Internet Use for Your Pet’s Healthcare

What websites can you trust?

The growing popularity of the Internet has made it easier and faster to find health-related information. Although much of it is valuable, some of it is false and misleading. Veterinarians are beginning to notice an increase in preventable illnesses due to internet use and decreased veterinary visits. We want your pet to get the best, safest medical care, and often a physical exam is the first, most important step. There are many different medical conditions that can have very similar symptoms to the untrained eye .  Veterinarians spend years in school ( and many more years in practice) honing their skills to make diagnoses, and entering a few key symptoms in a Google search will not be the equivalent.  That said, we know that our clients WILL look up information online. Heck, we veterinarians often look up information. There are veterinary forums where we can talk to each other, ask questions of  specialists, and get help with complicated cases. So when you do your search, here are some things to keep in mind…

Who runs the Web site?

Any Web site should clearly and often indicate who is responsible for the site and it’s information. The American Animal Hospital Association’s consumer Web site (, for example clearly notes its affiliation on every major page and includes a link to the AAHA home page.

What is the purpose of the Web site?

Many sites include and “About this site” or “About Us” link, which should clearly state the purpose and help you evaluate the trustworthiness of the information.( ie. are they trying to sell a product?)

What is the original source of information?

Many health and medical Web sites post information collected from other Web sites or sources. If the person or organization in charge of the sire did not write the material, the original source should be clearly identified.

How is the information documented?

In addition to identifying the original source of the material, the site should identify the evidence on which the material is based.  Medical facts and figures should include references such as citations of articles in medical journals. Also, opinions or advice should be clearly set apart from evidence-based information.

How is information reviewed before it’s posted?

Health-related Web sites should provide information about the medical credentials of the people who prepare or review the material.  Veterinarians in the United States are doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) or veterinary medical doctors(VMDs)– the equivalent of an MD in human medicine. Common specialist credentials include DACVM (internal medicine), DAVS(surgery) , and DACVD (dermatology).

How current is the information?

Web sites should be reviewed and updated regularly. It’s particularly important that medical information be current and that the most recent update or review date be posted. Even if the information hasn’t changed, it’s helpful to know that the site owners have reviewed it recently to ensure that it’s still valid.

How does the Web site choose links?

Reliable Web sites usually have a policy about how they link to other sites. Some medical sites take and conservative approach and don’t link to any at all. Some link to any site that asks or pays for a link. Others link only to sites that have met certain criteria.

How does the Web site manage interactions with users?

There should be a way for you to contact the site owners with problems, feedback, and questions. If the site hosts a chat room or other online discussion areas, it should tell you about the terms of using the service. Is the service moderated? If so, by whom and why? Before you participate, spend some time reading the discussion without joining in.

How can you verify the accuracy of information you receive via email?

Any e-mail messages should be carefully evaluated. Consider the origin of the message and its purpose. Some companies or organizations use e-mail to advertise products or  attract people to their Web sites.  The accuracy of health-related information may be influenced by the desire to promote a product or service. It’s important to carefully consider the source of e-mail and other Internet-based information and to discuss the information with your veterinarian.

Pet Health Care Web sites recommended by Rita Ranch Pet Hospital

We have listed several sites that contain excellent information on pet health care and medical conditions. There are direct links to these sites and many others on the Resources page of the Web site.                                                                                                                 

Bladder Stones in Cats and Dogs

Stones in the urinary tract are common in dogs and cats. Even though dogs and cats do get kidney stones, it is bladder stones that causes more problems. The medical terms for bladder stones are urolithiasis or cystic calculi.

Predisposing causes of bladder stones include pets that are not drinking enough or are not allowed to urinate frequently. Bacteria and stone forming chemicals stagnate in the urinary bladder and increase the chance of a stone forming. Mechanical flushing of the bladder, in the form of normal and frequent urination, will prevent this.

Always make sure your pet has access to fresh water, changed several times per day, and the ability to urinate frequently. As a matter of fact, if you feed dry food you should be giving more than one cup of water per cup of dry food. An easy way to get around this important requirement for water is not to feed dry food at all. Your pet’s urine should be clear, with no odor or color, and your pet should urinate every few hours. Sometimes these common sense suggestions are so obvious that we tend to forget about their importance.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Straining to urinate (stranguria)
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Urinating small amounts frequently (pollakiuria)

There might also be excess urination (polyuria), pain in the rear quarters, reluctance to jump or play, or even lethargy and a poor appetite. Some pets can have bladder stones without any apparent symptoms at all!

The bladder stones can pass out of the bladder and lodge in the urethra, especially in male dogs (and cats) due to the smaller diameter of their urethra. In some cases they can block the flow of urine, which is a medical emergency. This will cause problems with the kidneys, leading to the buildup of toxic waste products.  This emergency requires surgery to remove the blockage and other stones, then hospitalization to stabilize the pet and help flush the toxins from the kidneys (IV fluids).

A urinalysis is crucial in making a correct diagnosis. The pH of the urine, and the presence of bacteria or crystals all provide valuable information.

Abnormalities that can be found in the urine in a pet with a urolith include:

  • Blood
  • Increased white blood cells
  • Increased protein
  • Crystals
  • Bacteria
  • Low or high pH

The presence of crystals (crystalluria) is a sign that a urolith is possible, and usually warrants further investigation.

One of the best methods to make a diagnosis of uroliths is radiography (x-rays). Many stones are radiopaque, which means they show up vividly on an x-ray. Radiopaque stones include struvite and calcium oxalate. Some stones are radioulucent, and depending on size and number, do not show up on a regular x-ray. These stones are diagnosed by injecting air, dye, or a combination of both, into the bladder to outline any suspected stone. Ultrasound is a great way to detect these stones. Radiolucent stones include ammonium urate.


Middle-aged pets are at the highest risk for bladder stones, usually males more frequently than females.  Certain breeds are at an even higher risk:

  • Dalmations
  • English Bulldogs
  • Schnauzer
  • Lhasa apso
  • Yorkshire terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Shih Tzu
  • Miniature poodle
  • Burmese cats
  • Himalayan cats
  • Persian cats

If you are concerned about your pet’s health of behavior, please call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital to set up an appointment.  The veterinarian can examine your pet and discuss with you if there are tests that should be done.  Some urinary issues can even be treated with medications or prescription foods, depending on the cause of the problem.


Is My Pet Fit or Fat?

A survey done by the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine showed that 45% of pet owners assessed their pet as normal weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight.

It’s not a subject some pet owners may think about, the United States now holds the title of most overweight pets on the planet!

These overweight pets are at an increased risk for problems associated with obesity such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, cancer and decreased life expectancy. In fact, type 2 diabetes in cats has been called an epidemic by some experts. Overweight pets have more problems over their lifetime.

Some dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Pugs and others may be more likely to become overweight.  Many of these dogs may seem like they have an endless appetite and are especially good at convincing their owners that they will drop dead of starvation if they do not receive extra treats. Manx cats and male cats of all kinds were found to be more likely to be overweight.

Leaving food out, often called free feeding, excessive treats and highly palatable food is also to blame. Most of our clients don’t know the amount of food they put in the bowl when asked how much their pet eats.  Feeding at designated meal times (this means cats too!) and feeding a measured amount not only allows you to limit their calories, but will also clue you in if someone’s appetite is off MUCH faster.

Call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital if you have questions about helping your pet start their weight loss journey to better health!

Source:, Dr. Greg Perrault

Yuck! Ringworm!

What is ringworm and what causes it?

Ringworm (or dermatophytosis) is the common name given to a fungal infection of the superficial layers of the skin, hairs and nails. The name comes from the classical appearance of a C- or O-shaped red raised ‘ring’ marking the inflammatory lesions of the infection in people. The fungi live in hair follicles and cause the hair shafts to break off at the skin line. This usually results in round patches of hair loss. As the fungus multiplies, the lesions may become irregularly shaped and spread over the cat or dog’s body.

What does ringworm look like?

Ringworm lesions appear as roughly circular areas with hair loss (alopecia) and often occur on several sites throughout the body. The affected hair shafts are brittle and broken. These lesions are not usually itchy, but sometimes they are inflamed and scab-covered. Occasionally fungal infection of the nails (onychomycosis) may occur. The claws become rough, brittle and broken. Some cats or dogs may not show any skin lesions but their hair coat has ringworm fungi present.

How long does it take to get it?

The incubation period between exposure to ringworm fungus and lesions occurring ranges from seven to thirteen days.

How is ringworm diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made in one or more of three ways:

• Identification of the typical “ringworm” lesions on the skin.

• Fluorescence of infected hairs under a special ultraviolet light (Note: T. mentagrophytes and M. gypseum fungi do not fluoresce).

Culture of the hair for the fungus. The last method is the most accurate, but it may take up to two to three weeks for the culture to become positive.


How is ringworm transmitted?

Transmission occurs by direct contact between infected and non-infected individuals. It may be passed from dogs to cats and visa versa. It may also be passed from dogs or cats to people and visa versa. If your child has ringworm, he or she may have acquired it from your pet or from another child at school. Adult humans usually are resistant to infection unless there is a break in the skin such as a scratch, but children are especially susceptible. If you or your family members have suspicious skin lesions, check with your family physician. Transmission may also occur from the infected environment. The fungal spores may live in bedding or carpet for several months. They may be killed with a dilution of chlorine bleach and water: one pint of chlorine bleach (500 ml) in a gallon of water (4 liters) where it is feasible to use it.

How is ringworm treated?

There are several means of treatment. The specific method chosen for your cat or dog will depend on the severity of the infection, how many pets are involved, if there are children in the household, and how difficult it will be to disinfect your pets’ environment. Two main forms of treatment can be used for dogs with ringworm: topical therapy (application of creams, ointments or shampoos) and systemic therapy (administration of anti-fungal drugs by mouth). In addition, attention must also be given to cleaning the environment.

1. Topical treatment — Occasionally, topical therapy is used alone for treatment of ringworm, but more commonly it is used in combination with oral medications. Various creams and ointments are available to apply to localized areas of skin affected by ringworm. If there is more generalized disease, your veterinarian may recommend using a medicated shampoo. It is extremely important only to use preparations that have been specifically provided or recommended by your veterinarian for topical treatment of cats or dogs.  Do not use human antifungal products unless instructed by your veterinarian.

2. Oral treatment — For most cases of ringworm, effective treatment will require administration of an oral anti-fungal drug. The most widely used drug for this purpose is Fluconazole for dogs or Itraconazole for cats. The response of individual pets to treatment varies and it is important that therapy is not stopped too soon otherwise the disease may recur. Treatment must usually be continued for a minimum of six weeks, and in some cases much longer therapy is required. If there is more than one pet in the household, it is possible either to try and separate infected from non-infected pet and just treat the infected ones, or in some situations it may be preferable to treat all of the pets. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best treatment given your own circumstances.

3. Environmental cleaning — Hairs infected with ringworm contain numerous microscopic fungal spores that can be shed into the environment. Infection of other animals and humans can occur either by direct contact with an infected pet or through environmental contamination with these fungal spores. In addition to minimizing direct contact with an infected pet, it is also important to attempt to keep the environment as free of spores as possible. Topical treatment of affected skin and shaving infected hairs and carefully disposing of the infected hair may help to reduce environmental contamination. It is also worthwhile restricting the pet to rooms of the house that are easy to clean. Thorough vacuum cleaning of rooms where the pet has access to is the best way to minimize environmental contamination and this should be done as frequently as is possible (e.g. daily or every other day). In addition, the use of diluted bleach is recommended in areas that can be readily disinfected.

How long will my pet be contagious?

Infected pets remain contagious for about three weeks if aggressive treatment is used. The ringworm will last longer and remain contagious for an extended period of time if only minimal measures are taken or if you are not faithful with the prescribed approach. Minimizing exposure to other dogs or cats and to your family members is recommended during this period.

What about the risk to humans?

Ringworm can be transmitted fairly easily to humans, especially young children, and it is important to take appropriate steps to minimize exposure to the fungus while the dog is being treated (see Environmental Cleaning above). If any humans in the house develop skin lesions such as small patches of skin thickening and reddening with raised scaly edges, early medical attention should be sought. Ringworm in humans generally responds very well to treatment.

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s skin, please don’t hesitate to call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital and speak with one of our trained technicians.  They can guide you and help set up an appointment to have your pet’s skin evaluated by the veterinarian.  Call us at (520) 624-6100!