Top 6 Vet Questions

Dr. Tammie


February 14, 2022

I always say there is no such thing as a stupid question!  But after many years of practice pet owners can often surprise me with the questions they have. I am going to discuss some of the most common questions that pet parents have about their pet and the care of their pet. 

  1. What do I do if my pet (cat or dog) is vomiting?

Cats are definitely not small dogs when it comes to vomiting. Cats that are vomiting up hair balls or small amounts of food with hair may need to have hair ball preventative given to them.  Hair ball remedies are readily available and will help kitties with long hair or who are prone to a lot of hair ingestion during self-grooming to reduce hairballs. On the other hand, if kitty is vomiting up digested food, undigested food or is vomiting frequently there is likely a serious problem.  If the vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea, not eating and lethargy there could be more serious causes like liver or thyroid problems, diabetes, infection or a foreign body in the digestive tract.  If there is blood in the vomit or diarrhea that is an emergency situation and kitty should be seen ASAP. 

Dogs that are vomiting can sometimes ingest something they should not have outside, like other pet’s or their own feces, something toxic or they could have eaten too much food at one time.  Dogs that just vomit once should be watched for further vomiting.  Dog can in some cases vomit, for example, after riding in the car and be perfectly fine.  If it is just a minor upset and the vomiting has stopped, feeding small portions of bland food like chicken breast or lean ground meat mixed 50:50 with boiled white rice should encourage your dog to eat and start them on the road to recovery. 

If on the other hand you observed your pet eating a toxic food, human medications, toxins outside or toxic plants, or chewing up fabric or toys and swallowing the pieces the vomiting is likely more serious.  (Table foods that are toxic to pets include onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, raisins, grapes, chocolate and any food made with xylitol-- a sugar substitute. Xylitol is now an ingredient in some peanut butters, toothpastes, cookies, candy, gum, bake goods and even some cosmetic masks or treatments.) Ingestion of corn cobs, Gorilla glue, raw uncooked pizza or bread dough can all cause intestinal blockages.  Usually if they have ingested something toxic or a foreign body the pet will continue to vomit.  The vomit may have blood in it, your pet may become lethargic or non-responsive, can have seizures depending on the toxin, or have diarrhea at the same time as continued vomiting.  All these more serious signs would be indications for a visit to the emergency clinic or a call to poison control (see references). 

Prolonged intermittent vomiting in dogs should also be addressed by your veterinarian.  Food sensitivities are common in some pets and when they are exposed to the offending protein it can lead to some vomiting.  Some breeds of dogs like poodles, labs and others are prone to atypical Addison’s which can cause intermittent vomiting. There are also many breeds including Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers that are prone to protein losing enteropathy—a disease that causes the abnormal loss of protein from the intestinal tract—that will have vomiting or diarrhea intermittently.  Also, some dogs can also develop inflammatory bowel disease which can take many forms and cause a low level of digestive upset.  Diseases like pancreatitis can also present with vomiting and sometimes pets that have been diagnosed with pancreatitis need a lifetime of low-fat high fiber diet to prevent signs of gastric upset. If your pet is having vomiting that seems intermittent or chronic have your veterinarian run the necessary diagnostic tests like blood work, urinalysis and radiographs to determine the cause.  The 24/7 virtual veterinarians at AskVet can help you assess your pet and determine next steps.

  1. My dog/cat is having diarrhea what could cause that?

The next most common issue that pet parents have questions about is when their pet is having diarrhea.  Many of the same issues that cause diarrhea can be related to vomiting, like sudden diet changes or even parasites.  Diarrhea seems more common in dog patients than in kitties.  Cats can still have parasites like giardia or coccidian, but usually they are young kittens.  Also, cats that have not received feline vaccines when kittens can have feline panleukopenia virus or sometimes referred to as feline distemper.  Panleukopenia virus can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting in immune naive cats and kittens.1

Diarrhea in puppies can likewise start due to a viral infection like Parvo virus.  Generally, the puppy will be very sick and may not eat or drink either.  Keeping puppies away from areas where they could be infected and up to date on vaccinations will go a long way to preventing this severe viral infection.2

Parasites can infect both dogs and cats and are a common cause of diarrhea.  Many parasites will not be seen in the fecal matter by the naked eye because they are microscopic.  Your veterinarian will do a fecal exam to determine if there are eggs from common worms like hooks, tapes, and round worms as well as look for microscopic parasites like giardia and coccidia. Usually, diarrhea will not resolve until the parasites are treated. 

Often, I am asked what can I do for my dog until I get to the veterinarian for an exam and fecal testing. A bland diet sometimes helps simple diarrhea not accompanied by vomiting, lethargy, or other signs like not eating and drinking.  This does not work for cats since cats generally will not eat a boiled rice and protein diet.  Feeding your pup, a 50:50 mixture of lean ground meat or lean chicken breast cooked without added oil and salt and boiled white rice (not brown since it is harder to digest) can help diarrhea resolve quickly.  If your pup is still eating and acting normally and you feed a bland diet in small frequent meals the diarrhea should start to resolve within 24 hours.  If it does not that is the time to seek medical help for your pup.  

  1. Should I buy pet insurance?

The very short answer is YES!  You can’t read the future and being covered for pet health makes a huge difference when needed.  Additionally, the AskVet wellness app with 24/7 vet support is a great way to keep your pet on a healthy lifestyle track, decreasing the need for costly vet visits.  Policies like Bivvy are great idea and can save you money in the long run.  It can also give you peace of mind when an emergency situation comes up unexpectedly.

Some plans are better for puppies and kittens and others for older pets – so work with the insurance company to pick the best option for you and your pets.

  1. What is the best food for my pet?

The best food is a food that is designed for your pet’s life stage (kitten/puppy, adult, senior), that your pet is not sensitive to (is not causing diarrhea, skin issues) and that your pet will eat.  The best food can also be a prescription diet if needing to treat a specific condition like liver, kidney, or heart problems.  Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations with prescription diets.  Some are meant for temporary use and some for more long-term management of disease like feline diabetes diets or kidney diets.

There may be no one right diet for your pet throughout its life and there is likely going to be changes in your pet’s needs through out their life.  If your pet is having ear problems, frequent anal gland issues, licking their paws until they are red or over grooming—pulling out excessive hair like some feline patients do, then the diet may have something to do with the skin issues.  If your pet is not eating their food or seems to have a case of intermittent diarrhea - diet may also be the culprit.  There are several tips to comparing diets.  One is to ask your veterinarian for recommendations.  Your veterinarian can recommend food trials if there are sensitivities to something in the food and discuss recalls or other current diet research with you that may affect your pet. 

Next look at the first 4 to 5 ingredient on the ingredients list.  In cats this should not include a lot of carbohydrates since they are carnivores.  In dogs look for whole food ingredients and steer away from rendered meat or meat by products.  Many commercial foods have a mixture of proteins so if your pet has sensitivities check for chicken or beef as a secondary protein since diets can be listed as a “fish” diet and still have other proteins in them.  Also compare the protein, carbohydrates and feeding directions between diets when you are trying to make a choice.  Look for diets that specify for puppies and kittens or pets over a year old or senior diet depending on your pet’s age.

Finally go on the internet and get background on the company that produces the food.  Try to read past the marketing hype and if you have questions search for the meaning of the terms.  For example, “all natural ingredients”, “organic”, “meets nutrients for all life stages” just like with human foods there are regulations for placing certain claims on the label.  In short there is no one food that is right for every pet at every life stage.  Always make any diet changes slowly unless there is a medical reason to make the diet change swiftly (the pet is not eating because some disease process and now needs a prescription diet, or the diet has been recalled). Always check with your veterinarian if your pet is on a prescription diet for any diet changes or additions you want to make to your pet’s diet.

  1. How do I reduce my pet’s weight?

We are all concerned about our weight especially since many have been working from home or remotely.  There is not an easy way to reduce your pet’s weight just like humans it is a matter of reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise.  Even small reductions can make a big difference.  Do not try a radical diet of reducing the intake of your pet to a very small amount unless following specific recommendations by your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian can also help with diets designed to help with satiety—feeling of fullness—or high fiber diets depending on your pet’s medical status.  Sometimes middle aged or older dogs may have a very difficult time reducing their weight because they also have hypothyroidism or low thyroid hormones.  Your veterinarian may recommend thyroid replacement before making radical changes in your dog’s diet.   

There are some simple things that you can do at home if your pet is healthy but carrying a few extra pounds. Reduce all treats and extras that are high in fat.  You can substitute low fat products like low fat cottage cheese or yogurt in your KONG stuffing or instead of including higher fat treats.  You can also include a portion of your pet’s daily kibble ration as treats.   Choose low fat treats like small pieces of celery or carrot.  If you do not feed any treats reduce daily portion of food (kibble or canned) by ¼ of the total so instead of feeding 1 cup of food to a small pet give ¾ of a cup per day.  Just the small changes in treats or reduction in the diet very slightly can have a great affect over the next two months.  Make sure to accurately weigh or measure the food amount especially with kibbles. Keep in mind it is healthy for a pet to lose ½ to 1 pound per week. If loosing more than 2 pounds a week or reducing very quickly can indicate health problems. It is best to weigh your pet at the same time of the day like before a meal and once a week.  Use an accurate scale and the same scale to weigh them each time.  There are also new “smart” mats, beds, and litter boxes that will help you keep tract of your pet’s weight and smart bowls that can help control portions. 

If you also increase exercise or just increase exercise without a food change that will help weight reduction also.  Consider starting by adding one 10-minute walk per day to you and your pup’s routine.  For kitties adding in a cat tree near a window, new interactive toys, or laser toy can make play time more fun and engaging for kitties. Do not try to do an hour play at first but just add in a short 10–15-minute activities.  You can always add a second one in a couple of weeks.  Usually, activity will encourage you both to become more active!

  1. How often should I brush or bathe my pet?

For cats bathing may not be an option since usually only show cats are used to getting bathed and fluffed.  Cats can get used to bathing if started as young kittens and some may even jump into water willingly.7 Brushing on the other hand usually needs to be done to help remove shed hair as well as helps reduce hair balls.  There are a number of different types of brushes and combs to remove excessive hair.  Long haired breeds of cats may require a comb or brushes with longer teeth.  Choose brushes and combs that have blunt soft edges since cat skin is more delicate and can easily be scratched or cut with sharp grooming tools. If your kitty has mats in his/her hair go slow when removing them.  Lifting and cutting the mat with a scissors is NOT recommended since the likelihood of cutting the skin is great.  Long haired kitties may also require a food with extra fiber for hair balls or periodic gel treat for hair balls to help pass hair through the digestive tract. 

Depending on your dog’s coat your pup may be more high maintenance than other breeds. Dog usually require bathing after swimming, when they seem itchy, have body odor or when their coat is dirty.  Pets with longer hair like Shih Tzu, poodles, some terriers, Afghan hounds and other breeds will require daily to weekly brushing and combing of the coat.  Before bathing these breeds should be combed/brushed out thoroughly since wetting mats can cause them to felt or set further. Some breeds that have corded coats, like Puli’s or Komondors, should be corded before and after bathing to help keep the cords in top condition.  Terriers that have hard coats like wire haired fox terriers or Airedales should be brushed with a slicker before bathing.  Hard coated or wire-haired breeds of dogs often require stripping with a stripping knife both before and after bathing.  Breeds with short coats can be brushed with a rubber curry (Zoom Groom®) or glove to remove shedding fur.  Brushing can change and may depend on the time of the year since most dogs shed more in the spring and the fall.  Dogs with double coats like the German Shepard, Malamute, Samoyed or Husky require deep brushing or a curry brush with longer teeth to help remove the fluffy undercoat.  Double coated breeds generally require more brushing to keep their coats in top condition and less bathing. 

Hairless and some longer haired breeds require bathing more often every 2 to 6 weeks, for skin health and maintenance.  Short haired breeds like beagles, sight hounds, Boston Terriers, French or English bull dogs, Dobermans, Staffordshire terriers, and others should have a bathing schedule based on any skin concerns but in general can be bathed every 2-3 months.   Most dog’s coats and skin benefit from a conditioner or topical probiotic shampoos and conditioners to help maintain the skin and coat in peak condition. Combination products of shampoo/conditioners or products with probiotics to help replace the normal skin flora are preferred to help keep your pup’s skin and coat healthy!


Final thoughts

There are many more questions that are frequently asked by pet owners covering a wide array of subjects.  If you have further questions or I have sparked additional questions on a subject don’t hesitate to contact us at, Ask Vet for a virtual consult on any pet questions you have.  We will be glad to help you and your furry buddy with any questions or concerns you have!

That's another pawsitive tip from AskVet's Dr. Tammie! To learn more about pet care, you can chat with an AskVet veterinarian 24x7 on the AskVet app any time, day or night.


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