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The Most Misinterpreted Pet Symptoms

As a veterinarian, I am gratified to notice that our clients are very astute and are generally able to accurately tell us what is not right with their pet when they come in for a visit. In fact, we as veterinarians depend on this to do our very best diagnostic work. I think we are fortunate to have some of the smarter clients one could hope to serve.

That said, there are a few conditions that cause symptoms that can be confusing for the owner. Misinterpretation can result in unneeded expense to the owner and unneeded “treatments” for the pet. If you have “fallen” for one of these pitfalls, do not feel bad, they sometimes trip up vets as well. Let’s look at a few of these.

1. My Dog Has Fleas Because He Is Itching

Dog Scratching

Here in Utah, it is fairly rare to find dogs and cats with fleas, and usually it can be traced to pets that travel to other areas where fleas are common. An overwhelming percentage of itchy dogs have other reasons why they are itchy. Regrettably, the local pet stores make a fortune on selling OTC flea preparations that do absolutely no good to the pet and waste the owner’s money. Statistically, most itching here in Utah county comes from pet allergies.

Talk to your vet about specific treatments. If you think you do see fleas on your pet, before you plink down twenty bucks at the pet store, try to catch the bug and bring it in to be identified. Most of the time it is something else, and if you are a rare person that has a pet that truly is flea infested, we can guide you on the best way to treat the fleas, and tell you about the best products.

2. My Dog Has Worms

Sad Dog

Scooting is where a dog will aim his bottom to the ground and rub it along the ground. There is a myth out “there” that a scooting dog has worms. I doubt it will ever go away. While worms can cause a variety of symptoms, including (I suppose) scooting, I can say with confidence that 99.99% of all scooting dogs do NOT have worms.

What almost all of them have is full or impacted anal sacs (glands). Once you squeeze them out, the problem is resolved. Sadly, I have seen a notable amount of money wasted on over-the-counter dewormers for scooting dogs with the expected poor results. A vet or a groomer can quickly take care of an anal sac problem for your dog.

This is a good spot to also mention that dogs do not get hemorrhoids. Sometimes the anal sacs will abscess, leaving a small wound. I promise it is not a hemorrhoid. Please do not use Preparation H on your dog. It is very unpleasant for your pet.

3. My Dog Is Constipated

Dog Confused

It is true that sometimes dogs do get constipated. However, it is surprisingly rare and usually related to other conditions like back problems. (Cats are a different story) What is usually wrong when a dog acts constipated is that he/she is straining due to a condition called colitis. Colitis causes the dogs to have a sensation that they need to go, but what actually comes out is actually loose, slimy, and often bloody diarrhea in small amounts.

The dogs often will be mildly or moderately sick and sometimes will vomit. Colitis has a variety of causes but is generally treated easily with medications. Unfortunately, what I have often seen is folks will see their dogs strain to defecate and will give the dog an enema. This action is extremely unpleasant to the dog with colitis and generally makes the colitis much worse.

One other thing to check for if you own a hairy dog like a Pomeranian is if there is a mat of poop stuck to the fur around the dog’s anus. These dogs have this happen fairly regularly. If you can remove it at home it will correct the problem, otherwise bring the dog in and we can take care of it.

4. My Pet Has Ear Mites

Dog Flopping Ears

Unlike fleas, ear mites (Otodectes) are a common problem here, and if you were bringing in a recently adopted 6 month old cat, that came from the pound, it likely would be ear mites. However, it is less common in mature cats and somewhat infrequent in dogs. Statistically, it causes a rather low percentage of ear infections in dogs.

What happens here is folks will see the pet scratching its ears, assume it is ear mites, and buy the goopy OTC ear mite preparations. These leave a thick residue and complicate the correct treatment of the ear infection when they invariably don’t work.

I hope this is helpful as you care for your pet and I hope you all have a healthy and safe 2016. As always, feel free to call us if there are any questions.

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