reservoirs and others have handles to help lift the dog or guide him through rough terrain.

  • The loaded pack should not total more than 1/3 of your dog’s weight.
  • The pack should fit snugly between the nape of his neck and hip bones.
  • Make sure the harness is snug enough to prevent escape but loose enough to avoid chafing. Experts recommend sliding two fingers under the straps to ensure correct fit.
  • Before the first hike, acclimate your pet to the harness/pack. Let him wear it around the house and on walks to get used to it.

Hiking Hydration

  • Carry a collapsible water bowl. Dogs, like humans, need hydration—8 oz. of water every hour.
  • Dogs can get giardia, a troubling intestinal parasite, from contaminated water in streams and other outdoor water sources. You and your pet should be drinking fresh, clean, treated water.

Snacks on the go

Buy protein-packed snacks for the pet on-the-go.

First aid for your pet

  • Paw pads can get cut or injured while hiking. Take a sock and some duct tape to create a protective bootie in case that happens.
  • Make sure your pet is protected against ticks. Check carefully after hiking and remove ticks if you find them.

Plan the first hike carefully.

Search by state for great dog-hiking adventures.

  • Find an easy, paw-friendly path for the first hike.
  • Look for shady, leaf-padded paths.
  • Stay away from trails shared with horses or motorbikes.
  • Avoid steep, rocky trails.

Rules of the Road

  • Keep pets leashed around other hikers, bikers, and horses.
  • Hikers with dogs should yield the trail to hikers without dogs.
  • Bring bags for dog waste, double bag, and make sure it gets in a trash can at the end of your hike

Aprés Hike

Feed your canine friend his usual evening serving of food and an additional 30% to make up any calorie deficit for the day.

Make sure to give your pet lots of fresh water and love.

Enjoy hiking with your pet, and don’t forget the immortal words of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers:

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,
Keep smiling until then.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Good or Bad? Fleas on dogs and cats

photo of 3 dogs scratching for fleas | Whitworth Animal ClinicProtect your pet to avoid suffering

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the answer to this question. Fleas are bad and they are everywhere. In fact, worldwide there are over 2,000 species of fleas. North America is home to more than 300 varieties of the pests. It’s important to treat your pets and be vigilant about keeping their surroundings, the yard and house, protected from infestations.

Tiny vampires

Fleas are small, wingless insects that have siphon-like mouthparts. They thrive on blood. Each type of flea has a preferred host, so there are dog flea and cat flea species. In other words, a flea is not a flea except when it comes to one goal: blood sucking. Fleas generally don’t feed on humans, but they will if there is no other host.

Egg-laying machines

The female lays eggs 24-36 hours after her first blood meal. A flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which is equal to its body weight. It can lay this many eggs because fleas suck up 15 times their body weight in blood daily. For up to 3 months, fleas are egg-laying machines. As your pet walks around the house and yard, the eggs are dispersed everywhere. That is a recipe for a flea infestation of epic proportions.

Pain and suffering

When fleas attack your pet, it scratches, bites and licks the irritated area. A constant barrage of the flea bite-itching/scratching/biting cycle can lead to scabs and scarring. Some dogs are allergic to flea bites. Even one bite can cause swelling and itching. Doctors call this “allergy dermatitis” or “parasitic dermatitis.” All this irritation can cause infection and allow harmful bacteria to invade.

Fleas Cause Tapeworms

Another reason to be diligent about flea protection is the tapeworm. Fleas are the intermediate hosts for tapeworms. If your pet is grooming itself or biting at fleas, it could ingest a flea. Not all fleas become tapeworms, but it only takes one to get a tapeworm infestation started. Getting a handle on tapeworms in dogs and cats includes flea control and deworming medication. Regular visits to Dr. Whitworth will include testing, diagnosis, and treatment for worms of all kinds.

Fleas can, literally, suck the life out of a pet

A heavy infestation of fleas can literally suck the life out of your pet. Anemia, which can be dangerous, results when the flea attack causes a dangerous drop in the pet’s red blood count. The condition can be treated with blood transfusions. It’s critical to keep fleas off pets with a regular flea control program.

Fleas carry germs

Hugging a flea-ridden pet is not a good idea. Fleas carry germs and lots of fleas carry lots of germs. Considering that fleas and ticks can also transmit diseases to humans, removing fleas and keeping your dog or cat comfortable and flea free is a good goal for many reasons.

Remember the yard

Exterminators provide flea treatments for the yard. Fleas love the South because of its high humidity. They thrive in shady areas. Treating the yard will help break the life cycle of pesky fleas.

Regular vet visits

If you think your pet is suffering from a flea-bite allergy, tapeworms, or an infestation of fleas, make an appointment at the Whitworth Animal Clinic today. Learn what precautions you can take to keep fleas at bay.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Best Practices for Keeping Your Aging Pet Healthy

Senior citizen at age 6 or 7—time flies

photo of a preson shaking the paw of an older dogIt comes as a shock to some pet owners that although small dogs generally live longer, they are considered geriatric at the age of 7; and larger dogs have shorter life spans and are considered senior citizens at age 6. So if you have a geriatric canine, listen up, your dog’s health needs have changed. Work with your vet at Whitworth Animal Clinic and follow these Best Practices to make sure your pet remains happy and healthy in his golden years.

Regular visits to the vet.

Healthy young dogs visit the vet one time per year. Consider taking your senior canine for bi-annual vet visits. The physical exam could reveal a problem which, if treated early, could save your pet from suffering.

Just as their human counterparts, dogs develop more health issues as they age:

  • Arthritis
  • Heart, kidney, and liver disease
  • Dental problems
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Bi-annual vet visit will give you a chance to discuss changes in your dog’s habits:

  • Food/water consumption
  • Changes in urinary and bowel habits
  • Irritability
  • Hearing, vision, or sleep
  • Mobility

Consider changing your dog’s diet:

  • Older dogs are less active so they gain weight
  • Some canine health conditions can be managed through diet
  • Vitamin and nutrient requirements change


There are foods on the market that target the special needs of senior pets. It’s best to consult with Dr. Whitworth about the type of food that will meet your pet’s nutrition requirements.

Modify your pet’s environment and routine to maintain good mental and physical health, and mobility:

  • Make sure your dog exercises regularly
  • Interact with your pet to keep his mind active. Keep him social and provide treats to encourage active chewing
  • Provide a comfortable bed with extra padding. Move the bed as needed to help the dog avoid stairs
  • Allow your pet to stay indoors. Remember, slippery wood floors are dangerous as pets age
  • Buy steps or a ramp to help your dog get to a favorite resting spot
  • Help your canine friend get in and out of the car

So true

Your pet has been a good friend. Dan Gemeinhart, author of The Honest Truth says, “Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us. And make our lives a little brighter. And they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.”

Take good care of your canine friend so he will live to love [YOU] another day.

© 2017 Whitworth Animal Clinic. All rights reserved.

Lapping Lepto? Dog Owner–Be Vigilant

A Growing Concern

photo of boy walking his dog through the big puddle | Whitworth Animal ClinicLeptospirosis, a serious bacterial disease which can affect dogs, other animals, and humans, is on the rise. Leptospirosis is common where temperatures are mild and where there are rainy seasons. In the U.S., the disease is caused by one of eight strains of the bacteria of the leptospira genus.

The bacteria must have water to live; it can survive in damp soil, stagnant water or mud, especially in warm climates. The bad bacteria can typically be found in water where infected wildlife, e.g., raccoons, skunks, opossums, rats, deer urinate. Pets and livestock can also spread the disease through shared water sources.

Symptoms

Not every animal exposed to leptospira becomes violently ill; sometimes, it has no effect and other times only a mild effect. In rare cases where the disease becomes life-threatening, antibiotics and intervenous treatments are prescribed. In the acute stage, there can be damage to the kidneys and liver. The symptoms of the disease—vomiting, diarrhea, and sluggishness—are deceptive because they could indicate a variety of illnesses, so diagnosis can be tricky.

Prevention in Pets

Preventing the disease in domestic pets requires awareness and vigilance on the part of the pet owner. Keep your pet away from water that could possibly be infected:

  • Stagnant puddles or ponds
  • Flood water
  • Muddy dog parks
  • Communal bowls at the dog park
  • Backyard water bowl—clean it regularly; wildlife could be using it
  • Pet owners should be aware that the vaccine doesn’t protect against all variations of the bacteria.

Human Vulnerability

In humans, leptospirosis can be serious. Keeping this disease at bay is a public health issue because leptospirosis can be spread to humans through contact with an infected pet’s urine or bodily fluids. In parts of the world where flooding is common, humans can become infected by exposing an open wound to infected flood water.

Preventing Leptospirosis in Humans

Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to human are called zoonotic diseases. It’s uncommon for a human to contact a disease from a pet, but it can happen. To protect yourself and your family, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Avoid close contact with animal excretions
  • Wash your hands if you come into contact w/feces
  • Keep rodent population down
  • Don’t leave pet food outside which could attract infected wildlife
  • Have your vet examine and vaccinate your pet

Other Resources

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information on leptospirosis and guidelines for preventing occurrence of the disease in pets.

Ask Dr. Whitworth

Dr. Whitworth stays current on best practices for canine vaccinations. When it comes to leptospirosis and other zoonotic diseases, it’s important to keep your pet’s shot record up-to-date because it can also protect you.

Schedule an appointment today to discuss concerns about your pet or to update immunizations.

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