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How Allergies Make Your Dog Miserable

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Your golden retriever Hunter has become a very efficient scratching machine. From dawn ’til dusk, Hunter scratches every area of his body he can reach. When he tires of that, he licks his paws and digs furiously at his ears. Hunter doesn’t want you messing with his skin, although you have noticed that it has a reddish cast and moist feel. While it might sound strange, Hunter’s body thinks certain substances, or allergens, are harmful to him. Hunter’s immune system mobilizes its defenses to repel the allergens. Unfortunately, this response makes Hunter suffer from skin, respiratory, and digestive symptoms. Fortunately, your Waterloo veterinarian can discover the cause of Hunter’s allergies and get him some relief.

Human-Like Allergy Symptoms

In an ironic twist, Hunter can suffer many of the same allergy symptoms you can experience. We already know Hunter scratches like a fool; however, it gets even worse. If Hunter works on himself long enough, he can develop a secondary skin infection, leading to hair loss and nasty-looking crusty skin. Maybe Hunter has also become familiar with sneezing, runny eyes, super-itchy ears, and frequent ear ailments, known as the hallmarks of canine allergy sufferers.

Familiar Canine Allergens

Poor Hunter is surrounded by allergens; and unless he lives in a bubble, he’ll find it tough to get away from them. He might be sensitive to house dust mites, household dust, airborne mold spores, and various pollens. If Hunter’s affected by inhaled allergens, he’ll be impacted by perfume, cleaning product fumes, and cigarette smoke. If Hunter has flea bite allergies, a single bite can set him off for two to three weeks. Hunter might also be allergic to animal dander, which might be a big problem in a household with multiple pets.

Food Allergy Mysteries

Hunter and his canine friends can also fall victim to varied food allergies. These poor dogs often exhibit human-like food allergy symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs beset by food allergies can also get incredibly itchy skin. Unfortunately for Hunter, he can’t stop eating. Your vet will suggest a food elimination diet that, over time, can pinpoint the source of Hunter’s discomfort. In the meantime, be prepared for Hunter to be annoyed when you remove his favorite foods and snacks.

Allergy-Prone Pooches

Not all canine allergy sufferers are created equal. While allergies can cause issues for any dog, terriers, setters, and retrievers (including Hunter, apparently) are especially prone to problems. Boston terriers, pugs, bulldogs, and other flat-faced breeds also seem to be particularly miserable.

Good thing your Waterloo vet can get to the bottom of Hunter’s allergy problems. Your vet will prescribe a treatment plan that turns Hunter from a scratching machine into a fun-loving dog again.

yellow guinea pig

Your Pocket Pet’s Health Perils

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You can’t imagine life without your hamster Buttercup. This furry little girl is full of charm and personality, and you could sit and watch her for hours. Buttercup has enjoyed a run of good health ever since she joined your family. She gets groomed daily, giving her hair coat a nice rich sheen. Buttercup also eats a top-notch diet, and her gastrointestinal system continues to work without a hitch. Even though Buttercup enjoys good health right now, you know she can pick up an infection or other illness without warning. That’s why your Waterloo veterinarian regularly examines little Buttercup to make sure she stays healthy.

Respiratory System Ailments

Perhaps little Buttercup has been sneezing a lot, and you’ve also noticed that she seems to have some difficulty breathing. Even more apparent, Buttercup has some reddish leakage from her eyes and a bit of nasal discharge.

Vicious External Parasites

Buttercup has to be the most fastidious hamster you’ve ever met. Even with her high cleanliness standards, though, she’ll probably pick up some external parasites at some point. Since you look at Buttercup every day, you’d see that she’s dropped some hair and seems to be scratching a lot. You might even see some distasteful lice running through Buttercup’s hair coat. Good thing your vet can get rid of those lice, or any other external parasite, with an effective targeted medication.

Liquid Fecal Deposits

Buttercup has a hearty appetite, often eating every bit of food you give her daily. In appreciation, Buttercup makes nice normal-looking deposits where you can easily find them. If she begins to dribble, or goes into full-fledged diarrhea, get her to your vet quickly. With Buttercup’s delicate system, you don’t want her to become dehydrated.

Dental Dysfunction

You might be surprised to learn that pocket pets have dental problems, too. While Buttercup’s appetite is fine today, if she doesn’t finish her meal or loses some weight, she might have poorly aligned teeth. Once your vet trims Buttercup’s teeth so they fall into their normal positions, she’ll return to her regular eating habits.

Tumor Development

Pocket pets, including Buttercup, can fall victim to tumors. Mice and rats, especially older pets, seem to have the highest risk. If you find a suspicious growth, lump, or mass on Buttercup’s body, get her to your vet immediately.

While Buttercup has some health risks, your Waterloo vet’s regular checkups can give her the best chance for a comfortable life with your family.

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Five Signs of a Sick Cat

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If there is one thing cats are good at, it’s hiding pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, this means that cat owners may not even realize their pet is in pain or ill until something serious occurs! Below, a Waterloo veterinarian discusses five signs of sickness that you should be on the lookout for.

Behavior Changes

Does your cat usually cuddle up to you affectionately, but now doesn’t want to be anywhere near you? Does she usually remain independent, but now is whining at you constantly? Behavior changes like these could indicate pain. Your cat may be trying to tell you something, especially if they’re more vocal than normal. Aggression and skittishness are other possible signs, so call your vet if you notice anything unusual.

Appearance Changes

A cat’s coat is one of the best indicators of her health on the inside. A dry, dull coat, excessive itching and scratching, bald patches, or even an increase or decrease in shedding could mean something is wrong. Set up an appointment with your veterinarian to discover if there is an underlying cause, and how it can be treated.

Eating and Drinking Changes

Kidney disease, gum disease, and cancer, among other maladies, can all cause a cat to stop eating and drinking normally. Some illnesses, like diabetes and inflammatory bowel syndrome, may actually cause a sudden increase in the amount your cat consumes. If you witness under-eating or overeating, or an increase or decrease in water consumption, let your vet know.

Breath Changes

Try to sniff your cat’s breath every once in a while. It may not be lovely, but especially offensive breath can indicate disorders like periodontal disease, kidney problems, and infections. Fruity and sweet breath is a classic sign of diabetes. Your veterinarian should be informed as soon as you notice changes in your cat’s breath.

Waste Changes

Has your cat’s stool changed in terms of color, size, smell, or frequency? Does she seem to be urinating less or more? Waste changes like these could be indicative of various disorders, including urinary tract infections, which are relatively common in cats.

Keep your Waterloo veterinarian’s number on hand to call as soon as you notice these changes. Your cat may be good at hiding it, but a watchful eye can spot health problems in even the most stoic feline!

little girl talking to her mouse in her hand

Great Exotic Pets for Kids

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As a parent, you may not be ready to get your kids a cat or dog, no matter how much they’re begging for a pet. Have you considered starting them out with an exotic or “alternative” pet? Consider these suggestions from a Waterloo veterinarian.


A rat may not be the first thing you think of when you consider a great pet for kids, but the truth is that rats can make wonderful family pets. They’re better for children than hamsters or mice, because they’re less skittish and easier to handle safely. Rats are social animals, so they may be happiest when paired with another rat. Ask your vet for more information on these often-forgotten pets.

Small Lizards

Small lizards like leopard geckos or anoles can make good pets for kids who are prepared to commit time to pet care. These lizards don’t get very large, and will spend time on your hand or lap once they’re used to you. As long as children can be gentle and keep a watchful eye on the pet, they can provide hours of fun and fascination. Your veterinarian can tell you more about the specific housing requirements for these lizards and give you an estimation of possible cost.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs may not exactly be considered exotic, but they’re a classic choice for children’s pets. If they’ve been well socialized, they’ll be friendly, curious little rodents who enjoy human interaction. Make sure your children know how much work will have to go into owning a pig, though. Cleaning the cage, refilling food and water, and spending quality bonding time with your pet are all essential.

Hermit Crabs

You may not have considered the hermit crab as a good exotic pet for kids, but their low-maintenance nature makes them great choices for younger pet owners! Since hermit crabs don’t need to be let outside, taken on walks, or groomed, they’re great for kids who may not be ready for a larger responsibility. Of course, they won’t interact with their owners like other pets, but they are a lot of fun to observe and maintain.

Consult your Waterloo veterinarian for more advice. Don’t rule out the exotic or less-common pet options—you just may find the perfect fit for you and your kids!

a couple kneeing next to their dog on a trail

Summertime Safety Hazards for Cats and Dogs

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The cold temperatures and biting winds of winter are behind us, but new hazards lie ahead for our four-legged companions! Below, your Waterloo vet offers tips for keeping your pet from these summertime dangers:


If a pet spends too much time in the hot, humid weather and the scorching sun, heatstroke becomes a very real danger. The first signs in most pets are rapid breathing and heartbeat, panting, and drooling. As the condition progresses, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse may present. If you see any of these symptoms, rush your pet to a cooler area immediately and offer water. Call your vet right away to see how you should proceed.


We aren’t the only ones who have to worry about sunburn this time of year. Cats and dogs can also get burned, especially on exposed areas like the ear tips and end of the nose. Ask your vet about a dog- or cat-specific sunscreen, available at many pet supply stores, that you can use to block the sun’s harmful rays from your pet.

Parked Cars

Even on relatively milder summer days, the temperatures inside a parked car can heat up dramatically if it’s left sitting in the sun. A pet left inside the car can quickly succumb to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. A few cracked windows won’t help, either. Either take your pet indoors at your destination, or leave them at home.


With the sun beating down on it all day, asphalt can quickly turn into a scorching surface. A pet that steps on it for too long can easily burn their paw pads, leaving painful blisters. Plus, since your pet’s body is closer to the ground, the asphalt will heat them up in a matter of minutes. Take care to avoid asphalt when you’re walking your pet.

Water Safety

Thinking of taking a summertime dip with your dog? Remember that not all dogs can swim! Always stay with your dog in backyard pools or public lakes, supporting him the whole time. Remember to rinse his coat off after you’re out of the water in order to remove all salt or chlorine.

With a little knowledge and preparation, you’ll be ready to keep your pet safe from this season’s hazards. Ask your Waterloo vet for more advice as the temperatures rise.

close up on a tilted cat's head

How to Keep Your Cat’s Ears Clean and Healthy

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Although cats are excellent self-groomers, their ears could use a little help sometimes. Here, a Waterloo veterinarian advises you on keeping kitty’s ears clean and healthy.

Check the Outer Ear

Every couple of days, sit your cat down for a basic check of the outer ear. The outer flap of the ear should have a layer of hair, and the inner surface should be a light pink. If you notice bald spots on the ear, redness, swelling, or discharge running out of the ears, contact your veterinarian.

Exam the Inner Ear

To check the inner ear, gently fold back your cat’s ear flap and look into the ear canal. If your cat’s ears are healthy, they should be a light pink, with minimal earwax and no obvious signs of inflammation. If you smell an unusual odor or see a lot of earwax, you’ll want to have your cat examined by a vet.

How to Clean

If you want to give your cat’s ears a quick clean, you’ll need a liquid ear cleaner and a cotton ball or square of gauze. Ask your vet about a safe ear cleaner for felines. Put a few drops of the cleaner onto your cotton ball or gauze. Fold the ear back gently, and wipe away any earwax or dirt that’s visible. Don’t rub it, but try to pull it away from the ear. Don’t attempt to clean the inside of the ear canal, as you could do more harm than good.

What to Watch For

If at any time you notice your cat pawing, scratching, or rubbing the ears, tilting or shaking the head, or exhibiting a loss of coordination or balance, something could be amiss. In addition, unpleasant odors, discharge, bleeding, inflammation, swelling, and obvious signs of hearing loss should be signs for veterinary examination. Set up an appointment with your Waterloo veterinarian’s office to have your pet checked out.

green lizzard on a branch

Cleaning Your Reptile’s Cage

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Since reptiles are easily susceptible to bacterial infections through the skin and digestive system, their cages and cage items need to be regular cleaned. Learn how to successfully clean your reptile’s cage from a Waterloo veterinary professional.

Know the Schedule

Before you start vigorously cleaning, it’s important to be aware of the proper cleaning schedule for your particular reptile. The frequency of cage cleanings will vary based on what kind of reptile you have, as well as other factors like size and habitat. The best thing to do is call your veterinarian and ask what sort of cleaning and care requirements are necessary for your reptilian pet.

Daily Cleanings

Of course, you’ll need to clean out your pet’s cage daily, removing uneaten food, feces, and other waste. You may have to remove soiled bedding and replace it with new.

Cage Accessories

To clean your pet’s food and water dishes, remove them from the cage and wash them with hot water and soap for several minutes. Scrub them thoroughly to remove all waste and loosen tough spots, and rinse them completely before returning them to the cage.

For other cage accessories, like rocks, hiding spots, or branches, you can clean them with soap and water in the same manner, and try boiling them in water for up to 30 minutes. This will kill any harmful bacteria and thoroughly disinfect your reptile’s cage accessories. Ask your Waterloo veterinarian for more helpful tips.

The Weekly Cleaning

When you’re ready for a weekly cage cleaning, relocate your reptile to a back-up cage, stocked with everything he’ll need for the duration of the cleaning session. Remove all accessories and decorations in the cage, and remove the bedding.

Use a sponge or cleaning cloth and begin cleaning the walls and floor of the cage with hot, soapy water. Use a putty knife or toothbrush to loosen tough spots.
Rinse everything off thoroughly and let objects air dry.

Once everything is dry, you can use a disinfectant. Ask your veterinarian about a safe product to use. After everything is disinfected and dried out, you can return the items to your pet’s cage, and then replace your reptile.

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Easter Safety Tips for Pets

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The Easter holiday quickly approaches—prepare ahead of time to make sure your furry friends stay safe and sound as you celebrate. Follow these tips from your Waterloo veterinarian to keep your pet safe from these hazards:

Easter Eggs

Cooked Easter eggs might look like a tasty snack for a curious dog, and the food could cause digestive upset. Pieces of egg shell could even cut up your pet’s mouth and windpipe. Even fake eggs made of plastic can present a choking hazard if your pet gets ahold of one—to be safe, keep your pet far away from all Easter eggs this year.


Chocolate, as most pet owners know, is very toxic to pets. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and worse can occur in severe cases of chocolate poisoning. Baker’s chocolate contains the highest concentrations of theobromine and caffeine, the harmful agents in chocolate, but other types—milk, semi-sweet, dark—are dangerous as well. Don’t leave any chocolate treats lying out on counters where a pet could swipe them.

Candy and Gum

Many candies and gums are sweetened with xylitol, an artificial sugar that is highly toxic to animals. Even a few sticks of gum can prove fatal to a small dog or cat, so keep all xylitol-sweetened treats far out of your pet’s reach. Seal them in closed containers and put them inside cabinets that your pet can’t open.


A common Easter flower, the lily is actually very poisonous to cats. Many species of the lily will cause vomiting, loss of appetite, tremors, and other severe symptoms if your cat ingests them. Lilies may also cause severe reactions in your dog, so it’s best to keep these Easter flowers far out of your pet’s reach, or leave them out of your home entirely.

Easter Baskets

If you’re setting out Easter baskets for your kids this year, contain your cat or dog so they can’t get their paws in them. Aside from the chocolate and candies that are sure to be inside the baskets, the plastic grass that lines them can be very dangerous for pets. They may see it as a toy, but it can cause intestinal upset or blockage if swallowed. Don’t let your pet nibble on it, and call your Waterloo veterinarian immediately if an accident does occur.

guinea pig standing with a green apple

Ringworm in Your Guinea Pig

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Ringworm isn’t quite what it sounds like in regards to guinea pigs—it’s not a parasitic worm, but a fungal infection. The infection is fairly common in guinea pigs, so learn more about the symptoms and treatment from a Waterloo veterinarian below.


Ringworm in guinea pigs is caused by a particular family of fungus. It’s easily communicable between pigs—most animals are infected through contact with other infected guineas or by touching contaminated bedding or cage objects. What’s more, the infection is even transmittable to humans, so handling an infected pig should be done with care.


The major symptom associated with ringworm in guinea pigs is bald patches. These usually begin around the head, and may have red, flaky patches in them. The bald patches are first seen on the nose, ears, and around the eyes, but can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Contact your veterinary professional as soon as you see these symptoms, or if you notice your pig scratching excessively.


Your veterinarian will likely diagnose ringworm in your pig through a simple physical examination. A course of antifungal medications will be prescribed to rid your pig’s body of the infecting fungus. The use of these medicines might last for up to six weeks or more, depending on the severity of your pet’s infection.

Bald patches with crusty, flaky surfaces are often treated with topical ointments that you spread on your pig’s body. Ask your Waterloo vet about the proper handling of these medicines, as well as a demonstration for application. In some cases, dietary supplements might even be prescribed to help your pig heal.

While you’re handling your infected guinea pig, wear disposable gloves at all times, and wash your hands with soap and water after each handling episode. Keep other animals and human family members away from your infected pig until he’s healed up.


Do your part to minimize the risk of ringworm infection in your pig by keeping his cage clean and sanitized at all times. Weekly decontaminations and thorough cleaning of all cage materials can help cut back on the chance of infection.

dog spending time in the snow

Keeping a Pet Safe in Extreme Cold

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As the extreme cold of winter blankets the area, we need to stay mindful of our pet’s health, since extreme weather affects them just as much as it affects us. Use these safety tips from your Waterloo veterinarian to keep your pet safe this winter.

Bring Pet Inside

The easiest way to keep your pet safe and happy during extreme cold temperatures is to bring him indoors. He’ll be happiest snuggling up in the warm house alongside his family. When you do take your pet out to exercise or use the bathroom, limit the time he spends outdoors to a few minutes. The chilly temperatures and biting wind won’t take long to affect your dog.

Keep Pet Hydrated

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your pet only needs plenty of water during the hot summer months. Pets must stay hydrated at all times, so make sure there is fresh, cool water available at all times. If you put a water dish outside, check on it periodically to make sure it hasn’t frozen over.

Look Out for Hypothermia

The signs of hypothermia include shivering, weak pulse, lack of coordination, pale gums, and stiffness or stillness. Always be on the lookout for these symptoms if your pet has been exposed to very cold temperatures, and call your Waterloo veterinarian’s office immediately if you notice them in your pet.

Dress Pet Up

With the wide variety of pet clothes available today, it’s easy to dress your pet up for the extreme temperatures. Consider getting your animal companion a sweater, coat, parka, boots, and other cold-weather accessories. These are especially helpful for shorthaired animals, pets with a thin coat, and young animals that are especially vulnerable to the extreme temperatures. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on good pet clothes.

Watch for Deep Snow and Ice

When you are outside with your pet, keep an eye out for banks of deep snow. Pets can fall into them, becoming trapped, or become exhausted while fighting their way out. Ice is also dangerous—a pet can slip and overextend a limb, and there may be de-icer chemicals or road salt on the ice that could potentially poison your pet. Avoid deep snow and ice and get back indoors quickly.