Pet-Vet Q&A

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Our Answers to your Submitted Questions

Q: My cat Merlin has one cat box and we change it regularly but he still poops on the carpet. What can my partner and I do about it?

A: There are lots of different things to try if Merlin is defecating outside of his litter box. First, make sure that the litter box is being scooped at least once per day and is also fully cleaned and changed once per week.

Next, one of the concerns is that Merlin may have developed an aversion to the litter box itself. This takes a bit of experimentation, but it means offering different types of litter (e.g., try unscented v scented and clumping v non-clumping) to see if he has a preference. Also, if the litter box is typically covered then try one that is uncovered. Make sure that the litter box is in an easy place to get to and also that there is nothing around that could scare Merlin when he goes in (e.g., not right next to a washing machine or dryer).

Another thing to try is to put a second litter box in the area that Merlin is pooping. You can also try using a Feliway diffuser which emits (undetectable by humans and non-scented) pheromones than can calm, appease, and de-stress felines. We have them in the hospital if you are interested in trying that. You can also read more about Feliway at

Another important thing is to be sure that Merlin doesn’t have a medical reason for not using his litter box. If the stool is soft or if you have seen any worms, then we definitely recommend that a fecal sample be submitted and that we check him to be sure that nothing else unusual is seen on an exam. We know you were recently in, but aside from perhaps a behavioral issue, it would be beneficial to make sure there are not underlying physical reasons for the new behavior.

The following is a website that may have more suggestions: It largely talks about urination outside of the litter box, but many of the same concepts still apply.

If you have any further questions or if Merlin still isn’t defecating in the box, then please do let us know.

Q: Why is an annual fecal exam recommended for my pet?

A: Parasites are ubiquitous in the environment, living in the soil, on plants, in water sources, and even on man-made structures such as patios, decks and outdoor furniture. Outdoor dogs and cats are exposed to a number of different parasites on a daily basis, either by direct ingestion or by eating grass, chewing on sticks and rocks, swimming or playing with toys outdoors. Pets can also become infected by ingesting another animal’s feces or through hunting and ingestion of birds and rodents. Many of these parasites are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted to people. Therefore, we recommend annual fecal testing for all dogs and cats to ensure their health as well as the health of you and your family.

Q: Why does my pet need to be rechecked following treatment for an ear infection?

A: Ear infections in dogs and cats can be caused by bacteria, yeast or a combination of both. In order to diagnose an infection, ear swabs are taken from deep within the ear canal and evaluated under the microscope (this is called ear cytology). Once the type of infection is determined, appropriate medication can be dispensed. When performing ear cytology, the number of organisms per field is also counted so that the severity of infection can be tracked.

After treating the ears for a certain period of time (usually 2 weeks), it is very important to have the ear cytology rechecked because there may still be organisms present without obvious signs of discomfort or infection. The ears may look better, smell better, and the pet appears to feel better, but there may still be some bacteria or yeast organisms present, and these can only be detected microscopically.

If the pet is not rechecked, those few remaining organisms begin to multiply again and then a few weeks later the infection appears to have returned. This is the most common cause of recurring ear infections. It is actually not a new infection but the same one the pet had previously that was never treated 100%. This occurs most commonly in those that have pre-existing factors for ear infections, such as allergies, hair in the ear canals, droopy (rather than upright) ears, and narrow ear canals.

Therefore, it is very important to have all ear infections rechecked a few days after treatment is completed so that new ear swabs can be taken and evaluated for the presence of any remaining organisms. Treatment should be continued and the ears should be rechecked by your veterinarian until no more organisms are found.

Q: Why does my pet need to be rechecked following treatment for a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A: Urinary tract infections in dogs and cats can be caused by a number of different types of bacteria. An infection is diagnosed by performing a urinalysis, where the pet‘s urine is collected and examined under a microscope. Normal urine is sterile and therefore should not contain any bacteria. If bacteria are present, then a UTI is diagnosed and anti-biotics are prescribed.

Some types of bacteria found in UTIs can be resistant to certain antibiotics, so the only way to ensure that the infection has been cleared successfully is to have the urine rechecked after finishing the antibiotics. Alleviation of symptoms does not necessarily mean the infection has been cleared. In fact, stopping antibiotics early can actually lead to development of a resistant infection because the weaker bacteria are killed off first, leaving the stronger ones with less competition for nutrients, and then they can multiply out of control. What may appear to be a recurring UTI may actually be the development of a resistant infection due to this phenomenon.

Since pets cannot tell us what they feel, many UTIs are silent, meaning the pet does not show any obvious symptoms. Sometimes UTIs are diagnosed through a routine urine screening. In these cases especially, the only way to ensure that the infection has been treated successfully is to have the urine rechecked after the course of antibiotics has been completed.

If bacteria are still found to be present, then a urine culture and sensitivity test may be performed. This test determines exactly what type or types of bacteria are present as well as which antibiotics will be most effective in treating the infection.

If the infection is allowed to persist untreated, the bacteria will eventually ascend to the kidneys, causing a kidney infection (pyelonephritis), which can lead to kidney failure. So please be sure to heed your veterinarian‘s advice and have all UTIs rechecked following treatment.

Q: Why do I need to have my pet examined when he is due for vaccinations?

A: Unlike people, our animal family members cannot tell us when they are not feeling well. Your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination prior to giving any vaccines to ensure that your pet is healthy. Vaccines should only be given to healthy animals because of risk of an adverse reaction.

Also, vaccines work by stimulating the immune system, so it is important that the immune system is functioning at its best so that the vaccine is fully effective. Signs of illness include an elevated temperature, pale gums, swollen lymph nodes, increased lung sounds, a heart murmur, abdominal masses, and others. If your pet’s health is compromised, the doctor may postpone administering any vaccines.

Q: When should I arrive for my pet’s appointment and what should I bring?

A: Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your pet’s scheduled appointment time. This gives you time to fill out necessary paperwork and to get a brief history about your pet and any concerns that you may have. Arriving early also ensures that you will have the maximum amount of time to spend with the doctor. Please note that our intake forms are now available online and can be printed and filled out prior to your appointment.

If you are a new client to us, please bring any previous medical records you have for your pet, including vaccination records. If your pet is having diarrhea or you suspect parasites, please also bring in a fresh fecal sample. We also recommend running an annual fecal exam on all healthy pets due to the risk of transmission of intestinal parasites to people. Finally, if your pet is on any medications, be sure to write down the names and doses being given.

Q: I’ve been applying Advantage and it seems like it’s not working anymore. Why am I still seeing fleas?

A: There are several reasons why you may still see fleas despite the use of a good quality product such as Advantage. First, an understanding of the flea life cycle is necessary. What you see on your pet is an adult flea. After feeding on your pet, the female flea lays eggs (up to 50 per day), which fall off and live in the carpet, floorboards, bedding, upholstered furniture, and soil. The eggs hatch and go through several larval stages, followed by a pupa stage, then finally become adults fleas. It can take several weeks to months for the life cycle to be completed, depending upon environmental conditions. You must treat the environmental source of reinfection — the eggs, larvae, and pupae that are incubating in your home and yard, and which make up 95% of the entire flea population. Only 5% lives on your pet!

It can take 90 days, or three consecutive applications of Advantage, in order to kill all of the offspring of the fleas that were on your pet the day you applied that first dose. Furthermore, you may never be able to achieve a 100% flea-free environment if you have any wild animals (raccoons and opossums are huge flea reservoirs) or feral cats that pass through your yard. They serve as a constant source of reinfection.

A recent independent study was done to evaluate the effectiveness of Advantage (as well as two other popular flea control products) and showed absolutely no change in efficacy compared to when the products were first introduced almost 30 years ago. The results of this study show that there has been no development of resistance to these products over time. Consistent application and successful treatment of the environment are both necessary to keep your pet free of fleas.

Q: What is the normal temperature for a dog or cat?

A: Both dogs and cats have a higher core body temperature than humans do. For dogs, anywhere from 99° to 102.5° F is considered normal. Cats have a slightly higher normal temperature, from 100° to 102.5° F. Because dogs and cats cannot tell us when they are feeling ill, an elevated temperature may be the first or only clue that your pet is sick. For this reason it is important to get a current temperature on any pet as part of a complete physical examination.