National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day

Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day

Even though it is the dog days of summer, Wednesday, August 22nd is National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day. Only half of American cats see a veterinarian on a routine basis. The lack of medical care means feline health concerns remain unaddressed until the condition is severe and more difficult to treat. #Cat2VetDay is a gentle reminder to cat families that their favorite feline deserves preventive health care just like the family dog.

Barriers to Vet Visits
A survey of cat owners, conducted by the pet food company Royal Canin, identified four common excuses cat families use for skipping cat checkups. The barriers include:

  1. Difficulty getting your cat to the veterinarian – read “My cat hates its carrier.”
  2. Belief in the urban myth that cats need less veterinary care than dogs.
  3. Reluctance to ask for time off work to make a trip to the veterinarian.
  4. Cost of veterinary care.

Overcoming Barrier #1
This is the easiest barrier to overcome. First, leave the carrier out all the time, fill it with a soft, comfy fleece bed and a catnip toy or two, and usually the problem solves itself.

If your cat is really difficult about the carrier, check with your veterinarian about safe, effective and cost-conscious drugs to use when transporting your cat.

Overcoming Barrier #2
The fact that you are reading this post is overcoming the dangerous myth that cats require less health care than dogs. Because sick cats can hide their illness until they are nearly dead, it is easy to see how this myth has been perpetuated. Undoing the myth is a challenge and part of the reason for Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day.

Overcoming Barrier #3
Since over 30% of American households have a feline member, there is a good chance your boss has a cat and will understand if you need to leave early for a veterinary visit. If your boss is not feline-friendly, then look for a cat clinic with evening or weekend hours.

Overcoming Barrier #4
A routine preventive health care visit for your cat is designed to identify problems before they become big expensive ones or require an animal ER visit. To help manage pet health care costs, check with your employer’s human resources office to see if pet health insurance is an option in your benefits package. If not, consider purchasing a policy after reviewing these insurance FAQs answered by AMC’s Usdan Institute for Animal Health Education.

Celebrate #Cat2VetDay by using the steps above as a road map to getting your cat to see their veterinarian annually. Check out these additional resources to help make your cat’s veterinary visits a positive experience for everyone.

Explaining the FVRCP in Feline Vaccines

cat vaccine

June is Adopt a [Shelter] Cat Month and every blog post in June will focus on some aspect of our furry feline friends. Today’s topic is one of the “core” feline vaccinations, FVRCP.

Vaccines for cats are categorized as core and non-core. Core means veterinary infectious disease and public health experts recommend all cats receive vaccines considered core. Rabies vaccine is considered a core vaccine for both dogs and cats. The other core vaccine for cats is FVRCP or feline viral rhinotracheitis, calici virus, and panleukopenia. The rhinotracheitis virus and calicivirus are the top two causes of feline upper respiratory infections. The panleukopenia virus causes a severe viral diarrhea.

Basis for the Core Designation
One of the reasons FVRCP is considered a core vaccine for cats is there are no specific treatments for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calcivirus or panleukopenia virus. The diseases must run their course and veterinarians can only treat symptoms: fluids for dehydration, antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, eye ointments for corneal ulcers. It’s better to prevent these diseases with vaccination than to have your cat suffer from one of these debilitating viral infections. Should you fall in love with a shelter cat suffering from an upper respiratory infection due to rhinotracheitis virus and calicivirus, the cat is likely to make a full recovery and become a lovable member of the family.

Feline viral rhinotracheitis is caused by a herpes virus. Similar to herpes virus infections in humans, once a cat is infected with a herpes virus, the virus will lay dormant until a cat is stressed and then clinical signs can flare up. Clinical signs of rhinotracheitis include lethargy, sneezing, conjunctivitis, and ocular and nasal discharge. Severe cases can have corneal ulcers and pneumonia. Young kittens are often the most severely affected.

The C
Feline calicivirus causes clinical signs similar to rhinotracheitis, but much milder. Cats with an upper respiratory infection due to calicivirus are likely to develop oral ulcers, especially of the tongue. Some cats develop joint inflammation leading to lameness but the lameness lasts only 1-2 days. Occasionally, a more virulent strain of calicivirus circulates in feline populations resulting in severe systemic disease.

The P
Panleukopenia is the medical way to say “a very low white blood cell count.” Closely related to the better known canine parvovirus, the feline panleukopenia virus infects the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow and intestinal tract. The impact on the bone marrow is a low white blood cell count which leaves panleukopenia virus-infected cats open to severe infection. Infection of the gut cells leads to severe diarrhea. Once a cat is infected with the panleukopenia virus, successfully treating this disease becomes very difficult. Fortunately, vaccination works well to prevent panleukopenia.

As part of your family’s celebration of June’s Adopt a [Shelter] Cat Month, check with your cat’s veterinarian about the need for FVRCP vaccination for your cat, the best type of vaccine and the schedule of administration.

Lifestyle Factors Related to Feline Obesity

Buster Brown

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month and every blog post in June will focus on some aspect of our furry feline friends. Today’s topic is obesity.

I saw one of my favorite patients the other day. Okay, I admit, all my patients are my favorite. Buster Brown is a mink-coated Tonkinese cat, just a bit over one year of age. Because he is young and healthy, I haven’t seen him since before he was neutered and was a bit shocked when I put him on the scale. He had gained three pounds during the five months since I had last seen him. When his family saw the numbers on the scale, they asked, “How did this happen?” Below, I have outlined a few of the contributing factors to feline obesity that cat families can use to keep their furry friend at an ideal body condition.

But My Cat is Big-Boned
You are right, the significance of weight gain depends somewhat on the size of your cat. A slinky Siamese can gain less weight and still have a good body condition than the king of cats, the Maine Coon, but adding three pounds is probably too much for just about any cat. When I assessed Buster B’s body condition score, a scale which looks at a cat’s distribution of fat in various parts of the body, he scored 8/9, which is considered obese for a cat of his size.

Fixing Him, Even Though He’s Not Broken
Although Buster B is extremely handsome, he is a pet and was not going to make babies. Thus, he was neutered before he had a chance to start spraying urine on the furniture or drapes. Male cats that have not been “fixed” have very stinky urine and for that reason, pet cats are typically neutered. Neutering is a known risk factor for obesity in cats and portion control is a good practice after neutering. Decreasing a cat’s food intake by approximately one-third after neutering surgery is a good rule of thumb to prevent unwanted weight gain.

He Likes Crunchies and I Hate Those Smelly Cans in the Fridge
I am with you on this point. Cats like what they like and I find those little cans of congealed salmon and tuna pate revolting sitting next to my kale and organic chicken breasts. But, a diet of more than 50% dry food has been shown to be associated with obesity. If you feed your cat dry food fed free choice, without regard for portion control, your kitty can pack on the pounds. Ditto for treats; limit how many your cat consumes per day since snacking predisposes cats to obesity.

Kitty Gymnasium
In a recent scientific study published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, risk factors for obesity in cats at two years of age were identified. Cats kept indoors were more likely to be overweight or obese. I suspect this is related to exercise or the lack of it in a confined space like your apartment. While research indicating cat calisthenics helps to keep weight off is lacking, exercising your cat with a laser light, fishing pole toy or encouraging them to run up and down the stairs can’t hurt. Better yet, provide a cat tree for climbing as cats love to be up high.

One third to one-half of American cats are considered overweight or obese. Be proactive and keep your kitty slim and trim by controlling his food portions, including some canned food in his diet, and making sure he gets plenty of exercise.

Everyday Medicine: Physical Examination

physical exam

“Everyday Medicine” is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments, and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include “Cytology” and “PCV.” Today’s post focuses on the physical examination.

A physical examination is the foundation of your pet’s medical care. Abnormalities of the eyes, ears, skin, and mouth are easily visualized during an examination. A physical examination identifies any deviations from normal, such as pale gums or weight loss which require further testing, like blood counts or x-rays. If the examination is normal, your veterinarian will recommend preventive care like a heartworm test, fecal analysis or vaccinations.

When I examine a patient, I try to follow a set order. I usually start at the head, open the mouth, look at the teeth and under the tongue. Then I use a special light and lens to look inside the cat or dog’s eyes. The same light has an adapter which allows me to look inside the ears.

Chest or Thorax
Examination of the thorax involves using a stethoscope. During examination of the thorax, I count the heart rate and respirations. I listen to the heart in several different places to identify heart murmurs. Then, I feel the pulse on a hind leg and listen to the heart at the same time to confirm the pulses match the heartbeat. Each heartbeat should generate one pulse. Next, I move my stethoscope around on both sides of the chest to listen to the sounds made by the lungs.

Depending on the size of the patient, I can feel the kidneys, intestines, liver, spleen, and bladder. In really big dogs or really obese patients, I can’t feel too much. (Another good reason to keep your pet trim is that they get a better physical examination!). In vomiting pets, we might be able to feel a stuck toy or a tumor of one of the abdominal organs. In dogs, I typically do a rectal examination. Cats are not big fans of this procedure and only in select cases will I do a rectal examination on a cat. Sometimes this procedure requires sedation. A rectal examination is critical in cases of diarrhea, constipation or when a pet is excessively licking at their rear end. If necessary, I can also obtain a fecal sample or express the anal glands during a rectal examination.

While I am working my way from nose to toes, I look at the skin, feel for lumps and also run my hands down the legs feeling for any swellings or lumps. Being an oncologist by training, I can’t resist checking the lymph nodes under the chin, in front of the shoulders, in the armpits, and behind the knees.

Exam Room Testing
In the exam room, I perform some small tests like measuring a pet’s temperature and body weight. I will also look at the pet and determine the cat or dog’s
body condition score which is a veterinarian’s version of a BMI. I might also sample the ears or skin and look at it under the microscope to determine the cause of an infection.

Once the examination is completed, all the information collected is recorded in your pet’s medical record for comparison to last year’s findings and next year’s findings. Monitoring trends in a pet’s status helps veterinarians recognize subtle but important changes so we can keep your pet in tip-top health.

4 Tips to Get Your Pet Ready for Spring

levingston-puppy-1_3.jpgSpring arrived just this past weekend.  With vernal equinox comes a desire to shape up and be healthier for the coming summer months. Why not include your pet in your springtime health improvement plan?  Here are four tips to help you meet that goal.

  1. Exercise your pet’s body
    Take advantage of the increased number of daylight hours by spending time outdoors exercising with your pet.  Even indoor cats can enjoy outdoor time wearing a harness and leash. Exercise has several health benefits. First, exercise helps keep your pet in tip top condition, and we know pets with ideal body condition have less disease and live longer than those who are overweight. The other benefit of exercise with your dog is for you! Dog owners are healthier than non-dog owners, in part because they get more exercise.
  2. Exercise your pet’s mind
    Some of the time you spend with your pet should exercise their minds to keep them mentally fit. Play games like hide and seek with their favorite toy or create your own feeding puzzle from a tennis ball and some dog treats. Slice an opening along the tennis ball seam. Make the opening big enough to insert a few dog treats. Watch your dog figure out how to flatten the ball and make the treats fall out. To make a cat feeding toy, use an empty plastic water bottle with a screw top lid. Cut little holes in the plastic bottle which are big enough to let your cat’s dry food fall out when the bottle is rolled on the floor. Put a few morsels of dry food in the bottle, cap it, and this low cost toy will keep your cat mentally engaged. If your cat or dog inhales their food, a feeding toy is one method of slowing food consumption so they feel full sooner and eat less.
  3. Take good care of your pet’s teeth
    In pet owner surveys, tooth and gum disease is listed as one of the top health concerns for dogs and cats. Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy involves a multi-pronged approach of daily brushing, annual cleaning and tooth-safe toys. Ignoring dental care can lead to tartar build up, periodontal disease and tooth loss. Your veterinarian will examine your dog or cat’s teeth during an annual examination and recommend appropriate dental care. But of course your veterinarian can only make recommendations if you make an appointment for an annual exam.
  4. Prevent disease
    You may think this is your veterinarian’s job, but I am only the first stop for disease prevention. The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends preventative medications for all pets against heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks. I can prescribe these medications but if you don’t give them on schedule, your pet is at risk for contracting heartworm disease, intestinal worms and diseases carried by ticks, such as Lyme disease. Most preventive medications have smartphone apps to remind you when it is time to give them. Check the package for the product’s web address and set up regular reminders.

For me, the arrival of spring signals my favorite season of the year. By following these easy tips, it should be your favorite time of the year too since you can enjoy it knowing your pet is healthier.

Keeping Your Senior Pet Healthy

Since November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, this image posted on Twitter by @PetLiving caught my eye. Adopting a grey muzzle pet bypasses the need to housebreak, train and socialize your pet, all necessary tasks when you adopt a puppy or kitten. The text accompanying this photo highlights just two of the health issues, loss of vision and hearing, that you might expect when you adopt a senior pet.

Do you have a senior pet?
A dog or cat is considered a “senior” when he or she is in the last 25 percent of the breed’s expected lifespan. So a Great Dane with a life expectancy of 8 years might be a senior at 6 years. Conversely, a miniature poodle with an expected lifespan of 15 years might not be a senior until 11 or 12 years. The lifespan of cats remains more consistent across breeds than in dogs, and cats over 10 years of age are considered seniors.

Keeping your senior cat healthy
Essential to keeping your senior cat healthy are regular preventive care visits to the veterinarian. Over the past 10 or so years, the frequency feline patients see their veterinarian has dropped to less than one time per year. Without routine care, small problems become big ones. Take for example feline teeth. In a British study of over 140,000 cats, nearly 15 percent suffered from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is a painful condition which can be nipped in the bud by routine dental prophylaxis. Wait too long to have your cat’s teeth treated and the need for multiple extractions increases. Preventive health care visits allow your cat’s veterinarian to perform blood tests which can reveal kidney disease at a time when dietary therapy can be effective. Routine visits to your cat’s veterinarian also help to keep tabs on your cat’s weight. Overweight cats have a greater risk of developing diabetes and bladder problems.

Keeping your senior dog healthy
Three critical factors in keeping your senior dog healthy are preventing obesity, promoting mobility and monitoring for cancer. A multi-year study of Labrador retrievers demonstrated the negative impact of obesity on longevity. Dogs fed a restricted amount of food lived nearly two years longer than dogs fed a higher number of calories.

Keeping your senior dog in lean body condition is directly tied to maintaining mobility. Overweight senior dogs with creaky joints have a much more difficult time getting around than their slimmer counterparts. More time sitting on the sofa translates to a decline in muscle strength and turns into a dog that can barely walk. During your twice yearly senior pet checkup, your veterinarian has in her pharmacy a variety of medications to keep your senior dog moving comfortably. Experts estimate that almost 50 percent of all dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer, making this a significant problem in the senior dog. You can easily monitor for skin cancers by simply doing a through belly rub and petting your dog from nose to tail. If you find any lumps or bumps, bring them to the attention of your veterinarian immediately.

Better medical treatment means pets can live longer and healthier than ever before. Don’t assume your senior pet is just slowing down as a normal part of aging. Slowing down could indicate your pet is developing a disease. That’s why veterinarians recommend your senior pet see them twice yearly. Make an appointment for your senior pet today!

Five Money Saving Tips to Cut Expenses on Pet Medical Care

We all want to save money, but when it comes to our pets, we strive to give them the best of everything. Here are five tips to help you save money on your pet’s medical expenses and still provide your favorite fur baby with top-notch treatment.

  1. Be an educated pet owner.
    Start by visiting your local library for a basic book on pet care. Check with your neighborhood veterinarian or animal rescue group to see if they offer classes in pet care. Familiarize yourself with the common signs of illness in your pet. For example, review this slide show about the 10 warning signs of cancer in pets and consider subscribing to our Fur the Love of Pets blog to have pet health information delivered to your inbox weekly.
  2. Don’t skimp on preventive care.
    An annual visit to your pet’s veterinarian is worth its weight in gold. During a routine physical examination, your veterinarian can assess your pet’s risk of contracting a contagious disease, such as parvovirus or Lyme disease, and administer vaccinations or parasite preventatives to protect your pet. Subtle changes in body weight or the ability to ambulate identified during an examination may indicate the need for additional testing, medications to alleviate pain, or a diet adjustment. Without an annual examination, your pet’s undetected illness can spiral out of control and might cost much more than an annual veterinary visit.
  3. Don’t ignore signs of disease such as vomiting, weight loss or inactivity.
    If I had dollar for every time I heard a pet owner attribute signs of disease to something other than disease, I would be rich. Here are just a few examples: “He’s not moving around much anymore, but he is older.” Diagnosis: arthritis. “I think she’s losing weight, but I am feeding her the light food.” Diagnosis: intestinal lymphoma. “He vomits every day, but that’s normal for cats, right?” Diagnosis: chronic kidney disease. Don’t miss an opportunity to be proactive and keep your pet healthy and pain-free by quickly recognizing signs of disease.
  4. Create a safe, but enriched environment for your pet.
    One of the most common reasons for pet admissions to The AMC Emergency Service results from hazards in the home. In the month of August alone, AMC emergency and critical care veterinarians treated pets for ingestion of human foods toxic to pets, such as xylitol and chocolate; rat poison intoxication; and consumption of human prescription and recreational drugs, especially marijuana. Falls from open windows without screens commonly result in feline ER visits and hospitalization for shock and broken bones. In addition to pet-proofing your home, protect your pet by creating activities to keep Fluffy and Fido busy during the day using feeding toys, a cat tree or mechanized toys. There are many ways to create an enriched backyard for your dog. Some of these ideas can be adapted for indoor cats as well.
  5. Invest in pet insurance.
    Purchasing the right pet insurance requires you to invest some of your time into researching the best policy for your family and your pet. The strength of some policies lies in the area of preventive care. These policies cover annual wellness visits and medications to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworms. Other policies lean towards covering catastrophic medical care, such as emergency surgery or hospitalization for diseases like heart failure or kidney disease. Purebred dog and cat aficionados should scrutinize potential policies carefully for any breed related exclusions. As you review policies, keep in mind some charge additional fees to cover expensive treatments such as chemotherapy.

So now you are an educated, proactive pet owner with a pet safe home and a well insured pet, I’ll bet that makes both you and your pet sleep better at night.

Neutering: Not Just Doggie Birth Control

Dexter, a new dachshund patient of mine, was in last week for another round of puppy shots. He will soon be six months old and it was time for me to discuss the next step in his preventive health care plan: neutering.

Neutering meets the guidelines
The American Veterinary Medical Association has developed guidelines for responsible pet ownership. One of the guidelines obligates pet owners to control their pet’s reproduction through spaying and neutering; subsequently helping to control pet overpopulation in their community. Neutering is the common term for castration of a male dog or cat and spaying refers to removal of the ovaries and uterus, or in some cases just the uterus or ovaries, of a female pet.

Lifesaving responsibility
Pet overpopulation is a serious issue in the United States today. According to the Humane Society of the United States, over four million unwanted pets are destroyed annually. For every puppy or kitten prevented by neutering an adult pet, there is one less homeless and unwanted puppy or kitten euthanized in an animal shelter.

The traditional surgery
Surgical removal of the testicles is the current standard of care for neutering in both dogs and cats. This surgery renders a male dog or cat unable to reproduce and also removes the major source of the male hormone, testosterone. Removing the source of testosterone eliminates mating behavior in males and also plays a role in eliminating other unwanted behaviors. In both the dog and cat, neutering involves a small skin incision through which the testicles are removed. Cats typically go home the same day, but dogs may stay overnight to recover from anesthesia and for incisional monitoring.

A new method
The New York Times Well Blog recently reported on a new method of non-surgical, chemical castration, called Zeuterin. Zeuterin neutering uses zinc gluconate and arginine injected into a dog’s testicles as a less invasive method of castration. Dogs still produce a small amount of testosterone, but are unable to sire a litter of puppies. Veterinarians must be trained to use the Zeuterin method of neutering, but especially for shelters and rescue groups, the method has great appeal.

My recommendation
Dexter’s owners were concerned about the surgery. They asked if he could just have a vasectomy instead of the traditional neutering surgery. Because my job is to make the best medical recommendations for the specific health concerns of each of one my patients, I recommended the traditional surgery for Dexter. It provides him with the greatest number of health benefits. The surgery prevents unwanted litters of puppies and also prevents prostatic disease, testosterone-induced tumors and behaviors linked to testosterone production. Because a vasectomy or Zeuterin neutering are methods of birth control only, they do not offer the added advantage of decreased levels of testosterone on behavior and disease.

Fighting Breed-Related Diseases

The refinement of purebred dogs over the past four or five centuries has created interesting versions of Canis familiaris, such as dogs with dreadlocks, wrinkles, extra toes, a double coat, or an innate ability to herd sheep.

Selective breeding of dogs to propagate characteristics related to coat, foot size, or herding prowess may also have created the predisposition of some purebred dogs to specific diseases. As humans bred dogs to meet their own specifications, the genes controlling disease tagged along into the next generation with the genes controlling desirable characteristics such as dreadlocks and double toes. But the cloning of the canine genome in 2005, coupled with the multi-generational pedigrees available in purebred dogs and the close genetic relatedness of dogs within a given breed gave scientists powerful tools to study genetic disease in purebred dogs.

Eye diseases no more

Genetic tools combined with the advanced clinical skills may also be used to eradicate some diseases. For example, veterinary ophthalmologists have nearly eradicated breed-related disease of the eye in several breeds, including progressive retinal atrophy in Irish Setters and Irish Red and White Setters. This inherited disease results in blindness due to a failure of the retina to transmit images to the brain. The diagnosis can be made by a veterinary ophthalmologist using CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) testing of puppies as young as five or six weeks of age. Now a genetic test is available to identify dogs carrying the mutation causing progressive retinal atrophy in the two types of Irish Setters. The test requires only a small amount of blood and identifies dogs that are clear of the mutation, the ones optimal for breeding to avoid producing puppies with abnormal eyes. The Irish Setter Club actively supports research into the diseases of their breed and a list of open studies is on their website.

Inherited drug sensitivity

We mostly think of genetics as determining physical stature and predisposition to disease, but a genetic mutation, found predominantly in herding dogs, called MDR1 (multiple drug resistance) determines heightened sensitivity to a variety of medications.

Possibly most important on this list are two drugs commonly used to prevent heartworms in dogs, ivermectin and milbemycin. Collies, Australian Shepherds (both the standard and mini), and other breeds lack the ability to process not only the previously mentioned heartworm preventatives but also acepromazine, butorphanol, and chemotherapy drugs used on a daily basis by veterinarians. Standard doses of these drugs can prove fatal in a dog with the MDR1 mutation. Genetic testing is available to identify dogs with the mutation, allowing veterinarians to prescribe safer medications.

The current version of the AAHA-AVMA Canine Preventive Healthcare Guidelines recommends the use of genetic testing in dogs and if I see one of the breeds on the list for a MDR1 mutation, I would test that dog prior to administering chemotherapy, if the test had not be performed as part of a preventive healthcare program.

If you have a purebred dog, ask your veterinarian about genetic testing for any diseases that run in your breed. If you are thinking of adding a purebred dog to your family, do your homework and investigate possible health concerns. Also, ask the breeder if they are involved in helping to eradicate their breed’s diseases.

Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes: National Pet Week 2012

May 6-12, 2012 is National Pet Week and the theme chosen by the Auxiliary to the American Veterinary Medical Association is “Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes.”

Each year the Auxiliary sponsors a poster contest around the year’s theme. This year’s winner, Stephanie Jensen, depicts a whimsical home filled with children and happy family pets. While the painting is charming and deserving of accolades, the scene made me think hard about pets and families.

Just the right number of pets makes a happy home

Ms. Jensen’s painting shows a home containing every imaginable pet, but when adding pets to your family, each addition requires careful consideration. For those of us who love pets, it is difficult to resist adding another foundling to our brood. But if we continually increase our home’s pet population, at some point, the number of pets we have will exceed the resources we have to care for them. By resources I am not talking just about financial resources, but space, time, and energy as well. My current feline foster family of seven makes me very happy every morning when I peek in and see all those little cats snoozing in their fur bed. Since the family will be adopted once the kittens are self-sufficient, I can handle caring for seven cats for several weeks, but I could not do this on a forever basis and still work full time!

Children and pets, happy together

In addition to showing many different pets, Ms. Jensen’s painting shows children and their pets. The benefits of pets for children were recently the topic of a New York Times blog by pediatrician Perri Klass.

As a pediatrician, she reports commonly asked questions about children and pets, because of the widely held belief that pets are good for children’s social and emotional health. She also says that, until now, there has been little good scientific research on the benefits of pets for children. Some recent studies suggest a variety of positive outcomes associated with children and pets:

Pets can also pose health risks to young children, and parents should take steps to protect their children from pet-related illness, especially bites.

Keep your pet healthy and keep your home happy

The pets depicted in Ms. Jensen’s painting look very healthy. To keep your pet healthy and your home happy, provide your cat and dog with a good preventive healthcare program and visit their veterinarian annually.

How do you keep your family and pets happy and healthy? Share your stories in the comments section below.