Veterinarian Ukachi Ugorji D.V.M. of Craig Road Animal Hospital in North West Las Vegas identifies the causes and treatment of hairballs in cats.
By: Ukachi Ugorgi D.V.M.
Cats spend at least half of their waking hours licking themselves. They are trained to groom themselves from birth by watching their mothers. Cats lick themselves for several reasons aside from the obvious motive of hygiene. For them, grooming is a coping mechanism and form of self-comfort when they feel displaced or nervous. They also use grooming to regulate their body temperatures. The evaporation of saliva on their coats helps them to cool down in hot weather.
Cat tongues have tiny backwards-facing barbs that serve several purposes. The barbs (papillae) serve as the perfect grooming tool for your cat’s coat care. Their tongues are like a built-in comb that rakes their fur free of any dirt and debris. During this process, a cat’s free flowing hairs get raked up and can get swallowed.
Hairballs are an accumulation of free hair in the stomach. Generally, loose strands of hair pass through your cat’s digestive tract and are expelled in the feces. However, in some cases, the free hair that your cat swallows can get clumped together inside the stomach and is vomited up. Rare situations can result in a giant hairball called a trichobezoar.
A trichobezoar is a hard wad of hair that becomes lodged in the stomach that is too large to vomit or pass through the pylorus (opening of the stomach into small intestines). In extreme cases, hairballs can be fatal. If a cat is unable to pass the hairball, it can cause intestinal blockage that may require a gastro intestinal surgery to remove. Sluggishness, lack of appetite, and weight loss in your cat are all symptoms to cause alarm concerning your cat’s gastro-intestinal health. Speak with your veterinarian immediately if your cat won’t eat, or is retching and not producing anything.
To diagnose stomach or intestinal blockage a physical exam must first be performed by a Veterinarian. X-rays and ultrasound are methods by which your veterinarian can confirm that your pet has a blockage. After an ultrasound or X-ray reveals a blockage, depending on the location (stomach, esophagus, or intestine) and the size of the mass an endoscopy may be performed.
During this surgical procedure, a small tube with a camera attached is fed through the mouth and into the stomach to provide the surgeon with a view of the inside of the patient and remote grasping and loop tools are used to aid in the retrieval of the object. If the object, such as a hairball, cannot be removed by endoscopy then a full abdominal exploratory surgery may have to take place.
Hairballs, while relatively common, are not normal. There are a variety of underlying issues that can result in your cat vomiting up hairballs including stress, skin disease, allergies, parasites, and decreased motility of the gastro-intestinal tract.
Over-grooming is the most common cause of hairballs in cats. It is important to closely evaluate your cat’s environment for any causes of stress that could be compelling your cat to groom excessively. Note if there have been any recent changes in the household that could be triggering your cats, such as an addition of a new housemate or any unpleasant stimulus. Observe the interactions between your cat and the other members of the household to ensure that they are not stressful to your cat. Cats will also groom themselves out of boredom.
Ensure that your cat’s environment is enriched with toys to occupy themselves while they alone. Also, make sure they are getting enough attention and interactions while you are home.Hairballs can occur in long and short haired cats, although the problem is more persistent in cats with longer hair. It is especially important to maintain proper grooming and brushing to aid in the removal of loose hair in your cat’s coat. The more you aid in maintaining you cat’s coat the better you can prevent hairballs in your feline friend.Although hairballs are a natural part of a cat’s life cycle, they are not something that they have to suffer with if they become a problem. If you think your cat is having hairball issues you should discuss this with your Veterinarian.
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Austin started caring for a variety of animals at a young age, helping out on his father’s boarding house for horses. Whether it was binding an injured foot or feeding any of the cows, chickens, or sheep on his family property, there was always something to do.
As he got older, his love for education and animal communication grew.
“People learn more about themselves through their animals,” Austin said. “Being able to share that knowledge with others is all I want to do.”
The fourth year Colorado State student is interested in small animal practice. Austin believes that veterinarians play a very important role in the community and is focused on education, engagement, and animal behavior.
“There is a plethora of wrong information out there that people have access to at the tips of their fingertips,” Austin said. “It is important to have a professional that clients feel comfortable with to help guide them on how to care for their pets.”
Austin is from New Mexico and enjoys spending his study breaks with his pointer mix, Jerry.
By Tianna Winters
Sara was making her normal rounds on the farm when she stumbled across a brown heap of fur. “He was just curled up into a little ball, and you can tell that he was starved, just skin and bones,” she said. Sara remembers how it was easy to tell he had been out here for some time. When she offered him some water, he slowly uncurled and cautiously walked towards her. That’s when she noticed his injury. “His leg looked like it was completely crushed, it was just limp and bent the wrong way,” Sara said.
She called over one of the field hands to help her pick Bill up and carry him back to the farm. “We all discussed what we wanted to do,” she said. “We knew that the leg was going to have to be amputated because it just looked terrible.” Sara and a few of her coworkers take their pets to Craig Road Animal Hospital which is how we came to know the story of Bill. “We saw Bill right away and decided the best thing we could do was to amputate the leg,” said Katherine Ballor, DVM who saw Bill that day. “We took x-rays to check for internal injuries, we ran blood to check the internal organs, and ran a fecal test to check for parasites,” Dr. Ballor said. “Bill was malnourished, had parasites, and a severely injured leg. The poor guy had it rough.”
After a successful surgery, Dr. Ballor wrapped Bill up and sent him home. A few days later Bill came in for a check-up and the difference was night and day. “The timid, emaciated dog that came in for an emergency turned out to be a playful, affectionate pup,” Dr. Ballor said. “He even started to gain some weight and was already well accustomed to getting around on three legs. He was a completely different dog.” Our entire staff fell in love with Bill the moment he came through our doors. We could not put into words the feeling we had to see him walking around like a normal, lovable dog. And Sara said he’s flourishing at home. “He runs and plays all over the place. He is also starting to understand commands,” she said.
He is also a bit of a guard dog, letting any unfamiliar face know that this is his pack…or at least until Sara tells him to back off. “Overall, he’s just a big teddy bear,” she said. “We all love him on the ranch, he’s our mascot.” His love for his mother definitely shines through. Anywhere she goes, Bill is close by. Her favorite story to share is how affectionate Bill is. He sleeps in his own bed next to hers and throughout the night, Bill lifts his head onto the side of her bed, just to let her know that he’s there. Congratulations Bill, you are our March Pet of the Month!
Watch Bill’s whole story here:
Craig Road Animal Hospital’s very own Marketing Manager Tianna Winters shadowed Dr. Shane Murphy during one of his shifts to get a feel of how the hospital runs and its culture. Below is the second addition of her personal account of what it’s like to be a veterinarian in North West Las Vegas.
Missed the first article? Read it here.
3:20 p.m. – After Dr. Murphy makes sure the Border Collie was comfortably waiting in a kennel, he checks on the Pit Bull mix with the mass between his toes. The friendly dog that greeted us in the room earlier has been replaced with an uncooperative bulldozer. “Dr. Murphy room six.” With the help of three Veterinary Technicians, Dr. Murphy is able to retrieve the needed samples.
3:50 p.m. – Dr. Murphy goes into room six. He currently has two dogs in the treatment area and three exam rooms he is working between. Exam room six has a lethargic cat that has had one bite of food in the past four days. Exam room three has a very sick puppy that looks like she may have contracted Parvovirus, a common and potentially fatal viral disease in dogs, and exam room eight has a three-year-old Golden Retriever that ate his owner’s birth control pills.
I decided to take this opportunity to chat with a few of the other doctors while Dr. Murphy tends to his many rooms, as I felt I was slowing him down. I laugh when I remember how worried I was when coming up with ideas of what to talk about during “down time”. I was able to talk to the five other doctors on the floor who were also busy prepping for surgeries, giving vaccines, and analyzing blood work. There are only eight exam rooms, but this place is busy! Besides the appointments, there are walk-ins that are coming in as well. I ask if this is normal and was told that this is just a typical day at Craig Road. The hospital caters to an average of 150 to 200 pets per day and one doctor can attend up to 20 to 30 rooms each shift.
4:30 p.m. – Dr. Christopher Roberts offers to take a look at the blood samples from the Pit Bull with the mass for Dr. Murphy while he attended to his other rooms.
The process for the samples is a long one. First the sample must be dyed so that the different cells are readable. After the dye dries, they can be viewed. All in all, the process takes about 15 to 20 minutes and if the sample isn’t readable, the process starts all over again. The third sample was the winner.
5:10 p.m. – Dr. Roberts deciphered the cells…it looks like cancer. He calls over Dr. Murphy to take a look at the slide. Dr. Murphy agrees but wants to send it to the outside reference lab for a confirmation.
5:30 p.m. – Dr. Murphy makes a few calls to update owners on their pets. The lethargic cat is being held overnight so that tests can be performed and treatments started. The puppy does have Parvo and is placed in isolation for aggressive treatment and the exam room is sanitized. The Golden Retriever is given an injection that makes him vomit. And then an emergency comes in and it’s given to Dr. Murphy.
6:00 p.m. – A brown, mixed breed dog, is brought in with three BB-gun shots between her torso and abdomen. She was in her front yard before being shot by an unknown assailant. The poor dog is groaning and barely moving. It doesn’t look good. The dog is 10-years-old. An ultrasound is performed and there is fluid in her abdomen. Surgery will need to be performed to evaluate the full extent of the damage. But even with surgery, the dog may not make it. “These are the discussions I never get used to having,” says Dr. Murphy before he walks out of treatment.
6:45 p.m. – The parents tearfully request to have their dog euthanized.
Yes, I got a little teary eyed. I needed to take a break.
Next week: Another emergency that leads to surgery and puppies! Stay tuned!
Watch our video below to see why dental care for your pet is important:
Don’t miss out on our Dental Special! $30 off of our normal dental cleaning & polishing price! But wait, there’s more:
Our Dental special for 2017 has now ended
FREE Dental Exam
FREE Bath or Bath Voucher
FREE Anal Gland Expression
FREE Nail Trim
FREE 30 Day Pet Insurance Trial Offer
*Up to $100 in savings and additional free services!
*Does not include extractions, blood work, or medications.
Veterinarian Kurt Mychajlonka D.V.M. [Dr.Mych] of Craig Road Animal Hospital in North West Las Vegas identifies the causes why a dog might eat his own feces, aka coprophagia, and shares some helpful tips on how to nix the dirty habit.
By Kurt Mychajlonka, DVM
Yes, dogs eat poop, no matter how horrified the owner may be. But eating poop-technically known as coprophagia-is actually a common canine behavior.
When puppies are first born, mother dogs clean their puppies and ingest their feces and urine in the process. And yes, cat mothers do the same thing. Newborn pups are pretty helpless in the beginning-they can’t see, they can’t walk. The nest would get unsanitary very quickly if the mother were to allow the waste to accumulate. It is only when the puppies start eating solid food and are able to leave the nest to relieve themselves, that mom doesn’t have to worry about those little snacks left around.
Although this behavior is recognized as natural canine behavior, it shouldn’t be ignored and may require medical attention or behavior modification.
In the instance of indoor accidents, dogs may develop a connection between punishment and presence of fecal material. Dogs may ingest their own feces so they won’t get into trouble. This is why it is important to not use negative reinforcement when housebreaking.
Boredom can be another reason for dogs to eat feces. A busy dog doesn’t have time to be bored, so increase your dog’s daily exercise through walks, playing ball, or practicing obedience commands or tricks. Give your dog a Kong filled with frozen peanut butter, or their favorite treat, to keep your dog entertained and distracted.
Another strategy to combat coprophagia is to change to a different variety of dog food. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription or hypoallergenic diet to address underlying digestive problems. Ask your veterinarian about your individual dog’s health and diet recommendations. Always mix the new food in with the old to gradually change it over a period of 7 to 10 days.
Another tool to break the stool eating habits are food additives like CoproBan, a roast beef flavored soft chew which is fed along with a meal and has the effect of making the stool taste undesirable. Yes, as if stool didn’t already sound undesirable tasting enough!
If none of the above works, there may be a medical problem going on with your pet. Intestinal parasites can cause dogs to eat waste due to changes in their stool. Provide a fresh fecal sample to your veterinarian to screen for any parasites. Underfeeding, a poor quality diet, or going too long between meals, may contribute to coprophagia. Your veterinarian can help evaluate your dog’s weight, provide a dietary recommendation, and provide an individualized feeding schedule that best suits your dog’s needs.
Constant outdoor supervision combined with positive reinforcement training is another method to help kick your dog of this particular habit. You’ll need a collar or head halter for the dog, a leash, and some small treats that they favor. If your dog is easy to handle, just a collar will suffice. A head halter is used for dogs more motivated to ingest feces as it will give you more control of the dog’s mouth than a collar alone. Always use the leash when taking your dog out to use the potty. The moment your pet’s waste hits the ground, call the dog over to you while keeping the treats out of sight. As soon as your dog reaches you, praise them and give them the treat. Then back away, call them again, and give them another treat. Repeat this process three to four times and the dog will have completely forgotten about his poop.
Make sure to clean stool up immediately, but only when your dog isn’t around. The best way to combat the desire to eat poop is to not have it near them. Not only is it unhealthy for your dog to eat waste, it isn’t sanitary to have feces lying around for you either. It is important to start intervention as soon as you notice your dog eating his own waste. The less time the habit gets to develop the easier it will fade. As with many behavior problems, supervision is key. Do not leave your dog unsupervised in the backyard- you cannot prevent what you aren’t witnessing!
If you encounter your dog in the act of snacking on feces, resist the temptation to yell and chase him about. Yelling and chasing may serve as reinforcement of this “game” in the future. The better strategy is to distract your dog with a squeaky toy or running in the opposite direction- either game is more fun and will distract your dog from the fecal treat nearby.
So don’t feel too bad when you notice your dog treating themselves to their own or someone else’s poop as a snack. You’re not alone, and neither are they.
Veterinarian Katherine Ballor of Craig Road Animal Hospital discusses what you can do to help detect parasites in your pet’s gastrointestinal tracts. These invisible monsters can make you and your loved one very sick. The following are the most common parasites found here in North West Las Vegas.
By Katherine Ballor, DVM
Fecal tests are one of the easiest forms of preventative care for your pet.
It isn’t because we enjoy dealing with poop, it’s because it allows us to check your dog or cat for internal parasites. Parasites are fairly common and because they are invisible to the naked eye, a fecal check is the only way to detect them. The initial stages of infection often have no symptoms. Did I mention that many of these parasites can be transferred from your pet to those living in your household? Children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals are at the highest risk of contracting these freeloaders. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), roundworms, initially contracted by dogs and cats, infect up to 14 percent of humans living in the United States.The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) website tracks and shares infection rates by state and county. In Clark County, roundworms were found in 1 out of 111 dogs tested. Roundworms are usually found in poop or vomit and the adult worms resemble spaghetti. This parasite feeds on the intestinal wall of the infected animal. Puppies tend to be at the highest risk for this parasite. Deworming your puppy as early as six weeks old is recommend and we also suggest deworming any female animals before they breed and during their pregnancy. Roundworm infections can come from eating infected small mammals such as mice, or drinking milk from a contaminated mother. Soil can also be a source of infection-particularly potting soil. The best way to help prevent the spread of roundworms is by picking up your dog’s feces regularly. Keep children from playing in the areas where animal feces are found to avoid possible pet to human infection.
Hookworm is another nasty parasite that can have a severe effect on your pet, and is potentially fatal in extreme cases. In Clark County, according to CAPC, hookworms have been found in 1 out of 170 dogs tested. Like roundworms, hookworms can also thrive in cats, and humans. There are three different species found in dogs and some can infect humans by simply migrating through the skin. Trust me, you don’t want these in your body. The hookworm gets its’ name from literally hooking itself to the intestinal wall. It feeds on your pet’s blood and tissues and can even detach itself to move onto another spot, leaving ulcers behind.Most hookworms are passed through the feces and the larvae will hatch under moist, warm conditions. They can also be ingested when your dog licks the ground or grooms themselves where the larvae may be present. And as mentioned earlier, they can migrate through the skin, typically through the paws and stomach. Signs your pet may have an infection are weight loss, pale gums, diarrhea, and a bloody stool. To reduce the chances of contracting hookworm, pick up pet waste on a daily basis and keep areas where humans have direct contact to the ground clean.
Another common parasite found in Las Vegas is Giardia. This parasite can be transmitted to humans and is completely invisible by the naked eye. Giardia infection often shows no symptoms in most dogs until the later stages after the parasite has already colonized in the intestines. The parasite then feasts off of the intestines preventing the animal from receiving the nutrients it needs causing diarrhea and weight loss.The diarrhea caused by a Giardia infection is frequent, urgent, and is often paired with a very bad smell and mucus. While Giardia, like all parasitic infections, is treatable, it can take a significant amount of time and be extremely frustrating due to the pet re-infecting itself while grooming. Your pet can initially get this parasite from drinking contaminated water, playing in parks, and from infected food.
Giardia is something that can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian from a fecal sample. This parasite often infects puppies and is very common in dogs under three years old.
While there are currently no preventative vaccines for Giardia, you can help prevent contamination by always providing clean water when on walks and not allowing your dog to drink from natural sources. Also eliminate any standing water sources like puddles or drainage in areas around the home.
To protect your pet, and by extension your family, from parasites we recommend fecal examinations two to four times in the first year of life and then one to two times a year after that or at any time you suspect your pet may infected. The fresher the stool sample the better the results! A same day sample is preferred. We aren’t afraid of poop, so don’t worry about us. We just want you to have a healthy, happy pet. I cannot stress enough how important these tests are in preventative care for your loved one.
Hailing from Oak Ridge, New Jersey, Elizabeth Ashman was introduced to us through our externship program here at Craig Road Animal Hospital. The fourth year student will become a D.V.M. after graduating from Ross University in September 2015.
Concentrating on general practice and internal medicine, Ashman said that working in the field is one of her true passions and finds it to be extremely rewarding. She loves working on all animals and has even worked with big cats like snow leopards and lions at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York.
Ashman also understands how animals can be a very important member of a family. “It’s nice to not only make a difference to the animal itself but also to the clients,” Ashman said.
While she is excited to be reunited with her three dogs back in Jersey, the veterinary student plans to practice in the Midwest and cannot wait to get started.
Tiffany Major D.V.M. has wanted to work with animals for as long as she can remember. She started early, taking her first job at a hospital while still a junior in high school. Dr. Major worked as a veterinary technician for ten years at Pembroke Animal Hospital. During this time she also started on her undergrad at the University of New Hampshire.
Searching for a warmer climate, she went to Ross University for her graduate in St. Kitts, West Indies, where she rescued her island dog, Dexter, a Shih Tzu mix. Her other baby, is an adorable Yorkie named Darby and a bit of a troublemaker.
Dr. Major then went on to complete her clinical year at the University of Missouri where she was introduced to Craig Road Animal Hospital through our externship program. A self-proclaimed “professional student” the doctor found her way back to New Hampshire where she practiced at a 24-hour emergency advanced care veterinary hospital for a year.
Dr. Major enjoys her job because she has the chance to return the unconditional love that animals share with others. “To be able to help a pet is one of the greatest things that someone can do,” Dr. Major said. “They’re always there for us so being there for them just makes me happy.”