By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
Laying on the X-ray table at the East Lake Veterinary Clinic earlier this week, Mason, a gentle 130-pound Rottweiler, was waiting for his veterinarian, Dr. Michael Joyner, to review the images on a nearby computer screen.
At three months shy of his seventh birthday, and following a surgery during which his spleen was removed, Mason has been diagnosed with cancer. His condition is uncommon, Joyner said, adding that "veterinary medicine has come a long way in the last 25 years."
Whereas many years ago, a doctor may not have detected a serious condition like Mason's, today most clinics are equipped with high-tech machinery like digital X-ray machines, anesthetic machines, endescope machines for ear surgeries, dental equipment like in a dentist's office and much more.
"The most common conditions treated in pets are ear infections, dental problems, skin problems, urine problems and diarrhea caused by feeding (the animal) inappropriate foods, such as table scraps," Joyner said.
But taking care of a pet is as easy as ensuring that the animal receives three things: proper nutrition, exercise and proper health care, Joyner said.
Proper nutrition doesn't mean spending a ton of money on pet foods, but there's a lot to be said about feeding your pet a high quality pet food.
Although he wouldn't give any specific brand names because it's up to owners to determine what is best for their pets, Joyner did say that there are many premium diet foods for pets.
Joyner recommended feeding dogs treats like Milk Bones, which provide a multitude of vitamins and minerals, and are specially formulated for the needs of senior dogs, puppies, smaller and larger breeds.
"Try to feed them good foods. They're just like us. We know candy bars aren't good for us, so don't feed your pets the bad stuff," he said.
Laura Szeremi, a veterinarian with Killeen's Banfield, The Pet Hospital, suggested using the recommended feeding portions on the back of each bag of pet food.
"All the foods that are out there have a recommended (portion size) on the bag and the foods all have different calorie counts," Szeremi said, adding that you should always feed your pet the amount recommended for his or her ideal weight.
"If you have a 60-pound dog that should weigh 50 pounds you feed them (the portion recommended) for a 50-pound dog," Szeremi said, adding that "that's your starting point. If the dog is too thin then increase the amount by a little bit."
In the waiting room of the East Lake Veterinary Clinic, there lives a cat, Gracie, a friendly, 8-year-old calico.
Gracie is the clinic's social greeter. She approaches visitors and "asks" for a friendly scratch behind her ears.
Gracie is like all animals. She wants to interact with humans.
"Play with them. They want to interact with you," Joyner said, adding that most behavioral problems in pets occur because the pet isn't getting enough exercise.
"Exercise your pets every day," said Donna Sanchez, the practice manager at East Lake Veterinary Clinic, adding "(pets) need to work off their energy just like kids. Get safe toys for them and spend time with them."
If you put a big dog in a small room all day, he's going to act up, Joyner said.
"Unless you're out running every day, or you have a large yard, get a small pet," Joyner said.
As opposed to when babies are born, puppies and kittens are often born far from the presence of a doctor.
"After puppies or kittens are born, or when you first get a pet, take the mother and babies to the vet," Joyner said.
During that initial visit, veterinarians will check for birth defects, do a stool check for worms and deworm the animal if necessary. The next vet check-up should be at six to eight weeks.
"At that age, the immunity that the animal received from it's mother's milk is starting to wear off. The vet will give the animal a physical check-up and begin a series of vaccinations to help the animal develop its own antibodies, do a stool test and start a heartworm prevention program," Joyner said.
Take your pet to the vet for monthly vaccinations when they turn 4 or 5 months old.
"Texas requires all animals to have rabies shots at 4 months," Joyner said, adding that Killeen requires yearly shots.
Joyner also recommends talking to your vet about the pet's lifestyle – whether they live primarily indoors or outdoors – because the vet can customize the pet's vaccinations to protect it against outdoor elements such as fleas, ticks and worms.
At 5 to 7 months old, Joyner recommends getting the pet spayed or neutered.
Spaying a female pet will prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the chances of breast cancer. Neutering a male pet will reduce the chances of developing prosthetic problems.
After that, pets should be seen by the vet on a yearly basis and older pets should visit the vet twice a year.
"Pets over 7 years old are considered seniors," Joyner said, adding that larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs. For example, a dog weighing less than 20 pounds, after one human year, will have aged seven years, whereas a dog weighing more than 50 pounds will have aged eight years, and a dog weighing more than 90 pounds will have aged nine years. Cats will age about six or seven years for every human year.
Depending on the age of the pet, vets will also do baseline blood work to determine changes in the pet's condition.
"Their age is why we do blood work, to find if anything has gone wrong," Joyner said.
Contact Iuliana Petre at email@example.com or (254) 501-7469.
Area pet clinics
East Lake Veterinary Clinic
3518 E. Rancier Ave., Killeen
Killeen Veterinary Clinic
1321 Pershing Dr., Killeen
After Hours Veterinary Services
2501 S. W.S. Young Dr., Killeen
Banfield, The Pet Hospital
2500 E. Central Texas Expressway No. D, Killeen
Pet Medical Center
501 E. FM 2410, Harker Heights
Aztec Pet Hospital
104 W. FM 2410, Harker Heights
2500 E. Central Texas Expressway, Killeen
Town & Country Veterinary Hospital
505 E. Elms Road, Killeen
The wet nose myth
Does a wet nose mean my dog is healthy?
No. A wet nose means your dog is sweating, said veterinarian Dr. Michael Joyner, the owner of the East Lake Veterinary Clinic in Killeen. Dogs don't have sweat glands on their bodies like humans, they sweat through the pads on their paws, their nose and by panting, Joyner said, adding that behavioral changes, such as listlessness or not getting up to greet you are the best ways to detect a change in your dog's health.
"If they're not eating or drinking or if you notice bodily discharges – fluids or diarrhea – or if your dog is in pain," Joyner said are other ways to tell if your dog is in good health.
Disaster/emergency preparedness kit
The Humane Society of the United States offers advice on what to pack in a disaster preparedness/emergency kit:
Food, water and medicines for five days
Medical and veterinary records
Toys, blanket or bed
Litter box and cat litter
ID attached to your pet
Pet carrier and/or leash
Current photos of pet with physical description
First-aid kit for pets
The Humane Society of the United States offers advice on what to pack in a first-aid kit for cats or dogs:
Pet first-aid book
Phone numbers for your vet, the nearest emergency vet clinic and a poison-control center
Paperwork: proof of rabies vaccination; copies of other medical records
Rectal thermometer (your pet's temperature should not rise above 103 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
Sterile gauze rolls and pads for bandages
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) (for dogs)
Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment (for dogs)
Epsom salts (for dogs)
Antiseptic lotion, powder or spray
A pillowcase to confine your cat for treatment
A nylon leash for dogs
A carrier for small pets
Cotton balls or swabs
Splints and tongue depressors
A muzzle or strips of cotton to prevent biting
Penlight or flashlight
Plastic eyedropper or syringe
Sterile saline solution
Glucose paste or corn syrup (for dogs)
Source: Humane Society of the United States