Healthcare – not just for humans

The calendar says, “spring,” but the weather says otherwise.

But another season is just beginning for pet owners – parasite season.

Despite the cold weather, Dr. Cindy Lightner, DMV of the Greenbrier Veterinary Hospital, said ticks are already making a move.

The time to begin treatment to prevent parasite problems in your dogs and cats is now.

“There are lots of intestinal parasites in this area,” Lightner said.

But with several new and improved products on the market, that should not be a concern for pet owners. There are one step-combination treatments available which will take care of fleas, as well as de-worm your pet and prevent heart worms.

Lightner advises to be on the lookout for trouble. Symptoms of parasite infestation include weight loss, poor and lackluster coat and itching and scratching.

Keeping your pet healthy is fairly easy if you have the facts.

As dogs and cats age, their nutritional and healthcare needs change just like those of humans.

Spring is the time for babies – kittens and puppies – and diseases that affect them are more prevalent at that time of year.

Young puppies should have vaccinations against Distemper and Parvo at six to eight weeks of age. Rabies vaccine should be administered at four months.

Kittens will need a Distemper vaccine at six to eight weeks, as well.

Dogs and cats are susceptible to ear problems. While mites are the most common enemy of cats, dogs are more likely to have bacterial-yeast infections in their ears, Lightner said.

Watch for scratching, and a change in the way your pet holds its head.

Bacterial infections cause a dog’s ears to be hot, which in turn causes them to cock their head to one side to relieve the pain and pressure. Cats, who are dealing with mites, might incessantly scratch their ears, alerting you that there is a problem.

In the realm of day-to-day care, Lightner recommends that you choose a good quality, appropriate food based on your pet’s age.

Puppies and kittens require high protein food, but senior pets are best sustained on a food that is lower in fat, making it more easily digestible.

And don’t forget dental care.

“Regular dental care is important for the quality and length of your pet’s life, just like people,” Lightner said.

Problems with your pet’s teeth will affect its heart and liver.

It is important that your pet receives regular dental cleaning, especially after four years of age.

To ensure your pet’s good health, Lightner recommends an annual exam, which may identify problems before they become acute.

Why not schedule your pet’s exam in the spring to coincide with your participation in the Health Fair at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital.

Get on track, and stay ahead of health problems.

Isn’t your pet worth it?

If you have questions about how to properly care for your pet, see Dr. Lightner at her office on Main Street in Marlinton, next to The House of Style. She and her staff are there on Thursdays until 4 p.m.

Winter’s effect on large animals

This wretched winter has been hard on farmers and farm animals alike.

Cold temperatures and last summer’s poor hay quality may lead to thinner cows and lower conception rates.

As with most weather-related scenarios – be it extreme cold or drought – the results may not be seen until well into the next year.

Farm Service County Executive Director Fane Irvine and Soil Conservationist Susan Davis have a handle on what farmers might expect to see.

“Lice,” Irvine said. “Lice are horrible this year. We are seeing rubbing problems, but warm weather and the sun should kill them.”

Lice need a moist, dirty environment in which to survive, and the conditions are

In addition, a moist and dirty environment can lead to rampant scours in calves.

To head off scours, Davis recommends an oral or injectable vaccine for pregnant cows, which will provide immunity to calves. But if scours are appearing, then treatment of the symptoms is the only option now.

That treatment includes antibiotics and keeping calves on clean ground.

Davis advises to be on the look-out for thrush in horses’ feet, as well. Thrush is an infection that is encouraged by wet conditions and mud packed in the horses’ feet.

It is most easily recognized by its horrible odor, Davis said.

She recommended cleaning out the feet and applying an iodine-based spray, preferably while the horse is standing on a cement pad.

Cattle are susceptible to “foot rot” at this time of year, as well.

Every farmer has their favorite remedy – antibiotics, sulphur boluses, a foot bath of copper sulfate, and more. But a remedy is needed, for sure, because you can’t wait – it won’t go away.

If cows have been “making do” with less than palatable hay, they are going to be on the move trying to find the first green grass of spring.

While it looks nice and may be tasty, it can be a death knell for lactating cattle coming off of poor hay, combined with no access to mineral supplements.

Grass Tetany, sometimes referred to as grass staggers, is an unwelcome guest, and it will show up when the magnesium level in the lactating cow’s blood serum is down.

Candice Klingeman gives an in-depth look at this often fatal disease in her article, “Grass Tetany in Cattle – An Examination of its Causes, Clinical Signs and Cures.”

Klingeman writes that lactating cattle coming off of winter feed and into fast growing spring grass, combined with cool, rainy weather sets the stage for grass tetany. Soil may be high in potassium and nitrogen, but have low levels of magnesium, calcium and sodium. Pastures prone to cause grass tetany include, but are not limited to orchard grass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, timothy and bromegrass.

While she includes “cures” in her article, cures are rare as grass tetany can kill an animal within an hour of onset of first symptoms.

Prevention is key. And the key to preventing grass tetany is to ensure cattle have adequate mineral supplements available year-round.

An ounce of magnesium is worth a pound of cure.

Not much can be done now to improve last year’s weather-related problems, but Greg Hamons of the WVU Extension office, recommends having feed samples analyzed each year to determine if farm animals are receiving a sufficient amount of nutrition, or if supplements are needed to meet nutritional requirements.

Feed samples for testing can be dropped off to Jarrett McLaughlin at the ASCS/Farm Service office in Buckeye.

To assist farmers as they move into the next calving season, Bull Soundness Exams will be offered by the Frankford Veterinary Hospital in partnership with the WVU Extension Service on Saturday, March 29. In addition to the fertility testing, de-worming and vaccinations will be available to all bulls at no additional charge.

For more information about large animal care, how to improve hay quality or upcoming events at the Pocahontas Producers Stockyards, contact Greg Hamons at the WVU Extension office at 304-799-4852.

Jaynell Graham may be contacted at



more recommended stories