• What should you do if your pet has diarrhea?First, stop feeding the pet right away.  Withhold food for one day (24 hours).  If this is a youngster that is less than 4 months old, only withhold food for 8 hours.  Do not withhold water.  Encourage drinking by offering fresh water often.  Call the hospital at 703-378-8813 right away – we should see your pet!  You will need to collect a stool sample and bring it in with you.  Use a plastic spoon, Dixie cup, or small paper plate to scoop some up and put the whole thing in a plastic bag.  If this is from a cat, don’t worry if there is litter on the sample.
  • What should you do if your pet is vomiting?First, withhold all food and treats for 24 hours (8 hours if a youngster under 4 months of age).  If there is any red blood or any stuff that looks like coffee grounds, call right away, since this can be an emergency.  Do not withhold water, but limit amount to ½ cup at a time.  You can do this by offering a few ice cubes in place of water (some pets will crunch them up while others will wait for them to melt).  Call the hospital at 703-378-8813.  We should see your pet!  If your pet is vomiting and having diarrhea for more than a few hours, this can be an emergency.
  • What should you do if your pet is not eating well or not eating much at all?If you have just suddenly changed foods, try getting some of the old food and offering that.  Your pet may not like the new stuff (it is always best to change foods gradually).  If the pet is not eating normally within 24 hours, call us.  If you have not just suddenly changed foods, call the hospital at 703-378-8813.  We want to see your pet!  Especially if sudden or rapidly progressive, a change in appetite is never normal.
  • What should you do if your pet has a red, smelly, or sore ear (or is shaking his head/scratching at the ear)?If your pet is on maintenance ear medication, start using the medication daily and call us for a follow-up appointment (so the doctor can determine if additional medication or a change in your pet’s maintenance plan is needed).  If your pet is not on maintenance ear medication, call the hospital at 703-378-8813 for an urgent appointment.  Ear problems can range from minor to very major.  They can also progress or worsen rapidly, so your pet should be seen within 24 hours.  Do not clean the ear.  Cleaning can irritate the ear and make things worse.  It also makes it difficult for the doctor to properly evaluate the cause of your pet’s ear problem.  Do not apply any over the counter OR prescription medication to the ear until the doctor sees the pet (only exception: if your pet is on maintenance ear medication).  Applying medication before the exam makes it difficult for the doctor to properly evaluate the cause of your pet’s ear problem.
  • What should you do if your pet has a swollen ear?Call us at 703-378-8813 for an appointment.  The doctor will want to see your pet!  Do not apply any medicine (over the counter or prescription) in or on the ear.  Do not clean the ear.
  • What should you do if your pet has a swollen face?Call us at 703-378-8813 for an appointment.  The doctor will want to see your pet!  Do not give any medicine (over the counter or prescription) unless previously directed to do so by the doctor (and only if your pet has had something like this happen before).  If your pet’s lips are swollen, we should see the pet right away.  This is often an allergic reaction, and there may be swelling inside the mouth, making breathing difficult.  If this is after hours, take your cat to a 24-hour emergency facility (Pender at 703-591-3304 or HOPE EVC at 703-281-5121 or South Paws at 703-752-9100).  Do not wait for the hospital to open!  If there is a closed or open and draining swelling just below one or both eyes, your pet should be seen quickly as it may need urgent treatment.
  • What should you do if your pet has an odor?Take a close look at your pet’s mouth, ears, and skin (These are areas where odor can be coming from).  This can help us narrow the problem down.  Odor is never normal, especially if it is a sudden change.  Call us at 703-378-8813.  The doctor will want to see your pet!
  • What should you do if your pet has a red and/or runny eye(s)?Do not try to clean, compress, or flush the eye.  Eyes can be red and runny for lots of reasons, most of which get rapidly worse and can lead to major complications.  Any abnormality in the eye should be treated as a serious and urgent problem at least until the doctor examines the pet.  Call us right away at 703-378-8813.
  • What should you do if your pet is sneezing?Sneezing dogs may need to be seen.  If your pet is a cat, sneezing can be due to a contagious upper respiratory infection, most of which are very treatable.  However, there is a Systemic Calici Virus that can be very serious (most cats with this virus will also act ill).  It is hard to tell this new more serious version of Calici Virus from the older version which is much more common.  Hopefully, you have gotten the new vaccinations for your cat!  Please call us immediately.  For more information on the new Systemic Calici Virus, see our Spring 2007 newsletter (on-line in “Helpful Documents”).  If you notice discharge from only one nostril, we should see your pet right away.  Do not give any over-the-counter or prescription medication unless it is under doctor’s orders.
  • What should you do if your pet is very itchy?Call us at 703-378-8813 for an urgent appointment.  Do not bathe your pet, or use any over the counter product on the skin.  Unless previously directed to do so by the doctor, do not give any over-the-counter or prescription medication before bringing your pet in to see the doctor.
  • What should you do if your pet has fleas (you will find tiny black specks on the skin and on bedding)?Bathe your pet and apply Frontline Plus (you can stop by and pick some up at the hospital anytime during open hours).  Also bathe and apply Frontline Plus to all other cats and dogs that share your home.  Repeat Frontline monthly, every month, for all cats and dogs.  Do not use over-the-counter flea products on your pets.  They will not work, and can be dangerous to your pet’s health.  In your home, vacuum every carpeted room all at once and then dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag (seal it in a plastic trash bag and put it right out with the trash).  After vacuuming, spray your home with Siphotrol Area Treatment (you can stop by and pick some up at the hospital anytime during open hours).  One can treats 2,000 square feet of home.  Don’t forget under beds, under large pieces of furniture, under cushions of upholstered furniture, clothes and linen closets, etc.  Also spray baseboards of non-carpeted rooms.  Treat every room in your home.  Repeat home treatment monthly for 3 months.  It will take a few weeks to a few months before you see a major reduction in the number of fleas in your home (depending on how long you have been having flea problems and how bad they are).  If you prefer, we can do the bathing and Frontline application for you, while you have an exterminator come and treat your home.  Just call the hospital at 703-378-8813 for details.
  • What to do if your pet has ticks?Remove the tick if you can.  If you can’t remove it, call us right away.  We can usually remove it for you.  While you are here, ask us for a Greenbriar Animal Hospital tick remover!  If the area around the tick is red, swollen, or itchy, we should see your pet ASAP.  The doctor will want to do an exam.  Even if the area around the tick bite looks normal, please call the hospital and let us know about the tick bite.  We will want to schedule some blood tests in a few months!  Lots of ticks in Northern Virginia carry diseases.  Also, if your pet is getting tick bites, you should review your tick control.  Is the pet getting monthly applications of Frontline (or, if this is a dog, are you using Preventic collars and changing them every 3 months)?  If not, start now.  If you use Frontline and are still getting ticks, ask us to go over the application process with you.  Maybe a few adjustments need to be made.
  • What to do if your pet is limping?Limping is always caused by pain.  If your pet is limping, your pet is in pain.  Is the pet licking obsessively at the toes or foot?  If so, we should see them ASAP since there may be a problem between the toes, which can get rapidly worse.  Call 703-378-8813.  If the limp comes and goes (your pet only limps some of the time), restrict your pet’s activity for a few days and see if it gets better.  This means short leash walks and no stairs (dogs), or shutting off rooms in your house (cats).  If the limp comes and goes, we should see your pet if the limp continues beyond 5 days.  Will the pet put any weight on the leg, or are they using it for balance only?  Refusing to put weight on the leg means it hurts more.  We should see your pet ASAP if they refuse to use the leg.  If the pet is reluctant to go up and down stairs, or get into the car, or get onto/off of furniture, there is something wrong and we should see your pet.
  • What to do if your pet has broken a toenail and is bleeding and/or licking at the nail?If possible, protect the area by wrapping it lightly (or covering the nail with several layers of old cotton socks) and bring your pet in to see the doctor.  Broken toenails get infected easily, and antibiotics may be needed.  If the nail is broken but still attached, it needs to be removed.  Call 703-378-8813 for an appointment so we can take care of this for you.
  • What to do if you cut your dog’s toenail and it is bleeding?Take a paper plate or folded paper towel and put about a teaspoon of regular white flour on it, in a little pile.  Set the paper plate/towel on the floor.  Blot the bleeding toenail with a dry paper towel, then push the bleeding toenail into the flour 3-4 times.  Pretend you are dabbing up spots with a dry sponge.  The end of the nail should be coated with flour.  Keep your pet’s weight off the foot for a few moments (unless the bleeding nail is a dewclaw).  Either have your pet lie down, or hold the foot up.  If your pet gets too rambunctious, the nail may start bleeding again (especially within the first few moments).  Just repeat the flour trick!  If bleeding recurs after 30 minutes, your pet should be seen as there may be a reason why the blood won’t clot properly.  If you can’t get the bleeding to stop totally within 5 minutes by using the flour trick, your pet should be seen as there may be a reason why the blood won’t clot properly.  Call us for an urgent appointment at (703) 378-8813.  Use several layers of old cotton socks to protect the nail while you bring your dog in.
  • What to do if your pet’s nail has been ripped or broken and is bleeding?Gently (be careful, as this is very painful and your pet may bite you!) cover the foot with a tube sock or two, and call us at (703) 378-8813.  The doctor will want to see your pet.  Antibiotics, a light bandage, and/or a minor procedure may be needed.
  • What to do if your pet is reluctant to move?If pet is also lethargic and not eating well, we need to see the pet.  Call 703-378-8813 for an urgent appointment.  Lots of illnesses and injuries can cause these kind of symptoms!  If the pet will get up to eat or go for a walk, but is otherwise hiding or not moving around much, there is still something wrong.  Since cats are incredibly good at hiding problems, sometimes this is the only symptom you’ll see in a cat that is quite ill.
  • What to do if your pet is scooting?This can be caused by several problems, as well as just to scratch an itch!  If your pet does it more than occasionally, it usually means there is a problem.  Check your pet’s fanny for any stool stuck there.  Be careful as it may be very tender, and your pet may bite.  If you see any redness, swelling, or drainage, call us at 703-378-8813 for an urgent appointment.  In the meantime, warm compresses may help your pet feel better (if they will tolerate this).  Use a warm wet washcloth and hold it over the area, very gently (no pressure).  Re-wet the washcloth as it cools.  Do this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.  Do not use any over the counter or prescription medication.
  • What to do if your pet is having seizures or is falling over and can’t get up?Call the hospital at (703) 378-8813.  Seizures are violent and scary and short.  Your pet will not remember them.  A true seizure is caused by many nerves all firing at once, so the body doesn’t know what to do.  Pets may fall over, run, paddle their legs, vocalize, drool, vomit, urinate, or pass stool.  Sometimes all at the same time!  While it may seem like a long time, seizures usually only last a few minutes.  Your pet may seem out of it for 10 to 20 minutes afterwards, and then will act like nothing happened.  The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy, but they can also be caused by other diseases.  The first step in diagnosis is to have a head-to-toe physical exam and blood tests done in our lab (a sample is best drawn within a few hours of a seizure).  Certain breeds are more likely to develop epilepsy.  In dogs, the most common age to start having seizures from epilepsy is between 1½ and 6 years of age.  There are medications to control seizures.  Sometimes they don’t work.  The medications are addictive and have some serious side effects, so if your pet has only occasional seizures, we may not recommend medication at this time.  Repeated seizures in a short period of time are dangerous to your pet.  These are called “cluster seizures” or “status epilepticus” and this is an emergency.  If your pet has more than 3 seizures in one hour, they need to be seen at a 24 hour facility.  They will probably need to have an injection to stop the seizures, and are likely to need to be hospitalized for a day or so.  A condition that mimics a seizure or stroke is called “Vestibular Syndrome”.  It starts suddenly and the pet has trouble walking, standing, and eating.  They may circle and/or have a head tilt.  They may fall over and can’t stand up without help.  This does not go away quickly like seizures do.  This condition can be easily diagnosed by the doctor.  Most pets recover completely.
  • What to do if your pet is having a problem with stools or urine (not diarrhea)?If your pet is a male and is straining to pass urine or stool, we will want to see him right away.  Male cats and male dogs can develop a urinary blockage that can be fatal.  Unless you can visually confirm that your pet is urinating in a normal stream, we assume straining males are urgent.  If this is after hours, take your cat to a 24-hour emergency facility (Pender at 703-591-3304 or HOPE EVC at 703-281-5121 or South Paws at 703-752-9100).  Do not wait for the hospital to open!  It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between straining to pass urine and straining to pass stool.  If your pet is dripping urine or dropping stools as it walks around (or around the litter box), there is a problem.  Call us at 703-378-8813.  If there is blood in stools or urine, try to collect a sample and call us.  Blood in urine is never normal.  See How to Collect a Urine Sample … and How to Collect a Stool Sample in the “PetTopics”.  If your pet is going frequently, or straining to go (especially if nothing much is coming out), we need to see your pet ASAP.  If you can bring us stool and/or urine samples with your pet, terrific!  Cats normally urinate once or twice in 24 hours, so if your cat is in and out of the box, there is a problem.  If you have multiple pets and you don’t know who is having the problem, separate the pets (make sure cats have their own litter box) so we know who is doing what.  Dogs vary in their habits, but if your dog is waking you up to go out in the night, or more often during the day, or is having accidents, there is a problem.
  • What to do if your pet is coughing?Both cats and dogs will cough occasionally for 2 to 10 days after having a surgical procedure or a teeth cleaning.  This is due to temporary irritation of the trachea or windpipe from the breathing tube used during anesthesia.  It will go away on it’s own.  Except for the above instance, coughing cats are always serious, and should be seen ASAP.  Even if your cat only coughs a few times, we need to do an urgent exam!  Cats are very good at hiding things, and you may not notice any other changes.  Call us at 703-378-8813.  Coughing dogs can be serious, but dogs cough for lots of different reasons.  If your dog is coughing frequently (multiple times each day), coughing in “fits” (cough-cough-cough-cough), is bringing anything up when he coughs, or has a decrease in his energy level or exercise tolerance, we should see your dog right away.  Call the hospital at 703-378-8813.
  • What to do if your pet has labored breathing or is panting heavily?Cats that have labored breathing (taking rapid shallow OR deep breaths using their belly muscles) can be in severe distress and should be seen immediately.  If this is after hours, take your cat to a 24-hour emergency facility (Pender at 703-591-3304 or HOPE EVC at 703-281-5121 or South Paws at 703-752-9100).  Do not wait for the hospital to open!  Dogs that are doing this can have many things going on, and should be seen for an urgent exam.  Until you can bring your dog in to see the doctor, make sure to limit his exercise and also limit his exposure to hot humid weather.  If it is summer, keep him in air conditioning.  Heavy panting in a dog can be a sign of pain.  It can also be a sign of lots of other problems!
  • What to do if your pet has bad breath?Bad breath is never normal in cats or dogs.  If you notice a sudden change in your pet’s breath, we should do an urgent exam.  If you can safely look at the teeth and gums, do so.  Check out both front and back teeth on both sides of the mouth.  Look at the outer surfaces of the teeth, and at the gums.  Any red gums?  Any green or brown teeth?  Any tender spots?  Let us know when you call for the appointment.  Is your pet eating dry food like usual?  Any mouthing of food, or reluctance to eat dry?  Any decreased interest in chew toys or treats lately?  Any drooling?  These can all be signs of potentially serious problems in the mouth.  Call 703-378-8813 for an appointment.
  • What to do if your pet is drinking more?If you have noticed a difference in your pet’s drinking habits, please call us at 703-378-8813.  We will want to examine your pet.  Blood and urine tests will help us determine what is wrong, and to come up with a plan of treatment.  See “How to collect a urine sample…” in the “Pet Topics” section on this website.  If at all possible, bring a urine sample with you when you come for the initial appointment.  It will help us begin treatment sooner!  Do not limit your pet’s access to water, even if there are accidents occurring.  If you have more than one pet, separate them with their own source of food and water (and litter box or pee pads as appropriate) so it can be determined exactly who has the problem.  Do not give any medication.
  • What to do if your pet got in a fight?Call us at 703-378-8813 before coming in, to be sure one of our doctors is here.  We will definitely want to see your pet!  If after hours, call Pender at 703-591-3304 or HOPE emergency in Vienna at 703-281-5121 or South Paws at 703-752-9100.  If this was a big dog versus little dog fight, and yours was the little dog, your dog should be seen as an emergency even if there are no obvious wounds.  A very serious amount of internal bruising and bleeding can occur when a big dog goes after a small dog.  If your pet is limping badly after a fight, this is also considered an emergency, because there may be a bite that penetrated, fractured, or bruised a bone.  If your pet is dripping blood, do your best to gently wrap him in a large towel, thick bathrobe, or heavy sweatshirt (at least wrap the part that is bleeding).  This will both comfort him and help reduce and contain the bleeding while you bring him to the doctor.  Even if your pet acts like nothing is wrong, he should still be examined within 24 hours.  Bite wounds are hard to find and almost always get infected and abscess if not properly treated.  If your pet is an outdoor cat, you may not witness the fight.  Cat bites almost always become abscessed, causing the cat to become painful, lethargic, and often feverish (this happens 5 to 10 days later).  There is usually a tender swelling or an area your cat does not want touched.  If you witness a cat fight, bring your cat in right away and an abscess may be prevented.  Rabies vaccinations are required by law for both cats and dogs in Virginia.  Make a real effort to find out the status of the other pet’s rabies vaccines if there is a fight between pets.  If you do not know the other animal’s rabies vaccine status, you did not see the other animal, or it is (or may be) wild, your pet may need a short quarantine even if your pet is current with his rabies vaccines.  Be prepared to give the other pet’s owner the information about your pet’s rabies vaccine status.  The law does not discriminate between animals based on who attacked whom!  Both rabies vaccines will be important.  If your pet is overdue on his rabies vaccines, a much longer and much stricter quarantine may be required.  If your pet is overdue for it’s rabies vaccine, and gets into a fight, do not get a rabies vaccine booster for your pet without an OK from Animal Control.  Always call animal control or the local police to report a fight, especially if it was a wild animal, if the other animal attacked (or tried to attack) a person, if the fight was between dogs and the other dog was not leashed, if the other animal came onto your property and attacked your pet, or if this has happened before (same pet has attacked before).  If your pet was bitten by a wild animal, do not attempt to handle the wild animal.  It may be rabid.  If it is small enough, and is not moving too fast, you can safely put an upturned empty garbage can or big metal or plastic bin over the animal.  Weight it very securely and call animal control.  Cat bites can spread Feline Leukemia and FIV (Feline Aids).  Outdoor cats should be vaccinated against Feline Leukemia; if your cat is not up to date with this vaccine we will have to wait until the infection is gone before giving any boosters.  If your cat was bitten and is not vaccinated for Feline Leukemia, he will need to be tested now and again in 3 months and in 6 months.  If he remains negative for that entire time, chances are good he was not exposed to Feline Leukemia (this is a fatal disease that has no effective treatment).
  • What to do if your pet is licking/scratching constantly at one spot?If you can, look at the spot and see if it is red or sticky.  Be careful, as it may be very tender and your pet may try to bite!  If there is a red, raw, gooey area, or the pet’s hair is stuck to the skin, call the hospital at 703-378-8813 and get an appointment ASAP.  This could get worse very rapidly.  Do not apply any topical ointment or medication to the area.  Do not give any prescription or over the counter medication unless told to do so by the doctor.  If for some reason you cannot bring the pet in today for the appropriate exam, you should VERY CAREFULLY soak the area with hydrogen peroxide (avoid eyes and mouth) three times daily and prevent any licking or scratching with an Elizabethan collar.  Do not bandage or cover the area.  When wet, peroxide will bleach anything it comes in contact with, so be careful of your home and furnishings.  Bring your pet in to see the doctor as soon as you can.
  • What to do if your cat is going outside the box (urine and/or stool)?This can be caused by quite a few medical problems.  We will want to see your cat, so please call 703-378-8813 for an appointment.  Try to bring a sample in with your cat (see the “Pet Topics” section for tips on getting a urine sample).  If you have more than one cat, you should separate the cats for a day or two so you can figure out who is doing what.  Unless you actually see the cat in the act, it may be another cat (or both)!  Make a note of any changes in food, litter, litter box position and type.  The doctor will want to know this information.  The doctor will also need to know if there have been any changes in the immediate environment – new work schedule, new person in the home (or long-time visitor), new pet (including foster pets), new furniture, remodeling, new construction close by, new pets moved in next door, etc.  You should always have one litter box more than you have cats, or one litter box per floor of your home (whichever is more).  See “How to get your cat to use the Litter Box” for more information (in Pet Topics).

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